Thursday, 10 November 2016

"Le France" d'en bas

When you live alongside giants, being tall is nothing special. This might be the perspective of the 'Le France' tower in Puteaux, which stretches up to the sky, only to still find itself in the shadows of the neighbouring La Défense constructions. Worse still, it cannot even claim the crown of the tallest residential tower in the Paris region. Though more down to earth in character, the Tour Défense 2000, also in Puteaux, beats it by 8 metres.

Does this then also explain the modesty of the 'Le France' development, which also includes a covered shopping centre, and its inability to change with the times? Let's go back to the beginning.

Friday, 23 September 2016

Welcome to Pantin, the new Paris

Everybody is talking about the future Grand Paris but nobody seems quite sure what this label represents. Through its move from Paris to Pantin, could a major advertising agency be pointing the way forward? 

A mile or so beyond the Paris city limits, unofficially defined by the winding périphérique motorway, stands an imposing concrete and glass edifice. Although softened by the canal that runs alongside, the robust industrial origins of the building remain written large. This structure – the Magasins Généraux - was originally built in the 1930s as a grain warehouse before being taken over by French Customs. It was finally abandoned in the early 1990s.

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Ten suggestions for the Journées du Patrimoine

In France, the third weekend in September is synonymous with the Journées du Patrimoine (heritage days), which offer free access to culturally or historically significant buildings and sites that are generally off limits or off the radar.

Typically this can mean long queues outside the various hôtels particuliers that are used today as ministerial offices, but you needn't waste your weekend this way. Instead, you can whizz between the following queue-free locations!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

What can you do for €60 in Paris?

I don’t normally work with companies promoting services on this blog, but I recently received a challenge that I thought would be genuinely interesting in connection to a service that seemed particularly useful to travellers. The challenge came from WeSwap*, who asked how I would spend £50 in one day in Paris. Obviously it's pretty easy to spend that amount of money very quickly in the French capital, but the challenge was rather to see just how much I could do with that sum.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Grand Train, a good idea on the wrong track

Running throughout the summer until October, Grand Train is a large-scale installation is a disused SNCF facility in the north of Paris. If the scale of the site and the activities on offer are impressive, the diversity of the visitors is a little less wide.

Open for 12 hours a day from Wednesday to Sunday, Grand Train mixes outdoor zones on disused rail tracks, fast food and a kind of impromptu railway museum. In a city lacking space it offers a generous pocket of air, even if the weather has not been particularly kind since it opened at the end of April.

Thursday, 12 May 2016

The sporting star who fell to earth

The Cimetière Sud de Saint-Mandé is notable for several oddities. Firstly, although it takes the name of a Paris suburb and is still managed by that town, it is today situated within Paris. Second curiosity, the barrier that separates the cemetery from Saint Mandé is the thunderous périphérique motorway, making it undoubtedly the noisiest graveyard in Paris.

It is also possibly the city’s least interesting cemetery, short of charm and celebrities (a sign at the entrance highlights a handful of ex-mayors and the wife of the founder of the Grevin waxworks museum). In one corner though, framed by a solid block of thriving horse chestnut trees, stands perhaps the cemetery’s single striking monument – the half-naked statue of a strong and healthy looking young man.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

The allée Guy Debord: real or imaginary?

On the very edge of Paris where the city segues into Aubervilliers, Google Maps tells us that there is an allée Guy Debord. In the location itself – a recent footpath running between an isolated shopping mall and an arm of the canal Saint Denis – nothing is written and no buildings use the address. If a name exists only on a map, does it really exist at all? It’s a situation that the theorist, writer, filmmaker might well have appreciated.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

A new dress for the belly of Paris

"Since the beginning of the century only one original building has been erected, only one that is not a copy from somewhere else but has sprung naturally out of the soil of our times, and that is Les Halles." For Claude Lantier, Emile Zola's bohemian painter in 'Le Ventre de Paris' the iron and glass constructions - "as light as crystal" and the vibrant market life they sheltered were the antithesis to the new dull, bourgeois - and derivative - Second Empire city.

The new buildings designed by Victor Baltard were "a series of palaces", regal constructions built in the honour of the true French sovereign - food. The 'pavillons' also reinforced the reputation of the area - Les Halles - as one of the world's largest and most prestigious markets, a reputation it had first built under Philippe Auguste in the 12th century.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Fairground Attraction, unplugged

This blog has been a little abandoned over recent months, but like this funfair, the lights will soon be plugged back in and the big wheel turning again. Over 2015, production on the blog had to take a backseat to the book, but for that project the conclusion is now in sight.

The book has been written and delivered, and is now in the editing stage. Photos and illustrations are being selected and there may even be a definite publication date soon. I hope to be able to give more details shortly! It has been intense and demanding, but also an extremely rewarding and instructive experience.

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