I'm off for a week or so...

I'm again off for a visit to my old mother - and some friends - in Sweden. Should be back - and posting - again around March 4.

My mother is the one in the middle in the front line, surrounded by parents, sisters and brother (two still to come).


Le Bon Marché

In the 7th arrondissement there is a small garden park called Square Boucicaut with some interesting buildings around.

The square is named after Aristide and Marguerite Boucicaut who in 1852 launched what may obviously be considered as the first real department store in the world. It kept the name “Le Bon Marché” - which could mean “cheapness”, or maybe rather should be interpreted as the “good bargain”? - from a previous shop founded in 1838 in which they had been associated for a few years. It was a great success and in 1869 the present large main building was launched, opening in the early 1870’s. The architect (Louis-Charles Boileau) asked for help by Gustave Eiffel for the structure of the building. (The escalators have of course been added later, designed by Andrée Putman.)

The success story continued. The employees were obviously well treated with a lot of social advantages, not so common those days. Other adjacent buildings were added. Today, this is probably the most luxury oriented department store in Paris. This is the place you rather would go if you want something of a certain standard. You find also a very nice bookshop and what I believe must be the food store with the largest assortment in Paris. I checked the olive oils; there were some 50 brands to choose from.

Since 1984, Le Bon Marché belongs to the LMVH group (Bernard Arnault) and is definitely now a luxury department store, where you of course can buy what you “need” of the other brands of the group (Louis Vuitton, Loewe, Kenzo, Givenchy, Marc Jacobs, Dior Perfumes, Guerlain, Chaumet, TAG Heuer...). The show window decoration is also quite special.

One of the adjacent buildings, originally used as warehouse by “Le Bon Marché” and obviously also with Eiffel involved in the design, is today partly occupied by The Conran Shop, specialising in exclusive modern furniture and household goods.

In 1910, Mrs. Boucicaut (the husband died in 1877) had a big hotel, Lutetia, built on the other side of the square to accommodate travelling clients. This is still the only “palace” on the left bank. Considering the standard of the hotel, the customers did already then not all go to “Le Bon Marché” to buy cheap stuff.

In the immediate neighbourhood, there are some other interesting buildings including the “Missions Etrangères” (Foreign Missions) and the last home of Chateaubriand.


A few traces... addendum

This is just a short complement to my post about “A few traces...” from last week.

David told me that the biggest traces of bombing can be found on a bank building fairly close to the Opéra Garnier (crossing Rue du 4 Septembre – Rue de Choiseul), so I went there to take some photos. He was right. This bombing took obviously place, again during WWI, January 30, 1918, and created serious damage and casualties around the city.
Someone – anonymous – asked about the remnants of the executions of communards at the Père Lachaise cemetery (see previous post) in 1871. There is an inscription on one of the walls of the cemetery (“Mur des Fédérés”) where the execution of 147 communards took place, but the wall has been rebuilt. Some of the bullet holes can however be found elsewhere; a monument has been created outside the northern wall of the cemetery (Square Samuel Champlain) where some of the original stones were a few decades later used to create a memorial (by Paul Moreau-Vauthier). I’m sorry for the abandoned look of this memorial which, in addition, I had to picture from a distance – the access to the square was closed for refreshment works (hopefully including the cleaning up of the memorial).
Well... I think I must also report that the spring has started to show some signs in "my" park! (Maybe two weeks later than last year.)

I wish you a nice weekend!


Saint Martin des Champs - Art et Métiers

Well, as I showed the metro station “Arts et Métiers” in a previous post (last Sunday), it seems logical that we now make a visit to what you can find on the ground, above the station. What was created during the revolutionary years (in 1794) as the National Conservatory for Arts and Crafts (Arts et Métiers) is still today a higher education state establishment, and since 1802 also a fabulous museum. Originally this was the Priory (or Abbey) of Saint-Martin-des-Champs (St.Martin-in-the-Fields), with very old origins, officially (re)founded in 1060, then well outside the city limits. It’s amazing to see the surface St.Martin – together with the nearby Temple – occupied. St. Martin played for centuries a great role in the French religious history and had some famous priors, including Richelieu.
Contrary to what happened with the Temple (see previous post), some of the old buildings of St.Martin were left to the posterity after the Revolution, including churches, chapels and also a refectory which now is the library of the Conservatory (same architect as the Sainte Chapelle (see previous post) – Peter de Montereau). Some new Conservatory buildings were added during the 19th century and two big new streets crossed the area, including Rue Réaumur (see previous posts), which even made its way between two of the churches, St. Martin and St.Nicolas-des-Champs (see previous post) – see the difference between the 1739 map and today.

