Paris is one of those cities that you can walk around and just wonder at the architecture at every street corner. I've lived here for nearly 20 years, I still find it breathtaking, and it just so happens that several building I love are just two minutes from the Great Apartment in rue de Montmorency.
This building, now a Monoprix supermarket, used to be the head office of Félix Potin, a chain of small stores created at the end of the 19th Century that finally went bust in the 1990s. It's ridiculously ornate, but I love it and it makes me a bit sad to look up and see polystyrene false ceilings just inside the windows. Imagine having your desk just there!
Go just round the corner and you're getting into the rag trade area. Many shops here have been taken over as clothes wholesalers, meaning there's a crazy huge hubbub during the day, but the area wasn't always like this. One of the first department stores "À Réaumur", owned by Jean-Baptiste Gobert-Martin, opened here in 1897 and by 1928 had grown to 6,000m² of sales space. However, by the 1960s sales were down and the building was sold to be used as offices. Renovated about a decade ago, it now also has clothes wholesalers on the ground floor, but look up to topmost corner of the building and you'll get a hint of the splendour of the time.
I love this clock. It puts me in a good mood each time I see its multi-coloured mosaic tiles shining in the sun :-) You can read more about the history of À Réaumur here.
And just opposite is one of my very favourite buildings in the city. I've always been astounded by it.
You can't visit it and inside it's probably a mess anyway, but I just love the craziness of it. Until now I didn't even know much about it, but looking round the web I found this:
61-63 rue Réaumur. Commercial building dating from 1898, designed by architects Edward Singery and Philippe Jouannin in collaboration with sculptor F.A. Jacquier. Located at the corner of rue Réaumur and rue Saint-Denis on a 5-metre deep plot of land, with a neo-gothic façade, twinned stained glass windows and a monumental central clock. Was part of the new trend for mixed-use buildings (offices and apartments) and a new aesthetic encouraged by the Paris city council façades contest which was launched when rue Reaumur was created in the late 1800s.
The sculptures represent the four seasons, the twelve months of the year and the signs of the zodiac. That means a lot of sculpture and some great detail...
The most impressive element for me is the clock at the top. Very colourful, very ornate... the whole façade of the building is like some sort of barmy cathedral. Love it, love it, love it.
You can see where these three buildings are by checking out our Google Map of excellent stuff around the Great Apartment. And there are more photos in the Flickr gallery here.