I love Paris in the spring time; I love Paris all the time… Enjoy with me: Neo-Paris- modern and functional with a bit of the romantic, just “une prise” – forget plushy Moulin Rouge and antique smiling Mona-Lisa – let’s go:
LA DEFENSE: The photo above shows the view from the base of the Grand Arch, looking East toward the center of Paris.
It is not windy; it is not raining. The sun is not shining very hard, but shining it is. And those steps are there, all 54 of them. The view is elbows-out wide. On a clear day you can see… well, Etoile on its slight rise, at least. Bring sunglasses, bring a sandwich, bring a friend.
Today we have lunch al fresco at La Defense.It is all, every last bit of it, reinforced concrete and granite and zillions of square metres of every kind and colour of glass that you can think of. It has its own ring road. Train station. Now it has Metro too, added to the RER that is even further underground, that is a direct line to, where else? to Disneyland Paris, way, way, out east.
So, there is La Defense, on a line with everything else heavyweight, and at the end of La Defense sits La Grande Arche. Truly heavyweight, yet airy at the same time. But really colossal.Its 54-step pedestal faces east to La Esplanade, an ultra-large concrete desert that runs back towards Paris, almost down to the Seine at the Pont de Neuilly. Thousands upon thousands of people work in the shops and high, very high and ultra very high office buildings of La Defense. Heartbeat feeling. Nouvel-age business – sit down on the steps and look and feel.Enjoy with me: Opéra Garnier
Plushy maybe: but surely its story is unknown to you: Built between 1862-1875, its architect was Charles Garnier. He had been picked from among 171 contestants, and was relatively unknown although he had won the Rome prize in 1848. He was only 35 when awarded with the design of the new opera house. The origins of the idea for a new opera house can be traced back as far as forty years previous to 1820. When construction was finally started, it was just as quickly suspended after the discovery of an underground lake and spring. Although this problem was overcome, the lake persists and lies beneath the cellars of the building.
Legend has it that the Empress Eugénie asked Garnier whether the building was to be in Greek or Roman style to which he replied “It is in the Napoléon III style Madame! It remains an ornate building richly decorated with friezes, columns, and winged figures among other statues and embellishments.
The auditorium comprises roughly half of the total space, most of the rest being used to house necessary logistical support so that the stage demands of any opera can be met and even surpassed. This can include live horses running on a rotating stage. The opera seats only 2,200.
Buy a ticket and see pure culture in velvet and gold leaf, surrounded by nymphs and cherubs. The auditorium’s central chandelier weighs over six tons, and its ceiling was painted in 1964 by Chagall.
Palais Garnier – Place de l’Opéra, 75009 Paris
Enjoy with me: La Mouffe! – Rue MouffetardThere is a chance that you’ll discover this street during your first visit to Paris – then again it may take several years.
Turning the corner from R.E. Quénu, walking past the church St. Médard, and starting to walk up a narrow street – La Mouffe! After only a few steps you know this street is something special, and over the years I have discovered just how true that is.
Rue Mouffetard is one of the city’s oldest streets – a remnant of an old Roman road to Rome via Lyon. It’s 605 meters long, 6 meters wide (if that’s confusing, then just substitute yards for meters and you’ll still get the general idea). According to Jacques Hillairet in his Dictionnaire Historique des Rues de Paris, its current name was decided in the 18th century but first after passing through various stages of deformation. The exact origins are obscure, but at the time, the River Bievre (long since diverted underground through pipes) flowed nearby and was the home of tanners, wood pulp works, etc whose activities didn’t lend themselves to a very pleasant smelling neighborhood. So apparently the word Moffettes was applied to the locale (if you look this word up in the dictionary, you won’t find it, at least not in mine. Instead you find Mofette – emanation of carbonic gas, most often in volcanic regions and mines.
My guess is that a slang version of the word might have been used to describe other sorts of gaseous emenations of a biological origin. Whatever the exact origins or meanings, this word underwent several distortions: Montfétard, Mauffetard, Mofetard, Mouffard, Moftard, and Mostard, before finally becoming Mouffetard.At the northern end of the street is the tiny Place de la Contrescarpe, once a hangout for artists, now a tourist hot spot.
Ernest Hemingway lived around the corner from there on rue du Cardinal-Lemoine on the third floor of number 74, and described the square in The Snows of Killimanjaro. Balzac also described it in Père Goriot. The fountain was put in in 1990.
The word Contrescarpe itself is from the creation in 1852 of a military emplacement there. Before then, it was at limits of the walls of the city – the Enceinte de Philippe Auguste. Remnants of the wall are also just around the corner on rue Clovis at number 3. The square now is dominated by two cafes, one of them the former La Chope, where Hemingway hung out (now the Café Delmas), the other La Contrescarpe. Ensconce yourself there to see and be seen.During the mornings the lower half of the Mouffe is a lively open market with people from the neighborhood shopping for lunch and dinner. The market is there every day, and without too much imagination it is easy to see the scene as if it was being played out in the Middle Ages. Entrepreneurs shouting out their prices; hogs heads smile from the butcher’s stand, the vegetable carts, the beggers, neighbors meeting for a coffee, or drink. That’s the Mouffe in the morning.
At night the market is gone, and a multitude of little restaurants open – Greek, Argentinian… everything but French it seems. These are for consumption by tourists. Not too many Parisians eat at these places, but it is still a charm to walk down the street at night just the same. Stop in one of the cafés up at the Place de la Contrescarpe, get an ice cream on a hot summer night at the little Italian place, or a crêpe at the Crêperie across from the Greek Giros sandwich place.
Of course all of the above is not even the half of it. La Mouffe is yet richer than this. Take a stroll down it your next visit to Paris. Real Paris- no tourist trap.
If you go, Rue Mouffetard is in the 5th arrondissement, a short walk from the Panthéon. The nearest Métro Stops are Place Monge, and Censier-Daubenton.
And those are just a few unknown places in magical Paris, from me to you, with love.
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