Thursday, September 07, 2006

Beautiful Packaging

As I picked my way through the Japanese tourists and ex-pats milling around rue St Anne, the Japanese quarter of Paris, I looked up at the sky and realised that we are in summer again. I say again because August was a (delightfully mosquito-free) cold month and I was convinced my yellow halter top had had its last airing. But no! It seems that there's someone somewhere playing a trick on all those (us) evil Parisians who took 4 weeks vacation and after an obscenely cold August, now everyone is glumly traipsing back to work, the sun has his hat, sunglasses and swimsuit on!

I don't normally work in the 2nd arrondissement but I was working there today and it really is a beautiful area. Having lived in Montmartre, and now living just outside the east of Paris, I never really got to know the area around the Louvre, the Palais Royal and the rue St Honoré.

Looking up at the buildings on my extended walk to a métro stop on my line, I was plunged into an architectural bran tub of history. On my right strolling up the rue St Honoré was the luxurious Hotel du Louvre, on the left the Comédie Française theatre. Further along the road and back towards the river I looked up and saw the sculpted glory of the Louvre museum itself adorned with images never to be seen by any but the most attentive of passers-by.

As I came closer the stairs to lead me down into the entrails of Paris I passed a homeless man with feet as dirty as the step he was lying on. A plastic bottle of red wine, uncapped, stood next to his sleeping form. On the other side of the road I saw a building covered with a kind of metallic lace. I paused to look more carefully but I neither understood what purpose that building served nor why the lacey metal was needed.

Perhaps a small part of the building budget for the 2nd arrondissement could find itself providing shelter, a square meal and skills training for those obliged to sleep barefoot on its streets, rather than dressing up buildings to look like wedding cakes. Paris is beautiful, but she comes as a whole package. We need to think about the safety of the heart of the package before giving all our money and attention to the wrapping paper.

No comments: