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Suggestions about the origin of this familiar nursery rhyme go back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century. The lyrics stem from the Spanish Armada’s invasion of England that failed not just because of the superiority of the English ships but also because of the inclement weather which was oh so “rainy”, The rhyme has remained alive over the years and has adapted to many cultures. It is a common refrain in Paris.
If you have visited or lived in France for any extended period of time, you are well aware of the tendency of having showers in Paris, our beloved City of light. I am enchanted by the wet cobblestone’s glistening in the street lights but only if I have my umbrella (or parapluie) in hand.
I admit that I was one of those individuals who would buy the cheap, China made umbrellas, discarding them and moving on to another of the same poor quality.
In my personal life, I recycle and I am very concerned about sustainability. So the time arrived to take a new look at the umbrella, my faithful companion in Paris.
In the heart of the Marais is a charming passage called Passage de l’Ancre. Nestled in this tiny passageway is a small shop devoted to making and repairing umbrellas, called Pep’s.
The origin of the word “pep” goes back to a slang word in the area of Massif Central for umbrella. It is also similar to the Parisian slang word for umbrella, which is “pébroque”. So thusly we arrive at the derivation of the name “Pep’s”!
Pep’s is small but it offers history, charm, an opportunity to recycle and best of all first rate umbrellas. The manager, Thierry Millet, received the prestigious honor of the Chevalier dans l’Ordre du Merite. This extraordinary store is what the French call an “entreprise du patrimoine vivant” or a workshop dedicated to continuing an ancient craft.
Monsieur Millet says that as many as 17 million umbrellas are discarded each year in France. It is not surprising considering the discarded carcasses seen throughout the city. Thierry Millet is a strong advocate of recycling and from a “dollars and cents” perspective it is far better to have your parapluie repaired. The store repairs an average of 10,000 umbrellas in a year. So evidently this is an eco-friendly and cost conscious choice.
Pep’s has a good selection of umbrellas all made in France of excellent quality, varying from the small fold up variety to the large, traditional type. The selection of these unique hand made umbrellas decreases as we approach the Christmas holidays, but remember mes amis, it will always continue raining so it is never too late to place your custom order for 2014.
Pep’s is located on the passageway that connects rue Saint-Martin and rue de Turbigo in the 3rd arrondissement of Paris. Visit the Rain Man of Paris and give yourself an amazing souvenir and a dry visit for when it rains in Paris.
PEP’S – Passage de l’Ancre
223, rue Saint-Martin, 75003
Tél : +33 (0)1 42 78 11 67
métro: Arts et Métiers, Etienne Marcel, Réaumur Sébastopol
photos by Loui Franke
Loui Franke is author of Parisian Postcards: Snapshots of Life in Paris.