It is quite ironic that when I decided to abandon my little walking tour today, I managed to get slightly lost and yet at the same time, I gave four people directions along the way. Am I an oxymoron?
So how does that work, that I am lost and still able to give other people directions. It confuses me too.
Perhaps I am getting a little too confident for my own good and have been heading out without my trusty Plan de Arrondissements book. I do have internet connection, therefore map applications but what happens when my battery in my phone goes flat, like it did this afternoon? I wing it.
A young French girl wanted to know where the Pompidou Centre is, which strangely there were no directional signs in sight but there was a sign for the Doll Museum and I know that Le Musée de la Poupée is down a small alley way opposite the Pompidou Centre, so violà.
Là-bas I tell her, over there.
Helping her was quite fortunate because it also helped me to know where I was. Strange but true and it made me giggle to myself.
Before I head off to Paris, I draw up a couple of little Paris Adèle walking itineraries. Nothing too exotic, but I plan a walk based on items I would like to see in a given area. I don’t think that this is regarded as being a flâneur but I do end up becoming a flâneur along the way.
I stumbled across a couple of great opportunities today. Saw more hairdressing salons, touts and prostitutes than I thought possible and discovered a couple of secret passageways along the way.
Loaded up with a fist full of memory cards and tripod I was off on my little adventure.
Sit back and relax and come on a little journey with me around the areas of the 10th and 2nd arrondissements.
When I surfaced from the Hector Guimard designed entrance of Château d’Eau metro, the first thing that struck me that this was predominately an African area, young men were standing on street corners touting something that I wasn’t sure of.
I focused on my itinerary, to get my bearings. Madame, Madame, Madame, he was relentless, I knew that it was me that he was trying to get the attention of and I thought if he shouted at me from across the street one my time, I was going to dong him on the head with my tripod.
After the 10th Madame, I looked up at him, squinted and glared, and he left me alone.
What I later discovered that this was not some dodgy act he was taking part in, he wasn’t trying to sell drugs or prostitutes, he was touting for a hair dressing salon.
I assume the competition is fierce, I have never seen so many hairdressing salons concentrated in one area before and they were packed to the rafters, some sitting theatre style in the salons awaiting their turn. Women stepping out onto the street with large smiles on their faces after their hair had been painstakingly braided and coiffured into elaborate masterpieces. Maybe because Christmas is fast approaching, I am not sure but the salons were doing a roaring trade.
The passages on my list were proving to be boring.
Feeling a little deflated, until I stumbled across this.
Surreptitiously, I sauntered in, waiting for the man on the gate to point out the big sign that shouted Privée.
I passed a couple of people leaving doorways and was offered a friendly bonjour.
Clean as a whistle and pretty as a picture, I ventured further and further down, to discover garden seats, watering cans, terracotta pot plants full of potting mix.
Perhaps there may have been a slight skip in my step due to my discovery.
Despite the passages on my list being a disappointment, this gorgeous little hideaway made up for it all.
With a sense of excitement and adventure, I reluctantly left the charming and tranquil passage and re-entered the hectic Rue Saint Denis in anticipation of what may lie ahead.
Although I have visited Passage Brady before, it was sans tripod, which made for dark shots.
Being an overcast day doesn’t allow for much light, despite the ancient long glass ceiling, which was my main reason for re-visiting the passage.
The wonderful ceiling, that covers the entire length of the passage.
This area is known as Little India.
Therefore the old Passage Brady, as you can see is full of Indian restaurants and more touting was taking place, beckoning me in for a curry, but I had better plans for lunch later on.
The tripod attracted a lot of attention and once again I was asked if I was a journalist. Maybe I will say yes, if I am asked this question again and see if it has a different effect.
Leaving Passage Brady my plan was to continue across Boulevard de Strasbourg to the uncovered section of the passage but fortunately for me, I made a wrong turn into Boulevard de Strasbourg.
I passed a woman, smoking a cigarette. Her foot propped open a large, ornately carved, heavy timber door which enabled me to catch a glimpse through the doorway.
A few steps later, I back tracked and asked her if she would mind if I could take a photo from the doorway, she not only happily ushered me in but turned on the lights to aid my photography.
Thanking her as I slipped out back onto the street, the heavy door shut behind me with a loud clunk.
I couldn’t believe my luck. An opportune moment and a wrong turn allowed me to discover yet another secret hidden passageway.
