In the 1st arrondissement of Paris, equidistant from the Louvre, the Palais Royal and the Bourse de Commerce, there is an elegant nineteenth-century passage called Galerie Véro-Dodat, with wood-panelled shop fronts, black marble columns and paintings on the ceiling.
The Galerie was named after its developers, who by coincidence were both butchers. Benoit Véro had a butcher shop at 1 rue Montesquieu, just across from what is now the west entrance to the Galerie. His colleague Dodat had a shop in another neighborhood nearby. (Both were pork-butchers, since the selling of horse meat had not yet been legalized.) Together, the two butchers were prosperous enough to start buying and developing real estate, and they opened their newly-built Galerie Véro-Dodat in 1826.
The Galerie was quite deserted on the evening we walked through (and the pleasant-looking restaurant was closed), but in the nineteenth century this must have been a lively place.
Just opposite the east entrance to the Galerie Véro-Dodat, on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, was the main departure point for the horse-drawn stage coaches (diligences in French) of a company called Laffitte et Caillard, which by the 1820s had developed a solid reputation for speed and punctuality.
Victor Hugo included a reference to this stage-coach company in his novel Les Misérables. Four young men, in a joint letter to their jilted girlfriends, told them: “We are leaving, we have left. We flee in the arms of Laffitte and on the wings of Caillard.”
Their diligence was pulled by “five fiery horses” running “at full trot, at a rate of three leagues an hour.” (Translated from volume 1, page 208, of the folio classique edition.)
Three leagues an hour would be roughly twelve kilometers an hour in today’s terms, but Victor Hugo would turn over in his grave (in the Panthéon) if he heard me saying that, because he was a fierce opponent of the metric system.
Before the advent of the railroads, the shops in the Galerie Véro-Dodat used to open at five in the morning to serve the passengers of the first Laffitte et Caillard stage coaches leaving for cities all over France.
Smoking was not allowed in the stage coaches, by the way, and prices were often quite affordable because of the ruinous competition between rival stage-coach companies.
Location and aerial view on monumentum.fr.
My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2021.