The assertion that Paris is an “English” city sounds almost like a provocation – especially to Parisians. Yet in truth, the modern Paris that attracts millions of tourists who come to admire the City of Light’s grand boulevards and burnished facades owes its urban design inspiration to London. Even quintessentially Parisian aesthetic touches around the city – such as the famous Renaissance-style Wallace drinking fountains that ornament public squares – are the work of an English benefactor. The Paris that Louis XIV and his Bourbon predecessors knew no longer exists. The Sun King would scarcely recognise the French capital which in his lifetime he shunned, preferring his resplendent Versailles surroundings far from the Parisian rabble. Modern Paris is largely a Second Empire city rebuilt by Napoleon III in the latter half of the 19th century. After seizing power in a
I never thought I would find myself writing this final epilogue so soon. I believed Oscar was immortal.. Home Again in Paris ends with the death of Oscar’s little brother Leo. Oscar was the survivor in that story. Oscar was the symbol of my faith in life, my reason to carry on, my holy lamb. Which is why I ended the book on a note of hope as Oscar and I cross the Concorde bridge heading toward the Tuileries for a walk in the gardens. Oscar was my hero, my saviour Oscar saved my life twice. The first time was following the death of my wife Rebecca nearly eleven years ago. Oscar was actually Rebecca’s dog, a fact that surprised many of my friends in France who couldn’t imagine Oscar with anyone except me. My close friends from Toronto
RIP Oscar January 30, 2000 – September 23, 2013 I have some very sad news: Oscar died very suddenly at home on Monday morning. He had been feeling ill last week and I took him to a vet on Friday. Over the weekend he seemed fatigued and disoriented and I began to feel worried. I spent the entire weekend with him. On Saturday night I took him to the Champ de Mars where he gazed at the Eiffel Tower; and on Sunday night I took him to the banks of the Seine where he watched the boats pass on the river at dusk near the Pont des Invalides. That was his last walk outside, though he was so tired that I had to carry him in my arms most of the time. On Monday morning he was sleeping on a
I took this photo of Oscar on a walk in the Tuileries on Sunday afternoon. The two metal chairs were positioned in the centre of the promenade when we arrived. We stopped and Oscar took a rest in front of the chairs. The Louvre is in the background.
The photo above shows Pont Neuf in 1889, the same year the Eiffel Tower was constructed. The photo at the bottom I took from the same spot yesterday with my iPhone. The Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris. King Henri III laid the first stone in 1578 in presence of his mother, Catherine de Medici. The bridge wasn’t completed until 1607 when King Henri IV was on the throne (his famous equestrian statue can be seen on the left). The original statue was erected in 1618, eight years after Henri IV’s assassination, but was torn down during the French Revolution. The equestrian statue that stands on the spot today was erected in 1818. As you can see from my photo (bottom) nothing much has changed (I took the photo standing next to the lamp, just left of where
The photo of the Place de la Concorde above, looking towards the Madeleine, was taken circa 1880s at the outset of the Third Republic — the Paris of Guy de Maupassant’s novels. The famous Egyptian obelisk is only faintly visible in the photo. A gift from the king of Egypt, the obelisk was transported to France in the 1830s and erected at the centre of the Place de la Concorde in 1836. The fountains date from the same period, during the July Monarchy reign of Louis-Philippe. In the photo below, which I took yesterday with my iPhone, you can see that very little has changed since the 19th century. The Crillon hotel is on the left, the classical facade of the Madeleine behind, and gates of the Tuileries are on the right just out of the photo.
Yesterday I took Oscar for a walk in the Tuileries, it was a hot afternoon and here he is taking a rest in the shade. The Louvre is in the background on the right, the Ferris wheel along the rue de Rivoli.
I used to go by the Paris zoo regularly when taking the 63 bus into the Latin Quarter. I would invariably glimpse a lhama forlornly lumbering across a patch of dirt in a large enclosure. I never saw many visitors. I visited a zoo for the first time when I was about four or five. I can still recall my feeling of shock and sadness as I watched a large lion pacing frantically in a small cage as hundreds of humans inspected its movements. I felt the same emotions when passing the Jardin des Plantes decades later, except at the Jardin des Plantes there were no crowds of curious onlookers. I wondered with a twinge of indignation why animals are kept in such conditions in the centre of major cities. The Jardin des Plantes zoo is the oldest in
I feel extraordinarily lucky to live close to the Invalides and Pont Alexandre III, which is often described as the most beautiful bridge crossing the Seine. The bridge, named after the Russian czar visiting Paris for its inauguration, was built for the Exposition Universelle of 1900 when Paris still stood majestically at the centre of the world. The Paris world fair that year stretched from the Invalides to the Eiffel Tower — in other words, the exhibition grounds covered my neighbourhood. Every nation had a pavillion at the event showcasing the epoch’s great technological marvels. One was a moving staircase (today we would call it an escalator). Another was a sound recording machine. Oscar Wilde visited the Exposition Universelle and apparently recorded a stanza from his poem, “The Ballad of Reading Gaol”. Wilde died in Paris only a few months
I was at my usual spot on the Café Tourville terrace with Oscar and Leo perched next to me on silver rattan chairs. We were settling nicely into our new life in Poodleland. The Café Tourville is just across from the Ecole Militaire, the French army academy where Napoleon trained as a young and obscure officer. The café has become my caffeine stop following a meandering stroll with Oscar and Leo that usually ends on the Champ de Mars. The terrace offers a wide vista of several boulevards converging on one place – an animated Impressionist tableau of the morning Parisian bustle going by in a blur of colour and hurried movements. When I look up, I can see the tip of the Eiffel Tower peeking over a row of burnished Second Empire façades. On our way here I stopped