Sunday, August 19, 2018

The blind leading the blind -- to reading

At Friday night's dinner, the food was ordinary but the company was extraordinary.  We were dining with our dear friends Ron and Elisabeth at La Boussole, in the 6th arrondissement, just off the Place Saint Sulpice.  They told us about their adventures over the past year, including taking a cruise ship from New York to Marseille -- one of those re-positioning cruises -- in March.  It was a joy to see them.  We hope they will come to see us on Sanibel Island next March.

The fountain on Place Saint Sulpice.

Inside the church of Saint Sulpice.
Before we arrived at their apartment, we walked all the way from the 15th.  Along the way, we saw (at a slight distance) a demonstration; people were marching up the Avenue Duquesne, probably headed toward the Hotel Matignon, headquarters of the French prime minister on the Rue Varenne.  We couldn't tell what they were demonstrating about, but it looked as if many were carrying newspapers or posters featuring a photograph of an African leader.

When we were in the 6th, we paused to see the great fountain in Place Saint Sulpice, and to make a brief visit inside the magnificent church of the same name.  A small choir was chanting back in the chapel at the end of the sanctuary, filling the vast space with beautiful harmony.

After dinner, we took a taxi home and slept well.
Old doorway for the Valentin Haüy Association.

Yesterday we walked over to the Breteuil area again, this time to check out the open air market on the Avenue de Saxe.  This market is usually extensive, because there is ample space for it in the middle of this broad avenue.  But with August vacation time, many of the spaces for stalls were empty.  Tom said he liked it that way; there wasn't such a hectic crowd to walk through. 

We sat on a bench in the park in the middle of the Avenue Breteuil while we considered our next move.  I just had to see where the Valentin Haüy Association was, as well as the old school for blind children.  We paused first at the far end of the Avenue de Saxe where a new Hilton Hotel is going into three buildings, set to open next year.  Construction is ongoing.  One of the three buildings that the 118-room four-star hotel will occupy is an interesting and grand old government/institutional building of some kind.  I haven't yet discerned its history.

Continuing on to Rue Duroc, we were surprised to see that we were passing the headquarters of the PRG, the Parti Radicale de Gauche.  This seems like such a quiet and conservative neighborhood, but you never know . . . .
Doorway of the Parti Radicale de Gauche.

And then we found the Valentin Haüy Association.  At the corner of Boulevard des Invalides and Rue Duroc, the Association operates a shop that sells so many things that make life easier for blind and visually impaired people.  We gazed at the gadgets that we could see in the shop windows; it was closed at the time.

Continuing around the corner, we found the great old school for the blind, where Louis Braille invented braille by age 16. He actually presented his system to his peers for the first time in 1824, when he was 15.  A military code created by Captain Charles Barbier gave Braille the inspiration for his tactile system for reading.  Braille redesigned and streamlined the symbols used in Barbier's system.  Interestingly, he used a leather awl -- the tool that had blinded him in a childhood accident -- to make the embossed dots.

Louis Braille was a star pupil at the school for the blind, and he went on to become a teacher there.  His braille system for reading was not widely adopted until after his death, which came at the young age of 43, perhaps from tuberculosis.  Two years later, the braille system was finally adopted at the school.

The National Institute for Blind Youth -- the old school for the blind.

I was surprised that there was no historical marker on Boulevard des Invalides, near the school's entrance, to explain the significance of the school and Braille. 

We walked up the Boulevard Dusquesne to La Terrasse, where we had a long but light lunch.  Our table and chairs were so comfortable that we didn't want to leave.  But finally we did.

In the evening, we had a lovely and simple dinner at Le Café du Commerce, right behind our building.  And so it goes . . . .
Le Café du Commerce

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