Hibiscus time - time for a break.

This week, this is again how I found the – giant - hibiscus in my – little – garden. 

It made me think that it was time for a little summer break - soon leaving for the south… I hope to be back blogging in about a month. In the meantime, especially if you live in the northern hemisphere, enjoy the season!  

I’m not the only one to love this tree and its flowers!


Hôtel Gaillard

I already mentioned this remarkable building in some previous posts, see here and here. Already from the outside it’s really amazing and it certainly has some of nicest gutters you’ve ever seen (see top picture).

It’s a very large mansion (hôtel particulier) built around 1880 for a banker, Emile Gaillard (1821-1902), and it’s still referred to as Hôtel Gaillard. It may be interesting to know that he was the banker of many of France’s richest dynasties, of Victor Hugo… and that he once was one of Chopin’s best pupils – Chopin even, in 1840, when Emile was 19, dedicated one of his mazurkas to him (Mazurka in A minor, B. 140 – you can listen to it on the net) !

Emile was married, there were children… , but the vast space was obviously especially requested to make place for a fantastic art collection, mostly from previous centuries. He asked the architect, Jules Février (1842-1937) to take inspiration from the Loire Valley renaissance castles (Blois, Gien…).

After Emile’s death, the art collection was sold, but it took until after WWI before the building was acquired by the Bank of France, who after much work, opened a branch office here, closed in 2006. 

A lot of the original architecture is fortunately still there, however we must of course remember that it had become a bank during some 85 years before closing with e.g. an important bank vault surrounded by heavy walls (temporarily closed when I visited – I “stole” a photo from the net).

On one of the walls you can find some caricatures in relief, one of Gaillard, holding a purse and one of the architect, Février, holding a compass.

It took then some time for the Bank to decide what to do with this building. There were some ideas to make it into some kind of a “Dumas Centre”, the three Dumas (grand-father, father, son) are all represented on the Square in front of the hotel (as, you can see on one of the photos, is Sarah Bernhardt who lived around the corner for a couple of years. I talked about all this in the posts I referred to above.) 

Finally, the decision was taken to make the place to a “Cité de l’Economie”, dedicated to economics, moneys… and, after a few years of restoration, it opened to public mid-June this year. If you want to learn something about economics there is now plenty of information - screens all over, of all sizes… documentation… Despite my education in economics, I was personally much more interested in the building itself.  


Colourful balloons - and flowers

In a previous post I showed colourful umbrellas in the “Village Royal”. This time I wanted to show colourful balloons. You will find them at the “Bercy Village”. This is the place where you can find what used to be wine merchant buildings, now transformed in to shops, restaurants… I posted about the place on my previous blog and also here.

But… on the way there (I had a nice lunch) and back, I walked through what since the 1990’s has been transformed into a large park (see again my previous posts). This time I decided to take photos only of some “details” of what you find in the park. “Details” refer of course basically to all the kinds of – colourful - flowers. A great bravo the gardeners!

But, the first thing I found was actually this turtle. Someone had offered it (him / her?) some roses. I had a feeling that it looked at me, somehow opening its eyes… but it didn’t care about the dead insect.

I hardly know the names of the flowers I saw (except roses…), but I recognized the fantastic garlic flower which to me looks like a concentration of hundreds of small tulips.

This flower has a very specific beauty I think – and I was not the only one to appreciate it.

I didn’t know that ants were climbing all the way up to visit flowers.

A few more flowers, berries, vines …

… and at last some examples of some nice insect “hotels”.


Preparing for 2024 - Place de la Concorde

Paris is preparing for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Place de la Concorde (see previous posts) was empty of cars and full of sports events last Sunday. This picture was of course “stolen” from the net – I did not offer myself any balloon-trip. An amazing thing is that when I passed by Monday noon, almost all was gone, the Place looked normal and the traffic was back.

Here we can see the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, doing some (fake) heavyweight lifting. She is accompanied by Tony Estanguet, three-time Olympic Champion (in canoeing) and who in the meantime had the time to graduate from a top business school … and now is serving as the head of the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics organizing committee. 

I show a number of pictures of different sports activities, not all of them yet present during the Olympic Games. People, especially the kids, were offered a first insight in some sports, led by instructors, some actually champions in their respective sports.

There was a symbolic 2024 meter run around the Place. 

Some of the participants were then, by some kind of lottery draw, winning the right to participate in the 2024 Marathon Race. Here we can see the lucky few, together with Tony Estanguet and the French Minister of Sports, Roxana Maracineanu, born in Romania, French Champion in swimming, Olympic silver medalist…


The Duckling Street

There is a little street which you may take during a walk between the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church (see previous posts here) and the Saint-Sulpice Church (see previous posts here).

Actually, this little street hade the name of rue Saint-Soulpice, later rue Neuve-Saint-Sulpice, until the middle of the 17th century, when it got its present name, rue des Canettes, meaning the Duckling Street, because of the decoration you can still find on the front of no. 18 – see top picture. You can find four ducklings in different positions.

In the preceding post I talked about Marcel Proust (1871-1922). I discovered that there is something to be said about him also here. A lady, Céleste Albaret (1894-1984) - who was Proust’s secretary, housekeeper, factotum, for the last 8 or 9 years of his life - later, with her husband (who originally was Proust’s favourite taxi driver) and daughter, were during some twenty or thirty years running the hotel which now is named  Hotel La Perle. She was very much appreciated by Proust and she was, with Proust’s brother, present when he died… Proust who knew that he was dying had wished her to be the one to close his eyes. Here we can see a photo of her and what obviously was the last page of “In Search of Lost Time” (see “end – “fin”) - she talks about it in an interview made in 1962 for the French Television - you can see it here - in French - minutes 41:40-55:30. And there is also a little poem he wrote to her.

Here are some other views from the little narrow street, with a number of shops and places for eating and drinking.

We can see that the street poles also here have been decorated by CyKlop. I wrote about him e.g. here.  … and on the corner of rue Guisarde, we can see another “duckling” dressed like the comedian and actor Coluche (1944-1986) – I talked about him here and here.   


"In search of lost time"

“In search of lost time” is the title of seven volumes and several thousand pages written by Marcel Proust (1871-1922), by many considered to be among the greatest works of fictions ever written. The opinions may of course differ, but I’m rather proud to say that I have managed to read a large part of them – in French!  Last weekend I met a number of Proust fans and I have now promised to re-read Proust, maybe with “new eyes”.

Well, I didn’t lose my time last weekend. I went with some musician friends to meet other friends who have a country house close to a little village originally called Illiers. Marcel Proust spent some summer holidays here during his young years and the village appears in his writing as the fictional village Combray. The village was actually, thanks to Marcel Proust, in 1971, officially renamed Illiers-Combray.

After two days of preparations and final rehearsals – and a lot of nice time, good eating and drinking - a garden party (with a lot of Proust discussions) took place followed by a concert by a trio of friends performing Smetana, Chostakovitch and Schubert.

Here are some pictures from the village…

… and the park, named “Pré Catelan”, but which in Proust’s writings corresponds to Swann’s park and which originally was designed by Marcel’s uncle – who actually appears on a photo I found on the net.

The church of the village is quite remarkable. Built during the 15th and 16th centuries, its architecture is quite different. I was especially impressed by the simple wooden church vault, painted around 1685 – see top picture.

… and I could not resist against taking some flower pictures.