A Generation Which Ignores History Has No Past and No Future
|Au Vieux Paris d'Arcole|
As we all know Baron Haussmann carries the reputation as destroyer of ancient Paris. Let's all overlook that Paris has been destroying itself for thousands of years, but yeah, okay he did Paris dirty here and there. I still think he created some beautiful things... if you're really into Haussmann there's a great book called "Paris Reborn".
That being said you can still find some pretty old parts. Especially in the Marais, with it's little half timber buildings. There's even that weird one near St. Paul that as been derelict forever. I guess they can't destroy it but it's also spooky af.
As I mentioned numerous times, when I first came to Paris my introduction came by way of Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite. I didn't venture far from there in the beginning. I went to the Marais and I would get groceries from the Monoprix on St. Michel. Little did I know that I would one day live in every fucking corner of this city (through no fault of my own).
Ile de la Cite kind of fascinates me in that it never has rentals. For the most part it's dominated by Notre Dame and the Palais Justice, but, and especially at the western tip there are buildings, and people must live in these buildings right? Or not? I honestly have no idea, maybe it's policeman housing, because I have yet to see a real estate ad, rental or sale. Not have I met anyone who lives there.
Oddly enough on rue Chanoinesse there used to be an American cupcakery called Bertie's. It wasn't very good (way too much sugar), but it was the reason I found that street, and subsequently the Au Vieux Paris d'Arcole. The Au Vieux would be otherwise non-discreet if they didn't dress it up. It's tiny, and when you get inside you have to bend down to get through doorways. It wasn't actually until I met Christian Kinnersley that I finally visited the place for dinner. We went there one night and unfortunately got the front room, but if you go up the stairs it gets more interesting. It's basic French fare, but I recommend it if not for the setting alone.
Although perhaps I shouldn't tell this story if you don't want to have some pretty horrific imagery in your head whilst eating dinner. Fuck it, I was today year's old when I found out some very interesting history regarding the building next door. Actually that's debatable because it apparently happened on rue Marmousets which is now under Hospital Dieu.
I'm going off French translations of it so it's kind of like telephone, who knows how accurate it is. Apparently it's an old Paris urban legend so you're supposed to take it with a grain of salt. The story has been going around since at least 1612.
In/around 1384 there lived a barber and a pastry chef. Apparently their shops were next to each other on either Marmousets or Chanoinesse, (the location changes depending on who tells the story). For whatever reason this barber liked cutting the throats of students of the Notre Dame, which he then passed over to his chef friend through a trap door that connected their houses. The pastry chef would turn them into pate (or pies depending on who tells the story), which he then sold. Apparently this pate was really fucking delicious because people weren't used to eating human flesh and the taste was A1 (but nothing to the fact that consuming human flesh causes neurodegenerative disease? Perhaps they didn't live long enough). Anyway they were found out because some German student, who they killed, had a dog who wouldn't stop barking at the shop. The police came in, found the scheme, and arrested them. They were promptly tried and burned alive at the Place de Greve.
Maybe it was a tale people told because they were really fucking afraid of Paris with it's thieves and murderers, and the tale kept little country people from making their way to this godless (with it's 50,000 churches) capital. Who knows. It's one of the few Parisian ghost stories I've heard so I pass it along because this Disney-fied version the French have created over the past 100 years or so is totally against the history of Paris. And I don't like rewriting history.
In the meantime check out the Au Vieux. It really is a cute little place, that feels like a portal back in time.