In South Paris In the Rain

Le Soleil looks like it is missing some sun.

Along the Rue d'Alésia

Paris:- Friday, 3. April 1998:- I have been meaning to come to the rue d'Alésia for some time now, but have been putting it off because it has no high priority and it is a long ride down to near the bottom of the 14th arrondissement.

So when I come out of the métro in the rain, I am a bit surprised at how familiar it looks. I used to drive in to Le Point because there was a free parking lot across from it, and if I could hit the traffic right, I could save a lot of time on a round-trip.

Going home, I took rue Lecourbe a lot, but it is a long dodge'em run through the 15th and I got tired of it. By chance, I found I could simply head out on the boulevard Raspail and go through the 14th. It was longer, but faster - and it also stopped me at the lights at Alésia often.

Where the métro is, is this huge intersection of six streets, coming together at odd angles. Even though the rue d'Alésia goes through it, it does a bend, so the only way to tell if the street is on both sides, is to walk all the way around the whole thing. This wouldn't be necessaryrue alesia if I go the right way, to the right, but I go clockwise instead and the part of Alésia I'm looking for is 265 degrees from the métro exit.

Houses sitting on top of buildings is not usual, not even here.

But this enables me to see the whole place and a half-dozen truckloads of CRS troops, heading towards today's demonstration, starting at Denfert-Rochereau at 14:30. Other than this, there is the big church and the big cinema on the avenue du Général Leclerc across from it.

The rue d'Alésia is not any sort of ancient street by Paris standards. It existed as a road in 1730 and got a name in 1804, and was a route from Montrouge to Vaugirard, then a boulevard in 1851. When it was put together in 1868, it was given the name of a place were Vercingétorix resisted Caesar for seven months in the year 52. The last cross-street at the western end is named Vercingétorix today.

A few doors west of the Rondissimo shop, there was a banquet hall that in 1908 was the scene of the fifth Pan-Russian Congress of the Social-Democrat-Workers Party, which was chaired by Jaurés and Vaillant. Lenin, a recent arrival in France, attended too.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov lived in the rue Marie-Rose for four years after leaving his first residence, facing from the Montsourisshop: rondissimo resevoir, because his concierge got fed up with all the comings and goings of his bearded revolutionary pals. They had meetings in a cafe near Denfert-Rochereau and Lenin rode a bike around when he wasn't in the Bibliothèque Nationale of strolling in the Parc Montsouris.

This is a non-discount shop in the rue d'Alésia.

The rue d'Alésia continues west without great distinction. Before I come to the Impasse Florimont, where Georges Brassens lived for 22 years, I turn off to the left, into the rue Bardinet. I follow the rue de l'Abbé Carton to the open area called the square Losserand Suisses and remember being here eight years ago.

If I don't look up, there is little change. But coming down from Montparnasse, by the SNCF lines on the west, the concrete has advanced considerably. The rue Raymond Losserand at Alésia is pretty much intact, but I know from before that the further north I go, the more concrete I'll see.

The magazine Nova lists a restaurant called the Phinéas in the rue de l'Ouest about a block west of métro Pernety and there is a good blues club a few blocks further up. The famous cinema-club 'L'Entrepot' in the rue Francis de Pressencé is also about a block from métro Pernety and it is supposed to resume daily operations about now. It is also a 'Café-Philo' on Sundays.

My 'Soleil' is not listed, and in today's rain looks like it never will be. the Sans Souci bar looks like it quit worrying about 30 years ago and hasn't got the energy to take it up again.

Of course the rain is adding to the gloom and there has been quite a bit of ordinary Paris along the length of the rue d'Alésia. But in any length, theretriperie, cheaia are the little details and if they are quickly forgotten, it is only because there are so many of them.

It looks like winter, but spring is only hours or days away.

From métro Alésia, all the action around the rue Daguerre is only two stops away. From the west, at métro Plaisance, there is a great deal of the 14th arrondissement on a diagonal between it and Denfert. You can't criss-cross a lot of it on foot in a short time, and especially not in the rain.

Just looking at the map, it is possible to see that there are streets laid out in odd patterns, and it can be a sign of an interesting area. Or it could just as easily mean nothing more than some odd-angled streets, all full of concrete apartment blocks.

When doing a little tour like this, it's best to start out with a limited objective - like this traverse of half the length of Alésia. There might have been treasures to be found, and they would have taken their time. As it is, I've taken some detours, and I am glad the bar Au Vrai Paris is just as real as it was so long ago.

But, to be truthful, as I walk by it and glance back I see there is a side door swinging from the wind, as if it is deserted; a ghost town of a bar, near the bottom of the 14th arrondissement, in Paris.

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