After a meal, a drink… at one of the famous establishments on Boulevard de Montparnasse, La Coupole, Le Select, La Rotonde, Le Dôme (about all of which already a lot is to be said)…,
... may I suggest a walk along Rue Delambre, and after crossing Boulevard Quinet, also along Rue de la Gaîté, the “gaiety street”?
Rue Delambres looks very “normal”. What is special and what can give you a specific feeling is what the street represents as memory of the artistic life in Paris, especially during the 1920’s and 30’s. You should know that this is where a lot of (later) world famous artists lived and worked during more or less longer periods, in hotels, which may have changed names, flats….
One, now Italian, restaurant used to be known as the “Dingo Bar”. This is where Ernest Hemingway and Francis Scott Fitzgerald (who had just published “The Great Gatsby”) met – by chance – for the first time in 1925. Here you can see what the place looks like today and compare with a photo with Hemingway and Zelda Fitzgerald at the entrance. Hemingway talks about this in his “A Moveable Feast”.
I once did a post about “Ernest Hemingway in Paris – A Moveable Feast”, but forgot to mention this place.
When crossing Boulevard Quinet, you will see (top picture) a mural painting (from 1991, by Loren Munk), which illustrates for what the next street, Rue de la Gaîté, is famous. But first, it’s time to remember “The Wall of the Farmers General”, which stood on this boulevard until 1860 and separated Paris from the suburbs until they were incorporated in 1860 … and where taxes had to be paid. (If you go to this post, you will also find links to other posts about this wall.) As all around Paris, this meant that just outside the wall you could eat and especially drink “tax free”. This is a reason why Rue de la Gaîté has a long history for different types of “entertainment”.
Even if Rue de la Gaîté also at first looks quite “normal”…
… you will soon realize that it’s still a street full of bars, restaurants, theatres….
This is also where you since 1873 can find the music hall “Bobino”, with a today very modest entrance hidden by a hotel. “All” French artists have performed here, also some international ones.
Some of you may remember that I recently made a post about my meeting with the bestselling author Cara Black. As all the above has been about Montparnasse, I thought it was opportune to mention that her new book “Murder Below Montparnasse” will be published very soon. If you are interested, you can go here, possibly order a book (I have no commission) and, perhaps even more possibly, win a trip to Paris.
I have already made few posts, e.g. here and here, about alleys and backyards and especially the old industrial activities which you could find in the 11th arrondissement. Here is something more.
The top picture shows a building from 1881, which originally was a factory, Couesnon, once the world’s most important music instrument factory, especially known for its wind instruments. In 1936 it was sold to the important metallurgical syndicate, affiliated to the C.G.T. (General Confederation of Labour) and became known as “La Maison des Métallos”. When they decided to leave, the place was supposed to be demolished, but different local initiatives stopped this and finally the City of Paris took over the place and it’s now transformed into a cultural centre with theatres, workshops…
The next place – created 1870 - was originally a factory for barrels, where they started to use rubber plugs to increase the tightness. They learnt how to use the material and created rubber boots, in one piece, completely water-tight. In 1936 they created tennis shoes, under the name "Spring Court", Spring for the rubber resort and Court for the tennis court. Tens of millions of these in different shapes have since been manufactured, e.g. worn by John Lennon…, but the manufacturing has since the 1980’s moved to elsewhere. The old factory is now occupied by different offices, some photo studios … and a small Spring Court shop.
The following ex-industrial building is the previous earthenware, faience, factory, “Faïencerie Loebnitz”, constructed in 1884. The architect is the same who designed the Printemps department store, Paul Sédille. There is an adjacent building which offered flats for the employees. The façade of the factory is decorated by four faience artworks, three of which were originally decorating a fine arts pavilion at the Paris World’s Fair in 1878 – a fourth one for the ceramics was added. The manufacturing left the premises during the 1930’s.
A last little thing: This little theatre, “Théâtre de Belleville”, with origins from 1850 and with changed names and past activities as bistro, music-hall… well-known in the area. It seems that a very young Maurice Chevalier, made his more or less unpaid débuts here, at the age of 13 or 14.
… and some odd photos from other squares, alleys and backyards.
This building, « hôtel particulier », Hôtel de Beauvais, dates from around 1655-60, built in a French baroque style – architect Antoine Lepautre. The front side has lost a few decorations, but basically the building looks very much the same as on the 17th century drawing. It's a remarkable architectural achievement. When you look at it and enter the main gate, you have the impression of something completely symmetric, whereas with a bird’s eye view you will see how the architect has “cheated” with a space which is far from symmetric. A bit further down you can see the original plan (of the first floor) and what it looks like today on Google Earth. One exception from what normally was the case with these townhouses is that the “noble part” is not behind a central court, but directly along the street.
