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Paris The Right Bank - Les Passages


Beloved of 19th century flaneurs, les Passages de Paris live on across the Right Bank with over 20 covered arcades open to the public today and most still bustling with commerce, comestibles and the occasional come-hither glance. Numbering over 150 at their peak in the mid-1800s, the extensive network of galeries allowed walkers and shoppers to cover a wide territory across the city while being afforded protection from nature and respite from the busy streets with glass-covered roofs and gas lighting by night. Shoes were cleaned by décrotteurs at entrances and for writers like Walter Benjamin, the endless arcades became a focal point for the cultural development of the city where shops were transmuted into museums of the past and museums became the shops of the future. During your perambulations you will inevitably fall into one or two of these time capsules by chance or by curiosity, but an entire day of your trip could justifiably be spent touring the primary Passages of the Right Bank and maybe even an entire week to discover them all. Start, then, with the very accessible 80-metre long Galerie Véro-Dodat just off the rue Saint-Honoré and open since 1826. Opened 3 years earlier and just around the corner is the larger Galerie Vivienne with its magnificent mosaic tiling. Another short walk heading north is the popular Passage des Panoramas, open since 1800 with a large array of shops and restaurants. From here there are any number of further tunnel-like escapades to keep the trail going: like the nearby Passage Jouffroy and the Passage Verdeau. The oldest Passage still operating (although more with the feel of a small enclosed street) is the Cité Berryer, dating to 1745, which connects the rue Royale and the rue Boissy d’Anglas near the Madeleine, while the most recent, Les Arcades du Lido, was opened on the Champs-Elysées in 1926. For a quick visit, the shortest in length is the restaurant-filled 29-metre Passage Puteaux on the appropriately named rue de l’Arcade in the 8th, while the longest stroll will take you along the Passage du Caire, open since 1798 in the heart of the Sentier rag-trade neighbourhood and measuring just over a third of a kilometer. Taken individually, each Passage seems at times like a microcosm of Paris, with endless wonders and treats waiting behind the next glass-paneled door, and taken together, the Passages of the Right Bank are a universe of comings and goings, an interplay of fashion and life and time passing, both in their daily rituals and in their dialogue with the centuries gone by and all the people who passed through them into portals anew.

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