Not even Paris is eternal, but the French have a special genius for making the unchanging seem new. (Elsewhere and long ago I theorized that genuine placehood is rooted in the experience of arrival, a kind of built-in capacity for welcoming.) I lived in the Marais ("swamp") district of Paris in 1986, a warren of medieval streets, unblasted by Haussmann, that serves as a hub of both Jewish and gay life while still retaining all the necessary functions of a village. Today, a friend writes of his trip there this year, and speaks only of things that haven't changed in those 21 years:
I think our Paris is not the place most Americans know, though we did miss a turn and stumbled into St-Germain, and the Metro forces one into the maelstrom of Les Halles and Chatelet -- but that's Paris too, as is the throng of people on the steps up at Sacre-Coeur, though that's a more subdued bunch. 'Our' Paris has more to do with the Marais, that quarter bounded by the Hotel de Ville and Beaubourg to the West and the Bastille to the East. It includes the Jewish quarter, and secluded enclaves where neighbors meet, like Place des Vosges -- where it's OK to lie about on the grass! There's the bit down by the Seine where the Jardin des Plantes leads up to the Muslim Institute and Mosque. No one seems to go there, which is just fine! They all miss an exquisite tea room. Well, I could go on, yes? You must sense those spaces......and the light of evening on the Seine.
An important measure of Paris is the abundance of rich and specific places that do not need the narcissistic mirror of tourism to see themselves. My friend's itinerary, including by all means the detour to the anonymous shopping-dungeon of Les Halles and the endless underground corridors of Chatelet Metro station, is as perfect a tour as any Fodor's could devise.