Paris is a city where one can make new discoveries every day. I went to look at St. Merri’s church again, and to buy the delicious baguette aux noix, bread with nuts, in a bakery nearby. Then I walked a bit further on Rue de Rivoli, turned left to Rue des Archives, and arrived to two lovely buildings which are home to the national archives. Hotel de Soubise and Hotel de Rohan were joined together after the Great Revolution of 1789-1793 to serve as the repository of all the national documents, some of which date back to the seventh century. These two mansions, together with Hotel de Sens, are the three formerly private residences which survive in Paris since the Middle Ages. One can see that they all belong to the Gothic and the Renaissance period in architecture, with lots of spires, turrets, ornaments and decorations. From there I backtracked as usual, only to have my eye arrested by a cross-street name: Rue des Blancs Manteaux, Street of the White Cloaks. How come?! I turned left to this short side street to explore, and came upon a very old little nook with ancient houses and an old church which is called, appropriately, Notre Dame des Blancs-Manteaux. Our Lady of the White Cloaks is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it is a sanctuary which dates back to 1258. The statue of the Virgin Mary dates back to the 14th century. Inside, there are the remnants of the very first church building, as well as many murals and pictures done as early as the seventeenth century, in amazingly good condition, with all the bright colors sort of leaping at the beholder. There is the old choir and the organ. It is a well-preserved functioning parish church which contains a great number of treasures from various epochs.
When I emerged from the church and continued my wanderings, I saw a sign which said Place des Vosges. As usual it surprised me greatly since in my directionless mental eye the square was in a totally different area. No, I didn’t try to experiment. What I like about exploring any old town, even such a large city as Paris, is this: wherever you are, you can always turn around and find one of the major landmarks in your sights. Notre Dame cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides dome. Well, sometimes you have to turn around several times but you will eventually latch on to something familiar. Then you just walk towards it or take a bus which will deposit you at a bus stop which you truly recognize. And on home you go!