Monday, May 26, 2014

Variations on a Theme

We are staying in a neighborhood that we have stayed in before so it's not entirely new to us, but it's been more than five years I think, and it has changed a lot.  Rue Montorgeuil was once the market street of a populaire neighborhood, now it's the main artery of a popular one.  The first meant working class, the second means what the French call bobogentrified.  

There are still a couple of butchers, a couple of fishmongers, a few cheese shops, green grocers and small supermarkets.  The hardware store is hanging on by its nails.  Every other storefront has become a café, a restaurant or an ethnic takeout shop.  There's a Starbucks on the corner, a Pain Quotidien down the way, a Paul bakery and an Eric Kayser.  There's a good florist and a chain florist.

Around the corner is Frenchie, a restaurant that became so popular when it opened that they stopped taking phone reservations; you had to go there to talk to them because they were too busy to answer the phone.  When it opened a few years ago Frenchie was alone on a sketchy block in the garment district.  Today the restaurant has a wine bar across the street and an upscale American style takeout next door.  The block has a butcher shop that was recommended to me by one of the few genuine gourmets I know and a green grocer that supplies many of the best new restaurants in Paris. 

Going north from there the small wholesale clothing storefronts have disappeared, replaced by bars full of what passes for hipsters in Paris, and good-looking cafés with "modern" menus.  I imagine this is happening in most major cities, but it's startling to me how quickly it's occurred.  We are within easy walking distance of the Marais, where the same thing happened even earlier.  And in St-Germain des Pres, our last neighborhood, the one we feel is "ours", it happened 30 years ago.  Plus ça change...

We of course haven't changed a bit.

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