Friday, November 13, 2009

Hearth and Home

I notice I haven't told you much yet about our new home.  I think it's because I'm still sorting out how I feel about the change. We've moved from the Marais to Saint-Germain-des-Prés, the Right Bank to the Left, the hip neighborhood to the bobo quartier.  That last one isn't really true.  Bobo stands for bourgeois Bohemien; it refers to rich folks who still like to think of themselves as hip.  Nowadays the Marais is full of them, but they tend to be a bit younger than the bobos of the St-Germain area, who, if truth be told, don't really have any more claim to the title.  Over here it's rich folks, period.  And the tourists of course.

When we as tourists first started coming to Paris we stayed in Saint-Germain-des-Prés.  We loved it; after the first visit it felt like 'our' neighborhood, familiar and comforting.  They were used to tourists over here, without being obvious about it: no cheesy souvenir shops like on the rue de Rivoli.  Most service people spoke decent, not to say impeccable, English, the shops were appealing, the restaurants generally good, and there were lots of other English speakers.  It was easy Paris.

Back then the Marais was beginning to be discovered.  A once aristocratic area that had so deteriorated that there was real discussion of razing the old mansions-turned-tenements, it took André Malraux, Minister of Culture in 1969, to make it the first secteur sauvegardé, or protected architectural area, of Paris.  With that push, buildings began to be restored, artists moved in, the old Jewish section began to be less important and the gay presence more important.  It was the happening place, until it had already happened.  That's when we got there.

Last year we stayed near rue de Bretagne in the late-to-gentrify northern Marais and liked the area a lot, so when the opportunity to split our long stay between the two quartiers came up we jumped at it. 

Now that the background is out of the way, you may be asking how we're liking it over here.  Or you may have gone away long since; it's pretty boring, isn't it?

The short answer is that we like it a lot.  The longer answer is that Gene is happier to be here than I am, and I don't know if it's my usual resistance to change or something deeper.  We'll have to see.  At the moment I sort of miss the slight scruffiness of the Marais and don't yet feel entirely comfortable in the more haute environs over here.  It sort of feels like my scarf needs to be tied a bit more chicly (is that a word?) than on the other bank.

The apartments are quite different as well.  They both look like movie sets; we've been very lucky finding lovely places.  The Marais apartment had beams, low ceilings everywhere except for the enormous chandeliered kitchen, and a fireplace.  Someone said it was where Audrey Hepburn would have lived in the movie. The new one is Cary Grant's digs.  It has a double-height salon with silk draperies and oriental rugs, a grand piano, a spiral stair to the bedroom upstairs, and a really tiny kitchen.  I had planned to make Thanksgiving dinner here but just accepted an invitation from a friend. No way was that going to work.

But we're half a block from the Seine, we can cross the Pont Neuf in two minutes, we can walk nearly anywhere with ease, there are dozens of restaurants and cafés within a five minute stroll and three multiplex movie theaters up on the boulevard.  I think I'll get used to it again, really quickly.


Jo said...

Shelli -

What a wonderful choice - Audrey Hepburn or Cary Grant digs! Hmmmmm...seems to me that you can't miss either way.

Can you tell I'm missing Paris? Thanks for the fix.

Karin B (Looking for Ballast) said...

I am just so impressed with your posts, Shelli. I just finished the one about the Eiffel Tower and come to this one, and it is such a joy to read what you write about the city! I love the ways in which you characterize the Right versus Left Banks in this piece. So true!! Then you have my part of town, what I think of as Outpost Paris, lol. Anyway, it is so true the way each neighborhood has its own personality within this great city. You captured it so well here.