Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Les Flâneurs

One of the joys of being in Paris for an extended period of time is that you don't feel in a panic to rush out every day, afraid of missing something. Instead, life takes on a leisurely pace. Some days we don't go out at all. Other times we don't plan to go out, but then suddenly the sun bursts out, blue skies appear and we decide, spontaneously, to go for a stroll, to become a couple of "flâneurs" for an hour or so.

A few days ago we were lured by the warm sunshine to wander a bit in our 2nd arrondissement neighborhood, which is the heart and soul of the garment district of Paris.

The streets are often full of men like this one, rolling carts piled high with bolts of fabrics.

I've been intrigued for a while by all the Egyptian names that adorn street signs and buildings in our quartier. We live on the corner of rue d'Aboukir. Across the busy rue Réaumur, I'd noticed a rue de Nil, and we'd been told of  a Passage de Caire, all names honoring the exploits of Napoleon in his Egyptian campaigns. So that was my vague goal, to find this Passage, whilst Matthew was interested in yet another, Passage Brady, in the 10th arrondissement.

 We stumbled across the Passage du Caire almost immediately and admired the large scale Egyptian heads on the building, and the more delicate carvings above the entrance to the Passage itself, a flying horse and sacred bird.

We were quite flabbergasted to find, inside, that this is one of the biggest Passages in the city. It covers several blocks, shooting out right and left to connect with adjoining streets. And it's almost entirely devoted to all things to do with the rag trade.

From shops selling fabrics... shops selling all manner of lacy and sequin encrusted trim... dress shops with astonishing bargains to be had, although I didn't quite see me in either of these outfits!

Nor this one, for that matter!

Should you be in the market for a mannequin, though, this is where you go to find one in all sizes, shapes and colors.

And if you want that dress to have a true stamp of authenticity, here's where you get your faux "haut couture" labels!

Right in the middle of the Passage du Caire, the Restaurant Beverly, under the control of the Loubevitch de France, is a reminder of the days when this was strictly a Jewish neighborhood. Today, most of the businesses seem to be owned and run by Asian and Indian companies.

Emerging at the far end of the Passage du Caire, we found ourselves facing the glorious arch dedicated to Louis XIV "Ludovico Magno", basking in the late afternoon sun.

We soon realized that we had come out onto rue St. Denis, the notorious "call girl" street, where every doorway seemed to be inhabited by a middle-aged woman with dyed blonde hair and black fishnet stockings, desperately trying to recapture her youth.  Really sad to see.

Crossing over behind the Louis XIV arch, and heading up Boulevard Strasbourg, we found ourselves in the gritty 10th arrondissement, with its slogans blazing out...
...and soon came across the chipped, worn entrance to the Passage Brady.

Once inside the Passage, however, we were delighted to discover  Paris' Little Mumbai! Along with several delicious looking restaurants, which we will certainly return to sample...

...a whole row of Indian dress shops displayed their selections of multi-colored saris...

...and food stalls offered exotic, and in some cases unknown, fruits and vegetables.

Leaving the Passage Brady we came to the rue du Faubourg St. Martin. To the left, just a few blocks up, stood the Gare de l'Est, to the right this baby clothing shop caught the eye of both of us (soon to be grandparents!), and in particular this display of boxes of baby booties, emblazoned with symbols of countries and religions, two dozen in each box!

By now we'd been sauntering around for an hour or so. Time for an afternoon coffee and a bit of a sit down to watch the passing parade, before heading for home.

As we made our way along rue de Cléry, one more discovery awaited us. Linking the rue de Cléry and the street above, rue Beauregard, is this "street" - rue des Degrés. It comprises just fourteen steps, is 5.50 meters long, has no doors, no windows, and yet it is an official street! We joked that it must be the shortest street in Paris. And, after a little research, we discovered later that it is exactly that.

Ah,  the joys and pleasures of passing an unplanned hour or two as a "flâneur" or a "flâneuse"!

À bientôt!

1 comment:

  1. Some days you don't go out at all? Sounds pretty decadent to me!