Palais Royal

Another Paris Walks walking tour this morning. I almost missed it! My memory was that it was a 2:30 PM (14h30) walk. While casually starting to eat breakfast, I verified the location and time. Whoops! It was a 10:30 AM (10h30) walk. I had about 30 minutes to make it to Metro Louvre-Rivoli. That’s line 7 from Pont Marie to Châtelet then change for line 1 to Louvre-Rivoli. Easy to say – hard to do. Châtelet is a huge interchange of Metro lines as well as RER lines. I had to walk 100s of meters underground. It was twisty passages, all different, but all designed to make you lose your sense of direction. I did get there with 5 minutes to spare.

The first thing one does is to try to pick out the other Paris Walks participants. That is, people who look like American or Brit tourists. And are just hanging around. It’s not too hard. Then Brad showed up, took our money, and started the tour.

This was a lèche-vitrine tour. That’s window shopping. Or, more literally translated, licking display cases. It explored the galeries, arcades, and passages that made the Palais Royal area famous in the 1800s. From some 120 at their height, there are a dozen or so now. Back then the streets were not great places to be. Not city-wide septic yet, so the streets were used. And there was traffic, and dirt, smell, and crime. The galeries offered a covered, clean(er), safe(er) place. Glass technology was just starting, but you could build glass roofs. It was just foot traffic – no garbage or horses or similar. Each also had its own guard station to keep the riffraff out.

The galeries have passed out of fashion now. The boulevards (of Napoleon) are wide and relatively clean (there is a city-wide sewer underground) with wide walking lanes as well as wide traffic lanes. Stores on them can now have large glass windows for good display.

One of the oldest shops seen was a maker of calling cards. These were engraved and had not only your name and address, but the name of the company producing the card. The good companies, like the one we saw, would vet anyone asking for cards, so when you received a card you knew the person was who they said they were. And, of course, each engraved plate for the cards were individually produced and the whole process was expensive.

The Palais Royal was owned by a Duke, a cousin of the king. He needed money, so he built out the area he owned into galeries around a beautiful central park. The shop owners paid rent and there were also fancy apartments on the upper floors. All this produced income for the Duke. But, the king joked that he would only see him on Sundays as he was now a part of the working class.

The Palais Royal area had quite a number of cafés and restaurants as well as shops. Since it was owned by royalty, the entire thing was off limits to the city police. The royalty had their own security forces. This meant the area was like “Las Vegas of Paris”, what happened at the Palais Royal area stayed there. Due to this, and that the Duke had some revolutionary leanings himself, it was a main area for the brewing of the French Revolution.

The story goes that a certain well know person was hurt by the king. The revolutionaries demonstrated against. They were charged by royal forces and retreated back to the Palais Royal, which the forces could not enter. There they drank some more and got more worked up. Someone said “we need to be armed.” So crowd of 8,000 or so went out and over to the Louvre and raid it for a large collection of weapons. But, back at the Palais Royal, they said “we don’t have gunpowder!” Then the next day, July 14, the crowd went out to where gunpowder was stored: the Bastille. They stormed, ripped down, and took the Bastille’s gunpowder. As a side effect, a few prisoners were freed. Of course, July 14 is a well known French holiday today.

Before an American theater show, people say “break a leg.” In France it is “Merde.” Huh? On a show’s opening night, everyone who was anyone came in their carriage. And, the horses stomped around as well as having to wait around. The better attended your show, the more carriages, the more horses, the more of what horses produce. So, if there was a lot of merde, your show had a great opening night.

Lastly I will explain the picture. The staircase in most buildings, including mine, is small and very twisty. Furniture has gotten bigger over time. Not only TVs, but large beds, large sofas, tables, etc. This means the staircase is not suitable for moving. The alternative is your window. That means you need an exterior life up to your window. When you rent a mover, you let them know how high your apartment is and they bring the right expanding hoist.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *