March 24, 2008
March 23, 2008
March 21, 2008
A small river, Bièvre, used to pass by at the bottom of the hill (today the river is underground), limestone mining and dyeing industry seems to have been rather dominant and on the hill you could find a number of wind mills. The area was annexed to Paris in 1860. Important battles took place here during the Paris Commune (1871). It remained a working class area until rather recently, but... there is soon no more "working class" living in Paris - too expensive. This is in my taste a fabulous little area, a small Montmartre – without tourists. (Sorry, I have nothing against kind tourists, but…).
There are a number of things to say about La Butte aux Cailles and I will do it in two or three episodes.
You can reach the “Butte” in different ways, but I chose to climb some stairs just in front of the metro station Corvisart. The birches have got their first leaves. (See top picture.) You reach a small playground. I then headed for the central place, on top of the hill, Place Paul-Verlaine, where we find our spring water and the public swimming bath, built in 1924 (see yesterday's post). This is also the spot which was reached by the first ever human flight, by a “montgolfière”, coming from La Muette (16th arrdt,) some 9-10 km (6 miles) away. (See my post February 08). You can find a small memorial.Opening to the place is also a school, founded in the middle of the 19th century by the Sisters of Saint Vincent de Paul. It was originally thought for the professional education of girls of modest origin. They were taught the ladies' professions of those times; they prepared even dresses for Queen Victoria! Today, it’s just a “normal school”. The place is full of narrow streets, small houses, small private gardens … and of course bars and restaurants. I will come back to all this, but in the meantime, let’s celebrate Easter! (See you Monday – or Tuesday!)
Some of these pictures can be found on my photo-blog!
Posted by Peter at 21.3.08
March 20, 2008
Paris, within the city limits and not counting the suburbs, is actually not that big in surface and has hardly more than 2 million inhabitants. It becomes really big only when you include the suburbs.
Anyhow the city consumes something like 500 000 m3 (= some130 000 US gallons) of drinking water per day, which if I have calculated correctly corresponds to some 250 litres (around 65 US gallons) per person and day, of course not all swallowed.
In ancient times, water came from a few local sources and fountains and was also partly brought to Paris in aqueducts and partly taken directly from the Seine where a first hydraulic pump was installed during the 17th century (called “La Samaritaine”, which gave the name to the department store which later was built there). Water was carried to people’s homes by water carriers – the last ones disappeared around 1910. In my yesterday’s message I talked about the Bassin de la Villette as a fresh water reservoir where water was brought in via the Canal de l’Ourcq. This did not last long. The water distribution was finally correctly organized during the second half of the 19th century and houses began to get water supply at home.
Today the water comes from different sources up to some 150 km (100 miles) away, but part comes also from upstream the Seine.
You can also get pure spring water in Paris – and for free! Some 600 or 700 meters under the ground you can find some 25 000 years old fresh water from an underground river and you can still get hold of it at three places in Paris, quite distant from each other (see the map). It holds some 25-30 Centigrades (some 80° Fahrenheit) if you drink it immediately, but if you live fairly close you would probably bring some plastic bottles and then take them to your fridge. Many people do. If you are interested in the water quality, it’s checked regularly and you can find an updated report on the spot.One of the sources can be found at the Buttes aux Cailles, Place Paul-Verlaine, 13th arrondissement. It gives enough of water also to feed the local swimming bath. (I will soon come back to this area.) Another one is at Square Lamartine in the bourgeois 16th arrondissement.… and the third one is in the much more popular 18th arrondissement, Square de la Madone, today surrounded by a number of Chinese shops and supermarkets. (We are getting a number of China towns).
Posted by Peter at 20.3.08
March 19, 2008
Some of these pictures can also be found on my photo-blog.
