29.1.10

Rue Jean Goujon / Place François I

Rue Jean Goujon is close to the area we visited in my two previous posts. Maybe first just a few words about Jean Goujon: He was one of the major sculptors during the French renaissance, born in 1510 and (probably) killed during the St. Bartholomew massacre (1572). We can find his works on (part of) the Louvre facade (see previous post), in the Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois church (see previous post), on the fountain at Square des Innocents (see previous post)...

The street may not be really remarkable, but there are some interesting points. Victor Hugo lived in a small house here in the 1830’s, now disappeared (at the level of the present no. 9), in what was then a green area. This is where he wrote “Notre-Dame-de-Paris”. This is also the period when some of the present buildings started to be erected, several date from the latter part of the 19th century and some are quite recent.

At number 10, you can find the famous portrait photographic studio “Harcourt”, established in 1934. A number of French and international celebrities have got their portrait made here. I show you just one example. If you want your portrait made, be prepared to pay some 2.000 € (2.800 $).

Some of these celebrities used to stay at the elegant neighbour hotel (no. 12), “San Regis”, which used to have the same owner as the even more famous left bank restaurant “La Tour d’Argent” (Monsieur Terrail).

You would now cross Place François I, before finding the rest of the street. The place is surrounded by some elegant buildings.

Especially one originally private mansion can be noted, “Hôtel Clermont-Tonnerre”, built in 1880 (see also top picture). It has later been used by Pierre Cardin who had his fashion house here in the 80’ and 90’s and is today occupied by the personal holding company of François Pinault (owner of Printemps, FNAC, Gucci, La Redoute, Christie’s...), a great fan and owner of contemporary art, which he now exhibits at “Palazzo Grassi” and at the “Dogana di Mare” in Venice.

Continuing on Rue Jean Goujon, at no 15 there is today a church, an Armenian Cathedral, “Saint-Jean-Baptiste”, built in 1903. The address is especially famous for being the place where a wooden hangar, used for charity bazaars was situated. In 1897 some 1000 people, mainly members of the "high society", attended such a bazaar, the "Bazar de la Charité". A cinematography show with some Lumière brothers films was part of the event. The place was too crowded and hot... and took fire. 130 people died, among them the younger sister of the Empress of Austria (the famous “Sissi”). You can read about this much more in detail in a post by Adam (“Invisible Paris”).

Another church was built here in 1903, to commemorate this catastrophe (at no. 23), the “Chapelle de Notre-Dame-de-la Consolation”, today adopted by the Parisian Italian community.

With reference to our Polish friends, at no. 29 you will find the Polish Institute.

I wish you a nice weekend!




27.1.10

Lalique

Walking along the Cours de la Reine and then Cours Albert I (see preceding post), there are a number of buildings of which one may attract our attention (40, Cours Albert I). It was built in 1902 and is especially interesting for its entrance. The doors and what surrounds them were designed by René Lalique (1860-1945), who had a workshop, a show room and also lived here.

René Lalique was a famous glass designer, working as well in “Art Nouveau” as in “Art Deco”. He created vases, jewellery, chandeliers, initiated the manufacturing of “industrial” perfume bottles, participated in the decoration of buildings, the Orient Express, transatlantic steamers...

Luckily enough the doors opened and it was possible to take some photos from the interior, giving some (fade January) light shining through the glass.

The house of Lalique of course still exists, but not here.

The white-framed pictures are from the net, hopefully not under any serious copyright restrictions.

25.1.10

A Queen's Promenade

Walking along the Seine from Place de la Concorde (see previous posts) in the direction of the Eiffel Tower (see previous posts), one would normally be attracted by the river scenes, the Grand Palais (see previous posts), the Petit Palais (see previous post)....

However you would, staying on the right bank (Rive Droite), follow what was created already in the beginning of the 17th century, called the Cours de la Reine (the Queen’s Promenade). Of course the aspect has changed since those days – the surrounding ditches have disappeared -, but it’s still a “green walk” (not really that green in January). You can compare today’s Google map with one from 1739. Part of the promenade has later been renamed Cours Albert I after one of the most popular Belgian kings.

Today it’s a place where a number of statues can be found.

The Statue of Albert I is the first of the statues that we can find along the walk. This is to commemorate his essential role during WWI. It was erected in 1938, four years after his death.

