Unusual corners of Paris, France. The oldest tree, the narrowest house and the bird market
If you are coming back to Paris for the tenth time and have had enough of the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, try to discover some lesser-known but all the more charismatic places.
1. The oldest tree in Paris
A few steps from Notre Dame Cathedral, near the Latin Quarter, near the old Anglo-Saxon bookshop “Shakespeare & Company”, in the small square of René Viviani, there is a tree that has seen and heard much, a witness of several centuries of history. It is old, twisted, supported by concrete supports, overgrown with ivy, surrounded by old buildings.
In its shadow, on the benches that surround it, tourists sit with sandwiches, cameras or a book in their hands, people discussing, relaxing.
An old “robiniere” (robinia – white acacia), planted in 1602, gives respect to René Viviani’s little square. Its shade adjoins the church of Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre, dating back to the 6th century. The Normans destroyed the church in the 9th century, and a new church was built on its ruins in the 13th century.
1. The oldest tree in Paris
The name of the tree “robinière” comes from Jean Robin (1550/1629), the botanist of King Henry IV, who brought it to France. The first white acacia was planted in the Place Dauphin in 1601, but it is no longer there. This tree gave rise to two other white acacia trees in Paris: one on the Place Viviani, and another in the Jardin des Plants in 1636.
2. The Bird Market
Near the Palais de Justice on Place Louis-Lepin, one can’t miss the famous Plant and Flower Market, part of Paris since 1808, which offers different kinds and colors of orchids, rhododendrons, cacti; exotic plants and many other flowers or horticultural decorations in green metal covered stalls.
Many tourists do not know that once a week this market turns into a “march aux oiseaux” – bird market. As you leave the Cit metro station on the last steps, you hear the cheerful chirping of countless species of cherubs, canaries, hummingbirds and parrots. In the cages on the ground you can find birds, roosters and even a pigeon for 10 euros. In addition to birds, there are aquariums with colorful fish, hamsters, rabbits, guinea pigs and pelicans.
3. The narrowest house in Paris
At first glance, walking by, you won’t realize that this is a special house. It gives the impression of a natural connection between two much taller five-story neighboring houses . But if you look closely, you’ll find that the tiny shirt and jeans store has an identity of its own.
3. The Narrowest House in Paris
This tiny two-story house, 1.10 meters wide and 5 meters high, was built on the site of the crossing between “La rue du Chteau d’Eau” and “Rue du Faubourg Saint Martin” . The Histoires de Paris blog reports that its construction was the result of a mysterious hereditary problem: the family who owned the passage between the Rue du Chteau d’Eau and the Rue Faubourg Saint Martin crowded it with this miniature house, thus ending the quarrels between the various heirs.
3. The Narrowest House in Paris
Over time, the shoe repair shop that had existed here since the 19th century was converted into a children’s goods store and now a men’s clothing store.
4. the CinAqua Aquarium at the Tracadero
It’s hot, but you’re not by the sea, you’re in the heart of Paris, in the sun-drenched Trocadero. In addition to the many refreshment stands, you can cool off in another way by going to the aquarium, located just a few meters from the Eiffel Tower . You don’t even need to have snorkeling gear, and you get to witness an incredible color palette of about 10,000 fish and fish of strange shapes and colors, whose sharpness and richness nature has brought to perfection.
The gimmick of the aquarium is the so-called “tunnel of sharks” (tunnel des requins), a glass tube, passing through which you experience a strange sensation. The sharks swim right above your head as if they were in the water around you.
4. the CinAqua Aquarium at Tracadero
Just the feeling of dryness is soothing, thankfully there is a barrier between you and the swimming sharks. The reservoir, in which among other fish swim 26 specimens, is the largest in France and holds 3 million liters of water.
At the end of the tour you cannot leave without visiting the “Bassin des caresses” (pool of touches), it is a shallow pool in which you can dip your hands and touch various fish, some of them are literally affectionate and come rubbing against your hands.
5. Aqueduct at Arcueil-Cachan.
Repeat visitors to Paris may be tempted in their curiosity to explore the many wonders of the Parisian area. One unique phenomenon that is definitely worth taking the RER B line a few minutes longer is the 13 km long Medici Aqueduct on the border of Arcueil and Cachan in the south of Paris. Residents of Cachan proudly claim that the aqueduct is in Cachan, and, of course, residents of Arcueil claim the same for their town.
5. Aqueduct in Arcueil-Cachan.
The metro stop of the RER B line is diplomatically called Arcueil-Cachan . It owes its name to the fact that it was built at the initiative of Henri IV between 1613 and 1623. Henri IV was prompted to build the new aqueduct by water problems in Paris – poor quality water from polluted wells.
However, the project was halted by the assassination of Henri IV in 1610. The widow Marie de Medici takes the project into her own hands to provide water for the fountains of the Luxembourg Garden and her palace under construction. The work, which employs about 600 workers, has been extended from the planned 3 years to 10 years due to frequent rains. Curiously, since 1904 and to this day, water from the aqueduct feeds the lake in the famous park of Mont-surry in the south of Paris, known to tourists.
