Saturday, August 05, 2017

Yesteryear to this year

Mock Roman temple of Sybil in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont
August 5, 2017 – The Buttes Chaumont offers a panoramic view of the north stretches of Paris, along with lots of fresh air, a mountain breeze, acres of sloping lawns, and a forest of mature trees.  At the top of one of its peaks is a folly of a Roman temple of Sybil.  That’s the peak we chose to climb.  Then we walked across a pedestrian suspension bridge designed by none other than Gustave Eiffel. 

Suspension footbridge designed by Eiffel.

The Parc des Buttes Chaumont is majestic, located in a neighborhood that is not majestic.  In fact, the first thing we saw when we emerged from the subway in the Place Col. Fabien was the stark, modern Communist Party headquarters.  We walked past it, up the avenue Mathurin Moreau, to the park.  No other park in Paris gives me the sense of vastness that Buttes Chaumont does (technically, the huge Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes are just outside of Paris).

We left the park and retraced our steps to the Place Col. Fabien.  Along the way, we saw the police pull over two different vehicles driven by similar looking men.  Both of them were sent on their way.  The police were evidently looking for someone in particular.  Some of the cops were wearing bullet-proof vests, and they all were armed.  We were mildly and momentarily unsettled about this, but we forgot about it within minutes.

We left the 19th arrondissement behind, and walked downhill into the 10th along the rue de la Grange aux Belles.  Beautiful it is not, but that street is important to us, and to the history of Paris.  It is the location of the enormous Hopital Saint Louis, the public hospital and research institute that specializes in blood disorders (among other things).  This is the place we will go to if Tom starts hemolyzing again as he did in November/December 2015.
The chapel of the Saint-Louis hospital

The hospital seems to be the size of a small city – 2,500 people work there.  It is comprised of many buildings, built in many different eras.  King Henry IV set the first stone for its construction in July 1607.  The hospital’s chapel was completed in 1608.

The original purpose of the hospital was to relieve the Hotel Dieu from having to take all the victims of the plague.  Its location was outside the city at the time, so it offered a place to treat and quarantine contagious patients away from the city center.

The hospital was initially supposed to be temporary; when the plague epidemic ended, it could be closed.  But the need for this huge hospital became year-round, for thirty years.  After those first three decades, the hospital was opened only periodically.  In 1773, following a fire at the Hotel Dieu, the Hopital Saint Louis had 3,600 patients and remained open for good.  Today, its specialties are dermatology, hematology, and cancer.

We did not feel the need to go in; we hope we never do.  Yet it is a great comfort to know that Hopital Saint Louis is there.
Colorful diner on the rue Lancry.
We continued down the hill on the rue de Lancry, and noticed that the neighborhoods were becoming more inviting and colorful as we approached the city’s center.  The rue René Boulanger brought us to the Porte Saint Martin, a grand arch that stands where one of the old medieval gates to the city was once located.

The rue Saint Martin was home to the former Priory of Saint Martin of the Fields, or Saint-Martin des Champs. 

On that site originally stood a chapel dating to the Merovingian dynasty.  A community of monks settled there, but their abbey was destroyed by the Normans in the 10th century.

In the year he died (1060), my ancestor, King Henry I, decided to rebuild the former abbey as a priory.  Its “des Champs” designation refers to the fact that it was outside the city walls at the time. 
The priory’s church was completed in 1135; too bad King Henry did not see it, because it is a Gothic masterpiece.

Saint-Martin-des-Champs church.

A little farther down the rue St. Martin we passed Saint Nicholas des Champs, a flamboyant-gothic-style church which is badly in need of restoration. 

After crossing the busy rue de Turbigo, we slipped into the charming, narrow passage de l’Ancre, lured there by a cute sign for a shop named Pep’s that restores parasols and umbrella’s.  We explored the passage, and then returned to the rue St. Martin.  We stopped for refreshments at a brasserie off the corner of the Place Georges Pompidou, where the famous Pompidou Center presides.

We’ve never seen so many people hanging out in that Place.  It seems uncomfortable, to sit on a slightly sloping surface of hard cobblestones for hours.  But so many young people were doing just that.
St. Merry church near the Pompidou Center.

We walked on to the church of St. Merry, just south of the Pompidou Center.  The church had its huge, red front doors flung wide open!  With its big doors open like this, the church sent a welcoming message. 

Inside the church’s gorgeous interior was a special installation by the Colombian artist Alejandro Tobon Rojas.    It consisted of hanging “nests” made of wood strips collected off the streets of Medellin.  The nests are like the nests of oropendola birds, a threatened species in South America.  A recording of the oropendola songs echoed through the church’s interior.  To see and hear this was an uplifting and moving experience. 
St. Merry Church with the "nests" by Alejandro Tobon.

We spent some time in that holy place, and finally we departed to continue our walk.

The next site was the little park where the beautifully gothic Tour Saint Jacques stands.  We saw two rats in that park.  I managed to photograph one of them.  The other scurried past Tom, and ran directly under the park bench where a man sat.  The man was startled, and raised his legs off the ground, but he did not squeal.

We stood calmly and stared into the shrubs and trees at the remaining rat -- Southwest Floridians who are no longer afraid of large rats.  We just don’t want them in our houses.  So we like snakes that eat rats.  This particular rat at the Tour Saint Jacques park had the look of a wild animal that lives in the woods.  He didn’t seem to be like urban rats I’ve seen before.  I wonder if he is a descendent of the famous rats of Les Halles, the former market that was not far from the park, or if his ancestors moved into the city like Remy’s family did in the movie Ratatouille . . . .

Along the Quai de la Megisserie, we enjoyed strolling through displays of plants and flowers, and then we ducked into the pet store to look at all the cats.  We love cats; however I’m allergic to them and Tom can’t live near a cat box.  Oh well.  We got our cat fix yesterday. 

We crossed the Seine on Paris’s oldest bridge, the Pont Neuf.  I checked to be sure one of my favorite jewelry stores is still there across from the Square du Vert Galant.  It is.

Crossing into very familiar turf in the 6th arrondissement, we window shopped the art galleries on the rue Mazarine and caught the line 10 metro at Mabillon.

In the evening, we managed to go out again on foot to dine at Le Pario, that magical place where the cuisines of France and Brazil are merged.

When we were home at last, we realized we’d walked more than ten miles that day.  Oh my.

Porte Saint Martin arch.

1 comment:

CDStowell said...

This entry was so packed with good stuff (about ten miles' worth)! From Buttes-Chaumont, which I've always wanted to see, to several churches, including one with the same name as a London church and one with a cool art exhibit in it, two arches, two rats, and the admission that you're allergic to cats (what about Major Burnside??). Whew! Such fun. (After a very distracted summer, I'm just catching up on Paris Journal!)