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Welcome to my renovated web site! Don’t consider this a typical travel guide — like the many are already on the web or in the stores. This is a realistic guide that I wrote with enthusiasm that I hope to share such as my close friend Cappadocia tours guide. I endeavoured to avoid the “fairy tale” vision other guide books usually present to their readers, glossing over reality. Reality is very important, and that’s why I’m sure that many of you will prefer knowing the real world in which you travel.

jack camper

This is not a commercial travel site. I am not a travel agent — just a fellow traveler. Recommendations on this site are earned by my personal experiences at the listed establishments.

This site is the result of my 41 years of extensive European travels. Throughout these journeys, I have I recorded my experiences and special memories, making appropriate annotations.  Of course, I’m not a walking encyclopedia, so I used a huge and I hope trustworthy bibliography and some printed resources, which I will mention when applicable.

In our hyper functional Paris, with all its contemporary technologies, roadmaps, Internet guides at the beginning of a new Millennium, there are stunning spots that don’t respond to the description of a modern capital, randomly located around the large arteries or ancient streets that saw History flow by. It seem that Man has left, more intensively as elsewhere, the imprint of their joys, misfortunes, virtues or perversions. Certain of these spots go as far as Antiquity. Wasn’t LUTECE already really special, with its fluctuating topography and lots monuments amidst vast swamps? Others, more recent, evoke customs of another era. The last-born seem to fulfil some mysterious functions. Let’s discover them together……  

Paris-Hidden-Passage Sainte Foy

If you want to feel the ambience of Middle Age Paris, check the PASSAGE SAINTE-FOY.
It is very rare that in front of 263, rue Saint-Denis, two ”women of ill repute” like the prostitutes were named in the Middle ages, don’t stand spotting possible clients. The better for those who want to pass through the passage Sainte-Foy to the other side of the Charles V wall that protected Paris from the 14th to the 17th century. The more you progress in the passage, the more you have the impression that the walls are approaching, that the passage is narrowing. You cross a small courtyard, you pass along houses of which one has a suspended staircase. Then, suddenly, you have to climb 13 steep steps. One above you are finally at rue Sainte Foy no.14, called rue du Rempart in ancient times. Go a few metres to the right and then take the rue Chenier to the left leading you to rue d’Aboukir and rue de Cléry, the heart of the “Sentier”, garment district of Paris. This is extra-muros, since the difference of level brought you to the patrol path on the ancient wall, once guarded by sentinels. Rue Saint-Denis would be intra-muros of course. The passage Sainte-Foy is about 80 m long.

Paris-Hidden-Time has stopped

11th arrondissement. In the rue Amelot, just passed rue Saint-Sebastien, a curious bazaar attracts the eye. In the alley leading form the street to the store itself, called “Regifilm”, we are already charmed by the ancient lanterns, telephone alarm systems like we used to see on a lot of street corners in old times, blue and white for police, red for the fire brigade, a lot of other items like a memorial grave stone dedicated to killed soldiers of the 1914-18 war. Very peculiar! But once you stroll and browse inside the stores (plural!), of Regifim, (whose main income comes from costumes and all sorts of theatre things you can hire), your mouth falls wide open and you stare in disbelief to quantities of bibelots, antiquities, arms and costumes stocked in a gigantic Ali Baba cavern. Everything: there is everything! From Henri IV baggy trousers to Louis XV wigs, crossbows, swords, daggers, armours. At the first floors, some ladies amend and patch up old movie costumes, TV outfits that a particular or even TV production has rented. At REGIFILM, a journey to a certain past is guaranteed…time has stopped.

Paris-Hidden-The miraculous chapel in the rue du Bac

An attraction for pilgrimages and amateurs of religious happenings is to experience 140, rue du Bac. This Hotel de Chatillon, built in 1760, is the home of the Sisters of Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. A courtyard, a wall full of ex-voto, and visitors, pilgrims, tourists from all over the world, because this courtyard leads you to the entrance of what is called “La Chapelle Miraculeuse”. But why am I telling you all this? What is so special about the chapel and their devote visitors, the people running around with medallions?
This is the story: in 1827, on November 27, the Virgin Mary dressed in ” a white silk dress”, appeared to a young girl, a novice nun and former servant Catherine Labouré. Catherine was ordered to create a coin or medal that would protect the people. 4 times the Virgin appeared to her. It took two years before the archbishop of Paris recognized the miracle of the Maria appearances and gave the permission to manufacture the medals as wished by Catherine Labouré. Four years later, already 4 million models of these Maria medals were in circulation, bearing a wonderful power…..
Today, the seat where Virgin Mary sat in front of Catherine Labouré is the object of an intense veneration. A packed chapel, any time you come, a perfect sampling of all levels of society. Two shrines contain the corpses of Sainte Catherine and Sainte Louise, founders of the Girls of Charity.
But commerce and business are always present: in the courtyard an automatic distributor of rosaries and medals!! But I heard that they cancelled that item: too obvious! Anyway, business is booming because from all over the world people come to make a provision of miraculous guaranteed holy and consecrated. To obtain the medals, it’s between 9 am – 12am and 3 pm- 6 pm, sold in a small room before the chapel (from 10 am on Sundays).

Paris-Hidden-Edith Piaf museum

I’m sorry not to be able to give you the right address of the Musee Edith Piaf, since to visit it, you MUST phone first tel 0143555272. A certain Mr. Marchois, in whose house the museum is located will give you the appropriate codes to enter the backyard and up the not so young stairs to the fourth floor,leading you to this moving museum, especially for those who loved and still dream about the incredible sensible and passionate voice of “the little sparrow” as she was nick named. I can unveil that it is located in two small rooms of Marchois flat in the Paris suburb of Menilmontant. An unpretentious black plaque on the wall of the house marks the location of the museum dedicated to the “Parisian sparrow”.
A faded brown photo is stuck on the door, showing the face and expressive hands of Piaf. In the first room a life-size figure of the singer stands, which, measuring a scant 1.47m, hardly reaches to the shoulders of most of the visitors. Next to the figure, sitting in an armchair, is an almost identically-sized teddy bear, a present to Piaf from her last husband, the young Greek Theo Sarapo. Piaf could almost have been his mother. The wall is adorned with portraits and photos of Edith Piaf, along with placards, letters and postcards. On a sideboard are located the museum’s newest acquisitions, the boxing gloves of Marcel Cerdan, the Algerian-born Frenchman, who was involved with the chanteuse.
THE BLACK dress on the tailor’s dummy looks as if had been cut for a child. But for Bernard Marchois it is the most important item in his collection:
“This is the dress in which she sang, revelled in the applause and in which she suffered,” says Monsieur Marchois, who looks after his “Edith Piaf Museum'”. You can also see red stage gown and two dresses she wore on 1951 when she played “La Petite Lili”, a theatre play by Marcel Achard.
Mr. Marchois has all her records, he knew here from 1958 to 1963 and wrote two books about her you can buy. The visit is free and you can put whatever you want in the a little money tray
The museum, founded by the society in 1977, is however only a stopgap measure. The Friends of Piaf want a “Museum of French Chansons”, where they can see their Piaf memorabilia displayed.
But for let’s have a brief history of Edith Piaf for those of you who don’t know her.
She was born in 1915, only a few streets away, daughter of a fairground singer and a carnival “snake man”, in the same area of Menilmontant. As a child she sang in the backyards of Menilmontant, to the east of the capital, and when she died on October 11 1963, she was buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery in the same suburb. At her funeral, thousands of people lined the route to pay their respects. “Non, je ne regrette rien” – no, I regret nothing – Piaf summed up her life shortly before her death, a life marked by alcohol, drug abuse and illness.