Rue Notre Dame de Lorette

Rue Notre Dame de Lorette is maybe just an ordinary street in what is referred to “Nouvelle Athènes”, an area of Paris where most of the buildings are from the middle of the 19th century and which for decades used to be where artists of all kinds lived and worked.

The street is to be found north and south of Place Saint Georges on which I posted here and here. We may especially remember the statue of Paul Gavarni, the “lorettes”…?

The buildings, the facades, the porches… are, as was the case in those days, often beautifully decorated. On the top picture, we see an example of a pelican which is supporting a balcony.

Some more specific buildings… 

Eugène Delacroix had his studio and lived at no. 58 for 13 years, 1844-57. He was at the height of his reputation and was visited by a number of artists. This was also the area where he could in those days meet neighbours like George Sand or Chopin… 

During this period, in 1848, another painter was born in the next building, at no. 56 – Paul Gauguin.  

For some reason, at no. 54, you can find the busts of Heloïse and Abelard, the mythic 12th century couple.

During the years 1949-61 one could, at no. 46, find a cabaret. Some of my French readers will recognise some of the performers.... 


Baron Haussmann

One often refers to a “Haussmannian Paris” - the wide avenues, the parks… I realised that I haven’t really talked about Georges-Eugène Haussmann (1809-91), commonly known as Baron Haussmann, on my blog. So it’s time. I thought that a good place to start the post about him could be where his statue stands on “his boulevard”, the Boulevard Haussmann.

Haussmann was not an architect, engineer… he worked in public administration, became “prefect” – State’s representative - and worked as such in different French regions until he was nominated in Paris (or rather “The Seine”) in 1853. The Emperor Napoleon III needed a strong personality to fulfill his ambition to make Paris healthier, greater, more beautiful, less congested… It meant rebuilding large parts of the city and – in 1860 – to integrate villages and suburbs like Auteuil, Passy, Monceau-Batignolles, Montmartre, La Chapelle, Belleville… into a larger city with 20 arrondissements. 

The narrow streets would disappear and be replaced by wide avenues, boulevards – east / west (Rue de Rivoli was among the first to be opened), south/north… With the help of an old map indicating the rebuilt streets, I tried to mark the major ones - only in a restricted part of Paris – on today’s "Google Earth". We should remember that the only parts of central Paris which did not undergo this “revolution” were more or less parts of the Marais and the Saint-Germain-des-Prés areas.

Here I have tried to show the traces of Boulevard Haussmann on an 1846 map, before it was built, and on a map from the end of 19th century (the blue part has actually the name of Avenue Friedland).

What of course is typically “haussmannian” is the type of buildings that you find along the new wide avenues. Here we can see typical buildings on part of the Boulevard Haussmann… knowing that the boulevard continues its long way eastwards to the department stores (Printemps, Lafayette…).

A typical “Haussmannian” building would offer space for shops on the ground floor and then a floor in between for shop equipment or space for the shop-owners. The second floor would be the “noble floor” (the elevators did not yet exist), with a wrought iron balcony, high ceilings and elegant rooms. On the top, under the attic, you would find very modest accommodations - mostly “chambres de bonnes”. This is also when gas and water came into the apartments and Paris got an adequate sewer system.

We must not forget that the complete rebuilding of the city also included the creation and / or modification of the majority of our present parks, squares and gardens (including the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes) and also large squares like Place de la République, Place de la Nation…

All this became “too much” for many. The projects were criticized and Baron Haussmann had to leave his office in 1870. But, most of his plans were executed, some a few decades later.

I guess that many of us have a wish to keep things as they are, not to "destroy" our beautiful city. Can one then imagine what many people may have thought during the 1850s, 1860s 1870s…. when the "Haussmannian revolution” took place?    



We have had some cold days…  No snow, blue sky, but there was ice on the ponds in the nearby park, “Parc Clichy-Batignolles Martin-Luther-King”. Most of the birds were gone…

… possibly to the neighbouring park, “Square des Batignolles” – “my park” with its “waterfalls” and moving waters. No ice here, happy birds!    


National Library

The “Bibliothèque nationale de France” (National Library of France) is the repository of all that is published in France. Its history is of course long, starting during the 14th century, but it was under Napoleon I that it was first stated that the National Library should have a copy of “all books”. During the 17th century the Library was installed in some existing mansions (“hôtels particuliers”) to which new important buildings were added during the latter part of the 19th century. The official address is Rue de Richelieu and the site is referred to as the “Richelieu” site. Since 1988, a large part of the Library’s activities have been transferred to a new site, “Bibliothèque François Mitterand” on the left bank. 

I already posted about the “Richelieu” site some six or seven years ago (see here) and then listed some of the remarkable things that are stored here. 

Some important renovation works have been going on since then. Last weekend the doors were opened allowing a visit of the renovated parts of the buildings.

As you can see, the Parisians were curious to see what had been done.

The most spectacular views are perhaps from the “Salle Labrouste”, so named after its architect. (See also top picture.) It was opened in 1868. Henri Labrouste is also known for the Sainte Geneviève Library (Sorbonne) which was opened in 1850 and on which I posted here.

A little glimpse of the central warehousing facilities.

Some space is devoted to the performing arts (“Arts du spectacle”). A few items are exhibited, including a portrait of a young Sarah Bernhardt, for which she herself made the frame.

