Thursday, September 24, 2009
A tale of two quartiers
They say that moving house is one of the most stressful things you can do. What rubbish. It’s easily the most stressful thing you can do. It’s three days after the fact here in Parigi. I packed up my small tribe and moved them three arrondissements to the west at the weekend, trading the down-at-heel but oh-so-groovy 11th arrondissement for the well-turned-out and ever-so-slightly-snobbish 1st arrondissement. The reasons for the move and the rationale behind the choice of new neighbourhood are too tedious to go into here. Suffice it to say a fast-expiring lease, a proprietor who wanted his apartment back, the looming threat of homelessness and the convenience of friends offering up their recently vacated space near the Louvre all conspired to make ma petite famille the newest residents of Paris’ eminently chic 1st arrondissement. Rue St Honoré, no less. I figure if you’re going to be bourgeois, you might as well be bourgeois in Paris. Parisians do an excellent line in bourgeois.
And so it’s farewell to the gritty mean streets of Oberkanmpf. Au revoir the Polish clochards who used to camp out with their flagons of rosé on the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. Bye bye to the Canal St Martin and the clutch of cosy cafes that line it. Auf wiedersehn to the wonderful collection of commercants that lined our former street, rue Oberkampf, and who kept us in cheese, meat, chocolates, baguette and croissant for the past four years. And it’s hello to the Louvre, pavements lined with tourists, the market street of rue Montorgueil, Palais Royal and Les Tuileries.
Much as we will miss Oberkampf, it’s exciting to have a new quartier to explore. I have grand plans to get a season pass to the Louvre and make regular weekly visits (how much do you want to bet I get the pass and never go?). With Palais Royal and Les Tuileries as his backyard, our little man is set for a once-in-a-lifetime experience his little mind has no way of processing and properly appreciating. We now have the arduous task of setting about the quartier sampling every fournisseur of fine foodstuffs within striking distance of our new abode. We’ve got to find a boulangerie worthy of our daily custom (there’s one across the street which claims to be the official supplier of breadsticks to the Elysée Palace – but then my friend Jules reckons they all claim that), a boucherie to call our very own and a market for the sourcing of fresh fish, fruit and vegetables.
I’ve already settled on the café where I will be putting the finishing touches to book numero deux. It’s drenched in afternoon sunshine, has electrical outlets a-plenty (for the laptop), seems to be extremely tolerant of impoverished writer types setting up for the afternoon and sitting on a single coffee, has straight-backed chairs and serves ginger biscuits with its affordable-priced coffee. Result! And the fact that it happens to look onto the Louvre and across the Seine doesn’t hurt.
Bourgeois Bryce? It doesn’t have such a bad ring to it afterall.