It is easy to pass magnificent pieces of architecture in Paris, completely unaware that so much beauty towers above your head.
If I wasn’t a little awestruck by my brazen approach and terrific outcome, I may not have looked up after photographing the wonderful door that hid the secret passageway to discover that the entire building oozed style and detail.
Perhaps I should follow my own advise, and that is to never to forget to look up!
Back on track, next on the agenda was Passage du Marchè.
I spied a clothes designer busily at work, which is a hint that the clothing manufacturing hub of Paris, is not too far away.
But it was at the end of the passage that offered a couple of small delights.
A pretty Boulangerie and the sweetest little cafè with colourful chairs and an attention to detail.
I really have not done justice to the cosy and homey Le Village Café.
If you can see beyond the reflection.
Inside the shelves are stocked with an array of wonders and note the paper butterflies that gracefully decorate the façade, the doorway and the ceiling inside.
Lunch under theatre and stairs with an exclamation mark is what I had jotted down on my very uninformative itinerary.
Whatever that means, I think to myself as I place my scrap of paper back into my pocket and head down Rue Bouchardon towards Rue René Boulanger but it wasn’t long before I remembered what was in store.
A set of stairs, yes but as I neared, I quickened my pace with excitement.
Although I have schlepped around this area before, I have always managed to miss these very unusual and unique fire escape stairs.
I won’t bore you with the amount of shots that I took.
My disappointment to discover, unfortunately for me but not for the building, was that the adjoining theatre is currently under much needed renovation and the tradesmen standing around couldn’t seem to understand my fascination with these stairs.
They are quite unique and I am not sure if there is anything quite like this in Paris.
I was starving and getting cold and thankfully lunch was just around the corner under the Théâtre de la Renaissance but not before a few pics with and without scaffolding.
It is nice to see it being restored. Built in 1873 and across the way from the Porte Saint Martin.
Porte Saint Martin, commissioned by Louis XIV and built in 1674, replaced the medieval door in the fortification wall built by Charles V and the nearby Porte Saint Denis pictured left, was built in 1672.
I tucked into what was quite possibly the best risotto I have ever had in my life.
Many years ago, I remember having a lovely lunch here but couldn’t remember it being this good.
Maybe because I was hungry, I am not sure but it took all my willpower not to scoff it down in 30 seconds.
Creamy and perfect, garnished with slithers of smoked duck meat and white asparagus that I think were preserved, gave a hint of tart to cut through the cream.
The ambiance is charming and relaxed, the food good, the rosé from Provence light and refreshing and the view that you can see above, that I had over the road was picturesque. . . Ouh lala indeed.
Refreshed and ready to continue my itinerary, my scrap of paper tells me that Passage du Prado is next on the agenda.
Again, this is another covered passageway that I failed to photograph properly and the reason to re-visit.
Although it was built in 1785 it wasn’t until 1925 that the glass ceiling was added. It certainly doesn’t have the charm and elegance of some of Paris’ other covered passageways but it did survive demolition although some might ask why not.
It is a strange and seedy type of place with empty shops and a few loiterers or the odd person using the passage as a short cut.
The few business that are set up in here is a translation office, a clothing repair shop and a handful of African hairdressers.
Love it or loath it, it is what it is and it is still part of the historic Paris passageways, with a couple of elements of beauty.
This part of the ceiling was my main reason for the visit.
So this is when things get a little interesting.
Camera in hand, on the lookout for the next thing to photograph, I pass a couple of worse for wear prostitutes, chunky older women, breasts billowing out in the cool breeze with a slash of red paint across their mouths.
No photos, no photos they call out to me after I have already passed them.
I am in the Rue Blondel area which has been notorious for prostitutes for over a century.
Apparently street prostitution is a dying ‘art’ but it is still alive and well around this part of Paris.
They size me up and down. Shivers, I didn’t really see myself as competition but I am distracted by a colourful window display of Eiffel Towers.
At closer inspection, I discover they are vibrators. I giggle as I envisage a young girl, walking down the street, holding her mother’s hand and points, look mummy at the pretty Eiffel Towers.
Now that is something you don’t see every day.
A clock and an interesting doorway captures my attention.
Engrossed in my own little world, looking up I approach the clock, wondering why it is perched so high and in a strange position.
A crazy woman starts running down the street, no photos, no photos, she is on the brink of hysteria and disappears into a doorway.