This space is devoted to “manuscript reading”.

In what is referred to as the hall of honour we can find a version of the famous statute of Voltaire by Jean Antoine Houdon (1741-1828) – there are a number of them around. This one is referred to as the original plaster version… and in the base of the statue, Voltaire’s heart can – since 1924 - be found.

The renovation works continue in other parts of the buildings. This is the case with the large reading room, referred to as the “Salle Ovale”. (I included a photo from 2010.)

One item under discussion has been the future of the main staircase leading to the “museum part” of the Library. Destroyed, replaced…? I took this picture during a previous visit.   


Where Molière started…

There is nothing here reminding us of Molière any more, but just where (or very close to where) we now, behind "L'Institut de France", find the little Square Gabriel-Pierné, one could in the 17th century find one of the then hundreds of buildings where one  played “jeu-de-paume”, the ancestor of today’s tennis. Well, Molière was not a tennis player, but let’s make a small tennis parenthesis: 

Jeu-de-paume could be translated palm game. With its origins in France it was originally played without racquets, just the palms of your hands. The word “tennis” obviously is a cross-the-Channel version of the French “tenez” which was the word players used when serving. The scoring system 15, 30, 40 comes probably, or possibly, also from jeu-de-paume. When winning a point, the player had to step back 15 ft, 30 ft.... The word “love” seems to have its origins in the French “l’oeuf” = the egg, and as because an egg is round = 0.

When Jean-Baptiste Poquelin at the age of 21, in 1643, decided to become an actor, joining the Béjart family and creating the “Illustre Théâtre”, the performances took place here in the « Jeux-de-Paume des Mestayers”, a building which has since long disappeared. (We can see Jean-Baptiste’s signature on the act of creation of the theatre company.) Two years later the troop went bankrupt and Jean-Baptiste had to spend a short moment in prison until someone kindly payed the debt. This was probably also the time when, to spare his father of the shame to have an actor in the family, he changed his name to Molière. I’m not telling the rest of Molière’s life here and now … J.

So today there is nothing left to see from Molière’s experiences here. The little square is named after Gabriel Pierné (1863-1937), a composer, conductor and organist. 

There is a fountain to be found. It has been brought here from elsewhere in Paris and is designed by A-E Fragonard (1780-1830), son of the more famous Jean-Honoré Fragonard (1732-1806). There is also a more recent statue, “Carolina”, by Marcello Tommasi  (1928-2008)… and an “insect hotel”.

But the most spectacular thing with the visit to the little square is perhaps the view of the backside of “L’Institut de France” – see top picture. We are behind the building - which did not yet exist when Molière played here – on which I have already posted, e.g. here and here.  

Just round the corner is another little square, named after Honoré Champion (1846-1913), a publisher. Here we can find statues of two prominent members of the “Age of Enlightenment”, Montesquieu (1689-1755) and Voltaire (1694-1778). 


Vintage cars.

Last Sunday some 700 vintage cars (and a few other vehicles) were driving through Paris, including on some of the major streets and squares. They made a circuit of some 28 km (some 17 miles), but had to mix in with the normal traffic. This kind of rally was organised for the 17th time. No cars could have been built less than 30 years ago. 

I did not manage to take photos of all the 700, but well over 200…

I’m not a car expert, and could not give the names and models on most of the cars, but…

… here I recognize the East German “Trabant”, the bubble car, or rather cabin scooter “Messerschmitt” from the 1950’s. There is obviously also some kind of a very old “Ford” race car.

The sports cars dominated in numbers. The red “MG” is the one I wish I would have had when I was 20.

Among the U.S. cars I believe I recognize a “T-Ford” (in its compulsory black colour), a “Chevrolet Corvette”….

… but especially a number of “Ford Mustangs”.

There were a few high class British cars…

… and among a number of “Jaguars” also a “Rover”.

We could see a few “Mercedes” cars…

… and even some Swedish-built ones.

The “Citroën Type A” from around 1920 was quite present -  see also top picture.

There were a few “Peugeot” cars of the 202, 302, 402 type, produced before and just after WW II…

and a larger number of the “Renault 4CV”, mostly from the 1950’s.

The “Peugeot 203” cars were also basically produced during the 1950’s..

… as well as these “Panhard” ones.

Of course, there was a rather great number of the “Citroën Traction Avant”. They came into production in 1934 and we can see them in all movies from WW II times. Production was resumed after the war and continued until the mid-1950’s.  

Another famous “Citroën” is of course the “2CV” model, produced until as late as 1990.

There were also a few “Fiat Cinquecento” cars, the last ones produced in the middle of the 1970’s.

I was surprised to see only a few of the wonderful “BMC Minis” (I had one)… and only one “Peugeot” of the “Columbo” model.

There were of course also a few “Volkswagen Beetles”…

… and also “Volkswagen” (macro-)buses.  

I was surprised again to see relatively few of the “Citroën DS” model, produced during 20 years (1955-75), famous for its design and suspension. ..

… but the “Citroën SM” model, considering its relative rareness, was quite well represented.

Here are some examples of standard, typical, cars from the 1960’s to the 1980’s…

… and some utility cars.

We could also see a number of “Jeeps”, “Land-Rovers”…

The local transport system was represented by some buses.

Some followers were riding vintage motor bikes…

… whereas others were biking.