The Palais Brongniart is unquestionably pretty, a place where buoyant financial excitement has now made way for one of the most striking exhibition venues in Paris. Thus, from now on going to Bourse means going to Salon du Dessin, a reproduction Greek Temple that serves as an amazing cultural space.
At the meeting point between an unassuming Haussmann construction and its adjoining pretty little streets, sits a neighbourhood where editorial offices from all the leading newspapers once reigned supreme. That way of life has been preserved as if in a bubble, even “under glass” one might say, considering the presence of numerous passages which continue to delight and amuse Parisians. Created during the 19th Century, these covered arcades were genuine closed streets, where the passer-by would be protected from noise and mud which was everywhere. Visit the marvellous Colbert or Galerie Vivienne arcades, or Passage des Panoramas and you will be struck by the feeling that time has stood still. Here, shadows and ghosts spanning two centuries of Parisian life mingle with the city dwellers and tourists of the present day, all performing in a joyous, gourmet wonderland. Restaurants, stylists, fashion designers and tearooms jostle elbow to elbow within these charming, unspoilt and character filled alleyways.
A charm that is repeated on Place des Victoires, where the statue of Louis XIV surveys the exclusive high fashion brands. A charm that can be seen from pillar to pillar in the sublime Church of Notre Dame des Victoires, where some thirty-six thousand votive offerings provide the visitor with a fascinating sample of Parisian devotion.
We are greedy for everything here! Fashion lovers browse through the streets, passages and boulevards, delighting in the abundance of showrooms. Bookworms flock to Jousseaume, the most beautiful (and one of the oldest) bookshop in Paris, located in the Galerie Vivienne shopping arcade. Food enthusiasts are bound to taste the canailleries at Bougainville; sample the rib steak at Gavroche, rue St Marc; the Venetian risottos at Cafe Stern; or the tender Gyozas at Passage des Panoramas. And make sure you do not miss out on enjoying a drink in Caves Legrand, proud host to the finest bottles in all of Paris - well worth the visit!
It is an absolute must to wander into the austere buildings of the National Library of France on rue de Richelieu, and be sure to explore the extraordinary Labrouste Reading Room. Observe the researchers bent over their work, all tinged with the glow from the green lamps while they concentrate in religious silence, it is as though one is in front of the copyist monks from the ‘Nom de la Rose’. Fascinating!