Walking Around, Paris
During many years this building was thought to be the oldest in Paris, theory upheld by the well-known Parisian historian Jacques Hillairet. Unfortunately for him (and others) the National Archive has papers that date the house at being between 1644 and 1654, dates where a certain Dally bought the garden where the building now is and date when he sold the house after his wife died. So it is confirmed that the house of Nicholas Flamel at 51 rue de Montmorency only a couple of streets away, and built in 1407 is still the oldest. That said, this one with its half-timbers is still a fine example. It is now a Vietnamese soup kitchen.
Arts et Metiers is the closest metro.
Behind the rather austere facade of the Maison de l'Europe at 35/37 rue des Francs-Bourgeois is a garden open to the public that cannot be seen from the street, so you've got to know it is there. The garden holds a small treasure, that once again if you don't know it is there..... Still visible are parts of Philippe-Auguste's wall dating from around 1190 to 1210, with other buildings being constructed either using the wall or sitting directly on top of it. Over the top of one wall can be seen the chimney of next doors "Societé des Cendres", a factory that used to wash and treat the waste scrapings of jewellers to recuperate the gold and silver that was left. The jewellers used to bring their bags of waste here to be treated, burnt and melted down to be used again. Very soon this garden may not be as quiet as now. Being land owned by the city, there are plans to run a path through to the rue des Rosiers, making a complete thoroughfare of it. The house and gardens date from around 1600 and Mme de Sevigné lived here for a while before her marriage. The city aquired the buildings in 1972 and after much renovation were turned over to the Maison de l'Europe de Paris in 1978.
Please NOTE : Until the path through is finished, the garden is only open in the afternoon.
St Paul is the nearest metro.
Just a short walk from the metro down rue Oberkampf, one of the new "in" streets in Paris is this beautiful courtyard, some 150 metres long, full of artisans, kids playing and a joyful general bric-a-brac. Since 2008 the cité is under siege from promotors with menaces issued and some (for the moment) banter from obvious strong-arm men. The people who live and work here, one lady over 80 yo has lived here all her life, own their apartments but unfortunately not the ground they are built on. Talking to people in the passage I got the impression that the battle seemed won, as a judge had ruled on the abuse and strong-arm tactics, and nothing had moved since 18 months. Hopefully they can preserve their little corner of Paris and the social mixity of its inhabitants, be they painters, graphists, metalworker and even a photgraphers studio right down at the end.
Menilmontant is the closest metro.
Very difficult to see as sometimes the tables of the restaurant here block the view, but with a smile and a "thank you or Merci" people will move. Here on the corner is engraved into the stonework details of the the Seine's flooding in 1711. Much has worn away with the passing years so the City Hall had a plastic see-through plate pur over it for preservation.
Nearest metro is Maubert-Mutualité.
The esplanade Roger Linet is named after a resistant and Communisty Party executive that was deported but survived the camps. He came back to Paris to become the General Secretary of the metalworkers union. This is actually part of the rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud and this is where the main office of the Metalworkers Union is. The metalworkers or more commonly called the "metallos" have always been at the forefront of the class struggles in France and have had a large following and support through the years. Jean-Pierre Timbaud himself was a metalworker and a resistant, but was captured by the nazis and shot in the forest at Chateaubriant in Brittany, along with one of the most famous of those shot by the nazis, Guy Moquet and 46 of their comrades in October 1941 as a reprisal for the killing of Feldkommant Karl Hotz. There is also a working Wallace fountain on the esplanade.
Closest metro is Couronnes.
Halfway between Belleville and the Canal St Martin is this tiny passage that opens out into a street and onto square Jules Verne. First off we find another pretty unknown theatre '" Le theatre de Belleville", although it is one of the oldest in Paris, dating from 1850 and offering 96 seats. Renovated in 2011 it now has A/C installed. Further along the passage on the right is the old factory of Spring Court, manufacturer in the '30s of tennis shoes worn by generations. John Lennon and Serge Gainsbourg were also spotted wearing them besides Réné Lacoste and "les Mousquetaires" of Davis Cup fame in the '30s. The factory was during 9 years the main seat of the photo agency "Magnum" where Carter-Bresson and Depardon would pass.
Today the factory has been turned over to young designers and creators, although it is still owned by the Grimmeisen family. Camera firm Hasselblad has their offices here as does Philippe Leray, graphist, who designed the latest album cover for Mme Sarkozy, Carla Bruni.
Nearest metro is Goncourt.
