A Christmas Walk: Part 2

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Take up this tour again, beginning at the Place du Louvre. The Mairie of the 1st arrondissement, adjacent to Saint Germain l’Auxerrois, is a mere pastiche, dating from the Second Empire, designed to maintain the architectural unity of the place. The flamboyant belfry tower, the work of Ballu (1860), had no other object than to fill up the unsightly gap between the two edifices. Continue along rue du Louvre beyond rue de Rivoli. On your right is the Bourse de Commerce first built by Louis XVI for the trade of corn, flour and sugar and known as La Halle au Blé. The present rotunda dates only from 1889. The elegant buildings that line the northern curve of the circular rue des Viarmes deserve special mention. The tower of Catherine de Medici’s residence was sculpted with exquisite grace, as you can surmise from what has survived. Ruggieri used the tower until the end of his life, and despite his unfavourable predictions, he never fell into disgrace. Before bringing the Queen unpleasant news about her own fate, he had already predicted her husband’s mortal injury in single combat. Indeed, Henri II was mortally injured by Montgomery during a friendly tournament. Cross place des Ecus on your left and turn left into rue J.J. Rousseau. The famous philosopher lived on the site of today’s nos 52 to 54. No. 19 opens on to a picturesque outdated arcade, overlooked by most contemporaries: la galerie Véro-Dodat which will carry you nearly two centuries back. Its beautiful glass ceiling, its black-and-white chequered floor, its mahogany paneling, its brass framings and handles served as a backdrop to the promenade of fair ladies in crinolines and gentlemen in tail-coats and top hats, all the fashionable set who hastened to see this new attraction when it opened in 1826. The arcade’s gas lights created quite a sensation and prices of property rocketed. But somehow, Messieurs Véro and Dodat, the two charcutiers (pork butchers) who had built the arcade, went bankrupt. In 1836 the celebrated actress Rachel moved to the 3rd floor of no. 38. The ground floor of the house was occupied by the famous satirical paper Charivari, to which Daumier contributed his cartoons. It was in the Charivari that the word ‘Impressionist” was first coined by a journalist called Leroy. He had borrowed it from Monet’s painting Impression, soleil levant and applied it derogatorily to the entire group of painters who were striving in vain to gain recognition from a stuffy, conformist public that considered them mentally deranged. With the age of the stagecoach, the Messageries Générales opened premises on rue du Bouloi, on the other side of the arcade. From then on, the place became a convenient shortcut for travelers and its magical spell was broken. The beau-monde migrated elsewhere. What is left is an oasis of nostalgia, charmingly antiquated shops, among them Robert Capia at no. 26, a world-renowned dealer in antique dolls. Special note from the author:Should you be in Paris on Christmas Eve and haven’t made any reservations yet, I highly recommend you dine at Au Vieux Paris, at 24 rue Chanoinesse, Paris 4th, just north of Notre Dame.  Say I recommended you,and  Georges and Odette will give you an even warmer welcome. It’s an amazing place. You can read about it in my book Romantic Paris, and indirectly in an article I wrote for Bonjour Paris some time ago, regarding the Aveyron. Their phone number is: 01 40 46 06 81 —Around and About Paris by Thirza Vallois is published by Iliad Books, UK. Thirza Vallois is the author of Around and About Paris, Vol. 1, 2, and 3. Her video, “Three Perfect Days in Paris,” aired on all United Airlines international flights throughout September 1998 and on scores of television channels throughout the year. She is an agrégée of the Sorbonne (the most prestigious of French university degrees) and made excellent use of her academic background during her eight years of research dedicated to Paris, which has culminated in her books. For more information and Thirza’s appearance schedule, please visit her website Copyright (c) Paris New Media, L.L.C.
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