Monday, January 22, 2007

Sights of Paris: The old house in 51 Rue de Montmorency

The legacy of a magician

Marais is not the oldest part of Paris, but is one of the quarters that have escaped the city planners. It used to be marshlands , before the Knights Templars cleared the land in the 12th century. Today this is one of the most popular places to live in the metropolis. The area has many old houses and its narrow streets is a melting pot. In Rue des Rosiers, you find the Jewish community side by side with immigrants from Nortern Africa. And closer to Centre Pompidou you find the Paris gay community. And Place des Vosges closer to Place de la Bastille, is maybe one of the most beautiful squares in Paris dating back to 1605.

If you walk up Rue de Montmorency you come to number 51. This is said to be the oldest private house still standing in Paris, built in 1407. It was left to the poor by the famous alchemist Nicholas Flamel (1330-1410), as a refuge where they could find a place to sleep and to get a free meal. Nicholas and his wife Perenelle were said to have found the Philosophers Stone and how to turn base metals into gold. When they died they were said to have been fenomenally rich.

On the facade of the house you can read the following text: On y mange, on y dort. Here you eat, here you sleep. And here people have had their meals for 600 years. Today there are a restaurant in the house. Sadly, it was closed, when I visited Paris in 2002. But the next time, I will go to eat there.


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