Saturday, March 27, 2010

Behind Closed Doors

Someone once told me never to miss the opportunity to snoop behind the facades that Paris buildings offer to the street and, snoopy person that I am, I've taken that to heart.

In the last week or so I've come across several street doors that have been left open, allowing a glimpse of what lies behind, and each time someone nearby was able to tell me what I was seeing.  The first was a garden in the 6th arrondissement, leading to a building which I was told had been the Paris home of Andy Warhol.  Nothing there indicated the King of Pop Art had ever been in residence, but I guess one wouldn't expect to see any Campbell's soup cans or multiple portraits lying around.  It was a lovely building in any case.

The next open door was across the river and several centuries away, in the 3rd arrondissement near the Marché des Enfants Rouges.  Here a helpful neighbor told me this rundown alleyway between buildings and the courtyard behind it had been built by Cardinal Richelieu and functioned as a barrack for the Musketeers.  Again, I don't know if the story is apocryphal, but I prefer to believe that through the door and just to the left down there was D'Artagnan's bunk, with his plumed hat hanging from a bedpost.

It's an unexpected pleasure to come across a reminder that people have lived their lives, generation after generation, century after century, in the same places and that the settings remain after the people are long gone.  This is easier to recall in smaller towns than Paris, places that have kept half-timbered buildings that people continue to live in and where the date over the door might as easily read 1627 as 1898.  Places like Dinan in Brittany, which I'll tell you about soon.

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