25 November 2020

Asnières-sur-Seine in just a few pictures

In my post yesterday, I mentioned that I lived in the Paris suburbs from 1974 until 1976. My apartment was across the street from the train station in Asnières-sur-Seine, northwest of Paris proper. I was working in the Latin Quarter, and the commute was long. It was expecially miserable in winter, when skies stayed gray, temperatures stayed low, and it rained much of the time. However, Asnières itself wasn't a bad place to live. Here's a short slideshow that includes photos of the building I lived in. On the ground floor there was a bread and pastry bakery, so the mornings in my apartment smelled delicious.

Asnières is very residential and very urban. The town is just 2 square miles and the population is about 85,000. The brick apartment building I lived in was pretty nice. The apartment itself was tiny, with a small kitchen (but no refrigerator) and a small bathroom (sink, toilet, and shower). It cost me 75 or 80 dollars a month. I had no lease. I took the photos in the slideshow here in April 2007, the last time I was in Asnières. I don't know if the cafés in my photos were there back then, but maybe they were. I remember the cheese shop (fromagerie) very well. The two men in that street sculpture are General de Gaulle, who was president of France in the 1960s, and the author André Malraux, who was his minister of culture. I lived on the edge of Asnières, close to the more upscale town of Courbevoie. The house at the end of the slideshow is typical of the houses in that part of the area, mixed in with more modern apartment buildings.

24 November 2020

Bourg-la-Reine, a Paris suburb

When I went to Paris in April 2002, one thing I wanted to do there was go and visit the Paris offices of the company that
I was working for in California. I was in contact by phone and e-mail with some of the company's French employees
and I thought it would be good to meet them in person.

So one day I took the RER down to Bourg-la-Reine, which is less than 10 minutes by RER train from
the Notre-Dame-St-Michel station in central Paris and just five kilometers (3 mi.) from the Porte d'Orléans.

Bourg-la-Reine ("Queenstown") is a little less than one square mile in area and has a population of 20 thousand or so.
The queen it was named for, back in the 12th century, was Adélaïde de Savoie, whose husband
was Louis VI le Gros ("fat king Louis"). These are some photos I took there.

The suburbs don't get much respect from people who live in Paris proper and love it there.
However, Bourg-la-Reine seemed like a pleasant place.

I wish I could have lived there back in the days when I was working in the Latin Quarter
as a teacher and student (1974-76), instead of in the suburb I actually lived in.

Bourg-la-Reine to Paris would have been an easier commute than the one I had for those two years.
I lived the the northwest suburb called Asnières-sur-Seine, not far from the La Défense business quarter.

Asnières was a pleasant place to live. My apartment was a couple of floors up from a boulangerie,
so it always smelled like freshly baked bread and croissants, especially in the morning.

Even so, I remember it took me about an hour every morning to travel across
most of Paris by train and either metro or bus to get to work. That commute wore me out.

23 November 2020

Paris snapshots

I decided this morning to post these photos — eleven of them — not as a slideshow but as still images, partly to practice my page layout skills. The new Blogger interface doesn't make posting easy, and it's taking me two or three times as long to complete a post as it used to take using the old interface. Sigh.

The Quatrehomme cheese shop on the rue de Sèvres sells cheese but also has a cellar where cheeses are "ripened" or aged before being sold to customers. So the owners have the title of fromager-affineur. You can read more about the shop in English here.

This little pig advertises a shop called a charcuterie. The charcutier is a pork butcher who sells cuts of fresh or smoked pork, and he or she is also a traiteur who prepares and sells salads and cooked dishes that customers can just re-heat as necessary at home. So the shop is also a French version of a delicatessen.

Here's a billboard advertising the Paris public transit system, the Régie autonome des transport parisiens (la RATP — pronounce all the letters). Saint-Placide is a metro stop in the 6th arrondissement. The astuce or "gimmick" here is that if you take the metro or the bus instead of driving in Paris you will lead a more "placid" existence.

Jacques Chirac, the man in this picture, was the mayor of Paris for decades, and also France's prime minister in the late '80s. Then he was elected president of the French Republic and served for 12 years (1995-2007). In French terms, Chirac was a right-leaning centrist, which made him the equivalent of a left-leaning centrist in U.S. terms. His health declined over the past decade  (Alzheimer's disease, it was said) and he passed away in September 2019. 

"...then silence falls..." When you serve this beer people are so impressed with how good it is that they stop talking and just savor the flavor. Grimbergen is the brand name of a range of Belgian abbey beers. The abbey (monastery) in Grimbergen was founded in the year 1128. Read more about it here.

Here's that wreathed N that you see on the Pont-au-Change bridge and that stands for Napoleon III, who had it built in the late 1800s. You can read more about the bridges of Paris here. And look at this painting of the Pont-au-Change from 1751, when it was still a wooden structure with houses and shops lining it.

The window display of an antique or second-hand shop (une brocante) on the rue de Sèvres in the 7th arrondissement.... When I was younger I shopped in such places in Paris and in Washington DC, but no more... We have plenty of old stuff already.

Somebody set this set of mailboxes on fire, I assume. I saw it on the rue Lecourbe in the 15th arrondissement. Firemen (I assume) had hauled it out of an apartment building onto the sidewalk. Luckily, the building didn't burn down.

Elegant handles on a carriageway door (une porte cochère) into the courtyard of a Paris apartment building...

