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The Key to the Doors of Paris

The word “serrurerie” is one of the hardest words in French to pronounce for an Anglophone. Try it. Then practice it a lot, because you might need it sooner than you think. It means LOCKSMITH SHOP. The locksmith is the “serrurier.”

I locked myself out of my apartment for the first time in eleven years. I can tell you it is rare to have gone so long without having such an altercation, as I’ve heard tales of woe from too many friends who have managed to leave without their keys as I did Saturday afternoon. That’s one reason I have been designated as the “keeper of the keys” — many friends have entrusted me with a spare to their own apartments for this very kind of emergency.

If you’ve ever stayed in a Paris apartment, then you know that the key to the apartment door could look like something out of a torture chamber. They come in the most unusual shapes, sizes and configurations, none of which make much sense to the average user. Most of them match a “porte blindée” — a security door with three bolts that secure the door top, middle and bottom. The manufacturers of these doors assure you no unwanted intruder can get through….oh so true! — even the locksmiths have built a big business on forgetful folks like me who leave home without their keys.

The insurance companies will often require you have a porte blindée or will discount your premium if you have one. Both the keys and the locks cost a small fortune. One key can cost up to 100 euros! The combination to making the key is often provided on a plastic card, like a credit card, with a code (like a UPC) that determines the configuration. If you lose your code, you’ve lost the ability to remake the key.

If you’ve locked yourself out (as I did) and don’t have a spare key at a friend’s (like I did, thank goodness), then an emergency call to a locksmith is going to cost you plenty, easily more than 500 euros, depending on the time of day and day of the week (nights, weekends and holidays you can bet are at a premium). If you break the key in the lock, or the lock (as friends of mine did while they were visiting), then replacing the lock will set you back as much as 1000 euros!

To find a “serrurier” in your neighborhood, visit (the online Yellow Pages in English) and type in “locksmith.” There are 1722 in Paris alone that advertise emergency services. I suggest jotting the number down of one or two in your neighborhood in your pocket address book so when it happens to you, panic won’t set in. My favorite locksmith prints sticky labels with his emergency numbers for client use!

This is how one lock manufacturer promotes his wares (from French translated into English)…

“Song of the Clac-Clac Lock… The bolt is balanced at the bottom of its trowel by a simple rotation of the key, thus a suitably regulated lock must function, with good reports and ratios. Even a child must use it without effort. It must be solid, sure, sedentary and inviolable; isn’t this its role there? But it must especially be flexible and pleasant for that it sings. Of course for such locks the key is proportioned and somewhat cumbersome as said by some. It is true that in the handbag it holds a particular place, yes, but a place of choice. A key must be a Work of Art, not a simple functional object. When you pose it on the dresser, it reigns as a mistress because it is at the same time the beauty, safety and protection. ‘What a symbol!’ Our keys and our locks, are the single works carried out to measure your criteria of use and your way of life, with a rigorous design, style and time of your residence, a criteria which are essential with a perfect result. Make

them sing.”

Such prose exemplifies their artistic point of view! Fichet brand locks are said to be the best — more resistant to the attacks of destruction thanks to a system of tempered steel pins and the reinforcement of the drive system, it ensures a long lasting defensive quality and a remarkable technical design allows more than 100 million different combinations that guarantees no two identical cylinders. (For more information on Fichet locks, visit

An interesting note is that there is one key that unlocks the door to every building in Paris. The postman carries it — it’s that little lock on the digicode keypad you may have wondered about. It eliminates his need to know every door code, of course!

A la prochaine…






Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
Email [email protected]

P.S. Get ready for Bastille Day! Be sure to read Wednesday’s Parler Paris Previews Community Calendar for what’s on for July 14th and what’s in store the rest of the Summer…Paris Plage and more. /parlerparis/calendar.html.html

P.P.S. Tomorrow afternoon join us for a coffee or drink at Parler Paris Après Midi — the last one for the Summer. Visit /parlerparis/apresmidi.html for details.


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