Paris' Rue Cler... Can a Street Be a Sight?
by Rick Steves
Even the metro stop for my village home in Paris is grand: it's Ecole Militaire. Ascending, the French Annapolis with a front yard made for breaking in jack boots--one thousand at a time--is a holler away. But turn your back on that and you have Flo's, a patisserie filled with the kind of food you gift wrap. And around the corner is rue Cler.
Walking down rue Cler makes me feel like I must have been a poodle in a previous life. It's a cobbled pedestrian street lined with shops run by people who've found their niche...boys who grew up on quiche. Aproned fruit stall attendants coax doll-like girls into trying their cherries. And ladies, after a lifetime of baguette munching, debate the merits of the street's rival boulangeries.
Proudly sporting its one star, as if that's all there was, the Grand Hotel Leveque pries apart a cafe and a cheese stall just wide enough to plant its front door. Hotel Leveque is Grand in the sense of grand old days. The cackle of Mimi the receptionist (who is endlessly entertained by her inability to understand her English-speaking guests) and the thin soprano of the singing maid waft up the courtyard that provides air but no view to half the rooms. Surveying Paris from my fourth floor window, Mansaart's town survives. Only the churches and the Eiffel Tower exceed the six-story code. Buildings fill the city like waffle mix--done just about right. Stately black grillework, frosted with big-city dust, treats humble windows like aristocratic balconies. Below me is village Paris, my market street, rue Cler.