November in Paris begins with yet another long weekend away from work – le pont de la Toussaint (All Saints Day) – one of many strewn along the French calendar year. As Paris florists bring out their stock of chrysanthemum for the annual commemoration of Parisians now gone, and as other Parisians pack their cars and pile up at the exits of the city for yet another frantic weekend on France’s chock-a-block highways, why not use this most appropriate time of year for a less stressful outing to one of the capital’s cemeteries. This should be completed with the purchase of Georges Brassens’ “La Ballade des Cimetières,” a perfect way to record your outing and do your French homework. Continue reading “Visiting Paris Cemeteries”
When the last decade of the 20th century witnessed the collapse of communism throughout the Soviet empire … , proletarian traditions lost their grip on the 11th arrondissement, the vanguard of French class struggle ever since 1789. As protesters march between place de la Nation, place de la République and place de la Bastille – the three cardinal points of working-class militancy – one is struck by the dramatic fall in their ranks. Continue reading “Storming the Bastille and Beyond”
A tiny patch of Africa transplanted to Paris, the Goutte-d’Or is one of the last remnants of genuine working-class village life in Paris. Despite desperate struggles by local associations to rescue it from the hands of technocrats determined to “clean up” the area, demolition has already begun and the usual characterless buildings of our times are cropping up, notably the new police station, easily distinguishable by its tricolored flag. Continue reading “Goutte d’Or…Africa in Paris”
Crime and the passion of social ideas; anarchists and artists; sex, drugs, rock ‘n’roll and working class heroes … Paris’ 18th arrondissement has seen it all. Its history tells the tale of some of the major social forces shaping life in this city. From the Paris Commune to the struggles of Paris’ 19th century working class to last year’s “sans papiers” occupation of the district’s Saint-Bernard church, the18th has been a crucible of political, social and artistic ferment. Continue reading “Montmartre, Pigalle and La Chapelle”
Napoléon Bonaparte, wanting to do something for the Parisians, was told by Interior Minister Jean-Antoine Chaptal that he should “give them water.” In 1802 he ordered the city’s canals built. The idea was not only to bring more water into the city, but also to transport fresher and cheaper food and provide an alternative route for barges. The final stretch of the Canal St. Martin was completed in 1825. Today it and the Canal de l’Ourcq provide a healthy morning’s promenade.
Walking tour guidebooks are common currency in the tourism industry, but Thirza Vallois’ recent publication, “Around and About in Paris,” could qualify as an entertaining textbook. Vallois has lived in Paris for over 30 years and has a post-graduate degree from the Sorbonne. She claims to know Paris stone by stone and has read every book of note about its history and development. The following is taken from Volume One, which covers the first seven arrondissements. Continue reading “Latin Quarter Walking Tour”