Saturday, July 05, 2008

Parisian institution!

I never showed you a very important part in the Parisian culture: Le Concierge! Located at the entrance of buildings (generally in a small apartment on the ground floor, like in this photo that I took rue des Saint-Pères), he - or more often she - takes care of the property, dispatches the mail to the dwellers, takes out the trash and monitors who gets in and out. Before, there was almost no Parisian buildings without a concierge, but now, they are considered too expensive and a lot have been "outsourced". Browsing the web I found out that the term concierge evolved from the French Comte Des Cierges (keeper of the candles!).


  1. Eric here´s a proof of how crazy I am about french culture: I already knew where the term concierge came from!!!

  2. Just beat me to it Monica

  3. You know what, when they are "outsources", they don't knwo anymore the people living in the building, and that's immediately, 50% of the concierge's role which disappears....
    In my building, the concierge's small flat was recently redesigned as a bicycle garage ;-((

  4. Now I´d like to wish a belated Happy Independance Day to our american friends since yesterday I failed to pop in here.

    Rose, so great you´re meeting our beloved Lynns!!!!!!!!!!1 Don´t forget to give them a kiss for me!!! Sem falta!!!
    Now... I hope I´m next in line... ! ;-)

  5. Monica, GF !!!!!!!!! Brilliant !!!!

  6. Anonyme.. after ages I finally made GF again!

    Since the 4th of July has just passed it reminds me of the 14th of July, which I´ll be celebrating here!

  7. Not all concierges' houses are so pretty in Paris... Belle photo Eric.

  8. It looks like a separate little stucture. Is that part of the apartment building or separate? I've ony been to Paris once for a week, and I don't remember seeing anything like this. Can anyone enlighten me?

  9. PS - Congratulations Monica! I love the GF competition. :)

  10. Eric - how did you manage that lighting? Its very atmospheric.

  11. That's a great photo, did you do a bit of "digital darkroom" work, Eric? Nice result! And an intersting subject. Looks like one of the hidden secret places of Paris (never noticed this rue des St Peres, I will need to keep eyes wide open next time). Have a nice weekend, Loic

  12. Outsourced? The Parisian concierges?!! Oh, my... what is the world coming to!

  13. We have a Concierge adjacent to my apartment building. They do all the things that you mentioned Eric, plus they will feed your little cat or dog, and water your plants when you are out of town. They are great. I have noticed in San Francisco since September 11th (9/11), more and more buildings have a Concierge as security precautions. Downtown San Francisco -- they even ask to see your identification.

  14. Monica, Merci! it's still the 4th of July here. It is 5:00 pm.

    Fireworks in California are really not that popular as this time of year, we always have a lot of forest fires. In San Francisco, they are against the law. They do have a big fireworks show over the Bay that is really pretty. However, I have a cough and am in bed for the next couple of days for sure. One New Year's Eve I was in Paris and we were going to go see the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower. We were running late and called over there on our cell phone to tell them. They told us that the show was called off because of a terrorist threat. Everyone was going home. So we walked to a bridge and looked around the Paris sky and there were fireworks throughout the city. Okay not a major show -- still beautiful despite someone's intention to ruin it.

  15. That is really cool! I live out in the country and I've only ever heard of these in hotels. To have them in one's own building....well, how fancy that would seem! :)

    Here in Northern Michigan it is still the 4th of July for over 3 hours! Our town will be having fireworks in about 2 hours, but we're home and happy to have seen some fireworks last night.

  16. How do you outsource a concierge? Are they outsourced, or are they just gotten rid of?

    The world is going away. It's nuts. First glaciers, then the polar ice cap. Now concierges.

  17. I get it... instead of the "loge de la concierge" you have a white telephone outside and a sign saying "for concierge, pick up the phone."

    You pick up the phone, and after navigating 17 different menus, you are put on hold a while and eventually transferred to someone in India...

  18. "I'm not a madam. I'm the concierge!"
    - The Producers

  19. "Concierge?" Hmmm. Oh, yeah the guys in the funny little houses. No, I really don't know much about them. Eric, I'll take your word for it though. You da man!

    Bonjour to you across the pond! You're all waking up and I'm going to bed after a LOOOONGGG 4th of July with the kids and the neighbors. My ears are still numb from all the CRACK BOOM BAM!

    Is that Monica with the GF crown on her head? [last fireworks exploding now!!!]

    Lois...get well soon.

  20. Lovely photo, Eric. I lived around the corner from the rue des Saint-Peres for a while. Our concierge was so sweet. (Then I moved near the Sorbonne, and the new concierge looked like a sweet granny, but she was anything but!)
    Lois -- trust you're on the mend. I think what you have is more like the concierge at the George V, not like "la grandmere d'enfer," as we called ours.

  21. What a picturesque scene. The colors, the lighting, the shadows, and the angle are wonderful. I could imagine this photo framed and hanging on my wall.

    I believe I read somewhere that in many Parisian apartments the concierge has been replaced by security code entry. Obviously, having a security code doesn't offer personal greeting, mail delivery, or water for the dog.

    When I lived in France, the school where I taught had a concierge. He and his family lived at the school, answered incoming calls, delivered mail, monitored the gate, and so on.

