Strolling for Stories

photo: cafe le celtic

A big café near the city hall of the 3rd arrondissement.

In Paris' 18th Century - And Older - Streets

Paris:- Monday, 1. March 1999:- There is always a little trickle of mail coming in from readers who want to know what will be on at the Opéra in Paris in June of 2000. I can't get an answer to this question by reading any daily paper.

Over a period of time my name has found its way into various address books and databanks, so I now have a fairly steady flow of incoming press releases; from some sources these flows are more like floods. From others, there's a good flow, followed by nothing.

This stuff could be managed in a thorough way if I were a manager-type, but I'm not. Half the time I find if I 'manage' to make a phone call, I will not get what I ask for. The other half of the time, I get somewhat more than I expected.

Paris is an important source for finding out about events scheduled for the future. Paris sends me stuff. Some comes from the Hôtel de Ville and a lot more comes from various offices, scattered all over the place, which all have names that are nearly identical.

Last Wednesday, I thought I'd better track down more information about one of these announcements. However I thought the Seine might be flooding, so I went and looked at it first, near Pont Marie.

Then, because it was there, I went to the Bibliothèque Forney; because it is in the Hôtel de Sens - a very old joint - and because of itsphoto: flooded rive droite expressway exhibition of clothes irons; a decidedly odd item. In this way I learned about this public library's specialty - all about art and how it's done.

The right bank expressway; covered by the Seine last Wednesday.

Since it is in the same area, I tromped over to the Pavillon de l'Arsenal - city architecture - to find out why I haven't heard from them lately; to find they are building a new expo about cement. On leaving, I noticed the Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, and wondered what its specialty might be.

At this point, I was ready to go to my initial destination - a culture office in the Marais. I got to say hello and was immediately sent to the Musée Carnavalet; where I was immediately sent back out on the Rue Sévigné, to their press service office.

What I found out is below; here I continue this odyssey - because I wantedphoto: hotel sens, bibliotheque forney some more detail from the Archives Nationales - in the same Marais neighborhood - about a show they have coming up. To round it off, I had some photos I'd promised to return the Centre Pompidou's press service, and this would be my final stop.

Except for Arsenal, at each stop I picked up or was given more press material - releases, folders, photos, slides and paper, paper, paper. The unscheduled pop-in at the Swiss Cultural Centre added to the load.

The Bilbiothèque Forney is in the Hôtel de Sens.

At the end of the trek, the score was three out of four, with two unscheduled 'scores.' My bag was two kilos heavier and my feet felt the same way. An untypical Wednesday in Paris, with just the Seine photo, and no other report for a feature; but with a pile of bumpf to read about upcoming events.

You see, I don't make everything up. I get out the shoe soles, and look for facts. Once in a while.

Les Rues de Paris au XVIIIe Siècle - is the title of the one-page press release that set off my march around the Marais on Wednesday.

The subtitle is, loosely translated, 'As seen by Louis Sébastien Mercier.' Then it begins, "A few years before the Revolution, the writer Louis Sébastien Mercier (1740-1814) ploughed the streets of Paris, threadedbrochure: les trois pucelles©parismusees his way through the crowds, looked in shop windows, observed the work of artisans, heard the cries of street vendors - and so on and etc. - until it gets to a period and then says - 'for 30 years.'

Mercier made notes of everything he saw and heard for 30 years! Not content with this, he set it all down in his 'Tableau de Paris,' written between 1781 and 1789. In 12 volumes with 1,050 chapters.

'Les Trois Pucelles' by Etienne Jeaurat. Paris Musées©1999

Compared to Mercier, what I do is like a walk to the corner grocery shop and back. Then, consider that Mercier did this - stroll - for the years leading up to the Revolution. He knows whether Parisians were eating cakes, bread or nothing. His 'Tableau de Paris' made him famous at the time. He survived Robespierre, and went on the write a science-fiction novel, set in the year 2,440.

Hear this, Paris history buffs! Paris' history museum, the Musée Carnavalet, is going to be showing a selection of Mercier's works - reduced to 8,000 pages - along with a whole assembly of paintings, household objects and even pots and bones dug up by the Vieux Paris commission.

Daily life in Paris has not been the centre of historian's attention in the past. This show should do much to upset this imbalance - and should do much to show us Paris as it was, in the streets of the 18th century.

Mercier himself, has long been considered either historian nor literary genius - but as a 'journalist' he was the first to turn the usual catalogue nature of a guide, into a real story. He said he walked at lot to do the 'Tableau de Paris,' so he allowed himself to say he did it with his legs.'

This exhibition will present a mine of little-known material about Paris and I think I, and others too, will be digging in it for some time to come. But not for 30 years.

At the Musée Carnavalet - Histoire de Paris - from Thursday, 18. March until Sunday, 20. June. 23. Rue de Sévigné, Paris 3. Open Tuesday to Sunday, from 10:00 to 17:40. Entry: 35 francs. Info. Tel.: 01 42 72 21 13.

Tocqueville This Week

This week's 'The Tocqueville Connection' has its customary number of interesting articles and features, I assume. I didn't get a chance to look; I suggest you do and decide what you want to read yourself.

Books In French - Give BOL a Tryout

Some readers write to me to ask general questions such as 'What are the French really like?' This requires, ofphoto: hockney at beaubourg course, at least a book-length answer; if not a whole library of books. In fact, writing about 'who the French are' is a minor industry here, and if you are really concerned you too should be reading it in French.

A couple of weeks ago, European media giant, Bertelsmann, launched 'Books-On-Line' - or BOL for short - in France and Germany, with a great deal good intentions behind the effort.

Beaubourg is partly open and David Hockney is in it now.

Metropole's readers always get replies, even if I can't supply a book-length answer in an email. If you have one of these short questions and you really want the long answer, then give BOL's online bookshop a try. You can expect that they will be offering the books you seek.

Paris' 'LiveCam' Shows Typical Weather

Lots of Metropole readers are giving this site a hit because it will give you a current view of the sky over Paris. This comes from TF1-TV's 'LiveCam.' If you want to see what typical winter weather looks like, now you will see it - for what it's worth to see leaden, gray skies one minutes or bright, blinding sunlight the next - unless it happens to be nighttime here, which it usually is between about 16:30 and 07:30 GMT. If you are in our modest combo 'Euro'-and-'continental' CET zone, nighttime is between about 17:30 and 08:30.

This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 3.09 - 2. March 1998 - This issue featured thecolumns - Café Metropole - 'The Endless Search for the 'X-Generation'' and 'Au Bistro' had - 'Beware of Fake Taxis and Good Money.' The issue had two features; entitled 'Who Am I? Who Are We? Find Out in Paris' and 'East of Bastille, Work and Play.' Photos were featured in 'Photos: February Scenes in Paris.' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, 'Eat the Exhibits.'

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 306 days of thaw left to go.

Regards, Ric
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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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