The other day I was walking in the Marais, in the part down by the Seine, and as I cut up the rue des Jardins Saint-Paul, heading toward the big church of Saint Paul, I couldn’t help thinking about one of my favourite French literary heroes, François Rabelais, who lived on this street in the mid-1550s. Today we freely banter the adjective of his name, Rabelaisian – “marked by gross robust humour,” as the dictionary says – but let’s not forget that François Rabelais was the first French novelist, famed for The Most Fearsome Life of the Great Gargantua and Pantaguel, rollicking tomes about two brilliant prank-loving giants, father and son, let loose on Renaissance Paris, both books published in the 1530s. Much of the writing consists of wildly comical satire by this off-beat Benedictine lay priest of the strict Catholic-run University of Paris’s theological dogma – this in the early days of the Protestant Reformation. Dissenters were being burned at the stake for far less, Rabelais’s own publisher Etienne Dolet being one of them. But luckily for him, Rabelais had a stalwart protector: the Bishop of Paris.
But the books deal with many other things as well: the Medieval wall of Paris, for instance.
Built by King Philippe Auguste at the turn of the 13th century, a 100-yard stretch of it still stands, the largest vestige extant, nine meters high with two round towers standing. It boards on a large sports field just down from the Lycée Charlemagne. In Rabelais’s time it stood directly across from his house on the rue des Jardins Saint-Paul. In Pantagruel, published in 1532, Rabelais makes fun of the ancient ramparts, which were still the first line of defence on the Left Bank of Paris. In it, Pantagruel’s sidekick Panurge (“a mischievous rogue, a cheat, a boozer, a roisterer”) says:
“Oh, how strong they are! They’re just the thing for keeping goslings in a coop. By my beard, they are pretty poor defences for a city like this. Why, a cow could knock down more than twelve foot of them with a single fart.”
In his final years, Rabelais lived on a sinecure, the salaries of two curacies at churches outside of Paris in which he seems never to have set foot. He died in 1553 at age fifty-nine and was buried in a little local cemetery called Saint-Eloï. It no longer exists. In 1791, during the Revolution, it was cleared for real estate development. But unlike the ancient Cemetery of the Innocents in Les Halles, whose skulls and bones were sent to the Catacombs before construction began, houses were built on the land of the former Saint-Eloï cemetery with without the remains having been removed.
So the unquiet ghost of François Rabelais roams the Marais.
NOTICE TO LOVERS OF LITERATURE:
The walking season for David Burke’s Writers in Paris Walking Tours finishes at the end of November 2014. It will resume in April 2015. But don’t worry, you can continue to contact him and make reservations at www.writersinpariswalkingtours.blogspot.fr
LAST MINUTE PARIS RENTAL APARTMENT- HALF-PRICE! NOV. 30-DEC. 17
My renter did not come through at the last minute for my Paris apartment, so I am now offering it at HALF-PRICE.
My fabulous Paris apartment in the heart of the Marais near St. Paul metro is available from November 30 to December 16, a total of 17 nights. It's a spacious one-bedroom 750 sq. ft. loft style apartment with 12 ft. ceilings, decorated in chic Mid-Century Modern furniture and sleeps two people in a Queen size bed. Amenities include washer/dryer, 16" flat screen TV, dishwasher, internet connection/Wifi and free long distance calls to the U.S. The apartment is located on the second floor with a large elevator.
The price is now 1400 euros instead of 2800 euros. Photos upon request.Shorter stays are avaiable. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested.
Christmas/Holiday Tour of Paris for 2014
Paris is magical during the holidays and I am happy to announce a special Christmas/Holiday Tour of Paris for 2014. Clients will experience the marvelous shop windows, gleaming outdoor lights, beautifully decorated trees, and festive Christmas markets. The tour includes a visit to Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores, the Champs Elysees Holiday market, the yummy gourmet shops Fauchon and Hediard on Place Madeleine overflowing with delicious holiday goodies, and the rue St. Honoré, with designer shops Hermes and Lanvin. To warm up, we stop for an authentic hot chocolate at one of the top Paris chocolate shops.
Tour times 10AM-1PM or 2PM-5PM
Cost: 225 euros for 1-3 people, 75 euros each additional person. Hot chocolate is not included in price. Click here to book the tour or for more information.
Tours will be conducted everyday from December 20, 2014 to January 5, 2015 except on Christmas and New Years Day.
New! Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes
I am happy to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Cooking Classes. Come take an ethnic culinary journey with me and chef and caterer Charlotte Puckette, co-author of the bestseller The Ethnic Paris Cookbook (with Olivia Kiang-Snaije). First we will shop at a Paris green-market for the freshest ingredients and then return to Charlotte's professional kitchen near the Eiffel Tower to cook a three-course lunch. After, we will indulge in the delicious feast we prepared along with hand-selected wines.
Cost: 185 euros per person (about $240)
Time: 9:30AM- 2PM (approximately 4 1/2 hours)
Location: We will meet by a metro station close to the market
Class days: Tuesday,Wednesday, Thursday,Friday, Saturday, and Sunday
Minimum of 2 students, maximum 6 students.
Click here to sign up for the next class or for more info.
I am pleased as punch to announce the launch of Eye Prefer Paris Tours, which are 3-hour walking tours I will personally be leading. The Eye Prefer Paris Tour includes many of the places I have written about such as small museums & galleries, restaurants, cafes & food markets, secret addresses, fashion & home boutiques, parks, and much more.
Tours cost 210 euros for up to 3 people, and 70 euros for each additional person. I look forward to meeting you on my tours and it will be my pleasure and delight to show you my insiders Paris.
Check it out at www.eyepreferparistours.com
Click here to watch a video of our famous Marais tour