    Indeed, today's post seems "very French." :)

  22. This is so beautiful. I just recently heard a report on National Public Radio about the concierge becoming a vanishing breed. They sited this excellent article (a long link that I'll split up) from the San Francisco Chronicle:

  23. Nice "loge de concierge" ! They are or were not always as pleasant as this one.
    I keep a very good memory from my concierge when living in Paris.
    She was a wonderful Portuguese woman who considered herself as the "soul" of the house and she was indeed.
    She took good care of all the residents, not only the building.
    We were all her children.
    I remenber a bottle of wonderful Port she had carried in he suitcase by train when coming back from her "onceayear" vacation in her homeland.
    She was even taking care of our cars on the street !
    Let me explain : in Paris you are not supposed to park your car at the same place more than 24 hours. And, for a long time, I considered myself very lucky : I never got a fine.
    Until she confidentially explained to me that, early morning, she discretely wiped and changed the chalk marks the cops were putting on the tires of your car to check if it had moved !!!
    It was more than 20 years ago, it's ancien story now so it's alright to talk about it !!!
    Merci encore, Madame Emilia !!

  24. Just saying hello from Australia. I love your blog and view it periodically

  25. lovely photo. and thanks for the tidbits of information. i always seem to learn something new :) is concierge the same as the 'guardian'? i think i stayed in a building that had one of those...

  26. Coltrane.. yeap, that was me! ;-)

  27. I need a concierge, especially in the trash dept.

    I have add the utube clip of France singing the National Anthem to USA to my post today. Love to listen to it!
    Merci Monica!

  28. Ooooh, what a lovely photo and linguistic history lesson. What I'd like more than a concierge is a personal maid. y place has become a mess lately cause I just have not felt like doing much tidying up lately. Perhaps if I offer the common grounds cleaner a large tip he'll clean my place too?

  29. Did your neighbours from upper level tell you that I came to their place a couple of weekends ago. I did try knocking at your door but you were super busy as usual and nobody was home!
    Hope to catch up with you soon.
    Tell me when you have time available in the next weeks or so. Cheers.

  30. Wonderful photo, Eric.
    The first thing I noticed was the subtle colours of the "tricolore".
    That makes it a very patriotic, above all.

  31. It's most unusual to find a concierge here in the UK. Apartment buildings which have them are very expensive. They are housed inside the main building too. This is a strange little office here - detached from the building is it? They put out the rubbish too? I'm not sure i'd like that job... :) Great photo.

  32. Keeper of the candles- how cool is that! Great story Eric, merci.
    & marylene I loved your story as well,I could picture my mother-in-law who is also Portuguese doing the very same thing -saving people from getting fined!
    I concur with Double Hawk, it is just beautiful.

  33. What a cozy little building it looks like, and a shame that the concierge is not in fashion any longer. :(

  34. Some of Paris is grand. Some is sweet detail. I like the grand and the sweet. I hate to see the concierges go, but things go when we no longer need them. C'est dommage, n'est-ce pas?

  35. This concierge station is so charming! I remember fondly the ancient and sweet woman who provided those services for our building in San Francisco. The building's owner was in his 60s, and the concierge had been there since the owner was a small boy. Years later we were between houses and stayed for a year at an apartment (very near Lois La Veche!) where most of the residents were graduate students or post docs from all around the globe. The concierge would remember everyone's birthdays and all the holidays with big celebrations on the common patio where her husband (a German from Peru!) would grill sausages and everyone would bring a special dish. Sometimes there would be live music, and always good fun and children laughing. The concierge not only took care of the buildings and mail, she created a wonderful community among the residents.
    Seattle Daily Photo

  36. Monica "Eric here´s a proof of how crazy I am about french culture: I already knew where the term concierge came from!!!" Humm. I'm sure 90% of the French don't know!

    Thib "In my building, the concierge's small flat was recently redesigned as a bicycle garage ;-((" Yeah, I know, it's pretty common these days...

    What Rose, you're meeting Lynn?! I want to know everything about the encounter!

    Corinne "Not all concierges' houses are so pretty in Paris..." So true. Actually, where I lived before - in Les Batignolles - the house of the Concierge was so small, she could not fit a real bed in it. A real scandal.

    Carrie "It looks like a separate little stucture. Is that part of the apartment building or separate?" Well this one is seperate because it's located in one of the richest areas of Paris, but it's generally part of the building.

    Loïc "Blogger Loïc BROHARD a dit...

    That's a great photo, did you do a bit of "digital darkroom" work, Eric?" Nope! Just a little color ajustment maybe...

    Lois "They do all the things that you mentioned Eric, plus they will feed your little cat or dog, and water your plants when you are out of town. " Yes, true. Same here, providing you give them "Etrennes" at the end of the year...

    Luggi, only the basic tasks like taking the trash out, cleaning the staircase... can be outsouurced. Most buildings now have mailboxes in the hallway so that the concierge does not have to take it to your apartement anymore like they did when I was young.

    LOL Tomate

    LOL Vicky!

    Coltrane : Crack Boom Bam!

    BV. Was it you who made so much noise that night??? Just kidding. No I did not see my neighbors recently. It would have been quite a surprise to see you at my door actually. I here all summer BTW...

    And BTW, yes a guardian is now more commonly used that Concierge, but it's the same.

  37. For a minute I thought I had taken that photo; but mine is very slightly different. Even the bicycle is in the same place though. I took it in May.

  38. Cute little concièrgerie (is that the right word) Eric. Yes, they're normally women these days. And curious ones at that sometimes.