6. Bouquinistes – book sellers on the banks of the Seine
“Bouquinistes” is a word belonging to Paris that perhaps doesn’t even need a translation. Everyone knows the wooden, green-painted stalls lining the banks of the Seine. Sellers of old books, magazines and small souvenirs are an integral part of the history and charm of Paris.
6. Booksellers on the banks of the Seine
More than a thousand wooden “mini-antiques” in the form of folding wooden and metal stalls, more than 300,000 books, 217 “bouquinistes” – booksellers, all a few kilometers of cultural walk along the Seine.
If you are bored with Paris, take the train to other beautiful places in France. And if you prefer a more active pastime, explore Provence and the Côte d’Azur by bicycle.
7. Centquatre 104
The history of the place called Centquatre (104) is more than curious. The building, which today resembles an old railway station, was built in 1873 at the request of the diocese . Since 1905, a funeral home has been located there. In 1905 the church was separated from the state, and everyone who died had the right to be buried.
7. Centquatre 104.
This was regardless of religion, marital status (divorced women used to be buried at night) or the circumstances of death. A municipal monopoly administered coffins, hearse and cemeteries. The Sueur Act of January 8, 1993, marked the end of the monopoly, and the funeral business on Aubervilliers Street began to decline until the last employee left in 1997. Restoration work began in 2001, and the facility opened to the public as Cenquatre in 2008.
7. Centquatre 104.
The Cenquatre is a space of creativity, experimentation, and innovation, constantly enriched by the vibrations of the modern world. It is a place of friendly exchange between artists and the public, a modern complex which hosts concerts, performances, design exhibitions, contemporary art, sports and dance performances. People freely join in with the different exercises and variations of movements.
All age groups shamelessly try hip-hop moves here. At the other end of the room, a group of young girls sit getting ready to dance on the floor, and a little further down the hall, rap songs can be heard. In the high-ceilinged room in the corner, a girl is yelling at her partner, threats coming from her eyes.
7. Centquatre 104.
After a while you realize that they are rehearsing some kind of theatrical scene . On the dance floor, a guy and a girl are sitting across from each other and eating a huge pizza.
A very welcoming, inspiring and relaxed atmosphere makes this place worthy of attention for people of all cultures and genres.
Paris’ “most” streets are short and narrow, expensive and rustic… And a couple of “most” houses
The streets of Paris are very different. Everyone knows the Champs-Elysées, but how many have heard of the Rue de la Côte de la Fisherman, for example? Or even Avenue Montaigne? Let’s walk a few streets, and at the same time look at some more houses.
Streets of Paris – rue Chat-qui-Peche, or Cota-fisherman
Considered to be the narrowest. Although, as always in such matters, there is some controversy. Its width is 2 meters 50 centimeters and its length is only 26 meters. As always, there is a story retold by the Hungarian writer Földes about a certain cat who was drowned by angry and drunken students. They suspected him, and his owner as well, of having sold their souls to the devil. But the cat miraculously returned and continued to catch fish deftly.
In reality, this street got its name like many other streets in old Paris. That is, according to the signboard of one of the drinking establishments, which was located on this street. In fact, it is an alley that connects the rue Huchet with the Quai Saint-Michel in the heart of Paris – the Latin Quarter.
But there is controversy.
There are other streets in Paris that could claim to be the narrowest street in Paris. This is, for example, Rue Eliane-Drivon (l’impasse Eliane-Drivon), which is located next door to Rue Cote. It is located at Rue Saint-Severin, No. 4 bis. It is only one meter wide. But, technically it is not a street, but a cul-de-sac.
Streets of Paris – La rue des Degrés, or rue des Levels
The shortest street. The street, which in fact is not a street at all. But just a staircase, hence the name.
It is located in the second arrondissement of Paris in a quarter with the historical name Bonne-Nouvelles. Its peculiarity is that it is not a street at all, but a staircase. It connects rue de Cléry and rue Beauregard with a total of 14 steps (levels). But this staircase has all the topographical rights of a street. Its length – 5 meters 75 centimeters, and it is considered the shortest street in Paris. It has another peculiarity – no one lives on it, there are no windows and no doors. The origin of the name is obvious: the steps are levels. It was first mentioned in the Parisian documents back in 1650.
At the moment it is considered the most expensive street in Paris. Yes, not the Champs-Elysées, although nearby. It is located in the 8th arrondissement, from the Champs-Elysées almost to the Pont d’Alma.
It is also the most fashionable street in Paris. Back in the 1980s, the Avenue became one of the main points of haute couture in Paris, displacing Faubourg Saint-Honoré from its leading position. On the Avenue Montaigne there are a large number of fashion boutiques. A total of 100 Parisian streets have been selected by the association of real estate agencies. The Avenue Montaigne has shown the highest value per square meter.
Interestingly, the street was formerly called the Alley of Widows, because grieving widows liked to gather here a few centuries ago. Then the alley was named after the famous French Renaissance writer Michel Montaigne.
Shall we look at the houses? The oldest is the house of Nicolas Flamel.
It was built in 1407 and belonged to the famous philanthropist and alchemist Nicolas Flamel (1330-1418). According to legend, he discovered the philosopher’s stone and the elixir of life.
