Sunday, July 16, 2017

Postcards from Paris 4: Place des Vosges

I read an interesting piece of advice for repeat visitors in one of my Paris guidebooks: stay in a different arrondissement on each trip, and deeply explore that neighborhood. Since it was too hot to trek long distances during my six-day stay, I took that advice and mostly wandered in the Marais, where we stayed, as well as on the nearby Ile Saint-Louis because we love it there. We have stayed in St. Germain in recent years so this was unfamiliar territory.

The beautiful Place des Vosges is in the Marais, so I went there on my first day. A series of nearly identical, 17th-century stone and brick residential buildings surround a large, grassy square with trees, paths, and fountains.

It's a popular place for both locals and tourists, who can stroll around the square under gracious, arched arcades. At ground level, these building house restaurants, shops, and many art galleries.

In one corner of this arcade, you can step boldly through an open door and find yourself in the shady courtyard of the Hotel de Sully, a very quiet and private-seeming public space: 

The Hôtel de Sully is a historic private mansion, not a public hotel in the modern sense. It was a cool, lovely place to sit and consult whatever guidebook I was carrying. 

On my first visit to the Place des Vosges, I took a circuitous route to get there — I probably wandered for close to an hour — so I thought it was far from our hotel. I soon discovered I was wrong, and then I found a nice shortcut. I left the Sully courtyard by another gate, saw I was on a street near our hotel, and saw some newly familiar landmarks.

A Monoprix department store was right next to our hotel. People rave about Monoprix and its bargains, but I never find anything. (They are similar to Target, another place I usually leave empty-handed.) Also, this Monoprix always smells like stinky cheese, probably because they sell groceries in the basement. 

But it was air-conditioned, and the back entrance was a few feet from our hotel. So I'd walk through it, come out its front doors onto the Rue St. Antoine, and cross the street. The second gate to the Hôtel de Sully's courtyard and the Place des Vosges was right there, almost in my "back yard." That was a nice discovery, almost as nice as finding such a shady oasis in the first place.

Here are some photos of Victor Hugo's apartment, on the second floor of Place des Vosges, beginning with his handsome bust:

A painting of Esmeralda and Quasimodo from The Hunchback of Notre Dame:

The Chinese Lounge, with woodwork and furniture designed by M. Hugo himself. The woodwork has many unusual carvings that had special meaning to him and his mistress, Juliette Drouot. The style is reminiscent of Art Nouveau, although he designed this in the 1860s. As you can see, he collected plates.

The dining room:

Hugo's standing desk and inkwell in his bedroom:

The bedroom, including the bed where he died:

Here's a painting of him in his deathbed:

There's also a sweet portrait of his grandchildren, holding one of his books:


  1. Oh my, the architecture is amazing!

  2. Paris certainly knows how to design beautiful architecture


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