Avenue Foch

When the Avenue Foch was created in the 1860’s, Napoleon III wanted it to be the most beautiful avenue in the world. It was given the name of Avenue de l’Impératrice, his wife. It later got the name of Avenue du Bois and in 1922, Avenue Foch, after Ferdinand Foch, Marshal and supreme commander of the allied armies during the end of WW I, co-signer of the armistice.

When the avenue was opened, the Bois de Boulogne (see previous post) had just been created and attracted crowds. It’s 1,2 km (0,75 miles) long, goes from l’Etoile to the Bois and, as you can see on the map, it’s much wider – 120 m (130 yards) - than the Champs Elysées. In addition to the large driving lanes (originally for horses) in the midle, there is plenty of walking and green space... and then again more narrow streets in front of the buildings.

At one end of the avenue, you find thus Place de l’Etoile (Place Charles de Gaulle) with the Arch of Triumph (see previous posts).
At the other end, Porte Dauphine, is a memorial to another more recent French war hero and marshal, Jean de Lattre de Tassigny, who represented France at the WW II armistice signing. There is also a small railway station, originally built for the “Petite Ceinture”, the railroad which surrounded Paris and connected to the major railway stations – opened in 1852 and closed in the 30’s. This station is still in use for an express metro line. You can also buy your newspaper in a typical “kiosque” and find another “Guimard” metro station. One entrance is one of the few remaining with a protecting roof. (See previous posts about Guimard.) Some of the “hôtels particuliers” (private mansions) that were originally built along the avenue have been replaced, but a few remain like the private Paris home for the Grimaldi (Monaco) family and the Angolan Embassy. Today, you find mostly apartment houses ... but what apartments! Here is where you will find some of the most expensive flats in Paris. I will not make a list of the world wide celebrities who live or who have lived here, but they are numerous. As it’s often only one residence among others that these people own or rent, it’s striking to see how many window shields that are closed. There seems to be a slight price difference between the (sunny) north side and the south side. You can enjoy some 66 000 m² (15 acres) of green space. Some of the trees - a large variety – are huge, seem to be there since the creation of the avenue and many are certainly more than 100 years old. It’s a perfect place to read your newspaper, to walk your dog... Again, some room has been made for wild flowers! As there is a considerable amount of space – and trees - between the traffic and the buildings, I don’t believe that the noise is a major disturbance here, but if you really want it calm, you could perhaps consider Square Avenue Foch, a private street and square (see map above). No names of who lives here, but the building with some red is the Singapore Embassy.


Bois de Boulogne

Walking around the lakes of the Bois de Boulogne, I was once again happy to find that the Paris gardeners now leave some (more and more) space for wild flowers....

Paris is a relatively small city, encircled by the Pereferique (ring road), with “only” some 2 million inhabitants (some 10 million in the Paris urban area).

There are more than 400 parks, gardens and green squares in Paris – and it’s getting greener every year. Totally it’s said to be Europe’s greenest capital. This includes then of course the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes, which somehow are just annexed, but each one covers an area which is two or three times larger than Central Park or Hyde Park.

Last week I had thus a walk around the major lakes in the Bois de Boulogne in a nice early autumn weather.

Before talking about the lakes, what else can you find in the Bois de Boulogne which is officially part of Paris since 1852 and before that was a place for bandits, later for Royal hunting etc.?

There are two hippodromes - Auteuil (created 1873) for steeplechase racing and Longchamp (created 1857) for flat racing, a small amusement park for children with a menagerie - Jardin d’Acclimatation (opened 1860), the Parc Bagatelle (opened 1835) with a famous rose garden and, in the extreme south, you find the Tennis Stadium Roland Garros (first tournament 1891), where the French Championships (one of the four slams) are held. There are also a number of private sporting clubs, some nice restaurants... and a lot of space for walking, running, biking, horse riding, fishing ... and also eating and drinking in some nice restaurants. (During the dark hours you find also prostitutes.) Since its creation, the Bois (the Woods) has been a popular place, especially to spend part of your weekend. During the week, it’s very calm – as you can see.

