BETWEEN HEAVEN & HELL: ….(This is an update to earlier essay. I recently passed the Passage D’Enfer and couldn’t resist taking a pleasing detour thru its charmed atmosphere, a virtual step back in time. One of the most amazing, and forgiving aspects of Parisian is how many interesting, entertaining and pleasing world-class activities one can feast on, local they local or wayfarer. And, this is decidedly one of the more sublime ones).
Along Paris’s aptly named Passage D’Enfer is the remnant of the old ‘Royal’ mailing system. Ok, it is not exactly like discovering a Coelacanth, but it IS a very interesting, rewarding and, visually cool –and easily accessed, example of the city’s fascinating past!
What: Prior to our current ‘Odd-Even’ street address numbering system, the old way used a system where the first house on a street began with say a ‘1’, and was then followed, on the *same* side of the street, with a 2, then 3, and so on. At the end of the street/road etc…the numbers then jumped to the other side and began their mathematical march back in the direction they’d just come. Result? A house address on any corner which might be ‘1’ while the house/building facing it could be ‘60’…! This archaic process undoubtedly mystified many a rushing delivery person, plus those very perpetually late for dinner (‘guilty as charged’!)..and perhaps gave rise to the infamous ‘your check is in the mail’ excuse.
Numbering aside, this is one special, unique Parisian locale. It is simply riveting! The passage gates are works of art. And they are open most of the time. The morning or evening sun –a painters dream!, bathes the romantically colored building facades, …some in soft inviting pastels, while others are in cheekily arranged patterns or sport property-dividing lines…all overwhelmingly charming! You will also marvel at and revel in the width of the passage (pretty wide!) and its typically unhurried pace, and the tranquility it exudes.
I have nipped into the Passage on rainy days and sunny ones, both offer unique views of the rapidly fading slice of real, non-touristy, Parisian landscape. On rainy days the shine on the pavee glisten, the air hemorrhages atmosphere and you can feel the magic suspended in the air. On sunny days, an entirely different urban persona steps out to greet you. Rain or shine, you will be moved by the experience.
Gee thee there, now! 14th – Metro Raspail (ligne 4) and or via Boul Montparnasse (Bus 91, etc).
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