June 30, 2007

Palomas - again!

A nice start of the weekend. This morning, my granddaughter Paloma was singing wih her classmates and then the paloma in "my" park kindly posed for a photo! Now I will make a break until Monday. Nice weekend!

Who can still afford...?

Who can still afford to have a house or an apartment in bigger cities is certainly an issue. Paris is not the most expensive city in the world, but it’s expensive enough. Unless you already have a fortune, you need a good income - very often at least two family members would need to have a job - if you wish to find an acceptable place for your family (buying or renting).

Some efforts, maybe not sufficient, are made in order to offer not only luxury lodging within the Paris city limits. There are laws and regulations which force the French municipalities to take the social aspect into account when allowing new building permits – more or less followed.

Where I live in Paris, the population is still quite well mixed. Most buildings are hundred years or older, but some fifteen minutes walking away we can find some examples of what has been done with regard to new constructing these last ten years. The buildings I show here are basically occupied by people who I suppose have a comparatively modest income. They have partly been built on what used to be a rail yard.

It seems to me that here the architects have at least tried to do something a little bit different and to create something which may seem acceptable for a decent living. Between the buildings, you can also find some green areas, playing grounds etc. … and you are still in Paris, not in a more or less far away situated suburb.

The surprising “green tower” building is actually very simple as such and without the pots on the balconies it would look extremely ordinary, but it's already some ten years old and the plants are still there and green (or almost all of them). However, what will it look like in another ten or twenty years? It’s clear that the Paris city buildings from e.g. the 19th century were made to last “for ever”. How long will these buildings still be nice? Maybe a necessary compromise? You build something really nice to be there "for ever" and then it gets too expensive.

June 29, 2007


With our blogger eyes, we learn to see certain things which others – and we before – did not always pay attention to. Nathalie made a post June 13 about a Napoleon like statue she had discovered on the top of a high building in Sydney. Despite the fact that there was a Hermès sign close to the statue, a lively discussion started about who it could represent. Some defended the idea about Napoleon, but in general it was concluded that it must be someone else.Yesterday, Nathalie advised that the answer at last had been found after a question to and answer from local ABC News: It’s the logo for Hermès! (Too) simple! The Hermès Australian head quarters are situated in the building Nathalie had photographed!

I should of course have known this before, but could now immediately confirm, as I also yesterday discovered the same statue on the top of the Hermès home building in Paris (rue du Faubourg St. Honoré). Here is what I found. So it’s just a simple un-named rider, used as a company symbol.

Hermès was founded in 1837 by Thierry Hermès as a saddlery company so the link to a horse is quite obvious. The soldier looks like being from the first half of the 19th century. Hermès is still family owned.

The silk scarves are produced since 1928 and today Hermès sells more than a million scarves per year. Among the leather goods you can still by a saddle, but the bestseller seems to be the “Birkin bag”. It was named after the actress Jane Birkin who co-designed it after complaining that her “Kelly” was not practical for daily use. The price of the bag starts at $6.000 and you have to order it year(s) in advance.
Added later: Nathalie suggests that we ask our fellow bloggers to look for the same statue elsewhere. Good idea. At least in the bigger cities you should be able to find one, if you raise your eyes!

June 28, 2007


Is this a paloma, dove of peace, colombe? I’m not a bird expert, but I know that there are quite a few among the bloggers, so we will hopefully know. At least to me it looks like one! I saw it yesterday among some pigeons in “my” park.

Let’s here “forget” about this bird as a symbol for peace, its significance in religion etc., known by everybody.

La Paloma is also a song, which is supposed to have the world record of number of recordings, several thousands. You would possibly believe it’s a folk song, but it was composed around 1860 by a Spanish composer (Iradier or Yradier). By the way, George Bizet thought that another song by the same composer was also a folk song and used it as basis for his “Habanera” in Carmen.

Many artists have pictured “palomas”, but here I will just mention Picasso, who liked to represent “palomas” as an artist and was also the father of a Paloma.

My granddaughter is called Paloma. I believe I have already said this somewhere, but one reason for this name was that the whole big family saw the Almodovar film “Hable con ella” (“Talk to her”) a couple of weeks before Paloma’s birth and were extremely touched by the film and by Caetano Veloso’s performance of “Cucurrucu Paloma”.

June 27, 2007

Vermeer, Modigliani...

A couple of weeks ago (May 14), I made a patchwork of graffiti that I had found on some closed shop stores in my neighborhood. I left two out, as they differed too much from the other ones and certainly not could be considered as tags.

