Elaine Sciolino moved to Paris in 2002 when she was assigned the position of bureau chief for the New York Times. First living on the rue du Bac in the haute bourgeois Saint Germain, raising her two daughters with her husband Andy, she always had the desire to live on the rue Martyrs. With its reputation as one of the great food shop streets and a more down-to-earth and authentic Parisian neighborhood, it was her 9th arrondissement antidote to the snobby St. Germain and over-commercialized and touristy Marais. Wanting to downsize her living space when her daughters went off to college in the U.S., in 2010, Elaine found here dream apartment on rue Notre Dame de Lorette, just a few steps from her beloved rue des Martyrs.
Her new book, The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs, is a combination of a true passion for her new neighborhood, the respect and genuine caring about her neighbors and local shopkeepers, and a good reporter’s persistent curiosity in uncovering a great story, the book from page one is delightful and highly entertaining.
A major part of the book is the stories about the shop owners: the troubled fish shop that eventually closed which the neighborhood was up in arms about, the touching chapter about the aging octogenarian showman Michou and his past glory as the greatest and oldest ongoing drag show artist in Paris, the quirky shop that restores old barometers, getting past an insecurity from college by bravely befriending the owners of a bookshop with a sign saying “Non Intellectuals Not Welcome”, and a lovely story about a Tunisian antiques dealer who gives her his Hermes scarf right from his neck and invites her to his Passover seder, plus a funny madcap caper about retrieving an enormous neon sign from the junkyard cherished by a shopkeeper who was forced to close his shop.