31 August 2020

Paris : le Front de Seine, le 13ème arrondissement, et... La Défense

We started talking in recent comments about high-rise buildings in Paris. That made me look back through my April 2002 photos from the top of the Tour Montparnasse (which qualifies as a skyscraper). I wanted to see if I had usable shots of the area along the Seine just downstream from the Eiffel Tower, in the 15th arrondissement, that is called le Front de Seine It's made up of 20 or so buildings that are about 100 meters tall. Here's what I found — four images that Photoshop turned into a nice panorama. You can enlarge it.


You can see the Front de Seine on the left side of the old photo below, just down the river from the Eiffel Tower. By the way, if you want to see high-rise buildings, don't forget La Défense, just on the western edge of the city. It's made up of both office towers and apartment buildings.

Meanwhile, in the 13th arrondissement which is the southeastern sector of the city,
there are also a lot of high-rise buildings. Here's a photo from 2002.
And here's a photo that I took of the same neighborhoods
that I took from the top of the Tour Montparnasse in August 2015...
...plus a close-up of what I believe is the same area in the 13th arrondissement.
I took the 2015 photos using a Canon SX700 HD compact digital camera.
The 2002 photos are ones I took with an older Canon Pro90 IS digital camera.
In 2000, digital photography was fairly new and I was using an old Kodak.

By the way, according to some American definitions, a high-rise building is one that has seven floors or more. By that standard, many of the older buildings in Paris qualify as high-rises because they have more than six floors.

30 August 2020


I'm not sure if Sèvres-Lecourbe is the name of this neighborhood, but I know it's the name of the Paris metro stop that you see toward the bottom of the first two photos below. This is the metro line that runs through the southern part of the city from the Place de la Nation in the east to the Place de lÉtoile on the west. That's where the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Élysées are.

The section of the Nation-Étoile line that runs through the northeast corner of the 15th arrondissement is elevated (above ground) so you get good views when you ride it.

I took these photos on April 3, 2002, from the top of the nearly 700-foot tall Tour Montparnasse, which is nearby.

Three of these are very wide shots that you can enlarge in order to see them in detail. Then you can pan across them using the horizontal scroll bar at the bottom of the screen or by dragging them sideways.

Near the Sèvres-Lecourbe and Pasteur metro stops is the Lyçee Buffon, on the rue de Vaugirard. The neighborhood around the Sèvres-Lecourbe station is right on the border of the 7th arrondissement and the 15th. I've spent a lot of time thee over the past 10 or 15 years because it's where CHM's apartment is located.

29 August 2020

Le 7ème arrondissement de Paris

The city of Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements or districts ("roundings"). The 7ème arrondissement is on the Left Bank near the center of the city and covers about a mile and a half of territory. The population is about 50,000 these days. That's about 33,000 people per square mile.

The neighboring 15ème arrondissement, which is mostly residential, covers 3.25 square miles and has a population density that's twice as high — more than 72,000/sq. mi. (about the same as Manhattan in New York City). The overall population density of Paris falls in between at about 53,000/sq.mi.

Another comparison: Saint-Aignan, where I live, is about 150 miles south of Paris, and is the main town of a French canton that has an area of nearly 140 square miles. The population density of the canton de Saint-Aignan, pop. 19,000, is about 135/sq. mi. Even if the entire population of Paris lived in our canton, the density would be just 15,000/sq. mi. — half that of the 7th in Paris.

Sometimes it can start to feel a little lonely out here. But I have to admit, the quiet is nice.

Much of the 7th is given over to grand monuments and large properties: the Eiffel Tower, the Invalides complex, the Rodin museum, the prime minister's residence, the residence of the archbishop of Paris, and so on. The photo above shows the part of the 7th that closest to the center of the city. The imposing white building set in a park is the archbishop's place. Just below it is the 17th-century Hôpital Laennec complex.

Part of the Invalides complex — it's a Louis XIV-era military hospital — is the église du Dôme, above. Inside, under the gilded dome is the tomb of the emperor Napoléon 1er. When the Invalides hospital was built, it was in a rural setting, just outside the city, surrounded by fields and grasslands.

