'Midnight in Paris' Photo Walking Trail

June 28, 2018

Last year I had the pleasure of creating a photo walking trail for an app called Spotroam to help visitors explore local spots of Paris not usually known by the average tourist.  The theme I created was 'Midnight in Paris' because I know that fans of the movie would appreciate something like this.  This trail will be a pleasant walk through some of the medieval parts of Paris to the infamous steps where Owen Wilson's character, Gil Pender, gets picked up in a vintage car to get transported to 1920s Paris in Woody Allen's film "Midnight in Paris". This trail has four spots and it should take about 20-30 minutes to complete.  In addition, I added two bonus spots at the end of the walking trail where you can 1) get a nice view of the Eiffel Tower and 2) walk a short distance to the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg (yes it's nearby so why not?).  Below are some interesting tidbits about the spots you'll see plus the Google Map of the walking trail.  Take your time and enjoy the medieval sites and have fun!

Spot #1:  Place de Hôtel de Ville in front of Hôtel de Ville

Pont d'Arcole was open in 1856 and the first unsupported bridge made of wrought iron.  It connects from Place de Hôtel de Ville (formerly Place de Grève) to île de la Cité.  Hôtel de Ville de Paris is the City of Hall of Paris.  It is absolutely stunning both inside and out and is free to visit as long as you make a reservation at least two months in advance.  To reserve a tour you can email visites.hdv@paris.fr.  Place de Hôtel de Ville (formerly Place de Grève) is the plaza in front of city hall.  Historically, it is known for the public executions during early Paris.

After crossing the Pont d'Arcole, you will arrive at Île de la Cité, the center of Paris.  Wander off the beaten track by making a left turn on rue Chanoinesse when you see a brasserie with orange awning with the words "Le Quasimodo Notre Dame."  Rue Chanoinese is one of the oldest, medieval streets untouched by Haussmann's renovations with a few things you will find interesting.

Spot #2:  Au Vieux Paris d'Arcole and What's Behind 26 rue Chanoinesse?

Behind the maroon doors of 26 rue Chanoinesse is a courtyard called Gravestone Courtyard and, much like the rest of this street, was untouched by the architectural overhaul done by Haussmann.  There is a strip of mismatched stone slabs laid besides cobblestones that were once used as gravestone markers taken from churches torn down by during Haussmann's renovations.  They were re-purposed in this courtyard.  Some of them have worn out Gothic writings proving their original purpose.  The maroon doors of 26 rue Chanoinesse are usually locked so there are no guarantees it will be accessible.

As you stroll down rue Chanoinesse look to your left to find a picturesque cafe covered with bright purple chairs outside, called Au Vieux Paris d'Arcole.  Au Vieux Paris d'Arcole is one of the prettiest cafes in Paris.  It's covered with wisteria in the spring, greenery in the summer and beautifully decorated for the holidays in the winter.  Also, legend has it that Paris had their own "Sweeney Todd" in the 14th century.  In the late 14th century, a barber and a butcher occupied the spaces 18-20 rue Chanoinesse (actually located on the left side of the street behind from where I was standing to take this picture). The barber would kill his customers with a razor and the butcher turned the victims bodies in patties for freshly baked pies, which were widely popular.  They eventually confessed to their scheme, were burned to death, and their houses destroyed.  The lot stayed empty due to superstition for centuries.  Now it's a garage for police motorcycles and if you’re lucky enough a nice police officer may let you see the old building foundation in the basement of 20 rue Chanoinesse.

Spot #3:  Filming location from Midnight in Paris - Square Jean-XXIII

Square Jean-XXIII is a nice peaceful square away from the hustle and bustle.  It's located in the back of Notre-Dame lined with lots of trees and park benches where you can sit and enjoy a nice sandwich.  This location is also featured in the "Midnight in Paris" in the scene where Gil Pender played by Owen Wilson sits on a park bench with a French museum docent played by French First Lady Carla Bruni-Sarkozy.  He listens to her translate an entry of an old diary he purchased from le bouquinistes (booksellers).

Spot #4:  Filming location from Midnight in Paris - Church steps of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont

The church steps are located around the corner from the front of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont.  In the movie, Gil sees a 1920s Peugeot at midnight drive up on Rue de la Montagne Sainte-Geneviève at Place de L’Abbé Basset.

Saint-Étienne-du-Mont contains the shrine of  St. Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris.  Next door to the church is the Panthéon.  The Panthéon is one of the most marvelous architectural masterpieces in Paris. Louis XV ordered to replace the damaged Saint-Geneviève church to show his gratitude to God after recovering from an illness. After the revolution, it became a mausoleum for exceptional Frenchmen and women.  If you want a nice panoramic view of Paris, this is one of the many places.  You can purchase the tickets (about €3 per person) and during certain times of the day a guide will lead a group to walk up the steps to the top of the Panthéon to Les colonnades.

P.S.  I've been at this spot at midnight.  The church bells didn't ring, which explains why there was no sight of a 1920s Peugeot.

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