'Shopping' on the Rue Saint Honoré

Just a Short-Cut Between Windows and Food

Paris:- Thursday, 12.. December 1996:- I think the reason that editors are not supposed to be reporters is because you can tell a reporter to go out and 'get' a particular story and bring it back alive and ontime, but if you have the two jobs, there can a confusion about which story is the target, and if it is for this issue or next; and why am I on the rue Saint Honoré today?

Frankly it is a long and complicated story and the weakest part of it is where I am right now - because it, this street, is merely physically between two other definite feature 'targets.' But I have to pass from one to the other anyway, so here goes:

While looking for 'windows' and thinking of 'food' I pretend to be 'shopping' in the rue Saint-Honoré, which I start at Palais-Royale, where the two large fountains are, in the place André Malraux.

arcade

The rue Saint-Honoré is one of Paris' oldest medieval streets, and it had this name in 1241 and it was called this all the way to the rue Royale in 1638 - although it had a half-dozen other, but similar names from 1283. The part I am not on, starts at rue des Halles, and its whole length is 1,840 metres to the rue Royale. The same street, called rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, continues another two kilometres west to the place des Ternes, and the whole route once lead to Saint Ouen, Clichy and Agenteuil - going through the village of Roule on the way.

The furriers used to installed around the Palais-Royale and the rue de Rohan. The whole street westward, but starting from the rue de l'Arbre Sec - going back towards Les Halles, was the high-rent district - so it was a suitable route for the carts carrying the about-to-be-condemned, to the place de la Révolution to be disengaged from their heads. This place is known in our times as the place de la Concorde.

I do not see many fur-coat shops today. The rue de Rohen and the place André Malraux are within whistling distance of the Louvre, so there are shops with Japanese signs and 'tax-free' is displayed everywhere. If by 'tax-free' you think they mean the 20.6 percent value-added tax, they do. But don't expect all of it to be deducted. If you ask, you will probably be told you have to pay for some 'paperwork,' as that is the usual excuse.

rue de l'Echelle

The first photo I take is at number 169, at the corner of the rue de l'Echelle, looking towards the Tuleries. For building numbers, the rue Saint Honoré is badly misshapen. Where it officially ends, at the rue Royale, number 283 on the south side is opposite number 442 on the north. If you try looking for a specific address here, do not expect logic.

Just a bit back, at 161, was the location of the second Porte Saint-Honoré. This was a fortress in the Charles V wall and it had two moats, one filled with water. Joan of Arc tried to capture this porte on Thursday, 8. September 1429, with 12,000 men, 300 chariots, 600 ladders, plus a bunch of cannons and moat-crossing equipment. She was wounded by an arrow and her crew retired. The Amangnacs tried it again on 8. October 1453 and on 19. January 1591, Henri de Navarre gave it a shot. He used a clever trick, with soldiers disguised as wheat haulers, but it didn't work because the defenders had bricked up the opening a couple of days earlier.

This 'second' porte was to be replaced at the end of 1636 by a third, but it was inaugurated at a butcher shop with ten stalls instead. And this is what I find further along towards the west - fancy butcher shops.

Mind you, I am supposed to be 'shopping' and here are these 'food' subjects I am thinking of... Being on my way to find elsewhere, but it is dim and it is cold and the shop looks attractive. As I pass the Saint Roch church I remember to look for bullet holes in the facade but see none. It is 200 years since Napoléon's troops put them there and they may have worn off - you can certainly see a number of more recent ones around town.

Gucci

I thought I took another photo facing south, at the corner of the rue des Pyramides, at number 189 - but I didn't - and this might have been connected to a trick riding school, managed from 1599 by Pluvinal - one of several located around Paris in the 16th and 17th centuries.

As I travel west the shops become more up-market, especially around and after the rue de Castiglione, which leads from Rivoli to the place Vendôme. There are little windows filled with great amounts of very little very expensive bright shiny things.

I look in the Borsalino shop to see whether hats have three buttons like jackets, but they are 'just' Borsalinos and as usual they look great. There is an Italian tie place right across the street and a bit further on there is a Gucci shop.

This is just before the rue Royale now and these windows are only for looking unless you have a 'platinum' card. A giant cement-mixer truck is right in front of the Fabèrge shop at number 281, and a mini-dumper is beetling between the cement truck and an interior courtyard with loads of wet cement, and the guy operating the cement flow doesn't care that a big lumpy heap of spilled cement is gathering in the gutter. If they leave it there over the weekend, they can spend next week with a compressor and an air-hammer getting rid of it.

Faberge

I am cold and the 'food' I've been travelling towards is not far away but it is too far now, so I head for Concorde and the warm métro.

Where I make the change at La Défense, the security people are not letting métro passengers up into the big hall and they route us through a maze of going all the way down to the RER and across the platform there before letting us rise again. Once in the big hall, I double back to the métro entry, to see a couple of thousand waiting outside the turnstiles - but no smoke or debris.

The people waiting for the train, with briefcases and big shopping parcels, look worn out. The platform half empties after the Versailles train pulls out. As my train pulls in, the platform is full again, but it will be half-empty as soon as it departs. It leaves on time.

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