Posted by Peter at 19.3.08
March 18, 2008
Posted by Peter at 18.3.08
March 17, 2008
The cleaning service in Paris includes collecting the garbage on a daily basis. Early morning the green trucks arrive. I like the atmosphere in the local street Saturday morning – and also on Sunday morning – when you find the population which normally is working or in school during the week. Saturday morning there is also a local open market.After shopping, I made a small detour to “my” park. The tulips have now taken over the reign after the narcissuses. The weather was sufficiently nice to enable a pleasant pause on a bench. Some people got married. On the way home, I found that a small demonstration took place. The controversial Church of Scientology is present in our quarter. A group, calling itself “Anonymous”, held a worldwide protest action day Saturday (L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday), including here. It was a calm and peaceful demonstration, but obviously the church does not appreciate criticism and had asked for (strong) police protection. The protesters are in general bearing masks, wishing to stay anonymous, claiming having received menaces. (There is much more to be said about this, but here is perhaps not the forum – I tried a rather “neutral” statement… however, if you wish, feel free to express your opinion.)
In the evening I assisted at a local gathering with a nice meal and some nice music, performed among others by Russian and Kabyle (Algerian ethnic) representatives living in the area. (I did not bring my camera.)
Posted by Peter at 17.3.08
March 15, 2008
We just learnt this week that within the next two or three years there will not anymore be any personnel selling tickets in the different Paris metro entrances. The machines, which are already there, will be the only way to buy your weekly, monthly, yearly subscription or possibly some loose tickets. "Smart cards" (called "Navigo") are already in use. In the beginning of the 70’s the last “poinçonneurs” (metro employees who punched your tickets) disappeared… (If you have saved a ticket with a small punch hole from these days, you can sell it at a good price). Today some of the metro trains don’t even have a driver…
Posted by Peter at 15.3.08
March 14, 2008
One of them is the Crédit Municipal de Paris (no. 55). This is one of the oldest financial institutions in France, created in 1777, which among other things acts as a pawnshop – it will (possibly) lend you money in exchange for a deposit of some more or less valuable merchandise, and when you (possibly) can pay back, they will return your belongings. This kind of institution has several nick names, like “Mont-de-Piété” (after a charitable Italian institution, “Monte-de-Pietà”). Another name for it is “Chez ma Tante” (“At my Auntie”); normally you would not too openly admit that you had to borrow from this institution, you would more easily pretend that you got some money from your auntie. Another version for this expression is that one of the royal princes did not want his mother to find out that he had pawned his watch, so he just said that he had forgotten it at his aunt’s house. The place has still 600 visitors per day and a lot of famous personalities have passed the gate – in the past even Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Claude Monet... When the not reclaimed belongings are later auctioned, you can make some good business here.
Before “closing” for the weekend, I wished to show some more details from the Paris spring development (photos from yesterday). Have a nice weekend!
Posted by Peter at 14.3.08
March 13, 2008
The name of the street, which means “exempt citizens”, was given during the Revolution and because of the existence of a mansion in the street where in the 15th century some poor people who didn’t have to pay taxes to the city were given a place to live.
Along the street you will find a large number of mansions (“hôtels particuliers”), most of them several hundred years old. Many of them are closed to public – today mostly occupied by different administrations - and you can only with a bit of luck see what is behind the gates and the facades. One of the nicer mansions and open to public is Hôtel Carnavalet (see below), built in 1548, which used to be the home of Madame Sévigné (her birthplace was Place des Vosges, as I mentioned yesterday). It’s today the Museum of the History of Paris. It’s certainly worth a visit (free of charge), is magnificently decorated (to a great part with interiors from different epochs and often coming from other palaces) and shows a lot of interesting documentation. The street is full of boutiques – often old bakeries or butchers which, fortunately, in some cases have kept the old ensigns and part of the decoration. Here almost everything is open even on Sundays, so it’s a nice shopping street. ... and if you are hungry or thirsty, you will easily find a place. I always advise you to look to the right and the left, into the small side streets, alleys and inner yards (when they are open); this is what adds to the charm of many of these old streets. As an example, if you look on the lower left corner of the below patchwork, you can see an alley, called “Impasse des Arbalétriers” (arbalète = cross-bow) where in 1407 the brother of King Charles VI was killed, which led to about 15 years of civil war, or at least brutal struggle, between the “Armagnacs” and the “Burgundians”.
Posted by Peter at 13.3.08