A wide avenue with a grassy median runs south from the dome of the Invalides for about a kilometer (just over half a mile). It's the avenue de Breteuil and the photo above shows the place de Breteuil with its monument to and statue of Louis Pasteur in the center. The wide street with all the markings you see at the top right-corner of the photo is the avenue de Saxe, where one of Paris's nicest outdoor markets sets up on Thursday and Saturday mornings. It's called the marché Saxe-Breteuil.

28 August 2020

Les Tuileries, la Samaritaine, et la gare Montparnasse

Continuing my virtual trip to Paris, while whiling away the pandemic time... From the top of the Tour Montparnasse in Paris, you can look into the Jardin des Tuileries at the Louvre. The long street along the north side of the garden, lined with grand buildings, hotels, and shops, is the rue de Rivoli, with its arcades.

Not far from the Louvre, on the right bank of the Seine at the north end of Le Pont Neuf, is the Art Nouveau/Art Déco building that used to be occupied by the Samaritaine department store, Paris's largest. It was closed down in 2005 after going into decline in the 1970s. The re-opening of the building was scheduled for 2020 but has been postponed until 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is the Gare Montparnasse, just south of the Tour Montparnasse. Even if you've been there many times to take the TGV to Tours, Bordeaux, or Brittany, you might not have seen this  part of the complex — unless you've been to the top of the tower nearby.

P.S. I had an appointment with my doctor yesterday. It was routine — I see him twice a year. I asked him if there have been any recent Covid-19 cases in the Saint-Aignan area. He said he hasn't heard of any since last March/April. Good news, even with thousands of people from all over France and Europe visiting our main tourtist attraction, the Beauval zoo with it's giant pandas. Meanwhile, in Paris, starting today, everybody has to wear a mask everywhere. Unfortnately, the number of new coronavirus cases in the city is going up.

27 August 2020

Deux places et un pont

At the eastern end of the avenue des Champs-Élysées (which has been called la plus belle avenue du monde) is the place de la Concorde, which is a square-shaped "square". Just to the east of Concorde is le jardin des Tuileries, and at its eastern end is le LouvreL'avenue des Champs-Élysées itself is two kilometers (about 1.25 miles) long. The total distance from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe is about two miles (three kilometers).

At the western end of les Champs-Élysées stands the Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile. The Étoile is also une place [plahss] — in this case, place might be translated as "traffic circle" in U.S. English or, in British usage, "circus" as in London's Picadilly Circus (un rond-point in French). We call une place "a square" but this one is round — it's in the shape of a wheel with as "spokes" a dozen or so wide avenues. (L'Étoile, like Concorde, is a particularly scary challenge for American drivers.)

Up the Champs-Élysées about half-way between l'Étoile and Concorde, there are two large exhibition halls called le Grand Palais and le Petit Palais. They are located on the Right Bank of the Seine, at a point where a wide, ornate bridge called le Pont Alexandre III crosses the river. On the Left Bank are l'Esplanade et l'Hôtel des Invalides, built in the 17th and 18th centuries during the reign of le Roi-Soleil, Louis XIV.

26 August 2020

D'une tour à l'autre

One of the jokes about the Tour Montparnasse in Paris is that you get the best views of the city from the top of that 1970s-era skyscraper, mostly because it's the one place where you actually can't see the Tour Montparnasse. But the fact is that the Tour Montparnasse offers some of the city's best views because you can see the Eiffel Tower from up there.

In the photo above, you can see the 18th-century École Militaire; the military parade grounds called le Champ de Mars; la Tour Eiffel; and the big business park called La Défense on the west side of Paris proper. Below is a composite image of the École Militaire and the Champs de Mars with the Tour Eiffel in the background.

25 August 2020

Le Luxembourg, la Sorbonne, le Quartier Latin, l'île St-Louis, et le Marais

I've spent a couple of hours working with and studying these images that date back to April 2002. I took the photos I used to compose these images from the top of the Tour Montparnasse.

Above is a panorama of the Jardin du Luxembourg, a large public garden on the edge of the Latin Quarter. Between 1975 and 1982, I worked in two schools that were just steps from the garden, the Sorbonne and the Alliance Française, as a teacher.

In this view, the cluster if black rooftops is the Sorbonne complex in what is called the Latin Quarter. Beyond it is the Île St-Louis, one of two large islands in the Seine river (which is not visible). And beyond the island in the neighborhood called le Marais (the swamp, or marsh). That's the Église St-Paul toward the top of the image, I have finally figured out. You can enlarge these images to see more detail.

