Paris:- Friday, 27. December 1996:- I know I saw it somewhere; it doesn't matter where. It said that the 'sales' were to start 26. December. Normally, I know, they start at a fixed time - after New Year's - but these are tough times, and who knows, maybe there's a lot of Christmas shoppers still out there - so, the 'sales' starting yesterday is plausible.
There are two officially fixed times for 'sales.' At the beginning of the year, after the fêtes; and in the summer, after everybody has not bought summer clothes at full-price like they are supposed to do.
As sort of a 'reader service' I have found inexpensive emergency off-season cold-wet weather stuff for visitors at Tati, I have sniffed out the quality used-clothes places - and I intended to do this seasons 'sales' - because mark-downs can be 30 to 50 percent. They were last year.
But I heard wrong. Although there were a lot of 'sales' prices posted on or before Christmas Eve, these have become a regular sight in Paris. The real 'sales' feature will be in next week's Metropole. Today, in this piece, I am taking you to the rue Daguerre.
It is freezing or slightly below and it feels colder than it is - it must be damp as well. There is a bit of late afternoon sun hitting the lion at the place Denfert-Rochereau as I resurface from the métro. It is a big, complicated place, with a medium history which I am not going to go into here.
When I come out of the métro, I head south on avenue du Général Leclerc one and a half short blocks, to where rue Daguerre goes off to the right. It is a market street - and the reason it has been in the papers lately is because some local inhabitants have been objecting to its refurbishment.
I know this street. I was here about five years ago, to look for a wine bar, Le Rallye, at number six. It had a pretty good listing, with an excellent choice and a good quality-price ratio.
Back then, I was doing a lot of wine bars. It wasn't too long after I quit the grape itself and I remember Le Rallye because it was a serious wine bar, far from the downtown chi-chi nasal-sniffer places, and I was nervous about going in a serious place like this - by 'serious' I do not mean snooty, I mean the ordinary mix of clientele who really like their good wines - and only having a café. I thought they could read my mind - I was there not by accident, but because it was a serious wine bar - but I was only going to drink café, and see if I could sum up the atmosphere in a couple of minutes - drawing upon older memories of similar places. I know it sounds cockeyed, but that is what I was doing.
Anyway, I think Le Rallye 'passed' the test at the time, and I spent another hour or so wandering about the rue Daguerre and some of the surrounding streets. I remember nothing special about it except that it seemed very village-like - not all high buildings - especially considering it was only two métro stops from the centre of Montparnasse. 'Passed' the test meant that if I did drink wine and if I did have any friends, I would have brought them there sometime.
So it was okay, the rue Daguerre. A wine shop in the street of the marché, off the main highway, is a good combination and there are quite a good number of similar spots like it in Paris and they are worth knowing because you don't have to dress up to have a good time at them, and you can do it before noon if you want.
I do not remember the pavements exactly and I suppose if something have been 'done' to them, I would guess that the two narrow sidewalks and their curbs and been removed and the whole width of the street - no more than 15 metres - has been uniformly repaved from shop front to shop front, making it a combo pedestrian-automobile way without distinct sidewalks, but no through traffic either, except for deliveries.
Just off the avenue, with Monoprix on the left and a bar on the right, it commences with a butcher shop on the right and a wine shop, another butcher shop, and the wine bar. Opposite are a bakery and a fruit dealer or something.
Since the wine bar is in the right place I didn't notice if its name had changed - although today's name is the same as the wine shop - but I did notice that it has been spiffed up a lot. A bit too much, and the few people inside looked pretty morose - but they could be hungover from lunch as easily as just being plain morose as everybody else in Paris these days. Wine bars are the last places you expect to see people looking like this, even 'these days.' Maybe the 'bar dog' died. A lot of bars have them; usually about the size of a small moose.
All the rest of the marché shops are here, right down to the corner where the signs are that say this is a fixed-up street and no through traffic is allowed. Again on the right, there is a intriguing hotel entry followed by a simple old-style restaurant.
Beyond the rue Boulard crossing, the rue Daguerre continues as a normal street, but still with its marché character - towards eventually joining the avenue du Maine. A trail in 1730, it got the name of the inventor of the daguerreotype in 1867.
Lev Davidovitch Bronstein, better known as Léon Trotsky, lived in the rue Daguerre during the time some exile Russian Social-Democrats had a magazine office in the avenue d'Orléans, now the avenue du Général Leclerc. Mr. Lenin lived not far away too.
Joseph Stella lived at number 19 in 1912 - did he drink wine with Trotsky and Lenin? Georges Malkine lived at number 21 during 1924 and Alexander Calder lived at number 31 from 1926 to 1928, before moving to the nearby 26. rue Cels. A guide book says Calder had his first atelier at number 22, but the artisan's ateliers are or were mostly on the odd-numbered side of the street. The Maeght Foundation's 'Arte' press was installed in an atelier at the rear of number 13, for example. The French film-maker, Agnes Varda, lived in the rue Daguerre for 31 years, and used it once in a movie. In 1867 Emile Zola lived at number 62.
All this is not too bad for a street 630 metres long that begins with a few blocks of market and I did not get the feeling today that citizens I saw were overly worried about rampant Yuppism, skyrocketing real estate prices and hordes of suburbanites flooding the quarter on weekends.
I must come back again when Le Rallye puts tables and chairs outside and the regular crowd takes its ease from the heavy duties of buying good food and drink at the nearby shops.
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