Thursday, August 17, 2017

Twenty miles of Paris

La Fontaine de l'Obsevatoire, also called the Fountain of the Four Corners of the Earth

August 17, 2017 – The vegetated wall on the riverfront side of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac is something to see in Paris, even now during its state of deconstruction.  Unfortunately, many of the double-glazed windows on that wall are blown, necessitating their replacement and some reconstruction of the wall.  So, the museum is taking the opportunity to do some renovation of the structure that supports the plants on the outside of that wall; as long as the space is blocked off for construction, might as well do everything at once. 

Vegetated wall on the Quai Branly under reconstruction.

Tom and I took a diversion from our normal path through the Branly garden to the Seine.  We walked along the Quai Branly to see the wall of plants.  Only a section of it still has plants; the rest has been unplanted, and the work on the wall is in process.  There were many panels on the construction fence that explained the ongoing work.  I photographed them so I could sit down and translate them later, in the peace and quiet of the apartment.

I just did that this morning, so I’ll share my translation with you (below).  It wasn’t easy.

A peaceful presence along the Seine, the wall of vegetation is becoming an emblem of the museum, a strong part of its identity as well as a remarkable element of Paris’ heritage.  Under the watchful look of the Eiffel Tower, its image circulates in the media or on the social networks.  Across it plays as well the dialogue of cultures that the museum strives to defend and perpetrate.

A new life for the vegetated wall

Conceived by the botanical researcher Patrick Blanc, the vegetated wall has been since 2004 a strong attribute of identity of the Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac.  In language of French symbolization, the establishment is represented by its vegetated wall.
An echo of the collections of the museum and its programs, the vegetated wall carries the universal message of the museum and contributes to sustainable urban development.
Significant works are today undertaken to technically reinforce the building and increase its longevity.  A newly planted creation is coming thanks to the work, replanting part of the plants of the previous wall.

An ode to the continents
The vegetated wall is a living organism.  It is our equal.  Each day, the 22,800 plants that compose it are in dialogue with man:  visitors to the museum, residents of the neighborhood, tourists, citizens of the Paris region passing by the building.  Thanks to the work undertaken, this dialogue that is conducive to inspiration and escape will continue for a long time.
Celebration of the African, Oceanic, American and Asiatique continents, the new wall will hold 376 species from the entire world.  Coming from many of the mountains (Moroccan Atlas, South African Drakensberg, Himalaya, mountains of Chili and Argentina . . .), the plants are notably chosen for their capacity to adapt to the climatic conditions of Western Europe.  Numerous plants from the former wall will be preserved and re-planted in the new wall:  Bromeliads, Corydalis . . . .

At the vertical

The technique of the vegetated wall consists of a superimposition of three elements:  A mineral wool insulation complex and a fixed steel mesh on a metal structure, a ten-millimeter expanded PVC foil, and a three-millimeter polyamide felt made of recycled old clothes.   This felt has a strong capacity for capillary action and retention of water, enabling the development of the roots of the plants. The watering, controlled by the electrovannes, is done via the drippers situated on the irrigation lines installed at different heights on the wall.

An eco-responsible project

Reservoir of biodiversity and of urban ecology, the vegetated wall contributes to the preservation and the reinforcement of nature in Paris.  Its contribution to the quality of the air is clear:  thanks to photosynthesis and to micro-organisms living in the roots, the plants exert a purification in the urban setting – absorption of gas, fine particles, and other elements tied to pollution.  The cushion of air separating the supporting structure from the building also makes excellent natural insulation, on a vast surface, reducing the need for air conditioning in the summer and the necessity for heating during the winter.  The work on the future wall will permit the perfection of the watering system as well to reduce the consumption of water.

The improvements made
Mother Nature's attempt at a vegetated wall on the
floodwall of the Seine.

The principal work consists of resizing the metal structure.  The fixation method for the PVC layers will be modified, to facilitate the maintenance and the work on the wall, augmenting the number of points of fixation.  A support grid for the plants (wire mesh of galvanized stainless steel) will be fixed partway up the wall, in a manner for reinforcing the ensemble of the structure against the effects of the wind.  The joints between the PVC layers will be filled to prevent any infiltration from the back of the complex.  The insulation will finally be thickened to improve thermal performance.

The Campaign “Build the Wall!”

