Two Parisians are making weekend plans:
Lui (Him:) “Qu’est-ce-qui te tente? Une balade dans le Marais, ou à St Germain des Près peut-être?” (What are you in the mood for? A stroll in le Marais or in Saint Germain des Près maybe?)
Elle (Her:) “Bof. On connait par coeur. Il y aura plein de touristes en plus. — Et si on faisait un petit tour du côté de Passy?” (Meh. Been there, done that. There will be lots of tourists. — How about a stroll around Passy?)
Lui: “Le 16éme? Un peu calme. A part les musées du Trocadéro, le Marmottan-Monet ou le Bois de Boulogne ça ne bouge pas beaucoup et c’est un peu à l’écart, non? (The 16th arrondissement? A bit quiet. Apart from the museums at the Trocadero, the Marmottan-Monet museum or the Bois de Boulogne, it’s pretty quiet, and a bit out of the way, don’t you think?)
Elle (Her:) “Passy, c’est vivant, et c’est intéressant. On pourrait y aller.” (Passy is lively and interesting. We could go there.)
Lui (Him:) “Tu veux aller faire du shopping rue de Passy? La plupart des magasins sont des chaînes. Il y a même un centre commercial, comme en banlieue. Qu’est-ce-que tu lui trouves à Passy?” (You want to go shopping rue de Passy? Most of the stores are chain stores. There’s even a shopping center there, just like in the suburbs. What’s so great about Passy anyway?)
Elle (Her:) “Passy, c’est fabuleux, comme un village en plein Paris, les touristes en moins. Même les Parisiens y vont rarement. De l’histoire, de l’architecture, des petites rues sympas: Fais-moi confiance, tu ne t’ennuieras pas.” (Passy is fabulous, like a village, in Paris, minus the tourists. Even Parisians rarely go. History, architecture, cool little streets: Trust me, you will not get bored.)
She is right, of course. Yet I know where He is coming from. I used to think like him when I lived in Paris, many years ago. So in December, on my last day in the city, (and what a cold day that was!) I decided to treat myself to a stroll in the quaintest part of the chic, conservative, and residential 16th arrondissement, and I headed to Passy. The old pastoral village on the outskirts of Paris is no more. Once, there was a lush hill with vineyards and fertile fields, a monastery where monks made wine, the land where Parisian bourgeois loved to spend time in their weekend homes, built thanks to the local limestone quarries. Passy was the place to be and relax, well before popular French seaside resorts took off. The Passy mineral springs discovered in the 17th century were renowned. Illustrious visitors, from France and beyond, visited the village like the American Benjamin Franklin, who lived in the neighborhood during most of his Parisian years, gathering support for the American Revolutionary War.
In 1860, under Napoleon III, like so many other neighborhoods on the Paris outskirts (Montmartre, Belleville, Ménilmontant, les Batignolles,) Passy was annexed into the French capital, and then it grew. Fast. I started my walk by the imposing Trocadéro, There, below the small Passy cemetery, and in front of the giant wall where a monument (like so many others around France) honors French casualties in WW1, one gets a better idea of the former height of the Chaillot hill, before limestone quarries were exploited to build the Trocadéro.
From there, I headed south, along rue Doumer, rue Scheffer, down rue Vineuse to the Place de Costa Rica square. The architecture along the way is imposing, with many Art Nouveau buildings, even if here and there, a handful of elegant 18th century mansions have survived, tucked between larger buildings.
As one heads towards the Passy Métro station, spotting Paris’s most famous landmark becomes a game.
Until, finally, She appears…
As everyone knows, not all Métro stations are created equal. In Passy, the station matches the imposing buildings around it.
Nearby is the wine museum, located in former wine cellars used in the 16th and 17th centuries by the monks of the Couvent des Minimes, the local monastery. I continued walking south, across the peaceful (and unusual) Parc de Passy – where few tourists ever venture I am guessing – and marveled at the beautiful buildings and streets along the way.
I had been walking for at least two hours. In spite of the winter sun, it was a very cold day by Parisian standards. I was grateful for my wool peacoat, my scarf and leather gloves. I walked at a brisk pace, (my favorite speed,) only slowing down to capture a few photos along the way, or check for directions in my trusted pocket-size Plan de Paris par Arrondissement. Before I stopped for a late lunch, I was determined to find the heart of the Village de Passy, the part of the 16th arrondissement that can’t be blamed for being too sedate, or too residential. When I reached quaint rue Berton, I knew I was there.
Right above it, la Maison de Balzac, where the famous French novelist lived for several years after 1840, welcomes visitors and has been turned into a museum. The peaceful garden offers panoramic views, and Balzac must have enjoyed it there, when he was not busy running away from his many creditors through the “emergency exit” located at the back of the garden.
I continued exploring the neighborhood’s streets, and finally reached the heart of the village, through la rue Lekain.
