Treasure Hunt Through Time in Paris
Updated: Aug 4
This is the second Queer Martha treasure hunt that takes you to some of the hidden gems of Paris. Check out the first in the series here. The hunts take about 4 hours each, though you are encouraged to stop to eat and drink throughout the trip. The treasure hunts don't actually lead you to a final pile of booty - the treasure is getting through the course and living to tell the tale.
This particular treasure hunt takes you outside of Paris to St. Denis (telling you that is sort of a spoiler, sorry). After following everything happening in St. Denis over the past week, I thought it was important to post this. The news of terror and explosions and radicalism in the city is so scary, but I would hate for people to think that was all there is there. There is beauty and wonder and surprises in St. Denis, and terror won't take that away from us.
*You need 8.50 euros to complete this trip and a metro pass*
Start the hunt in the Luxembourg Gardens. To find the treasure, you must embark on a journey through the history of Paris. The first stop will take you back before Paris began – when the Parisii tribe watched the Romans build the city called Lutèce.
1. Leave the Luxembourg Gardens. Head to the Pantheon. Find the statue of P. Corneille outside the building. Continue straight to the road named after the first king of the Franks. When it dead ends, head uphill. When you see a street made of cobblestone where James Joyce did not live, take it. At the end – descend. Cross the street. Continue until you can enter through the gate. Welcome to the 1st century AD. So far you have proved yourselves to be gladiators at this treasure hunt.
Exit through the hole in the buildings. Once you are back on the street, look at the engraving above the door. Use the sign to decode the name of your next destination:
3.2.1 1.1.1 2.1.5 4.1.3 1.3.3 2.3.1 4.2.2 1.1.4 3.1.5 1.1.6 3.3.1 1.2.2 4.2.4 1.1.2 2.2.2 2.5.1 3.7.4
2. When you arrive, follow signs to the historic site that was finished in 1144. Enter the site (don't be swayed by the line to get through security. It's worth it.) Once you enter, find the monument designed by Pilon that depicts the Italian queen and her French husband, the King (he’s the second in a series with his name). Walk up the stairs near the monument so you are looking at it from above. Use the monument’s plaques to decipher the code below. It will lead you to the next era of Paris. The correct plaque has two panels and is placed next to the Good Jean's plaque.
Address (panel 1):
2.2 2.1 3.1 8.4 1.2 5.1 5.2 5.3 3.2 1.3 4.3 12.1 9.2 7.1 1.2 4.8 4.1 12.14 (use one letter before this letter in the alphabet)
Metro Stop (panel 2):
4.2 1.6 2.3 8.5 10.2 4.2
3.1 16.2 9.1 1.1 11.3 13.3 7.2 3.6 4.1 10.4 10.1
3. You made it out of the dark ages and are on the brink of the Renaissance. This is the oldest surviving house in Paris – built in 1407 and restored in 1900. Typical homes in medieval Paris would be built out of wood. The fact that this house is made from stone might explain why it survived.
It was built by the alchemist and philanthropist Nicolas Flamel and his beloved wife Pernelle. They opened it to migrant farm workers to stay for free if they promised to say their prayers every day. The inscription over the door reads: “We, ploughmen and women living at the porch of this house, built in 1407, are requested to say every day an 'Our Father' and an 'Ave Maria' praying God that His grace forgive poor and dead sinners.”
By the 18th Century, alchemy was over. The Enlightenment had left its mark, and Paris was the center of scientific thinking. Follow the directions to find a hidden remnant of this period that dates back to 1795.
From where you are standing, head towards the historic marker at the end of the street. Cross over to the next historic marker, and then continue straight down the little street. When the little street meets the big street, cross the big street and head to where two women in marble watch over a passageway. Enter the passageway. When you are through, enter the next passageway. Continue straight down the road of the Scottish Queen. At the end of the road, turn left, then take the first right. When this road merges into a larger road, continue on the larger road. Keep going. When you hit the roundabout, go straight through. Keep going straight, you’re doing great. When the road hits the street that leads to the Opera (look right to see it), the crosswalks get wonky. Make sure that you continue down the street with the bikes. Continue past the bikes until you see another set of bikes. Turn into the plaza on your left. Head to number 13. Take a photo next to the marble symbol of democratized scientific thinking. This is the first meter! These plaques were installed all over Paris in 1795 to teach citizens the new way of telling people how far they just walked in the streets of Paris.
4. To arrive at the last stop of the treasure hunt, exit the plaza the opposite way you came in. There will be a wall of trees in the distance. Head toward the wall of trees. Continue straight through the trees until you reach a bridge over the river. Cross the bridge and stop when you see a familiar face cast in bronze. Descend the steps here and find the final stage of Paris history: today! This whole area used to be a highway! It was transformed into what you see now to give the river Seine back to the people of Paris. Now people come here to walk around, hang out, take naps, drink, dance, and spend time together. The culture of the flaneur is the greatest treasure of Paris!