The major lakes (Lac Supérieur and Lac Inférieur) were artificially created during the 1850’s. The Lower Lake, the bigger one, has two islands in the middle, with a bridge in between. You can reach them (and a restaurant) only by a small ferry (1€). On the islands it’s even calmer. I met what I believe is a heron. It was so kind of posing (no zoom needed) that I have to give room for three photos.

Once again, it's Friday. I wish you a very nice weekend!


Eiffel Tower (3)

As a last post on the Eiffel Tower, maybe some more technical pictures and data?

Using the stairs (between level 0 and 2) allows you to see some details of the structure of the Tower. The top picture refers to the painting of the Tower. It has been painted 17 times since it was constructed for the Universal Exhibition in 1889, in average every seven years. As we can see, the colours have changed six or seven times (red-brown, yellow-ochre, chestnut brown...) Today the colour is described as bronze. A new painting procedure is supposed to start by the end of 2008. It will involve some 60 tons of paint and will normally take a year and a half for some 25 painters.

You may know that there were severe protests against the building of the Tower (by those days’ newspapers described as a “tragic street lamp", a "belfry skeleton", a "high and skinny pyramid of iron ladders", an "odious column of bolted metal", a "half built factory pipe"...) - housing costs nearby declined. It was supposed to last for 20 years. It was somehow saved by the need of technical equipment (telegraph, radio...). Today, the top of the Tower is very technical.

Remarkable for the time was that the Tour was already from the beginning – 1889 – equipped with lifts. They have been replaced since, but some of the machinery (designed by Eiffel) dates from 1899 (modernised, computerised since). The lifts make more than 100 000 km (65 000 miles) per year, for the pleasure of the 6 or 7 million / year visitors. The hydraulic pump you can see here, which supplied water to the machinery of the lifts between the second and third level, was dismantled in 1983 - today exposed on level one.

The Tour moves a little bit, but very little. During the strongest storm ever registered in Paris (1999), the movement was 13 cm (5 inches) – it is built to support three times more. During very hot summer days, there can be a difference of 18 cm (7 inches) between the sunny and the shadowy side of the Tower.

Maybe some more data:

Height: Originally 300 m (984 ft), 312 m (1024 ft) with flag on the top, today (with about 120 antennas), 324 m (1063 ft). Highest building in the world until 1929 (Chrysler Building, then 319 m = 1047 ft).
Weight: 10 100 tons, whereof iron, 7 300 tons. (Actually totally quite light – the pressure on the ground is not higher than for a normal building of those days.)
Lights (the temporary blue lights excluded): 336 projectors of 600 watts, plus, for the recent blinking lights - see below, some 20 000 bulbs.
Time of construction: 2 years, 2 months, 5 days.
Number of pieces: 18 000, assembled with 2 500 000 rivets.

There are several restaurants and bars. The top chef Alain Ducasse has since the end of 2007 taken over the management of the gourmet restaurant “Jule Vernes” on the second floor (menus 75 – 190 €). Unfortunately, the Champagne Bar on the third floor was closed the day I was there.

The Tower is now also blinking during the evening hours, every hour and for a couple of minutes. I took this photo from Montmartre, January 1, 2008 at 0 hours and in my previous post you can see the Tower blue - and blinking (thanks to Pink Ginger).


Who are you?

I’m a bit curious to know who is the person in Moulineaux (close to Rouen?) who since a couple of days seems to spend a lot of time reading my blog? The same goes for someone in Arlesheim in Switzerland. I’m always pleased to have visitors, but also a bit curious... I would be very much pleased to have some news from these persons... but nothing compulsory!


Eiffel Tower (2)

You can see some people walking on the European map. The photo is zoomed from the top of the Eiffel Tower.

France has the rotating presidency of the European Community (EU) for six months – July / December 2008. During this period, the Eiffel Tower and the Champs de Mars have become very European.

