Part of the Sorbonne...

Unless you are a teacher or a student, normally you will not be allowed to enter this building except when there is an art exhibition – and...  there is now one ongoing.

This building houses the Faculty of Law of the Sorbonne University and you find it on Place du Panthéon. It seems that what you can see from the Place was part of an end-of-the-18th century project which also included what was supposed to become the Sainte-Geneviève church, but which finally became the Panthéon, with J-G Soufflot as architect (he died before the end of the work). I wrote more about it here. ... and I wrote more about the Sorbonne University here.

As I officially went for the art exhibition, I will of course show something of it. The artist’s name is Sophie Verger and she specialises today in sculptures inspired by animals, often in surprising postures. We can find some outdoor examples in the courtyard….

… and others on an upper floor.

To reach this upper floor, you have to climb some amazing stairs.

Actually, for me, this was especially the chance to see the interior architecture of this building.

There is another entrance to the building, from Rue Saint Jacques – closed... 

... but you can reach it from the inside and visit what is referred to as “Galerie Soufflot” – see also top picture.  I haven’t managed to find any information about this part of the building – including the stairs -, but, looking on different city plans and on the building material used, it seems obvious that it has been added later during the 19th century.

There are some other nice stairs also in the older parts of the building … and you can find the statue of Jacques Cujas (1522-90), a prominent legal expert, scholar and teacher….

… who gave his name to a recent addition to the building complex, along Rue Cujas - the photo to the right, below. Once again, I haven’t been able to find the name of the architect – I guess in any case it would be better not to mention or remember it. Well, the real “guilty” ones are of course they who made such decisions in the 1960’ or 70’s. … and, actually, the building is nicer on the inside than on the outside.


... and some street art again

The Batignolles area in the 17th arrondissement used to have a covered market of the old Baltard type. It was replaced in the 1970’s by this quite dull building. Well, the building – in addition to the market - now also offers a number of flats for older people and via Google Earth and the site “Le Jardin des Moines”, we can see that there is a calm and nice space on top of the market roof. I talked to some people who live there and they seem to be satisfied, so maybe I shouldn’t be too upset about the destruction of the old building.

To make the building look a bit less dull also from the outside, I was pleased to see that it recently has been decorated by four street artists. One has realised that the arrondissement was lacking street art, and this project is obviously at least partly sponsored by a popularly voted City of Paris “participatory budget”. 

I was especially pleased to see that one of my favourite street artists, Seth, has made some remarkable illustrations (see also top picture), obviously referring to kids and reading - just opposite the street where he has painted, there is a library, specializing in youth literature. I have already written about Seth here and here.

The other - excellent - artists are Pastel FD…

… Ratur…

… and Jaw. 

You can see read more about the artists here: Seth, Pastel FD, Ratur, Jaw.



Not easy to keep your feet dry. It has been raining… and raining.


The Champs Elysées at 10 pm.

No big crowds on the terraces…


Square de l'Amérique Latine

Waiting for a bus the other day, I discovered this little square, "Square de l’Amérique Latine”. We are in the extreme north-west of the 17th arrondissement, close to the Paris border. Actually, we are on a space close to where the last Paris defense wall, the “Thiers wall”, could be found. (Most of it was demolished in the 1920's, but I showed some remaining parts of the wall in a recent post, see here.)  If you are interested in visiting the square, it’s easy to go there, the close by Place de Champerret can be reached by metro (line 3) and some six bus lines.

The “Square de l’Amérique Latine” was created in 1931. It’s a small, very modest square, but it has room for nine sculptures honouring different Latin American personalities. Actually there are eight busts, spread in a half-circle with flowers in between… and with in the middle a more full size statue – see top picture.

This is the opportunity to learn something about the different personalities that are represented. I just wrote a few words.. 

Maybe a special remark about José Marti, who wrote the text to the famous Cuban patriotic song “Guantanamera”… “Yo soy un hombre sincero…”, interpreted by Pete Seeger, The Sandpipers, Joan Baez, Julio Iglesias, Nana Mouskouri, Trini Lopez, Gipsy Kings… and of course by the Bueana Vista Social Club. You can listen to a recent Cuban version here.... or just below.

In the square you could originally find the statue of Simón Bolívar, “El Libertador” of Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Panama. In 1980, 150 years after his death, the statue was transferred to its present place on the “Cours de la Reine” (The Queen’s Promenade), see previous post. Two years later Bolívar was replaced in this square by Francisco de Miranda, who also was a revolutionary military and somehow a predecessor to Bolívar.

You can also find here the entrance to the – underground - discotheque “La Main Jaune”, very popular during the 1980’s and 90’s, now forgotten.  



