Friday, October 24, 2008
One of the things you notice when you first to get to Paris is that there's sort of a sameness about the architecture: block after block of the same Haussmanian stone buildings, six stories high with a big wooden door and wrought iron balconies. Save for the different varieties of geraniums in the window boxes and the details of the carvings over the doorways and under the lintels, it can all start to run together. But sometimes I pop up out of the metro and find myself in a completely different world. Yesterday, I took a walk in the area east of the Bastille, in and around the Faubourg St. Antoine. It's a neighborhood that's getting pretty popular with the yuppies (or as they say here, the bobos) and for good reason. Hidden behind some of those massive doors are little oases of green and calm. Many of these passages and courtyards used to be sites for workshops and factories. While there are still quite a few woodworkers in the area, the commercial spaces are now more likely to be offices for architects, designers, and other white collar types. And of course, the upper floors are becoming apartments, no doubt full of sleek and trendy furniture.
There are lots of words you could use to describe these little cours, but enchanting seems to fit best. The greenery alone set me into a semi-swoon, perhaps because I'm missing having my own private space outdoors. The name of this courtyard was magical in its own right: Cour d'Etoile D'Or (the court of the golden star). Cue up the mood music, maestro.