The Herbalist's Shop
Stepping into the herbalist's shop, one of the 15 remaining herbal pharmacies in France, takes you back to the days of the 1880s when the store first opened. The smell from the 900 different types of dried leaves, flowers, and roots is slightly earthy and sweet, yet comforting in some primeval way. When more people enter the already crowded store, the customers tease that it is becoming as popular as those on the Champs Elysées.
The herbalist's storeroom is stocked with medicinal plants from around the world that are collected by professional gatherers in such diverse places as Provence, Africa, China, and Australia. The plants are crushed and then macerated in 96% (192 proof alcohol), the best solvent to extract all of the active properties to make the tincture.
As one of the four remaining herbalists in Paris, Mr. Raveneau is passionate about his profession and worried that it is a dying art, particularly because of a new European Directive limiting the sale of herbal products, the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive, that will come into force on April 30, 2011.
This extremely informative tour was organized by the company, Meeting the French. As mentioned in my earlier post about the hat maker, I really want to be able to recommend their services to my visitors and I will, with a few disclaimers. Even though the tour was offered as an English speaking tour, Mr. Raveneau does not speak English and Meeting the French did not provide a translator. Fortunately, a very kind Frenchwoman, Mariette, offered to translate for the 4 English speaking people. Additionally, the tour was supposed to be limited to a maximum number of 8, yet there were 11 participants.
Herboristerie de la place Clichy
87 rue d'Amsterdam
In spite of my disclaimers, I'm going to continue taking tours with Meeting the French because they provide access to the hidden parts of Paris that are proving to be of the most interest to me.