It was built for a merchant, Pierre de Beauvais, and perhaps more especially for his wife, Catherine Bellier – who was a much appreciated handmaiden to Queen Anne d’Autriche (Anne of Austria), wife, widow, of Louis XIII, regent and mother of Louis XIV. Catherine Bellier acquired her reputation – and fortune – for having relieved the young Louis XIV of his virginity - with the mother’s encouragments and approval. He was then 14 … and she was 38. She was furthermore known to be quite ugly and had the nickname of “Cateau-la-Borgnesse”, the “One-eyed Caton”. There are no known paintings or engravings of her, but a mascaron decorating the building is supposed to have her as model and… no more comments . She was described as intelligent, plotting… and despite her looks had a multitude of influent lovers. Obviously Pierre de Beauvais and Catherine Bellier were not too concerned about their “image”, looking at these mascarons of her and of him – happy and sad. We can also see heads of goats. (Goat = “bellier” in French.)
The address is Rue François-Miron, which originally was called – and was a prolongation of - Rue Saint-Antoine and it used to be the main street leading from the east into the centre of Paris – before rue de Rivoli was created during the 19th century. I already wrote about this street in a previous post, about all the ancient buildings around it… including the 13th century cellar under the premises of the association “Paris Historique” (of which I’m a member), including the beautiful Saint-Gervais – Saint-Protais Church in which the Couperin family members were the organists… The street leads to the back side of the Paris Town Hall where those days an arch in the building brought you to the front side of the Town Hall, those days’ Place de Grève…
Along this street, the newly wedded Louis XIV and Maria Theresa (of Spain), in 1660, made their triumphal entry into Paris in an enormous procession, followed by possibly a million people. On the balcony of the then newly built Hôtel de Beauvais, Queen Anne, Catherine Bellier, the Cardinal Mazarin, the Marshal Turenne… and others watched it all. Here is the balcony they were standing on.
The building later changed owners several times and was finally in a very bad state, having been used for workshops, flats, when it (thanks to “Paris Historique” and others) was saved from destruction, as from 1995 restored and since 2004 occupied by the Paris administrative court of appeal (Cour Administrative d’Appel de Paris). The inside rooms are today quite “naked”, modern, the suspended small garden is gone … but the stairs of the official entrance have been saved…
… as well as a beautiful circular staircase for the staff (someone engraved a heart).
In 1763, the then seven year old Mozart is said to have stayed here with his family during his first visit to Paris, as guests of the then owner, the Bavarian ambassador. What is clearly documented is that he gave concerts here, in the “gallery”, behind these windows. With his dad Leopold and his sister Nannerl they may have performed one of the first sonatas composed by the young Mozart, e.g. this one.
The building was constructed on top of some medieval houses, one of which had belonged to Heloise (famous for the Heloise and Abelard love story) and the cellar below, which was used as a storage, has been emptied of gravel and dirt and restored thanks to voluntary work by members of the above mentioned “Paris Historique”.
To end this long story and again referring to the above mentioned Couperin family, I cannot help giving you a chance to again listen to one of my favourite pieces, “Les barricades mystérieuses” by François Couperin (see previous post), here as performed in the movie “Tree of Life”.
What originally was built as a Capuchin convent around 1780-83, became a few years later – the Revolution - a school, renowned for a number of eminent teachers and pupils. It changed its name several times, but is since long known as the Lycée Condorcet. It’s very centrally located, between the Gare Saint Lazare and the department stores Printemps, Lafayette.
Here we can compare a map from 1790 (the first Paris map with exact measurements, in a perfect N/S direction) and the Google Earth views. One of the few things which haven’t changed is this building, and we can easily recognize it from this old gravure, when comparing with today.
The convent chapel was separated from the school and is now known as Saint Louis d’Antin. The church entrance is by the left gate.
I haven’t yet managed to get into the school building, but the church is of course open. Few people live around here, but as we are in a busy business and shopping district, it has a great number of visitors and offers several celebrations every day.
The organ was built by one of the most famous organ manufacturers, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, in 1858 and has hardly been changed since.
I noted especially two boxes, which give the impression to have been there for long – one for “confessions”, one for “deniers” - maybe a simultaneous act (?).