Fête de graphisme - festival of graphic design

A festival of graphic design is going on in Paris at the moment. Artists from 80 countries participate.  It includes exhibitions, workshops… at different spots in Paris, including the Town Hall. You can read more about the detailed program here. What I show here is just what you can find on the Champs-Elysées at the moment (until February 4). 


Tobacco glorified

There is a street in the 7th arrondissement named after Jean Nicot. There is nothing special about this street, nor with its extension, Passage Jean Nicot.

Who was Jean Nicot? Jean Nicot (1530-1600) was a French diplomat and scholar, who for a while was the French ambassador to Portugal. There, he discovered the tobacco plant and the snuff tobacco, which was, thanks to him, soon introduced to the French court. It was immediately much appreciated by the Queen, Catherine de Medicis, and also thought to work as a pain killer, used by her son, King François II, who suffered from strong migraines. The use of (snuff) tobacco became fashionable … and this was somehow the start of the introduction and popularization of tobacco throughout Europe.  
... and Jean Nicot gave his name to the Nicotiana Tabacum plant and to nicotine.

… and tobacco use spread, being snuffed, chewed, smoked… getting really popular when the cigarette was “invented” during the 19th century and of course became more than popular throughout the 20th century. It took some time before all scientists seemed to agree that the consumption of it was not really good for your health. Only a few decades ago, movie stars, doctors… spread propaganda for cigarette smoking, which has today disappeared and been replaced by the “Smoking kills” signs.

Why does Jean Nicot have his street name here? Until the beginning of the 20th century we could find here, on the Seine banks, a large tobacco factory, “Manufacture de tabac”. We can see the place it occupied on the Paris map from 1901. It has since been replaced by some apartment and office buildings, including the American Church (one of them, see previous post) and a large building (from 1937) which until the end of last century was the home of the French tobacco company, SEITA, a state monopoly until 1970. Today, there seems to be lot of office space to rent, if you are interested.

It’s rather surprising today to see how the building is decorated by frescoes more or less glorifying the tobacco culture (see also top picture).

Today, the French tobacco industry is quite limited with local cultivation and production heavily reduced, business-wise run by foreign companies.

We are close to the Invalides (see previous posts) and its esplanade. Looking on the same Paris map from 1901, we can see some rail tracks, actually under the esplanade. They led to what then was a rather modest railway station, Gare des Invalides, from 1902, which served some destinations, mostly in the suburbs, until the 1930’s. The station building is now an Air France terminal and some tracks are used for the RER line along the Seine. 
But using what actually is referred to as a street, Rue Jean et Paul Lerolle, you can still visit the space under the esplanade. The rail tracks here are gone, the space is now occupied by a rubbish heap, some municipal services, a canteen for the nearby foreign office… and you have access to the Air France terminal and the restaurant Chez Françoise.


Going to the "NO-GO ZONES"

Maybe enough has already been said about the ridiculous information by Fox News about the “no-go zones” in Paris, but…

Fox News representatives have in the meantime expressed their excuses. Excuses or not, I wonder how an organisation with such (financial and human(?)) resources, based in a democratic country, can go out with so completely, biased, erroneous and non-documented information, but somehow, when it comes to Fox News, it’s perhaps not too much of a surprise?
I was however asked by some blogger friends to visit the “zones” in question. So, the other day I took the risk to make a walk in two of them.
The first one I visited is in the 20th arrondissement. I think that already the Google Earth view is sufficient to show that you can visit the area without too much of a risk. I took some photos of the few streets concerned. Nothing spectacular to find here, just an area where people live.

The second “zone” I visited, in the 11th arrondissement, is much larger. I didn't wish to give the impression that I tried to show only the nicer parts, so I took photos of all (I think) the streets and places.  This is a much livelier part of the city. The by Fox News indicated area is e.g. crossed by Rue Oberkampf, which in the evenings is a place to go for especially the younger Parisians, with a number of bars, restaurants, clubs…

Feel welcome to look on some of my previous posts about the 20th and the 11th arrondissements ... and judge if you are ready to visit them.

If you haven't already seen it: This is what the "Petit Journal", a daily French "mock news" program, made about this event. 

If you don’t mind, I guess I will forget about making “inspections” of the other zones indicated by Fox News. 

Addendum, January 23: I would more than firmly recommend that you read what our blog-friend "Vagabonde" just published on "Charlie Hebdo and French satire" and on "On Voltaire and tolerance". You van find her blog here.  


