Monday, January 31, 2011

Week 36: Paris Now & Then

By Marville. Paris before Haussmann's extensive renovation, 1860-70. From Paris, secret et insolite.

Ah beautiful and ancient Paris! Of course I haven't seen every city in the world, but I still recklessly proclaim that Paris must be the most exquisite of them all. How could there be another to compete? I never grow tired of its winding streets and layers of history. Rick and I are currently reading a book together entitled  Parisians: An Adventure History of Paris by Graham Robb. It is the story of the city told through the true tales of some of its famous historical inhabitants. We were fascinated to hear about one of the first professional photographers in the city, Charles Marville, born in Paris in 1813. He was hired by the government to document the old Paris streets before Haussmann, during the Second Empire, rebuilt and modernized Paris. The wide boulevards and typical Haussmann grand and uniform buildings certainly changed the face of Paris.

If you want to get a flavor of more ancient Paris, you can wander around the Marais of course, an outlying immigrant neighborhood in Haussmann's day, which did not receive his attention. Another corner of the city that was slated to be demolished and rebuilt was just across from the Place Saint Michel where the rue St André des Arts commences. Napoleon III and his minister, Baron Haussmann, were ousted before they had the chance to begin this phase of work.

After reading about this, Rick and I were motivated to take a closer look, since the rue St. André des Arts is probably one of the streets in Paris I know better than any other. Emily and I spent a summer living in an adorable fifth floor walk-up not far from here and I got to know the neighborhood very well indeed. Here's the photo Marville took in 1865:

Here's mine taken a few days ago:

Not much has changed. There is a side entrance to Metro St. Michel right on the Place. I had never discovered that before.

We had a very pleasant day in Paris while Quinn was at his nanny's. Emily left us in charge for a few days while she visited Jos in London, where he was directing a comedy routine for a slapstick festival.
We strolled around and took advantage of the opportunity to do some errands in the city.
We chose a good day for exploring, with only a sprinkling of tourists to contend with. The sky alternated between gray and blue, the temperature was cold but not frigid. We traced a wide arc from the edge of the Latin corner through St Germain des Prés, over the river to the right bank, through the Tuileries Garden, then back across to the left bank, where we stopped in at Sennelier, my favorite Paris art store. Along the way we enjoyed the views.

I love the jumble of architectural styles in this left bank neighborhood of Paris.

At the intersection of the 5th and 6th arrondissements.

My favorite way to get from St Germain des Prés to the right bank, is down the rue St. André des Arts, turning right on the rue de Seine, which takes you past many art galleries. I love looking in the windows. You also pass La Palette, a typical Parisian café where the food is simple but good and the waiters sufficiently rude to make you feel you've had an authentic experience. At the end of the street you walk through a little passage that leads to the quai and the large Place in front of the Academie-Francaise.

The pedestrian-only Pont des Arts, has my favorite view of Paris looking up and down the river. Ile de la Cité and Notre Dame in one direction and La Tour Eiffel in the other. Here, again, you get the sense of the ancientness of the city, as the architecture of many centuries comes together to create this contemporary view.

At the other end of the bridge, on the right bank, is the Louvre Palace. We had loosely planned to spend a couple of hours in the museum but forgot that it is closed on Tuesdays, so instead we enjoyed a tour through the grounds and a visit to the underground mall where you can also view the ancient foundation walls of the modern Louvre.

The bare winter trees reveal the Musée d'Orsay on the opposite bank. We walked along the quai and crossed back over the Pont Royal.

We decided to have lunch at Mariage Frères, the famous tea purveyor. Upstairs is a charming restaurant which was practically empty. Generally you can hardly get a seat, but this time of year is the ideal moment to visit. We hadn't been here in several years.

Because the kitchen wasn't busy, they allowed me to order high tea, with attractive and delicious tea sandwiches, even though the menu indicated it wasn't officially available before 3PM.

We had a pleasant leisurely meal in their sunny dining room. Rick ordered dessert. He was allowed to choose between several delectable kinds on their sweet cart. He settled on the house specialty, a crème brûlée raspberry cake.


Quinn turned two on Thursday. Mama arrived home in the afternoon and we had a celebration. Balloons are always a hit.

Since Christmas Quinn definitely understands the concept of packages and unwrapping.

He was able to blow out his two candles. When you ask him how old he is, he will tell you "two" but making his hand hold up two fingers instead of one or five is going to take some practice.

1 comment:

  1. Oh Nancy...I loved everything about this post. The wonderful Paris photos, the interesting bits and bobs of history, the priceless look on Rick's face as he contemplates his lunch and to top it all off....your beautiful grandson.

    Please go back and do it again!

    Someday...someday...I'm dreaming of Paris in Springtime as the song goes.

    What a magical place France must be.

    Looking forward to week 37 ;-)

    Your friend,
    Janet xox

    PS....I'm preparing beef bourguignon in your honor and my kitchen smells fabulously FRENCH!!!!!!