Sneakers, Scooters, and Bicycles: Pedestrians in Paris Beware!

The Fashion Capital of the world has gone mainstream casual. While the Paris Fashion Week runway may still be haute couture—despite the reappearance of clunky, chunky throwback boots—the street scene is anything but. Gone are dressy work shoes and spiked heels. Dressing down seems to be the rage. Whether or not COVID hibernation is to blame, I don’t know, but even the older ladies and gents of a certain age are sporting sneakers (baskets in French).

Imagine those well-heeled 19th century folks time-traveling to Paris today. They would be aghast. Shorts and sneakers and jeans are in. As the weather cools, out will come the leggings, perhaps a skirt or two, but I bet sneakers will still prevail. Store window displays—normally the creative expression of high style—are full of the ordinary as well as shimmering, sequined sneaks, and splashes of color. Whether sparkling or plain, sneakers are the new street footwear, and stores are heeding the call. If you like to lèche vitrine (window shop), don’t be surprised at the new shoe presentations.

Even when American women were wearing jogging shoes and sneakers to work, the French femmes were holding out. Not any more. It was one of the first changes I noticed when I arrived in Paris after the two-year COVID traveling hiatus.

What would Coco say? As a woman who defied norms, she’d probably approve of the practicality.

Now, even if you are meandering the streets of Paris in those practical, rubber-soled shoes, be on the lookout for scooter speed demons of all ages and stoplight cutting bicyclists. With COVID restrictions in place last year, the mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, altered many of the roads, eliminating car lanes, reducing the speed limit, and creating bike paths in an attempt to transform the city into an eco metropolis.

As a bicycle rider, I applaud that. But many of the roads and roundabouts create directional confusion, and as a pedestrian I worry about being trampled when crossing streets. The crazies are out in force. And they think they own the roads.

Even when I was riding my rented bicycle along the road with the flow of bikes, I worried someone might smash into me when I stopped at a red light.  Faites attention (pay attention) when biking or scooting along the quays also. Auto prohibition notwithstanding, maneuvering on a wheeled vehicle around oblivious pedestrians can be a bit nerve racking especially on the weekends.

So, if you plan to visit Paris and wander, I urge caution. Keep your eyes open and check all directions before stepping off the curb. To read more about the developments, check out Liz Alderman’s excellent article in the New York Times:

Final Dream Wrapped Up: Christo’s L’Arc de Triomphe

Shimmering silver and bounded by red recyclable rope, Christo’s and Jean-Claude’s last project drew throngs of visitors on opening weekend. With the Champs-Elysées closed to vehicle traffic and security guards and police carefully monitoring comings and goings, the L’Arc de Triomphe-Wrapped–unveiled officially on September 18–is the fruition of a sixty-year-old dream. A monumental dream.

Covid be damned, everyone who viewed the masterpiece was in a celebratory mood, masked and unmasked, freely mingling about under a hazy sunlit sky, enjoying the mild weather. Someone was handing out woven sample swatches of the wrapping—metallic silver on one side, bright aqua blue on the other. A few people dressed in costume. Most were content to circle the monument and snap photos with sheer delight.

Imagine the material and preparation and engineering: approximately 270,000 square feet of blue-backed silver polypropylene, nearly 10,000 feet of the same plastic red cording, and a structural support of steel slabs weighing 150 pounds so as not to harm the arch’s friezes. It was approved by the France’s Center of Monuments Nationaux and supervised by Christo’s and Jeanne-Claude’s nephew Vladimir Yavachev. According to Roger Cohen in his New York Times article, “Building the cages whose steel bars pass an inch or two from the outstretched hand or foot of a frieze or a funereal relief was painstaking. So was rappelling down to work under the overhangs of the cornice. In all, 1,200 people labored on the wrapping.”

The Arc stands at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, now nicknamed—on an amusingly plastic-wrapped sign—Place Christo & Jean-Claude. Seen from the twelve roads that radiate from the Place, this imposing monument is a natural tourist site with a 360-degree view of Paris atop its observation deck.

Originally commissioned in 1806 by Emperor Napoléon to glorify France’s Grande Armée’s victories of 1792, this colossal and neoclassical arch—was thirty years in the making. Napoléon did not live to see its completion. It was erected fifteen years after his death.

Since then, the Arc has been witness to history: Among many highlights, in 1885, mourners passed by to view Victor Hugo in his coffin; returning WWI French soldiers marched beneath it; Nazi soldiers stomped through it during their WWII Occupation; French and US Military paraded around it in victory, in 1944. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier lies beneath it, and each night the eternal flame is lit in remembrance.