Hôtel de Monaco

I had the possibility to visit the Polish Embassy in Paris, also referred to as “Hôtel de Monaco”. The building has some origins from 1774-77, when it was constructed for Marie-Christine de Brignole (1737-1813), married to, but rather soon separated from H-C-L Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco. The Prince continued to live in the nearby “Hôtel de Matignon” – the present residence of the French Prime Minister (see previous post). The architect of this building, after all referred to as the “Hôtel de Monaco”, was A-T Brongniart (1739-1813) - who also designed some other “hôtels”, the Paris Stock Exchange … and also made the original layout of the Père Lachaise cemetery. Marie-Christine, who was the mother of two Grimaldi sons and somehow is the great-great… grandmother of the present Monaco Prince, lived then in “concubinage” with a Prince de Condé in this new home, until the 1789 Revolution, when they moved to England. The legitimate husband, Grimaldi, died in 1795 and then she could marry the Prince de Condé.

The building then changed owners a number of times. It has been the home of the Polish Ambassador since 1936, with an interruption of the Nazi occupation years.

We are thus in the more representative part of the Embassy - the consular services can be found in an adjacent street. The ground floor is fairly “private”.

Via a side entrance you arrive via some giant stairs to the more official reception parts of the Embassy – see also top picture.

When you talk about Paris and Poland, you automatically think of Chopin. Yes, he played here once, but of course well before it became a Polish Embassy. There are some concerts given here now and then, but Chopin didn’t play in this room, nor of course on this piano. In the entrance hall you can find a replica of the statue, which was placed on Chopin’s tomb in 1850 (he died in 1849) at the Père Lachaise cemetery (see previous post). It’s done by Auguste Clésinger (1814-83), who was married to George Sand’s daughter Solange.


Passage Commun

In the very fashionable 7th arrondissement, I was curious to find out what was hiding behind the curious street name “Passage Commun”. Actually, it’s just an opening to some kind of corridor, at 127, rue de l’Université. You can enter… and you discover the old cobblestones (see top picture), some 50 mailboxes, another gate and some rather typical Paris 19th century buildings, modest, but quite decent. I met an old lady who had lived there “since ever” and she kindly showed me her nice flat. 

It seems that the name “Passage Commun” refers to the fact that you have the right to enter, although it means that you have to pass through a third party property. It’s of course rather curious to have this as your official postal address.   


Fire station

There are some 25 fire stations (“casernes”) in Paris. Many of them are beautiful buildings, often from late 19th century, like this one from 1899 on Rue Malar in the 7th arrondissement. Many of them have kept the old lanterns, meant to indicate “here we are” during the dark hours.  


A new Palace of Justice

I have already showed a number of times how the new Palace of Justice, with Renzo Piano as architect, has risen to become one of the highest Paris buildings – 160 m (525 ft). Well, we don’t wish for any new high buildings in Paris but… the building is as far from the centre of Paris you can be without leaving the city. (See map below.)  (The Montparnasse Tower is 210 m high (689 ft) and the Eiffel Tower 324 m (1063 ft).)

The new Palace (Le Tribunal de Paris) has now been in operation since mid-April.

Just a little comparison between the 18th century entrance of the old Palace and the new one. (I would be curious to see the new one in some 250 years.)

Unless being part of the magistrate administration, you can visit only the lowest of the “cubes”, six stores, some 90 courtrooms…  and during this first visit I didn’t look into any courtroom, where no photo should be taken during audiences anyhow.

The large lobby, where you and your lawyer, barrister, may spend a – long - moment before it’s time to enter a courtroom, is in France referred to as “la salle des pas perdus”. Knowing a bit of French you may believe that the translation should be the “hall for lost steps”, considering the long time you may wait here, maybe walking around. However, “pas perdus” can also be translated as “not lost”, and actually this may be the real origin of the expression. In 1815, Napoleon had left for St. Helena and the royalty took over again. King Louis XVIII created a Chamber with royalists, some even more royalists than the King, and it was quickly decided to have a new election, where some lost and some didn’t. The non-losers, the “pas perdus”, met in a large hall at the Palais Bourbon (see previous posts)…which got the name. (Awaiting the results, I guess they had taken a number of steps, the 100 "pas perdus".) 
As a comparison this is what “la salle des pas perdus” looked like in the old Palace (see also previous post)..

The criminal investigation quarters, which were already part of the old Palace, were situated on and always referred to as “36, Quai des Orfèvres”, well known from e.g. George Simenon’s "Commissaire Maigret" novels. They have also moved to this adjacent building, which, a bit artificially, has kept its famous street number “36” – now on another street, rue du Bastion.  

Rue du Bastion refers to the last Paris defence wall, the Thiers wall, built during the 1840’s and for the largest part destroyed during the 1920’s, but here remains a rather large part, which now is brought back into light and sight. … and just behind it you can see the only old buildings which have been left untouched in this area - the opera warehouses with Charles Garnier as architect (not quite as glorious as the “Opera Garnier”, see previous posts) – today partly hosting some theatre activities. (I talked about the warehouses and the wall already here.)   

Some higher courts will still remain in the old Palace (Assize Courts, Courts of Appeal, Cassation), the “36 Quai des Orfévres” will possibly host some police museum activities… but there will be a lot of space free.