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Paris Modern

On my last day in Paris, I stopped by Loulou de la Falaise's shop in the heart of the Seventh Arrondissement. Here was a fashion muse if ever there was one, inspiring Saint Laurent for more than 30 years and creating his iconic accessories. The kaleidoscopic colors on the walls and the display cases filled with exotic beaded necklaces reminded me of the days when I used to sneak backstage at Saint Laurent's shows. Crouching in a corner with the photographer Roxanne Lowit, we would watch Loulou's every move and, mostly, what she wore—animal-print silk blouses, Russian Cossack jackets, brightly colored peasant skirts. Something about her style—their style—seemed so effortless and yet so unachievable. They represented old Paris, the part of the city that doesn't change even as the world around it does. Yet despite their bourgeois rigidity, the French have an uncanny ability to move with the times. And when Tom Ford took over the house of Saint Laurent, Loulou set about her own course of reinvention, creating a line of chic handbags, tartan kilts, and dramatic costume jewelry. Even the way her colorful boutique fit right into the cluster of traditional shops on Rue de Bourgogne seemed effortless.

I walked back to the hotel via my favorite route: up Rue Madame. The long afternoon light was casting a shadow across the street. Another generation of noisy kids with bulky satchels and freshly scrubbed faces pressed past me on their way to the gardens, just as they had 17 years before. Along the way I clocked my former shopping haunts. Jamin Puech was still selling its hippie macramé handbags, now sprinkled with old coins. In the window at Le Pont Traverse there was a first edition of Oscar Wilde for sale. Oona L'Ourse, the store where my Parisian pals used to buy those tiny Shetland sweaters for their babies, was still there, too. I ducked in to see if there was anything new—perhaps something for my son. It was a comforting place, but it felt claustrophobic. I didn't even bother to buy one of the adorable sweaters.

Back at the hotel I called Bibiane to say good-bye. She sounded agitated and distracted. She had just learned that she and her family were being evicted from their apartment on Rue de Grenelle, where they had lived for 20 years. I felt a pang of sadness; it was my first apartment in Paris, too. But Bibiane put a brave face on it.

"At first I was so pissed off," she said in her best truck driver slang. "I thought, Merde. Now I've come to accept it; in fact, I look at it as a good thing. Change is good."

At that moment, in that city, it seemed she was right.

NEXT GREAT NEIGHBORHOOD
Rue Louise-Weiss (the 13th)

Artists, collectors, and fashionistas are flocking to the Chelsea-like Rue Louise-Weiss in the 13th Arrondissement for monthly openings. With the new No. 14 Métro (Bibliothèque), it's only a 20-minute ride from the Place de la Madeleine in central Paris.

ON THE SCENE Artists like Konstantin Kakanias, Karen Kilimnik, and Fraser Sharp; fashion designers Marc Jacobs and Nicolas Ghesquière. THE EPICENTER Bernard Picasso's bookstore, Images Modernes (No. 11; 33-1/45-70-74-20; www.imagesmodernes.com). GO NOW Fall shows are up at all 10 neighborhood galleries. Highlights include round abstract photographs by Mariko Mori at Galerie Emmanuel Perrotin (Nos. 5 and 30; 33-1/42-16-79-79), through October 31, and black-and-white images of farmhouses and oddly beautiful women by Norwegian photographer Torbjørn Rødland at Air de Paris (No. 32; 33-1/44-23-02-77), through November 8. After gallery-hopping, head to the MK2 Bibliothèque (128/162 Ave. de France; www.mk2.com), in front of the Bibliothèque Nationale. The ultramodern complex has three restaurants, a lounge, and a 14-screen cinema.

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