I’m afraid I will have to close the “shop” for a while once more. I will be absent and busy – in Sweden again – for some two or three weeks.


Hôtel Dieu

Back in Paris (I’m not the only one)! I went to the real centre of Paris, “point zero”, which is incrusted in the pavement just in front of Notre Dame. This is the point to which all distances to Paris are calculated.

The parvis, the open space, in front of the Notre Dame has something else which everybody may not notice. There are traces and plates in the pavement indicating that the place was full of buildings and tiny streets and alleys until Haussmann transformed Paris during the 19th century. (This was the case all over Paris, including around the Louvre.)

One of the buildings in front of Notre Dame was the oldest hospital in Paris, Hôtel Dieu, created in 651, known under different names (Hôpital Saint-Christophe, Hôpital Notre Dame) until it seems to have got the name Hôtel Dieu (Domus Dei, the House or Hostel of God) during the 12th century.

On the old relief plan of Paris (1739), you can see that the hospital then covered a large area, on both sides of the river, connected by the Pont au Change bridge, with hospital buildings. (The present bridge with the same name dates from the 19th century, see also my previous post.) At their peak, the old hospital buildings housed some 9.000 patients, up to six for one bed!
The old Hôtel Dieu was replaced by the present one, built 1868-1878. It covers a large area on the left side of the Notre Dame parvis, just in front of where the old one used to be.

The new one was for those days very spacious and modern and supposed to receive maximum some 800 “guests”. It’s still in very active use, today together with some other 20 hospitals inside the Paris borders.
One detail is the coloured statue. It is supposed to represent a famous surgeon from the 18th century, but the local hospital students have a habit to repaint every year. You can see some samples of different looks here.
I wish you a nice weekend!



Before leaving the south, a short visit to Pont-du-Gard, an aqueduct built by the Romans, during the early or middle of the 1st century. It’s part of a total aqueduct system bringing water from close to Uzez to Nîmes (Nemausus during Roman times), totally some 50 km (31 miles) – not going quite as straight as indicated on the map. It had a for those days heavy capacity of some 20.000 cubic meters (5 million gallons) a day.

The Pont-du-Gard crosses the small river Gardon, affluent to the Rhône River, which is beautiful and good for bathing and canoeing etc...
It is believed that it took some three years to build Pont-du-Gard, involving maybe 1000 workers. The heavy stones, several tons each, were made to fit perfectly together without use of mortar.

The real aqueduct part is on the third level – followed by a tunnel on the south bank. You can now make a guided tour. During my first visit here some 40 years ago together with my future wife, we could walk freely everywhere, including on the stones covering the aqueduct.

To the lower level, used as bridge for horses and pedestrians, was added a real road bridge in 1743. You can see some “tagging” from the 18th and 19th century. This bridge was open for traffic until a few years ago, when the whole area became pedestrian, got a museum etc.

The Pont-du-Gard is part of UNESCO’s list of World Heritage sites since 1985.

When we visited together with grandkids, it was a hot day, including quite a bit of climbing to get the best views. It was really nice to make a lunch break under the linden-trees.



I’m back from some good two weeks in Provence, together with family – and meeting some blogger friends. Most of the time I spent in Arles, on which I already made a post on my previous blog, some two years ago, so this may be some kind of repetition. Anyhow...

Arles has a long Greek, Celtic and Roman history and the city has still a number of more or less complete buildings from those but also from medieval times.
The days were hot and it was nice to find some refreshments in the gardens ... and especially in the bars and restaurants.
I did not make use of any of the fully booked hotels. (The statue is of the province’s most famous poet, Frédéric Mistral, Nobel Prize winner 1904.)
Of course the reputation of Arles is to a large extent linked to Vincent van Gogh, who spent some very productive months here 1888-89, joined...

... by Paul Gauguin, who portrayed Vincent.

Picasso was a frequent visitor, especially for watching the bull fighting in the old Roman arena. He offered a large number of paintings and drawings to the city, which you can find in one of the city’s many museums (Musée Réattu), most of them representing Arles ladies (“arlésiennes”). One painting (from 1937, the same year as Guernica, with Lee Miller supposed to be the model) is inspired by van Gogh’s portrait of Madame Ginoux, his landlady.
Another famous lady of Arles is of course the person with the so far longest confirmed lifespan, Jeanette Calmant; she died at the age of 122 in 1997. (She met van Gogh when she was 13.)

Other Arles personalities include fashion designer Louis Féraud and the Gipsy Kings. Another fashion designer, Christian Lacroix, was also born in Arles and there is of course a small Lacroix shop to be found. Actes Sud, an important book publisher, and Harmonia Mundi, a famous label especially for classical music, have their homes in Arles.
Arles pretends to be a European centre for photography with French National School of Photography. This year takes place the 40th Photography Festival, with exhibitions all over the city. It’s a must for all the world’s leading photographers to exhibit here.
Several exhibitions take place at some by the French Railways abandoned workshops; a large area which is under transformation (by Frank Gehry) to an “image city”, planned to be ready latest 2013, when Arles, in cooperation with the close bigger city Mareseille and Aix-en-Provence has been chosen to be European Capital of Culture.

However, what I personally prefer about Arles is just to walk around the old houses and the narrow streets, just feeling the atmosphere.
... and of course the beaches of the Mediterranean are not far away!


Heading south for a while...

I will be off for some two or three weeks, not in the direction of this lighthouse, which is not to be found on the French coastline but is there to attract visitors to a Paris fish market (69, rue Castagnary, Paris 15).

I will rather again take the direction illustrated by these images, down to the south of France, spending some time with family and friends.

I will thus more or less leave the blogosphere for a while – should be back last week of August... although among the friends I expect to meet, there will certainly also be some bloggers.

Take care! See you (rather) soon!