Maps, Saint Germain des Près and the Eiffel Tower

Here The Boy Became King, Kinda Sorta

8 Rue des Grand Augustins 75006 Paris

Just around the corner from the famous restaurant Lapérouse coyly sits another fine dining establishment I’ll probably never have a 6 course meal at, Le Relais de Louis XIII.

If you look on the wall there is an inscription stating “Here the young Louis XIII was declared king, one hour after the death of his father King Henry IV”.


While I respect the hustle, me thinks this cleverly named restaurant is capitalizing a bit on the location’s history to sell their 20E desserts.

Despite the building’s old appearance, this elegantly stenciled testament to history is a bit vague on the HERE part.


17th century map showing the Convent

Instead, HERE was actually the Grands Augustins Convent (destroyed during the French Revolution) and it was HERE that 8 year old Louis XIII- who suffered from crohn’s disease, shitty teeth, and an embarrassing studder; was given the horrible news that his “Papa” (King Henry IV insisted his children call him by this rather than the more appropriate Monsieur, just another reason why he’s my favorite King) was murdered by the religious fanatic Ravaillac on May 14, 1610.


Which went as followed (by my interpretation)
“Hey kid, eh, I got good news and bad news. Well your old man kicked the bucket in a violently painful death BUT on the bright side, you are now King! Cheerz! “



While he wouldn’t REALLY wear the crown for another 7 years thanks to Mommy Dearest, the ambitious Marie de Medici, he did last an impressive 33 years as K.O.F.
Unfortunately, Louis didn’t make much of a name for himself in comparison to the reigns of his father and his future sun, I mean SON, King Louis XIV.

Maps, The Louvre and Palais Royal

The Galleries of the Palais Royal

Paris 75001

This painting, depicting a scene not so different from one we could find today in the same location, has a cheeky hidden context.

Clutch your pearls and grab your smelling salts respectable folks!

WE’RE TALKIN’ PROSTITUTION

A reproduction of the lost original and first shown in salons in the early 19th century, artist Louis Léopold Boilly barely escaped the Reign of Terror thanks to his habit of pushing the boundaries of propriety with his “morbidly obscene” yet realistic style of painting. He continued to scandalize the slightly less rigid standards of a post-Revolutionary Paris with this scene of a seemingly normal moment in the day to day Bourgoise life of Parisian men, women, and children at the Palais Royal.

However, on further inspection there are a few clues that show this is anything but an appropriate family afternoon outing.


To start, we got a few ladies of leisure, who can be identified by their scandalously bare arms, naked ankles, and flimsy dresses. Accompanying them are upper middle class men whose reputations are high enough to afford a little afternoon delight without risking their honor or position.


On the far left, there seems to be a minor dispute. Monsieur clutches the railing, perhaps he feels the price tag of this ménage à trois is too high. Beside them we see the round rump of a girl lifting her skirts, probably giving potential buyers a taste of the goods before they commit to buy. The woman above her seems to say “for fecks sake Constance, you are giving it all away! I can see the outline of your knee through those five layers of petticoats!”


To the right, a satisfied customer grasps the waist of a visibly annoyed lady, who is probably thinking “Hell no we will not be Facebook friends. Pay up and back off, I got things to do.”


Moving along, a women is batting her eyes at potential customers, maybe trying to sweeten the deal. “You want me to put that cane up your bum? Ok but there’s a 15% added charge for sodomy”. A child looks up beside her, is it a decoy to make this scene more PG?


On the far right we have a Mademoiselle stroking a dog in a basket, held by a man who appears to be translating for his turbaned master who stands behind them looking on. The woman between them is the Pimp; her arms around them both while negotiating the price.


The garden and galleries of the Palais Royal were well known for their more libertine activities, and this was a popular hotspot for working ladies of all classes who came here to “faire leur palais”. This was even where pre-Emperor Napoleon picked up a lady who he lost his V-card with! (see related post below!)

Rates of the Palais Royal Girls

As many as 600-800 women lived and worked at the Palais Royal until Louis-Philippe forbid prostitution there in 1830.


Maps, The Marais

Paris in the Time of Cholera

Rue de l’Hotel de Ville Paris 75004

Let’s talk deadly epidemics shall we?
Tucked away behind the Hotel de Ville (City Hall) is one of those medieval Paris streets that transports you back in time. And since this portion has been around for a solid 800 years, it might be the closest thing we can get to a legit time machine.

However, you might not want to go back to the year 1832, when Paris was slammed with the Coron.. err Cholera Epidemic.


Within 3 months, there would be 19,000 Parisians dead. This street, known at the time as the Rue de la Mortellerie, was hit the hardest. Of the 4,000 people living there, 304 would perish.
If you understand French (mort = dead) and are sensitive to bad omens, you might say “Well what can you expect with a name like Little Dead Street?”. In fact, the street was given this name in 1212 (!!) because many stone masons (some of whom dealt with mortar, thus giving them the title Morteliers) worked here.

