A Place Tucked Away

There is nothing quite as intriguing as a place tucked away behind something else or deep within a neighborhood. Perhaps it is an unexpected find, like the glass studio my husband and I recently found in an old industrial district along the water, or the jazz club hidden behind a warehouse in a nearby town known for its belching smoke stacks and tough neighborhoods.

Whenever possible, we eschew main streets for alleys and twisting passages, at least when we have the good luck to be walking in Paris, or some other French city. It is an urban form of shunpiking and usually leads to charming surprises.

The tiny bistro above is just north of Notre Dame Cathedral on Ile de la Citie, just yards from the spot where Heloise met Abelard. We were on our way to meet Richard Nahem of Eye Prefer Paris that early evening in May and did not have time to stop.

"We'll come back," we promised ourselves, but we never did. We will - I hope - in 2008.

Another place tucked away is St. Paul Village, sandwiched between Rue St. Antoine and the Seine in the Marais. Passages and alleyways and courtyards are filled with shops, many of them purveyors of antiques of one sort or another, or objets d'art. High tourist season was not yet upon us, and many of the shops were still closed or just opening for the season. It reminded me of Door County in November, quiet but still alluring.

Since my husband and I are both film buffs, as well as Francophiles, we just had to search out "Le Grand Colbert," a restaurant tucked behind the Palais Royale and made famous in the movie "Something's Got to Give," with Diane Keaton and Jack Nicholson.

What is your favorite tucked-away find anywhere?


Ronnie Ann said…
I love this post! Your words transported me back to the moment I too happened upon St. Paul Village. I so enjoyed wandering back streets, not knowing where I was going or what I might find. That still happens for me even in my own Brooklyn neighborhood. For some reason there is one street I hadn't been on in ages, and in place of the music store where I bought my guitar a few years ago, there was this brand new shoe store with some fabulous shoes. (Although you can't play old Rolling Stones songs on them.) Oh...and very cool about Le Grand Colbert. I love that scene.
Lydia said…
And did you find Diane Keaton sitting at the table with her two beaus at The Grand Colbert? I giggled when I read that!
katiez said…
We have a litle hotel in England that we love, but can never find. We've stayed their 6 or 7 times and get so lost everytime we try to find it that, now, every road looks both right and wrong and we haven't a clue if 'that pub is where we turn to find it' or 'where we turn to get really lost' Love the photos!
christine said…
Lovely post as usual, Mimi. This is why I so loved to walk around London when I lived there. Each time I seemed to discover something new, places I would have never discovered had I been on the bus or subway.
Mimi said…
Ronnie Ann, I once found a used bookstore on the second floor of a tiny old shop on a side street in downtown Green Bay, where there were lots of little places like once upon a time. St. Paul Village was full of surprises like that.

Ah, no Lydia, darn, no such scene. I was on myway to E. Dehillerin that day, so I was full of anticipation, though.

Nothing like getting lost in the heart of ac ity looking for some obscure place, Katie. Ah, the llife you've led!

Christine, I love that sort of travel, just walking and looking for something - not sure of what you will find. We find a lot of parks that way...
Oh YES I know that place! That was the best part of our 5 weeks in Paris last year. No purpose but discovery of whatever turned up. And yes there are some places like that here but one must be on foot to find them. That one of my favorite things about Portland and Seattle when we visit the boys, we all walk!
Christine said…
My husband and I happened upon the Village St. Paul the same way you did, Mimi. We so loved walking down the streets and passages less travelled! Did you go in the old and lovely St. Paul church, tucked away in a corner? What a find!
Also, very near St. Paul, is the Forney Library: a beautiful building with an inner courtyard. They were having a fundraiser the day we discovered it. So many happy, smiling people - they were saving their building!
Tanna reminded me of the anniversary that Clay and I spent in Portland: We arrived, parked the car, and didn't get into it again until the day we drove away. That city is so accessible, both on foot and by their beautiful transit buses.

I'm so happy to see a post from you. Not hearing from you in so long had me worried. Are you happy with your new job?
Mimi said…
Tanna, did you eat there? Or just stop there? It looks so intriguing. I miss living in a bigger city - that's where you often find those places. Although - you can find them everywhere if you have the time.

Christine, we did not go inside the church, which is a pity, because I saw a photo on Paris Daily Photo that made me want to go inside.

I did find a lovely little place tucked away behind Musee Carnavalet with a great courtyard - and an even nicer park.

