Le Marais, Paris
It's early in the morning and I'm lost, but having no fixed plans, it's a perfect day to be lost in the historic back alleys of Le Marais.
I stumble upon Place des Vosges in my solitary ramble (featured on the être Paris—Le Marais guide). It is an accidental find and I'm completely beguiled by this beautiful urban paradise. Later I will find out this was Victor Hugo's home for many years, which will only serve to make it more magical in my memory. I move on through the crooked cobblestone streets, finally finding the Musée Carnavalet—a fascinating journey through the history of Paris. I play a game with myself to try to understand as much of the French plaques as possible, but a translator is needed for the most part.
From there I stroll down the Rue des Rosiers, to briefly take in the charming Jewish quarter, before trundling on further afield to the Jardin des Tuileries for a picnic lunch in the warm Spring sunshine. Crowds of locals are out sunning themselves next to the fountains on colourful canvas deck chairs. It's a splendid day to see this stunning historic garden.
At the end of the garden I visit the Musée de l'Orangerie, to see Monet's Waterlilies in the space he specifically designed to house them. They are more breathtaking than I ever imagined in the flesh, and I spend longer than I intend, completely absorbed in the master painter's watery world.
After I manage to tear myself away, I head back towards Le Marais to climb the Notre Dame bell tower just before sunset. My lovely aunt tells me it's the best view in Paris, and she's right of course. Standing with the gargoyles above the hustle and bustle of this great stone city—with the wind buffeting my hair and the Eiffel Tower rising majestically in the distance—it is breathtaking. Inside the tower my imagination runs wild picturing Victor Hugo's Quasimodo swinging on the vast ropes, ringing the bells at sundown.
Just on dusk I emerge, heading across the Pont Saint-Louis to the Rue Saint-Louis en l'Île—one of the cutest streets in Paris - to pick up a Croissant or two from one of the excellent patisseries on the street. Back in Le Marais, I see in the close of the day in a quiet spot beside the Seine, enjoying a delicious impromptu supper and the lit-up buildings on the opposite Bank, while watching the life of the river before me, and listening to the life of the city behind.
It has been a heavenly day, and the sweetest end to my stay in Paris.