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Living Parisian, Part 2 - La Marais, Picasso Museum, and the Seine

Updated: Jun 26, 2019

Upon arrival, we took the train (RER) from Charles de Gaulle Airport to a station near our Airbnb located in the arrondissment (district or neighborhood) called Le Marais. At the second or third train stop, a man with an accordion embarked and began playing traditional French music. At first it was like, oh bother, all of the train passengers from the airport are a captive audience for this guy, but in the end it was very charming. It was a little welcome to Paris, compliments (well, for a few euros dropped into his hat, anyway) of this local musician.

That first day in Paris we decided to stay close to our rented apartment. We were jet-lagged, but so excited to finally be on the ground in Paris. We envisioned our exploration of the surrounding neighborhood would be an excellent way to learn about this magical city. With no specific agenda we could meander as we pleased with no obligation to get anywhere in particular.

A power nap at our apartment was all we needed before wandering around Le Marais (translation: the marsh). We had our lunch at a sidewalk café trying not to look too American - but it didn’t work. I was hoping to blend in with the local culture!

What is it about foreigners visiting another country, that before even speaking, we are so identifiable? Is it the difference in clothes or the type of shoes one wears? Or is it an exhausted, unsure, wandering look about the traveler that gives them away? Or perhaps the clearly visible camera in the hand of the eager explorer wanting to return home with visual memories? I don’t have any answers to any of these questions other than to share these ponderings with you.

the Musée Picasso Paris housed in l'Hotel Salé in Le Marais

We had already purchased our 7-day Paris Museum Passes, so when we ran across signs for the Musée Picasso Paris, we headed there for an afternoon visit. Depending on how many days you are in Paris and how many historic sites and museums you wish to visit, the Paris Museum Pass is a great option - it can allow you to bypass some lines and the hassle of purchasing tickets for each place. We were staying in the city for 8 days/7 nights so the 7 day pass was perfect. We used it multiple times each day so it definitely paid off for us.

The Picasso Museum is housed in l'Hôtel Salé. It is an amazingly grand home that was built for a wealthy salt tax collector around the 1660s and most recently was refurbished in 2014.

the building façade inside the courtyard and adjacent terrace café

When our tour of the museum concluded, we basked in the afternoon sun on the terrace café called le café sur la toit. Some cappuccino and a little dessert was just the thing to regroup for our next adventure. It was so wonderful to just sit in the sun and relax. On that terrace we heard Spanish and French being spoken.

I think the key benefit to beginning our travels at a leisurely pace is that it takes some of the pressure off being a "productive traveler" and gives you time to acclimate.

my first Parisian cappuccino enjoyed at the café

Fun fact: The French are very deliberate about setting your place at a table. Each time we were seated at a café the waitstaff took great care in placing the napkin and utensils in front of us with precision. I guess it is part of the je ne sais quoi of the French. I mentioned in my last post that what ever the French do, the French do well. Even the little things like setting a table.

the grand staircase at Musée Picasso Paris (l'Hôtel Salé)

Although I enjoyed seeing the works of Picasso, I REALLY loved exploring this building. Maybe even more than the art itself. I enjoyed the discovery of architectural details and other interesting and unusual things. (Although we should all remember, I consider myself an architecture nerd!)

Iron work detail on stair at Picasso Museum

iron work detail of baluster on the grand staircase

art and architecture (and a chair)

I liked this corner of an upper floor, where you can contemplate both art and architecture. The contrast of Picasso's modern art and the historic building create an interesting compilation.

ceiling timbers of Musée Picasso Paris (l'Hôtel Salé)

As we moved around the room, the patterns and play of light and shadow was intriguing in this space. The heft of the heavy timber trusses and framing was impressive. Buildings are no longer commonly constructed in this fashion, so it is a treat to see inside.

me and my shadow - Valerie photographs iron rings

Apparently while I was taking photographs, my husband was photographing me! He knows I tend to resist being photographed, so he snuck them in when I was focused on the fun details.

iron hitching posts at Picasso Museum

iron ring hitching ports on the courtyard wall

I was curious what these iron rings embedded on the exterior walls could be. After doing a little research, it turns out that they are most likely hitching ports for horses. These would still have been in use just 100 years ago.

Patterned cobblestones at Picasso Museum

cobblestone pattern in courtyard

At this point we switched gears from walking along streets and buildings to strolling along the quai of the River Seine. Tourists and locals alike love the river quai. The locals experience the river like we might experience a park. It was amusing to see young families playing and so many people picnicking along the river embankments. Bottles of wine were being shared among friends - so different from how alcohol is legislated back home!

From this point on, I will let the photos speak for the beauty of the River Seine...

river boat near Pont Marie

a river boat along the Seine - Pont Marie in background

Pont Louis-Phillippe

The Seine river with the Eiffel Tower slightly visible

iron mooring rings along the Seine quai - le Pont Neuf in the background

Pont d'Arcole between rive droite and Isle de la Cité

Pont d'Arcole - Notre Dame visible in background

Pont des Arts - Institut de France (dome in background)

Pont d'Arcole (la Conciergie in background)

Isle de la Cité as seen from Pont des Arts - a pedestrian bridge

Love Locks on lamp post - Pont des Arts

Next to come: Living Parisian, part 3 - Sacré-Coeur and Montmartre. As always, thanks for reading my blog post!

If you have any comments, questions or just want to say hello - please send me an email! at I hope to hear from you - really!

Until next time, Valerie


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