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Paris: Bouncing down the Boulevards

View of the Eiffel Tower and L’église de la Madeleine at Galeries Lafayette (Photo by Theadora Brack)

Gussie-up all Sarah Bernhardt-style

By Theadora Brack

Hold me close and hold me fast, my fellow hobnobbing dandies of the Paris grand boulevards. Got a mad penchant for some old time shop hopping? I’m with you, step by step. So throw your slender, opera-length gloved hands up in the air! Swoon, I will catch you.

Celebrating photographer Eugène Atget’s recent birthday, let’s break out the pointy black boots and swiftly kick the wintertime blues with a breezy promenade through a few of my favorite 19th century passages couverts.

In preparation, we’ll gussie-up all Sarah Bernhardt-style with violet-tinted powder and flaming rouged earlobes. Famous stage tricks these, guaranteed to make your eyes sparkle! “Quand même!” as the great tragedienne herself liked to say. I completely agree.

Now, let’s get to prancing!

Café with brew and a view

At high noon, meet me on the terrace of the Café Palais Royal at 202 rue Saint-Honoré, and then we’ll make our way directly to the nearby Galerie Véro-Dodat. You’ll treat this time? Well, just as you like. “Deux bocks, s’il vous plaît!” as the old-school boulevardiers put it! While we clank glasses and re-rouge our ears, I’ll give you the scoop on the passages. But first, Santé!

Let’s take a stroll through the Galerie Vivienne, 1823

Flashback

Ever since Louis XIV cried, “Let there be light,” tourists have been flocking to Paris. Under the reign of the Sun King, Paris became the first city in the world to illuminate its streets after dark. This helped turn it into one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, practically over (a well-lit) night.

Then, the invention of the folding waterproof umbrella (in 1709) and the launch of the first covered passages (in 1800) sealed the deal. Providing gas lighting, luxury goods, and heated shelter from rain and mud, the shopping mall concept was born. Cutting through blocks to link streets and boulevards, the boutique-lined passages offered new shortcuts, flâneur-flavored promenades, and weatherproof shopping.

Gone in a twinkling

Sadly, only about twenty of the 150 original, glittering arcades survived “Baron” Haussmann’s sweeping urban renewal makeover in the 1850s-60s, although he did bring about improvements in transportation and hasten the arrival of the first department stores, like Bon Marché and the Grands Magasins du Louvre.

By 1920, the heyday of the passages was long over. As one jaded reporter complained, “The passage is a souvenir from the past, of which many people would surely forget the existence were they not forcibly reminded it of when showers oblige them to see refuge in that haunt once so fashionable.” Ouch.

Deep in the heart of the bustling Galerie Vivienne

On the bright side

Happily, the old passages have, like full beards and 50s furniture, come back into fashion again. No longer crummy and decrepit, the shopping meccas that remain are once more as hip as they are quaint, and very much worth a look-see.

Flooded with natural light, their narrow tiled halls are smartly dressed in glazed roofing, cast iron, mosaics, and marble pillar columns. Hives of activity, here you’ll find art galleries, bookshops, shoe cobblers, boutiques, pâtisseries, cafés, and bars adorned with sculptures and frescoes that give more than a whiff of old-fashioned Parisian glamour.

A description that Émile Zola wrote, back in their heyday, captures just how I feel today. “She adored the Passage des Panoramas. The tinsel, the false jewelry, the gilded zinc, the cardboard made to look like leather, had been the passion of her early youth. It remained, and when she passed the shop-windows she could not tear herself away from them.”

Now, who hasn’t been there before?

It’s growing late, so let’s rally forth! As we go a-haunting through the passages, do keep both eyes peeled for the spirits flitting high between the globe lights, having a dandy of a good time.

Bon Appétit et Bon Voyage!

