Paris in October – Part 20 – Le Marais in Black and White

Le Marais is one of the few neighborhoods in the city center of Paris that retains its medieval core of narrow wandering streets. It is home to a diverse population from Orthodox Jews to gay pubs and nightclubs. It is full of little art galleries, boutiques, shops and restaurants, where cutting-edge cohabits with the ancient.

The look of the Orthodox Jewish center appears to be late 19th century/early 20th century Art Nouveau, which surprises a bit that it survived the Nazi occupation.

Orthodox Jewish Center, Le Marais
Orthodox Jewish Center, Le Marais

Just across the street and down a half a block is Le Petit Thai restaurant, with its cute elephant sign. I don’t yet know the significance if there is any, to why it seems there are always Thai restaurants in gay neighborhoods.

Le Petit Thai, Le Marais
Le Petit Thai, Le Marais

A beautiful wrought-iron door knocker on a weathered wooden door in the Marais:

Door Knocker, Le Marais
Door Knocker, Le Marais

A man out walking his dog on the Rue Sevigne. The church in the background is the Eglise St. Paul-St. Louis, which housed the hearts of Louis XIII and XIV (after they were dead, of course) until the French Revolution. The current structure dates back to the 17th century.

Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais
Dog Walker, Rue Sevigne, Le Marais

The Marais is perforated with a profusion of residential courtyards which remain invisible to the passer-by unless the massive doors at the street are open. Here is a view into one of these courtyards. They retain a very distinct feel of Old Paris where things are quieter and slower-paced. Entering one feels like stepping back in time, a peaceful oasis utterly cut off from the hustle and bustle of the city outside.

Courtyard Near The Bibliotheque de Paris
Courtyard Near The Bibliotheque de Paris

Eugene Atget took many of his most famous images in and around the Marais as the city was being surrendered to Haussmannization during the Second Empire/Third Republic periods. One of his regular subjects was the Bibliotheque de Paris, originally built as a hotel (town-house for a noble family) in the 17th century. Today it houses the city library. This view is of the entrance gates to the courtyard.

Le Porte du La Bibliotheque de Paris
Le Porte du La Bibliotheque de Paris

A door into the courtyard, marked Sortie (exit). Not too much exiting going on through this door, though, if the giant potted palm visible in the left-hand window has anything to say about it.

Sortie, Bibliotheque de Paris
Sortie, Bibliotheque de Paris

All images shot with my Rolleiflex 2.8E, using Kodak Tri-X film.

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