It is frequently observed, including by many Parisians, that the Pont Alexandre III is the most beautiful bridge in Paris. Adorned with exquisite Art Nouveau-style lamp posts and embellished with nymphs and cherubs, the bridge elegantly arches over the Seine as a vast avenue connecting the Grand Palais and Les Invalides. It has become legendary in the popular imagination, made famous in films from James Bond’s A View to Kill to Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris; recognised as the glamorous backdrop in chic fashion shoots; and recently used as the setting in Adèle’s video for her song, “Someone Like You”. I live about two hundred yards from the Alexandre III bridge. From my windows I can see its gold-tipped columns. I cross the bridge on walks with Hugo and Hector almost every evening, stopping mid-way to take in the magnificent
Three images of the Fontaine de Mars, which features in my memoir Home Again in Paris. Above a photo taken circa 1900. Below a photo that I took with my iPhone this afternoon standing across the road in rue Saint-Dominique. The Fontaine de Mars restaurant is on the left. And finally a photo taken last year of Oscar at the base of the fountain.
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
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.
For the millions of tourists who visit the Eiffel Tower every year, the monument is a symbol for Paris itself. I have been looking up at the tower for so long now that I almost regard it as a familiar friend. And yet every time I glance up, I see something different. When I was a student in Paris the Eiffel Tower was of little interest to me. I suppose I regarded it snobbishly as a tourist trap, a place to be avoided, like the Champs-Elysées which one learned quickly was disdained by Parisians and was an absolute no-go zone. Even years later when we were on a family holiday in Paris and Rebecca suggested we take David to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I groaned at the prospect. I was wrong. The Eiffel Tower may be the most
An old photo of the Gare d’Orsay, built as a train station in 1898 and today famous as a museum for Impressionist art. Nothing much has changed in the past century, except the transformation of the old train station, built in 1898 as a train terminus for the Exposition Universelle that opened in 1900. Just above the station are the two towers of the Sainte-Clothilde basilica, to the left is the Invalides dome, and on the right stands the Eiffel Tower. The one object that gives away the date of the photo is the “Grande Roue” (Ferris wheel) just to the right of the Invalides dome. It stood at one end of the Champ de Mars during the Exposition Universelle and was demolished in 1920. We can therefore date the photo to circa 1900. The photo was probably taken from