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
I was trying to conceal my elation as the estate agent showed me around the fabulous Art Deco flat. I loved this apartment. As we glided into the spacious dining room he looked up and gestured toward the cube-shaped lamp fixture on the ceiling. “Original from the period,” he said. “Thirties. A work of art.” The agent, a bald and garrulous little man called Michel Allard, next led me across the marble-floored vestibule and down the hallway into the kitchen. He pointed to the large window overlooking a back courtyard. “You can’t actually see the Eiffel Tower,” he said, “but at night you can see the light beam coming from the top of the tower. You know the Eiffel Tower is right there.” I nodded approvingly. When we returned to the vast and empty sitting room, Michel stopped and
One of my longtime passions is for old photographs. Living in Paris I’m particularly spoilt because it was perhaps the most photographed city in the 19th century. The photograph above was taken circa 1900 at Place de l’Ecole Militaire, near where I live. Not only do I walk by here nearly every day with Oscar, but the opening chapter “Poodleland” of my book Home Again in Paris features a scene on the terrace of the Cafe Tourville, which you can see in the above photo on the far left. Below is a photo I took today with my iPhone from the same angle. Very little has changed in the past century or so — except the humans and horses.
A new book on the French titled They Eat Horses Don’t They? caught my eye for two reasons. First, the book takes a hard and critical look at French society in much the same way I do in my own book, Home Again in Paris. Second, the book is the latest, and much welcomed, example of a new trend among Anglo-Saxon authors who are challenging the romantic “joie de vivre” myths about France. The author, Pui Marie Eatwell, has a curious surname for an English writer taking on the myth of French cuisine – but it would seem it’s her real name. She is a trained barrister, married to a lawyer, mother to three children, and has been living in France for several years. This is her first book. In that respect, Eatwell falls into a well-worn category of Anglo expat
This summer marks the 10th anniversary of an event the French would rather forget, but are condemned to remember: the deadly heat wave of 2003. Some 15,000 people, most of them elderly, perished in the sweltering heat due to neglect by families and a dysfunctional French health system. In my book Home Again in Paris I briefly assess the tragedy of 2003 and the reasons for it — a timely issue as France enters another “canicule” heat wave this week. The book extract is below. Holidays are a sort of national religion in the Fifth Republic. The French enjoy a staggering number of days off for various fetes and vacations. Most years, the French get eleven bank holidays – or jours fériés – most of them marking Catholic rites (Pâques, Ascension, Pentecôte, Assomption). That number is actually deceptive because
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