Criss-Crossing Paris on the First Days of Spring
Every year about mid March, it simply stops being winter and becomes being spring. This year appears to be like every other year in that yesterday the sun came out, the warm weather snuck in and the entire Parisian population came out to the streets and set up life at the cafés.
Normally, this is the weekend to resurrect the geraniums from their winter hibernation. Some winters the poor plants do not survive, regardless of how well they have been protected, but this year, as has been for the last few, they grew a few leaves and blossomed smallish flowers all winter long in spite of being totally neglected. (Global warming seems to be changing Paris weather for milder winters.)
The scrawny plants got a pruning, a fresh layer of soil and a flush with water and fertilizer to start of the spring season in the hopes they will be well revived. There’s something symbolic about the Parisian red geraniums that have always been my good friends in their window boxes facing southeast. When they are happy, I am happy, too.
The beautiful spring weather smiled upon the “brocante” (rummage sale) along boulevard Beaumarchais Saturday and Sunday. As it frequently happens, a few very unrelated reasons manage to take me back to the same spot in the city within a short amount of time. You have read about this same theme on many occasions over the years, usually happening in threes. To this brocante along boulevard Beaumarchais, to rue Saint-Gilles in the 3rd district, and to rue Saint-Denis, that was the case this past weekend, criss-crossing over the course of the three days between them.
A client of ours purchased an apartment this week on rue Saint-Gilles. First, there was the “walk-though” prior to the signing of the Acte de Vente (you buy in the condition it’s in, therefore an inspection is prudent), then there was a re-visit to find the “cave” (cellar) we couldn’t find first time around (I went to the ‘dungeon’ on my own and in the process the lights went out — thank goodness for a cell phone with a flashlight beam)…and then there was a return to the apartment to take important mail out of the mailbox for the previous owner (now that they no longer had the key). All that seems normal, but because the location is just next to boulevard Beaumarchais, that provided other reasons to pass there and end up ensconced in the brocante.
As it turns out, after many years of testing different manicurists in Paris and Nice, never to find one who could really live up to American manicurist standards, the best so far (on any continent) has been discovered in a spot along this particular route. As the brocante shoppers strolled by, my nails got a new look.
The “boutique” is a franchise chain named l’Onglerie with locations all over France, nine of which are in Paris. If all their technicians are as good as this one (Sylvie), then kudos to them for professionalism. Finding a good manicurist in Paris has been a 20-year investigation, having been spoiled rotten by past American manicurists who kept my hands looking impeccable while providing weekly entertainment. Living in Los Angeles before Paris, it was like clockwork to take off on Friday afternoon to be pampered as such while blathering with some of the city’s most illustrious women who had appointments before and after mine. It was a tough act to follow. (A good portion of you readers will think this is pretty inanely girly, but mention this to your ‘girly’ friends and you’ll likely find I am not alone in this quest to find the perfect manicurist.)
After a ritualistic Sunday raw oyster lunch with Travel Oyster blogger, Geraldine Kaylor, and her University of Michigan newly retired math professor husband, Jeffrey, we set out to explore the Polka Galerie to see the William Klein exhibit. By coincidence, the gallery is located on rue Saint-Gilles 75003 Paris, France, but found it closed, providing another excuse to stroll past the brocante.
Rue Saint-Denis was another point that saw action over the weekend, hence the criss-crossing between the two points, easy to accomplish thanks to the number 20 bus that has a direct route between the two points. The Monoprix on the corner of boulevard de Sebastopol and rue Réaumur was plenty busy Saturday afternoon, not ‘in spite of’ nor ‘because of’ the 200+ bodies that were recently discovered under it (see last week’s Nouvelettre®)…but just because it’s Paris’ best ‘one-stop-shopping’ for all your basic needs.
One block down at the corner of rues Réaumur and Saint-Denis is a client’s newly renovated duplex apartment to which I was invited for a visit. Not only is the luxurious apartment beautifully renovated and decorated, but the corner position and panoramic windows afford drop-dead fabulous views of the city. The 20 bus criss-crossed easily back to boulevard Beaumarchais for the manicure and a taste of the brocante, before heading back that evening to rue Saint-Denis for dinner at Le Pas Sage at 1 Passage du Grand Cerf.
It has a sweet bistrot atmosphere acting as an anchor for the ancient “passage” and it’s filled with French diners who aren’t averse to being seen on the ‘colorful’ rue Saint-Denis. The menu is small, but ever changing and inventive. Like so many others, the current trend is to serve mousse-y dishes — foamy sauces that tingle your tongue, and Le Pas Sage is on this particular bandwagon for the moment. It’s the hippest spot on rue Saint-Denis, but it won’t be for long as this red-light district’s main thoroughfare is changing faster than the restaurant’s menu. (It was smart of our client to purchase an apartment there — watch the district get trendier and property values increase.)
Whether criss-crossing Paris or cross-dressing on rue Saint-Denis, it’s Paris at the cusp of Spring to welcome blossoming geraniums that are sure to make anyone happy.
A la prochaine,
(photo by Erica Simone)
P.S. IT’S TUESDAY! Parler Paris Après Midi March 10, 2015: Heather Stimmler-Hall, author and tour guide presenting “How Parisian Women Do It: Feminism and Femininity in the City of Light.” We meet from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. upstairs at Café de la Mairie (formerly La Pierre du Marais), on the corner of rue des Archives and rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement. Métro Lines 9, 3 et 11, stations Temple, République or Arts et Métiers. Costs nothing except whatever you drink!