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Paris: A Rambler's Memories


Another week of pandemic, and another virtual visit to a favorite city, this time Paris. There's no city I have more pictures of, I think, which makes it both a pleasure to sort through the images, and a difficult task to pick favorites that bring back memories but are not necessarily one more straight-on image of a familiar landmark.


Sometimes it's easier than others; this is my chance for the two pictures above which show aspects of the machinery that keeps the Eiffel Tower going, including the little seismograph at the foot of one of the legs; it's not really watching out for earthquakes as much as it is monitoring the tower itself for dangerous vibrations.


But many of my favorite memories are not so famous. Most of my visits to Paris over the past fifteen years have involved renting an apartment in the Clignancourt neighborhood of the 18e arrondissement, part of Montmartre. I'm always cheered to arrive at the Jules Joffrin métro station to find the carousel still in place in front of the church, and a short walk to serious bread.

20170917_133249Only a short walk from there to Rue Ramey and the apparent contradiction of this restaurant that bills itself as a 'vegetable slaughterhouse.' The distance is greater to this temple of taste on the Ile Saint-Louis. No one in the world is better at fruit-flavored ice creams than Berthillon; not even my favorite gelattos can touch them. (Of course, that's only my opinion, but...)


While we're on food, here's a lamp at Au Pied de Cochon near Les Halles. Even if you're not in a mood for their 24/7 onion soup or plateaux of seafood, the decor is worth a visit. 

20170911_1411361060685P1070755P1070758Less traditional forms here! The one at left was stationed near the Orangerie, but may not have been a permanent installation, but the other two are at the Saint-Lazare rail station permanently: a pile of suitcases and a stack of time. Below, the best bronze beards I've ever seen. Charlemagne, by the way.


Sometimes the sculpture is hidden away; Paris has a number of these 'hidden gardens.' This one is near the Petit Palais; it's a quiet corner that's barely visible from the street. The sculpture is The Dream of the Poet, dating to 1910. The garden has a name, too, and a story to go with it. For years it was called the Swiss Valley Garden because it was the locaton of the Swiss Pavilion at the 1900 world exposition.

But in 2010, it was renamed New France Garden (Jardin de Nouvelle-France, in memory of the former French territory in North America, lost to Britain in 1763; the garden adjoins Place du Canada. The Mayor of Montreal sent a Canadian maple tree, and busts of early French-Canadians Champlain and Jacques Cartier were installed.


Religious buildings, old and new, have their place in my memories, but often not the most familiar views. Below, a close-up of doors at Notre Dame, and a rear view, facing east, of Notre Dame. And, for variety, the stark modern blocks of the new-built Russian Orthodox Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, built with donations from the Russian government.


Sadly, the city also has monuments to murder. The most familiar are the many plaques marking rebelling Parisians killed by the Nazis in the August 1944 uprising, and the plaques marking scenes of deportation. But the two below are of a different character, and still provoke controversy.

20170924_193304The first, on the Lobau barracks near the city hall marks the 140th anniversary of the summary execution in 1871 of thousands of Parisians who had taken part or were suspected of taking part, in the Paris Commune.


The second marks and event 90 years later. In 1961, during the Algerian independence war, Maurice Papon, then Prefect of Police (and a Nazi collaborator in World War II) ordered police to attack a pro-independence demonstration killing as many as 300 demonstrators. Some were beaten to death, dozens were thrown in the river to drown. It took nearly forty years for the government to acknowledge the events.

P1060587I had just read that plaque for the first time a few minutes before finding myself facing this line up of police vans outside the Prefecture. 


But it's 'time' for something else, as this beautiful clock on a former department store reminds us. Paris is one of the best cities for public clocks, enough that there's a TravelGumbo blog about them. Only room here for one. And then for some pleasant buildings around town.

P1000253This one's near the Prefecture, and shows its age (late 1800s) with the two little signs advertising how modern and luxurious it is: They promise water and gas on all floors! Below, more recent, and one of the last public bathhouses built in Paris, the St-Merri baths have lovely lettering and other Art Deco touches. 

P1070798P1000020P1070901A few small buildings are squeezed into tight corners here and there; the left picture is on the Left Bank, facing the river; the wistful waif is 'standing on the corner' at the Canal Saint-Martin.

20170927_13472720170927_151020One of my favorite shop signs is at this wool shop in the 19th. The theme characters of the sign continue inside. Two less formal business venues are outdoors: A concessionaire renting boats that can be sailed in a small pond in the Tuileries gardens, and one of the many, many vendors selling Paris landmarks in glass, plastic, metal and more.


Going for the gold: Ornate gates at the Palais de Justice, and small details seen large at the ornate Pont Alexandre III.


One of the more unusual (and less-known) museums of Paris, the Cité de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine, was founded by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who supervised restoration and renovation of many French churches, including Notre Dame in the 19th century. The 'Architecture and Heritage' museum houses hundreds of scale models and thousands of casts of architectural decor and design, intended as a way of cataloging and understanding France's heritage and training new architects to know it. 

P1070886From the museum's window, an unusual angle to view the Eiffel Tower, and on its upper observation platform, a hint to couples to keep up the city's reputation as a place for romance.


In Notre Dame, a bishop who might have been the original Rhinestone Cowboy. 


A quiet moment with the working parts of the Canal Saint-Martin, and, because I can't help noticing birds, a nearby bird. I can hardly wait until I can visit again.



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The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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