From: Dana P. Shaw, Saturday, 13. April 1996, via AOL.
As a 56 year old teacher/administrator who at age 14 fell in love with Paris, I immensely enjoy your articles about "my" city (no one else can have it) and envy you the opportunity to be there and writing. I suppose there is a bit of the Lost Generation in all of us would be expatriates; the need to schmooze with Gertrude Stein (do you suppose she would allow "schmoozing" in her salon?), to meet Fitzgerald's Zelda and to try to keep up with Hemingway when he was on one of his famous rampages. I, also, would like to have spent some time with Eliot Paul on the rue de la Huchette before it became such a commercialized "walking street" and to see the original Shakespeare and Company. I envy your opportunity to be there and to find the rue de la Huchette from time to time and not always report only on the comings and goings (Spring not withstanding) on the Champs-Elysées. Thanks for taking me with you through your sensitive and descriptive writing. Are the marroniers in blossom yet?
Paris:- Monday, 15. April 1996:- The above, unsolicited, message, is not the first piece of fanmail to arrive chez nous, but is the first to mildly complain about all the time we spend on the Champs-Elysées. That particular avenue is a Paris showcase - or stage, if you will - for the more extravagant local circuses; so we go there, maybe a bit too often.
The rue de la Huchette in the Quartier Latin, between the place Saint-Michel and the place du Petit-Pont, just behind the Quai Saint-Michel, is in contrast, not much more than six metres wide. In 1254 it was called Grand-rue Saint-Germain, and was an extension of the rue Saint-André-des-Arts. In 1284 it was renamed, after the sign of an establishment located there, 'A la Huchette d'Or' and was considered one of the nicest streets on the Left Bank - and many important ambassadors stayed in the Hotel de l'Ange at number 15.
Number 10, once a furnished lodging house, was a temporary residence (3 francs per week) for Citizen Bonaparte in 1795 - while he was having difficult relations with Citizen Robbespierre - he was without employ, without rations, without pay - and would certainly have starved to death if Citizen Barras had not engaged him to be second-in-command the evening before the insurrection of 5. October 1795. Citizen Bonaparte ordered the insurgents shot, in front of the Saint-Roch church, and his fortunes rose to some heights thereafter.
At the sign of the 'Y' at number 14, arrowheads were made, from the 15th century. There was a burlesque poem making the rounds in Paris in 1653; written by the Chevalier Loutaud:
J'avais aiguilles de Paris De l'Y, dedans la Huchette Oû j'en fais toujours emplette.
This was supposed to be the prudent Ulysses telling hot-headed Achilles, outside of Troy, about all the things he'd lost during several shipwrecks.
It is not surprising that there is so much history crammed into this one little street 164 metres long. If the Petit-Pont is where it was indicated on a map depicting the original Gaulois settlement (before the Roman occupation), the rue Saint Jacques and the rue Saint-André-des-Arts are both clearly indicated - although I suspect the map is somewhat 'artistic,' as the 'Gaulois' in the illustration shows 15th century dress.
Before setting out to find this street, I looked quickly at a modern map, and proceeded to wander about the rue St. Séverin for a fair time before noting I was not where I thought I was - both streets now being home to many restaurants selling roasted meat, as the rue de la Huchette was in the 17th century, when it was also well-known for pick-pockets.
About Eliot Paul, I know nothing. About the rue de la Huchette, you probably still know more than I do. The chestnut trees are definitely not yet in blossom.
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