My new job keeps me very, very busy. The man who had the job until April took Fridays off - now I know why: You work 40 hours between Monday and Thursday!
Judy said…
Lovely post Mimi. I smiled and walked with you. I love walking in neighborhoods, exploring and finding new treasures or places to visit. Wish I did it more often but life seems to keep us too busy. Wouldn't it have been cool to see Jack and Diane!!!
Terry B said…
What a charming post, Mimi! In New Orleans' French Quarter, there's a whole tucked away world. The buildings all crowd right up to the sidewalk, but as you look through open doorways, you catch glimpses of beautiful, serene courtyards providing sanctuary from the nearly non-stop action on the streets. One of our favorites is the courtyard of the Place d'Armes Hotel where we often stayed. When the girls were little, we would traipse all over the Quarter with them, hitting shops and cafes and all having a great time. About mid-afternoon, though, they would burn out. So we would retreat to the hotel's plant-filled brick courtyard, where they would splash around in the pool as Marion and I sipped cocktails poolside.
Terri said…
Amazing...I've been remiss in visiting here and what do I find for the post on my return? My beloved Paris! Great post and great photos. I had lunch once in that bistro with a girlfriend.
And a hidden away place...I love rue Champagne Premiere in the 14th. Tucked away with lots of old ataliers that make me feel I'm back in Paris of the 20's.
OH...speaking of Paris in the 20's. Just finished a good book you might enjoy...."The Shoe Queen" by Anna Davis. Clever twist on Kiki of Montparnasse. It's fiction.
Mimi said…
Ah, yes, Jusy the days for shunpiking in the city are just too few.

Great story, TerryB. I think a glimpes of hidden doorways, open courtyards and secret gardenes is what nourished me in Paris, as must as the bread, cheese and wine. Such hints of what might be beyond fuel the imagination.

I am reading that book, too, Terri! Great minds read alike. But I want to sit in that little bisto...
ParisBreakfasts said…
I have a picture of a place I want to go back to, but unlike clever you, I did not include the street sign...I will search it down next time but it will be a challenge!
Where I grew up, there was a little ice cream shop tucked away, through a little archway off the old town square. As kids we loved it. It's gone now; that square nearly died for a while, although now it's coming back.
breadchick said…
Mimi! You have found my secret little bistro in the heart of all the tourist!! Yes, you have!!! I have lunch there at least three times a visit and the last time I was there (in April), the staff remembered me and welcomed me back to Paris (Oh the memory of it). In fact, the table right in front of the door and shown in your picture is beneath their "menu" chalk boards and is where I always sit! The Prixe Fixe lunch of smoked salmon quiche, salad, dessert, and carafe of house wine (the red is a lovely Cotes du Rhone) is a wonderful bargin 18.00 Euros. I always mean to try to the rabbit cassolet prixe fixe but have fallen in love with the smoked salmon quiche.

They only have one waitress during the day, Janelle, who is just lovely and sweet. In the afternoon, there were four friends who came in and smoked (ah not any more alas) and drank cafe and chatted with everyone who came in. A real neighborhood find.

They are closed on Sundays, like so many other places, but on Thursday evening, offer a perfect dinner with music.

I can't believe I'm about to do this (reveal the name) as it will not be my little secret but it is such a lovely little place and the staff is wonderful and they have an old fashioned cave a vin that they will actually let you taste before you buy (which I heartily recommend you do...taste and buy that is) and oh my I am so ready to go back right this second and have a late lunch but...alas...I can't.

The name of the place is La Reserve De Quasimodo and you just have to go back and have lunch, at least once.
Mimi said…
Carol, you are on to my secret! I try to include the signs to I can find my way there again! As if I would forget this little place.

Laura, that ice cream place sounds charming! My town never had many tucked-away places. But, there was a drug store on a corner downtown that had a tiny, three-stool soda fountain in one corner. That always intrigued me.

Mary, I thought you had mentioned this one earlier, but was not sure if it was the same one! There was something about it that made me feel safe and comforted. We were so tired that day, as we'd spent a long time on Rue Cler early, ran errands in our neighborhood all day, caught a late-afternoon No. 63 bus for the Latin Quarter (standing all the way), visited Shakespear & Co., the crypts, the marche aux fleurs and the island that day. We were exhausted by the time we caught up with Richard!

Anyway, I will go there next time!
Kristen said…
I love those kind of "treasure" spots, as we call them. In Eureka Springs, AK we found the most amazing little hold in the wall Mexican restaurant by venturing down an alley and entering through a creaky spring door.
Mimi said…
Sounds charming, Kristen. My town has few places like that - I remember years ago, stumbling upon a small book and card store on a side street downtown. It was new, and maybe only lasted a while. But it featured paintings by local artists and no one else was doing that at the time.

Popular Posts