1924 - 2024

Paris was trying to … but didn’t get the 2012 Olympic Games. Now there is a new serious try and the hopes are great that the 2024 Summer Games will take place in Paris. The decision by the Olympic Committee is expected in September. 
It would be a 100 years’ jubilee – here are a few photos from the Paris games in 1924, and we can see Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937), “the father” of the modern Olympic Games, and two multiple gold medal winners, Johnny Weissmuller (1904-1984) and Paavo Nurmi (1897-1973).  
Paris also had the more modest Games in 1900, the second Games after the very first ones in Athens in 1896. The swimming took place in the Seine River. The intention is to make the 2024 Games very ecological and part of the challenge is that some swimming events (triathlon, 10 km race…) again will take place in a clean(er) Seine River.  (From 1900, we can here also see the winner of a hurdle race and the first individual female Olympic Champion, Charlotte Cooper.)
The “24” logo can now be found a bit everywhere, including on the walls of the Montparnasse Tower.

Last Friday and Saturday, June 23-24, some special promotional events had been organised. The most spectacular feature was perhaps the 100 meters floating track, to be found between the Alexandre III and the Invalides Bridges. A race was organised – for fun - with some actual and past Olympic French athletes… followed by other races between schoolkids. .

The races were watched by a large number of young kayakers, who had made their way down the River.   
A special diving board had been prepared on the Allexandre III Bridge… and some divers made it into the River. (Sorry, my photos are lousy… One issue with these events is that unless you are part of the official “Press”, it’s almost impossible to find a place from where you can watch and take decent photos!)

The lawns in front of the Invalides offered an initiation to different team sports. I could recognise one or two well-known “instructors”.

Schoolkids were all over the place!

In front of the Petit Palais we could watch some bikers…

… and the following day, Saturday, I found other bikers, younger or older, who for a few hours had got the right to make a number of tours around the Arch of Triumph. 

Back “home”, I discovered that in “my” park, the pedestals which have been empty since the WWII years, now had got some new “statues” in the Olympic spirit.   


I should have booked….

This was yesterday evening. Yes, it was the evening after a very hot day (some 37°C, 100 °F) and it was the “Fête de la Musique” (World Music Day)….  Didn’t feel like, having the energy, to go for all the places where music was played, like previous years, I just wanted to have a little meal with some friends in my immediate neighbourhood. I should of course have booked a table. This is what we met. This is actually what I like about the area where I live - the number of nice bars and restaurants… but it was a bit of a fight before we found a place to sit.  These pictures were all taken in an area within one or two minutes’ walk from my flat – yes, it’s a nice area!

The alternative could have been a picnic in the nearby park, but…. (pictures taken 9 pm).  



I already wrote about the Madeleine Church, e.g. here and here, but walking by the other day I was struck by the ongoing cleaning and renovation job and thought I must have a new look. The cleaning really makes you observe “details” that you normally just may neglect, see top picture.

Here we have some views of the “before”, “during” and “after” cleaning.

The Madeleine Church has a rather curious history… In 1753 Louis XV decided to have a church built here, ten years later the works commenced. The original architect died in 1777, was replaced … However, the church was not yet ready, when the Revolution of 1789 stopped it all – with ideas to transform the future building to a “Temple of the Revolution”. Then Napoleon had the idea to create a temple dedicated to the glory of his army and there were other ideas about the use… library, ballroom, bank, Court…

When the royalty was back in power in 1815, Louis XVIII decided that the building after all was going to be a church, dedicated to Mary Magdalene – we can see her kneeling here. The works continued slowly… and as late as 1837, there were even some plans to use the building for a future railway station. Finally, in 1842 the building was consecrated as a church.

There are some 30 or 40 Saints around the church. So far only Saint Denis seems to have been cleaned.

The flowers on the steps in front of the Church have been there now for a couple of years. A place for a nice relaxing moment on a sunny day – with a nice view.

The front doors are worth a closer look, inspired by the Florence Baptistery and Ghiberti. They are by a rather unknown Henri de Triqueti (1804-1874) who also decorated a fantastic Albert Memorial Chapel at Windsor.

A few shots from the interior. The Cavaillé-Coll organ has been there since 1845 and has had some famous titular organists like Camille Saint-Saëns (between 1858-77) and Gabriel Fauré (between 1896-1905).

What is really quite special is the fresco in the nave from 1838 by Jules-Claude Ziegler (1804-1856) – “The History of Christianity”.  Once again we can see Mary Magdalena… but also some historic kings and rulers… and also Muhammad, Luther… and in the very front – Napoleon!

Not really within the subject, but I wonder what is happening to what is supposed to be one of the most beautiful public toilets in the world? It’s been closed for a couple of years. I wrote about it here, when it was still open.

Maybe also a reminder that you, for a yearly subscription of 5 Euros, can have a good lunch for 8.50 Euros in a restaurant in the basement of the church.   


Square d'Ajaccio

This little square, Square d’Ajaccio, was created in 1865 – and was as a large part of the Paris parks and squares designed by Jean-Charles Alphand (1817-1891). Originally it had the name of Square des Invalides. It’s actually very close to the Hôtel des Invalides (see my previous posts here) and is somehow a “twin” to another little square, “Square Santiago-du-Chili” (see previous post). Why has this square got the name of Ajaccio? I haven’t found any answer… maybe because of the nearby tomb of Napoleon – Ajaccio was his birth town.

There isn’t too much to say about the little park as such, only that it’s well kept…

… and that when you look up through the trees, you can find some well-known monuments.

There are three more modest monuments to be found in the square - a statue, “La défense du foyer”, a bronze medallion of Hippolyte Taine and a statue of a general, Henri Gouraud. Some explanations may be useful?  

The statue “La défense du foyer” (The defense of the family) was made in 1887 by Emile-André Boisseau (1842-1923). There are tens of thousands of copies in bronze of this statue. One of them was recently sold by Sotheby’s for some 7.500 USD. Boisseau is also represented at the Orsay and Louvre museums and he has decorated a number of graves at the Montmartre and Père Lachaise cemeteries.

There is thus a bronze medaillon of Hippolyte Taine (1828-1893) who was a critic and historian and he obviously had a large influence on French literature and intellectual culture for a while. The medallion is made by Oscar Roty (1846-1911) who was a celebrated medalist and also professor and even president of the “Académie des Beaux-Arts”. Roty is today perhaps best known as the designer of the “Semeuse” image on French silver coins and stamps. On the net you can even find a photo of the model of the “Semeuse”.  

Henri Gouraud (1867-1946) was a French general, known for having led the Fourth Army during WWI (when he lost his right arm), for having served 1919-23 as representative of the French government in Middle East and then as High Commissioner in Syria and Lebanon. 1923-1937 he was the Military Governor of Paris. I don’t know who made his statue.


Ground Control

Last year I reported on a site named the “Grand Train” (see here). Temporary bars, restaurants, playground… were offered in a former railroad depot in the 18th arrondissement. This kind of activity continues one year after the other, but the spot changes. The basic idea is to, in cooperation with the National Railway Company (SNCF) and in a temporary way, use space before demolition and new building projects.

Opened only during the summer months, this summer (and next summer) the place chosen under the work name “Ground Control” is close to the Gare de Lyon, in the 12th arrondissement. “Halle Charolais” is a former warehouse and mail sorting centre. In two years a new housing project will get started. In the meantime, you can enjoy a different atmosphere, buy a book, get things to eat and drink with an emphasis on organic, ecological products… or just sit down and relax.