Friday, April 22, 2011

A Tale of Two Passages

At the tail end of the 18th century and into the mid 19th, builders in Paris were keen on creating a new kind of retail shopping experience -- the covered passage lined with shops and lit by skylights.  At one point, there were 150 of these galleries, primarily situated on the Right Bank in the area known as the Grand Boulevards.  Only a handful remain today, the most elegant of these being the Galerie Vivienne in the 1st arrondissement.  I don't imagine I could afford any of the gowns on offer here and cups of tea go for a pretty penny too.  It's the kind of place that cements the reputation of Paris as the center of elegance and style.

But, as is so often the case when it comes to Paris, the image doesn't exactly jib with the reality. While the Galerie Vivienne is all sophistication, the Passage du Caire (which actually predates Galerie Vivienne by some thirty years) is all business without the frills. Located in the Sentier, the city's garment district in the 2nd arrondissement, its central hallway is busy with workers carting boxes and pushing racks. 

Don't plan on making any purchases here, that is unless you own your own shop.  It's purely wholesale.  But even so, it's worth the trip.  What the interior lacks in charm, the exterior, built at the time of Napoleon's campaign in Egypt, more than compensates.  


Mary Kay said...

Any chance that we unknowningly passed each other in the Galeries Vivienne yesterday?! I just posted a blog about my visit with almost identical photos.

Harriet said...

Thanks for the info. I've yet to visit the Galerie Vivienne.

Anonymous said...

Enjoy some nice pics of the galerie Vivienne :

Anne said...

Mary Kay: No chance as I wasn't even in town! I took these pictures awhile back and just got around to posting them. Will stop by your blog to see what you said.

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