24 August 2020

Paris from on high

I've put together a short slideshow using some other photos of Paris landmarks that I took in April 2002. I wonder why I ever stopped using the camera I took them with. It was a Canon Pro90-IS that had a long zoom along with good image stabilization that made it possible to take long-zoom shots without using a tripod. I think I stopped using it because it was a big, heavy camera, and I wanted a compact camera I could carry in a shirt or jacket pocket. A few years ago I donated it to the Emmaüs charity organization.

Anyway, here are the photos of some iconic Paris landmarks.

The landmarks, in case you don't recognize them, are, in order:

la cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (1.5 miles NE of Montparnasse)
l'église Saint-Eustache (aux Halles)
le Panthéon (au Quartier Latin)
la basilique du Sacré-Coeur (à Montmartre, 3.3 miles north of Montparnasse)
l'église du Dôme (aux Invalides)
l'église Saint-Sulpice (near Montparnasse and St-Germain-des-Prés)

I'd really like to be able to go to Paris and go up to the top of the Tour Montparnasse on a sunny day to take some photos of Notre-Dame. The cathedral was badly damaged by fire 18 months ago. Maybe I'll be able to go to Paris next year....

23 August 2020

Léon Gambetta, son monument et son cœur

Recently, CHM mentioned the imposing monument and statue that honored the memory of the 19th century political leader and statesman Léon Gambetta and that used to stand in the Cour Napoléon at the Louvre, which has been the site of I.M. Pei's glass pyramid since 1988. Here's what it looked like a century or more ago in images on old postcards that I found on the internet.

If I understand correctly, at the beginning of World War II the top piece of the monument was removed and melted down by the wartime Vichy government because the bronze was need for the French war effort. Then in 1954 the stone statue of Gambetta was taken down and put into storage at the Louvre.

That statue now adorns the square Edouard-Vaillant facing la mairie du 20th arrondissement, near Père Lachaise cemetery. It was put there in 1982. Gambetta was a major figure in the third French republic from  1870 until his death in 1882. There are many monuments to his memory all around France, including his tomb in Nice. In 1920 his heart was placed in an urn and transferred to the Panthéon in Paris on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the third republic.

Thanks to Google Maps for this image.

22 August 2020

Le Louvre, vue panoramique

It was in April 2002 that I took the photos that I turned into this panorama — almost 20 years ago. It's hard to believe. Walt and I were staying in a rental apartment on the rue Mayet, between the rue de Sèvres and the rue du Cherche-Midi. We were about a third of a mile (550 meters) from the Tour Montparnasse. We arrived on April 1, and on April 3, taking advantage of good weather, we took the elevator up to the top of the tower to enjoy the views and take some photos. Here's one of the Louvre (since it was the subject of yesterday's post):

It's about a mile and a half (2.25 kilometers) from the Tour Montparnasse to the Louvre, which is on the Right Bank of the Seine. I'm posting this photo, which I was lucky to be able to take and work on. It's a compositeimage  made up of three or four photos "stitched" together in Photoshop. In it, you can see the whole length of the Louvre, as well as the Palais Royal, the Eglise St-Germain-des-Prés, the dome of the Institut, and the Eglise St-Eutache over at Les Halles. Click on the image with your mouse or "unpinch" it on your touchscreen tablet to see it at full size.

Here's a shot I grabbed from Google Maps showing the Louvre complex, including the Pyramide du Louvre in the Cour Napoléon.

21 August 2020

The Louvre that was

Walt posted a photo of the Cour Napoléon and the Pyramide du Louvre yesterday. For me, that brought back memories of my life 50 years ago, when I came to France for the first time. Here's a link to Walt's post and photo. Compare it to the one below.

I spent some time yesterday morning searching the internet for photos from back then of the spot where the Pyramid du Louvre stands now (and since 1988). The photo of the Louvre above pre-dates 1970. You can see the little park in the Cour Napoléon that CHM remembers (see his comments on Walt's post). His memories of Paris go back 40 years farther than mine. He grew up there. I did too, but my "French" childhood didn't start until I was 20 years old.

