July 31, 2007

Around Place de la Bastille - bis

Referring to “Around Place de la Bastille”, I actually went back to la Bastille end last week for a rather surprising walk together with my son, his wife and my two grandchildren.

Where you today can find the new Paris opera house, Opéra Bastille, used to be a railway station, Gare de la Bastille, for trains heading east, the Strasbourg line. The last – steam engined - train left the station in 1969 and it was demolished in 1984.

Where there used to be rails, there is now a green, park like, promenade, some 4,5 km (3 miles) eastwards. At the end you reach the green area Bois de Vincennes. This creation has clearly created added value to the surrounding quarters (including the price for a flat).

To start with you walk on a viaduct; the underneath 72 arcades are today used for some quite fashionable shops, restaurants and cafés.My granddaughter Paloma took the lead and the rest of the family had to follow.She got fascinated by all the flowers and decided to have a closer look at most of them and of course ask for their names. (She did not learn very much due to lack of knowledge of her promenade partners.) Anyhow, we had a nice walk. To go back home, I took a municipal bike.

July 30, 2007

An 1860 photo - from a balloon

At the Saint Lazare railway station, you can at present find an exhibition about the history of the station. I have already covered the subject in a previous post, but without this “help”.

However, I found one surprising thing: a photo taken from the air (a balloon) in 1860 (!!) of the area where I live, not that far away from the Saint Lazare station. I tried to put a Google Earth view in a similar angle. The house where I live was already there in 1860, probably just built - the neighbour house is not yet there.
(As I already stated on a previous post, the Google photo seems to be a few years old.)

July 28, 2007

Biking in Paris (bis)

I wrote about biking in Paris some time ago. I mentioned that a new service would be offered to the Parisians; some 20.000 bikes available at some 1.500 “parking stations” around the city. The first 10.000 bikes at 1.000 stations are available as from July 15. You can subscribe for one day (1 €), for a week (5 €) or for a year (29 €) and then you can use a bike “free of charge”, as often as you wish, for 30 minutes or pay 1 € for an extra half hour etc. It gets expensive if you try to keep it for a longer period or “for ever”. The intention is that you shall use it for short distances within the city.

Yesterday I tried one of the bikes for the first time. Quite nice, solid, a bit heavy perhaps, three gears… I actually made it from Place de la Bastille to where I live; I guess some 7 km (4, 5 miles). It took me some 35 minutes with traffic and red lights. Let’s see if they charge me an extra € for the exceeding five minutes! The red line corresponds to the biking part; the small green line represents the few meters from the closest “parking station” to my home.
By metro, this would have taken some 25 minutes, by car maybe 20 minutes (+ 20 minutes to find a place to park). Walking would have meant a good hour. ... and biking gives you some exercise!

Now I say “Nice Weekend” - I have some friends around, so I will be busy. – See you Monday!

July 27, 2007

Around Place de la Bastille

Place de la Bastille is of course a historical place, but there is nothing left of the Bastille. In the centre of the place, you have column celebrating, not the destruction of this famous prison in 1789, but the 1830 “July revolution” (yes, France has had a number of revolutions) which took place three hot (!) summer days July 27-29 (“Les Trois Glorieuses”), exactly 177 years ago, forcing one king (Charles X) to abdicate in favour of another one (Louis Philippe). Behind the column you can see the new Bastille Opera house, opened in 1989. The place is still often used for different political or popular manifestations.

Around la Bastille, you have an area which used to be where you bought your furniture (before Ikea), Faubourg-Saint-Antoine. Since centuries this was an area where you could find hundreds of workshops making furniture and shops selling them. There are a few left, but even if it seems to have been decided that the area shall not be demolished, many of the buildings in the large number of small side streets are now progressively occupied by more fashionable offices, art galleries and shops and they are to a large extent also transformed into lofts for living.

This is also an area for an active nightlife with a lot of cosy restaurants, clubs, discotheques… Rue de la Lappe has a long tradition in this respect; this is where the “bals-musette” and the “apaches” were “invented”. One famous “bal” is still left, the Balajo (Bal à Jo). Today you can go there for salsa, techno, retro… depending on the day and the hour.
Some of the photos I took for the Fête de la Musique were taken around la Bastille and rue de la Lappe.
The original photos can be found on my other blog "Peter - photos".

July 26, 2007


Eva Longoria and Tony Parker had their recent church wedding at Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois; a moment of big excitement and also of frustration for their fans who were not allowed to see anything.

Until then the major event related to this church was the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, August 24, 1572. The tower bells of the church rang, signalling the supporters of Catherine de’Medici and her sons Charles IX and the future Henry III to launch the slaughter of thousands of Protestant Hugenots, invited to celebrate the marriage of Henri de Navarre, future Henry IV, to Catherine’s daughter Marguerite de Valois, future “Queen Margot”.

(The bells were actually ringing from the smaller tower you hardly can see.)

The church is situated just east of the Louvre and was a royal chapel, when the Louvre was still a royal castle. With some origins from the 12th century it achieved its present appearance in the 15th century. After the revolution the church was used as warehouse, printing office, police station…, but was restored during the 19th century when also the central bell tower was completely rebuilt.

The church is only the right part of what may look like one building. The left part, the Town Hall of the 1st arrondissement, was also added in the 19th century.