I already made a post about the Tower in blue lights and yellow stars during the evening hours. It will be illuminated like this until the end of the year. On this collage, you can also see what the stars look like during the day.
Beginning September, a large size map (25 x 55 m = 80 x 180 ft) was installed at the feet of the Tower. It will stay there until beginning November. It allows visitors to familiarise a little bit with the 27 member nations. ... already to situate them on a map, but you can also find some short descriptions of each state related to their place on the map. ... and all the national flags are there.
You may ask yourself why - with at present 27 member states - there are only 12 stars in the European map. Actually, the map was created already in 1955 for the Council of Europe and then, in the 80’s, also adopted by the then European Economic Community (EEC) – now the European Community (EU). Rather than changing the flag each time a new member enters, 12 was adopted as a number with no political connotations and as a symbol which you can find in e.g. the number of hours, months, symbols of the zodiac, ounces in a pound (!), pieces in a dozen, semitones in an octave (western music), tables of Roman Law, hues in the colour wheel... There are of course also religious links to 12, which today may be more doubtful as a European reference.

Some ten days ago, I had the previlege to meet Pink Ginger and her partner who visited Paris. She kindly sent me some photos of the blue Tower and, as you can see, she even managed a photo with the combination of the blue and the twinkling lights. Sincere thanks for letting me publish them here!
Related to the European Patrimony Days (this weekend), I made a small extra post, see below.

Patrimony Days

This weekend took place what is called « Les Journées du Patrimoine», the European Patrimony Days. In France some 15 000 sites which normally are closed to public offered “open doors”. (This includes everything from the Presidential Palace to the smallest and unexpected sites, public or private). I chose to make it the soft way this year and attended some very local events, taking place at Batignolles, part of the 17th arrondisement, where I live.

Guided by two persons I have now learnt to know quite well, Rodolphe Trouilleux, Paris historian and author of “Paris Secret et Insolite”, and Lucien Maillard, journalist and writer, I – and many others – walked around in the area, instructing ourselves about what has happened here.

Thanks to Rodolphe I learnt a lot about Paul Verlaine, one of the greatest French poets who spent his younger years at Batignolles. Rodolphe also participated in (and as author also prepared) a very good street theatre play, called “Verlaine et Mathilde” (Mathilde was Verlaine’s wife) involving professional, semi-professional actors and some amateurs. This took place late evening and my photos are not good, but you can visit Rodolphe’s blog.

Together with Lucien, actively assisted by some enthusiastic amateur actors, we learnt “everything” about the anarchist movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries – especially of course in connection with events in our area. (This took place in a wonderful small street, called “La Cité des Fleurs” on which I made posts last year.)


Eiffel Tower (1)

I have now been blogging about Paris since March last year ... and I haven’t yet made a real post about the Eiffel Tower. Of course you see it from everywhere in the city, so it has appeared on my photos now and then, but it has not got its real post. To compensate for this lack, I will now make three posts about it, the two coming with some more specific “details”.

This first one will basically cover only what you can see from the Tower. Normally that’s the major purpose of a visit. The top picture shows you the view towards the Champs de Mars, L’Ecole Militaire and the Tour Montparnasse – one of the few skyscrapers within the city limits.

The first difficulty, when posting about the Tower is that there are thousands of photos taken of it every day, and it’s not easy to make a “different” one. I had only the choice between these four. Maybe the original one is the one with the Swedish flag in front of it? I will revert to the reason for the flag in my next post. You have to queue if you want to reach the top. You can to some extent reduce the waiting by using the steps (some 700) to the second floor – which I did. You will then only have to line up for the (compulsory) lift to the third and last floor.

I tried to put a number of photos together in order to give you the complete 360° view from the top. Below, you can find zoomed photos (I have made links to previous posts about some of these spots):

The first collage shows from top left to bottom right: La Défense (office buildings, just outside Paris – behind the Bois de Boulogne; Hotel Concorde-Lafayette at Porte Maillot (another of Paris’ few skyscrapers); Grand Palais and Petit Palais – two exhibitions halls from the World Fair 1900, the Alexander III Bridge and Place de la Concorde; the Louvre. The second collage shows in the same order: Les Invalides; the Arch of Triumph at Place Charles-de-Gaulle / L’Etoile; Notre Dame; Sacré Coeur; one of the most extravagant Art Nouveau buildings in Paris, by Lavirotte (Avenue Rapp); the copy of the Statue of Liberty, facing New York. While using the stairs on the way up I took several other pictures. Here are two additional ones: One over the Trocadéro (La Défense in the background), the second one with a few prominent buildings – Notre Dame, Les Invalides, Saint Eustache and the Pantheon.
If it helps some of you to localize these places in the Paris geography, here is a plan. It's Friday again! I wish you a nice weekend!


