I already showed the above photo on Facebook, but I have some more photos from that rainy late August day.

Due to the rainy weather, people seemed to have chosen to spend the day or some hours at the Louvre – the lines were longer than usual. After all, they had to stay outside for quite a while, under umbrellas, before entering the pyramid. (There are slightly quicker and more weather-protected ways to enter the museum, but maybe the lining up is part of the charm.)

Some people dared to cross the bridges by foot.

The Eiffel Tower (Trocadéro) and the boat tours were less popular than a “normal” August day.

Later during the day I visited Parc Monceau. I had a feeling of being the only one there… together with some discouraged ducks.

I was impressed by the air bubbles created by the raindrops.

I guess that after a rather dry and hot summer, at least the vegetation appreciated the rain. 

This was a couple of days ago. Yesterday - and last night, the weather was really nice, hot!


Hector Berlioz

I already talked about Hector Berlioz (1803-69) some five years ago (see here), when I made a number of posts about the Montmartre Cemetery. Yes, that’s where he’s buried. The present tomb replaced an older one in 1970. Twice a widower, Berlioz had both wives buried here. (Berlioz was a frequent visitor to the cemetery; it’s also known that he met a last love, when walking around here.) The portrait of Berlioz was taken from the previous tomb. It was made by Cyprien Godebski (1835-1909), a renowned sculptor (e.g. a monumental work in Warsaw of the Polish national poet Adam Mickiewicz.)

Actually Berlioz lived during his last thirteen years quite close to the cemetery, at 4, rue de Calais. The year he moved in seems also to be the year the building was constructed (according to the inscription).

Berlioz was one of the few composers who hadn’t got any early musical training, didn’t play the piano (he learnt the guitar, the flute…). Originally he had commenced to study medicine. He took up music quite late and against the will of his parents. He never became known as an instrumentalist, but of course as composer… and conductor. Obviously his compositions, which were much appreciated by most of his colleagues (Liszt, Wagner…) and often more abroad than in France, didn’t always give him substantial, regular revenues and he also had parallel jobs, more particularly as writer, musical critic, head librarian at the Paris Conservatory… He’s also known for having written “Treatise on Instrumentation” (1844). Rather, his more generally accepted greatness and importance as a composer was achieved later, during the 20th century.

There is a rue Berlioz in Paris, but obviously not linked to a place where he lived. But, at the end of rue de Calais, where he died in 1869, there is a Square Berlioz (see top picture). Here he got a bronze statue in 1886, but as most other metallic statues, it disappeared during the Nazi occupation. It was replaced by the present one – in stone, by George Saupique (1889-1961), in 1948.

Let’s first listen to “Symphonie Fantastique” (5th movement), composed in 1830 (only three years after Beethoven’s death, two years after Schubert’s death…), by many considered to be his most outstanding and revolutionary work and acclaimed by Liszt, Chopin, Paganini, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Heinrich Heine, George Sand… who attended the premiere...

…then to the “Hungarian March” from the “Damnation of Faust”, first performed in 1846, perhaps the most well-known piece by Berlioz…


… and at last to the very patriotic “Marseillaise” in the Berlioz version (1830).


Rue Chaptal

Rue Chaptal is one of many similar looking, mostly nice, streets in the 9th arrondissement. As a lot of the streets here, very popular among 19th century and early 20th century artists, it has much of history, partly still visible, especially behind the facades and in the small alleys leading to it.

The most well-known is perhaps what today is referred to as the Museum of the Romantics, once the home of the painter Ary Scheffer and linked to names as Ernest Renan, George Sand, Chopin, Liszt, Delacroix, Dickens…   I wrote about it already on my previous blog, see here. This time I just went there for a cup of coffee in the little garden.

If you look over the wall in the alley leading to the Museum, you can see a little building, also with a lot of – more recent – history. This was for some thirty years a central point for jazz music. Charles Delauney, who was the son of painters Sonia and Robert Delauney, installed here what was named the “Hot Club de France”. It officially opened with a concert with Duke Ellington, Django Reinhardt… This became a centre for everything linked to jazz music for a few decades, including during WWII (when Delauney was an active resistant). This is where jazz musicians met to form groups, find jobs… A magazine, “Jazz Hot”, was published here with famous contributors like Boris Vian. (Kenny Clark composed a famous be bop piece, named “Rue Chaptal”.) The record company “Disques Vogue” was created, featuring Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie, Sidney Bechet, Errol Garner… and later also pop music artists like Petula Clark, Françoise Hardy… and the magazine “Rock & Folk” was started. When all this editing activity moved to the other side of the street, the famous guitar maker Gibson moved in and the place was still visited by many other artists. (It seems that the place is for rent today?)

(By the way, in a nearby shop, I found some Gibson guitars for sale, price range $5,000 – $9,000. The shop was closed. Some musicians known for playing on Gibson guitars: Chet Atkins, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, David Gilmour, George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Knopfler, Bob Marley, Les Paul, Keith Richards, Carlos Santana, Pete Townshend, Neil Young, Frank Zappa…) 

Talking about music, rue Chaptal is also the street where “SACEM”, the French professional association collecting rights to songwriters, composers, musicians… had its site until 1976. All artists came here to collect what they had earned.  On the opposite side of the street from "SACEM" and the "Hot Club" was a little bar, where for decades all these people met. It was finally baptised the “Annexe” and is still there, but perhaps today with fewer famous, drinking, artists?

Talking about music, this is also where an artist like Iannis Xenakis lived and where Lucien Ginsburg, more known as Serge Gainsbourg, spent his young years, went to school...