The St. Martin church is now part of the museum, the most spectacular from architectural point of view. It was built between the 12th and 14th centuries. This is where you can find some of the bigger objects (top picture) like steam engines, cars and even some of the early aeroplanes including one on which Louis Blériot crossed the Channel in 1909. This is also where you today find (a copy of) the Foucault Pendulum (the original is now transferred to the Panthéon – see previous post), which proves that the globe is rotating. (Umberto Eco’s book “Foucault’s Pendulum” is clearly related to the “Art et Métiers” Museum.)

The museum has totally some 80.000 objects and some 15.000 drawings to testify how techniques of different kinds have developed during centuries. You can see the first photographic equipment (Daguerre...), the first telephones, radios, televisions, calculating machines (one of them is a copy of the one I had on my desk in my first job!), computers, satellites... There are also models of some important construction work, including the NY version of the Statue of Liberty. (In previous posts I have talked about the original statue in the Luxembourg Gardens, about the place where the NY version was constructed...). Of course, a great number of beautiful early precision instruments, clocks... are also exposed. I also found the 1948 model of my 2008 Solex (today electrically driven)!


No post today....

I normally post on Mondays. As I exceptionally made a post yesterday, a Sunday, there will be no post today. (I hope I will be forgiven!) See you again Wednesday!


Mid-month theme - subways

Well... normally I don’t post on Sundays but today is the 15th of the month, meaning that it’s time for the mid-month theme “subways” which I share with bloggers from New York, Stockholm, Budapest ... and now also from London. Mo (you can see her portrait here), with a blog called “Fresh Eyes on London” kindly offered to join the team.

You can find today’s and some related posts by using the following links:

New York City Daily BlogStockholm by pixelsBudapest by Andrea GerakFresh Eyes on LondonPeter’s Paris.

(You can also find some other related older posts on my previous blog via this link: PHO.)

This is a quite different Paris métro station, “Arts et Métiers”. It was designed by the Belgian illustrator François Schuiten in 1994 to mark the bicentury of the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers (National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts) and its museum which are served by this station. It‘s intended to remind about Jules Verne, completely covered by copper – including the dust-bins. Through a number of port-holes you can see models of different technical inventions, which you can study in full size in the museum just above the station (which I will revert on soon).

Please note that “Arts et Métiers” is served by two lines, no. 3 and no. 11. To see this decoration you must use line 11 (Châtelet-Mairie des Lilas), which was created quite late – in 1935 – partly in order to replace a cable-car service (like in San Francisco) between Place de la République and the hills of Belleville.

My friends know that I have problems to come up with these subway posts. The last two months I have got help from Virginia and Karen. This time (when for once I had something to show) Cergie kindly sent me a very nice photo (see below) from the station “Porte de Vincennes”, being under work (somehow brought back to its original design). In the meantime some old posters appeared. Although I already had something I thought I should also bring this one to you... and remind you that today is Cergie’s birthday! (I actually made a post with a similar subject concerning my “own” metro station, “Brochant”, a couple of months ago.) Happy Birthday Cergie!


Northern Marais

It seems a bit unclear which exact areas are included in what you call the Marais (The Marsh... or referring to Market-gardens). Some indications are according to the red line on this plan, but I believe that the borders are a bit vague. Basically we talk about the major parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, which were hardly touched by the 19th century Haussmannian restructuring of Paris and which were definitely saved by laws and decrees in the 1960’s; since then this area is slowly being rehabilitated. I have taken some freedom with the more or less official borders during a walk through the northern parts of the area (partly in heavy rain – sorry for the raindrops, also on the lens!), including what is within the orange dotted line.

I have already made posts about the central parts of the Marais including Place des Vosges, of the St.Paul area and more recently about what you find just behind the Paris Town Hall. There are also things to see north of the Picasso Museum, which is housed in an old 17th century “hôtel particulier” since 1985 and which at the moment has a Daniel Buren (famous for his Columns at Palais Royal) exposition including an enormous mirror, doubling – or cutting ? – the surface of the courtyard.

There are a lot of landmarks if you really start to look closely, but first I would rather talk about a general feeling. This northern part of the Marais is much less visited and somehow gives a more authentic atmosphere. As you can see, there are a lot of old narrow streets, cobble stones, backyards (you have to push the door gates), cafés... and also a real barber shop, not mentioning a small message to celebrate February 14th.

