A wander through the 2nd and 9th Arrondissements of Paris.
One writer calls these neighborhoods the “Rising Stars” with “the grand, gilt interior of the Opera de Paris, the magnificent domed ceiling of Galeries Lafayette department store, the winding streets and covered arcades and passageways, the lovely architecture of the Galerie Colbert and the surprising gentrification of the once seedy but still lively streets near Pigalle.” – Janelle McCulloch
I call it the neighborhood above the Tuileries anchored by
the majestic Opera House (now Ballet House) and La Madeline (the massive church
dedicated to Mary Magdalene) with Grand Boulevards going in every which
direction. I can confirm that Rue St
Denis is still seedy, but the 19th century covered passageways are
surprisingly delightful in their “hiddenness” and charm.
As is now my new habit, I start my Paris day trips in a church --- this day at La Madeline along with a large bus of equally devout tourists at the church opening time of 9:30. The cameras clicked for a good 7 minutes, and then the band of travelers was off allowing me to quietly take in the sculpture of the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. By late morning, after an unscheduled stop for coffee, a pastry pick me up in Fauchon (the millionarie’s supermarket ), I visited the inside of the gorgeous Le Palais Garnier (the National Opera House) with a grand staircase that IS unbelievable.
The weather forecast had been for 67 degrees F and 0% chance of rain, but the actual weather was heavy rain. With that development, I skipped my planned stop at the Printemps department store (102 Rue de Provence) for top floor lookout and 360 degree viewpoint of city and the longish walk out through a residential area to the Musée de la Vie Romantique (16 Rue Chaptal). I also bought an umbrella on the street since in a moment of optimism I had been convinced to leave mine in the car on the way to the train.
I made another coffee stop (this time at Starbucks – the loyalty runs deep), and headed for a few stores on my list. At the Zara Home Store (2 Boulevard de la Madeleine), I picked up some lovely champagne glasses and then at Repetto, the famous store for ballet shoes (22 Rue de la Paix), I committed to some patent leather flammy red Ballerinas. It’s a commitment I hope I can live up to.
I attempted to hit Le Petit Vendome (8 Rue des Capucines) for lunch at the recommendation of my favorite Paris blog, but it was le crowded. By then I was hungry, so I went off agenda and settled for an uninspired sandwich somewhere nearby. I attempted two bookstores – one a travel bookstore Voyageurs du Monde (55 Rue Sainte-Anne) which was more like a travel agency (bust) and the second a bookstore for cooks - Librairie Gourmande (92-96 Rue Montmartre) which had enough of an English section to make it worth the stop.
The highlight of the day however was the afternoons spent in the arcades/covered passageways. These beautiful passages popped up in the 19th century to give shoppers a better way to shop rain or shine. They were typically dug through existing buildings and were covered by glass roofs. The 150 shopping arcades have since dwindled down to 25 when most were destroyed when the large avenues were built. Those that remain each have their own architecture, style, and retail focus. Galerie Vivienne, with its lovely mosaic floor, has a tea salon, bookstore, florist, wine store, bistro, and shops specializing in textiles, furnishings and other yummy things.
Passage du Grand Cerf, another one of the arcades with a gorgeous glass roof, has twenty plus affordable boutiques. It has a bit of a jewelry theme but there is also a Marseilles soap store and even an African art boutique. With the rain coming down steadily, I lingered long in both arcades. I stopped for a glass of Rose in one of the bistros, I fingered a lot of interesting jewelry that was beautifully displayed, and I relished the glimpse into the past when shopping was leisurely - before the “Half Off” signs and special promotions.
By the end of the day, the sun broke through and I meandered down the Rue Montorguiel, a family friendly pedestrian street for gourmands that reminded me at little of Seattle’s Pike’s Place Market. It was there that I parked myself at an outside table along the busiest section of the street to nibble on a cheese plate and listen to the hum of families returning home from a busy day.
Oh, Paris, you are fun to dance with and now I have some red Ballerinas for next time.