Monday, 30 November -0001

Meet Paris’s Glamour PUSSES

The French capital has some very special cats, says Olivia Snaije – and they bring added colour to the City of Light

Written by Olivia Snaije
Paris, unlike Rome or Cairo, is not a city immediately associated with cats. And yet, when you look around, cats are everywhere. Not in gangs eating pasta, or dotted around a marketplace, but cosily ensconced in a basket in the corner of a restaurant, lazing in the sun in a gallery window, or fast asleep atop a bistro dessert case.

These irresistible cats will take you on a singular tour of the French capital, uncovering its rich history and beguiling locations along the way. Cats form an integral part of the Parisian landscape and add undeniable character to the City of Light.

Parisian Cats, by Olivia Snaije, with photography by Nadia Benchallal, is published by Flammarion, priced £14.95.

NARCISSE: Mini Palais, Grand Palais, Av. Winston-Churchill

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The Beaux Arts-style Grand Palais was created for the world’s fair in Paris in 1900. The Mini Palais restaurant opened in the Grand Palais in 2008, under the guidance of threestarred Michelin chef Eric Fréchon. The dining room is immense, with metal beams painted in the Grand Palais’ trademark mignonette green, highlighting the mouldings. Potted palm trees are interspaced among the tables on a mosaic floor.

Amid all this grandeur, Narcisse, a small black cat with a tiny patch of white fur under his chin like a bow tie, holds his own, scampering across the floor chasing sunbeams or jumping onto a banquette to play with the edges of a tablecloth. Narcisse will also climb onto clients’ laps during lunch and dinner.

ARTHUR: Page 189, 189 rue du Faubourg-Saint-Antoine

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The rue du Faubourg-Sainte- Antoine is one of the oldest avenues in Paris and has been a nucleus for artisans and manufacturing since the 12th century. Page 189, an independent bookshop, opened in 1990 and is a Pole Star in the lively, creative area.

On most days, a husky grey cat with green eyes sits bolt upright on the table closest to the till, watching the customers. Alternatively, he naps on the larger photography books. Arthur, named in homage to Rimbaud, the French poet, has lived in the shop since 2009. Owner Alain Caron and his partner Corinne Matras had just lost two long-time bookshop cats to old age when a friend brought them Arthur, who had been found in a cornfield in the country.

‘Arthur, most of all, cares about the bookshop,’ says Alain. But he does have a best friend, Quignard (for French writer Pascal Quignard), a black-and-white cat belonging to musician neighbours from the same building.

FA-RAON: Le Bristol Paris, 112 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré

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When Didier Le Calvez took over as CEO of the celebrated Bristol Hotel in 2010, he brought years of experience in the luxury industry with him, but the most unexpected innovation was a hotel cat. That same year, a tiny ball of cream-coloured fur with blue eyes arrived in the hotel lobby. The five-star hotel did not settle for just any cat. Fa-raon is a pedigreed Sacred Cat of Burma, also known as a Birman, a breed reputed for its sweet, people-oriented nature. Fa-raon has more than lived up to his reputation: although he is constantly sought out, he is infinitely patient with children and paparazzi alike. He has also participated in photoshoots in the hotel alongside Cate Blanchett.

PILOU: La Maison de Poupée, 40 rue de Vaugirard

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La Maison de Poupée, or The Dollhouse, lies on the corner of the longest street in Paris, rue de Vaugirard, and the rue Servandoni. Specialising in antique dolls from the 18th and 19th centuries, it evokes a bygone era.

But sitting in the window amidst a retro-chic jumble is Pilou, very much alive, with tiger stripes on his back and tail, white fur on his paws and chest, and green eyes that track the pigeons outside. Many cats have graced the shop, but Pilou has been the star since 2008, when he was found as a three-week-old kitten in the south of France.

ROXANE: Le Rostand, 6 place Edmond-Rostand

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Directly across from one of Paris’s loveliest gardens, the Luxembourg, Le Rostand cafe and the nearby square are named after the neo-romantic poet and playwright Edmond Rostand. The cafe’s clientele are all greeted by the cat-inresidence, the charming young Roxane, who is predominantly white, with a striped brown-and-grey tail.

Her predecessor Cyrano – named after Rostand’s bestknown play (despite being female) – disappeared one summer, and Roxane, named for Cyrano’s love interest, was auspiciously found soon after, hiding on the terrace.

HELYPSE: Le Canu-Millant, 56 rue de Rome

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The rue de Rome has been synonymous with luthiers, or stringed-instrument makers, from the early 20th century. The window of Le Canu- Millant is decorated with yellowed sheet music and a giant violin bow, but what makes passers-by stop in their tracks is the vision of a majestic, long-haired, tigerstriped feline: Helypse, the shop’s Maine Coon. As a kitten he was already larger than the shop’s dachshund, Chester, with whom he frolics on the parquet floor.


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