A few years ago when I visited Paris, me and my two co-travelers set out to explore the city on foot. We were a little overconfident about our sense of direction, and none of us had our data plan activated on our phones. So in short, our google maps weren’t working and none of us spoke any French.
Considering that we all were Chicago, we kept thinking we were walking straight, but Parisian boulevards did the trick and in a matter of hours we were wandering aimlessly waiting to be rescued by a familiar sign of a building, bar or street name.
Just as we walked in random directions, hoping for a miracle, we entered a passage with a myriad of vintage stores and restaurants. It was lunchtime on a weekday in Paris and it was a little busy inside the passage. The crowd wasn’t usual tourists but typical office going locals. In the alley, I found boxes set out filled with vintage postcards and pictures. There were at least half a dozen stores. I was very intrigued, but I was language-shy and I was hurled back by my co-travelers to get me back on our critical mission to find our airbnb. I rushed back, thinking that I would come back during my stay, but in the next four days, I never had time to get back to that alley and find out what those postcards were.
Now a little background about me and why do I care about postcards and vintage papers..
I am both an artist and traveler at heart. I try to combine the passions. As an artist I like to create, rather than just collect.
So when I visit a new place, I like to discover places that one does not find in the guide books. As a mixed media artist, I like to bring back a little bit of color, the language, the smell along with me. It is not very easy to create artwork in crowded cafes and when you are traveling with someone. Sometimes I do quick sketches because you have to be mindful of your co-travelers and not make everything about art, which may not interest all of us. I use these vintage papers, postcards and all kinds of weird stuff in my collages.
Now a little bit about Paris, I generally prefer to go there in the late Summer to early Fall when schools are reconvened, tourists are gone back, and the weather is pleasant. I enjoy sitting at a café, sipping pilsner admiring traffic of people. As I walk around the boulevards admiring uniquely cream colored building, bright colored doors and light gray color rooftops, I come across a unique store or business that you can find only in Paris and no where else in the world.
So after that visit, three years went by and we were all stuck inside our homes during Covid. I always wished if I should have stopped a few more minutes in that passage and made some inquiries and bought some postcards. In summary, I learned a valuable lesson. While traveling alone or with people, now if I see something unique and interesting, I don’t wait for someone else’s validation. I make inquiries immediately or purchase it is affordable. Because life is short and for all you know, you are probably never going to return to that spot and meet that person in a long time.
This year in 2022, when we made the plan to visit Paris after almost four years, I was determined to find the location of the secret passageway and what those post cards were about and get some for my art work if I could afford them.
But the re-discovery of this place was very difficult. First of all, I wasn’t sure if those vendors were still in business after COVID years. All I remembered was a passageway with postcards, and then there was an Indian restaurant inside the passageway. It was in the 2nd ARR and it was closer to O’Sullivan bar.
So I started looking for Indian restaurants on google maps and bingo I found the place. Restaurant was New Kashmir. The passage name is 'Passage de Panoramas' and it is stretched between the Montmartre Blv. and Rue Saint Mark. The O Sullivans is on the Montmartre Blvd. (Check out my embedded video)
So this time with google maps in hand, I embarked on my adventure to visit this secret passageway and to discover what I missed almost four years ago. Our Airbnb was in another secret passageway in the Marais and it took me about fifteen minutes to reach to this Passage Panoramas.
When I entered the passage I was reassured that by the first impression that everything was still there as I left it three years ago. The market was about to open at 10AM.I started filming the storefronts.
Only one store was open by ten, which sold stamps, and the lady was just setting up her boxes outside her store. I went through the boxes that were on display and picked up some stamps and postcards that caught my eyes. They were from various countries and eras. I bought a few stamps and postcards.
These is something about these postcards that make me feel very nostalgic. I wonder who must have sent these postcards and to whom. What must be in there, and how did they end up here? They must sit in someone’s treasure chest for a many years before they were declared worthless. What joy they must have brought when they were received?
And now they are out on display to public eyes and you can buy someone else’s private memories for a few bucks.
I rationalized my purchase with the thought that I will use them in my artwork, making them more memorable. Below, you will find some stamps with amazing features and facial expressions. If any of the readers have any information or inputs about these postcards or stamps, comment.
With the passing minute, more and more stores opened. I stopped at a store called Carte Postal de collection. This store had postcards that looked like art works with stunning black and white images of people from the past century. A snapshot, an inquiry in the past in one little click. They were arranged by country and topic and priced from a couple of Euros to 100s.
I went in and asked about a particular postcard I liked, but it was out of my price range. The owner spoke English, and he went in brought me an album of postcards from the era of British East India company.
This post card is more than a century old. I was mesmerized by this postcard about a lady cleaning brass vessels. I know this picture is so original and quintessential experience of working maid servants in India. There are so much story in it. It spoke to me and I bought it for Euro 40. I am hoping to get inspired to create my recent abstract work when I return to Chicago.
I have pasted here some scraps, vintage pictures and stamps I bought in this little secret passage way. I have also made a small video of the entrance and exit to this passage way if you are interested in visiting this place. Let me know what you think.
In my next article I am going to talk about another secret passageway where I found a unique store selling Japanese paper. We will talk about it’s owner the papers and how to access this passageway.
If you enjoy reading this article and video, please leave your comments so that it will serve as an encouragement.
SatishFactory Art - Oak park IL.
Studio and Gallery