The next statue is of Simon Bolivar, a gift to the city of Paris by the “Bolivarian republics", Venezuela, Colombia, Equator, Peru and Panama.

Then follows the statue of General Lafayette, a gift by the school children of the United States.

The next statue is of an Armenian composer and patriot, Komitas, and is also devoted to the victims of the Armenian genocide 1915-17, certainly involving several hundred thousand, possibly and according to the inscription, 1.5 million.

The last statue along this walk (by Antoine Bourdelle), which you can also see on the top picture, was placed here in 1928 and is consecrated to the Polish poet Mickiewicz (see previous posts) and the Polish – French friendship.

22.1.10

Palais Royal ... during the day

I made a post about Palais Royal at night a couple of days ago and also a post in July 2007, to which you can refer if you wish some more complete coverage and history about the place.

Virginia, as we know, a frequent visitor to Paris, seems to be love with this place and draw my attention to the fact that the “Colonnes de Buren” which have been under restoration for some 15 months, now are visible again. This made me go back to Palais Royal, this time during daytime. Buren, a French artist, placed these columns in the “Cour d’Honneur” of the Palais Royal in 1986. They were supposed to reflect on water, but the “water-pool” was never created. The artist found that the columns after some 15 years had been degraded and menaced to have them destroyed if not restored. Finally they have thus been restored for some 6 million € (= 8,5 million $)! For obvious reasons, this has been severely criticised, including by other artists, desperately waiting for some nice jobs and contracts. Do they look much better today? (Some coins on the top of one of the columns may pay for some of the costs?)

I believe I’m a great friend of contemporary art, which often can be nicely incorporated in older environment, and the columns don’t “disturb” me as such, but...

In the adjacent court, Cour d’Orléans, another (Belgian) artist, Pol Bury, created more or less simultaneously some spheres, which obviously need no restoration, possibly some cleaning.

The Palais Royal was, this grey and rather cold day, almost as empty as it had been when I passed night-time, which may be noticed from the top picture. The garden was almost empty, except for a dog, a bird ... and a rose bud!!!

The lack of leaves on the trees made it easier to notice the richness of the wall decorations.

The relative rarity of people strolling along the galleries made it easier to notice the mosaics on the floor.

It’s interesting to study some of the old shop signs, including wig-makers, lace-makers...

Most of these “-makers” are of course not here anymore and you can instead find some quite fashionable shops, like Stella McCartney, Marc Jacobs...

One of the fashion shops sells vintage models of Chanel, Lanvin, Dior...

... and there are a number of art and antique galleries.

Some of them sell old official orders and decorations. (You can buy them, but of course not wear them, at least publicly!)

One should of course not neglect some cafés and restaurants to which I referred in my previous posts.

I wish you a nice weekend!

20.1.10

What time is it? .... and more

One of the several walls that during centuries were built around Paris was called the Wall of the Farmers-General (see previous post about Paris walls). This one was built not for defence purposes, but for tax collecting, payment of tolls for goods entering Paris. The name “tax farmers” had its origins from the Romans, tax collectors for a specific area. (St. Mathew was one of them, in Capernaum).

This wall started to be built just before the Revolution (as from 1784) and was probably a major factor for the 1789 movements. The tax collection was stopped in 1791, but was resumed in 1798 and abandoned only in 1860, when also the villages outside the wall like Montmartre, Belleville, Batignolles... were incorporated.

There were 62 toll barriers or lodges and if the wall has disappeared and been replaced by large avenues and boulevards, a few of these lodges remain, now – fortunately - with different use; one at Parc Monceau (see previous post), one at Place de Stalingrad / La Vilette (see previous post) and two at Place de la Nation (previously “du Trône”) (see previous post).

My preceding post was about the Catacombs. One of the lodges, at Place Denfert-Rochereau, is where you enter the Catacombs.

On the opposite side of the street there is a “sister lodge”, today occupied by some Paris administrative offices. Under this building is where the French Resistance had their secret headquarters during the last phase leading to the Nazi capitulation of Paris in August 1944. The street between the two buildings has now got the name of Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, a manual worker and communist, active in the International Brigades in Spain 1937-38 and later commanding the French Forces of the Interior (FFI) in the Paris region (Ile-de-France). He directed the Paris strikes and uprising the fortnight before he together with General Leclerc could co-sign the surrender of General von Choltitz, August 25, 1944.

