11 October 2007

The center of Paris

Did you know that they've started uncovering the Tour Saint-Jacques again? It's been covered in scaffolding and big white tarps for what seems like years. Last month, I noticed that the top of the tower is again visible.

The Tour Saint-Jacques near the Place du Châtelet

There's nothing nicer to do on a sunny warm afternoon than walk along the quais de la Seine in the middle of Paris, enjoying the displays of old books and posters put out by the bouquinistes as well as views of the river and the surrounding monuments, neighborhoods, and streets.

Bouquinistes along the Seine

The booksellers have not just old books and magazines, but also posters, maps, and prints of all kinds. They sell sheet music and even little Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame souvenir trinkets.

An old map of Paris, showing the main monuments...

...and sheet music for an old wedding ditty

The word gai in French is used in several contexts that would be unusual in English. A individual who has a sunny disposition is called « gai ». Wine can make you gai. Somebody who is a "happy drunk" is said to have le vin gai, as opposed to le vin triste.

And gai ! is used as an interjection, as in the title of the song « Gai-gai, marions-nous ». Allons, gai ! means something like, "Come on, get happy!" As in the old song:
Forget your troubles come on get happy
You better chase all your cares away
Sing Hallelujah come on get happy
Get ready for the judgement day

The sun is shining come on get happy
The Lord is waiting to take your hand
Shout Hallelujah come on get happy
We're going to the Promised Land
Window shutters

I like the shuttered windows of Paris and of France in general. I especially like the white shutters you see on the Ile Saint-Louis.

South-facing apartments on the Ile Saint-Louis

When I see these fantastic apartments with big terraces and windows overlooking the Seine, I try to imagine who might live in them. Maybe this one belongs to the Pompidou family — Mme Claude Pompidou, widow of the late French president Georges P., lived for decades on the island. Maybe the one with the big white awning was her apartment. She passed away recently at the age of 94.


  1. There's also: c'est gai !
    which means exactly the opposite...
    Something like "what a drag".
    For example, il va encore pleuvoir !
    - c'est gai!
    Anyway, didn't "gay" in English use to mean merry?

  2. You took me right to Paris this morning, Ken! Merci bien, c'est pas gai in Claude's sense. Would a Frenchie say, "pas gai" meaning very gay actually?

    Anyway, I enjoyed this post. I never noticed those pretty white shutters before. I wish I was able to roam around Paris more often.

  3. I don't think so! C'est pas gai, would just mean c'est pas gai ! :(

  4. thanks Claude for your help. I think you can say "pas mal" to answer how are you? and it means good.

    Gay can also mean merry still in English.


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