Looking for caviar, goose liver… ?

Where the Madeleine Church (L’Eglise Sainte-Marie-Madeleine) now is standing was previously an old church (which was a synagogue until the 12th century). It was then already consecrated to Mary Magdalene. There were different projects during the 18th century to construct a new one, more appropriate to the distinguished surroundings (Place de la Concorde - see previous posts).

Below you can see what it could have looked like. Work had started when the Revolution arrived and then of course it was discussed whether to transform it to a library, a ballroom, a market place... In 1806 Napoleon decided to transform the future building to a “Temple to the Glory of the Great Army”. Finally, during the Restoration, it was again decided to make it a church, although later there were some discussions to possibly make it a railway station. The building was finally consecrated as a church in 1842.

The church is in a neo-classical style, very much in fashion during the 18th and early 19th century (see previous posts about Pantheon, National Assembly...). It’s today one of the most prestigious churches in Paris, used for masses, fashionable weddings and funerals and even more for very good concerts.
Around the place, you can find some of the most exclusive food shops in Paris. If you are a fan of caviar, goose liver... and what goes with it when it comes to drinking, this is a place to go. One of Paris’ best restaurants is here, there are some fashionable shops....

Leading to the place is also one of Paris’ many covered galleries (Galérie de la Madeleine). (See previous posts about similar galleries or passages*.) The place has also a nice "flower market".

There is also an exhibition hall (Pinacothèque), where until last weekend you could discover the famous Chinese Terracotta Army (which I have been lucky enough to see in real in Xi’an – here is the “proof”).
At last I believe I must once more (see previous post) advise a visit to one of the world’s most beautiful public places to “wash your hands”. It’s free of charge and you can find it on the right side of the church stairs. */
Galérie Colbert, Galérie Viro-Dodat, Galérie Vivienne, Passage des Deux Pavillons, Passage Hulot

Passage Jouffroy, Passage Prado, Passage des Panoramas
Passage Vendôme
Passage Brady
Passage Bourg l’Abbé, Passage du Grand Cerf


An ordinary Saturday afternoon

Last Saturday was an ordinary Saturday. In the afternoon I took a walk to the two parks which are both in about one or two minutes distance from my flat. One – Square des Batignolles - is old and is there since some 150 years, the other one – Parc Clichy-Batignolles - was opened only last year and is not yet quite finished*.

What did I see?

I noticed that the Bar-headed (high-flying) Goose had been luckier than last year (see several posts); she walked proudly around with her kids.

I also noted that some birds take their siesta standing on one leg. (I understand that they sleep shortly and don’t lose their muscle tone during the sleep... they can even sleep while swimming and possibly also during long flights!) In “my” parks, as elsewhere in Paris, I noticed that more space has been given to wild flowers; a good idea in my mind. I could also notice that the bees are still busy. In the new park, a pond has just been opened and I could see that water lilies of four different colours have been planted. In the new park they have also installed what seem to be quite nice toilets. I was impressed to see that the instructions (“Maximum time of use: 15 minutes”) are written in four languages, including in “Braille” for the blind. (It seems that the basis for the system was created for Napoleon who wanted a means of silent communication during the night, without light. The idea was later, in 1821, developed by Louis Braille.)

You can find some old rails in the new park; it used to be a rail yard. In the new park, there was a competition in skateboarding between young kids. Some older kids excelled in roller skates. In the palm house (containing one lemon tree) in the old park, people were preparing a photo exhibition. The local clown (he’s everywhere and all the time) had decided to inaugurate an old (empty) pedestal to honour a regretted French humorist, Pierre Desproges. Maybe one day there will also be a statue on the pedestal. Some young did some authorised graffiti. Others (older generation) played petanques, others (younger generation) played basket ball. ... an ordinary Saturday afternoon.

*/ I have made a number of posts on these parks already. You can find them under different labels:
1, 2, 3.

Normally, I should today have made a post on a mid-month subway theme that I share with some other bloggers. Sorry, but I had nothing of interest to show. Hope to be back next month. Here are the links to the other participants: