Old beside new, a clash between architecture, styles and times..... The old church of St.Merri is located directly beside the fun creative fountain of the Place Igor Stravinsky. And as you can imagine it is a real clash in architecture between these two.
The history of the church St.Merri dates back to the 7th century to a previous church on this same location called St-Médéric ((St-Merri). The church you can see here now was completed in 1552, and is build in Gothic style. If you are interested in seeing the oldest bell in Paris (1331), this is the place to be. But otherwise, I would suggest skipping a visit here. It's a church, but not all that special in my eyes. There is so much to see and do in Paris, and the church of St.Merri didn't make it on my toplist. So better walk on and spend your precious time elsewhere.
For the ones that would like to take a look inside: the church is open to visitors daily from 15:00 - 19:00. The entrance of the church is on the other side from the Place Igor Stravinsky, so you have to walk around it a bit to get in.
From the Marais we walked towards the west and entered into the areas also known as Beaubourg and Les Halles. I am not sure what to think of this part of Paris, I guess you love it or hate it. And I leaned more to the latter part then to the first. Although I did enjoy some features of it and it certainly could be called 'interesting'.
Beaubourg and Les Halles is a clash between modern and old, and I found it rather confusing. One moment I was standing in front of the modern architecture of the Centre Pompidou and a few steps later I was thrown back in time again, looking at the Fontaine des Innocents. But what drove me away from this area the most, was the more obvious poverty on the streets and neglect of the area. The shopping centre Les Halles for example, was once a pompous piece of architecture, but now it seemed to have had its best days. Ah well, I guess you get the drift by now: Beaubourg and Les Halles just didn't mesmerize me as much as the Marais did. But as I said it is 'interesting' and also lively, and therefore worth a visit. Hahaha, but in my case it would be a short one ;-)
I guess this would be best described as a 'tourist trap' and maybe should be published under 'warnings and dangers' as the main reason for going here never worked!! Le Défenseur du Temps is a fun clock, hidden away in the modern Quarter de L'Horloge and only a few steps away from the Centre Georges Pompidou. The clock is an interpretation of the 'defender of time' and supposed to have a 'show' every day at 2 o'clock and 6 o'clock. Well, this might be true if the clock worked, but it wasn't moving.... not even one minute! Quarter to one it was and quarter to one it stayed for quite some time. So after stirring at the motionless clock for a while we just gave up.
The mechanical sculptures wouldn't move today, and most likely not tomorrow either. No battles against the air, earth and water would show, no roaring sounds of earthquakes, storms or sea would play.... such a pity. It all sounded so fun and I really would have like to see this creation of Jaques Monastier at work. But his work seemed to be forgotten and neglected in this little alley of the Quarter de L'Horloge. All it functions for now is for gathering birdsh!t, as the clock was totally covered in it. For aesthetical reasons I cleaned it up a bit in the photo, hahaha, good that photoshop exists to make reality look a bit better at times ;-)
The ones that know me a bit, know that I love street art, so the Place Igor Stravinsky was a must for me. Beside the Centre Georges Pompidou is a little square, aligned with some bars/restaurants. But in the middle is this totally crazy fountain. I really can't imagine how one can create a fountain like this, but fun it is! Even with the rain drizzling slightly from the sky, the colour of the 'sculptures' in the fountain were as vivid as ever. Water was sprouting out of heads and any other body parts that you can imagine. Well, what can I say.... hahaha, just look at the photos and form your own opinion. I thought it was a fun fountain to see. The fountain is the first modern fountain in Paris and was created by Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely.
It's just a short walk from the church of St.Merri to get to the Square the Innocents with its fountain of the 16th century called "Fontaine des Innocents". I found it quite interesting to read that this is actually not the original place of the fountain. The fountain used be located on the Rue Saint-Denis, beside the graveyard "cimetière des Saint-Innocents". As the graveyard needed more space, they decided to move the fountain to here in 1788. Nowadays it is the only Renaissance fountain left in Paris and I am glad that they kept it! It is quite nice to see. The fountain was designed in 1549 by Pierre Lescot and in decorated in 1550 by Jean Goujon with the prominent sculptures.
Each side of the fountain is a little roman arch, decorated on either side by two nymphs pouring water (see pic 2). Above the arches you can see some playfull little angels (pic 3).
The Forum des Halles is an enormous underground shopping centre and hardl to avoid when walking around in this part of Paris. I am not really into shopping (yes, really!!), so normally I would avoid a place like this as much as possible. But, as the Forum les Halles is also known for having quite a few sculptures, fountains, and mosaics, I couldn't resist to stop by. But what a dumb choice that was! If I could redo my visit, I certainly wouldn't go here. Yes, I found some of the sculptures, but they were just a big disappointment.
In the first photo you can see the "Pygmalion" by Julio Silvia, located inside the Forum des Halles. This was one of the sculptures I was looking forward to see and my main reason to visit Les Halles. I really liked the sculpture, but I absolutely disliked the state it was in. The main part of the sculpture was covered in bird droppings, which didn't make this work of art look very appealing. In an attempt to capture some of the emotion of the sculpture I zoomed in quite a bit with my camera, resulting in this close-up photo. I am quite happy with the end result of the photo, but it does disguise the truth quite a bit. So my advice is: don’t visit Les Halles if you are not a fan of shopping! Although the sculptures look quite beautiful on photos, the lack of maintenance has destroyed quite a bit of their appeal.
I don't exactly know where Chatelet is, as long as I got out of the Chatelet metro station, I know am already in Chatelet! This is a very busy area for reasons that most of the chillout places are here and alfresco restos as well as shopping, and people hanging out in and around the fountain area, near McDonalds.