Finally, I sat down for a well-deserved lunch in la rue de l’Annonciation. I had not been there in over 20 years, but with its many shops overflowing in the street, restaurants, and passers-by (mostly locals,) it felt familiar, just like a street in the centre-ville of any mid-size town in la Belle France. It would be a Breton lunch for me that day. My fingers were so numb through the leather gloves I could not push the shutter button on my camera any more. I knew a bolée (bowl) of Normandy cider (or two) would quickly work their magic.
It was already mid-afternoon when I re-emerged in the street. I took the time to explore a few landmarks on la rue de l’Annonciation, including this beautiful courtyard (#35.)
I headed back towards le Metro Muette that would take me “home” (the rental apartment where I was staying in les Batignolles neighborhood.) It would be several months before I returned to Paris, and since I was near lively rue de Passy, I indulged in some very French, high-end boutique shopping, à la Maison Guerlain. If one *must* live in suburbia, one can still smell marvelous, n’est-ce-pas?
All photos by French Girl in Seattle. Please do not use without my permission.
More reading about Passy:
The Discreet Charm of Auteuil-Passy. The New York Times, 1997.
“Passy, c’est vivant”
Hah, funny because the main thing that comes to mind when I hear Passy is the cimetiére. High above the Place de Trocadero–it is directly above that wall with the Monument aux Morts I believe. It is most notable (from memory) for huge family tombs; ie. grandiose necropolises (or necropoli?) that house generations of the same family. As one would expect of the “old money” families that favour the 16th.
I suppose Manet and Debussy are two celebrity graves with most others being industrialists like Dassault and Renault etc. Oh, not to forget, presumably your fave, Jacques Guerlain 🙂
Although dominated by old money and thus its reputation for calme and quietude (as lui says) don’t forget its recent addition to pop culture. Normally it is the south/rive-gauche side of Pont de Bir-Hakeim that is featured in movies (due to its proximity to the Tour Eiffel of course) but the north/Passy side has two considerable moments in modern movie classics. The “old” one is that those steps that lead down to the central pedestrian way across the bridge (and under the Metro deck) was used by the character played by Marlon Brando in Last Tango in Paris, en route to that empty apartment where all the action happened. The more recent (2009) one involves the very doorway (to Metro workshops) you show in your pic, that in the DiCaprio/Christopher Nolan Inception housed the “dream training facility” and those same steps were used by DiCaprio and Adriane (Ellen Page) several times, and the door by Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character. They were also at the “nearby” fictional Cafe Debussy (possibly an acknowledgment of his nearby grave? though confusingly the filming site was in the 15th). That first dream sequence of Adriane’s terminates here in the giant mirror sequence on the pedestrian central walkway under that end of the bridge (when it is rudely interrupted by Cobb’s (DiCaprio) “dead” wife played by Marion Cotillard).
Oh, also worth a mention for we urbanists, is the apartment building at 25a Rue Franklin (off r. de Passy) designed by August Perret. Built in 1903 it was a seminal construction using modern methods (reinforced concrete and finished with a tiled facade). The style was ahead of the International Style. I assume it is a national monument? The extended Perret family lived here and it also housed the Perret family architecture firm. The building is very recognisable even by those without any particular interest in architectural history:
Nice piece, yet again, on a less-travelled part of Paris.
Merci for this long, informative comment, as always. Most people don’t bother leaving comments on blogs anymore, and visitors’ messages are always such a treat for bloggers. I enjoyed your description of famous guests at the Cimetière de Passy. I mentioned it only in passing at the beginning of the story, because I am planning to write another article about it later. I did visit it that morning – and almost froze to death in the chilly winter wind! The cinephile in me particularly loved your comments about movies, of course. Great additions to my story, merci! Finally, I did not see the apartment you mentioned, at 25 rue Franklin. So many interesting buildings, so little time. I guess this means I will have to return to Passy soon! A bientôt.
Very good travel writing
Merci beaucoup Monsieur Clauvel!
Since I can no longer travel to Pais like I once did, I look forward to reading your blog and seeing pictures of so many areas of the city that I never got to visit. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us.
You are so welcome Gina. Thank you for following French Girl in Seattle. I also write for “armchair travelers,” and am glad you enjoy traveling vicariously via my little stories.
A great travelogue through a quartier where I lived for seven years in the 1960-70s. But you missed one of the jewels of Passy —Musee Marmottan (facing Jardins du Ranelagh, not too far from Metro La Muette) featuring impressionists paintings by Monet (and many others by his contemporaries). But I don’t blame you for heading home after this long wintry stroll!