"La Philharmonie" - open doors - Lang Lang

Paris has got a new concert hall – and much more – which opened last week, part of a music complex referred to as “La Philharmonie”. This new installation will be the home of two orchestras plus three associated orchestras. The major one, “Orchestre de Paris” (with musical directors like Münch, von Karajan, Solti, Barenboim, Bychkov, Eschenbach… and at present Paavo Järvi), has until now been especially linked to “Salle Pleyel” (see previous post). Many people regret that this prestigious concert hall now will lose its vocation. One item is the fact that “La Philharmonie” is situated in the extreme northeast of the city, which many may consider to be “far away”. The leading Paris classical music concert halls have until now been concentrated in the more fashionable central quarters. “La Philharmonie” is situated in the “Parc de la Villette” area (see previous post), where you already could find “La Cité de la Musique” (City of Music), “Le Zenith” (a concert hall for more “popular” music events)… On the map below, we can see the location of the more important classical music concert halls in Paris – and you can see what I have written about them, e.g. here and here.

Having visited the back stage of “Salle Pleyel”, I can understand the need to find more space for training, rehearsals... Other arguments given by the defenders of the new installation is the higher capacity (2400 seats) of the major concert hall (there are several), a new price policy and the chance to attract a new, maybe younger, public.

Here we can see what the outside …

… some of the open areas inside...

… and the major concert hall look like.

Actually, although now opening officially, some finishing jobs remain, outside as well as inside. The architect, Jean Nouvel, was not happy about this and did not join the inaugural concert last week.

Last weekend there were “open doors”. As said above, the new complex offers much more than the new concert hall. There are other more modest ones and there is a lot of space for rehearsals, training and learning. I got the chance to learn the violin during an hour – I may need a few hours more!

I then went to listen to a rehearsal for a concert which would follow later during the day – 100 young pianists on 50 pianos.

I will revert to this below, but while awaiting this concert, I visited the installations existing since 1995, now referred to as “Philharmonie 2” - whereas the new building is referred to as “Philharmonie 1”. Also here we can find some concert halls, learning space…

… and a spectacular museum with instruments from all over the world. I obviously concentrated my photos on some nice old 17th century harpsichords, some 19th century pianos, some old violins (by Stradivarius and others).  

I then queued up...

....for the concert by the 100 young piano players – now all dressed in blue tee-shirts. They had now become 101! Lang Lang (does he need a presentation?) gave them a “master class”!

I will be back this week for a more “normal” concert. :-) 


I really appreciate...

What I now will write is perhaps self-evident, but I say it anyhow. It's somehow, vaguely, an introduction to the "real post" which will follow.

Normally, this blog is not about religions, politics... But, for once and with what has happened here recently, I would like to take the opportunity to say how happy I am to live in a free, secular, country like France, more particularly in Paris, La Ville Lumière / The City of Lights...

The secularism, "laïcité" in French, the separation of religion and state, is for me something which in today's world should be obvious. This involves acceptance of all religions, but none being compulsory. Few states (and religions) have until now accepted this, fully or even partly! However, "laïcité" is a must for democracy!!

There are still strong religious feelings in some French communities. What these communities and their members must learn and accept is that such feelings are private, individual, and especially - their own beliefs must not be imposed upon others. Here, in France, we live together in a democratic state, not under any particular religion. It's all about the defense of secularism and at the same time a struggle against religious fanaticism, of any religion. This includes of course the right to be non-religious!

Also, and again more generally speaking, I believe it's time - and the"Charlie Hebdo" event may hopefully give the push - for some religious leaders to do some self-appraisal and seriously consider the meaning of tolerance and the need to adapt to today's society! A complication is of course that Islam is split and has no clear leader, no "pope" or "archbishop" who speaks for the entire religion. 

... and I would like to recommend them - and others -  a re-reading of Voltaire's "Treatise on Tolerance" (1763).


"The free communication of ideas and opinions is one of the most precious of the rights of man." (Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen)

"Imagine... You may say I'm a dreamer, But I'm not the only one, I hope some day you will join us, And the world will live as one." (John Lennon)

Maybe nothing to directly do with this, but...

Something I really appreciate with the city - and the street where I live - is that, turning to the right or to the left when I go out, I will within a minute or two reach everything I need to survive … and a bit more:

I can find uncensored books, newspapers, magazines... I can find food from all countries... I will meet people of all origins... 

This is what the street looks like in the evening. Many shops remain open till late, not neglecting the bars and restaurants. 


The largest crowd ever...

The largest crowd ever on the Paris streets… We were probably close to two million people.

I was at the Place de la République quite early this morning, before the crowds arrived.

All broadcasting people were already there...

… and soon all the others arrived.

People around the Place were watching.

At 3 pm it was time to take the direction of Place de la Nation.

Two hours later I had made 1/3 of the way...so I decided for a return home. The metro was also crowded.

But my kids and grand-kids had in the meantime reached Place de la Nation.

I don’t believe I have to tell you much more. The event has been followed all over the world. Here are however some photos stolen on the net.

 … but what I want to confirm, was the fantastic peaceful and nice atmosphere.  I sincerely hope that this tragic event will have at least some good come from it!