Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Il faut se méfier des mots (Beware of words)

Benjamin Vautier (known as "Ben") is a Swiss artist who lives in France (in Nice) and who is extremely famous here. In Belleville (a well-known quarter in the 20th arrondissement) he made this work. You may not realize it on this photo but the two guys (there is one up top on the roof, look closely!) that you think are installing this giant chalkboard on the building are actually puppets! I simply love it!

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Shadows in the wine district

Of course there is not much to see of Paris on this photo but I like it. I took it last Sunday while I was having a walk in Bercy Village, in the eastern part of Paris (the 12th arrondissement). Bercy Village is a rather "new" shopping mall, open air, located in the old wine district. They kept a lot of the old installations, including the railways (that you can see on the photo) that were used to take the wine from the storage area to the delivery boats on the river Seine or to the trucks. And if you go there - I highly recommend it - make sure you don't miss the gardens... More information here (click on "Welcome" for the English version).

Monday, August 29, 2005

The Mannix of Paris!

18 rue du Louvre in the 1st arrondissement, there is the office of Duluc, a private investigator which - almost - all Parisians are aware of. Why? Because it has "always" been there, because the name Duluc sounds funny, like the one of a comic strip character and because... of this sign! Duluc Detective was actually founded in 1913 by Jean Duluc (at a different address at that time) and is now run by Martine Baret. She and her 5-team members investigate on lost people, employees morality, adultery... If you speak French and want to know everything about Duluc, take a look at this interview on the new Parisist site.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

This, once, was a little house...

The 13th arrondissement used to be, at the beginning of the century, the place where a lot of French companies (Panhard, Say, Thomson...) had their factories. Quite logically that was also the place where a lot of workers "chose" to live (one did not commute at that time!) - in small modest houses. In the 60's and the 70's the factories left for the suburbs (or the other side of the world!) and the little houses were soon replaced by tall buildings in which one could fit more people. Here is a typical example.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

From Paris to London under the sea

If you come to Paris, you might as well spend a couple of days (or even one day!) in London which is about 200 miles away. And if you do so I suggest you take the Eurostar, a very fast train that will take you there in about 2 hours 30 minutes. This has been made possible thanks to a tunnel (the Eurotunnel) that was built between France and England between 1987 and 1993. The first commercial service of the train started November 14, 1994 and since then about 70 million people have used it.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The attic of the world!

Like all large cities Paris has a flea market. Actually several (Montreuil, Vanves...) but the largest and by far the most famous is Porte de Saint-Ouen in the north of Paris. These flea markets origins go back to the time where there was a wall around Paris - to protect it - called "Les fortifications" (which erection started in 1840). At that time Chiffoniers (rag-and-bone men) used to browse the city garbage at night and dig out everything that was sellable. They would then bring their treasure to the main city gates (Montreuil, Vanves, Kremlin Bicêtre and Clignancourt) hoping to sell some of their stuff to travellers. Soon, they decided to group together and gave birth to… Les puces (Flea market).

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Hautes herbes (high grass)

Not far from the Louvre with Saint Germain L'Auxerois Church in the background, you can see this sculpture by Béatrice Guichard called hautes herbes (high grass). What makes it beautiful and unexpected is that it is really in the middle of the sidewalk just like actual grass. I love it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Rivoli Squat (chez Robert, electron libre)

This building is very famous in Paris. It stands in a large shopping street called La rue de Rivoli, in the middle of Paris and it's been squatted since November 1999 by several artists (that is why they call it a "Squarts"). It was possible to "visit" it freely and possibly buy the artists' work but since March 1st, 2005, for security reasons - among others... - it has been closed to the public. The situation is pretty tense for this has been widely exposed to the medias and no politician will take the risk to kick the artists out. If you want to discover the artist works, go to their site (in French).

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Lost in translation

I took this photo in the shop window of a shoe shop. In French, this sign says that men shoes are to be found on the first floor (more literally: Men showroom on the first floor). In English, as you can see, the meaning is slightly different... And trust me, I checked, nobody was performing on the floor!

Monday, August 22, 2005

August: Paris is closed!

