A tour of the closed sites

Silvia Montfort (1923-1991) was a mere slip of a girl of 16 when she joined the Resistance. She had been born in the Marais area and went to school at the lycee Victor Hugo. In 1939 she joined the Eure-et-Loir network under the command of the man she would marry, Maurice Clavel. Her mother died early in Silvia’s life and her father wanted a life in a Gobelin manufactory for Silvia but she had different ideas.

Our hotel is in the Marais and we walked by the house where Silvia was born this morning. After the war she became an actor, a comic, a director, she worked on films and plays and…well, she did heaps of stuff. Unlike us today. Because of the strike, we basically just wandered from unopen site to unopen site.

The strike, on the other hand, spawned a great tear gas ridden riot. Not that we knew about it in the Marais. At one stage we were walking parallel to the Seine when 15 black Marias sped by, sirens screaming. I can only imagine they were off for a bit of quelling.

While we didn’t see anything of the riot, for some reason I overheard quite a few American conversations. There was the couple trying to find a second scooter and the woman who was telling her husband that she had “A bit of fluff on my eyelash.” And many more.

The scooter thing is interesting. Last night we kept seeing discarded scooters littering the streets. Sometimes in the gutter, sometimes leaning against walls, sometimes just lying all forlorn sprawled like some Oktoberfest Kiwi draped across the footpath. We also saw lots of them in operation. Scooters; not Kiwis.

Think city bikes but without a seat and you get the idea. There are ten separate companies operating across Paris and each one has brightly coloured electric scooters. You use the app to connect to the machine than you scoot around the city, paying per half hour. The price varies but it’s reasonable.

The scooters are capable of speeds of up to 50kpm, which is a bit scary if you ask me. Mind you, given the streets, I’m not sure you’d ever get that fast.

A rare sight: scooters in a scooter bay

I didn’t see any charging points so how they are recharged is a mystery. I imagine they have a GPS tracker in them in order to be located. Maybe they then get hauled off somewhere for some juice. Though I haven’t seen a spot where the fully charged ones congregate. It’s all very interesting but a little confusing.

I was surprised there were any scooters around at all. Or bikes for that matter. With the national strike starting today and it was as if the whole of Paris was asleep. The bit in the Marais anyway.

Most shops were open but largely empty, bus stops were collecting only dust and art galleries were closed. We know because we wandered by a few. Mind you, we didn’t wander long, first thing, before stopping at a very French cafe for a coffee.

Coffee and croissant – how Parisian are we?

And we stopped at a fair few coffee/tea shops today. We also ate at a truffle restaurant which was, as far as I was concerned, heaven. They even had truffle ice cream but, sadly, had sold out. I did manage to have a truffle creme brulee though, which was very interesting. In a good way. (There’ll be a report in the creme brulee page soon.) My pizza was divine and worth the carbs.


After lunch and a bit more wandering we managed to find a tourist site that was open. It is a cellar. It is also very old. The pillars which are holding everything up were built in the 13th century and are Gothic. The first house on top was built (after the cellar) for a bunch of Cistercian Monks. The idea was for them to use it as a central distribution centre for the produce they brought into Paris from the countryside. Sort of like the greengrocers still do today but without the arches.

It quite reminded me of the undercroft in Guildford though not in as good a repair. The reason for this, the lady said, was because of the many changes of buildings above. Of course I only think that’s what she said. As soon as Mirinda had told her we didn’t speak French she decided to explain everything in French. Very quickly and with great enthusiasm.

At one point the monks decided there was more money in real estate than vegetables so they decided to rent the place out. It whole block was converted into three separate buildings full of rental properties.

The building continued to change usage until October 1961 when it was decided to demolish it.

It was saved by a group of people who didn’t feel that its destruction was warranted. Nowadays, it is the headquarters of the association Paris Historique, who look after and restore it as best they can with limited funds.

Possibly the most interesting thing the lady showed us was the plan that Corbusier had for the whole Marais area. He would have the whole place completely flattened and a load of cross shaped towerblocks plonked in a gridlike pattern. I rather like his houses, but his plan for the Marais sucked big time.

Before we left, our chatty guide took us upstairs to show us a light well with the original wattle and daub walls and a very long garderobe. It was rather cold. The lightwell not the long loo.

We did see another site. A church. A big cold and unwelcoming behemoth of a thing. It’s the Church of Saint-Gervais-et-Saint-Protais that once had a very old and famous tree outside. The tree has gone (Bob reckons it was worn down with dog’s peeing on it) but, sadly, the church has not.

Mind you, it does have quite a good reason to be so gloomy. In March 1918, a long range German shell landed on it. The bomb killed 91 people at a Good Friday service when the whole roof collapsed onto the congregation. It also wounded 68 others. It was part of the Paris Bombing of 1918, something I’d never heard of until today.

Our day sort of stopped at about 5pm when we returned to the hotel for a siesta. Then, following a couple of beers in the bar, we headed across the road for tapas. I was very keen to go because they serve grilled sardines.

They were delicious

Back in the safety of our room, I had an urgent and abrupt appointment with Mr Toilet. I think the steak tartare from last night had decided it had had enough of my gut and wanted out. There was nothing else I could think of and raw beef does have form. The appointment went on well into the night and completely emptied my body.

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