Not far from the Bastille Opera lies the Quinze-Vingts Opthalmic hospital at no 28 rue de Charenton. Just by the main portal are the landmarks showing the great floods of Paris from January 1910, and much higher the one from 1740.
On this site Louis XIV created a barracks for the Black Musketeers, black being the colour of their dress, around 1700. The building was affected as a hospice for 800 blind people in 1780 and then as an opthalmic hospital which it still is today. The history sign outside says only the left wing and the portal remain of the original building, but the left wing has now been demolished and a brand new modern building erected in its place.
Bastille is the closest metro.
These photos show how the age is telling on some of these places, dampness and insalubrity following. But still worth the detour to have a look as there are some nooks and crannies that are worth getting the camera out for. UPDATE 31.05.2011 - Have just received a paper from "Paris historique" that the interieur of Cour St. Louis is due to be demolished soon. The building frontage on the street being late 17th c. will be preserved, but if you want to see the rest, make it quick. On the other side of Cour St. Louis, just above the door (always closed) on the rue de Lappe is the small statuette of St. Louis. 2nd photo.
There are other passages and courtyards in the area that I haven't visited yet, notably : Cour de la Maison Brulée, Passage de la Boule Blanche, Cour des 3 freres etc.
Ledru Rollin or Bastille are the nearest metros.
Down at the bottom of Belleville, close to the Belleville metro is rue Denoyez. At first the colours shock and the deterioration of the facades is quite visible but this "quartier" was one of the first to stand up and be counted in various conflicts throughout the centuries and was a prime mover in the Commune of 1871. So artists gravitated naturally to the area and over the last 20 years has been largely marginalised by the "bo-bo" community that lives up the hill.The main reason to allow this to happen of course, is that this is the last part of Belleville to be on the agenda for demolition. Whist waiting for that to happen it does make for a colourful sight for some, and an eyesore for others.
Closest metro is Belleville.
Lost in the backwaters of the 20th, behind the Parc de Belleville, the villa is still full of sculptors and artists. Retaining a country air, it is also home to a few families of West Africans, some of whom are squatting one of the houses, though nobody seems to have anything to say about it. A couple of people stopped me for a chat, obviously having lost nothing of their African hospitality, whilst trying to sell me bits and pieces. We had a good laugh when they found out how much time I'd actually spent in their homeland. But, no photos of them, for obvious reasons.
Closest metro is Pelleport.
Another alley that manages to combine ancient with modern and has its own personal touch in the form of a community garden. Unfortunately some idiot tagger has done some of his stupid work in the passage and ruined the possibility of more photos. At no 15 finally there is still the trace of the painted sign "La Manufacture Parisienne de Perles" on the disused factory at the end of the street, sign that dates from early 20th c. but the workers have since long gone.
Gambetta is the closest metro.
There is a rather sad and poignant story attached to what is, a rather banal bunch of photos. Whilst working on the above building, the stonemason was called up for service on the 21st July 1914 to go to the front in WWI. He had been working on the decoration of the front entrance and was halfway down the right hand leg when he left the job. History has it that his boss waited a year after the end of the war to see if his mason would return, and when he didn't, had the simple epitaph seen here, cut into the unfinished frieze.
"Souvenir of the war,
Abandonned by the sculptor,
21st July 1914".
It was decided to leave the frieze as it was, and has never been finished. Unfortunately the years have also forgotten the fellers name.
Closest metro is Gambetta.
The entrance into this villa is by the gateway at no 151 rue de Bagnolet. Be careful as you walk in here as it is a workplace with many old workshops still in use and at the far end there are vehicles turning. I really enjoy the age-old beauty and calm there is in these places. Although there is a main road not 30 metres away you can hardly hear a thing. Even small bushes of flowers have managed to grow and flourish here.
Gambetta and Pelleport metro are the closest.
Another of the intemporal passages of the 20th arrondissement where time has no hold. Photographer Willy Ronis has a superb photo of this passage taken around 1965, and the cobbles are exactly the same. Of course the same housewife is no longer there but the walls are...plus the graffiti !!!!!
One more place with interest if you keep your nose off the floor. This piece of mosaic is on the wall and is testament to a workship that was here but disappeared at the end of the 19th c. and made combs, over 110 years ago !! The anecdote comes with the "why was it here ?". The fact is that the 19th arrondissement is where the area where the old abattoirs of the Villette were situated. Abattoirs mean cows and bulls that have horns and quality combs were made of horn in those far-off days. Since, plastic has been invented.....