I found these two ones, rue Cavalotti. When I passed was a Sunday – the reason the stores were closed – and nobody around to ask, but I have later found out that the two examples I can show you here actually were part of a series of similar ones in the same street, made in the late 90’s and supposed to represent different famous painters. These two are the only ones still in fairly good shape.

I would believe that the idea was not have paintings made as pure copies, but rather “à la manière de”, as if they had been painted by X. Anyhow, I have desperately looked for what could have been the originals, but have not found them.

One is as a “Vermeer” and the closest I could among the – unfortunately – very limited number of Vermeer paintings was “Lady in Blue”. The same lady seems to be more or less copied, but the fantastic Vermeer touch is of course missing. Anyhow, I don’t think that the “store artist” pretended to make anything as well as Vermeer; could anybody ever?

The other one is a “Modigliani” and also here I failed to find the original. I found one with a woman sitting in a similar position, although the baby is missing, and another one with a lady with a similar haircut. That’s the closest I could come, but the number of Modigliani paintings is of course much larger than the Vermeer ones.

Please feel free to look for the originals. I may be wrong.

June 26, 2007

Glass domes

A number of the Paris buildings from the beginning of the 20th century have some fantastic glass domes, or “cupolas”. Some of them are easy to see and take pictures of, some less. Here I show some examples which most of you may have seen, but perhaps not all of you have paid your highest attention to. These photos are taken at the department stores Les Galeries Lafayette (the first five below and the one on top) and Le Printemps (the three other ones).

Both these department stores started their activities in the late 19th century, but the present buildings are basically from the beginning of last century. The Galeries Lafayette dome was created in 1912 and the Le Printemps one in 1923.

These department stores are neighbors on Boulevard Haussmann. Just across the street, there is an old bank office, also with a fantastic glass dome. I took some pictures also there, but was kindly, but firmly, asked by some guards to delete them. If you want to see also this dome, you must go there.

The photos from this patchwork - and some more - can be seen on my other blog, "Peter - photos".

June 25, 2007

What time is it? (2) - A sun-dial

There are some landmarks which could serve as sun-dials. The obelisk on Place de la Concorde is one of them. The obelisk, which was transported to France and erected here with the great technical difficulties that you can imagine, in 1836, is one of the two that were given to (not quite “stolen by”) France. Fortunately, one of the pair finally remained where it should be, in Egypt and in front of the Ramses II Luxor temple.

Just before World War I, someone came up with the idea to use this needle to create a sun-dial, but because of the war the idea was never finalised. The same idea came up just before World War II, with the same result. And, then again in 1999, there was a new try.

I recently happened to read about this sun-dial idea. I had never noticed it, so I went back to check. Looking on the pavement, the result doesn't seem very satisfactory. The lines which have been traced seem not to have resisted very well, are hardly visible and - at least according to my watch - the time indicated was not correct, even taking into account the “summer time” and the one hour difference.

Maybe the whole thing should at last be done properly? ... and what about the Eiffel tower?

There is also a small mystery: Along one of the lines, obviously from the second try in 1938, there is a small copper plate with the inscription “Au levant de Thèbes surgit à Paris le Nord”, which is difficult to translate or even to understand in French. I managed to find a blog, where some experts have tried to interpret the text. There could possibly be a reference to the rising of Thebes and the (more recent) rising of Paris in the north, but no clear explanation seems to have been found. Maybe you can come up with it?

June 24, 2007

Fête de la Musique

The” Fête de la Musique” celebrated June 21, last Thursday (it did not rain), was again a great popular success in Paris. It started in the afternoon and went on the whole night. All kinds of music were represented. Thousand of “concerts” were given, by some of the most well-known artists and also by a lot of amateur musicians and singers – all free of charge.

Together with some friends we spent some ten hours in the streets. Not easy to show in pictures, but here are a few examples from small concerts around where I live, some bigger events around Trocadéro, the enormous crowd around la Bastille at midnight…

The metro worked all night, and you can see an example from a metro corridor; I have never seen the metro so full of people, all in good mood.

As this “Fête de la Musique” seems to spread around the world, you can perhaps comment on what possibly and hopefully happened at your place?

June 21, 2007

Music and friends...

I already made a “real” post for today; this is a second one, just to announce that I will now “disconnect” for two or three days. I have visitors and as from now on today I will also be out in the streets.
The “Fête de la Musique” takes place today and tonight. It began in France in 1982, has obviously spread to a number of other countries and has become some kind of "World Music Day".
There are a number of free concerts by professional and amateur musicians and singers all over the city and there is no sound restriction, even nighttime. If the weather remains reasonably fair (doubtful), it will again be something nice. Next post probably only in two or three days.

