No. 40: Hidden Gems
I love it when agreeing to do an ordinary favor for a friend turns into a secret discovery. Secret discoveries in Paris are not all that unusual, especially when you make a conscious effort to slow down, take life as it comes, and frankly, just look around.
With 5 million things to do today before I head off for a short trip to visit Kitcat in her new home in Epsom, I agreed to head to a part of Paris I don’t usually hang out in—except when I’m craving the world’s best falafel or need some gefilte fish: le Marais. The delightful French girl Kitcat lives with in the UK was anxious to be reunited with her guitar and I promised to fetch it and carry it across the Chunnel.
And I’m really glad I did. I ended up in le Passage de l’Ancre, one of the oldest, if not the oldest passageway in Paris. There are hundreds of hidden worlds behind unassuming doors in the French capital, but this one is a real gem. Stepping through the modest blue gates, I was transported to a world that time left behind—Paris at the turn of the 19th century—the stuff of which movies are made. C’est un passage extraordinaire!
Although the passage was restored 10 years ago, it hasn’t lost its original charm. Bursting with leafy trees, sidewalk planters and lovely window boxes, the brightly colored storefronts are home to a number of interesting workshops and specialty stores. Pep’s, the celebrated atelier, where sick umbrellas and parasols are healed, is the most famous of them, but I’m happy to report that the whole guitar-errand-thing landed me a front row seat to another magical shop, la Bicyclette. Owned by Kitcat’s roommate’s family, I had a guided tour through the past in the tiny, but enchanting workshop of Thierry Marscarell. Nestled among the bicycles, ancient typewriters, antique shoe inserts, sepia-toned photos, wooden oars and skis and of course, bicycles, are modern lights, tempting home decorations, and funky, minimalist adornments. If I had a home in Paris to decorate, this unique store would be my first stop.
Just a few steps away from le Centre George Pompidou, you can access le Passage de l’Ancre (and la Bicyclette) by two different entrances: 223 rue Saint-Marin or 30 rue Turbigo, 75003.
C’est un passage extraordinaire! It is an extraordinary passageway.