I’ve often said that Paris is built for walkers. The subtext there is that it’s a dream for wanderers. Have some free time and nothing on your agenda? Just take a stroll. If it’s a particularly cold day, you might hit a string of Passages. Historically these were just places where the bourgeois could shop, free from the threat of the elements. Now tourists (and locals) mug in, enjoying the ongoing “show” that are the endless corridors of glass shop-windows. Today my target was a string of them, starting in my neighborhood, the 2nd, at the Cadet Metro station and working my way south towards Bourse.
Because my French is still a work in progress, I will often buy used children’s books as a means of improving (so I read like a French 10-year old, so what? 🙂 ). If they are used and on offer for 1 or 2 euros, that’s ideal. These young entrepreneurs had set up in front of a beautiful art store that was conveniently closed. People might crowd around looking into the store at curios and hey – there are some kids selling books right here – let’s take a look.
Where had these children (they couldn’t have been older than 10) gotten these books? Had maman insisted on a cleanout of the rooms? Had they found them by the trash somewhere and decided to be enterprising? I stopped asking myself questions and started looking for my friends Babar, Madeleine, Tintin, and Asterix.
I spotted what I wanted – a picture book on St. Bernadette, and inquired of one of the young ones – “how much?” in French. She told me to wait one moment and she asked her brother. He told her, “whatever you think.” She paused, hand firmly under chin, mulled it over, and said “deux cinquante.” I shrugged and nodded and reached into my pocket and pulled out a grip of coins. Seeing my “riches” she quickly amended: “Trois.” I laughed. How do you say no to a kid selling books on the sidewalk on a Sunday?
I happily paid the spontaneous 20% upcharge and walked away with my new treasure, grateful to witness yet another facet of life in this amazing city. Entrepreneur might be a French word, after all 🙂