At least, now I know how to pass through these tiny green gates, and this makes me feel a bit more like une parisienne than before. I walk along, falling in love again with Paris.

From La Tour St Jacques, I follow rue Saint Martin and instinctively I know I’m going toward the Seine. I am walking south toward the very heart of Paris—a destination if there ever was one. This road, rue Saint Martin, will become rue Saint Jacques on the Left bank.

This was a thoroughfare long before the Romans ever paved it with stones. This is an ancient footpath carved several millennia ago by people going to the river to get water, to wash their IMG_0189clothes, to meet an incoming shipment of goods, or to see who’s hanging in the village square.

What do historians say inspired the growth of Paris? It was just one special moment.

Almost two thousand years ago, Julius Caesar invited all of the Celtic tribes of Gaul (ie, France) that he had just conquered to a sort of “getting-to-know-you” mixer in 52 AD. But the tribes from the southwest and the north refused to participate.

Caesar gave this some thought. If they met in the city of Lyon (known then as Lugdunum, the capital of Gaul) these rebellious warriors might have the chance to unite against him and push him out of Gaul.

So Caesar chose a spot between them—the land of the Parisii on the Seine River. Paris in 52 AD was nothing but a collection of huts on a small island in the midst of a slow-moving river.

“OK, guys, we’re going to meet in Parisii,” Caesar undoubtedly said.

“Parisii?” his men probably whined. “That mud hole? There’s nothing there! Why don’t we gather in Lugdunum where, at least, we could get a decent goblet of wine?”

But they did convene in Paris, causing a huge influx of traffic toward that tiny village. Over the years, Paris became a natural stopping point for merchants, pilgrims and warriors traveling through France. Then it grew to be that magical place where priests built their cathedrals and kings built their palaces.