After leaving the magnificent Sainte Chapelle we re-enter the modern world and make a left on the Bd. Du Palais, turning left again on Quai de la Corse and noticing the two remaining towers of the medieval Concièrgerie. The Concièrgerie was a prison in the 18th century and it was here that Queen Marie-Antoinette was held prisoner during the Revolution, before her transfer to Place de la Concorde to be executed. We turn left again on rue de Harley, go up a few steps and enjoy the beauty of la Place Dauphine, a fairly undiscovered and quiet spot in Paris, and a good place to sit and rest for awhile. The lovely stone and red brick town houses that line the square were built in 1607 and one of them houses the restaurant Chez Paul, a Paris classic. At the end of the Place you will notice an impressive statue: the good King Henri II on horseback—and directly behind the statue, steps leading down to the Square du Vert Galant. This is our final destination of the day and where we finally get to eat the picnic delicacies we purchased a few hours ago at the Maubert-Mutualité outdoor market.
As we enter the little park, we are under the famous bridge called Pont Neuf, which, despite its name, “New Bridge” is actually the oldest bridge in Paris, dating from 1607. It was built by King Henri II whose statue stands above it. The bridge crosses the Seine with 12 arches at the river's widest point. All along its length on both sides are a series of grotesque heads, each with a different expression. So we proceed to the very tip of the island and sit on the stones or benches to enjoy our group picnic. It is not against the law in France to consume alcoholic beverages in public, so go ahead and enjoy some wine as we share our various cheeses, pâtés and baguettes. But don't forget to look around you, for this is one of my favorite spots in Paris. First, you have a great seat to watch all the boats floating past, and speaking of boats, the Seine excursion boat company I recommend (because the boats are smaller and this location is easy to access) dock along this quai. In front of you is the lovely pedestrian bridge Le Pont des Arts, a destination not to be missed, especially at night when you get a view of Notre Dame on one side and the Eiffel Tower in the distance on the other. From our vantage point you also see one side of the Louvre across the river and almost directly across from where we are sitting, the former large department store La Samaritaine, a Paris icon.
It was built in the 1920's in art deco style and was previously a very popular site with its roof garden offering one of the best views of Paris. It has been undergoing renovations for several years and when completed will house shopping, food stalls, a luxury hotel, office space etc. Most of the building, which spans two blocks, is a UNESCO World Heritage site. So we come to the end of my favorite day in Paris, our visit to Ile de la Cité. It is a tour lasting about three hours but it took five blogs to share with you all the details. And we did go literally “from one tip of the island to the other” all the way from the Memorial to the deported ones to the picnic spot. Linger and rest in this special place before your afternoon activities. Bonne continuation!