Paris’s 1st district, more locally known as the Louvre district, dates back to the Middle Ages, and a summertime ramble around the area can reveal a rather peculiar Paris. Here’s a Spotted by Locals review of 5 spots which search out some wonderfully lesser-known nooks and crannies but also its historical left-overs.
A roundabout folie
As folies go, Paris has its fair share of them, and for folie-hunters the corner of Rue de L’Arbre Sec and Rue Saint Honoré is riddled with folie after folie, easily missed in the hubbub of simply getting from A to B.
First up is this street relic of a roundabout (pictured) which for me each time I see it conjures up the odour of Paris’s early medieval pestilence and its associated sounds.
Then there’s an obscure drinking-water fountain, Fontaine de La Croix du Trahoir; and although Paris takes pride in its free-to-access public drinking water fountains this is one more for ogling at for the erudite features of a doglike-human head from which the water pours.
Finally there’s the decorative relief on the building itself which takes on the form of hand-moulded stalactites shown to be dripping from the first window level of the building’s edifice. Across the street is where you’ll find access to an equally bizarre space, continuing a journey into Paris’s odd nooks and crannies.
Fontaine de La Croix du Trahoir, Rue de L’Abre Sec, 75001, Paris
An architectural patchwork
This isolated space is where street artist Jordane Saget’s chalk pieces features on a buffed surface which is likely to hold down the ephemeral design more permanently thanks to it being located in this square concealing it from the weather.
I’m a massive fan of Saget’s street art but it wasn’t what drew me into this mysterious little nook – you can’t really see the piece from the Saint Honoré entrance. Originally I’d been lured by a strange little door (pictured). So having some time to kill I went for a closer inspection, consequently discovering Saget’s piece.
The space’s sober architecture also gives off an air of being a time capsule, a place that so hidden from view, and historically stripped back from the main gaslit streets of the time, that one can but build very tall stories of the shady goings-on that might once have gone on here.
Paris’s Ministry of Culture building with its modernist grill is just within eye-shot, making this spot an odd patchwork of textures too. If you’re ambling around Paris’s 1st district this is also a good short cut to get quickly from Rue du Louvre through to Rue de Rivoli.
Rue du Pélican, 75001, Paris
A feeling of thinking
At Paris’s Ministry of Culture this is where you’ll find one of the cities lesser known free exhibition spaces. Located in this administrative buildings foyer I chose to go there to get a handle on a social project which blends the body and wellbeing putting Rodin’s The Thinker at its heart.
The results of this temporary exhibition Rodin and I shows children’s works, responding to their ‘bodies’; each of the works itself a biography of the kids’ experiences, each at various stages of receiving hospitalized-medical care.
Told through sculptures, there’s not only clay, but also combinations using lots of the hygienic disposable items you’d likely find on any health-aware hospital ward. One of these being a butterfly constructed from blue surgical gloves.
Here Le Crieur (the town crier) from 13 year old Mohamed, its title doesn’t quite correspond with what looks to be a direct homage to The Thinker (pictured). Overall, the exhibition gives a fusion of feeling and thought, its aim being compassionately to get kids to think about how their bodies actual feel to them. Rodin and I runs through the summer until Sept 1 2018.
Ministry of Culture, 182 Rue Saint Honoré, 75001, Paris
Living up to its name, Modelisme, this shop has stacks and stacks of what look to be vintage model replica airfix kits. The strangest of sorts though, as most of them are of once-operational war contraptions.
I was a bit taken aback that people really would still want to buy and build their own fighter planes, but seeing that these kits remain on shelves in their dusty vintage looking boxes maybe shows that people would rather not, in fact, exemplify them.
One of the curious brands on display is Revell which ran for hobbyists for six decades, and which was started by builders and now 100% employee-owned Hobbico. There’s also Williams Bros Inc., which at the time were distributors of these 1/32 scale plastic model kits, retailing for around 59€.
In terms of odd places to find in Paris’s 1st district, Modelisme fits right in. And thankfully so in a period where specialist knowledge migrates more and more to the online spaces, this geeky boutique is well worth a curious visit. It will also be of particular interest to packaging and graphics geeks too.
Modelisme, 3 Rue du Louvre, 75001 Paris
A shadowcast oasis
A new public garden has just opened right next to church Saint-Eustache, in May 2018. And what’s remarkable is the number of shadows to be found there, some cast by handsomely groomed fast-growing sapling trees but also by its modernist designed bandstand.
It’s as if the landscape-architects really configured the gardens to be a place where locals can literally take a sun-break, of which during these summer months the temperatures have already been hitting 30°C, making Jardin Les Halles (Les Halles Gardens) a rare city oasis.
To abate the soaring temperatures too there’s a water-mirror, so-called for the consequences of its ground-sunk water-jets which playfully fire-off misty plumes soaking into the dry air; before consequently soddened the ground-slabs so much that they form a gleaming black mirror which literally reflects the comings and goings of the passers-by.
Should you be anywhere near metro stations Étienne Marcel or Les Halles then you’re just in a stone’s throw of the gardens. Just for clarity, locating this place on Google maps, while locals call this place Jardin Les Halles, it will likely pop-up by its inaugurated name of Jardin Nelson Mandela.
Jardin Nelson Mandela, 75001, Paris