January 31, 2008

Ile Saint Louis (Post # 300)

Ile Saint Louis which is just east of Ile de la Cité is a combination of what previously were two smaller islands and it started to be really inhabited only in the 17th century. I have again made a comparison of what the island looked like around 1730 and today. Actually, still today most of the buildings are from the 17th century including a beautiful baroque church. The narrow central street is full of restaurants and shops. As there is quite a lot to see and visit, I will make three different posts on this island, today rather making the tour of the exterior streets, river banks and small parks at the extreme ends. To give you a more clear idea of the surrounding geography I made this additional plan. Close neighbours are, in addition to Notre Dame, one of the most famous Paris restaurants (Tour d’Argent), the Arab World Institute (clearly worth a visit), la Bastille.

Coming from Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame, you will use a pedestrian bridge, mostly occupied by some street musicians.

On the island there are a lot of remarkable buildings including, on the eastern corner, the Hôtel Lambert with a lot of famous successive owners (today a Rothschild). During the 19th century it belonged to a Polish prince and was some kind of centre for Polish emigrants. Chopin was a frequent guest and most of his “polonaises” were created for the annual “grands bals” held here. The “hôtel” was designed by Louis Le Veau (or Le Vau) who during some 25 years was Louis XIV’s chief architect and contributed at Versailles, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Vincennes, Louvre, Institut de France (French Academy)…Another building designed by Le Veau is the Hôtel de Lauzun (or Lausun, front gate closed), now belonging to and restored by the City of Paris. You can here see the gate together with some others. The island has had a lot of illustrious occupants, in the beginning mostly French nobility, but later also Marie Curie, Baudelaire, Daumier, Blum, Chagall, Pompidou… and still has (no names here).

One of them was Camille Claudel, who lived and worked here during 14 years after she had left Rodin and until 1913 when she was forced to leave for a mental institution where she spent her last 30 years. The gate was closed, but a nice lady let me in to take a photo also from the court yard. The apartment cannot be visited; today occupied by a well known personality (no name).

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

This is my 300th post (on this blog) in 315 days - my first post was made March 22nd last year.

January 30, 2008

La Conciergerie

Not so much spectacular to show in images from La Conciergerie – part of the Palais de Justice - but the place is very much linked to French history.

The name of the building is related to the French word for a caretaker or door-keeper (concierge), still often found in French apartment buildings, mostly a lady living on the ground floor and checking if you have the right to enter or not. In this case, there was certainly a need for a door-keeper as this became the Paris’ first and most famous prison.

This part of the present Palais de Justice was built as a fortress 1284-1314. When by the end of the 14th century the kings moved out from was then the Royal Palace (Palais de la Cité) to the palaces of the Louvre, Vincennes and others, this part became the seat for the Parliament (Parlement de Paris), the judicial power and also a prison.

Totally you can see four towers, the first one the square Clock Tower and then the Caesar Tower, the Silver Tower (where the royal jewelry may have been kept) and the “Bon Bec” (= medieval slang for tattler) Tower, where the confessions were obtained.

In the basement is a gigantic room which originally served as the Palace refectory, but during the revolution housed the male prisoners (with an extra wooden deck to make place). Some prisoners could be better lodged, against payment.

La Conciergerie is of course especially known for its role during the Revolution, when thousands of prisoners were kept here, usually not for long. Most of them were condemned quite quickly and then brought to the guillotine. Famous prisoners here were e.g. a lot of members of the royal and noble families, but also revolutionary like Danton and Robespierre … and of course Marie-Antoinette.

The place of her cell was transformed to a chapel, known as the Expiatory Chapel a few decades later, when the royalty came back to power.

The floor and the window are still there. The window leads to the Women’s Courtyard.

Marie-Antoinette’s cell has been reconstituted just behind the wall of the chapel, but here everything is false.

You can find the list of the 2780 people who were condemned to death and guillotined during the Revolution. By a coincidence, the name of the (former) King and Queen are close to each other on this alphabetic list. La Conciergie served as prison until 1914.

January 29, 2008

Sainte Chapelle

In order to visit the Sainte Chapelle (Holy Chapel), you have first to enter the Palais de Justice and go through a security control, similar to that of today’s airports. It’s worth it!

This is in my mind one of the world’s most beautiful buildings (inside) and somehow an extreme example of gothic architecture. It was constructed in the middle of the 13th century during the reign of Louis IX, who became Saint Louis due to a number of crusades and other by the Church well appreciated actions. The chapel was built to house a number of relics, like Christ’s Crown of Thorns, a piece of the Cross… The king paid four or five times more for the relics than it cost to build the chapel.