This posthumously completed dream—36 years after the couple wrapped the Pont Neuf, Paris’s oldest bridge—is a fitting memorial to the life and work Christo and Jeanne-Claude. As they planned, the wrapping moves sensually in the wind and reflects light. I wonder what Napoléon would have thought of it. Like life, it’s fleeting in nature, and will be dismantled on October 3rd.

L’Arc de Triomphe, Wrapped, Paris, 1961-2021.
On View: September 18-October 3

‘We’ll Always Have Paris’ … Just Not This Year

Recently gave a Zoom talk for the Levy Center in Chicago about Paris Off the Beaten Path to over 400 people!

With Covid-19 limiting foreign travel, my armchair tour around Paris was warmly received by both those who had never visited as well as those who have made multiple trips. The Evanston RoundTable profiled me and the Levy Center posted my virtual presentation on YouTube.

Click here to read the article.

Click here to view the talk on YouTube.

Silverscreen Entertainment in Paris

Photo from Five Hundred Buildings of Paris, text by Kathy Borrus, photos by Jorg Brockmann and James Driscoll.

Blogathon June 30

Since the Middle Ages, theatrical entertainment in Paris was more spectator sport than high culture. Whistling, shouting, stomping, or hooting audiences—often drunk and rowdy—routinely disrupted performers in opera and theater. Even in the seventeenth century, playwrights such as Moliere wrote and presented satirical pieces that mocked religion, the aristocracy, and the bourgeoisie to jeers and cheers.

By the late nineteenth century, an evening out at the theater became a fashionable event—as much (if not more) about who was wearing what as it was about the dramatic events on stage. But by the 1920s, the emerging film industry captured the public’s imagination, and The Rex shined brightly as a temple to cinematic wonders.

There are theaters older than the Rex and a few are worth visiting to gaze up at the stars on screen (or overhead, in the case of the Rex). Please note: If your French is only restaurant ordering level, look for the letters, VO, “original voice,” under the film title, which means you can listen to the film in its original language often English. If VO is not there, then voices are dubbed in French.

2nd Arrondissement
Le Grand Rex
5 Boulevard Poissonnière

On December 8, 1931, 3,500 lights pierced the night sky from the Rex’s Art Deco tower. The blazing illumination announced this new cinematic landmark, possibly the largest in Europe at the time. Its monumental screen stretches almost 60 feet high and more than 40 feet wide. The baroque interior is outsized with seating for about 2,700 on three different levels. Even if you don’t watch a film here, it’s worth a visit to view the ceiling where stars rotate above the gigantic screen—a bit of cinematic magic intended to give the illusion of watching a film under the night sky. The Rex specializes in Hollywood films but dubs them in French.

Besides movies, the Rex offers other events and concerts in its Grand Salon. You can also stargaze at an interactive, behind-the-scenes, audio tour called “Etoiles du Rex” (Stars of the Rex) to discover more about French cinema and, specifically, about the projection screen and special effects. Consult the Rex’s website for event or film times and prices, or to reserve online.

Independent Film Venues

The ones below often show Hollywood films in VO, but they are considerably smaller theaters than the Rex. As independent cinemas, they attract art house aficionados and they project a bit of old-time celluloid history and culture in Paris.

5th Arrondissement
Le Campo
51, rue des Ecoles at rue Saint-Jacques

If you’ve wandered the Latin Quarter near the Sorbonne, then you’ve probably seen the Campo’s marquee on the corner. This two-screen, art house cinema opened in 1939 and achieved historic landmark status in 2000. Most films are shown normal hours, but check their website for the midnight trio—“Nuits du Champo”—a three film showing that begins at midnight and lasts till breakfast.

Cinéma du Panthéon
13 Rue Victor Cousin

Another recognizable landmark for its Art Deco, metal-outlined fixed camera image on the facade, this 1907 movie house was the first one in Paris to show original English language films. It’s also the oldest extant cinema in the city. Catherine Deneuve and Christian Sapet decorated the upstairs salon and café.

Les Studio des Ursulines
10 rue des Ursulines

Behind its ordinary façade is a history of avant-garde film projection since opening in 1925, including movies by May Ray and Andre Breton. Truffaut shot a scene here for Jules et Jim, and it’s supposedly the first theater to screen Charlie Chaplin films. Its plush red seating is a retro and cozy venue for viewing in any era.