Thanks to the generosity of the public, the campaign for participatory financing organized from May 15 to July 15, 2017, has permitted the museum to finance a third of the costs of the planting of the wall (introducing new species).  The Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac warmly thanks, once again, the donors and the patrons for their contributions to the project.  Thanks to their support, the wall will continue to live long years, with sweetness, beauty, luxuriance, and a positive impact on the environment.

A timeline on the fence  indicates that the work began in July (last month) and will be completed in May 2018.
The Berges de Seine, complete with beach chairs and palm trees (no, this is not Paris Plage).

We continued our normal walk along the Berges de Seine, spotting a plant here and there that Mother Nature was trying to install on the floodwall.  Tom loves the presence of a few palm trees along that stretch of the river.  They remind him of home, of course.

In the short span where we had to ascend to the street (at the eastern end of the Musée D’Orsay), we decided to cross the quay and dine at Le Fregate, a fine brasserie at the corner of the rue de Bac.  We’ve dined there several times in the past. 

I remembered a classic French blanquette de veau that I had there one Sunday afternoon.  Since it was Tuesday, August 15 – a big holiday – I thought the blanquette de veau just might be on the menu again.  It was!  I ordered it, and found it to be a lighter, healthier version of the dish I remember from that Sunday years ago.  Tom just had dessert – a café gourmand and apple pie.

The brasserie is as beautiful as ever, and the service was warm and professional.  

Ceiling at Le Fregate, on the rue de Bac.

After that lunch, we walked on to the Saint-Germain-des-Pres neighborhood.  Right there, on the corner by the church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, we saw the musicians of the group La Planche a Dixie performing, just as we’ve seen them there on many Sundays in the past.  The leader of the group, Christian Giovanardi, is a drummer and washboard player, like Tom.  Out on the street, Christian is playing the washboard, of course, not the drums.

We stopped and listened for a while.  I noticed that Christian is a very good washboard player, but my husband Tom is better.  Tom thinks it is terribly funny that the playing the washboard is something he does so very well.  Why couldn’t it have been the violin, he thinks.

La Planche a Dixie plays on boulevard Saint Germain, and sells CDs.
We already own all four of the group's CDs.

Percussionist Christian Giovanardi plays the washboard.

After a stroll through part of the Luxembourg Gardens, we left that green expanse via the rue de Fleurus, where Gertrude Stein once lived.  Making our way back up the boulevard Raspail, we were able to catch the number 10 metro at Sevres-Babylone to go home in time to rest up for our traditional holiday dinner at Le Tipaza.

We found ourselves on rue de Sevres once again yesterday.  We stopped in Bon Marché to look around the place and to see if the store might have a scarf that I’d like.  We didn’t find the right scarf, but we picked up a couple decorating ideas and admired some of the two buildings’ finely restored features.  Work is still going on in parts of the two structures.
Stairways and escalators in Bon Marche.

A long lunch at Les Mouettes, on the rue de Bac near Bon Marché, restored our energy.  It was the quiche of the day for me, and café gourmand again for Tom (coffee and an assortment of three small desserts – fruit, chocolate mousse, and crème brulée) – a very nice lunch indeed!

Quiche of the day at Les Mouettes -- a savory ham and mushroom.

We strolled over to the Place Saint Sulpice, whose fountain was looking lovely on such a beautiful day.  We toured the inside of the church for what seemed like the thousandth time.  Then it was time to stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens again. 

Included in that stroll were the two gardens south of the Luxembourg.  At the end of that stretch is the magnificent fountain of the four corners of the earth.  Two great fountains in one day! 
The church and the fountain on Place Saint Sulpice.

We ambled along the boulevard Montparnasse, admiring beautiful and famous brasseries like Le Dome and Le Coupole, as well as funky shops like a costume store that posted masks of political figures on its window.  Can you name them all?  (Double-click on the photo to enlarge it.)

Each of these walks – Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s – were about 10 miles long.

Last night, we dined at one of our favorite restaurants, O Fil Rouge, on the rue St. Charles.  The owners and chef have re-opened after an invigorating vacation.  New items are on the menu.  We ordered one of them, duck breast ravioli, as a shared starter.  Then Tom had a delicious steak and fries, and I was back to my usual fish-and-vegetables habit.  But oh, what a special dish this was:  perfectly cooked red tuna on tasty veggies with just a bit of buttery sauce – all topped by a slice of foie gras entier.  The dish practically exploded with flavor.

We shared O Fil Rouge’s unforgettable pain perdu for dessert -- rich, warm, and seductive – just like the summer evening in Paris.

O Fil Rouge's red tuna, "Rossini" fashion.

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