Gare de Lyon - again.

The Paris railway terminals are all undergoing a modernization.  I recently reported on what has been done at  the Gare de Saint Lazare.

Soon four years ago I made a post on Gare de Lyon (and its famous restaurant Le Train Bleu). Since two years, part of the station (Hall 2) has been completely reshaped, including a new enormous glass roof. I feel that this renovation which includes a lot of new facilities, shops, escalators… has been very well carried out. It’s all modern, but fits well into the style of the 1900 building. (… not mentioning that solar equipment now takes care of the station’s energy need).

This is a station for the ever increasing number of TGV (fast) trains, linking Paris to the south, south east, Switzerland… New lines and city onnections are soon expected to increase the number of passengers from some 90 to some 100 million per year, so the request for service is there.

The link - large corridor - to the other part of the station (Hall 1) has also been renovated and offers a number of new shops.

The only sad thing I noted was that a kid obviously had lost a newly acquired Disneyland balloon. 


Paris under construction

Found this video, published on the net by the weekly magazine "Le Point". (... sometimes preceded by some commercial stuff.)


La Salpêtrière

Today the Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital is one of Europe’s largest hospitals with all kinds of specialties. More recent patients include Michael Schumacher, Ronaldo, Prince Rainier of Monaco… This is also where Josephine Baker, the Princess Diana… died. Two neighbouring hospitals, La Salpêtrière and La Pitié merged in 1964.

This post will be about the La Salpêtrière. The name comes from “salpêtre”, which is a constituent of gunpowder and where the hospital stands used to be the ground for a gunpowder factory. The original part of the hospital was built between the years 1656 and 1684, under Louis XIV. Some 100 years later it was the world’s largest hospital with some 10.000 "patients"; the idea those days was that all vagabonds, beggars, prostitutes… and alienated people should be taken off the street … and this is where women arrived especially. The prostitutes were later paired with convicts and forced to settle down in the “New France”, the French colonies in North America. Clearly, La Salpêtrière was those days rather a hospice where the main concern was to get these people off the street – no real care was offered.

A terrible incident is linked to this hospital: During the worst days of the Revolution, in September 1792, the hospital was stormed by a mob which released most of the prostitutes, but also killed a large number of “mad-women”. The same thing happened at other hospitals.

As late as during the 19th century, balls with the “mad-women” were organized at the hospital. Obviously it was made with good intentions.

On the premises you could also since 1684 find a real prison for women. The building is still there… , but used for other purposes. 

Those days, it seemed more important to take care of the “souls” of the patients. The Church was obviously very present. A large chapel was of course part of the hospital. The octagonal plan is original with four side chapels.

The conditions for the “patients” or “prisoners” were frightening. However, slightly and slowly things changed somewhat for the better after the Revolution. During the 19th century real care started to be offered. Today, La Salpêtrière is definitely a real hospital with a majority of recent buildings, and the more frightful parts are gone or modernized. I concentrated however on taking pictures of what remains of the older buildings. We can see a block of cells for the “mad-women” with small seats in front.

So coming to more comforting information…

In front of the main entrance stands a statue of Philippe Pinel (1745-1826). Largely helped by one of his previous patients who had suffered from and been treated for tuberculosis and who became his assistant, he is known for having liberated patients from their chains, virtually and literally. He did away with bleeding, purging, blistering … in favour of therapy. (He also created an inoculation clinic – the first vaccination in Paris was given here in 1800.) Pinel became chief physician at the hospital and professor of medical pathology. A (later) painting shows the liberation of chains. You can possibly claim that this was a first break from the religious notion of “possession by evil spirits”.

The most famous personality who worked at the Salpetrière is however  Jean-Martin Charcot (1825-93), who greatly influenced the developing fields of neurology and psychology and who by many is considered as the founder of modern neurology.

He may however be best known for his work on hypnosis and hysteria. His lessons and demonstrations were often open to the public, other than scientists, and many intellectuals, authors… assisted and reported about it. We can see a painting from one of his lectures, with a famous hysteria-“performing”-patient, Blanche Wittmann, called the “Queen of Hysterics”. She later got a job at the hospital, obviously working too close to radium, and died at 53 after several amputations.

For scientists Charcot’s name is also linked, however, to a number of discoveries and he was, for example, the first to describe multiple sclerosis (“sclerose en plaques”). His studies were also the beginning of the understanding of Parkinson’s disease.  He had a number of later well-known assistants and pupils, including Sigmund Freud.  
The premises where he worked are gone, but his private library has been saved. 


