My summer home is in Paris’s 6th Arrondissement. Paris is divided into 20 such sub-groups, each with its own mayor. More importantly, each Arrondissement has its own personality. The wealthiest Arrondissements are the 6th, 7th, 8th, and 16th. Along with the suburb Neuilly-sur-Seine, they comprise what is known as Paris Ouest (Pairee Wwest) (West Paris). They run in a straight line from the Place de la Concorde, along the Champs Elysée to the western edge of the greater metropolitan area. Paris Ouest refers to geography, certainly, but much more importantly, it refers to wealth and privilege. The social equivalent in the U.S. would be New York’s Upper East Side.
It all started in the 16th century with Marie de Médicis and the Jardin du Luxembourg. Where she moved, other nobles followed. The homes and monuments that went up were part of the Voie Royale (Royal Road) or Axe historique (Historical Axis, for the more Republican minded). Today, 8 of France’s top 10 wealthiest people live in Paris Ouest, including Liliane Bettencourt of L’Oréal fame (the richest woman in the world) and Bernard Arnaud of luxury goods conglomerate LMVH (the wealthiest man in France and one of the wealthiest in the world). Birth or residence here gives access to better schools, contact with France’s elite, and darn nice real estate. Last night, I saw multiple César winner André Dussolier strolling past my seat in a café. He lives right next to the school where I work in the summer. Since this is also the most expensive area to live in Paris, I don’t think I’ll be buying my own place here any time soon. Zut!