February 29, 2008

Another Charles Garnier building

When walking from the Cour du Commerce Saint André and Cour Rohan (see my two preceding posts), along Boulevard Saint Germain in the direction of the church Saint Germain des Prés (or the cafés Les Deux Magots and Flore etc…) you can find a building created by Charles Garnier,

… who of course is particularly known as the architect of Opéra Garnier (see my post August 2, 2007). This is a very much more modest building.

Actually, Charles had some difficulties to find new jobs after the Paris opera house, much criticized those days, much praised later, and he had to wait two years after finishing the opera to get this job in 1877.

However, he then, later, also created the casino (Wikipedia photo), opera and Hôtel de Paris in Monte Carlo, the casino and the spa hotel in Vittel, a theatre in Paris (Marigny) and several other buildings.

He also created the tomb of Jacques Offenbach in 1880 (see my post April 24, 2007).

This building on Boulevard Saint Germain (no. 117), completed in 1879 is not one of the most well known among his creations, but is certainly worth having a look at. It was built for the “Le Cercle de la Librairie”, where all syndicates and professional associations representing the publishing and editing industry met until 1979. Today, after some interior modifications, the building houses L’Ecole Nationale du Patrimoine (the National School of Patrimony) which should give a good guarantee that the building will be kept in good shape.

It’s not open for visits, but I managed to get in - thanks to a tolerant door man - and to take a few pictures also of the interior stairs. I put the original pictures on my photo blog.

... and it's again time to wish you a nice weekend!

February 28, 2008

Cour de Rohan

If you are visiting Cour du Commerce Saint André (my post yesterday), I would propose that you also make a small deviation to Cour de Rohan which you easily reach by taking a small alley, some kind of secret passage, just opposite to (the backside of) the Procope restaurant. This opening did not originally exist as here was the Philippe Auguste wall, which I also referred to in yesterday’s post. You can see some old stones on the house illustrated on top. Originally, you had to enter here from the other side – still possible.

By the way, the name should rather refer to Rouen than to Rohan as this is the way to a mansion formerly supposed (but not confirmed) to have been used by the archbishops of Rouen.

Once you have entered, you will meet a rather authentic several hundred years old surrounding. There are no shops or restaurants here, just private homes. The entrance gate may be closed during weekends and evenings. When it’s open, very few people (good for the inhabitants) dare to pass the gate, which leads to three successive and irregularly shaped courtyards. It’s extremely calm, although so close to a very busy area. A wonderful place to live if you accept the idea of not bringing your car to the front of your house!
In one of the courtyards, you can find the only (?) in Paris remaining “pas-de-mule”, or “montoir” (horse-block?), a tool to help you to mount a horse.

Part of the scenes of Vincente Minelli’s film, Gigi, were turned here (Leslie Caron’s home in the film) – now 50 years ago.

You can find some of these photos on my photo blog.

February 27, 2008

Cour du Commerce Saint André

Most tourists and other visitors of the Quartier Latin, would walk up (or down) Rue Saint André des Arts, not all will deviate to see also the narrow passageway Cour Commerce Saint André. Even fewer (hardly anybody) would visit Cour Rohan. I will talk about Cour Rohan tomorrow, today just a few words about Cour du Commerce Saint André.

One entrance to this partly covered narrow street is from Rue Saint André des Arts, the other one is from Boulevard Saint Germain. The oldest known Paris wall, the Philippe-Auguste wall (built 1190-1213, see my post Jan 8, 2008), used to pass here and there are still some traces, however inside an existing building (the Catalogne tourism office).

Anyhow, the street has some kind of 18th century atmosphere, is covered by centuries- old cobble-stones, has a lot of charm and a number of historical references.
The first experiments with the guillotine (on sheep) took place in this building (no. 9).

The oldest still existing Paris café*, Le Procope – opened in 1686 - , has its (today backdoor) entry here. Among its regular visitors you can mention Racine, Molière, Voltaire, Diderot, Balzac, Napoleon and his marshals, George Sand, Victor Hugo, Oscar Wilde, Thomas Jefferson … Benjamin Franklin (who is said to have “fine-tuned” the American constitution here)… a lot of ancient times’ actors (the old Comédie Française was just across the street) .. and the Revolutionary Robespierre, Marat, Danton….and Guillotin.

Marat also printed the Revolutionary newspaper “L”Ami du Peulple” in this street (no. 8) and Danton had his home at no. 20 which corresponds to a part of the street which disappeared with the construction of Boulevard Saint Germain. Danton’s statue now stands where his house used to be.

*/ As a small extra note – I referred to Le Procope as a “café”: Did you know that the word “restaurant” comes from the French word “restaurer” (to restore)? It was used for an eating establishment for the first time around 1765 by a Parisian soup-seller. The first restaurant in the form we know it today (sitting down, ordering from a menu…) was founded in Paris in 1782. Previously eating places were basically for travelling people who paid a flat rate for what the inn owner wanted to serve.

A few of these pictures can be found on my photo blog.

