In two beautiful mansions in the Marais is the Carnavalet Museum, a dreamy, transportive place to spend a couple of hours on an afternoon in Paris (two hours is my museum limit before I start searching out a cafe cappuccino and the shop).
I wanted to jump into the paintings of the Belle Epoque, of 19th-century Paris, where parties, lunches, divine dresses, big hats, cigars, theater performances, glasses of wine, and horse-drawn carriages ruled the social scene. But there are 140 rooms, tracing the entire history of Paris - in fact, it has been open since 1880, before the height of the Belle Epoque. So whether it's the Medieval or Renaissance periods, the French Revolution, or like me, the Belle Epoque, that strikes your fancy, you will find something to love and learn at the Carnavalet. The interiors alone are worth a visit, forgetting the artwork.
Belle Epoque is translated as the "Golden Age" or the "Beautiful Age" - how heartbreakingly perfect is that kind of era?
A visit to the Carnavalet is also a great time to experience Paris' most famous falafel stand - L'As du Fallafel, a five-minute walk away. Hop in line and be ready to give cash to the person taking your order in line. Take the paper they give you, hand it to the person at the window, and receive your falafel (I loved the spicy one - it's not that hot). Find somewhere to sit - the most beautiful park, Place des Vosges is less than 10 minutes away if you can make it that far without chomping down. Get extra napkins and enjoy!
L'As du Fallafel - 34 rue des Rosiers, Marais (closed on Saturdays for the Jewish sabbath)
Carnavalet Museum - 23 Rue de Sévigné, Marais