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When we recently visited the beautiful passages of Paris, I was awestruck. I had heard of these places in stories, full of wonder and carnival-esque mystique. Somehow it had never quite occurred to me that these niches of dreams existed in reality, gems of history laden with memories. Built in the early 1800’s, these passageways were technological wonders, offering unheard of amenities to the emerging class of bourgeois consumers. Gas lighting and heated shelter protected from rain and mud, while creating a beautiful setting for copious goods, services, cafes and restaurants where one could rest and observe fellow lingerers. These cathedrals of commerce and leisure were a luxurious option over the shopping experience of hunting and gathering all around town.
Unfortunately they became somewhat distinct after the introduction of department stores, falling out of fashion permanently and becoming home to vagrants and gamblers. Today, only 20 or so remain out of the 150 original arcades, most of which have rebuilt repeatedly. Those precious few that remain still showcase the artistic wonder that kept Paris alive, filled with ancient book shops, art galleries, and cafes. The light twinkles through the glass roofs, and sunlight slices clouds of dust like mist over a waterfall, recalling stories past. It only takes one to shut their eyes and the soft hum of music boxes and the ring of children’s joy comes flooding back.