No longer the summer season, not yet the fall season... Mannequins don't know how to dress!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Good bye "Paris Plage"

Everything comes to an end and Paris Plage has to close down to let the cars go back to their territory on Monday... Within one night all the sand is going to be removed, the palm trees sent back to their greenhouses and the beach combers to their job! I thought I would show you this last one: I took it in front of the town hall where they installed beach volley facilities. Is there more beautiful a scenery to play beach volley?

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Tow Truck

As a sheer coincidence today I came across a tow truck. I thought that would be perfect for today to complement yesterday's picture!

Friday, August 19, 2005

Tow Away Zone

Here is a street sign pretty common in Paris... If, like 180 000 people per year, you get your car towed away and taken to La fourrière (car pound) by the Police you will have to pay a ticket (35€), of course, but also possibly "parking" fees (10€/day) if you do not come right away to pick it up. Of course, you will also be charged 126€ for the actual fourrière fees. La fourrière was originally used for animals (in the 17th century, for example, the Police could take your horses to the fourrière if they caught you feeding them in the street!). Now there are 10 fourrières in Paris and they are mostly used to store cars that block traffic.
If you speak French, pay a visit to this site, it will tell you everything about the fascinating history of Paris car pounds!

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Refurbishing while keeping original flavour...

Following to the photo I posted yesterday here is an example of what they are doing in Paris in order to provide modern housing while keeping old facades. This one belongs to an old hotel (called Hotel de France, as you will see if you look more closely on the facade) and it is located on Boulevard de la Villette in the 19th arrondissement.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Another side of Paris

Paris is not the "city of light" everywhere... far from that. According to a foundation (the Abbe Pierre foundation) there are about 86 000 people without a home, 200 000 living in squats, camps, cheap hotels... 500 000 in temporary housing, 1,9 million in places with no bathroom or shower and 600 000 families have to share the same room. In total more that 3 million people are currently experiencing housing difficulties out of a total of almost 10 million people - including the suburbs (2 142 800 within the strict limits of Paris).

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Who needs a telephone booth any more?

OK, this is not typical Paris a scene but very common though. And I still find it funny that with cellular phones (called portable phones in French) any place can become your own private telephone booth!
The first French mobile phone network was created in 1956 but only a few people (500!) could use it. In 1986/87 the first cellular network (called Radiocom 2000) was installed, shortly followed by a second one (SFR) after the government started deregulating the telecommunications market. But it's only after 1991 when they started installing the first digital Networks (GSM) that the mobile phone became really popular. Now almost everybody has one (75% of the French and 98% of the working population).

Monday, August 15, 2005

Old Postcards

These are a bunch of postcards that I shot in a tourist shop. They show old ads that, I am sure, will look familiar to my French visitors - especially the ones up top promoting Banania, a chocolate drink for breakfast. Although I was very young, I do remember this ad campaign "starring" an African - or more precisely what French people thought an African would look like at that time (part of Africa was still a French colony when they first released it).
I realized only recently how prejudiced this advertising campaign was and it stroke me again when I saw these post cards.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Paris Plage at night (again!)

It has been quite a while since I have been showing you a Paris plage scene... Well here is one shot taken from the road above the banks just under a street lamp. I love the colours.

Saturday, August 13, 2005

Sacre Coeur Basilic

OK, not very original, but once in a while I think I can show a little "I was there" kinda picture. For if you have been to Paris you could not (and if you come one day, you will not...) miss Montmartre, a little hill on the north of the city. And at the top of Montmartre guess what there is? A church!
What makes the Sacre Coeur (it's its name!) interesting is that it's pretty recent (they started building it in 1875, completed it in 1919 in 1910 and inaugurated it in 1919) and its architecture is really different; that is nothing at all like the Gothic or Roman style but more Byzantine like the ones you find in Turkey, for instance. Very - I am talking very! - touristy there, but there is a good reason for that: it's beautiful!

