Sunday, 11 October 2015

Paris...à contre-jour

'Paris à contre jour' is an ongoing project aiming to share the essence of locations across Paris through a series of short black and white films. Film-maker Mischa Harmeijer told me why he launched the project and what he is hoping to achieve.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Some ideas for the Journées du Patrimoine

This weekend sees the organisation of the annual Journées du Patrimoine heritage days event, an opportunity to discover places normally hidden away from public view. Although many locations listed as participating in the event have been featured on Invisible Paris, here I will only list the places that you can only visit this weekend. The others you can go to anytime!

Le Musée des Moulages at the Hôpital St Louis
This museum of dermatological casts is a fascinating glimpse into the hospital's past, but certainly not an experience for everyone. In the 19th century the hospital developed a world-renowned speciality in infectious skin diseases, then employed an expert modeller to capture these afflictions for training and identification purposes. The results are gruesome and haunting, but also endowed with an artistic grace.

The Siège du Parti Communiste
Oscar Niemeyer's creation for the French Communist party is at once futuristic and elegantly retro. From the underground auditorium to the rooftop terrace, it is a wonderful and playful building to discover.

The Cité Napoleon
The city's first experiment with social housing during the Second Empire (the Napoleon here is Louis not Bonaparte) was something of a failure, but it remains a unique location in Paris. Visit for the light, the greenery and the interesting staircases. 

The Tunnel Napoleon
Another Second Empire creation (Louis again...), this 'tunnel' is in fact a warren of storage units dedicated to the wine trade. The whole sector is menaced with demolition, so don't miss the opportunity to visit. As a bonus, there will also be food and drink offered by the wine traders and cheese merchants who are currently housed in the tunnel.

The world's oldest surviving basketball court
Basketball was invented by a Canadian in America, but the sport was quickly exported thanks to the international YMCA network. One of the earliest adopters was the Paris branch who built a strange court with two metallic posts in the centre and a cycling ring above. Even more strange was the fact that this outdated facility survived for so long, but, though still impractical it is now the pride of the still-active YMCA centre.

Auguste Comte and the Positivists
Auguste Comte was a rather austere philosopher who spent his life building a new secular religion. Over the weekend you can visit his home - an intriguing and untouched 19th century bourgeois apartment - and the chapel that was built for worshippers of his cult, which primarily included Brazilians.

The Palais d'Iéna

Architect August Perret left several interesting buildings around Paris, but perhaps his chef d'oeuvre was the Palais d'Iéna. Originally built as possibly the world's dullest museum, it is still massively underused today, but its emptiness gives it extra gravitas.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Another look at Hemingway's Paris

Ernest Hemingway left an impression on Paris unlike any other writer working in the English language, to the point where his mark has almost become pollution. A vast number of guides and walking tours exist that claim to offer a glimpse into his city, an industry the man himself would no doubt have thoroughly disapproved of.

I'm not particularly fond of Hemingway the writer, and even less enamoured of the man himself, but I was pleasantly surprised by a recent book I received, "Hemingway's Paris: A Writer's City in Words and Images", by photographer Robert Wheeler.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The new Central Park?

6km to the north-east of Paris, the parc Georges-Valbon is so big that it spreads across the territories of five suburban towns. With the future Grand Paris aiming to redynamise the region, it is perhaps not surprising that such a facility should become one of the new focal points, and plans are afoot to transform it into the 'Central Park' of Paris - much to the chagrin of local residents.

I decided to take a closer look at this immense haven of fields, lakes, forests and prairies - although even finding an access point already proved to be quite a challenge!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A guide to the ruins of Paris

At the end of the Commune in 1871, Paris was a burned out shell. A few short months later, tourists were returning to the city, not now to visit the monuments and sites, but rather to experience the ruins first hand. A surprising guide book helped them find their way around.
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