Stained glass windows are mostly from the renaissance period, the organ is from the 17th century, you can find a beautiful Flemish retable…

The originals of the above photos can be found on my other blog "Peter - photos".

July 25, 2007

Something not so nice

Isabella and some others asked me if I had nothing less attractive to show from France and Paris. Here is a try:

These pictures are from a today just ordinary street in Paris, called Rue Croix-Faubin, in the 11th arrondissement. There is however something surprising about this street, as you can find five rather big granite stones.

These stones supported the guillotine which was installed here for each – public – execution between the years 1851 and 1899. Just behind these stones you could then find the entrance to the Grande Roquette prison where the major criminals by that time were kept. The prison was demolished in 1900 and the place for executions changed. In the meantime, some 200 executions may have taken place.
Executions were public in France until 1937. The last execution took place in 1977 and capital punishment was officially - and I would add fortunately – at last abolished in 1981.

July 24, 2007


I thought I should come back at least once more about my trip to the sun some short (too long) time ago.

Just south of Arles, between the two arms of the Rhône, you will find the Camargue, Western Europe’s largest delta land. You will find a mixture of lagoons (“étangs”), marshland and cultivated land.

Some 400 species of birds have their home here and it’s one of the few European habitats for the greater flamingo. Camargue is also famous for its bulls, white horses, rice, vine, salt and… mosquitoes (the birds must have something to eat). The famous white Camarguais horses are used by the local “cowboys” (“gardians”), breeding fighting bulls, used for corridas in Spain and in France. Bull fighting, Spanish style, are common in southern France and are big events often taking place in the old Roman arenas. In the immediate neighbourhood, the spring “ferias” with several days of corridas at Nîmes and Arles are highly popular. On the coast line you will find the small town of Saintes-Maries-de-la-Mer, with magnificent beaches and a lot of summer visitors. It’s also the site of an annual gipsy pilgrimage (May 24) for the veneration of Saint Sarah. It’s unclear who she really was, but the best known legend seems to be that Sarah was an Egyptian black maid of Marie Jacobe, sister of Virgin Mary, and Marie Salome, mother of the Apostles James and John. After the Crucifixion, Marie Jacobe and Marie Salome, accompanied by Lazarus, Mary Magdalene, Joseph of Arimathea (carrying the Holy Grail), some others… and Sarah, fled from the Holy Land and their boat landed at Saintes-Maries. You can find the statues of two Mary’s and Sarah in the local church. Van Gogh also made a short visit here in 1888 and painted some boats on the beach and some houses in the village.

The photos from this patchwork - and some others - can be found on my other blog "Peter - photos".

July 23, 2007

Meeting with other bloggers

hpy” took a nice initiative and suggested that we should try to meet between bloggers. So last Saturday “hpy” (Hélène), “cergie” (Lucie), “l6” (Lyliane) and “PHO” (Peter) met, together with the less active bloggers André, Patrick and Michel. Here you can see, from left to right, Lyliane, Lucie and Hélène.

We met at a place on the Seine river between Rouen and Le Havre, called Caudebec (name of Viking origin; in Swedish Kallebäck = cold stream). We started with a very nice lunch also enjoying a view on the Seine. You can imagine what the major conversation subject was. Many blogger names were quoted.

Caudebec-en-Caux is a beautiful place and we of course had to do some sightseeing. The church in gothic style is wonderful (“The most beautiful chapel in my kingdom” said King Henry IV) and the organ and stained glass windows are there from the very beginning = 15th / 16th century. We felt happy to be together and Hélène and André kindly invited us to their home in Fécamp, some 45 km or 30 miles away, on the coast. After visiting their home and garden (of course photographing the flowers), we went for a tour of Fécamp, including the port and the surrounding cliffs. Fécamp is also the home of the Benedictine liquor and the building you can see is the “Benedictine Palace”. We still wished to prolong and it all ended up with oysters, shrimp, fish… at Héléne’s and André’s home until late in the night.

I was invited to stay overnight and on Sunday morning we made a tour of the beautiful Normandy surroundings including the famous cliffs and the natural arch at Etretat.We all wished to meet again and if possible also with other bloggers. Great thanks again to Hélène for the good initiative!!

(The photos where I appear were taken by Lucie’s husband Patrick.)

Some originals of the above photos can be found on mu other blot "Peter - photos".

July 21, 2007

Paris Beach

I will come back with some more news from the south of France, but I wanted first to say a few words about the Paris « event » of yesterday, the yearly opening of “Paris Plages”.

The banks of the Seine should normally look like this and to a large extent they still do, but some 35 years ago, it was decided that part of the banks had to be sacrificed; room for the dense traffic was needed.

Today this decision is regretted by many, but since some years car and motor bike traffic is often stopped during weekends, opening space for biking, roller skating, walking…

Since five years another initiative has been taken. During a month, when most Parisians are elsewhere, the car traffic is again stopped and the banks are transformed into beaches. This year “Paris Plages” opened yesterday and will remain until August 19th.

I made a tour just after the opening; the weather was (again) not excellent and the crowd was not yet there. A nice summer afternoon and evening it looks different! As you can see from my pictures a lot of activities are proposed, of course including sunbathing and swimming (not in the Seine), concerts are given in the evening…
Maybe all of you may not be aware that you can travel along the Seine by some kind of metro service, “hop on hop off”!!
The originals of some of the above photos can be found on my other blog "Peter - photos".