21.5.18

Yes, green at last...



Yes, there are now trees and a lot of green to be found again, once you have reached the ground level after having arrived at “Les Halles” via one of the underground metro (1, 4, 7, 11) or RER (A, B, D) lines.

I could perhaps quote what I already wrote in a previous post about « Les Halles »… « The first market on this spot was established during the 12th century… », but you can perhaps rather have a look here - or here and here.  

Well, still regretting why not at least one or two of the Baltard pavilions have been left... After years of work, the empty space in front of the two year old "canopy" has now got its reshaped gardens – for how long this time? The gardens have in the meantime also been baptised after Nelson Mandela. On a sunny spring day, they are really nice. A lot of space giving pleasure to the kids – and their parents. You can watch the neighbouring Saint Eustache church (see my post here) and, under a “tent”, the old Chamber of Commerce (see my post here) which is being transformed into another museum of art – the Pinault Collection (see here), to open in 2019.




Under the gardens, the several-levels-shopping centre has also in the meantime been partly reshaped, “cleaned”…. Will “Les Halles” after the demolition of the Baltard pavilions, almost 50 years ago, at last be a “success story”?  

17.5.18

Malmaison


The Château de la Malmaison is situated in the western suburbs of Paris. It has a long history and has been rebuilt, modified, during several centuries, but today it looks very close what it looked like during its most celebrated years, the beginning of the 19th century, when it was the home of Napoleon and especially of his first wife, Josephine. Josephine acquired the château in 1799. It needed heavy restorations, but, decorated in the typical Empire style, she and Napoleon made it to their major home during the first years of the 19th century. France was then even often governed from here. The couple divorced in 1809, when Napoleon married the Austrian archduchess Marie-Louise. Josephine became the only owner of Malmaison … and received frequent visits by Napoleon. She did a lot to embellish the place, maybe especially the gardens. The present gardens are only a minor part of the original ones... and you could find some 250 rose varieties, trees of all kinds and origins … and animals – including zebras, antelopes, kangaroos, lamas… .  Josephine died here in 1814. Napoleon came back for a few days in 1815 after his last abdication, just before leaving for St. Helena.

The château was first taken over by Josephine’s son, Eugène de Beauharnais, later by a Swede (Jonas-Philip Hagerman – I talked about him here), later again by an ex-Queen of Spain, then by Napoleon III… and even later by Daniel Iffla, "Osiris" (I talked about him here), who bequeathed it to the French State. It’s now a museum, so let’s take a visit.

The entrance hall, the billiard room…

… the golden room…

… the music room (still with a harp on which Josephine used to play)…

… the dining room and the council room… (many rooms have some kind of tent-architecture)

… the library (see also top picture), probably the most unchanged of all rooms…

… Napoleon’s salon and bedroom…

… Josephine’s bedrooms, the official one (with the bed on which she died) and a second one, which she preferred…

… some portraits of Napoleon, including one by Jacques-Louis David …

… a number of nice items…





… a compass and a water bottle used by Napoleon…

… and the kind of camp bed on which Napoleon was laid, dead, 1821, at St. Helena, a bed brought back to France.

















14.5.18

Just a walk...


I had some reasons to be in this part of Paris and took the opportunity to look around. Nothing very special… just a “normal” part of Paris. I first found this tiny street, Cité Industrielle, one of many that were created in the middle of the 19th century, with a mixture of small industries (as the street name indicates) and housing. There are actually two parts of the same street, one more austere and another one, after having crossed another small street, more “welcoming”.

There is a little square where you cross the street. It seems that the inhabitants (or some of them) are really strongly opposed to any kind of decoration of the walls.

So, in the greener part of the little street (see also top picture) there is even a very tiny theatre… and a little piece of street art, a cat by the famous Miss.Tic!  

I decided to walk down the Boulevard Voltaire from Place Léon Blum to Place de la Nation (see previous posts). If I had gone in the other direction I would have reached Place de la République (see previous posts). This quite Haussmannian boulevard which was opened in 1857, and in the beginning was named Boulevard du Prince Eugène, was (of course) renamed in 1870 to its present name.  This boulevard is one of the most used itineraries for all kinds of political demonstrations.

Talking politics, very close to the boulevard, you will find the Jupy Gymnasium, originally built as a market place in 1870, but in 1894 transformed to a gymnasium, used for sports events, but also very often for political meetings. You can somehow say that this is where - during a 1899 meeting - it was decided to create the French Socialist party. But the place has later been used by all political “colours” not only by the left, still for sports events and even for fashion shows. Unfortunately, the Gymnasium is however especially well-known for having been a place where Jews were assembled during the Nazi occupation, before being transferred to Drancy… and to Auschwitz…

One of the political speakers at the Jupy Gymnasium was of course Léon Blum, several times prime minister, considered as moderate left and linked to what is referred to as the “Popular Front”. It seems quite logical that he has got his statue nearby, on a place now also wearing his name.

There are a number of interesting facades, portals, side-streets... along the boulevard.



One building has a bust of Alexandre Dumas (père) and a long list of his works on the facade. This is on the corner of Rue Alexandre Dumas where he had his home for a while – the building is gone.

There is one industrial building from 1901 where one once used to manufacture all kinds of equipment for games, billiards… the inscriptions are still there but not the manufacturing.

At the end, getting close to Place de la Nation, it was time for a drink. This café is where one of the men who participated in the restaurant and bar shootings November 13, 2015 (Bataclan etc.), placed an order before detonating his suicide vest, killing himself and injuring several people.



10.5.18

All that glitters...



A number of gold-coloured views, some with real gold, some maybe not… Gold has of course been appreciated for thousands of years in some cultures, but not in all, considered as of no practical use compared to other more resistant minerals. We should perhaps remember that gold is not only decorative, but also used in industry, electronics, medicine… and that today China is producing more gold than South Africa.  One detail from the very interesting book “Sapiens” that I’m now reading: "… for decades aluminium was much more expensive than gold. In the 1860’s, Emperor Napoleon III of France commissioned aluminium cutlery to be laid out for his most distinguished guests. Less important visitors had to do with gold knives and forks…”







7.5.18

Saint-Pierre-du-Gros-Caillou


This church has the name of Saint-Pierre-du-Gros-Caillou. Gros-Caillou - meaning big stone in English - is the name given to this area of Paris, in the 7th arrondissement, and it refers obviously to the fact that once upon a time there was a stone somewhere here, a landmark, probably a milestone.

The present church dates from the 1820's and is very simple in its architecture, according to those years' fashion, and the decoration is so modest that you may believe that you are in a protestant church rather than a catholic one. 


The church increased in size in the 1970's, in an even simpler architecture.

One of the original bells (from 1826) has been replaced and is exhibited just outside the entrance doors.

The confessionals were designed in the 1850's by Victor Baltard, of course better known for "Les Halles" (see previous post).