Strolling miles and miles through the Galerie Vivienne

Grab a pen. Here’s my favorite route:

1. Galeries du Palais Royal
Place Colette
Métro: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre

2. Galerie Véro-Dodat (1826)
19 rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau – 2 rue du Bouloi
Métro: Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre

3. Galerie Colbert (1826)
6 rue des Petits-Champs – 6 rue Vivienne
Métro: Bourse

4. Galerie Vivienne (1823)
4 rue des Petits-Champs, 5 rue de la Banque, 6 rue Vivienne
Métro: Bourse

5. Passage des Panoramas (1800)
11-13 boulevard Montmartre – 151 rue Montmartre
Métro: Grands Boulevards

6. Passage Jouffroy (1846)
9 rue de la Grange Batelière – 29 Passage Jouffroy
Métro: Grands Boulevards

7. Passage Verdeau (1846)
6 rue de la Grange Batelière – 31 bis rue du Faubourg-Montmartre
Métro: Le Peletier

Meet me on the terrace of the Café Palais Royal (Photo by T. Brack)

Meet me on the terrace of the Café Palais Royal (Photo by T. Brack)

Where’s Tintin at the Passage Verdeau and Passage Jouffroy, 1846 (Photo by T. Brack)

Bonjour from the other side, Passage Verdeau, 1846

Treats at Le Valentin Patisserie, Passage Jouffroy, 1846 (Photo by T. Brack)

Stepping out at the historic Passage des Panoramas, 1800 (Photo by T. Brack)

Striking a pose at the Passage Jouffroy, 1846 (Photo by T. Brack)

Hotel Chopin, I can see your halo at the Passage Verdeau, 1846 (Photo by T. Brack)

More basking in the limelight at the Passage Verdeau, 1946 (Photo by T. Brack)

Photo Bombing Clown at the Passage Verdeau and Passage Jouffroy, 1846 (Photo by T. Brack)

Photo Bombing Clown at the Passage Verdeau and Passage Jouffroy, 1846 (Photo by T. Brack)

Tea and Chocolate can be scored at La Mère de Famille, 1761 (Photo by T. Brack)

Bone Appétit!

 

 

 

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72 thoughts on “Paris: Bouncing down the Boulevards

  1. Dearest Theodora
    Skylights and glass domes, gasoliers and great swathes of geometric tiles.
    A whole world of shopping, and gossiping under cover from slate grey clouds and late winter rains.
    What could be better?
    But what will you wear, I mean, about yourself? Your scent for such an excursion is surely as important as you jewels and heels!
    Yours ever
    The Perfumed Dandy

    Liked by 3 people

    • OH. NO. Dear Monsieur Perfumed Dandy!

      My response to your gorgeous words is not here! Where are my words? Heavens. Perhaps you received them by email?

      Hobnobbing with you is always great fun. I agree. Fragrance is very important. Fragrance sets the mood. While making the scene, what to wear? What to wear while promenading through the passages in early springtime months? Do you have any recommendations?

      Again, thanks for your kind words, as always. It’s a complete pleasure to hear from you!

      Theadora

      Like

  2. I’m so lonesome. Now I want to go back to Paris immediately. Depending on who wins the presidential election, I may want to move there. Actually, even without politics I want to live there.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m not surprised you wanna move to Paris – for those reasons… 🙂 I lived in Paris for several years and our 2 “old babies” were born there… btw, the Germans use a nice expression(comparison): to live like a god in France… and the Dutch have a saying:”we all have 2 homelands: ours and France!” 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good. Golly. What a menu, Mélanie! (Say, do you have a favorite outdoor or covered market in Paris?)

        I also love the little food shops around the Place de la Madeleine. Another absolutely fabulous place to window-shop!
        Theadora

        (I think you’ll also enjoy the Julia Child “Remix” song! Have you seen it? It’s adorable.)

        Like

    • Dear Gigi, I’m still thoroughly enjoying your Paris posts and photographs. I love your flashbacks. Such beauties! And you know, I also love your Chicago dispatches. I sorely miss the Magnificent Mile, Rick Bayliss and his Frontera (I still have my cap!), and the Art Institute of Chicago. Another fantastical city! Heaven.

      And as always, thanks for the inspiration!
      Theadora

      Like

    • The passages are pretty darn wonderful! It’s a wonderful way to spend a lazy, hazy Sunday afternoon, slowly, slowly strolling and photographing and nibbling, too.

      By the way, I plan to photograph the passages, located near the Opéra. Another favorite shopping ’hood. It’s on my schedule. So stay tuned!

