The Champs-Elysées is generally known for the shops that are almost always open. The area between the Arc de Triomphe and the Rond Point (des Champs-Elysées et Marcel Dassault) is practically always buzzing with people. And then, normally, it gets a bit quiter. The part between Rond Point and Concorde is mainly green. No shops to be found. You have the Grand and Petit Palais, and then greenery and park. This is a great spot for exhibitions and events. The christmas market, the finish of the Tour de France; 100 years of aviation, a Bugatti show and now a hommage to Clint Eastwood. I wonder whether in Riga there is such a place…
When I started working in Paris, a lot of my friends and colleagues, not only from the Netherlands, assumed that I was working in La Défense. The business district just west of Paris. In fact, the office I work in is in Saint Cloud, about 10 minutes south of La Défense with the tramway. But assuming that someone working for one of the bigger companies in Paris, is located in La Défense is not strange at all. In fact, most of the big French corporations, including my employer, have offices in this business center of Paris. Even so, there is business life outside La Défense.
One of the things I will miss in Paris, is the irregularly regular free classical music concert in La Défense. Now and then, a group of professional musicians performs classical music in the halls of the La Défense public transport station. And, unlike a lot of musicians you find in the Parisian subterranean transport system, these guys are GOOD! Often, they play one of my favorites: the Canon of Pachelbel. And, they play it very well. Always when I hear them, on my way from the deep down RER A to the Tramway 2, I take that small detour to listen to three or four pieces. It is like a little present on your way to work. Just forgetting about time, listening, enjoying the moment, and being happy.
Strangely, the Gare de Lyon has always been prominently connected to my Parisian visits and life. I don’t pass by there on my daily commute, or live close to it. So it could have been one of these places of which you know exist, but just hardly ever see. But on my first ever visit to Paris, I was about 15, we stayed in a hotel next to the Gare de Lyon. And from there it started. I vaguely remember walking through the station and seeing the orange TGV’s, the largesse of it, something we do not have in Dutch stations, and the crowds moving. Then, just about when I started to consider Paris as a possible place to live, the brilliant movie ‘Amélie‘ was released, in which the Gare de Lyon also plays a prominent role, even though most of the movie seems to be set in the 18th arrondissement. And then, there are the occasional business trips to our office near Grenoble, for which I take the now more greyish coloured TGV. From the Gare de Lyon, that services the destinations in the southern part of France. That might also be why the station’s main restaurant has tried to give itself a bit of a mediterranean look by putting up a palm tree in one of the station’s halls.
When we were in New York earlier this year, we wanted to visit the High Line, a defunct elevated railway turned into a park. Unfortunately, it was almost finished, but not open to the public yet. What we did get was a tip for back in Paris. The inspiration for the High Line comes from the Promenade Plantée. This elevated railway was turned into a parc in the late 1980’s. It runs from a bit east of the place the la Bastille, to almost the Boulevard Péripherique and the Bois de Vincennes.
There are many words in all languages that you hear quite often, but will never be taught in whatever language lesson you take. No, I am not talking about the obvious obscenities, but more about colorfull ‘street’ language. The French have not only a very rich official language, but they also like to play with it. Verlan is only one of the examples. Another word you will hear quite often is sou (or maybe sous). It indicates money. As in “J’ai pas des sous”. While I was looking for some information on the pictured pont de Bercy, I learnt that the current bridge replaced a suspension bridge, for which the payment of toll was required. The price was “one sou (5 centimes) for pedestrians, 3 sous per two-wheeled cabriolet (including persons transported) and 5 sous per car with four wheels attached to two horses.” And there it is, the origin of the use of Sou, which apparently is similar to a nickel, or stuiver in Dutch.
This picture was shot more than a year ago. I liked the combination of rough concrete stucture with some modern additions. It looked very much as being under construction, however, and I had no clue what it was. Recently, I was close to it, so I decided to walk by it and find out more. Over a year later, it still seems unfinished. It was also closed to the public, but at least now I know what this building is. It’s the Docks-en-Seine. Part of a restructuring program of the Port d’Austerlitz, and planned to be the center of Fashion and Design. It houses the Institut Français de la mode, and probably some other fashion and design related instutes. But, it was closed off to the public, so more, I do not know.
Last week, from 7 to 11 October, was the Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre; the harvest festival for the Montmartre Vinyards. Or at least, that’s what I understood. We went there on Saturday, to watch the Grand défilé and we were lucky. We came out of the metro, right on the the square in front of the Mairie at the time the défilé was about to start. And a colourful one it was. Funny groups like the actually quite serious fishermen singing group Les Gourganes; the rather obscure Confrerie des Chevaliers du Taste-Fesses – which to my understanding means as much as the botherhood of knights that like to touch behinds; invigorating groups like the largely female brasilian percussion group Timbao, who were my favourites; and in the picture, the Venetian Carnival club – or at least, that’s how we’ve baptised them. All in all, the Fete des Vendanges de Montmartre was quite an event, and a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon.