Day 4: An Embarrassing Gap in my Knowledge of the French Revolution

The grand plan for our second full day in Paris was to spend the morning walking around some of the shops and squares around the Opera and Place Vendome, then to picnic in the Tuileries and spend the afternoon at the Musee d’Orsay, and we followed the plan exactly.  We woke up quite early and were out the door before many breakfast options were open, so we spent a little while walking through the Marais before breakfast

During these pre-breakfast moments, I also experienced another disappointment, which in retrospect I feel very silly about, but … it is what it is.  Over the last couple of days, John and I had talked about things we wanted to be sure not to miss in Paris, and one of the things I mentioned was the Bastille.  Each time, John sort of shrugged and said “ok” and didn’t really work it into the plan – he said it was near our hotel, and left it at that.  So Tuesday morning, as we crossed the Boulevard Beaumarchais, he pointed to our left and said – there it is – indicating a tiny little tower several blocks away.

I looked at it with a dumbfounded feeling for about 10 seconds (standing in the middle of the street), then asked – “Where did they keep all the prisoners?”

At which point John stared at me with a dumbfounded expression on *his* face, then informed me that what we were looking at was just a monument – the actual building had been demolished long ago.

So, OK, of course I know about the French revolution and the storming of the Bastille and so on, but somehow it never registered with me that the building was destroyed less than a year after the original Bastille Day.

How this hole in my knowledge came to exist, I have no idea.  I’d blame Mr. B, my high school European history teacher, but I don’t like to shift responsibility.  I guess I just missed something, somewhere.

At any rate, this was a great disappointment, and a shock.  Just a few days before, I’d been reading (in Twenty Years After) about D’Artagnan escorting Rochefort from the Bastille to have an audience with Cardinal Mazarin, and Rochefort making his grand escape with the Frondeurs on the way back … and I thought I would be able to see the actual building (at least from the outside) and imagine these things for myself.  I was very sad to learn that this could never be.

But – life goes on; and as we continued westward into the Marais, we saw some interesting window displays, my favorite of which housed these chocolate critters:

We also passed a hilariously tiny motorcycle:

We made our way back to the Place des Vosges, where the sidewalk cafes were preparing for the day…

… and eventually found an open patisserie (Miss Manon) on the Rue St-Antoine.  We took a seat inside and ate the requisite (and delectable) pastry breakfast.  We were super excited for pastries, not having consumed any for almost 18 hours!

One of the items John did not want to leave Paris without eating was a pave au chocolat (“brick of chocolate”) which he never quite found – but his breakfast here was almost the same thing.  Both have pastry dough, an eggy/creamy custard, and chocolate, but (I believe) the difference is in the shape.  As I understand it, the pave is more brick-like and rectangular, whereas his Tuesday breakfast item was more of a long, flat, rolled item.  I hear it was equally delicious though, despite the strange form factor.

I had something new and interesting: a chocolate-hazelnut croissant, which instead of having two little bars of chocolate folded up in the pastry, had one bar of chocolate and one strip of nutella (or something similar).

It was very tasty, although a little sweeter than I normally prefer.

This was probably exacerbated by the fact that we were hoping to have coffee with our breakfast, but after ordering, discovered they did not serve decaf – and since neither of us drinks caffeinated, the coffee option was out.  I opted for a hot chocolate, since I did want something warm and with milk:

… but it turned out to be the super-sweet pudding type of hot chocolate, which, in addition to the extra-sweet pastry, was a little much for me.  Still, despite my flaw in ordering, everything was quite tasty and we would definitely recommend this as a great breakfast spot.

After leaving the bakery, we walked east to see the Bastille non-Bastille.  Here’s the pillar:

There’s also an outline in brick inset into the pavement of the original outline of the prison.  Here’s a corner:

The rectangular bricks forming a straight line and circle are part of the outline; the gray bricks laid in a fan pattern are the regular street.  It’s not nearly as cool as the building would have been; this was my second greatest disappointment of the trip, as John can attest after hearing me wonder for a quarter-hour straight why no one ever told me they’d torn it down.

But we still had grand plans for the rest of the day, so after looking at it in disappointment for a few moments, we hopped on the metro and headed for the Opera.

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6 thoughts on “Day 4: An Embarrassing Gap in my Knowledge of the French Revolution

    • Yes – I’m always very happy to learn things I didn’t know before – and especially to correct information that I’ve gotten wrong. It’s worth the embarrassed feelings in the meantime.

      Thanks for stopping by my blog!

  1. I like all the tiny chocolates and the tiny motorcycle. I wonder if those are Easter chocolates, or available all year? Also, I am surprised that they sell the same pudding chocolate in the guise of milk that Ryan accidentally bought in the Netherlands.

    You do a great job of capturing the feel of a place. Art climb met at Larry Kanfer’s Art gallery, and Larry and Alaina talked about their barn project. The stories of the barns made the photos extra interesting.

    Grandpa wants to follow your blog and so does the rest of my siblings. — at least those able to do so.

    • I’m really not sure about the chocolates; we saw many animal options in many chocolate store windows, but some seemed more Easter themed (bunnies, eggs etc.) than others (hippos, elephants). I’m guessing that some of them definitely had gone out of their way to make Easter basket treats, but maybe they normally had some animals for sale also.

      I’m glad that the stories are good enough to make the photos fun. I am afraid these days that, as far as my blog writing goes, I’m “making it longer because I do not have time to make it shorter,” to paraphrase the famous Pascal quote. But if you are enjoying it despite my long-windedness, I won’t worry about it so much.

      Thanks for the heads-up about Grandpa and whoever else might be interested… I hope they will enjoy it too :)

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