|Following rue St-Honoré west you come to the Palais Royal (M° Palais-Royal-Musée-du-Louvre), built for Cardinal Richelieu in 1624, though little now remains of the original palace. The current building houses various governmental bodies and the Comédie Française, longstanding venue for the classics of French theatre. Hidden away behind lie sedate gardens lined with stately eighteenth-century three-storey buildings built over arcades housing mainly antique and designer shops. One of them, Guillaumot, selling antique books and manuscripts (153 Galerie de Valois), was founded in 1785. Further down, at no. 142, is an exquisite purple-panelled parfumerie, Les Salons du Palais Royal Shiseido.|
Past residents of the desirable flats above the arcades include Cocteau and Colette the latter lived here until her death in 1954 and enjoyed looking out over the gardens when she was too crippled with arthritis to walk. It's certainly an attractive and peaceful oasis, with avenues of clipped limes, fountains and flowerbeds, and popular on weekends with newlyweds who come here to be photographed, though surprisingly unfrequented at other times. You'd hardly guess that for a time this was a site of gambling dens, brothels and funfair attractions there was even a café mécanique, where you sat at a table, sent your order down one of its legs, and were served via the other. The prohibition on public gambling in 1838 put an end to the fun and the Grands Boulevards took up the baton. Folly, some might say, has returned in the form of Daniel Buren's black-and-white striped pillars, rather like sticks of Brighton rock, all of varying heights, dotted about the main courtyard in front of the palace. Installed in 1986 after the space was cleared of cars, they're a rather disconcerting sight, but are certainly popular with children and rollerbladers, who treat them as an adventure playground and obstacle course respectively.