      Enjoy the weekend!
      T.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, the chocolate shop is wonderful, wonderful, Janet! It’s been around since 1761. The vitrines are always drool-worthy and photogenic! (Say, are you happy with your current camera?)

      Enjoy the weekend!
      T.

      (I now never, ever leave the house without rouged earlobes. Sarah Bernhardt has always been a hero!)

      Like

      • Theadora, I love my current cameras, both my iPhone 5s and my Nikon. I just got a couple new lenses, a carrying bag, and a cool tripod for the latter, so I’m looking forward to getting to use them.

        I’m imagining you going around with red earlobes, now. Heck, I can get those just walking in the park on winter mornings! 🙂

        Have a great weekend yourself.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. They were a striking trio strolling down ru de Faubourg. The tall dark haired woman wore high heeled scarlet pumps. Her pigtail coiffed friend a vintage Chanel jacket tossed over her shoulders. The rather tall gentleman striding at their side was exquisitely dressed in a suit of silver. They were nibbling chocolate from a large orange LA MERE DE FAMILLE bag. Flaneurs extraordinaire! Exploring the city of light.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Gorgeous Passage about the Paris Passages, Virginia! Scarlet pumps, a Chanel jacket, and silver garb! I love the scene. I love the gorgeous word painting. With chocolate, to boot. Striking-looking trio, indeed!

      And speaking of red shoes, the Christian Louboutin shop is located in the Galerie Véro-Dodat. Wildly expensive and impractical but dreamy. Certainly not for strolling the cobblestoned rues!

      I’ll dig up a few shots . . .
      T.

      Like

  4. The crunchy baguette is enough for me to catch the earliest flight out tomorrow and meet you in Montmartre! Wonderful post you’ve taken me right to the doorsteps of your beautiful city ~

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mary! I agree. On my very first trip to Paris years, years ago, I ate practically nothing but baguette sandwiches, both night and day.
      And soon I was hooked. Still after all these years, my love is here to stay Individually wrapped, often in beautifully illustrated bags, they’re delectable, affordable and oh so portable.

      Bon Appétit!
      Theadora

      Have you seen PBS’s Julia Child “Remixed” song? It’s wonderful. It’s brilliant.

      Here’s a link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80ZrUI7RNfI

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thank you, the remix was as you said “brilliant.” My first baguette was actually in Paris (oh yes), my sister lived there and close to where she lived as a bakery that we’d pop into to get one on our way home after touring all day. So delicious, wonderful with nothing on them. Once again you brought back a beautiful memory. Happy Saturday ~

        Liked by 1 person

      • What a beautiful memory, Mary! (After purchasing a baguette, I’ve never made it back to the flat without some serious nibbling. I agree. They’re delicious with nothing one them!)

        T.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. SUPER article, comme d’hab’… ❤ well, next time I come up there from down here, shall I bring you over some magret fumé de canard & the best cassoulet, deal?… 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • And I always love, love your thoughtful words! And photographs, of course! You made my week. And by the way, soon we’ll be headed to races. So stay tuned!

      And enjoy the weekend!
      T.

      Like

  6. You bring magic to the world T!! How is it that you can make me homesick for a place that’s not even my home? Your tantalizing tales of tempting treats; lights twinkling like twilight, tease and taunt like a ticking timepiece.

    Perhaps it is possible, in another life in another time, I was there? If so, you capture the heart of it so well it takes me back…if not, then you capture ME so well I want it to be so. Either way, I love it….xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, what beautiful words, Rhonda!

      YES. Perhaps in another life, you lived in France? Sometime in the near future, you will have to make a home coming trip. I think you’ll feel completely at ease, from the moment your plane lands. Keep me posted!

      There’s a new book out about Marie Antoinette. I’ll dig up the name for you. It looks very interesting!

      Merci!
      T.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jeuh t’en prie 🙂

        I have traced my roots to Normandy in the 1500s…haven’t gone further than that, but I’m not surprised!

        The book does sound interesting! The information would be greatly appreciated!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. “Happily, the old passages have, like full beards and 50s furniture, come back into fashion again.” Sentence of the morning! That’s just my kind of simile alright!