6th arrondissement
Le Lucernaire
53 Rue Notre Dame des Champs

This one is a relative newcomer compared with the others above. It opened in 1968 as a cultural forum and received official recognition for its creativity in 1984. More than a film venue, it’s a bar, a restaurant, an art and cultural bookstore, a theater, and an intimate concert space with Sunday music programming. All this makes it sound enormous, but actually it’s a unique space for hanging out and viewing a film especially if you want to nibble on something more substantial than popcorn.

The Flaneur as Parisian Market Shopper

Photo of Les Halles, undated.

Blogathan June 29

Once, in London at The Travel Bookshop—the same one in the movie Notting Hill—an eccentric looking woman in her sixties with a gray pageboy hairdo, dressed in early flea-market finds and a wide brim straw hat, confided, “I hate to shop. I hate department stores. I love open air markets.”

“Then you’ll love my book, The Fearless Shopper.” I said.

And she bought a copy. But It’s not what it seems, and here’s my little secret: I hate to shop.

I loathe malls; I get intense headaches and claustrophobia. I hate department stores unless they are free standing and even then I hyperventilate. When department stores are a necessity because I need something specific, I adopt the male approach: Buy it and get out.

I do, however, love to wander—just stroll around especially at outdoor markets. If you are a flâneur (stroller) and a shopper, then Paris is your city. For wherever your feet take you, Paris is, with apologies to Hemingway, a moveable feast. Hemingway meant, of course, that the city is in your blood, always with you. I mean the city is an undeniable treat with street shopping that entices you in every arrondissement. Below are a few of my favorites.

Markets Streets

Most commercial market streets with indoor and outdoor kiosks are open six days a week. Normal operating hours are 9 AM to 1 or 1:30 PM and 4 PM to 7 PM, Tuesday through Saturday; and Sundays, 9 AM -1 PM. Most are closed on Monday.

2nd Arrondissement
Rue Montorgueil

Since the Middle Ages, the central food market of Paris centered around Les Halles—a space brimming with market activity day and night (yes, that activity, too, along with wholesale food vendors)—until 1969. Before city officials tore down its then mid-nineteenth-century iron girders and the wholesalers decamped to Rungis, south of Paris, rue Montorgueil was an area where restaurant buyers purchased the catch-of-the-day from northern fishmongers. Today, this renovated pedestrian street is gentrified and lively. A few of the old restaurants date back to a bygone era. Restaurant Au Rocher de Canale  dating from 1850 still serves locals and tourists and has an outdoor terrace—perfect for people watching. Stohrer, Paris’s oldest patissier, creating pastry since 1730, is in the national historic registry and may tempt you with a sweet along this street.

5th Arrondissement
Rue Mouffetard  

Inhale as you meander down this classic market street where food merchants hawk their goods, piling up produce and more all colorfully stacked in wooden crates. Just to walk Rue Mouffetard makes you feel like a local in search of ingredients or a fresh baguette for your evening meal. It’s a bit on the grubby and scruffy side, but you’re sure to sense a certain charm here as well, even as another client may jostle you aside to peak into the cheese vitrines.

9th arrondissement
Rue des Martyrs

Just down the street from the rough and tumble Pigalle area, Rue des Martyrs has the usual blend of restaurants, cafes, butchers, patisseries, and bakers, all still retain the essence of its two-century-old beginnings. It also is multicultural with kosher and halal vendors selling side by side. It’s another street I love to wander up and down just inhaling. At 25 Rue des Martyrs, the Italian restaurant Fuxia offers fresh takeout and a grocery selection of Italian wines, olive oils, and balsamic vinegar at the front of the store as well as seating for a more relaxed meal that spills out onto the sidewalk in warmer weather. If you continue walking up the street you’ll find rue Lepic in the 18th arrondissement with its many artisanal bakeries and other cafes and wine and craft shops. You may recall that Audrey Tatou donned a waitress outfit to play Amélie serving patrons at 15 Rue Lepic, Café les Deux Moulins, the corner art deco bar that is now part of film history.

16th Arrondissment

Just as each neighborhood has its own , and character, each market has its own local vibe and Passy is no different. It’s imbued with a civilized ambience that reflects its chic residents.  This one is a shorter street with less selection, but you’ll find the usual assortment of merchants including the Belgium chocolatier  Jeff de Bruges. And if you wander down to Avenue Mozart you can enjoy being a flanuer: The upscale clothing boutiques beckon you inside with their trendy displays.