One curious thing can be seen outside this building: A clock with the inscription “VILLE de PARIS – Unification de l’Heure – Centre Horaire” (see top picture). This should thus be (has been) the Paris centre for the “coordination of the hour”; obviously not today in activity: The clock was working but indicated 5:45 (or 17:45) when the real hour was 12:56! I have tried to find some information about this coordination centre, but in vain. Well, today we have the atomic Coordinated Universal Time (UTC). Did you know that because of the slowing globe rotation, leap seconds have to be added today approximately every 500 days and in a century probably every 250 days?

18.1.10

Catacombs

I did not put any picture here on the top of my post; it might have frightened certain of my visitors. Take this as a warning! :-)

First you have to walk down many steps, then follow some long corridors and then you will find what may frighten some of you (us). We are down in what is called the Catacombs, which also could be called the Paris Municipal Ossuary.

These are actually part of the numerous quarries that you can find under large parts of Paris, totally some 280 km (174 miles). In 1785 it was decided to use a small part of the quarries for the evacuation – for insalubrity reasons - of the Innocents cemetery (see previous post), which had been the central Paris cemetery for centuries. The bones were displaced under decent conditions (blessings, processions...). Later, and during the first part of the 19th century, bones were also removed from other Paris cemeteries. It seems that some also arrived here directly from the guillotine. It is estimated that the remainders of some six million Parisians now rest here and the bones and the skulls are to a large extent ranged in good order.
You can visit part of the Catcombes. You enter at Place Denfert-Rochereau, but you will leave them in a small adjacent street after a walk of some 1,7 km (1 mile). I have tried to approximately show you the trace of the corridors you follow. The temperature remains at a stable 14°C (57°F), which is nice a cold winter day and I guess also a hot summer day.

I tried to avoid the flash use, but it’s partly quite dark down there, so you have to live with a rather low photo quality.

15.1.10

Palais Royal ... at night


The “Palais Royal” is today normally to be visited during daytime and perhaps preferably during the greener months. I already made a post about it in July 2007 (the photo here), where I also gave some historic information. Maybe a few words anyhow: Originally the palace was built as a residence for the Cardinal Richelieu, in the early 17th century. Richelieu donated it to the Royal family and this is how it got its Royal name. Among its inhabitants you may note the young Louis XIV and his mother, Cardinal Mazarin, and several members of the Royal Orléans family, who opened the garden to the public, had great parts rented to shops and cafés and had the colonnades constructed.

Especially during the revolutionary years, there was a lot of activity in the garden and the nightlife seems to have been active. Today, the gardens are closed in the evening except for some parts which give access to some restaurants, theatres... On the way home after a blogger dinner a couple of days ago, I took the opportunity to show what the late nightlife around “Palais Royal” looks like today. I confirm that it’s quite calm and dark.

Most of the bars on the place and around were closed or closing.

The famous restaurant “Le Grand Vefour” with more than 200 years behind it had still a number of late guests. It used to have three Michelin stars (actually macarons), but lost one in 2008. It’s still excellent, but you should perhaps check the menu prices before entering.





Most of the shop and gallery windows under the arcades were dark, but I found some light.

There are some nice things to see also in the surrounding narrow streets. One of the photos here is from the outside of the beautiful "Théatre Palais Royal”. It is about as old (end 18th century) as the “Théatre Français”...

... more known as “La Comédie Française”, the French National Theatre, which has been housed here since 1799. The night performance was just over when I passed. Just in front of the theatre is the very specific metro entrance on which I also made a previous post. You can see it on the top picture.

The “Palais Royal” is today also the home of the Ministry of Culture and the “Conseil d’Etat” (the Constitutional Council) of which we can see the main entrance at the “Place Palais Royal” where we also can see the facades of (a part of) the Louvre, and the exclusive antique shop and gallery centre, “Les Antiquaires du Louvre”, at present under facade restoration (see also previous post), the reason for its special "wrapping".

I found some still remaining Christmas decorations. When looking closer, you could see that they were made by empty plastic water bottles.

I wish you a nice weekend!