    So glad you’re back in Paris and writing about it! Also nice to learn something. So that’s why Paris is called the City of Lights…first to illuminate! I do love a good factoid. You never fail to bring a crushing nostalgia for Europe upon me, but feel proud! It’s simply your ability to capture the pulse of Paris with your lovely perfect prose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, your words made me smile! I’m off now to find the photograph of my new big wig friend. I found the little darling in one of the vitrines at the Passage Verdeau. For the love of tiaras, I’ll add her to the post. I think you’ll dig her headpiece.

      And by the way, I’m still trying dig up more information about Marie Antoinette’s invisible ink. Perhaps a recipe exists?

      Have I missed any new or old royal gossip?
      T.

      (Oops! I just spotted your “Royal Baby Update: Prince Oscar of Sweden” post!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • um…modern royals? the Crown Princess of Sweden had a second child, a son. Vis-a-vis tiaras, not that I know of. I don’t think there’s been a new one made as of late. Actually, that reminds me of a publishing question I need to pose. I’ll hit you up through gmail…

        Like

  8. A brilliant post Theadora. You know some “passages” that I don’t. Made a mental note for a “passage” tour when I go back in August. 🙂 I may also overcome my profound dislike of department stores to climb to the terrace of the Galeries L. Tahnk you for the “Tour”
    A+
    Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Brian! YES. It’s still possible to find art and magic in the Paris passages. And dust! Add them to your August must-see list.

      I also recommend the rooftop cafés at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, especially at sunset during the warmer months.

      Tip: There’s a new roof in town! Not to be outdone in the potted plant department, Le BHV Marais now has its very own rooftop terrace. “Perchoir Marais” is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, after the store closes.

      Glorious!
      T.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the tips. I like “passages”. We lived for a while on a small street near the café where Jaurès was murdered. There is a passage there too, name I forget. Made a note of those rooftops for my next trip. Bon week-end.

        Like

    • Thanks, Diana! As speaking of promenades, I thoroughly enjoyed your recent photograph series, taken along the South Bank of the River Thames. Gorgeous!

      Have a lovely weekend,
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Lovely evocative post….it really draws me in to your passaged world. On my next visit (let it be soon, swoon…) I will be revisiting some of these places and checking out some new ones. I have a bathing beauty similar to those pictured on my mantlepiece. Perhaps I could find her a friend?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, let it be soon! Thanks, Mary! It’s easy, breezy to hop from passage to passage. I recommend visiting on a weekday or a Saturday. Most of the shops are closed on Sundays. I plan to visit the passages around the Opéra. I’ll create a list for you.
      Enjoy the week!
      T.
      (So you have a bathing beauty? I’ve just started researching them. They’re pretty darn fabulous. I also spot at the flea markets.)

      Like

  10. Again–such a fascinating post Theodora– poured over it and read my way down through the enthusiastic comments. So much beauty in tucked away places. Glad you know how to search it all out–and all the juicy details in and around those places… love your blog, T. xo

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Rhonda! As always, your words make me smile! Yes, the passages are wonderful, wonderful. Beautiful and dusty, too! You’d love the old candy shop. It’s been in business since 1761! Their vitrines are gorgeous, especially around the Easter holiday. Bunnies! Chickens! And Flying Bells!

      Enjoy the week!
      T.

      Like

  11. Absolutely loved your post. I remember how thrilled I was when I discovered one passageways…when next I’m in Paris, I must do your favorite route. “Let there be light,” tourists have been flocking to Paris. Under the reign of the Sun King, Paris became the first city in the world to illuminate its streets after dark.” So much to learn from you and always presented in the most lovely of ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for your thoughtful words, Karen! So you found one of the passages? Which one? Do you remember? I love when that happens. Sacred grounds are everywhere in Paris. With each and every promenade or jog, I fall head-over-heels again in love with the city. Again, stay tuned for a dispatch from the passages around the Opéra!

      Enjoy the week!
      Theadora

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Thank you for this post – I’ll be in Paris this weekend and will visit some of these galleries.
    Lutz

    Like

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