February 25, 2008

Saint Sulpice

The Saint Sulpice church is situated on the east side of Place Saint Sulpice, not far from the Luxembourg Gardens. The place as such is quite nice and in the middle you find a fountain, created by Ludovico Visconti in 1844, just renovated.

Saint Sulpice is the second biggest church in Paris – after Notre Dame. The present church which replaced an older one from the 13th century was mostly completed in 1732 (the facade a few decades later). (Half of the church facade is under renovation, so I show only the other half.) From the interior you can note a beautiful pulpit, the Chapel of the Madonna (statue by Pigalle) and some wall paintings by Delacroix (too dark to be correctly photographed). The church is known for its organ, which is supposed to be one of the best in the world, created by Arisitide Cavaillé-Coll in 1862, but still with a lot of material from its original construction in 1781. Cavaillé-Coll is considered as one of the world’s best organ builders ever. The church has also always employed top class organists (and composers). The organ is frequently used for concerts and recordings.

The church is also known for its gnomon (from 1749). It was requested as part of the original church construction. The purpose was to determine the time of equinoxes (and hence of Easter). A meridian brass band crosses the floor and ends up on the gnomon, a marble obelisk. The sunlight comes in through a small lens on the opposite side of the church. The fact that this was also used for different scientific experiences may have saved it from destruction during the Revolution (when the church temporarily became a “Temple of Victory”). The church was made even more famous thanks to the "Da Vinci Code". I have already in a previous post indicated that the “French Prime Meridian” and this Saint Sulpice meridian have nothing to do with each other. The church is situated some hundred meters from the “French Prime Meridian” (referred to as the “Rose Line” by Dan Brown). Furthermore, relating to the "Da Vinci Code": The church does not stand on the place of an old pagan temple and the symbolic “PS” you can find in the church refer to St. Pierre and to St. Sulpice and not the invented “Priory of Sion”.

Some of these pictures can as usual be found on my photo blog.

Ingrid Betancourt

Ingrid Betancourt, French-Colombian citizen and former Colombian presidential candidate, has been in captivity in the Colombian jungle since February 23rd 2002. She was kidnapped, together with her vice presidential candidate, Clara Rojas, by FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia).

Clara Rojas and the ex-Colombian Senator, Consuelo Gonzales de Perdomo, were liberated last month through intervention by Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President.

Ingrid is still in rebel custody together with many others, mostly members of the Colombian Army, but also some civilians, including three US citizens. Ingrid has become an international symbol for all these hostages. (Photos from official site).

Ingrid’s two charming children, Mélanie and Lorenzo, living in France, her mother, her husband, her ex-husband and a large number of personalities, are campaigning for the liberation of Ingrid and the other hostages; a liberation which has become a major objective also for our French President, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Last Saturday was thus the sixth anniversary of Ingrid’s kidnapping and another manifestation took place in front of the magnificent Paris Town Hall (at present with an ice rink in front), where her portrait is permanently exposed, with an updated indication of the number of days she has been in captivity – today Monday, 2193 days. Short speeches were made by her children, by the liberated ex-Senator Consuela Gonzales and by the Paris Major in presence of different personalities. Thousands of people assisted and after the manifestation we were all asked to make a “human chain” around the Town Hall.

The family members and the liberated Colombian senator were later (again) received by the French President - and his new wife, Carla Bruni. (Photo AFP).

The last couple of days, the French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, has had meetings with the Colombian and the Venezuelan Presidents, Chavez and Uribe.

Let’s hope that there will soon be a happy end, not only for Ingrid but for all the hostages; some of them have been in captivity for more than ten years.

(It was not easy to make decent photos behind the thick wall of official photographers and camera men.)

… and yesterday the spring was here and my daughter tried my new toy!

February 22, 2008

No smoking... smoking?

You shouldn’t smoke! Some people still do!

In France, the interdiction against smoking in cafes, bars, restaurants and nightclubs came into force in January this year. In the immediate it seems that the turnover at these places on average has decreased by some 5% due to lost customers and there are of course some demonstrations and other manifestations against these measures! Experience from other countries seem however to prove that customers will come back after a while and that new customers (non-smokers, families with kids…) will more than replace this loss. Let’s see!

You are still allowed to smoke outside! So what is inside or outside? As France is very good in creating laws and rules, but often is even better in finding out how to escape from them, you can now see a large number of places arranged so that you can pretend that customers are outside; terraces under some kind of awning, with cellophane walls etc… and, for the winter, with gas or electric braziers! For some suppliers of such equipment, the new ban has been very good business!

It's already time to wish you a nice weekend again!

February 21, 2008

Another Lavirotte building

I have several times talked about “art nouveau” (Guimard and others). A couple of months ago, I made a post on « Ceramic buildings », presenting among others two buildings by one of the foremost “art nouveau” architects, Jules Lavirotte (1864-1928) (Example from Avenue Rapp on the left).

Very close to the large and nice Parc Monceau and its spectacular gates, on Avenue Messine (8th arrdt.), we can find another example of a Lavirotte building.

This one which has been recently renovated is some six years younger than the ones I showed last time and is not so “extreme” in its design (1907); the “art nouveau” had possibly already passed its fashion peak. There is not any coloured ceramic anymore but you can still find some rather extravagant glazed earthenware and some typical ironworks on the balconies.
The “signatures” of the architect and the sculptor responsible for the decorations are very typical for “art nouveau”,

... so is the mosaic street address.

You can find some of the pictures on my photo blog.

Extra news

Although I’m a happy metro user and walk a lot, I decided to invest in an additional means of locomotion. This is a modern version of the Solex, very popular in France in the 50’s and 60’s. Today’s version is electrically powered and is designed by Pininfarina.

February 20, 2008

Montorgueil (3)

Leaving Rue Montorgueil, there is much more to find round the corner, e.g. some very narrow streets, some other nice shops and restaurants... See especially the surprising cork-tree. There are different stories about the reason for this tree here, the simplest one is probably that there used to be a cork manufactory here. I would however especially like to draw the attention to some covered pedestrian passages. There are some 25 similar pedestrian passages in Paris. I have already posted about Passage Vendome, Prado, Jouffroy, Panoramas and Brady. Here we can find two other ones.

The first one is today quite modest and has no shops any more, but some interesting workshops. It’s called Passage Bourg l’Abbé and dates from 1828. The nice architecture is still there, you can find some old shops signs – which don’t describe the present activities – and a beautiful clock and barometer. The second one is called Passage du Grand Cerf. It dates from about 1830. Previously this was the place for a restaurant with the same name (Big Stag) which until the Revolution was the departure and arrival point of mail-coaches of the “Messageries Royales”, destroyed in 1825. This is the highest of all Parisian passages (some 12 metres = 40 ft) and you can find some surprising shop signs. It has been renovated the last decades and you can today find some nice shops, although it’s not the most visited one of the Paris pedestrian passages. ... but it’s a beauty for the eyes!
Some of these pictures can be found on my photo blog.

February 19, 2008

Montorgueil (2)

I’m coming back to Rue Montorgueil. Among a lot of nice shops and restaurants there are a few that are worth a special mention!

The pastry shop "Stohrer" was founded in 1730 by a retired “pâtissier” at the court of Versailles. Nicolas Stohrer invented, among other nice and sweet things to eat, the (at least in France) famous “Baba”, a brioche soaked in Malaga wine and filled with “crème pâtissière”. Stohrer is also the creator of the version “Baba au Rhum”. I guess that also the “Puits d’Amour” (Well of Love) is worth mentioning among his inventions. The original recipes are still made here, but there are also some more newly invented ones. Some 30 bakers are employed! The present decoration dates from 1864 and is executed by one of the decorators of Opéra Garnier (Paul Baudry). The shop is beautiful and is now classified as a historical monument. You can also note the ornament above the side entry gate! There is a very nice looking restaurant (which I have not tried), “L’Escargot” (The Snail) which dates from 1832. Their specialty is as the name indicates snails in different forms. Many celebrities have been dining here, including Sarah Bernhardt and part of the interior decoration comes from her home. At last I would like to mention “Au Rocher de Cancale” (The Rock of Cancale), knowing that Cancale is in Brittany; in former days this used to be the major street for oysters and other sea food. You can see the façade on the top photo. It may be interesting to know that during the 19th century the average yearly consumption of oysters among the adult population in Paris is estimated to something like 25 dozens! Oysters normally did not even appear on the menu, they were just some kind of cocktail snacks. Consider then also that oysters could then not be transported during the warmer months (the months without “r”)!

The restaurant moved here from a across the street in 1846 and the name of it is mentioned by Balzac (who was one of its customers) in his “Comédie Humaine”. The interior of the restaurant has some wall paintings by Paul Gavarni. (In the meantime, the present restaurant has been used for other activities and unfortunately part of the original decoration was destroyed… but a lot remains.)

Some of these pictures can be found on my photo blog.

February 18, 2008

Montorgueil (1)

(I mentioned in a preceding message that my PC seemed to give up, making some “funny” noise. I managed to buy a new one and to get it more or less functioning, so after all I made my Monday post!)

In some of my previous posts about e.g. Rue Saint Denis and Rue Réaumur we have already been very close to what is called the area of Montorgueil. There are several things to see around here, but let’s start with the street from which the area has got its name. Rue Montorgueil is one of the older Paris streets (13th century), has had different names before it got its present name during the 17th century; the name in English would actually be Mount Pride Street or something similar - it was the way to a rather lousy area which was called Mount Pride (Mont Orgeuilleux) by mockery.

You can join this street e.g. from les Halles, the old food centre of Paris, transformed to an underground shopping and cinema centre, maybe not the best one in Paris, but there are plans for rebuilding and modernising.

Rue Montorgueil is basically pedestrian and has today become very fashionable. Most of the buildings are old and so are also many of the shops, bars and restaurants. I will revert to some specific shops and restaurants and also tome side streets and covered pedestrian passages in one or two future posts; today we will just have a general look on the street and I also show a few examples of some old fashioned shop and restaurant facades and signs.Please note that the street is busy during the day, but very (too?) calm late evening.

Some of these pictures can be found on my photo blog.