Above is a photo — I think I remember that it was taken in 1958 — that more closely reflects how I remember the Cour Napoléon 50 years ago. I was a student in Aix-en-Provence, in the south of France, starting in January that year. When spring break from school came around, I didn't want to travel to other countries. I just wanted to go spend two weeks in Paris. And that's what I did — alone. I stayed in a hotel in the Latin Quarter. I ate one-dollar three-course meals, wine included, in little restaurants on the Boulevard Saint-Michel and on narrow streets. I remember venturing over to Les Halles on the Right Bank, where the old market stalls were being dismantled and hauled away. There was still an open-air market operating, but to my American eyes it was so gritty, grimy, and dark — it was March and the weather was gray, cold, and damp — that I escaped back to the Latin Quarter post haste. I went out to Versailles to spend a day, and as I wandered through the vast park around the palace, it started snowing huge flakes. I froze but it was memorable.

I went over the the Louvre one day. I walked through the Cour Carrée and into the Cour Napoléon where that modern glass pyramid stands today. It felt like a parking lot to me. There were some trees and there was some grass, but mostly there were cars parked all over the place, as you see in the photos above. I had a hard time finding the entrance to the museum. It was just a dark doorway and I don't believe there was even a sign indicating that it led into the museum. I was astonished. It was as if you had to know how to get into the museum before you arrived. Nobody was going to make it easy for you. The pyramid changed that. Now the Louvre projects a light and airy feel, not a dark and forbidding one.

Above is a scan of another old postcard view of the Napoleon courtyard. I'm not sure it's much newer than the first photo in this post. It's probably been colorized. France and Paris were so different back then. My impression was one of faded glory and rampant poverty. It felt third-worldish. The country had been through three great wars — invaded, occupied, bombarded — since 1870. Modernization, with features like modern bathrooms and kitchens, didn't really take hold until the 1980s. On many (but not all) levels, life is easier now than it was back then.

P.S. Here are links to three earlier posts of mine about the Louvre and the pyramid: 

20 August 2020

Citrouilles et potirons

We're not sure yet whether the 2020 garden will give us many tomatoes. Be that as it may, we will have pumpkins. The weather has been just too dry and too hot for tomatoes. Blossom-end rot seems to be occurring in pandemic proportions this year. At the same time, you wouldn't believe how many apples there are on the two trees we have left — and on the ground under them.

There are a couple of varieties of these big winter squashes out there not only growing but looking ripe already. We'll make pumpkin soup, pumpkin buns, pumpkin pies, pumpkin cakes, pumpkin enchilada sauce, and pumpkin tajines.

We had pretty good crops of several varieties of green beans in July. We've had great basil, planted in pots on the front deck where we can easily pick a few leaves to include in lunchtime dishes on the spur of the moment.

We live at the top of a hill. The soil is very dry up here unless we get soaking rains at regular intervals. Most of the water that falls from the clouds runs off pretty fast and flows down into the valley. Gardeners who live down in the river valley have an easier time of it. Our soil looked so good when it was tilled up last spring, but soil is not enough. Il faut de l'eau. There has been very little this summer. Still, maybe we'll get a lot of tomatoes in September. That would be a nice surprise.

19 August 2020

Down the woodsy path

The road or path through the woods north of our property is a public right-of-way (un chemin communal), as far as I know.
So is the gravel road through the vineyard, but it's more regularly maintained and gets both car and tractor traffic.
The road that runs through the woods is just a tractor path. I've been walking one it a lot this summer.
Here are five photos from a recent walk.

The road through the woods has its starting point just 500 feet from our back gate.
It's another 600 or 700 feet to the bottom.

The path runs down a fairly steep hill, to a kind of gully that's actually a stream bed, though usually dry.

Here you see trees that are falling over. Sometimes they fall onto the path, blocking it.

The village authorities send somebody to cut trees that fall and clear the path again.

These are not the best photos I've ever taken, but they'll have to do for today.
It was pretty dark in the woods on the morning I took them, so they came out blurry.
I've tried to salvage them, and I like the atmosphere they convey.

18 August 2020

The grapes in mid-August 2020

None of the rain that was forecast for us actually developed yesterday.
At least it's not so hot now. The grapes are ripening.

Some of these photos have had "special effects" applied to them because I think they look better that way. Given the summer's heat and lack of rain, I figure the grape harvest, les vendanges, will start earlier than usual this year.