It is located at 51, rue de Montmorency (3rd arrondissement). There is a plaque on the wall of the house. A rough translation in Russian reads:
“We, the farmers, men and women who live here or near this house, built in 1407, are obliged to say each day the Our Father and the Hail Mary, asking the Lord to forgive the sinners who have fallen asleep. Amen.”
And the life and myths surrounding the owner of the oldest house in Paris are worth quoting here.
In 1357, as the owner of a small bookstore, Flamel acquires a papyrus, “The Book of Judea of Abraham.” For 20 years he tries to unravel the “secret meaning” of the book, part of which was written in Aramaic. To translate this part of the book, he visits Jewish communities in Spain under the guise of a pilgrimage (at the time, Jews were forbidden to live in France). A myth then emerges that Nicolas Flamel supposedly managed to unlock the secret of the philosopher’s stone. The myth was strengthened by Flamel’s long life. In 1382 Flamel became the owner of about 30 houses and plots of land within a few months. The rapid growth of his wealth and his hidden sources convince people that he has learned the secret of the philosopher’s stone.
Death and Resurrection
Flamel allegedly died in 1418, having previously bought a burial place in the church of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie. Since he had no children, he bequeathed almost all of his possessions to this church. Legend has it that Flamel predicted his death and prepared for it carefully. In fact, the funeral is said to have been staged and Flamel and his wife went into hiding. The legend continues and more and more often Flamel and his wife are “seen” after death. People have asserted that Nicholas Flamel and his wife faked their deaths and fled to Switzerland. In the eighteenth century, the clergyman Cyr Morsel claimed to have seen Nicholas Flamel in an underground laboratory in the center of Paris. In 1761, Flamel and his wife were “spotted” at the Paris Opera.
The oldest house in Paris for tourists
There is another oldest house in Paris for tourists, even two. These are two houses located on rue François-Miron (rue François-Miron), nos. 11 and 13.
They were restored in 1970. The aim of the restorers was to reproduce the medieval house as it once existed. And they succeeded. One of the houses is called House Faucher by the sign on the facade, the other is House Mouton (Barana) also by the sign.
The narrowest: 39, rue de Château d’eau
The narrowest house in Paris is 1.20 m wide and 5 m high.
The story goes that there was a family who owned the passage between the houses from the water tower to the rue du Faubourg Saint Martin. The members of the family were all simply exhausted, remembering that it was an inheritance and the day would come when it would have to be divided. But whether to divide it lengthwise or crosswise, they could not agree. So the idea came up to build a house on the place of the passageway.
The first floor has a door, the second has only one window and, as can be easily guessed, one room. The interesting thing is – according to the stories – the family ended up going bankrupt, and was forced to live in this room. The house, by the way, is still inhabited.
Streets of Paris – rue Férou
We call it the most literary street in Paris. Located next to the Luxembourg Gardens, the narrow rue Férou may go unnoticed. There are no stores here and almost no art galleries – unlike the neighboring rue Bonaparte.
For some reason, many poets and writers have lived on this little street for decades. Among them the most prominent are the poet Jacques Prévert and the American writer Ernest Hemingway. The former spent several years in the late 1900s with his parents, in a small apartment on the top floor of house number 4. The second lived in house number 6 in the late 1920s. Others include Ernest Renan and Guillaume Apollinaire.
The street’s most famous landmark is an impressive mural. At 300 square meters, it covers the wall of the tax center (what do you think!?). On these walls you can read the entire poem “The Drunken Ship” by Arthur Rimbaud. The fact is that this is where the poet first recited these famous poems on September 30, 1871! It was nearby, in a restaurant that no longer exists, and the poet was barely 17 years old at the time. This amazing wall calligraphy was created by the Dutch artist Jan Willem Bruins.
Streets of Paris – rue Crémieux
A small cobblestone street, located near the Seine quay and from Gare de Lyon. The most colorful street of Paris!
This old stone-paved street is framed on both sides by colorful houses. In the warm season, their facades are decorated with fresh flowers. Charming houses were built in the second half of the 19th century. Its name the street received in honor of one of the most famous citizens – the lawyer and the politician Adolphe Kremieu.
The length of one of the most colorful streets of Paris is 144 meters and width is 7.5 meters. Located on both sides of it three-storey houses are made in typical British style. That’s why rue de Crémieux is often called “little Britain”. On the first floors of some buildings there are interesting stores and gastronomic establishments. Each of the oms has its own unusual decorations, the search for which becomes a fascinating quest for tourists. Colorful drawings of animals and birds, carved handles on entrance doors, “fake” windows and flower pots of the most bizarre shapes.
I must say that in the spring of 2019, the residents of the street demanded from the authorities to fence it on both sides. So they want to get rid of Instagram users, for whom the street has become a popular place to take pictures.
We just sit down to eat, and outside people are always filming something. Rappers who take two hours to record a music video right in front of the window or bachelorette party attendees who scream for an hour. Honestly, it’s exhausting.
Judging by the Club Crémieux account, there are large-scale flash mobs, wedding parties on the street. Some tourists do yoga poses right outside the doors of private homes.