What better way to start a Parisian experience than where it all started? The Square du Vert-Galant is an exquisite little garden at the far western end of the Île de la Cité where the Parisii tribe apparently fashioned iron age items until the Romans decided that it was prime real estate and did the lot of them in. They did however kindly keep their name alive by calling the area Paris. It is the only part of the Île de la Cité that is actually at the original level of the Roman settlement and is now a charming space, named after the insatiable old Henry IV (or the “Green Gallant” to his friends, mistresses and apparently any other woman who happen to catch his fancy) whose statue gazes out from the Pont Neuf . It has had many guises and was only turned into a garden in the 19th Century.
We took a delightful turn about this garden before setting off to explore Paris. At the base of the stairs leading up to the current level of the le de la Cité there is a little plaque. It tells how, at that very place on March 18, 1314, the two highest dignitaries of the Order of the Knights Templar, Jacques de Molay and Geoffroy de Charnay were burnt at the stake. This rather puts one off and I am surprised that the garden is so unoccupied as I would have thought it a natural congregating place for modern conspiracy theorists and the Illuminati set hoping to find some unrecognised masonic symbols scratched into the stonework revealing the location of the philosopher’s stone, or at least the ark of the covenant.