Rue de la Mortellerie in 1550. Its located in the center, vertically lined

In old Paris, many street names were reflected who lived or worked there. Can you guess what inspired the Rue Tire-Boudin (Sausage Puller)?
No, its not a Butcher.
You can still see the passage people living here took to reach the Seine for water, Ruelle des Trois-Maures. (More bad Juju, it sounds like Three Dead in French) It’s been blocked off since 1841, but not for THIS GUY.

No Barrier Can Hold Me Back from HISTORY! (Not much to see except for garbage cans)

So anyways, post-epidemic, the inhabitants of this street petitioned to change the name of their street to something less macabre. In typical Paris admin fashion, it only took the city 3 years to agree and in February 1835 this street was dubbed Rue de la Hotel de Ville.

Rue de la Mortellerie in the 18th century, the orange arrow indicates the Ruelle des Trois Maures

The street was mostly razed 1914 but a few remarkably old buildings still exist at the very end. You can still see the former name Rue de la Mortellerie carved in stone above number 95.

Maps, The Marais

The Last Vestige of the Force Prison

24 rue Pavée Paris 75004

I think we can all safely say that finding one’s self in a medieval prison would not be ideal (unless you were one of the 7 lucky released inhabitants of the Bastille prison on the 14th of July 1789) but the Force prison was truly the exception for its level of disease and decay. The 18th century prison was described by Victor Hugo as being so rotted that “the ceilings had to be covered in wood so that falling stones would not kill prisoners in their beds” (Les Miserables). Charles Dickens depicted the Force as “a gloomy prison, dark and filthy, and with a horrible smell” (A Tale of Two Cities).


Originally a 16th century palace King Louis IX’s brother, the building would be converted to become a model prison where criminals went to be rehabilitated, (by the order of Louis XVI himself in 1780). The prison was separated in two parts; The Petite Force for women, and the Grand Force for men.



However, when the Revolution came along in 1789, the prison quickly became overpopulated and conditions went downhill faster than a fart in the wind. In early September 1792; 408 prisoners were examined for crimes against France. About 169 of them would be executed, including the savagely murdered Princess of Lamballe- BFF of Marie Antoinette, which you can read about in the attached post below if you have the stomach for it.


The Force prison was destroyed in 1845, and only a single wall of the Petite Force remains, just next to the History of Paris library (Hotel Lamoignon).


The prison itself occupied the space that Is today between Rue du Roi Sicile, Rue Pavée, and Rue Malheur (see the blue line in the photo, this street did not exist at the time of the prison).


image from nautesdeparis.fr

latin quarter, Maps

The Forgotten Paris River

Rue Berbier du Metz Paris 75013

This area of Paris is one of my favorites because there is loads of history here that is often overlooked by the tourists who don’t venture past the 5th arrondissement. The neighborhood is known as Les Gobelins and is named after the royal tapestry factory that has existed here since the early 17th century when ornate rugs decorated walls as well as floors. I’ll be honest, I’ve done the museum a few times and I found it to be boring and not very big, but they do interesting expositions from time to time. What really interests me here is the buildings and area behind the museum facade, which are normally off limits to the public.

The Manufacture des Gobelins


The Rue Berbier du Metz is also directly behind the Manufacture des Gobelins and is named after the guy formerly in charge of the Mobilier Nationale which also borders the street.
This place is France’s equivalent of your grandpa’s shed, where you toss furniture you can’t bear to part with in the hopes that someday you’ll reupholster Aunt Fanny’s velvet sofa but let’s be honest probably not.

Mobilier National – warehouse for important home furnishings


Prior to 1935, this street was the ruelle des Gobelins (not to be confused with the nearby rue or avenue des Gobelins) and it dates back to the 16th century. It’s wild to compare it on various maps and see how it hasn’t changed shape through the centuries.


When I first moved to Paris eight years ago, I lived nearby and was intrigued to learn this street was one of the stinkiest in Paris since it once had a river flowing down the middle of it that was more septic tank than quaint canal.


The waters of the Bievre attracted unsavory blue collar trades like fabric dyers and tanners (if you aren’t familiar with how leather is made, look it up) who flourished in this area.


Obviously this river STANK and was a cesspool for all kinds of nasty shiz so they basically kicked some dirt over it in 1912 and hid it away beneath the cobblestone lining the street today.
I always wondered how a river could just be buried and I discovered a few old photos that show the process.

I highlighted the Saint Louis Chapel (built in 1723 for the Gobelins Factory, a classified historic monument) for reference.


Today the Bievre is mostly out of sight, out of mind, SURE, but there is a local association that wants to restore the mighty Bievre to its old glory, minus the odors and mutant pizza eating turtles that undoubtedly currently inhabit it.