17 August 2020

Making pimento cheese in France

Maybe in other places in France you can buy roasted sweet red peppers, packed in jars, in the local supermarkets. I have come across them once in a while, but not in the supermarkets in Saint-Aignan. I went to Super U yesterday to look for some because I wanted to make pimento cheese, a standard preparation in the U.S. South.

I had bought a wedge of Mimolette cheese last week and making it into pimento cheese sounded like a good idea. It was "young" (mild) Mimolette and was made in the Netherlands. At Super U I looked for a jar or tin of roasted red peppers ("pimentos" in U.S. parlance) but struck out. However, I found a wedge of aged (riper, harder, sharper) Mimolette, made in France, that I thought would give good flavor combined with the younger cheese. The package said the Mimolette demi-vieille was aged for a minimum of six months.

I also found fresh red bell peppers and I knew I could roast them myself. It was Walt's suggestion as a solution to the lack of roasted peppers in jars. So I didn't come home empty-handed. How do you make pimento cheese? In this case, first you roast the peppers until the skin starts to blacken and blister, and until the peppers start to collapse. Then you split them open and remove the skin, the stem, and the seeds. Next you grate the cheese or cheeses you're using.

To the grated cheese(s), add some softened cream cheese and mix well. For a pound (450 grams) of grated cheese, you need between 5 and 8 oz. (150 to 225 grams) of cream cheese (fromage à tartiner). To give the cheeses a nice speadable texture, gradually add small amounts of mayonnaise, Greek yogurt, sour cream, or thick crème fraîche — or a combination of those ingredients. Season it with onion and/or garlic powder, hot red pepper sauce, and black pepper. Once you have the texture you want, dice up the flesh of a roasted red pepper and gently stir it into the mixture. Serve chilled pimento cheese on toasted bread, on crackers, or as a sandwich filling. It's also good semi-melted on a cheeseburger.

16 August 2020

Land- and skyscapes

As the weather pattern changed over the past few days, we had pretty skies.
We're hoping for some more significant rain this coming week.
It's been dry for too long.

Looking out over the vineyard from inside the back yard

The view out the back gate, featuring the vineyard and the woods

At the bottom of the path down the hill and through the woods, there are wheat fields that have now been harvested.

Coming back up the hill and arriving at the edge of the vineyard parcels north of our house

A view up the hill toward the hamlet while walking on a tractor path

15 August 2020

Plants in the yard post-canicule

Look what the recent canicule (heat wave) did to our hortensia bushes. These are on the east-facing side of the house, where they get early-morning shade from a couple of big maple trees, then a few hours of direct sun, and full shade in the afternoon. And they were being watered. The heat was just too much for them, I think.

This aucuba (a.k.a. gold-dust plant) is on the same side of the house, so it gets the same amount of sun as the hortensias (a.k.a. hydrangeas). It fared a little better, and I have to point out that a few months ago I transplanted to a shadier spot from a location where it was getting too much direct sun. It has survived. Aucuba plants don't seem to like hot sunshine but they are pretty drought-tolerant. This one grew from cuttings that CHM brought me from Paris a dozen or so years ago.

This is a sedum plant that I've had for about 15 years. It's out in back of the house and has been getting full afternoon sun this summer. Back in 2005, I took cuttings from a plant that my mother had growing in her back yard in North Carolina when she sold her house. She had originally grown it from cuttings we took from plant in Illinois when we went on a road trip to Champaign-Urbana from N.C. back in 1997. I brought the N.C. cuttings back to Saint-Aignan. I planted some in the ground and kept some in pots. Sedum doesn't seem to mind heat and direct sun.

The laurel hedge that surrounds our yard on three sided got pretty sunburned during the canicule. This is the hedge on the western end of our property and it gets full sun in the late afternoon, which is the hottest part of the day. The sun-damaged leaves will drop or get clipped off in October or November when we have the hedge trimmed.

The woods on the north side of our property have done pretty well. This is a path on a fairly steep hill that runs from the vineyard down to the river valley below. It was mowed by the village authorities earlier this summer. Blackberry vines started growing along and onto the path, making it hard for the dog and us to take walks down the hill and back up, so I started taking a pair of small pruning shears (un sécateur) with me and cutting the invasive thorny vines as I walked, just to keep the path open. It has worked.