Paris Secrets: Part One
Discover the hidden Paris with our definitive guide to the city’s best-kept secrets
WHERE TO GO
PICK YOUR OWN PERFUME -The aptly named Nose, in the 2nd arrondissement, is a luxury perfumery and boutique offering an alternative to big-name brands with its stocks of around 50 rare scents as well as exclusive home fragrances and cosmetics. Visitors can drop in to the fragrance bar to undergo a ‘scent diagnosis’, which entails answering questions to pick out your preferences and then blind-smelling a selection of fragrances to find the perfume that suits you best.
Nose, 20 Rue Bachaumont, 75002 Paris
Tel: (Fr) 1 40 26 46 03
Métro: Étienne Marcel, Sentier
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PICK UP A PICNIC
Spend a Saturday morning at the Edgar Quinet market on the boulevard of the same name and next stop will be the estate agents. Shopping here and along Rue Daguerre, on the other side of the Cimetière Montparnasse is a big part of living the Parisian fantasy. The variety of quality ingredients is incredible; pick up mousserons des prés (field mushrooms) to prepare with lobster or get a hot choucroute for a picnic in the nearby Jardin du Luxembourg. On the pedestrianised Rue Daguerre the shops are permanent and the food comes out into the street to meet you. Fishmongers, grocers and wine merchants will help you arrive at the perfect combination.
Edgar Quinet market: Wednesday and Saturday (8am-2.30/3pm)
Métro: Edgar Quinet
Rue Daguerre: Monday to Saturday
VISIT PARIS’S OLDEST MARKET
Behind an inconspicuous iron gate in the Marais district lies the Marché des Enfants Rouges, Paris’s oldest covered market and an atmospheric option for a cheap lunch or picking up picnic items. Created in 1615 on the site of an orphanage, the market was named after the red uniforms worn by the children. It was listed as a national monument in 1982, today the market thrives will local shoppers buzzing around colourful food stalls and makeshift cafés. Enjoy Afro-Caribbean, Moroccan and Middle Eastern delicacies at makeshift cafes, hand-pick your fresh fruits and vegetables or browse the flower stalls and antique offerings.
Le Marché des Enfants Rouge, 39 Rue de Bretagne, 75003 Paris
Open: Tue-thurs 8.30-1pm, 4-7.30pm; Fri-Sat 8.30am-1pm, 4-8pm; Sun 8.30am-2pm
Métro: Filles du Calvaire
TAKE A TOUR OF THE EDITH PIAF MUSEUM
Tucked away in a block of private apartments in the Belleville district, the Musée Édith Piaf is an Aladdin’s cave of memorabilia. The apartment itself, accessed via two double doors, a lift and a corridor, and only by appointment, was once the home of the legendary singer, and is now owned by Bernard Marchois, who has given over two rooms to the museum and filled them with items that once belonged to ‘la môme piaf’ (the little sparrow), who died in 1963, aged just 47. The red papered walls are covered in drawings, photographs and letters, as well as gold and platinum discs. A life-sized cut-out and the many clothes on display – including her iconic little black dress – demonstrate just how tiny Piaf was at only 1m 42cm (4ft 8in).
Marchois, whose parents were a family friend of Piaf, first met the legendary singer when he was 16. He was introduced to her backstage at a show at the Olympia theatre in Paris and says the moment “is engraved in my memory” despite admitting to being more interested in the music of “British Teddy Boys” at the time. Marchois is happy to pinpoint various items and how they relate to her life, including letters from singers Tino Rossi and Maurice Chevalier, as well as from Marcel Cerdan, the world champion boxer said to be the love of her life. He was tragically killed in a plane crash in 1949.
Musée Édith Piaf, 5 Rue Crespin du Gast, 75011 Paris
Tel: (Fr) 1 43 55 52 72
Appointment only, book by phone the week before you wish to visit.
WEEKEND STROLL LIKE A LOCAL
When in Paris, we stay in a residential neighbourhood in the 16th arrondissement, quite a way from many tourist attractions. So it was a delight to discover, just over the River Seine from the 16th and near the Eiffel Tower, the perfect street to flâner (take an aimless stroll). Rue Saint-Dominique has it all: boutiques, art galleries, great architecture and the sort of restaurants with red awnings and checked tablecloths that sum up Paris. One such restaurant is La Fontaine de Mars, next to a fountain after which it is named (tel: (Fr) 1 47 05 46 44, www.fontainedemars.com).
The street is probably best known as the location of three eateries by star chef Christian Constant. Our favourite is Les Cocottes, a bistro where dishes are served in cast-iron pots. They don’t take reservations, so go early – lunch starts at noon and dinner at 6.30pm (www.maisonconstant.com/les-cocottes/).
Continue strolling along Rue Saint-Dominique and a right turn into Rue Cler, a cobblestoned pedestrianised street that is a haven for foodies, with gourmet shops and a charming street market (Tues-Sat 10am-6pm, Sunday morning).
Rue Saint-Dominique, 75007 Paris
Métro: École Militaire
FIND AN EXOTIC ESCAPE AT THE GRANDE MOSQUÉE If the bustle of Paris gets too much, seek out the tranquillity of the Grande Mosquée. Walled off from the rest of the capital, the building is recognisable by its distinctive Moorish tower. Once inside, visitors are transported to North Africa. Moorish arches lead to a cool garden courtyard filled with exotic greenery. The constant sound of trickling water is particularly calming. There is a courtyard café where you can sip hot and very sweet mint tea with a slice of pistachio cake.
La Grande Mosquée, 2bis Place du Puits de l’Ermite, 75005 Paris
Tel: (Fr) 1 45 35 97 33
Métro: Place Monge, Censier-Daubenton
Contributors: Carolyn Boyd, Zoë McIntyre, Paul Lamarra and Lynn McBride.
CLICK HERE FOR PARIS SECRETS PART TWO.