The other day, I met up with my friend Laura from Ciao Amalfi to explore the 16th Arrondissement. Our primary objective was to visit the lesser-known Musée Marmottan-Monet, but we decided to stroll through nearby streets afterwards. Photographs weren’t allowed inside the museum, but I must admit that it had an excellent collection! If you love the Orangerie with Monet’s waterlilies, you’ll like this museum. They also had a pretty fabulous collection of medieval illuminated manuscripts, most of them extremely detailed and shining with golden gilding.
Just across the street from the museum, we spotted some unique architectural details. One door was guarded by two panthers amid roses. Another was decorated with pinecones and evergreen boughs. Panthers and pinecones are not typical motifs in Parisian architecture. These buildings definitely fall under the Art Nouveau category, but there was something else about these designs I couldn’t quite put my finger on…
Next, we started walking down Boulevard de Beauséjour. It was here that I started to notice something different about this neighborhood. It felt less like Paris and more like the ritzier neighborhoods of London. Instead of a wide sidewalk that ran flush with the buildings, there was a black iron gate that created a sort of mini front yard. Lots of buildings had steps that led up to a front door. I also noticed a few entirely privatized streets that only residents had access to and a few buildings that looked more like single family homes rather than apartment buildings. The entire layout of this area felt better suited to people who own cars, i.e. rich people. It was far less pedestrian than the rest of Paris. It’s hard to explain, but that’s the vibe I felt. It was also very quiet.
After we rounded a corner at Rue Oswaldo Cruz – who was apparently a famous Brazilian physician and bacteriologist – we came across an unusual line of short buildings. If you’ve never walked around Paris before, this may seem entirely insignificant to you, but this row of 2-story townhouses actually looked bizarre. They were part of another private gated road.
I could see some houses further down a gated street called Avenue des Chalets that looked more like country homes than Parisian immeubles. Perhaps when these were built, alpine vacations to mountain chalets were popular? The chalets weren’t the only references to nature I noticed that day – remember the pinecones from before? On top of that, when we were visiting the Musée Marmottan, we learned that the building used to be a hunting lodge. All of this makes a little more sense when you consider its proximity to the Bois de Boulogne – a large wooded area filled with lakes and parks. I could also see how the residents of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s would have been closer to nature than those living in the center of the city. In 2016, this neighborhood is very close to the periphery of Paris – imagine what it must have been like 100 years ago: even more underdeveloped and urban than it is now. Perhaps the 16th Arrondissement was considered the suburbs during that time.
After admiring all these unique buildings, we made our way back to the train station and came across one of the most beautiful florists I’ve ever seen. There was a display of tall, multicolored poppies in the window that I couldn’t get a good picture of, due to reflections in the glass, but it was like a gorgeous still-life, straight out of a painting! I also love how the black storefront really makes the flowers stand out.
I always feel so invigorated when I explore new areas of Paris – it’s like I’m visiting for the first time again. I really should do this more often because there’s still so much to discover! Some areas I haven’t fully explored yet are Belleville, Canal Saint Martin and the area around Marché d’Aligre in the 12th.