Metro station Liège

The metro station Liège is a bit different from other Paris metro stations. It was opened in 1913, 13 years after the first metro. It’s on a line which goes basically in the sense north south. It was first baptised Berlin, closed for a couple of months in 1914 when the First World War broke out and then opened again a few months later with a new name, Liège (Luick, Lidje, Lüttich), the Belgian Walloon province and city. It’s situated in an area where all the streets have the names of different European major cities, including rue de Liège.

The station, which is very close to the St. Lazare station, is fairly small and narrow; the quays are not opposite to each other as in all other stations. It was closed again in 1939 and opened only in 1968, then with a new decoration, which also is unique for a Paris metro station. The walls are covered with motives from the Liège region, made of tiles from Welkenraedt in the Liège province. I made my "discovery" thanks to my new “blogger eyes”.

June 20, 2007

Do you wish to "wash your hands"?

When walking around in a city, you may often find it difficult to find a decent place to « wash your hands ». If you visit some of the toilets in a normal Paris bar (normally against a compulsory consumption) you will not always be satisfied with the type of equipment and its cleanliness. Personally, I often choose to go to one of the bigger and nicer hotels. They will not ask you for the purpose of your visit and their toilets are in general the best - and cost free.

You can now find some nice improvement with modern and automatically cleaned public toilets, but they are of course completely without charm.

There is one very nice public toilet which I would recommend. Not so easy to find, it’s situated to the right, just in front of the Madeleine church. It is by some considered as one of the most beautiful public toilets in the world. The entrance is covered by some nice mosaics. (Some refreshing would be recommended, but I understand that this is now under discussion by the local authorities.)

Once downstairs, you will find a beautifully tiled room, with individual stalls made of dark stained wood and stained glass. There is a chair for shoe shining, but nowadays only there for decoration. You will find a lady, who keeps the place nice and clean. You are supposed to give her something for the service, maybe 50 cents, but there is no fixed fee.

The toilets are there since 1905 and are now classified “historical monument”, so they will hopefully remain for long.

You can find the original photos from this patchwork on my other blog "Peter - photos".

June 19, 2007

Gare St. Lazare

The St. Lazare station is the oldest railway station in Paris. The first line, between Paris and St. Germain (suburb), opened in 1837. The station was then actually close to the bridge (Pont de l’Europe) which you can see on the Google map. (Some of the photos, including the top one, are taken from this “Europe Bridge”, where Rue de Constantinople, Rue de Londres, Rue de Vienne, Rue de St. Petersburg, Rue de Liège and Rue de Madrid meet.) Rather quickly, needing more space for new lines, the station was soon moved to its present location.

The present station building was ready for the Universal Exposition in 1889 – as also the Eiffel tower. On one of my photos, you can see a bridge which connected the station to a big hotel which was then also built. The hotel is still there.

The station has today some 27 tracks and is the second biggest in Paris, but mostly today used for local or nearby traffic (Normandy). It was the station you used when you travelled by ship to the States, via Cherbourg, or to England, e.g. via Dieppe. Today some 80 million people use the station on an annual basis.

Some of the impressionist painters used to live quite close to the station and it has frequently been painted. Monet made seven paintings in 1877.

The station has also often been referred to in literature. The Da Vinci Code has also some actions here, but (as often) there are some wrong descriptions and details.

I showed a small statue by Arman with clocks the other day. There is another one outside the station, similar, but with suitcases.
There are also some photos from the connected metro station.

You can find the original photos from the patchwork above on my other blog - "Peter - photos".

June 18, 2007

Street lamps

Yesterday was Father’s (and Grandfather’s) Day, so I had little time left for thinking about blogging. Here is just a collection of different photos from all over Paris of street lamps.

These last years a lot of attention has been given to maintain the original style of these lamps, considering that they play an important role for the decoration of our streets and open places. Many of them have been refreshed, repainted… Some of them may even be quite new, but in a design that fits to the architecture around them.

There were some rules about the need to lighten the streets which more seriously started to be applied during the 16th century, more or less based on oil lamps that the habitants were supposed to put in their windows, certain hours and months. During the 17th century, real street lamps started to be quite common. This meant a lot for the security and safety and led to the beginning of a real “Paris by night”-life. Gas lighting became common as from the beginning of the 19th century, but my report about the lamp post at Place de la Concorde (June 11) mentioned that electricity was introduced already in 1844. Today of course everything is electric (but I understand that modern gas lighting still can be found in some major cities around the world).