I think this might be a sign marking a Vélib' station, where you can rent a bicycle, ride to your destination, and turn it in at a different Vélib' station in another part of the city. Vélo means bicycle and lib' stands, I think, for libre-service (self-service).

A stair-rail ornament in the building where our rental apartment was in 2002, on the rue Mayet near Montparnasse....

22 November 2020

Noticed details in Paris

I guess there's nothing I like better than wandering the streets of Paris and taking pictures
of interesting details I notice. Here are five examples.

Somebody's cat in a window, watching people walk by

A lion's head door decoration

The lion is also the mascot of the Peugeot car company

The emblem of the city of Paris on a metro bridge

Graffiti on a letterbox

21 November 2020

Five more Seine views

Yesterday in comments we had a little exchange about the theater above. It used to be called le théâtre Sarah-Bernhardt. After having a couple of other names over the decades, it was renamed le théâtre de la Ville in 1990. I think. Now you know what it looks like. I've never been inside.

Here's a view of the Pont des Arts putting it more in context. That's the Louvre, or part of it, in the background.

And here's a more complete view of the Square du Vert-Galant, which is on the western end of the Île de la Cité. Le Vert-Galant is what king Henri IV was called. The expression means something like "a real ladies' man" — Henri had 73 official mistresses and at least 22 children by several mothers.

This is another view of the Samaritaine department store building at the north end of the Pont-Neuf bridge. Back in the 1970s and '80s it had a rooftop terrace where  you could take a table, have a drink or even a light meal, and enjoy fantastic views over all of Paris. Unfortunately, the Samaritaine went out of business a few years ago. I'm not sure what  current plans are for the building.

Several of the bridges over the Seine carry this kind of N in a wreath. The N stands for Napoleon. This one is the Pont au Change, I believe. That's Paris city hall, l'hôtel de ville, in the background.

20 November 2020

La Seine et les îles

Walking on towards the île de la Cité in the center of Paris on an early April afternoon... Many people were out strolling along les berges de la Seine (the walkways down on the banks of the river), or even sunbathing, enjoying one of the first warm, sunny days of the year. The equestrian statue depicts king Henri IV, who was assassinated nearby in 1610. Do you know where the bronze Winged Victory stands?

19 November 2020

Si par hasard, sur le pont des Arts...

If you know what the title above is all about — it's a line from a Georges Brassens song — I'll just say there was no wind the day I took these photos of the Pont des Arts. This morning I've learned, after 50 years of spending time in Paris and probably walking across the Pont des Arts dozens of times over the years — it's a metal footbridge that links the Institut de France on the Left Bank to the Cour Carrée du Louvre on the Right Bank why it's called le pont des Arts. It's because the Louvre used to be called Le Palais des Arts.

The photos above and below show the Pont des Arts with the Île de la Cité and Notre-Dame in the background.

Below is the Institut, of which the Académie Française is a part. The Académie publishes a dictionary every century or so.

The Cadogan Paris guide says the Pont des Arts, first built in 1803, was one of the first iron bridges
built across the Seine in Paris, and is one of the most elegant.

The bridge was damaged many times in the 1960s and '70s when barges rammed into it. A long section was knocked down
by a barge in 1979. The whole bridge was torn down and then rebuilt in the early '80s.

Above, there's the Pont des Arts with the Louvre in the background, on the Right Bank.

Below is a close-up shot of the domed Institut de France, founded in 1795, during the Revolution.

18 November 2020

Along the Seine in Paris

Walking from west to east along the Seine in central Paris is always a good experience — especially in good weather. In these photos, you see the Louvre museum on the left, the Pont Royal spanning the river, and the Musée d'Orsay on the right. Since I was walking upriver, the Right Bank is on the left and the Left Bank is on the right. The rental apartment we were spending two weeks in was less than half an hour's walk from the Louvre.

In the distance, you see the Île de la Cité, the spires of the Sainte Chapelle and of Notre-Dame cathedral (as well as its massive bell towers). People stroll along the quais and tour boats full of tourists ply the river. This was in early April and might have been the first pleasant day of springtime, since March is often windy and wet.

17 November 2020

Paris 7ème

It was the middle of April and we were walking around in the 7th arrondissment in Paris. It's a neighborhood we had stayed in, in a rental apartment, back in 1996, near the Hôtel des Invalides and not far from the Eiffel Tower. Here are some typical scenes and sights. The 7th is a very upscale part of Paris.

The apartment advertised for sale on the rue Cler was, in U.S. terms, on the fourth floor of a 19th century building. It has two bedrooms, parquet floors, crown moldings, fireplaces, a living room, a dining room, a kitchen, a bathroom, and a separate WC. It's described as being sunny and quiet. The total living space is about 850 ft². The asking price was about $410,000 — the dollar was very strong against the newly introduced euro in April 2002. At today's rate, that €467,000 would cost you about $550,000 U.S.

I just read on a web site that the price of Paris apartments is about €12,000 per square meter of living space these days. At that rate, this same apartment would sell for more than a million U.S. dollars.

16 November 2020

A walk through the Saxe-Breteuil market in Paris

It was April 11, 2002 — a Thursday morning. We walked from our rue Mayet rental apartment over to the Place de Breteuil to take a last walk through the big open-air market that sets up there two times a week. That's where I took most of these photos of food products displayed for sale. This slideshow is fairly long — 3½ minutes — and includes 26 images.