• RÇvolution09 ∏ GÇrard Leyris

The Marais, where France’s classical culture began


It was on sparsely-populated marshland – “marais” – that the monarchy built the first royal square, c. 1600. Today as elegant as ever and known as Place des Vosges, it’s where we begin.

We describe its salons, the city’s first. There noblewomen drew up the Carte (Map) du Tendre, to show their rowdy partners how to woo them. On one level, it’s about sex. On another, it illustrates the code that remains at the heart of the French conception of courtesy.

We continue through streets whose sculptured portals make them a spectacular outdoor art gallery and gain a first-hand view of aristocratic taste and life style in the small, little-known small Cognac-Jay museum, once a noble’s townhouse. We discover the grounds of an impressive townhouse, now the Carnavalet museum (the City museum).(Nota: closed in october 2016 for full renovation, it will re-open mid 2020)

We tell stories. Of courtesan Ninon de Lenclos and her line-up of “payers, caprices anjd martyrs. Of gorgeous Madame de Montespan, future royal mistress, honing the style that would soon lend éclat to the Sun King’s court. And of brilliant, penniless Françoise Scarron, learning to gracefully bend her will to the powerful…

The visit reveals the heart of France’s unique civilization.


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