Geez, what is wrong with these women I barely even noticed them and now have them all running scared.
I know that photos of the prostitutes in the area are forbidden but I didn’t even slightly give the impression I was trying to photograph them. I shake my head and end up shooting an out of focus shot of the clock.
Turning around to head back to where I came from because next, I want to go to Passage Lemoine, in the other direction.
She is off again, scooting into the doorway, no photos, no photos, she is like mad woman.
I approach her, she is petit, around 50 and far more attractive than the other women on the street.
Madame, I say to her. I don’t want your photo, just the clock. Ok?
She smiles and nods, she trusts me and relaxes.
Looking out for the passage, next I encounter an Asian woman, or was she a man … hmmm… hard to tell but I sensed she was a man. Now she is off on a rant, twirling her decorative, green paper parasol in front of her face, no photos no photos. Now admittedly, she would have made for a great shot but I never once gave the impression that I was attempting to photograph her either, clearly the site of the camera made them nervous.
I wish my French was better because at this stage they would have got a mouthful from me that would have gone something like; ladies (eh-hmm) I mean seriously, you flatter yourselves. I didn’t save all year to come over on a 28 hour journey to Paris to get a photo of you. I have come to photograph architecture and for good measure, it would have been delivered with a patronising and sarcastic tone.
Instead I looked at her, shook my head, rolled my eyes, as if to say, relax honey, take a chill pill and slipped down Passage Lemoine.
Meanwhile on the other side of Passage Lemoine, I remembered that I had photographed the red door on the right, on a previous trip and while I was wondering how I could make the best of a reasonably uninteresting view, I hear; no photos, no photos again!
The parasol whirling prostitute is back.
You can see the green blur through the gates, that is him, I mean her.
There is a couple of interesting things to note here. If I had wanted to photograph her, I had time to attach my zoom lens, stalk her and wait for her to pass-by.
I could have photographed her before she had a chance to say fromage, but instead I snapped a blurred shot, provoked when I heard her screaming out.
Hilarious, I wonder whether no photos, really means can you capture me looking fabulous on the streets darling.
Apart from all of that nonsense, Passage Lemoine was a little boring.
Thanks for the memories, ladies.
Leaving the prostitutes behind, and venturing down a very narrow passageway, leading me to Passage du Ponceau, en route I remembered a private passageway that I came across once and hoped that the doors were open and luck was on my side today.
Argh yes, I thought to myself, I remember you.
A very pretty private passage that runs all the way through from Rue Saint Denis to Boulevard Sebastopol, leading into a quiet courtyard.
Unlike my last visit to this passage but in keeping with my wanderings today, I took my time and soaked up the surrounds of the ancient passage and courtyard.
Without the weariness of prostitutes or the possibility of being shoo-ed off the premises, I was observed but made to feel welcome.
Passage du Ponceau
built in 1826 is another glass roofed covered passageway.
Sadly, 30 years later, part of it was demolished to make way for Boulevard de Sebastopol but unlike many of Paris’ passageways it escaped demolition during Baron Haussmann’s grand plan of the new Paris.
A few steps away is Passage du Caire.
Measuring 350m in length, makes it the longest of the passageways in Paris.
Built in 1798 during Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt, where all things Egyptian became fashionable.
One of the four entrances is adorned with hieroglyphs and three sculptures of Hathor, the goddess of love beauty and joy.
On the whole, this rabbit warren, that is Passage du Caire meaning the passage of Cario, presently is inhabited by clothing manufacturers.
Therefore the passageway is busy with men trundling along with clothes racks full of fashion and some of the windows are covered up with brown paper.
Perhaps in an effort to keep designs safe from being copied? Other stores sell mannequins and fashion display paraphernalia.
I love this shot of the mannequins.
The model on the right appears to be posing straight into the camera for me and the dummy in the middle, rejoicing at being naked and bathing under the light of an electric light bulb!
The shot to the right, gives you some kind of idea of how long and vast not only the passages are that make up Passage du Caire itself, but also the extent of the glass ceiling.
By the time I reached Passage du Caire, I was feeling a bit weary, I hadn’t finished my Paris Adèle Itinerary and I doubted I would.
The cafè at the Egyptian entrance of Passage du Caire, on Place du Caire looked relaxed and inviting, I treated myself to a rest and pondered over my scrap of paper.