I dunno if black is the color of weekends here, but young people in black (MIB?) converge here just to....hmmm ...I don't know again.... lick the melting icecream beneath the fountain? (why not do it at home beneath the kitchen sink?).
I come here to watch people. I enjoyed taking photos of people (my favorite subject), from pretty normal to a bit on the edge (figure it out!).
Les Halles housed once a general market that took place twice a week. This market was replaced in the 16C by one specialized mainly on food products.
The new market, consisting in ten iron and glass halls, was build between 1854-1874 becoming a model of covered markets.
On this place once called "the belly of Paris" stands now a modern crowdy shopping centre, for myself personally, difficult to associate with the old animated market described in Emile Zola's novel.
In the aisle of St Eustache's Church close to the site of the former wholesale fruit and vegetable markets, is a carving by Raymond Mason of the departure of the workers towards the clean and modern facilities at Rungis in the southern suburbs.
This carving, called "The departure of the fruit and vegetables from the heart of Paris on the 28th February 1969", is quite remarkable, and apparently portrays a number of well-known characters.
Raymond Mason, born in Britain, has lived in France for the last 50 years, much of it in the neighbourhood of the "Halles" and came to know and to love the atmosphere, frenzied and hearty as it was, and to know intimately many of the people working there.
This carving is protected by a high railing, and I had to take some half dozen photos and merge them together to get any result, so apologies for the quality! Also it has been compressed horizontally, so you get a better idea with the larger version
The Forum des Halles, designed by the architects Vasconi and Pencreac'h, has four underground levels. The first two floors have all kind of shops, the third one was made for leasure and culture with cinemas, small concerthalls and restaurants. At the fourth floor are the metrostations.
Like in the former days of the old Halles the Forum des Halles with all the new functions became again a lively meetingcentre. Most of the times I'm in Paris I come there for some shopping or just to look around what's going on.
Shopping at the Forum les Halles
If you come to Paris with teens in tow one of the best teen hangouts to bring your kids to is the Forum Les Halles shopping center near the flamboyant gothic church, St-Eustache. The place is just teeming with teens & young adults. The gardens are up top, the mall is down below with tons of shops geared to teens. So if your kids are looking for something French to bring home (besides the ubitquitous Paris t-shirts) then this is the place to be.
For centuries, this area was the Les Halles market area where all the food from different parts of France came in daily (it's since moved outside the city to Rungis). Many shops, bars & restaurants stayed open all night long in deference to the workers who came in during the wee hours of the morning. If you've ever seen the Audrey Hepburn/Cary Grant movie Charade, you'll remember this spot was a scene where Reggie meets up with Bartholomew "near St-Eustache" for a late-night supper of onion soup in one of the all-night brasseries. Indeed there are still many late-night places to eat at such as Au Pied de Cochon, which is open 24/7 year-round, and A la Tour de Montlhéry (Chez Denise) at 5 rue des Prouvaires that caters to the open-all-night Les Halles image in the effort to retain its former flavor.
Rue Montogeuil runs off this area and still is a great foodstuff shopping street with shops open late. Avoid rue St-Denis late at night as this is a street where hookers hang out. However, rue Montorgeuil is quite safe and tourist friendly.
The website has a great interactive boutique menu so that you can decide where you want to shop before you get there. Run your mouse over the map to see which boutiques are where.
Photos: April 2003 & Feb 2006
The first time I learned about Paris at school and visited the City of Light with a group from school the original Halles still existed, but I did never visit them. Les Halles formed the huge food market for Paris. In 1969 the market was moved to a suburb.
It took ten years after the removal of the markethalls before this huge area got its new destination, a huge underground shopping centre. This centre of different levels, was designed around a huge crater, forming a central square with a lots of glass and chrome. From there starts a huge labyrinth of underground streets with shops, snackbars and restaurants.
Besides the shopping part there are also cultural centres like the 'Maison de la Poesie' and the 'Pavillion des Arts'. Atop of the underground shoppingcentre, directly south of the Eglise St Eustache is a green park at streetlevel. This park is popular with visitors and performers. At several places in the Forum des Halles you can find also all kind of sculptures and artworks.
When I visited the Forum des Halles there was most of the times something going on. So I saw this perfomance of music. In the park and the area around there are always streetartists around like musicians, mime players, fire-eaters, jugglers.
In the Forum des Halles are also some museums like Musée Grévin about the Belle Epoque and the Musée d' Holographie. In the Vidéotheque de Paris you can see movies of the historical Paris.
This is one of my favourite parts of Paris, I loved walking down the main street with the locals, buying cheese and meats, bread and wine all on display from their shops lining the street - amazing experience!
The Les Halles was actually the main food hall in Paris for 800 years, in 1969 in was moved to the suburbs, and this place now is a huge shopping centre.
The Place du Châtelet on the right bank of the Seine is unique in that it is flanked by two large and (from a distance) identical-looking theaters, both of which belong to the city of Paris.
The one on the right is the Théâtre de la Ville, which is where the great actress Sarah Bernhardt (1844-1943) used to hold forth, in fact the theater was named after her from 1949 to 1967, and one of the cafes on the ground floor still bears her name.
Spoken drama is still an important part of their program, but they also do numerous dance productions, classical music concerts and "musics of the world" featuring recitals by musicians from India and the Middle East.
The one on the left is the Théâtre du Châtelet, which used to be a municipal opera house but now presents mainly musicals, concerts and dance performances (as of 2013).
Second photo: Season poster at the Théâtre de la Ville.
Third photo: The Théâtre du Châtelet as seen from across the bridge on the Ile de la Cite, with a river barge going past.
Fourth photo: Place du Châtelet as seen from the Théâtre de la Ville.