A Unique Corner of Paris

A Unique Corner of Paris
Mme. Boucicaud and Baronne de Rothschild (1914) Take a métro to the Sévres Babylon stop. You will arrive at an architectural wonder. The crossroads of rue de Sevres and boul Raspail offer a feast for the eye.  A square, a hotel, and a shopping ‘marché’ are only the beginning. Here there are places to relax, to eat or drink, or do some of the most exciting shopping in Paris. No trip to the city should be without at least one tour of this historic and artistic area. As you come out of the metro station the Lutetia Hotel faces you. On your right is the Square Boucicaud with the beautiful marble statue and farther beyond the park is one of the most famous art deco giant super stores in the world. This is Au bon Marché bordering on the famous rue du Bac. It started with the desire to build a store with ‘good value’. Founded by Louis-Aristide Boucicaud, the architect he consulted was none other than Gustav Eiffel. This super store had something for every taste. There were upscale clothes, household furnishings, lingerie and imported foods. The store is still there with its high art deco ceiling and staircases now turned to escalators. There is a feeling of riches and sedate shopping as items from around the world are on sale. True, there are other Art deco super stores in Paris, such as Au Printemps and Galleries Lafayette but they don’t have the same historical sense as a store translated to mean A Good Deal. But Boucicaud didn’t stop there. He again turned to Eiffel and discussed the construction of a high scale hotel on the other side of the verdant square. Here, the 230 room hotel Lutetia , named after Paris’s old name, was born with signs of Eiffel everywhere. The great names of the era stayed there or ate in their art deco restaurant. Such names as Josephine Baker, James, Joyce, Peggy Guggenheim, and Andre Gide were on their gust list. Picasso and Charles de Gaulle spent his honeymoon nights here and it is said that Joyce wrote part of Ulysses while staying here. But things change when the Germans took over Paris and requisitioned the hotel as one of their headquarters. But plaques on the wall, inside and out, depict the facts that when the Germans left Paris, the hotel was used to repatriate Jewish families. Needy people where put up here until they could be found by relatives. The welcome center was established by Sabine Zlatin later known as the lady of Izieu (mentioned in my last article). I had an eerie feeling, walking through the lobby and dining room, but it was mixed with a feeling of euphoria as I knew the part this magnificent structure played in the 1940’s. It is still a wonderful, but expensive place to stay or eat, or, perhaps, stop for a drink, Between the two great buildings is a 70,000 meter square park with place to relax, for children to play or for shoppers to relax. One is overwhelmed by the white statue of Mme. Boucicaud and the baronne Clara de Rothschild, offering something to the poor. One can sit below the statue for hours. This is, as I said, a very historic square. Yes, the word comes from English but the area not large enough to be a parc, not quite a bois and certainly not a jardin. And just beyond is the ruined site of a once famous Necker hospital named after the doctor who invented the stethoscope. Au Bon Marche is open daily from 9:30 AM to 7 PM and Sat. until 10 PM. It is closed on Sunday. For information call 33)0 144 398 000 Subscribe for FREE weekly newsletters. BonjourParis has been a leading France travel and French lifestyle site since 1995.     Readers’ Favorites: Top 100 Books, imports & more at our Amazon store We update our daily selections, including the newest available with an Amazon.com pre-release discount of 30% or more. Find them by starting here at the back of the Travel section, then work backwards page by page in sections that interest you. Current favorites, including bestselling Roger&Gallet unisex fragrance Extra Vieielle Jean-Marie Farina….please click on an image for details.               Click on this banner to link to Amazon.com & your purchases support our site….merci! <br>

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