In another little alley, you can find a theatre. This was once a little chapel, taken over by the painter Rochegrosse as a workshop, before becoming by the end of the 19th century a, for decades, very popular little theatre, “Le Grand Guignol”, known for naturalistic horror plays, but surprisingly, with a quite sophisticated public, in part. After closing this activity in the 1960’s, there were some attempts to perform some more serious plays and some of our famous actors have occasionally performed here. Today it has become the site for the “International Visual Theatre”, specializing in plays for deaf and hearing-impaired, and also offering all kinds of activities and services connected to this. It’s headed by Emanuelle Laborit.

A last visit in the street could bring you to what today is a municipal library and also a nursery. Once a private 19th century home, known as “Hôtel de Serigny”, the transformation has left very little of the original interior untouched, with the exception of a beautifully decorated salon.

Just to finish this long post, a few other photos from the street.  (In a more invisible way, the street is also linked to many other 19th and early 20th century names like Maupassant, Verlaine, Max Jacob…).



A last post about our Italian holidays… after all this blog should rather be about Paris.

Yes, we also went to Genoa.

One reason was to allow the grand-kids (and ourselves) to visit one of Europe’s largest aquariums, situated in the old port. It was created in 1992, as part of the celebration of the 500 years since the Genoa-born Christopher Columbus (re)discovered the new world. The architect was Renzo Piano - also known for the Pompidou Centre and the future Palace of Justice in Paris.

We also took the time to walk around the older part of the town, including along the Via Garibaldi and the number of old palaces…

… the Piazza de Ferrari with the Opera and, nearby, the Palace of the Doges… and also some more narrow streets. Many buildings are nicely decorated.  

Close to the port you find the 13th century Palazzo San Giorgio (see top picture), built to be the civil-political centre of the city, abandoned, for a while a prison with Marco Polo as its most famous resident – where he dictated his memoirs – and then becoming the home of the Bank of Saint George, founded in 1407, the world’s oldest chartered bank (with the Grimadi family as part owners).  

The 12th century Genoa Cathedral (Cattedrale di San Lorenzo) – with a façade from the 14th century – is richly decorated.

In the cathedral there is a fresco from 1626, illustrating the Last Supper. I may be wrong, but this reminded me of a contemporary painting I once saw in Lima, see post here, where Maria Magdalena is represented. This may be one of the apostles, but…



One of the most famous villages on the Liguria coast, the Italian Riviera, is Portofino, not easy to reach on some narrow roads, especially at the end. Awaiting a free parking place, the last kilometer took about an hour.

Once you are there, however, you realize clearly that it was worth a bit of patience and another good thing is that the place is not too crowded, probably due to the difficulty of reaching it.

Originally a little fishing village, but following some 19th century aristocratic tourism, today Portofino has its reputation linked to a number of celebrity and artistic visitors and part-time residents.

Its name seems originally to have been Portus Delphini, the port of the dolphins (we didn’t see any).

The little port is surrounded by colourful buildings (with a number of bars and restaurants).

On the top of a hill is an old castle, Castello Brown, which got its name from some later owners, but since has become property of the village. It houses today a little museum and offers some splendid views (see also top picture).

Not much space in the port, but there were some nice yachts (all of course registered in George Town, Cayman Islands). The owner of one of them enjoyed the sun.

Walking up to the (originally) 12th century San Giorgio church and its cemetery, you have some splendid views over the coastline.



Yes, I held the camera straight! :-)

One morning, the sky was grey, so we decided to go to Pisa, where some of us hadn’t yet been. We actually met heavy rain on our way, but the sky cleared up soon after our arrival.

Yes, the tower is leaning… more or less visible, depending on from where you take your photos. (As stated, the top picture of the bottom floor was taken holding the camera straight.) 

The tower, as all the buildings on what is referred to as the Piazza dei Miracoli (or Piazza dei Duomo) was built on unstable sand. It has its origins from the 12th century and started to lean rather soon, but only to a rather limited degree. More levels were added and with some of them one tried to correct the leaning, which actually means that if you look closer, the tower has a slight banana shape. The leaning process continued during the centuries, until it was rather recently (1990-2001) stopped and the tilt actually was partially corrected. It had reached more than 5 degrees and is now reduced to slightly less than 4 degrees. (I guess there was no wish from the local authorities to reduce the leaning to zero.) Here are some details from the outside (tilting the camera by 4 degrees).

You must of course go to the top – 296 steps on one side, 294 on the other. The bell chamber has seven bells, one for each note of the major scale. You have a nice view of the other buildings on the Piazza dei Miracoli.  
The construction of the “Duomo”, the cathedral, started during the 11th century, some 100 years before its bell tower. Although some alterations have occurred over the centuries (a serious fire in 1595), a lot is “original”. Marble is of course used (we are close to Carrara).

A closer look on the early 14th century pulpit.

Another building on the Piazza is the 12th century Baptistery (actually also leaning, but only by 0.6 degrees). Its lower parts are in Romanesque, the higher in Gothic style. Not much decoration inside, but again you find a beautiful 13th century pulpit. The statue of John the Baptist is by the 20th century artist Italo Griselli.

A fourth building, also from the 12th century, is the Campo Santo (Holy Field), so named as it’s said to have been built around a shipload of sacred soil from Golgotha. Over one of the entrances is a 14th century Gothic tabernacle. Basically it’s a cemetery, with a lot of ancient graves and sarcophagi. The walls were covered by frescoes, which were greatly destroyed in 1944 by a fire caused by a fragment from an Allied raid. Restoration work is in progress.

There is a lot more to be seen in Pisa, a city with a very long history - during centuries an important port at the junction of the – then navigable - Arno River (which you also meet in Florence) and the smaller Serchio River, struggling with Genoa, Venice… to be the most influential power in what later became Italy. We didn’t have the time for a more complete tour, but did some walking around in our research for eating and drinking places.