Monday, October 21, 2013

Boutiques Anciennes De Paris

Quite a few people asked what book I had found Declercq Passementiers in.  Well, it took me a whole week (note that I still don't quite know where everything is in my new house!).  The book has been found and is called:  Boutiques Anciennes De Paris by Sybil Canac and Bruno Cabanis.  The book is written both in English and French

It covers fifty boutiques in Paris that retain their original decoration and family tradition.  These boutiques range from the world famous Laduree (Unbelievably delicately flavored macaroons) to crammed shops selling ribbons (Ultramod) and places that specialize in Napolean-era metal soldiers.  Au Ver a Soie is not normally open to the public, but it would certainly have fit into this category with its old-styled original storefront and fourth generation family running the silk thread maker.  As Marc Boucher, who holds up the tradition of high quality silk with his sister Nathalie, said when I showed him this book - these are the 'businesses ancient'.  

I loved the nineteenth century interiors, large gold letters on the outside and the dark wood interiors.  A feature retained by many is the little booth in the back where a older woman sits and takes your slip so she can take and enter the payment into a ledger.  There are just some systems that still stay the same!  Our butcher a few doors down retained this and I just loved going in and watching them pick me some ham, wrap it up and give it to this lady for me to finish the transaction with.  So old school!

The place I found this book, which features in the volume, is also not to be missed if you visit Paris.  It is an institution there - an ACTUAL Cabinet of Curiosities - Deyrolle.  Not far over the river from the Louvre, it is an easy and lovely walk from the main tourist attractions and across the street from one of the best known restaurants by Joel Robuchon ($$$$) (It was a lunch I will always remember).  

Deyrolle is essentially a shop for taxidermy and the natural sciences.  Established in 1831, the first floor has 'le Prince Jardinier', a lovely garden shop, but it is the upper floor which is ten times as big that stuns.  It is hard to describe Deyrolle, it has to be experienced.  It is the only place I have ever been that accurately looks like the wunderkammers and cabinet of curiosities engravings of the Renaissance.  You would think it would be like a natural history museum - yet it is singularly not.  It is intimate and that is the only way I can describe it.  There are stuffed birds, animals and displays of shells and insects everywhere in delicately painted nineteenth century interiors and oak lined rooms.  You really feel like you are wandering the private studies of an aristocratic world explorer - someone for whom the Grand Tour was just the beginning of their adventures.  By the time you traverse the length of the place and are in the bug room, your wonder has taken over and you are opening the multitude of drawers and are amazed by the assortment of rare butterflies, pins, and other supplies needed for collectors.  I have to admit that I almost bought my mother a Christmas present in the beetle area (you have to know my mom - I really regret not getting back there to do it! I was on my way into the city that day and couldn't carry the shadow box of iridescent green bugs).  I can imagine now an absolutely fabulous embroidered casket with stumpwork animals, butterflies and bugs on the outside and a collection of said rare rocks, shells, and insects on the inside in the drawers - a true Cabinet of Curiosities.  I may just follow through on that as I now know where to get everything.  

To say that this shop is beloved by Parisians is an understatement.  While I was there, a grandmother and granddaughter (about 10 yrs old) were searching in the cabinet of small birds for a gift for the girl.  She picked out a small and delicate yellow feathered bird with a huge smile on her face and took it to be purchased.  I so wanted to ask them the story behind this purchase.  Perhaps a remembrance of a beloved pet or maybe the act of a knowing grandmother, feeding the interest of a biologist in training.  But the obvious careful selection and delight on the child's face made me want to bring home something.  What shocks you is finding out that this institution was ravaged by fire in 2008.  The current owner, the Prince Louis-Edouard de Broglie, was inundated by gifts from famous families, royal houses, and ordinary collectors who had loved this shop over the century.  He was able to repopulate the animals (many now endangered and not replaceable) by these gifts.  And yes, the majority of these pieces are for sale.  Philip Stark had purchased the only polar bear days before the fire,  inadvertently saving it from destruction.  I know there are some who would be repulsed by the mounted animals - but I have to say it was in such a respectful and tasteful manner that you had to be in awe of their majesty.

I highly recommend it if you go to Paris.  I will be back.


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