Neighborhood Restaurants in Paris: Part 2

Photo above from One Thousand Buildings of Paris, Text by Kathy Borrus, photos by Jorg Brockmann and James Driscoll

Neighborhood Restaurants in
Paris, Part 2

Blogathon June 21

Le Train Bleu (12th arrondissement)
20, Boulevard Diderot/ Place Louis Armand in Gare de Lyon

This is my bonus offering. Not because the food is exceptional (I don’t have first-hand dining experience at Le Train Bleu; I hear that it’s just fair these days) or reasonably priced, but because the interior is a must-see This Belle Époque-dining hall, built 1899-1900, was classified as a historic monument in 1972. In the glorious days of steam travel, passengers dined here when traveling along the Paris-Lyon-Marseilles route, and the restaurant’s name pays homage to a rapid train that went to the Cote d’Azur. According to the restaurant’s website, Coco Chanel, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Cocteau, and Colette were regulars. Renovated in 2014, the glittering brass and glass interior includes chandeliers, a sweeping staircase, and mounted canvas wall paintings of the destinations on the southern train route. You don’t have to dine here to take a peek.

Below for Part 2 dining in Paris are more affordable neighborhood French restaurants. There are so many that I could go on and on. I may yet add another listing to this to cover other neighborhoods not previously mentioned. If I haven’t listed a website, it’s because they don’t have one. For additional notes see my dining blog posted June 19th:

7th Arrondissement

Le Bistrot du Septième
56 , boulevard La Tour Maubourg
Phone: 01 45 51 93 08

This bistro serves up traditional French fare on tables covered in crisp white linen. The menu is varied with a changing entrée du jour and the principle plat du jour (usually the best deal). The menu selection focuses on beef, lamb, fish and duck. I like the seafood offerings, and the wines and dinner are reasonably priced especially since its location in the chic 7th would indicate otherwise. The staff is pleasant, but they tend to group the Anglophone diners together, which seems to me to be a touch on the condescending side. Nonetheless, you can’t beat the meal and the wine for the price. Closed Saturday and Sunday Lunch.

11th arrondissement

La CuiZine
73 Rue Amelot,
Phone: 01 43 14 27 00

I haven’t been back here since 2013, but it was quite good then. It’s not much on décor but great food.  I had a grilled shrimp salad and Dorade. Noel and my friend, Adrian, each had two entrées instead of a main course (hardly ever done in Paris except at brasseries), but Adrian has lived here long enough to be bold about it. She and Noel both started with clams, and then Noel had duck foie gras, and Adrian had the shrimp salad. She and I shared their incredible decadent chocolate-molten cake drizzled with raspberry sauce. All of us enjoyed our meal and I will definitely go back next Paris trip. Closed Sunday and Monday, and midday Saturday. Open noon to 2 PM and 7 PM to 10PM.

12th arrondissement

Le Baron Rouge
1 rue Théophile-Roussel
Phone: 01 43 43 14 32

I wish I loved oysters because if I did, I’d hurry over to Le Baron Rouge where everyone appears to be having so much fun. No one seems to mind waiting either. A lively crowd often spills out onto the street, waiting to eat freshly shucked oysters over large wine kegs at the bar entrance. Indeed, I took Noel here and he loved the oysters and the atmosphere. Slightly off the well-worn tourist path, Le Baron Rouge is close to the lively indoor d’Aligre market. Closed Sunday afternoons and Mondays.

15th arrondissement

Cave de L’Os Moëlle
181, rue de Lourmel
Phone: 01 45 57 28 28

An unusual, communal dining adventure at Cave de L’Os Moëlle (Cellar of the Bone Marrow). Unusual that it is communal/self serve but also unusual with the “French women don’t get fat” mentality that it’s “all you can eat;” the caveat being you must eat what you take. A friend of mine who lives in Paris loves it and I’ve eaten there twice, but I’m too picky an eater to enjoy it. Your food is whatever the restaurant decides they are making that day. They pass it around family style. I’d rather order my own, but it’s different and most people love the atmosphere. Closed Mondays. Open Tuesday 4PM -10PM, Wednesday-Sunday, 10:30 AM-10 PM.


16th arrondissement

Le Beaujolais d’Auteuil
99 Boulevard de Montmorency
Phone: 01 47 43 03 56

This neighborhood restaurant/café is a great afternoon stop, where you can sit outside, sip a glass of wine, and munch on a tasty cheese offerings. But you can also have a lovely dinner inside or out at reasonable prices, served by young, friendly, and whimsical waiters who sport wooden bowties. Dine on classical French cuisine with a modern twist including smoked herring caviar and celery roumelade. Located at Porte d’Auteuil, its contemporary interior has mirrored walls, tiled floor, and velvet chairs. It’s a perfect stop if you’re on your way to Roland Garros or the Auteuil
Hippodrome. Open everyday from 8 AM to 1 AM.

