Dame de Paris :
away from the Notre-Dame, smack in the heart of tourist-filled,
car-clogged Paris, lies a cool and serene haven, known only
to a few visitors, although it’s well-known to most Parisians.
And it’s where I’m going for lunch and, surprise,
it’s a hospital.
Probably not your first choice for a typical Paris meal,
but the Hôtel Dieu, right across from Paris’ most
famous cathedral, holds secrets of the kind that tourists
As the oldest hospital in Paris, the history of the Hôtel
Dieu is steeped in legend. The Roman Emperor Julien II is said
to have built a residence over the remains of a Druid temple.
Centuries later, around 651, Saint Landry, the 28th Bishop
of Paris, built a hospital at or near this site.
Ironically, the hospital was originally built to confine rather
than to cure the sick. Guards were posted at its gates to keep
those inside from getting out and infecting the city. During
the French Revolution, it was the hospital's proximity to Notre-Dame
that saved the cathedral from being burned to the ground by
the communards who feared the fire would endanger their hospitalized
Having survived fires, revolutions, wars, and numerous reconstructions,
the hospital today offers state-of-the-art medical services.
Although the hospital takes up a city block, most tourists
even aware of it.
Once inside the reception area, turn right and follow the hallway
to an open courtyard where you’ll find beautifully tended
gardens that invite you to sit and rest body and spirit. Open
during regular hospital hours, the gardens are a cool and fragrant
surprise at any time of year.
Another little-known secret is the cafeteria (yes, it’s
air-conditioned) that caters to those working and visiting
the hospital. If you are looking for an inexpensive, smoke-free
environment, the cafeteria serves up hot and cold dishes, sandwiches,
salads and drinks, most of which are available for only a few