Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Good...The Bad...The Ugly

"Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" (The more things change, the more they stay the same).

Or, maybe, not! In the seven years we've been spending time in our little corner of the 2nd Arrondissement, there have always been changes in the shops and cafés on the rue Montorgeuil, old ones close, new ones spring up. But somehow, the neighborhood itself has always held on to its character of being a "village" in the heart of Paris, with its own unique personality.  This year, though, some of the changes signal an unwelcome shift.

I'll begin with some of the "Good":  There was, for about four years, an uninspiring natural beauty products shop, next to the Happy Flower Boutique at the top end of the street. I don't think I ever saw more than one, maybe two, customers in the shop.

Today, that space has become a fancy patisserie -- "Pouchkinette" -- aimed at people looking for a spot to have a nice cup of tea and something sweet.  And I do mean "sweet".

In a luminous interior, trays of "goodies" fill the counters, some small (one bite) petits fours, others...

...well, no words necessary!

For years, across and down the street, there has been a closed storefront. Only the symbol (a horse's head) above the door told of its history: a horse butcher, boucherie chevaline. This year, it is transformed into "La Chambre aux Confitures" -- a boutique devoted to jams, honeys, chutneys and condiments.

And no shortage of happy customers, by the look of it.

Looking at the other side of the street, "L'Eclair de Genie" has replaced a tiny little take-out food shop...

...with a much more tempting line of offerings...

...and a former really tacky dress shop is now a splendid Italian Gelato cafe, "Grom"!

Hard to resist the poster by the door!

But just a door or so down from that welcome new presence, we come to one of the "Bad" (and sad) things that has happened since my last visit. The beloved Point Presse news agency, that forever stood with its yellow awning proudly promoting what used to be the world's daily newspaper (International Herald Tribune) has disappeared! Gone! (Just like the IHT.) It didn't just sell newspapers from all over Europe, it also had every magazine, comic book, greeting cards, postcards, pens and pencils, little notebooks (carnets), the weekly Pariscope and l'Officiel des Spectacles that gave you details of every event taking place in the city for that week. You grabbed your newspaper from the rack outside, then squeezed your way around the tiny aisles inside to get to where Monsieur had his little cashier post. A sweet, gentle fellow, who always had a friendly smile and a "bonjour Madame", and once kept my iPhone safe for me for a few hours when I had carelessly left it on the counter. We think he retired (no one seems to know exactly), and when no one else wanted to take over, the store was closed.

 Another shop, further down the street, that also sells cards and calendars, has taken up the newspaper rack, including the New York Times, although unlike the Point Presse that always had a dozen or so copies, this place only seems to get two or three, so if you want to get your Weekend Edition, you have to be there when they open!

In place of the Point Presse news agency, a new take-out traiteur "Stevenot" seems to attract a lot of customers, who stop by on their way home from work to pick up a ready-cooked supper.

Rows of organic farm chickens and other meats turn slowly on the spit by the front door...

...whilst inside, opposite a counter of cooked vegetables, you can also pick up eggs, sausages, etc. The word is that it's pretty delicious, but I need time to grieve a bit for the late Point Presse before I sample anything!

Another newcomer to the street is "Jimmy Fairly", an elegant, chic eyeglass store, with its cute bicycle display wagon outside. (French eyeglass stores are the best anywhere!).

Alas, a couple of doors down from that welcome newcomer, is another "Bad", verging on "Ugly", change. This used to be our favorite pharmacy. It had two entrances, a spacious interior filled with lotions and potions, soaps and shampoos, tooth care, nail care, etc., and a friendly pharmacist to help you with medications. Now, taken over by some chain, it just has one door, the interior is jam-packed with so much stuff you cannot see anything, and the formerly clear windows are plastered with super-sale offerings, low prices, prix fou! We put one toe inside and fled, deciding we needed to check out one of the other two pharmacies on the rue Montorgeuil for future needs.

And now for the really "Ugly", not-to-be-believed, happening on the street. The arrival of McDo!!

For about four or five years now, McDonalds has been pushing to have a footprint on the rue Montorgeuil, right on the corner of the rue Reaumur, just steps away from a primary and an elementary school. Each attempt was met with determined local opposition, not just from residents and merchants in the neighborhood, but also from our wonderful Mayor of the 2nd arrondissement. We stood on street corners and banged saucepans and waved signs and wrote letters. And for a while, it worked. We thought we'd won, because each time we beat them back. But the weight of the mighty corporation, and multiple threats of lawsuits against the city of Paris, seem to have worn down the bureaucrats in the Hôtel de Ville.

The evidence is in the taped up "permit" now displayed in the windows of what used to be a dress shop, "Brighton", that sold really nice tailored shirts, amongst other things.

The thought of this prime, classic corner lot becoming a three-floor, "open until 3 am" McDonalds is hard to take in, but we see workers on a daily basis demolishing the interior, so don't really see any way that it's not going to happen. Alas, it will change the feel of the neighborhood, for sure. What a shame.

So we avert our eyes to that as much as we can, and take joy in all the familiar shops, people and offerings, including the "Palais du Fruit," with its amazing displays of whatever is in season...

...including, right now, a gazillion mushrooms!

Our favorite cheese shop, "La Fermette" is still packing in the customers eager to choose from their huge selections of this essential item in French life.

And then, at one of the excellent wine shops that we pass every day, what should I spy but a Portuguese wine with the "Dalva" label! Who knew our friends, Robert and Marcia, had a connection to Portugal...

And our favorite cafe, "La Grappe d'Or",  gave us a warm open-armed welcome...

...and brought us their lunch special vol-au-vent fruits de mers, so prettily presented and utterly delicious. It feels wonderful to be part of their regular clientele again.

One last thing that changes every year, and is always a question: what will be the color this fall?! We soon found out: Dijon Mustard Yellow!

From our seat at "La Grappe d'Or," in the space of 45 minutes, we caught glimpses of endless variations on what kind of garment you can wear in Dijon Mustard Yellow. Here are just a very few, starting with shorts over black tights...

...a nice coat disappearing round the corner...

...another one coming up the street...

...even the Gents are not to be outdone!

Clearly, Matthew and I have to sharpen up, in order to join the other fashionistas, although I believe Matthew has a Dijon Mustard Yellow scarf, as a starter.   I, on the other hand, will need a trip to les grands magazins to bring my wardrobe up to date! Now that the jet lag is finally receding, I may even get there this week.

À bientôt!


  1. Yehhh the blog is back have so missed it some news so sad as loved those places welcome back xx

  2. Thanks for the reboot of this lovely blog! We are still successfully holding out against McDo (and Starbucks) in Bolinas and here in Primrose Hill! (not that McD would ever want to be in those two places). (Would they?)

    1. Be very vigilant, they have their ways....

  3. Fabulous, The Blog is back. So you must be feeling better. MXM

  4. There's a lot of temptation round every corner......Eeeek.... beware

  5. Great to see you back in the 'hood. Sorry about the transition of some of the shops to American Tommyrot! Just be glad Trump isn't going to open a campaign office in the 2nd anytime soon! Hope you are both well.

    1. Good to hear from you, Rick, hope all is well with you. As you see, we are truckin' along pretty much as always!

  6. Dear Janet,

    So good to read your postcards again! So sorry about McDo! Big big ugh ugh. At least there are fabulous mushrooms to enjoy....