For some strange reason I tend to avoid Rue Montorgueil but now that the throngs of tourists have thinned out, I decided to take a little wander and a closer look.
Over the last fews days, each time I drag open the giant heavy front door to my apartment block, I am confronted with soldiers dressed in camouflage and nursing large rifles. I am in the Jewish quarter, surrounded by kosher eateries, butchers and bakeries and nearby is the small synagogue designed by Hector Guimard, the French architect who was responsible for designing the first metro entrances.
The police and army presence has certainly stepped up as they promised but we are still slightly jumpy.
Finally, it is starting to get easier getting around with the broken toe, I walk at snails pace but still opt to walk than take the metro when I can.
What a perfect segue to introduce the ancient and famous Snail Restaurant, L’Escargot. Established in 1832 and now an historic monument. It wins hands down for the best street signage in the street.
That is not to say the Strohrer, the famous pâtisserie is anything to be sniffed at.
When Marie Leszczynska, daughter of King Stanislas of Poland, married Louis XV in 1725, she brought with her to Versailles, her pastry chef Nicolas Stohrer.
Five years later, in 1730, he opened his own bakery at 51 rue Montorgueil, which is now an historic monument.
The gorgeous shop with terrazzo flooring and it’s name proudly emblazoned in gold lettering as you enter, is packed full of delicious patisseries and grateful shoppers. It was here that the Rum Baba was invented.
Rue Montorgeuil is situated in the Les Halles area, where once stood the enormous central market of Paris, which despite the outcry from Parisians, was moved outside of Paris to the suburbs.
The pedestrianised street is a foodies haven. Consisting predominately of food shops, with a sprinkling of flower shops and a fair selection of cafés.
Looking at all that food was starting to make me hungry but I needed only something light, as I had yet another dinner invitation for tonight.
It was a miserable old day.
It wasn’t raining but it was overcast with a menacing grey sky and the wind was cold.
I was quite surprised when I stumbled across this controversial yet historic tiled, mural signage which I had heard about but wasn’t sure where it was located.
I have been known to talk out loud to myself when I come across such things and today, I might have let out a little cry of joy and I might have also said, oh – there you are!
Another similar signage (to the right) is in Place de la Contrascarpe.
If you look carefully and note the difference … the image in Place de la Contrascarpe, the one to the right, has a black man, a slave, possibly entertaining his guest, the maid.
He is wearing the napkin around his neck and she is wearing the apron but the one above is clearly a servant or a slave, serving the plantation owner.
Of course there has been a lot of fuss over these old advertisements.
For former slaves or families of slaves, these images are upsetting and racist but being historic images, they have managed to stay in place and their meaning and history is somewhat sketchy.
One place I was looking forward to seeing and if truth be known, one of my main motivations to go to Rue Montrogeuil, was to see the recently restored and pretty façade of the ancient restaurant; Au Rocher de Cancale.
Tired, cold and hungry and losing the light, I opted for Cafe du Centre.
I sipped on a piping hot bowl of onion soup – now would that be … French Onion Soup, under the heat of the terrace heaters and admired the façade of Au Rocher de Cancale from across the street.
As I sat in Cafe du Centre, enjoying my solitude, sitting in my own little world, watching Parisians walk by and engage in conversations in the café, I wondered whether I was wasting time but no, I wasn’t, I was simply ‘being’ in Paris.
A couple arrived and sat at a nearby table.
They pulled out a map and were getting their bearings, working out where they would visit, what metro stations were nearby, wondering if Versailles station meant it did in fact arrive at the Palace of Versailles and in a sweet and non obnoxious way, tried to communicate with the waiter to order a drink.
From their accent, I realised they were Australians. Fumbling to remember their school French of what was ‘I would like’ and ‘now’ – I had a burning desire to help them.
Many years ago,when I travelled with my ex-husband and observed people struggling with a map, in an area that we were familiar with, I would ask him, should we help them but his answer was always ‘there is two of them, they will work it out’.
I always felt this was a bit mean. Being two people, doesn’t necessarily mean that they will ‘work it out’, or not as swiftly, when someone can help.
Eavesdropping a bit more, I summoned up the courage to introduce myself.
You are an Aussie, the husband says to me with a grin and a familiarity that is reserved for your own fellow countrymen.
We chatted away, I gave a few tips and all of a sudden I realised that I needed to get home to wrap a present for my friend’s daughter before attending dinner at their home.
When in a hurry, the hobbling business is frustrating, where normally it would be yet another pleasant walk in Paris.
As fast as my feet, or good foot and damned broken toe foot would allow me, I powered back to the apartment.
My friend’s daughter was understandably shy to see me. Although, I am told that she loves her koalas that I have given her in the past, the elusive Paris Adèle is not secured in her memory.
I didn’t manage to see her last year and the year before she was but a baby.
Say bonjour to Paris Adèle her parents tell her, but she is too shy and hides her head amongst the sofa. I have a present for you, I tell her.
Now, I am not sure if she understood my entire sentence but she clearly understood my French word for ‘present’.
Victory! She jumped with joy and I managed to get a hug and a kiss as my reward.