Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Paris Neighbourhood or How I am Decorating My New Room

Here the pilgrims rest
Last year, I lived on the Rue St. Jacques in the 5th arrondissement (Left Bank near the Latin Quarter) in Paris for five months. Rue St. Jacques is one of the oldest streets in Paris. It follows one of the original Roman roads and was the beginning of the French route of the Camino de Santiago de Compostella.  The Tour St. Jacques on the other side of the Seine is the starting point of the this route. The church on the next block from me is St Jacques du Haut Pas where pilgrims worshipped on their way to Santiago.  The sidewalk has the coquille (shell) that marks the way. As I walked the last 100km. of the Camino, I have been at the start and the finish of the French Way (just not in the middle).

My neighbourhood is called Val de Grâce because opposite my apartment is L'église Val de Grâce which was built in the 16th century to celebrate the birth of Louis Quatorze (the Sun King).  His mother was childless for a long time so she wanted to say thanks to God. During the French Revolution, the Church became a military hospital.  There is a great little museum about the history of French military medicine in the building.  My square with its fountain and friendly clochard (drunk man) was named for Alphonse Laveran, a French military physician who won a Nobel Prize for discovering that the cause of malaria was protozoa. I studied French culture in my course at the Sorbonne but I learned a lot by looking up the origin of the street names because most streets in Paris are named for famous French people.


The living room is bright and cheery and there is a desk by the window

The apartment that I rented was just a few metres from the square. I loved the location and the layout.
I feel a little sad that I will not be returning "home" this time but I promised my friend, Janet that we will visit le quartier when she comes to visit.  We got to know the locals who greeted me and any Canadians who were with me with "Bonjour, Madame" any of the countless times we met them in the street. French shopkeepers like to stand outside their shops.  I don't know where the idea of unfriendliness began because this was certainly not the case in my neighbourhood.  One of my friends was horrified when the clochard  (our street guy) started talking to me one day.  Actually, he was kind of a friend. I had seen him washing in the Fountain Alphonse Laveran and had averted my eyes when he was performing other bodily functions. When each of my Canadians returned home, I collected their coins in a ziploc and gave them to him.



My friendly grocer and his assistant
The lovely girl at the boulangerie

Aurélie de La Pomme d'Amour

My friend, Janet, was in love with the traiteur (deli man)
There are a grocery store (very important ), a pharmacy (with a pharmacist who comes to Canada for her holidays), a very handsome hairdresser (who tints eyebrows for free), three restaurants (La Pomme d'Amour Crêperie where I ate while I was studying was my favourite) and a boulangerie (bakes and sells freshly baked bread that I could smell when I was waking up.)

My hairdresser ( the roots need a lot of touching up in 5 months
At home, I take the elevator downstairs (in Paris I climb and descend the stairs), get in my car (in Paris I walk) and drive to the shops (fortunately I live near a small suburban village where I do talk to the shopkeepers.) Home is where my husband, daughter and mother live  but the quartier in Paris was my home away from home.

So, why am I not renting the Val de Grâce apartment this year. As my brother, Bob, would say "It's all part of the adventure."

1 comment:

  1. What a lovely post! I'm envious of the five. whole. months! And I'm looking forward to seeing another quartier through your perceptive eyes. . . .

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