Thursday, July 27, 2023

Walking in Montparnasse


Notre-Dame des Champs Church

After visiting Mont Saint-Michel, I was heading to Amsterdam. However, I had to travel through Paris, and my train back to Paris arrived late in the evening. I decided to give myself a day to rest. I chose to stay near the Gare Montparnasse, which is where the train from Normandy arrived.

I spent two nights at the Hotel Villa Modigliani which is part of the Vacances Bleues chain. This hotel is right in the heart of the Montparnasse neighborhood (14th arr.). It is a very nice 3-star hotel that was built in 1997, and it offers a great home base for a stay in Paris.

Marguerite Boucicaut, By Unknown author - Fonds Boucicaut,Via Wikicommons

On my “day of rest” I decided to explore some of Montparnasse. I started my walk at the Square Boucicaut, This small park, adjacent to Sévres-Babylon Metro station, is named for Baroness Marguerite Boucicaut (1816-1887). Marguerite, and her husband Aristide, were founders of Le Bon Marché, which is next to the square.  Le Bon Marché was the first department store in Paris. The Boucicauts brought a very progressive view to running their business. In addition to creating a pension fund for their workers, they included staff in a profit-sharing scheme. Upon her death, Marguerite’s fortune went to fund public works, scientists including Louis Pasteur, and the construction of a hospital.

Le Bon Marché

Marguerite Bouciaut and Clara de Hirsh by Paul Moreau-Vauthier

Near the park is the Chapel of our Lady of the Miraculous Medal. This shrine was built in 1813 under a decree from King Louis XVIII. Its name comes from the alleged appearance of The Virgin Mary in 1830 and her request for the creation of the medal of the “immaculate conception.”

Chapel of Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal

About 2.0 km (1.2 mi) from Square Boucicaut is the Montparnasse Cemetery. The second largest cemetery in Paris, it holds 35,000 gravesites, and has an impressive list well known people buried there. These include Jacque Chirac, Jean-Paul Sartre, Guy de Maupassant, Samuel Becket and Susan Sontag. The problem is, with 35,000 graves in 47 acres of space, it is very crowded, and it can be hard to find the sites for people who are not buried along to paths.

Montparnasse is a neighborhood that offers many beautiful buildings and interesting architecture, art, theaters, and wide range of places to see and great food to enjoy. I had a wonderful day to collect myself before moving on to my next destination - Amsterdam.



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