Friday, August 12, 2005

Petite Ceinture (train line around Paris)

You are looking at an old train line called La petite ceinture (the small belt) that they started building around Paris in 1851 in order to link all train stations of that time (Batignolles, Orleans... even the meat market in La Villette!). At the beginning of the century, though, the Metro started competing so badly that they had to close it for good and replace it with a bus line called PC (for Petite Ceinture, of course!). As you can see the line is still there and part of it is still used. That is why it is closed to pedestrians. If you're interested - and speak French - pay a visit to this excellent site.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Arènes de Lutèce (Lutece Arenas)

If you come to Paris, and more particularly to the 5th arrondissement (hi Dev!) you will end up visiting what is called Les Arènes de Lutèces (the Lutèce Arenas). Lutèce was the first name of Paris and these arenas (more precisely a gallo-roman amphiteater) have been built at the end of the 1st century! The funny part is that such a treasure had been completly forgotten over the years until 1869, when a bus company ("La compagnie des omnibus") decided to buy the place to park... buses! After Victor Hugo and Victor Duruy (a famous French writer and a famous French politician) put pressure on the government, the restauration finally took place in 1883.
One thing: if you go there don't expect too much. These arenas are unfortunatly stuck in the middle of "recent" buildings" and it is really hard to feel the "gallo-roman atmosphere" like you can in some ancient theaters.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Spitting Fountain

After the drooling lions of place Daumesnil, here is the spitting boy! Isn't weird? (And beautiful too?) Sorry I have been unable so far to find out who the sculptor is, who this boy might be, etc. All I know is that I took this photo by the Eiffel Tower.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Trompe l'oeil

Look closely at this building. In appearance nothing extraordinary; it's a typical middle ages Paris building (I took this photo from the top of the Beaubourg Center) but if you look closer at the right hand part you will notice that the whole two window right row is... fake! (see here, for close-ups)

Monday, August 08, 2005

Fresco in Paris 13

I am not too keen on Grafittis but when they look like real frescos that is another story! I shot this one in the 13th arrondissement which is, in my opinion, one of the dullest arrondissements of Paris (sorry guys, it's just my opinion!!), so it is definitely an improvement!

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Paris anti aids campaign

After Mickey Mouse and Minnie working on their French kiss, I thought I would share this other summer ad campaign with you. This one is run by the Paris town hall and it aims at promoting the use of condoms among the population. To symbolize the phallus here they used a pretty well known tower that is to be found at the Gare de Lyon (the train station that takes you to the south of France). It's funny, not obscene and, well, self explanatory!
We have come a long way on the condoms front (remember, we have a Catholic background, so making love is only for the purpose of having children...) ; until the aids epidemic it was forbidden to sell them anywhere else than pharmacies! Needless to say that advertising for them was not even thinkable!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Smoking clown!

Very popular among the kids who were watching him doing faces and tricks on Paris Plage, this clown also made the day of one little girl by drawing something especially for her! The sad part - in my opinion - is that he did it while smoking a cigarette at the same time (as you can see...). Smoking is definitely part of the French culture, but not the part I prefer.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Institut du Monde Arabe

By the river Seine, in the 5th arrondissement you can see and visit this magnificent building called L'Institut du Monde Arabe (the Arab World Institute). On top of being an architecture masterpiece, it's the place to discover about all the Arab cultures far from all political issues. If you come to Paris I surely recommend a visit - And make sure you don't miss the top floor restaurant/terrace!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

French kiss!

"This summer, work on your French kiss!" It could be a local advertising campaign to encourage couples to have more babies (!), but no, it's just an ad for Disneyland Resort Paris! The funny part is that, because of a law that prohibits the use of foreign words in advertising - and all public documents - they had to put an asterisk after French kiss and write down the translation on the bottom left of the poster, as you can see here on the blow up!

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Elevated Metro - Métro aérien

Yesterday I showed you kids playing underneath the elevated Metro and here is what this "air railway" ("Métro aérien", as we call it in French) looks like. The road you can see here is actually a bridge (Pont de Bercy) that joins the 12th arrondissement to the 13th arrondissement.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Rollerblading in Paris

It's the begining of August, a lot of Parisians are away on vacation but not everybody. Kids who remain in Paris have fun with the local activities; here it's a rollerblade jump ramp that can be found underneath the elevated Metro railway.

Monday, August 01, 2005

I want to ride my bicycle...

Like in all large cities Paris experiences traffic problems and regular pollution peaks, especially in the summer time. To avoid drastic measures like the inner city toll in London the Paris city town hall tries to discourage people from using their car and use public transportation or bicycle instead. It works a little (see this graph), but the shift is not really spectacular.

Maybe it's because unlike in northern European cities (Holland, Germany, Belgium...) where bicycle lanes have been created on the sidewalks, in Paris, they have been mostly created on the streets, as part of the bus lanes. And bus lanes are not so well respected, as you can see...

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