I have a rule when street walking in Paris: never use the same path for a round-trip. If I head up one street to get to the market, I return down another. This is true for all my errands, meetings and adventures, including romantic strolls. Last week this habit led us to a special treat when we stumbled down the rue Quincampoix, a small pedestrian street that runs parallel to the square in front of the Centre Pompidou.
Meters from the maddening Saturday crowd at Les Halles, we had this quaint, cobbled street to ourselves. Just us, 800 years of history, 50 historical monuments and a series of contemporary-art galleries to visit. It was enticing. As we strolled north, we were enthralled with the fantastic street art, then came upon the Passage Molière.
This passage, opened in the 18th century, connects the rue Quincampoix to the rue Saint-Martin near the Quartier de l’Horloge. Today it boasts a couple of outdoor terraces, the Maison de la Poésie and small, artisanal boutiques. The terraces overflow with locals sipping wine, playing cards and reveling in the moment. The shops are primarily owned and operated by women.
At Tamano a Japanese woman, who was trained by the French shoemaker Maurice Arnoult, makes custom shoes for local patrons, with a fantastic selection of unique ready-to-wear espadrilles made from toile de jouy, or African batik (40 euros).
A bit farther along, we came across a woman in her shop, which does not yet have a name, making leather handbags and selling very large, very fun rings (15 euros) made from semiprecious rocks. And next door at Fanchon en Mars, there are light, whimsical silver necklaces (50 euros), bracelets and rings. I loved the paired rings with the poetic quote, “J’ai chanté aux étoiles” (I sang to the stars). Some of the pieces are made in-house, while others are created by women in places as far-flung as Nigeria.
Finally, crowning it all is the Maison de la Poésie, with performances, events and resources for poets and those who simply love poetry. A perfectly romantic way to end a day exploring Paris.
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