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Please Pass the Passementerie

Hidden treats and treasures abound in Paris. The tiny garden at the Musée Delacroix is a secret outdoor room in the middle of the busy Left Bank.* In the Marais, you can exit the southwest corner of the Place des Vosges through a not-so-obvious stone passage into the 17th century Hôtel de Sully and the bustling Rue St. Antoine beyond. And if you walk around the northern perimeter of the Ile St. Louis, you will come upon the magnificent Hôtel de Lauzun, a mansion built in 1657 by Louis Le Vau that is open only occasionally to visitors. I happened to be walking by one day when the doors were thrown wide and jumped at the chance to see the spectacular art and architecture inside.

Another out-of-the way gem is located on the troisième étage (third floor-note that the third floor in France corresponds to the fourth floor in the U.S.) of Le Bon Marché department store.* Not long ago, I wandered into the mercerie, or notions department, of this Left Bank emporium and was blown away by the lusciously colored passementerie. Tassels, tiebacks, trimmings and other ornamental riches hung in profusion. All of it looked good enough to eat. In fact, these pink tassels reminded me of strawberry sherbet-but when does anyone eat sherbet anymore, much less use the word?

Since my home décor has nothing to do with pink or turquoise or orange, I began to brainstorm for other creative ways to use the brightly colored tassels. Bookmarks were a possibility. I could tie them on to gift packages for an original French twist. The tassels also would make the ultimate cat toy-too bad there's no feline at home. Or I could make a whimsical bouquet and put them in a vase chez moi for a real passementerie feast. After all, the small ones were only 2 to 4 euros apiece.

To walk off my indecision, I roamed the various aisles of the mercerie. More colors met the eye as I came upon a wall of silk rubans (ribbons). It's a good thing I am no longer a bow head or I would have been there for hours trying to decide which ones to buy for ponytail days.

And despite row upon row of gorgeous wool yarns, I was not tempted in the least to take up knitting. My good friend Joan who is a tricoteuse (knitter) par excellence would have been beside herself with all the choices. I rued the fact that I did not know more about wools, dyes and patterns so I could buy her a wonderful cadeau (gift) where she could tricoter (knit) in the French style.

After all the wandering, I came back to tassel heaven but couldn't decide on which passementerie items to pick. In the end, I did not buy a single tassel. I think all the choices plus my dithering had worn me out. But I know this exceptional corner of Paris is there when I want a visual banquet. Perhaps by my next visit I'll have a hot pink or brilliant orange room in my house and these dazzling creations will have no trouble finding a home. In the meantime, I may try and track down some sherbet!?!



* Le Musée Delacroix is the former apartment and studio of the famed 19th French painter Eugène Delacroix. It is located at 6, rue de Furstenburg in the 6th arrondissement. The museum and garden are open daily except Tuesdays from 9:30am to 5pm.

* Le Bon Marché is located at 24, rue de Sèvres in the 7th arrondissement. The nearest Métro stop is Sèvres-Babylone.

October 22, 2008

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