This is my last post on Paris probably to your relief. It is my “construction or creation from a diverse range of available things” as the Oxford dictionary defines bricolage. It is all the bits and pieces that didn’t seem to fit into any of the other post themes but about which I feel like telling you about. The first of these is the Metro system. It is well-known that the Paris Metro is a great system. It is very extensive and with stations just about everywhere and always near to wherever you want to go. It has two other great virtues in my opinion. One is the rubber wheels on the trains that make it far quieter than the London Underground, for example, and much quieter than the hideously loud and screechy New York subway. The second is the flat fare system. Buy a ticket and you can go anywhere, changing as many times as you like as long as you don’t come up for air. Buy a book of tickets and they are cheaper. Buy a “Navigo” card and the average cost per ride is even cheaper. You never have to think “what zone I am in?” “where am I going?” etc.. Brilliant.
But even more than those two things are the crazy station designs. There are of course plenty of standard stations like the one shown above which are actually pretty stylish but there are some great themed ones such as Arts et Metiers named after the Musée des Arts & Metiers the museum of technological innovation. It is just fantastic, lined in copper with a huge piston rod and gears in the roof and little porthole niches with models of various pieces of technology in them. It is a sheer pleasure to be in the station, on the different platforms.
The name Arts & Metier naturally reminds me of the English Arts & Crafts movement and the style that developed out of that was Art Nouveau and the Paris Metro has some splendid examples of Art Nouveau street entrances. The best of these that we saw was probably the one in Montmartre in the Place des Abbesses. The Metropolitain‘s Art Nouveau canopies were created by Hector Guimard. Only two of these remain. Guimard also designed the Art Nouveau synagogue we saw in Le Marais.
The girl busking had a quite an appreciative audience, by the way although we found her a bit too 1970’s for our taste singing about how she wanted her “freedom, freedom“. At that stage of the day all we wanted was “seating, seating.”
After visiting the Marché d’Aligre and on our way to cross the Seine we took the opportunity to have a short walk along a section of the Promenade Plantée, a disused 19th century Vincennes railway viaduct, that was the world’s first elevated park. It is planted with cherry trees, maples, rose trellises, bamboo corridors and lavender. It also furnishes great views over various streets and building on either side but one must be careful all the time not to be knocked over by the constant stream of overweight and over-lycra clad middle-aged Frenchmen attempting to sweat off the kilos and horribly fit young Parisiennes who have no need to sweat off any kilos at all.
I can’t finish my posts about Paris without giving a mention to Notre Dame and the Islands, that is the which is the little one and the Île de la Cité which is the larger one that Notre Dame is on. On approaching the former from the east we
were able to enjoy some of the classic tourist views of the river and then to stroll down its little cobbled streets, buy real, freshly baked Quiche from a proper boulangerie where I had to speak French as the assistants didn’t speak or didn’t want to speak any English. Crossing over to the Île de la Cité one is inevitably drawn on to the vast French Gothic edifice of Notre Dame although one is approaching from the rear so the first main view is of the flying buttresses on the north side. The next thing that strikes one is that once quiet streets have suddenly become thronged with the dreaded tourists. Then it becomes apparent that there are long, long queues at every entrance snaking down the street and out into the huge square in front of the towering façade. We could not bring ourselves to wait and contented ourselves with walking around the outside before crossing over to the left bank to seek out the famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop. They don’t allow photography inside the shop but I did manage one quick snap before being admonished. Luckily there are plenty of images available on the web and I found one that actually shows what I take to be one of the beds that temporary staff sleep on as payment for working at the shop for free. I know this as the daughter of our Oxford chums does exactly that in University vacations from time to time.
So it is au revoir to Paris. The accompanying gallery to the right has more pictures of the various places mentioned above.