The chapel is built in two levels, both fabulously decorated. It is difficult to get a good total view as the chapel is squeezed in between other buildings.
The lower part was the parish church for the inhabitants of the Royal Palace. (The top picture is from this lower part.)
The upper part, then with direct access from the Palace, was for the King and whoever he invited and that’s where the relics were saved.
Of course the 1789 revolution had some unfortunate consequences for the chapel as for most religious buildings. The relics disappeared and the chapel was partly dilapidated. However, during the 19th century the stained glass windows which had been dismantled were restored (most of them have the original glass), the different statues which had been saved were put back and the whole decoration was restored as close as possible to what was thought to be the original one.

I would advise you to visit the place a sunny day to see the full splendour of the windows (As you can see from the outside photos, the sky was nicely blue the day I went). An alternative is to go an evening when concerts often are given.

As usual you can find the original pictures on my photo blog.
I got a "Best Friend" award from Noushy Syah yesterday! Sincere thanks Noushy!

January 28, 2008

Palais de Justice

We have already visited the Pont Neuf and Place Dauphine, which are on the extreme western end of Ile de la Cité. Just behind Place Dauphine you will find the Palais de Justice. (I guess that all these names need no translation.)

Ile de la Cité was the original centre of Paris and where you now find the Palais de Justice were previously situated the seat of the government during the Roman times, the Royal Palace during the medieval times and then later the “Parlement de Paris” (developed out of the previous council of the Kings), a prison and a Hall of Justice. From those times remain not so much; most of the present Palais has been built during the 17th and 18th century, but there are some nice remains including the Conciergerie (prison) with its old towers and the Sainte Chapelle (Royal church). I will come back to these in some following posts.

I have made a comparison between Ile de la Cité in 1552 and today (Google). The scale on the old map is perhaps not perfect, but it gives us an image of what the island looked like those days. Pont Neuf and Place Dauphine were created only some 50 years after this map.First some general views of the Palais - which today is the seat of local and national courts of justice including the highest court of appeal. It covers some 200 thousand sq.m. (50 acres), has 24 km (15 miles) of corridors, 7000 doors… It houses some 4000 magistrates and civil servants, not mentioning the thousands of more or less voluntary daily visitors.The clock you see in the top is from 1585 (it works) and it replaces what was the oldest public clock in Paris which was put there some 200 years before. You find it on the square tower called “Tour d’Horloge”, the Clock Tower, which was built as watch tower.Tomorrow, we will visit the fabulous Sainte Chapelle.

As usual, you can find some of these pictures on my photo blog.

January 25, 2008

Grands Boulevards (3)

Time for the last part of the Grand Boulevards, including the Boulevards des Italiens, des Capucines and de la Madeleine. (See maps on previous posts.)

This boulevard changed name several times, but the present name comes from the “Opéra Italienne”, now called the “Opéra Comique”, a theatre created at the end of the 18th century and mostly used for lighter type of operas, operettas… From the boulevard you only see the back side of this theatre.

In the upper part of Boulevard des Italiens you find some bank buildings, including the headquarters of Crédit Lyonnais (LCL). The building, enormous when it was built at the end of the 19th century, was seriously damaged by fire in 1996, but restored. Among other things you can admire the clock on the façade.Another building here, today also occupied by a bank, called Maison Dorée (the Golden Building) housed during the second half of the 18th century the most exclusive and expensive Paris restaurant, visited by kings and all kinds of prominent personalities. Here was also held the last impressionist exposition in 1886 (for the first one see further down) and the first “art nouveau” exhibition in 1895.

At the end of Boulevard des Italiens and the beginning of Boulevard des Capucines, you will find a concentration of cinemas and restaurants, including one of the typical Paris brassieres which remain open all year, 7/7, 24/24, Le Grand Café des Capucines, opened in 1875. Do you feel for some nice oysters at 5 p.m. or 5 a.m.?To continue on Boulevard des Capucines we will first cross the Place de L’Opéra with a view of Opéra Garnier to the right and Rue de la Paix and Place Vendôme to the left. We will find the Grand Hôtel with Café de la Paix.Further down Boulevard Boulevard Capucines, at no. 14, downstairs, in 1895, the Lumière brothers made their first paying audience to what can be considered as the debut of the cinema and shortly later Roentgen demonstrated his invention of X-rays.

At no. 35, in 1874, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Morisot, Degas, Monet… organised their own exhibition with few visitors. The Monet painting “Impressions…” gave the name to the movement “Impressionism”.

Close to here you have also the oldest, still existing, and most famous music hall in Paris, Olympia, opened in 1889 by a Mr. Oller, who also created Moulin Rouge. Among the performers here: Edith Piaf, Jacques Brel, Charles Aznavour, Gilbert Bécaud, Amalia Rodrigues, Céline Dion, Judy Garland, Led Zeppelin, Petula Clark, Luciano Pavarotti, Dionne Warwick, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Jackson 5…

We have now reached the end of the Grands Boulevards and, after a short walk on Boulevard de la Madeleine, we will find the Madeleine Church with a view of Rue Royale and Place de la Concorde.
The impressionists made several paintings around the boulevards. Here you can see a Renoir from Boulevard des Italiens and a Monet from Boulevard des Capucines.