Seine banks

The traditional Seine banks were in 1967 to a large extent – fortunately not totally - replaced by an expressway (Voie Pompidou), considered necessary for the increasing car traffic. Since then, some efforts have been made to make the river again available for pedestrians, bikers… who can use part of the expressway on Sundays and during a few summer weeks, “Paris  Plage” . This summer, some transformations were made on the Right Bank (Rive Droite) to make part of it available more permanently. There are projects for further modifications, including on the Left Bank (Rive Gauche).

A sunny and warm September day, I decided to check the “pedestrian availability” on the Right Bank. On the plan you can see my walk, some 10 km (6 or 7 miles).

Before the start of the red dotted line, the expressway offers hardly any space for walkers – actually walking there is definitely not recommended.

Just after the “Pont de Bir-Hakeim” you can start the walking…

… but approaching the “Pont d’Alma” you must take some stairs and leave the bank (yellow dotted line).

This gives you the opportunity to see the favourite restaurant of the Paris professional soccer players and the copy of the Flame of the Statue of Liberty, which has become some kind of place of homage to Lady Diana who died in the tunnel below now 15 years ago.

Crossing the street and the bridge, you can again walk on the quays for quite a while…

… but when you reach the end of the Louvre, the car traffic takes over….

… until you reach more or less a point facing the edge of Ile Saint Louis, just after the “Pont d’Arcole”. From this point, a lot of modifications have been done; the space for pedestrians has been widened, traffic lights have been installed… 

… and you can continue to the entrance of the Canal Saint Martin. Actually, you can cross the canal entrance by using a closed lock.

The walking space gets then a bit narrow … and then again wider.

Reaching, the “Pont de Bercy”, there is again a need for a short while to leave the quay….

… but you can find it again and continue on wide, a bit empty space. After the “Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir”, the banks are still there, but it gets a bit industrial, so I decided to stop the walk here. (… and I was thirsty.) 

I have referred to different bridges – I once made posts about all the Paris Seine bridges, which you find here.


A local cultural event

Since ten years, during a September weekend, a local association of volunteers, called Rififi, organizes different festivities in our part of Paris, Batignolles, in general with reference to art and culture, of which the area is rich of references, especially with regard to painters (the future impressionists), poets… You can read about this is several of my previous posts.

This year I decided to follow a homage to one of the best known French 20th century poets, Louis Aragon, admired by many, less by others. The first part took place in a little square in front of a for our area typical 19th century building. In the sun, later the shadow, a wonderful and warm summer afternoon, we could listen to some locals interpreting some of the more well-known poems by Aragon, some of which have been set to music. Names like Georges Brassens, Léo Ferré,  Jean Ferrat are definitely linked to Aragon, as composers, interpreters.  Two samples below.

We could then follow a fascinating lecture (for almost three hours) by Lucien Maillard, journalist, historian, telling us the life of Aragon, whom he had had the previlege to know during his last years. We got some nice musical interludes. This took place in the beautiful little street Cité des Fleurs (see previous posts).


Another synagogue

Normally, it should hardly have been possible for me to enter this synagogue. However I got the opportunity. (On a more official invitation, I visited another synagogue, the “Grande Synagogue” of Paris (see previous post)).

You may have understood that I now and then do some (unpaid) “guiding” in Paris through an organization called “Parisien d’un jour” (there is also a link on my sidebar), which is part of the Global Greeter Network, working worldwide. As "Greeters" we are volunteers and to call us guides is misleading; it’s more an issue of meeting between people, walking around areas which are not the usual tourist tracks, talk about local life in general… 
Recently I made such a walk with a family from Israel and they had expressed the wish to see some Jewish areas and landmarks in Paris, mainly in the Marais area (see previous posts here, here, here, here, here…). So when we passed in front of the Agoudas Hakehilos Synagogue they decided to visit it and I had the privilege to join them. We were welcomed with smiles.

This synagogue is for Parisians in general better known as the “Rue Pavée Synagogue” (Rue Pavée = the paved street; it was the first street in the area to be paved around 1450) and sometimes as the “Guimard Synagogue” as its Art Nouveau architect is Hector Guimard, the same who created the metro entrances and a number of buildings in Paris (see previous posts here and here).  The synagogue was officially opened in 1914. Guimard is responsibele for as well the exterior as the interior.

Agoudas Hekehilos refers to a society of orthodox Jews, mostly of Russian origin, who commissioned and financed the building.

On the evening of Yom Kippur in 1941, the building was dynamited along with six other Parisian synagogues, restored after the war. A new refurbishing of the facade would certainly be nice.