Thursday, May 7, 2009
jour no. 7 - place des vosges
When my friend Nicole and I were in Paris in the mid-'90s, we stayed in the Marais, very near Place des Vosges. For those of you who don't know it, Place des Vosges is kind of like Gramercy Park, only not locked up, and about 300 years older. It was built in the time of Henri IV, who instituted a whirlwind of renovations to the city as soon as he took charge. Place des Vosges epitomized his accomplishments: brick and stone construction, which replaced the now-banned timber houses, and a classical elegance inspired by the cities of Italy.
Four hundred-plus years later, the square is hopping. Young children playing in the two sandboxes, crowds of older kids just hanging around, and all sorts of people -- locals and tourists alike -- strolling, reading, jogging, and people-watching. There was even a movie shoot going on in one of the arcades surrounding the square.
In the center is a statue of Henri's son, Louis XIII -- not the most popular king in France's history, but one who, thanks to the efforts of his right-hand man, Richelieu, also had a lasting impact on Paris. Under his reign, two muddy islands on the Seine were joined and developed, resulting in the lovely, tranquil Ile Saint-Louis.