 Some special words about a few places (I will be back with more one day):

The Saint-Nicolas-des-Champs Church was originally part of the Abbey of Saint-Martin-des-Champs (to which I will soon revert). With 12th century origins, the present church dates from 1420 with modifications during the 16th and 17th century. As most other churches, it suffered from the Revolution and lost a great deal of its decoration, but quite a bit was saved. Especially the retable from 1629 is remarkable and there are a number of paintings by artists like Claude Vignon, Georges Lallement.... The problem, like in many churches, is that they are in the dark and not easy to see, nor to photograph.
The Saint-Denys-du-Saint-Sacrement Church is more recent, from 1835. It replaced a Benedictine chapel. It may especially be worth a visit for a mural painting by Delacroix from the 1840’s, the “Deposition of the Cross”, also referred to as the Pieta.

Le Marché des Enfants Rouges has an odd name which can be translated as the Market of the Red Children. It dates from 1615 and is actually the oldest still existing covered market in Paris. The name has its origins in a nearby orphanage, created in 1534 and which remained until the 18th century. The children wore red uniforms. It’s a modest market, space wise, and the entrances are hardly visible. It was threatened to be demolished a few years ago, but is now obviously saved. You cannot only buy food here, but there are also a number of small bars and bistrots. It’s worth a visit for its atmosphere (39, rue de Bretagne).

A building on rue Volta has sometimes been claimed to be the oldest still remaining in Paris. This seems now not to be true, but I believe it’s still under discussion whether it dates from the 13th, 14th ... or the 17th century. Most sources claim that the oldest one is the Nicolas Flamel buiding (see previous post). Just round the corner is Rue au Maire, which obviously was the first little China Town in Paris, since then followed by several others, more important.

I wish you a nice weekend!

As the 15th this month is on Sunday I will make an exception to my normal "rules" and then - although it's the weekend - post under the mid-month theme "subways", where now also London will participate.


The Temple

(No, the "temple" is not the small wooden thing with a pigeon on top you see on the photo.)

Of what used to be called the Temple, hardly anything remains. Today you can visit a small park, Square du Temple, but here you will find nothing which reminds you of what the Temple used to be. However, some very minor traces do exist. But, let’s first try to get an idea of what the Temple really was.
Originally the Temple was a medieval fortress, built for the Knights Templar (or the Order of the Temple) during the 13th century. As this Order was dissolved soon later (“tough” actions by the Avignon Pope Clement V, King Philip IV... ), the Knights Hospitaller (of Jerusalem, Rhodes, Malta...) took over and remained until the Revolution.

On the plans I show here, you can see what the Temple looked like in 1739 (from the Turgot plan), including church, chapel, hospital.... Some special attention is of course drawn to the Tour du Temple (the Temple Tower, the “Grosse Tour”, “Grosse Tower”, “Grande Tour”) which dates from 1306. It served immediately partly as prison, more and more with the time. It’s especially known for having been the prison of the Royal family after the Revolution. Louis XVI left directly from here to the guillotine (see previous posts); Marie-Antoinette was transferred to the Conciergerie (see previous post) for a short while, before it was her turn.... Compared to the 1739 plan, some modifications had already taken place when the Royal Family arrived in 1792. Obviously some of the walls were already demolished. The “Grosse Tour”, which had its place just behind the park corner you can see on the top picture (traces have been painted in the street just behind - in front of the local 3rd arrondissement Town Hall), was destroyed in 1808, and soon also most of the other buildings. The home of the “Grand Prior” which in the meantime had been used as home of members or “friends” of the Royal family (the young Mozart was invited to play here) remained until the middle of the 19th century and the Haussmann modifications.

What remains than today of the Temple?

Hardly anything. The doors of the “Grosse Tour” can be found at the Château de Vincennes (photo from Wikipedia) and a wall corner tower remains in the yard, between some apartment buildings which you cannot access (unless living there or being invited of course). (See plan above.)

The doors of the gate to a house close by (1 rue Saint-Claude) are said to come from the “Grand Prior” building. (It happens also to be the place where an impostor, Joseph Balsamo, “Count of Cagliostro”, lived in the 1780’s. He was heavily involved in an affair called the “Collier de la Reine” (Queen’s Necklace).

After the demolition, the park, Square du Temple, was created. Just north of it, a first covered market was built in 1811, replaced by a large cast iron version in 1863, but a few decades later in its turn partly replaced by apartment buildings. However, a small part of the “Marché du Temple” (specialised in clothes and textiles), the “Carreau du Temple”, remains - today under modification to become a local centre for cultural and sports activities.