I went on another fabulous walking tour this week with the group from Martha’s school. This time we were in the 7th arrondissement, in a neighborhood that used to have many convents in it. Today there are still a few convents and lots of churches.
We learned about St. Vincent de Paul, who had quite a life. Apparently he was captured by Tunesian pirates when he was a young man, and was enslaved by them for three years until his escape. After that experience, he dedicated his life to helping people in need. He started the Sisters of Charity, became the private confessor of Louis XIII, and did much to minister to the poor and the needy. His remains are on display in a gorgeous church called La Chapelle des Lazaristes. We climbed a narrow, winding stone staircase in order to walk by the glass case in which he lies peacefully. Wax molds have been placed over his face and his hands. It was really interesting to see his remains so up close and personal.
As we filed out of the church we noticed the body of a priest lying in state in an alcove just by the entrance. A man with a coffin on -end on a dolly passed us in the doorway, presumably for the priest. I wanted to get a picture of the coffin on the dolly, but just couldn’t quite bring myself to take it. When I got outside I saw his truck, though, which proved too much to resist.
The other high point of the tour was learning about Le Bon Marche, which is the first department store in the world! Built in 1852, it took the concept of the “covered passage” shops in Paris and put them all under one roof and one owner. Because it was so successful, it was quickly emulated. Macy’s was built in 1858 and Bloomingdales in 1860. The guy who owned it with his wife were also the first to come up with the concept of sales and returns (I LOVE THOSE GUYS) . They also provided on-site day care for the employees, which was an idea way ahead of its time.
My pictures of the exterior and the fabulous windows didn’t come out, but here is a photo of the dome, done by Eiffel at the same time he was working on that crazy idea of a useless tower for the Paris Exposition.
We have come to the end of another tour, mes amies. Feel free to tip your guide if you enjoyed yourself.