Bonjour Ken et bienvenue! I am guessing le quartier de Passy must look a bit different now from the 1960s and 1970s. Have you returned recently? I did not miss le Musée Marmottan. It is mentioned in the conversation featured at the beginning of the story. I was there last February, in fact, on another cold, yet sunny day, and enjoyed it. But there’s only so much ground one can cover on “a Paris stroll,” and when time is of the essence, I tend to favor walking the streets over visiting a museum (even if this means turning into a popsicle by the end of the day.) A bientôt Ken!
I totally agree with your comment of preferring to stroll the streets over visiting a museum. I adore the museums, but I’d much prefer my lengthy walks that take me to the most fascinating places. And yes, I also know that popsicle experience all too well. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Merci Suzanne. Museums are wonderful too, don’t get me wrong, and Paris has fantastic ones, of course, including the Marmottan Monet. In fact, come to think of it, the 16th arrondissement probably offers some of the least crowded museums in Paris, and that makes the area very attractive of course (le Musée de la Marine at the Trocadero, was always a family favorite when my son was younger.) But, when it is all said and done, exploring great neighborhoods in cities, large and small, and people watching, will always be my favorite thing to do when I travel; and in Paris, one can do just that… endlessly, rain, or shine. A bientôt.
Like you, Veronique, I return to Paris frequently and do revisit the old familiar haunts like Passy and Auteuil
And I am certain you enjoy each of these visits, as I do. Since you mentioned the Marmottan-Monet in a previous comment, did you have a chance to see the current Pissarro exhibit there? Interestingly, two Parisian museums are highlighting his work at the same time: le Marmottan-Monet and le Musée du Luxembourg. An American friend of mine is in Paris this week with her family to attend the grand opening of the Luxembourg exhibit. Her family is lucky enough to own one of the Pissarro paintings featured in Paris! I would have loved being there with her.
This area seems quite nice. A walk with exploring the buildings, architecture, the shops, and the food, without the droves of people. I have put this on my list of to sees. Thank you for an insightful post.
Avec plaisir, Debra. If you are looking for a little bit of peace and quiet in Paris, away from “the commotion” downtown, then le Village de Passy is for you!
Hello there! I am an arm-chair traveler and have been reading your blog for a little over a year now. I haven’t been to France since my college days over 2 decades ago because of… other priorities. I greatly enjoy reading about your adventures and I am inspired by them. I am particular drawn to the lack of pretention in your writing! This is one of my favorite post. My absolute favorite was the recent one “les Batignolles, part I” as it reminds me of my own little village Coconut Grove, Florida where I live. It’s a quaint little village nicknamed Little Paris and it has always been attracting a great number of French expats. I plan on creating a lifestyle blog on “village life” to share my life experiences in the Grove and hope to inspire and entertain my readers. Thank you for sharing your adventures with us arm-chair travelers!
Enchantée, Fabie. What a wonderful message! I visited Coconut Grove, years and years ago. Wish I had known then there was a “Little Paris” there. Will make sure to check it out if I am ever in the neighborhood. Do let me know when you launch your blog. I will be happy to come and visit to see what is happening in your neck of the woods.
I certainly will! I hope you’ll let me know when you’re in town and allow me to host you for a day!
I am taking notes, from your posts, for my visit to France in 2018. I have never been, have always wanted to go & want to take the roads less traveled while explore.
Thank you for sharing your stories & insights & I look forward to many more.
Excellent. Note away! Trip planning is half the fun, isn’t it?
Delighted a friend recommended your blog to me. I’m planning a trip to France scheduled later this year and love the perspective that travel blogs provide (and allow for continued visits vicariously). Great post!
I am delighted to find you here Jennifer. I am planning to give my website a major overhaul before summer, if possible, to make my travel articles a lot easier to find. Stay tuned!
Très jolie promenade dans un Passy de luxe et de charme. Merci Véro pour la maison de Balzac, mon auteur préféré. Je l’ai visitée plusieurs fois et encore l’été dernier. A bientôt pour d’autres aventures.
Et merci de votre visite, Mutti. Un bien joli quartier, un peu méconnu, malgré tout, de Paris.
Quel délice d’être tombée sur votre blog….. je serai à Paris bientôt et adore le quartier de La Muette et le parc du Ranelagh mais n’ai jamais visité Passy….. sur la liste de cette French Girl in Puyallup:) Merci!
Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle, Anne et bon séjour en France, où je me trouve en ce moment!
These photos are a welcome respite for this francophone in Baltimore – next best thing to being there and gives me some interesting ideas for exploration when I finally make it there!
New to your blog and my happy accidental discovery. Imagining being with you or close by while you describe what you are seeing, feeling, scenting is such a delight. I am in my armchair as I write and will be each day for a while to play catch-up. What a treat. Thank you so much!
Bienvenue chez French Girl in Seattle, Sherry. I am glad you found me. Make yourself at home. There’s plenty to discover on this site, in the FGIS archives 🙂 Stay as long as you want… A bientôt.