Promenades de Paris - Les Halles
• La Madeleieine
• le Louvre et les Jardins des Tuileries
• Le Palais-Royal
• La Place Vendôme
Until today in our Promenades de Paris, we have begun our tours where we last finished. Aujord'hui, today, we will backtrack a bit and take le Métro to a stop we took when we made our tour of Île-de-la-Cité, Métro Pont Neuf.
Aujord'hui nôtre promenade will take us through an area with some great specialty shops and where the Paris public market once was.
Exiting le Métro at Pont Neuf on the rive droit, right bank, we will walk first west along Quai du Louvre, pausing to look at the now-closed grand magasinla Samaritaine, one of the oldest department stores in Paris.
La Samaritaine is a beautiful belle epoque iron and glass building. The official reason given for its closure is that the building is in need of structural repair. Speculation abounds as to the "real" reason for the closure, the most common being that the owners found that as the simplest way to break the union. Were the store open, we could go to the top floor and take in the panoramic view, one of the best (though not the highest) in Paris.
Now moving east, parallel to la Seine along Quai de la Mégisserie, we find ourselves to be in "pet shop central." These shops probably do a nice business - Parisians love their dogs, and their dogs love to leave their "calling cards" on the streets. We must toujours watch where we step while walking in Paris!
Now we'll turn left and north on rue des Lavandiéres Saint-Opportune. Lavandiéres means 'washer-women,' so the name means "the washer women of Saint-Opportune." Louis la Vache hasn't investigated why a street should be named after washer women, not that there is anything wrong with that. However, Louis will give you a bit of trivia about the verb laver, to wash. Laver shares it root with lavande, lavender. Many of you may be familiar with the lavande water that may be used in steam irons to add a nice lavender scent to laundry. Lavender for centuries has been used as a cleaning aid, thus the word and the plant lavande worked its way into our laundry routine enough to provide the latin root for the verb "to wash." Thus, les lavandiéres could well be lavender-scented washer-women by virtue of their using lavande in some manner while doing their washing. (Louis la Vache: always your number one source for trivia you'll never need to know!)
We'll continue up rue des Lavandiéres Saint-Opportune to Place-Sainte-Opportune. Laguiole, a world-famous knife shop is at #1. At the intersection with rue de la Ferronerie ("ironwork"), King Henri IV in 1610 was assassinated by a knife-wielding assailant while Henri's carriage was stuck in a traffic jam.
We will continue north past la Fontaine des Innocents, built as a memorial to children who both from natural and unnatural causes.
Close at hand is Forum des Halles. Now a huge underground shopping center with a massive public transportation hub underneath the mall, the Paris public market occupied this site for centuries. "The belly of Paris," as Émile Zola called it, was moved to the southern banlieu, suburb, Rungis in 1970. The mall has become trashy, but the city recognized the need to remodel the mall and a design competition has been underway for the refurbishment of les Halles.
During the Haussmann remodeling of Paris in the 1850s - 1870s, the architect Baltard designed a splendid glass and iron building to replace the ancient market. Two pavillions of the Baltard structure were saved when les Halles was destroyed in 1970. The pity is that the entire structure wasn't saved, but the building was destroyed during a time when the modernists of architecture had free rein and atrocities such as le centre Pompidou, l'opéra Bastille and Daniel Buren's outrageous black and white striped columns which defile the courtyard of le Palais-Royal were visited on the city.
While Louis la Vache doesn't like the underground mall at les Halles, he does like the bookstore FNAC located there. FNAC is more than a bookstore, though this particular unit of FNAC is the largest librarie in France, it also sells cameras, video equipment, computers and has a huge music department with a fantastic classical music department.
While the mall is trashy and badly in need of the planned refurbishing, the ground-level park south and west of the mall is quite pleasant. We'll walk through it, making our way to allée Saint-John Perse. We'll pause here and note l'église Saint-Eustache, which dates from the XVI ème siecle, which seems to sail like an ocean liner over the sea of green that is the park. Saint-Eustache, like Saint-Sulpice, is as large as une cathédrale, but, because because there is no bishop attached to this parish, is not une cathédral, that distinction going to Nôtre-Dame-de-Paris.
Inside Saint-Eustache is a sculpture, at once sad and delightful, of the last of the vendors leaving les Halles before the Baltard-designed building was torn down.
The exterior design of Saint-Eustache is an unsuccessful mix of gothic and neoclassical styles, but the interior is much more beautiful than you would lead you to expect. One of the more famous organs of Paris is housed in Saint-Eustache.
From Saint-Eustache we'll walk the short distance to 18, rue de la Coquilliére, ("shell collection"), to Dehillerin, THE place to buy copper cookware, but any serious cook would find enough besides copper to occupy them for a full day in the store.
Leaving Dehillerin, we'll now turn right onto the chic rue du Jour, "street of the day," and then right again onto rue Montmarte and zig left onto rue Montorgueil, a market street since the XIV ème siecle, and still a lively pedestrian thouroughfare. We'll pause at numero 51 and treat ourselves to babas au rhum from Stohrer.
Now we'll take a little detour east down rue Tique-tonne, ("tick ton"), which leads to the elegant, high-ceiling passage du Grand Cerf. When we turn back onto rue Montorgueil, we'll note the Boucherie Chevaline at numero 9; the horse head indicates that this shop sells horse meat. Louis la Vache admits that the idea of eating horse meat seems rather obnoxious to you Yanks, but Louis has tried it and found it to taste better than beef. OK, go ahead and accuse Louis la Vache of trying to preserve his own species by encouraging the consumption of horse meat rather than beef....
The Grappe d'Orgueil at numero 5 is a popular café with the locals. A left onto rue Réaumur leads us to le Métro at Sentier, where we will conclude today's promenade. When we next meet for une promenade, we'll explore the northern part of the 3 ème arrondissement.
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