simmer down and push the pause button?
As we agonize over our limited vacation days, our exuberant
love of discovering Paris occasionally feels overwhelming.
We want to fit "it" all in, make sure we nail down every single must-see.
Admittedly, I'm guilty as the next guy -- clawing my way around the city
in an attempt to see, taste, and absorb it all in one big bite.
Too much sightseeing can feel staggering and
you run the risk of drowning in your own ardor.
Every so often, we overachievers should let up a bit on the gas pedal
and lean into the peace and calm amidst these blockbuster hits.
Paris will still be there tomorrow.
A day with little effort helps take the edge off.
As we uncover a more Peaceful Paris -- even if for just a few hours -- it
should help make us feel a stronger connection with our favorite city.
So where do we find solace in the middle of this throbbing metropolis?
stands a calming little piece of Paris heaven.
The Hotel Dieu -- literally translates as hotel of God -- does double duty
as both hospital and refuge in the center of historic Paris.
The hospital drew its first breath in 651 AD; its current framework was built in 1877. From the outset, Hotel Dieu stood strong, champion of charity and hospitality,
its claim to fame as the first to administer to the poor and the sick.
In 17th century France, the state believed the poor had a right to medical care.
Back then, the mortality rate was incredibly high.
Crowded conditions -- often three patients to a bed -- and an unsanitary
environment meant they were somewhat of a medical nightmare.
But by the 18th century, circumstances began to improve and the facility
became an icon of medical research and surgical training.
Today -- at least for now* -- Hotel Dieu is the ER for the first nine arrondissements and a renowned center for the treatment of diabetes and ophthalmology diseases.
*local citizens are currently up in arms with worries that their local
emergency room is being drowned out by these specialty services.
Like so many treasured finds in Paris, art and architecture complete the picture.
Since many medical professionals believe nature helps cure the sick,
it's no wonder they keep this pretty green space is such pristine condition.
I didn't notice an herb garden but it wouldn't surprise me
since the French are known for their love of herbal cures.
This is a perfect little retreat, a great
place to calm your overexcited vacation brain.
If you need one more reason to pause at Hotel Dieu,
why not check out their inexpensive rooms?
What? A bargain in the center of Paris?
No wonder they call it Dieu -- as in "Mon Dieu!".
If you're lucky, you may snag one of their reasonably
priced -- if rather plain -- rooms.
Who cares about design when you're steps away
from Notre Dame and Berthillon…..a heaven-sent
reward when you're most in need.
you may want to search out a different kind of escape.
Nothing beats a quiet chapel where you can't hear boo,
its spiritual calm holding you like a dear friend.
Chapelle Saint Vincent de Paul fits the bill so well,
you may be tempted to park your derriere for an hour or two.
Just down the street from historic Le Bon Marché and fabled foodie giant
La Grand Epicurie, Chapelle Saint Vincent de Paul's façade is surprisingly nondescript, so make sure to lock down 95 rue de Sevres on your google maps.
Take a moment to rein in your energy; feel the calm; absorb the stillness.
Listen to the sounds of silence and count your blessings.
the mind and souls of countless Parisians.
Louis Braille -- inventor of the Braille system of reading & writing for the blind --
was at one time the house organist.
Warmly bathed in soft light, the gilded chapel's big draw
is the wax effigy of its namesake Saint Vincent de Paul.
The bones are real but the wax face is a bit macabre for my taste.
Saint Vincent de Paul was my kind of saint.
He dedicated his life to helping orphans, outcast, the poor and the ailing.
Captured by pirates, he was auctioned off as a slave
and held in bondage for two years, ensuring the future French priest
knew firsthand about suffering and ill fortune.
But the instant you enter this chapel, all traveler's distress will evaporate.
You'll feel the quiet right down to your bones.
when you access the stairs.
After giving up the comfortable life
most priests enjoyed in the 17th century,
the angelic saint looks untroubled
in his new well-heeled surroundings.
Of course, who wouldn't want to
"sleep the big sleep" in a place like this....
All you really want right now is Comfort Food.
There's a reason this particular distraction has become so popular.
Admittedly, there are days when noise pollution, crowded metros and
the endless sea of people sort of knock the wind out of your sails.
A tempting plate of granny-style high-calorie French food will do more to cure
the little irritations that accompany travel than just about anything.
Add in wine and you're golden.
So when you throw in a little French history and some old time charm,
you'll soon realize ambience has never tasted this good.
Le Cochon à l'Oreille may not have any Michelin stars next to its name but the historic bistro is just the place to find your own little secret hideaway in Paris.
The vittles are fine -- no, not the stuff of foodie fame -- but good enough,
especially when you just want to sit down and take the edge off your day.
I suspect it would even be a good place for a solo diner should you come stag.
Foie gras maison, escargots, roast pig with potato gratin.... it offers a
menu with just the right balance of food and atmosphere.
The theme is Les Halles,* Paris' beloved central
marketplace, a throwback salute to this very neighborhood.
Le Cochon à l'Oreille pays fine tribute to the historic old market -- appropriately nicknamed "the stomach" with its working class workaday setting.
*Les Halles, born in the 12th century, prospered until 1971 when city authorities
decided to move the market out to the suburbs. Heavy sigh.
No doubt, many neighborhood bistros existed "back in the day" -- when
Les Halles was a bustling marketplace that locals relied on for just about everything.
Sadly, though you can spend months discovering and enjoying fine food throughout Paris, the days of finding a typical neighborhood bistro have dwindled alarmingly.
As much as I love much of the finest critically acclaimed cuisine in Paris, I still look for these old-timey feel-good eateries. I enjoy the accessories -- evocative murals, tall mirrors, zinc bar and ornate wall sconces -- almost as much as the crème brulée. And quite naturally, many of the customers play into the scene, particularly
an older woman I recall -- perfectly coiffed and nattily attired -- happily chatting
away as she smiled and charmed everyone within her reach.
soap-on-a-stick offers a quick chuckle and completes the picture of old world retro.
We were seated next to a window where I gasped in delight as I caught a
quick glimpse of Dame Judi Dench hurriedly making her way down the street.
Perhaps she too would enjoy a simple plate of oeufs mayonnaise
at this lovely reminder of historic Paris, an appropriate setting
for one of her period films.
diminutive chapel -- a historic bistro straight out of a Belle Epoque
fantasy -- these are among the dearest discoveries of Paris.
Simple, uncomplicated, satisfying, you have learned how to tame the beast
that threatened your state of mind.
Truly there are too many remarkable things to do in Paris.
That's why these lazybones moments are so critical;
pj's and teddy bear not needed.
And remember, if all else fails, you can always refer back to my old standby:
roses, chocolate and cheese....
Happy -- and peaceful -- trails to you in all your Paris wanderings.