Manageable Museums: Little-known Art Treasures in Paris, Part 2

Photo of Musée Nissim-de-Camondo from One Thousand Buildings of Paris


Blogathon June 15

Traveling back to the Nineteenth Century on a grand scale, visit the stylish private mansion of Édouard and his artist wife Nélie André, now Musée Jacquemart-André (, 158 boulevard Haussmann) in the 8th arrondissement near Parc Monceau. The collection is a fantasy trove of Brussels tapestries, objects d’art, antique furniture, fireplaces, and frescoed ceilings, all acquired (and transported back to Paris) during the couple’s worldly travels. You’ll also see work from eighteenth-century French artists such as Jean-Marc Nattier, Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun, and Jean Honoré Fragonard.

To house their vast art collection Andre commissioned Architect Henri Parent to design and build an equally impressive hôtel particulier (private home) in a classical style. Recessed from the street, Musée Jacquemart-André arises from a stone circular driveway around the back where carved lion statues greet you. Enormous windows open onto a terrace that overlooks a fragrant courtyard. Inside, you’ll find a majestic double-spiral stairway leading to period rooms such as the music salon, a sculpture gallery, the tapestry salon, the bedroom chamber, the Madonna room, the study—all brimming with eighteenth century furnishings and Italian Renaissance art. A winter garden of greenery grace the restive space behind the music room. Ceiling frescos by Venetian Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (originally painted for an Italian villa) and domed sky lighting give you a celestial view of the wealth accumulated by this banker’s son. Nélie Jacquemart, bequeathed their home and collection to the Institut de France as a gift.

After your visit (or before), treat yourself to dessert in the museum’s elegant tea salon before heading to Musée Nissim-de-Camondo ). This spectacular mansion—home to the equally impressive eighteenth-century art collection of the Nissim-de-Camondo family—tells the tragic tale of a transplanted Turk and French patriot of Jewish origins. Comte Moïse de Camondo’s replaced his original 1866 home with a copy of the Petit Trianon of Versailles mansion from the Eighteenth Century.

In 1935, he bequeathed this house and gardens along with his entire collection of paintings, tapestries, objets d’art, and furnishings to the Union des Arts Decoratifs. Count Moïse de Camondo stipulated that the museum name honor his son, Nissim, killed fighting for France during WWI. Unfortunately, during WWII, the Vichy government conveniently forgot this act of patriotism and sent his family to Auschwitz where they perished.

Looking for an escape to modernity—though somehow never far from lingering WWII stories—look for to a hidden alley, near Luxembourg Gardens, to visit Musée Zadkine (, 100 bis, rue de Assas). A small sculpture garden remains just as Russian sculptor Ossip Zadkine arranged it. Zadkine lived and worked in this house and studio from 1928 until his death in 1967. His museum showcases 100 works based on Zadkine’s favorite themes: nature, the portrait, mythology and poetry.

During WWII, Zadkine, who was half Jewish, fled to the United States. His wife, painterValentine Prax, closed the house and buried ten of his bronzes under the cellars of different homes in the neighborhood. Returning after the war, Zadkine sued the tenants who occupied his home, but he did not regain it until 1956. After his death, Zadkine’s widow, bequeathed her husband’s entire estate to the City of Paris. Writing in her book, Avec Zadkine, Souvenirs de Notre Vie, Prax describes her memory of Zadkine in his garden, “There in the open air, Zadkine shaped the granite and the stone of Pollinay, as well as the hardest woods. He gave the impression of being a worker, with his suit of gray velvet and his brown suede cap. He also wore big glasses to protect his eyes from the shards of wood and granite.”

Though initially a figurative sculptor, Zadkine constantly experimented and reshaped his artistic life.  His sculptures exhibit influences of Cubism, pre-Columbian art, abstract expression—all evident in his open and bright atelier. Now this tiny garden jewel and gem of a museum is a reflective oasis in the midst of the chic 6th arrondissement.

Impressions of Chatou

Blogathon June 13

In the late 1800s, when the Impressionists painted in Paris and wanted to escape the summer heat, they cruised to rural Chatou (, then about an hour and a half outside the city by barge. Today, a twenty-minute train ride on the RER from Paris, Chatou offers tranquility amid an industrial rush of cars and motorbikes and grey buildings. Read more ›