Happy walk during the weekend! See you Monday!

As usual, you will find some of these pictures on my photo blog.

January 24, 2008

Grands Boulevards (2)

Let’s continue the walk along the Grands Boulevards, this time from Place de la République about half way to the end point, the Madeleine Church. We will follow the boulevards St. Martin, St. Denis, Bonne Nouvelle, Poissonière and Montmartre. (You can find maps on the previous posts.)

First I would like to show some normal street views, day and night. We are now approaching the part of the boulevards that still today offer some real nightlife with theatres, cinemas, restaurants…A few facades were there already when the boulevards were opened after 1670.There are a number of theatres along these boulevards, most of them from the 19th century. Sarah Bernhardt played and directed as well at Théatre de la Renaissance as at Théatre de la Porte Saint Martin (the middle top photo), where also Edmond Rostand presented the Cyrano de Bergerac. At the as a historic monument classified Théatre des Variétés (the photo to the right) a number of Offenbach’s comic operas were performed for the first time.I have already referred to the perhaps most famous Paris - and Europe’s biggest - cinema, Rex, inaugurated in 1932 as some kind of “Radio City Hall”. The main theatre can house some 2800 people and is not only used for films, but often for concerts.Along our walk we will also see two Arches of Triumph, Saint Martin and Saint Denis, both built under the reign and to the glory of Louis XIV. They were then on the border of Paris, on the way you then entered Paris from the north via rue Saint Denis (see post January 3) or rue Saint Martin. There are some nice and typical Paris streets to the right and to the left of the boulevards…… and you can also find some interesting pedestrian passageways:

Passage Prado, opened already in 1785, but covered only in 1925. Today it houses a number of Indian, Pakistani and Afro type of shops, hairdressing salons, a hotel… Passage Jouffroy, neighbour to our Mme Tussauds (Musée Grévin), created in 1847, with more fashionable shops, hotels…Passage des Panoramas, the most elegant of the three, in its present shape there since 1834 with some very old shops, restaurants…and neighbour to Théatre des Variétés, meaning that it was especially in fashion during the glorious Offenbach years (see above).Pissarro made a number of paintings from a hotel room at Boulevard Montmartre.

One small curiosity: When I looked closer on the photo of the street sign of Boulevard St. Martin, I noted a number of bullet impacts, obviously quite fresh, not yet rusty!

And tomorrow we make the last part of the Grands Boulevards.

Some of the above pictures can be found on my photo blog.

January 23, 2008

Place de la République

Before continuing on the boulevards, I propose a stop at Place de la République (for the plan of Paris, see preceding posts.).

This place was basically created during the second half of the 19th century. The present large buildings you can find on one side of the place replaced some theatres including the then famous “Diaporama”, where Daguerre – one of the photography inventors – presented his shows. One of the buildings was originally a big department store (Magasins Réunis) and is now occupied by a hotel and some shops. In the other large building you find the quarters of part of the Garde Républicaine (the French equivalent to the British Horse Guards).

On the opposite side of the place you can find a modest version of a pedestrian passageway, Passage Vendôme, one of many that were created around 1820-30, the forerunners to our present shopping centres.
The place is of course mostly known for the monument, “La République”, which was inaugurated - before it was quite ready - for the first official celebration of the 14th of July as a national holiday in 1880. A new inauguration took place when it was completed in 1883. It was created by two brothers Morice.

On the top, you have “Marianne”, one of the symbols of the Republic. Why Marianne? It seems to have been a popular name at the time of the Revolution among the working classes…. Why a woman? Because the Republic is feminine in French (La République) and women were perhaps also supposed to be less concerned about power and more about people’s well being…. Why the Phrygian bonnet? It was worn already by former slaves during the Roman Empire as a symbol for their citizenship….The monument is rich in decorations: You have also three sculptures representing “Liberté, égalite, fraternité”. Although “Liberty, Equality, Brotherhood (– or Death)” was an essential message already during the 1789 Revolution, it became an official motto only a few decades later. Once again these are feminine words in French and represented by women.
There is also a reference to the “Suffrage Universel”, the right for everybody to vote, established by France, as the first state in the world, in 1848. Of course, it was then limited to men only – French women had to wait until 1945!!

A last remarkable thing with the monument are 12 bronze reliefs around the base. They are made by A-J Dalou (who competed for the whole monument but instead made the monument for Place de la Nation). The reliefs tell the story of the establishment of the Republic (of course only the bright side of it). I thought that to show these reliefs in detail would be a good opportunity for me – and some of you – to memorize the major Revolutionary events. I made a separate post here below showing these reliefs with a few explaining words. I leave you the choice to look at this post as a supplement, if you have the courage.

Tomorrow we will continue with some more boulevards.

Some of the above pictures can be found on my photo blog.