Style secrets of the French by Casilda Grigg
A Dutch friend who’s almost Parisian – she spent years living there and speaks French like a native – told me I just had to visit the rue Mouffetard in the 5th (Left Bank) arrondissement of Paris. ‘On Sunday mornings everyone starts singing La Mer,’ she said. ‘They swing their string bags filled with fruit and veg. And the oldies waltz and do a bit of foxtrot.’
I got there just before midday on the Sunday morning after a long walk from the métro. The shops sell mostly tat from China but the food shops and market looked wonderful in an unPC way – endless foie gras and oysters and confit de canard. Restaurants, all a bit twee and jolly-looking, line the winding street, like they do in Belgian towns, but despite the touristy atmosphere it all feels genuine. Locals, some extremely elegant, shop on rue Mouffetard with big Provence-style straw bags or discreet looking wheelies (widely used in Paris and not the geriatric style no-no they are in London).
Woody Allen loved the folksy, small town scene at rue Mouffetard so much he filmed some of the scenes in Midnight in Paris there. Elderly couples were indeed dancing on the square at the bottom of ‘Mouffe’ when I got there, which was a wonderful sight. Song sheets were being passed round and a quartet of heavily made up old ladies were singing along. Everybody looked about a hundred but full of vim.
The band’s accordion player François Parisi, who wears a flat cap, rakishly tilted at one angle and a scarlet neckscarf, wrote some of the music for the movie and features in it (you can see him in the corner of the photo). He was entertaining a mix of tourists and locals when I visited with a repertoire of golden oldies. Like strings of onions and Breton sweaters, it’s all a bit of a cliché but a very charming one.