I only learnt about Paris’ historic “passages couverts” (covered shopping arcades) after I had moved to Brussels. I was wandering around Paris, enjoying some time on my own and away from the computer, when I suddenly found myself at a cast iron gate that seemed to lead into a long corridor.
This “corridor” was none other than Passage du Grand Cerf. The sunlight was gently diffused through the glass ceiling and onto the wood-panelled shop fronts, creating an elegant, old-world ambience that was incredibly beautiful and exquisite. When I told AB about my discovery later in the day, he informed me that in the 19th century, the city planners of Paris built around 140 of such passages and these were the precursors of today’s shopping centres. This labyrinth of passages, many of them were connected, enabled Parisians to get around the city in the comfort of an extended sheltered walkway, away from the strong-smelling streets, rain and cold, and do some shopping or have a cup of coffee along the way.It’s a shame that the gorgeous passages were eventually disregarded in favour of department stores like Printemps and Bon Marché. Many were left to decline or were destroyed during the period of urban planning carried out by Baron Haussmann. Some 20 of them remain today and most of them have been classified as historic monuments or are protected by the city as part of the Local Urbanism/Protection Plan. While electricity is used to light up the passages these days instead of gas, I think most of them continue to serve the same purposes as before.
Passage du Grand Cerf is the tallest of the remaining passages in Paris. On one end, there is a charming bistro with a cheeky name “Le Pas Sage” – which means “the un-wise”. I’ve been meaning to dine or at least have a drink here. Maybe I’ll do so when I’m back in Paris next week or next month!There are several fashion boutiques here, many of which have an atelier located within. I particularly like the creations in Dear – quirky handcrafted earrings, beautifully restored vintage bags that don’t cost an arm and a leg, as well as ‘made in France’ dresses, silk scarves and other eclectic designs. Everything was made either in the atelier or sourced from other independent designers in Paris.I also like how bright and airy the space looks, especially on the second floor with small potted plants by the window.When I was there, a re-designed Hermès bustier dress from the 1970s or 80 was hanging from the ceiling as a nature-inspired installation. How quaint!When I was there a few months ago, the atelier had taken over the second floor and only a small selection of merchandise is on sale on the ground floor. I want to say that it’s a shame, but at the same time, if I were in the designer’s shoes, I probably would be quite contented to be able to create in such a tranquil and luminous space. Hopefully, this inspires some interesting designs : )
6 replies on “Paris: Passage du Grand Cerf”
My friend and I stumbled upon this passage as we were wandering Rue Montorgueil, and we were so charmed we made a special trip back there the next day! I also wanted to eat at Le Pas Sage and didn’t get a chance. 😦 My youngest sister is in Paris right now — I just told her to go to the passage, but I don’t think she’ll have time. Alas.
Hello Lisa! Sorry for the belated reply – I was, coincidentally, in Paris last week for work and only just returned to Brussels. If your sister is still in Paris, she might just get to enjoy first picks at the summer sale which only started last Wednesday in Paris 🙂 If I ever get to trying Le Pas Sage, I’ll let you know!
No worries, Angelina! Welcome back to Brussels! Ahhhh I wish I were in Paris for the sale. ;b My sister’s in Munich now and will be heading back to the US soon, but she has had a fantastic time around Europe. 🙂
Ah, I love the passages! Your shots are gorgeous. I’ll have to check out the “Dear” story. Looks quirky, cool, and affordable! I dig the floating dress. Lovely! Theadora
That floating dress was made from a Hermes dress apparently!