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The Quintessential Paris Of The 19Th Century

The 9th arrondissement was at one time, the richest and most elegant residential part of Paris. Thirza Vallois describes it as the “quintessential Paris of the 19th century” in her article, “Which Arrondissement is Yours?

The southern border of the 9th arrondissement follows the site of the wall that ran along the north perimeter of Paris prior to 1670. When this barrier was torn down and the town expanded, it left a four-mile-long ribbon of devastation from the future site of the Madeleine to the Bastille. This space was eventually converted to a wide, tree-lined promenade. The word boulevard comes from the defensive “bulwark” it replaced.

Les Grands Boulevards are really one continuous promenade. It is referred to in the plural because it has different names at different parts of its length – Saint-Martin, Saint-Denis, Bonne Nouvelle, Poissonnière, Montmartre, and des Italians; then, after the Opéra, Capucines and Madeleine. Created at the end of the 17th century, les Grands Boulevards remained virtually deserted for nearly 100 years, but eventually the wonderful open space in what had become the center of town attracted the rich, who built sumptuous town houses along the edges. Thus decorated, the boulevards became a favorite strolling place for Parisians, who, for the most part, lived on narrow, crowded streets.

By the end of the 19th century, the boulevards had become the hub of Parisian life. The boulevardier was traditionally a special person, usually of some note, with a talent for coming up with a “mot juste” (meaning ‘the right word,’ later picked up by Ezra Pound for the imagist movement in American poetry).

In 1893, Theophile Bader and his cousin, Alphonse Kahn, decided to open a fashion store in a small haberdasher’s shop at the corner of Lafayette and Chaussée d’Antin streets. The location of the store was excellent — the active shopping district near the Opera and the Grands Boulevards with the recently opened Saint-Lazare station and the neighboring shops attracted a continuous flow of Parisians and people from the provinces.

The name of the shop, “Aux Galeries Lafayette,” came both from the location and the layout of the store where the customers walked along aisles. Very soon, the shop attracted with equal appeal ladies of the high society and office employees, seamstresses and other area workers who made time during their lunch breaks to go shopping. They were known as “midinettes,” literally for “light lunchers.”

A major landmark of the 9th arrondissement, every tourist makes a stop there, if not for its fabulous array of gifts à la Francaise, but for a glance at the dome and a stroll through the cosmetic department where chic well-dressed French saleswomen will spray sample perfume on your wrists, suggest some new anti-aging cream or show you miracle potions that promise to eliminate cellulite.

The Parler Parlor French-English Conversation Group meets on Tuesday nights at Coprom Langues, 14, rue Lafayette, just a half-block from its entrance, so I have the opportunity to visit th
e store every week. I particularly enjoy their h

osiery department of ‘very French’ fishnets, patterned and stay-up thigh-highs. (Yes, French women really do wear them — and some of us Anglo-Saxons have come to enjoy them, too!)

Today, March 5th, the new Lafayette Maison opens at 35, boulevard Haussmann, across the street from the original store with the magnificent stained-glass dome. This is Galeries Lafayette’s newest adventure into housewares…the biggest department store in Europe with 10,000 square meters of selling space, 125 meters of store frontage, 3 entrances, 150 windows, 8 escalators, 350 sales people, with products priced from as low as 1 euro to 74,100 euros! All 10,000 square meters is dedicated to home decoration.

For more information about Galeries Lafayette’s new Lafayette Maison, visit

As a place to hang your hat in today’s Paris, both prices and appreciation are relevant to the 12th and 13th arrondissements — moderate. This is not your best bet as a vacation apartment rental looking for a high return on investment, but here you’ll find beautiful Haussmannian pierre-de-taille buildings with high ceilings, molding, parquet flooring and fireplaces.

A la prochaine,


Adrian Leeds
Editor, Parler Paris
E-mail: [email protected]

P.S. I will be traveling next week to Florida for the International Living Live Overseas Conference in Delray Beach Florida and then onto the Living and Investing in France Conference in San Francisco. I hope to bring you Parler Paris without interruption, as long as laptops and Internet access function without a hitch. Jocelyn Carnegie, Property Sales Manager, will be joining me at both and we’ll be talking about living in Paris and France and owning property here. If you’re interested in joining us, visit /frenchproperty/conference/LIFhome.html

*** PARIS 9 — Bruyère Viager

Near Square La Bruyère to the north of Trinité, this is an opportunity to invest a small sum now for future gain. 40m2 with 1 bedroom in a modern building with a traditional listed facade. Living room, bedroom with mezzanine, bathroom on the 3rd floor without elevator. High quality finishing.

Asking Price:45,000 euro downpayment and 700 euros per month
(sold occupied) + 2% Finders Fee
Serious inquiries email: 5-3-04_Bruyere-Viager

*** PARIS 9 — Trinité

39m2 studio apartment near Trinité with some work to do. 5th floor with an elevator. Parquet and moldings.

Asking Price: 221,000 + 2% Finders Fee
Serious inquiries email: 5-3-04_Trinite


*** PARIS 9 — Place Saint-Georges

1 bedroom apartment of 59m2 on the first floor of a traditional building. Fitted kitchen, entrance hall and large living space. Closets, bathroom. High ceilings, parquet floors and fireplace. Gas central heating.

Asking Price: 265,000 euros + 2% Finders Fee
Serious inquiries email: 5-3-04_Place_Saint-Georges

* Further resources:

* Many people don’t have the time nor the resources to look for their own little piece of France, especially if they’re located in the States or other foreign country.

* Stay in the heart of the Left Bank your own luxury apartment…

* Getting a mortgage in France is easier than you think.


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