by Ric Erickson
Number 1.23 - Metropole Paris, Monday, 29. July 1996:- Paris:- Tuesday, 23. July 1996:- If you have business or are shopping along the rue Royale, between the place de le Concorde and the Madeleine, or if you have turned into the rue Royale after some heavy use of the plastic in the rue or rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, you might not notice at first that there is a lot of traffic around here.
But sooner or later, especially if it is a bit warm, especially if you have spent more than you intended, you will notice that this traffic has sort of a frenzy to it.
It is a nervous, erratic, loud, impatient, noisy, stinking, blocking the way sort of frenzy, filled with buses, taxis, racing motorcycles, delivery trucks, scooters, city vehicles and tunnel-vision ladies in Minis; that can give you a migraine after trying to proceed half a block on foot.
Stop. Wait. Think. Close by, right near this mess of an urban concentration that is like 37 starving rats scrambling to escape from a plastic fruit box - right under your nose practically - there are, count them - three passages, three oasis' of peace, quiet, calm - even culture - hardly more than a step away from where you are, from where you are being harassed by this rat-sack collection of hysterical mobile metal vehicles and their indifferent or totally crazed conductors.
One step in the right direction and ye shall be saved!
Friends, I urge you to take this step. Even if you have not mortgaged your childrens' educations with the plastic, even if you have not been walking since sunrise in high-heel red shoes, even if none of the above applies to you at the moment, I urge you to take a break, cool off, relax - because it will be good for you - to get rid of the rattle in your brain.
The Galerie de la Madeleine
If you have been at Hédiard or Fauchon, two other famous places of plastic abusements, on the northern side of the place de la Madeleine - you should look between the Cerruti shop and the very, extremely famous restaurant Lucas-Carton - five stars for quality; fewer stars for economy - on the south-western quarter-circle, and you will see the entrance at number nine to the Galerie de la Madeleine. Go in.
Take two steps inside, with your back the booming place outside, and you will be free of angst. This passage, not well-known, was put up and opened in 1845 when the place de la Madeleine was enlarged. It is not large nor has it ever been very active, but the architecture of it is more interesting than anything you will see in a modern mall, anyplace or anytime. There are two sandwich cafés, with tables in the passage and there are a couple of modest shops - with possibly the most interesting ones at the rue Boissy d'Anglas end. This street runs parallel to the rue Royale, from place de la Concorde to the boulevard Malesherbes.
Le Village Royale - ex-Cité Berryer
Off the rue Royale itself, at number 25, this short-cut to rue Boissy d'Anglas is not, strictly speaking, a passage - as it has no roof. It has been spiffed up since I was last here about five years ago.
Steven Spurrier's well-known Caves de la Madeleine has departed; although there is still a wine dealer in the 'village' - Le Repaire de Bacchus - which, at another location I used to patronize before I became a hydraulic. If I remember correctly, Mr. Spurrier moved out of Paris to somewhere near where the stuff is made. As a 'cave' his place had five stars for quality and almost as many for price and he was the 'Monsieur Vin' for a time in Paris. The 'Repaire' used to have a similar rating, and may still have it.
Here again are the sandwich shops, but the other boutiques are somewhat more upscale, with articles of clothing, garden decor, a jeweler, fancy glass and high-class tablewares. The whole 'village' has space for outside eating in good weather and a good number of tables inside for when it is normal weather - but even without the typical roof of a passage, it has that feel, as it gets you away from the chaos outside.
La Galerie Royale
This is a new one for me and it has entrances at number nine and eleven, on the Maxim's side of rue Royale, between Concorde and the rue du Faubourg St. Honoré, coming out at number eight-bis on the rue Boissy d'Anglas. This is a very 'rue Royale' passage, some of which is open to the sky, with very upscale shops and there is a lot of marble underfoot and some of those plastic-looking plants, but these are really real, I assure you..
You get this kind of thing in Paris where the shop that has 30,000 franc watches is around the corner from a oriental grocery store - but this Galerie Royale passage is not one of these places. The rue Royale, outside, is not too shabby and the rue Boissy d'Anglas behind is a bit more 'popular' - but this passage has only one level and it is high. Window shopping is free though.
Towards the back, there is a Salon de Thé - tea room - in sort of a dim interior square; but the salon also has an 'inside' part which might be better lit. It is all very cool and fine and I'm sure this would be a good place for a cup of tea; peaceful certainly.
Just as you enter this square part, coming from the front of the passage, there is a sign for the Espace Paul Ricard, up one flight by elevator, maybe more by the stairs. This is a gallery for young artists that puts on temporary exhibitions, that may have something interesting to see - or hear - for musicians and theatre are presented, and I found it very well appointed - and thoroughly approve of it all being paid for by pastis drinkers in Marseille.
That's it then: a variety of hide-outs from the stress of downtown traffic; places to take off your high-heeled sneakers after a heavy round of abusing your plastic. I was tempted to buy a pair of $100 jeans - on sale! - but resisted.
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