Paris walking tour of Unique Things
Regular readers will know of David’s unique, tres charmant Parisian garret, in the upper-most corner of a building on the Place de Breteuil. Today, as he bravely suffered his horrible gastro attack, he proposed for me a walk through Paris that would take me to inspiring shops selling unique objets d’art, curiousities, bric-a-brac and antiques, and other landmarks along the way. I have been following some of the Lonely Planet’s walking tours, which I recommend, but offer this one as an alternative. Here is David sick in bed…
- Start at Le Bon Marche (a very upmarket department store full of the finer things in life Prices were a little too bon for me, in general). Go into the Food Hall (grandly called Le Grand Epicerie de Paris) and choose yourself something nice to eat for lunch a little later.
- Turn into Rue du Bac. This street leads to the Seine, and in the old days, it was the route the traders took to take goods from one side of the river to the other, on a ‘bac’ or small boat. Follow this street along, and feast your eyes on the window displays of a wide range of fancy shops selling luxury goods and high quality brands.
- Cross over Boulevard St-Germain, and continue on Rue du Bac. On the left-hand side you will see a shop called Deyrolles. Enter. The ground floor is a normal kind of shop but ascend the spiral staircase and you will find yourself in a kind of taxidermist’s heaven. At the top of the stairs you are created by a trio of giant cats, and an elephant with a monkey on its back. In the next room there is a zebra, an alligator, various large creatures with tusks and wild hair; in yet another room you will find cases filled with insects, cases filled with butterflies, and cases of shells – all sorted according to size, colour, and country of origin. It is a kind of museum, but many things are also for sale. Taxidermy is not something I like, particularly, and it was strange to see so much, in such a confined and genteel space. However, it definitely fits the bill of ‘unique things’ and so I include it here without judgement.
- Continue again along Rue du Bac, or you may prefer to detour along the parallel Rue de Beaune, which is home to many small galleries selling paintings, sculptures, objets d’art, and antiques. I also enjoyed looking at the buildings and doorways in this street.
- Now you are at the Seine. Cross the river on the Pont Royal and you find yourself at the Louvre, and the Jardin des Tuileries. Today as I arrived here it was starting to rain, but otherwise this might have been a nice place to eat lunch. You can explore these ornamental gardens, and get lost in the topiary labyrinth, or you may prefer to visit a gallery. The Louvre is one choice, obviously, but you also have the Museum of Decorative Arts (a design museum, of wonderful creations through the ages), or if you cross the river again, the Musee d’Orsay.
- From now, our tour takes us to some of the stores that sell the kinds of curiosities found in David’s apartment. If you need shelter (as I did at this point) walk along Rue de Rivoli, as there are covered walkways all the way along until Rue de Rohan. Take this rue, and stay on it as it doglegs into Rue de Montpensier. You are now alongside the Jardin du Palais Royale, so look for an entrance point and go into the interior Jardin. (Though before you do this, have a look at the exterior of the Palais Royale theatre as it is very striking).
- The Jardin du Palais Royale is flanked by two arcades. These have been decorated with Christmas trees at the moment.
- You will find some wonderful curosities like the Music Box shop, a shop selling old books and manuscripts, handmade children’s toys, etc. There’s lots to see. However, we are looking for the Shiseido Salon de Parfum, an exquisite store, with a delicate spiral staircase as its centrepiece, low lighting and poised sales attendants who will assist you with your exploration of their many beautiful perfumes. At David’s suggestion I tried Tubereuse Criminelle. The sales assistant daubed some on the back of my hand and advised me to wait twenty minutes before smelling it, as it needed time to be absorbed – it would be very strong at the start. Twenty minutes later I removed my glove and sniffed my hand – aah! heavenly!
- This Jardin is also a nice place to eat that yummy lunch you bought yourself at Le Grand Epicerie.
- Next stop is Rue Tiquetonne, which is a bit of a walk away. I went via St Eustache Church, which is a graceful old church (with flying buttresses similar to those of Notre Dame) near the Forum Des Halles (the horrid underground shopping centre). It felt like this church had a very youthful, contemporary congregation, with a kind of art installation of criss-crossing red and white lines leading the visitor to first the large-scale nativity crib, and then a beautiful painting showing the birth of Christ, and the arrival of the Wise Men from the East.
- Rue Tiquetonne has some cool second-hand clothes stores. I also made a detour into the delightful Rue Montorgueil whose many boutique food stores, cafes and restaurants lend it a market feel. I stopped for a 4pm chocolat in a lovely cafe called Le Pain Quotidien (The Daily Bread). On my way there my umbrella broke. What a piece of merde! I have only had it 6 days. Granted, they have been a fairly hard six days for the umbrella, but it is not as if I have been asking it to do anything it was not designed to do. Even more reason at that moment to find a cafe to sit in a while, and wait out the latest shower.
- By now I was quite tired, as I had traversed quite a bit of territory for the past five hours. My next leg of the walk was to head towards the Pompidou Centre, looking for shops selling curiosities in Rue Quincampoix, and Rue St-Martin. I confess I didn’t get to Rue St-Martin. Most of the shops in Quincampoix were closed, it was dark by now and my feet were very very tired. I decided to take the Metro back to CPs and get myself to Rue St-Martin tomorrow.
End of tour. I came home and rested my feet up against the wall for a while. But that hurt way too much in the end, so I then soaked them awhile in hot water and lovingly massaged a lather of soap into them. They really are treating me well, these feet. No sprained ankle when I fell out of David’s shower (wasn’t wearing my contact lenses and couldn’t see how high off the ground the cubicle was – it is the strangest concept I have ever seen – an elevated shower), two new pairs of boots (I haven’t told you about the second pair – am feeling a bit embarrassed about such indulgence), and lots of walking on uneven cobbles and wet slippery surfaces. Thank you, blessed feet!