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Paris Neighborhoods: The Elusive 16th Arrondissement

Bad habits die hard, and I’m guilty of one of the worst – making generalisations about the 16th arrondissement – i.e. ‘that’s the upscale arrondissement where most mortals can’t afford to breathe the air, the shops are all couture boutiques – too expensive, and the rest of the Haussmannian buildings are reserved for foreign embassies and luxury hotels.

Perhaps, that holds true for some neighborhoods in the 16th arrondissement located on Paris’s Right Bank, but thanks to Francoise, a friend who’s a ‘real’ Parisian, i.e. she grew up in this city, I discovered that cliche is long overdue to be discarded.

If you love a village atmosphere in the heart of Paris, there may be no better place to absorb the sights and sounds of a lively market street than Rue de l’Annonciation or the nearby covered market in the Passy district of the 16th. (Metro: Passy). One of the famous produce shops you’ll find on Rue de l’Annonciation is ‘Gosselin’ which also has a shop in St. Vaast-la-Hougue on the Norman coast.

Passy is not unfamiliar to Americans – this is where Benjamin Franklin first stayed when he arrived in Paris. Although a high-powered business community may have grown around what used to be a separate village from Paris’s core, Passy still retains its ‘village feel’. Francoise took me to one of her local brasseries, Le Rallye Passy, which has an inner terrace for leisurely lunches – and the prices reflect the taste of a local clientelle (good food and normal prices) what we call, ‘bon rapport, qualite/prix’.

We stopped for a chat with one of the local fruit vendors and had an animated discussion about the best way to display fruit. Francoise reminded him that the ‘Parisian way’ to stack fruit should be a little haphazard – ‘not too orderly’. Which brings to mind one of my favorite quotes from French Cinematheque founder, Henri Langlois:
“J’aime le desordre!” “I love disorder!”

Needless to say after a delectable lunch of ‘steak tartare’ i.e. raw ground beef mixed up with raw egg, lots of good spices, etc, and a glass of Cotes de Rhone, naturally a little window-shopping is ‘de rigueur’ when you’re in the 16th (some cliches do hold true) and what better place to shop than along Rue Passy?

One of the boutiques we visited ‘Carroll’, you may remember from some of Parisgirl’s past posts as being a favorite with some of my French friends. This is the place to go for a ‘classic’ look without breaking the bank. For we Americans, still suffering from currency conversion woes, it may still be a little steep, however the styles are not trendy – and you should be able to get plenty of wear out of these casual, but well conceived styles. (Branches of Carroll can be found throughout Paris, and the clothing is also carried in major department stores such as Galleries Lafayette and Printemps).

To get back to the Metro, you just keep walking along Rue de Passy (which will take you right past the Passy-Eiffel Hotel, 10 Rue de Passy. I stopped in to pick up a flyer FYI. What a handy place to explore this neighborhood that defies all cliches!

Parisgirl has now become ‘officially’ one of the ‘ladies who lunch’. (Not really. Francoise isn’t either – in fact, she rarely lunches which explains also why real Parisiennes remain so trim!)

P.S. If Omar Sharif chose this neighborhood for his apartment in Paris, it can’t be all bad!

Hotel Passy-Eiffel
10 Rue Passy
Metro: Passy
Tél : 01 45 25 55 66 • Fax : 01 42 88 89 88