Paris day three
30.10.2017 - 30.10.2017
Place Saint Sulpice, early morning
Monday (my birthday!), and the Café de la Mairie opened earlier so after packing and leaving our bags at the hotel we had breakfast there while watching the comings and goings in the Place Saint Sulpice. The fountain in the centre of the square is known as the Fountain of the Four Bishops (Fontaine des Quatre Evêques), and was built between 1844 and 1848. A bishop looks out from each of the niches on its for sides, each sculpted by a different artist, but for me it is the lions that are the stars!
Fontaine des Quatre Evêques
The fountain's lions
Saint Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris, after Notre Dame. It was built in the mid seventeenth century, replacing an earlier Romanesque church on this site, and added to in the eighteenth century. From outside you can clearly see the mismatched towers – the result of a rebuilding project in the 1770s that was interrupted by the French Revolution and never finished.
I found the interior rather sombre and heavy but with some interesting sights. The pulpit is famous as the spot from which a leading figure in the Paris Commune, Louise Michel, spoke. But we managed to miss another important sight, a gnomon (according to Wikipedia, ‘a device designed to cast a shadow on the ground in order to determine the position of the sun in the sky’) in the form of an obelisk and meridian line, constructed here in the 1720s.
Pulpit, and detail
We did however find these paintings by Delacroix in the Chapel of the Holy Angels (on the right as you enter). These depict ‘Jacob Wrestling with the Angel’ and ‘Heliodorus Driven from the Temple’.
Murals by Delacroix
Stained glass in Saint Sulpice
Leaving the church, we took the Metro to Corvisart to explore the area of the 13th arrondissement known as the Butte-aux-Cailles. My VT friend Don had written about the street art here in a blog entry (see https://operasandcycling.com/butte-aux-cailles/) and it looked the sort of place we would enjoy, as a change from the city’s major sights. And so it proved. We had a lovely stroll on some of the picturesque streets here - Rue des Cinqs Diamants, Rue de la Butte aux Cailles, Rue de l’Esperance.
There was lots of colourful and/or interesting street art, much of it by the same artist, Miss.Tic. If you look at the photos in Don’s blog, taken in 2013, you will see that many are different from mine, reflecting the ephemeral nature of street art, but Miss.Tic seems to be a constant here. She is a local artist, born in Montmartre, and her work has even been used in a set of postage stamps, issued in 2011 to mark International Women’s Day. You can see more of her work, all very much in the same stencilled style, on her website: Miss.Tic in Paris. Most have a political or feminist or other slogan, in French naturally. Some (but not all) I was able to understand:
Graffiti by Miss.Tic
‘J’ai du vague à l’homme’ is a pun on the French phrase ‘J’ai du vague à l’âme’ – literally ‘I have some vagueness or emptiness in my soul’ but used to denote sadness, ‘I have the blues’, we would say. Presumably the girl in the image is feeling down because of a man.
Graffiti by Miss.Tic
‘L’abus de plaisir est excellent pour la santé’ I believe would translate as ‘An excess of pleasure is good for the health’.
‘Avec l’amour le temps passe vite … avec le temps il passe moins souvent’ – ‘With love, time passes quickly … with time, it [presumably love] happens less often’ (the French verb ‘passer’ can mean ‘to pass’ or ‘to happen’, as well as a number of other things!)
The accordion player, whose face has unfortunately been defaced, is the work of another well-known French graffiti artist, Jef Aerosol (real name Jean-François Perroy). I am not sure if the intact one is also by him but it seems possible, although the style is a little different:
Zaira is a Swiss graffiti artist who uses bright colours in her paintings and stencils, often featuring flowers, birds or butterflies:
Blowing a kiss
Zabou is another female street artist and is French but based in London:
Mosko et associés (real names Gérard Laux and Michel Allemand) specialise in animals and the giraffe is a recurring theme in their work. This was one of my favourite shots of the morning:
Speedy Graphito, real name Olivier Rizzo, has been creating street art in Paris since the early 1980s and is one of the best known French graffiti artists, influenced by pop culture and Disney. This is another of my favourite shots - I like to include passersby in my photos of street art, to give them context. There's another of Miss.Tic's works below. The slogan reads: 'Mieux que rien c'est assez' - 'Better than nothing is not enough':
Speedy Graphito and Miss.Tic
ALO (Aristide Loria) is an Italian artist based in Paris and London with a very distinctive style, using bright colours and geometric shapes. On his website it says: ‘ALO tailors striped clothes around his elegant female figures which have the same void eyes à la Demoiselles d’Avignon, but they are also full of life and emotions: sweetness, love, desperation, anger, madness, elegance and dignity. Beautiful stylised women; lost characters in the city corners, looking for life. ALO spots his subjects in the streets, he metamorphoses them and eventually brings them back to the streets in the form of works of art.’
I have not been able to track down any information about the other artists whose work we saw, but here are some of my favourites:
From Don I learned that the quarter is named for a Pierre Caille who bought the hill in 1543 to grow grapes for wine-making. The vines are long since gone but this remains a peaceful and in places picturesque corner of the city in which to wander, with attractive architectural features on some of the buildings and side streets that suggest an earlier époque.
The church of Sainte Anne de la Butte-aux-Cailles
Here and there we spotted cute little knitted plant holders, each with a tiny succulent growing inside. Someone had obviously been busy on their own personal project to further brighten up the neighbourhood - or maybe it was a collective community effort?
Knitted plant holder on a lamppost
A birthday lunch
We took a break for a coffee in a local bar, and marvelled at the much lower prices here than in the centre of town, with our two coffees costing less than one in a tourist area. But with a train to catch we couldn’t linger too long, so late morning we took the train back to Saint Sulpice to have an early lunch in the Café de la Mairie where I had previously spotted cheese omelette on the menu - one of my favourite lunchtime choices when in Paris and just what I wanted for my birthday lunch! Chris had a Croque Madame and we toasted my birthday with a glass each of Bordeaux, before rounding off the meal with a slice each of tarte tatin - another of my favourites.
Time to go home
After this it was time to collect our bags from the hotel and take the Metro to the Gard du Nord to catch our Eurostar train home. This was 30 minutes late in leaving (waiting for missing emergency equipment, according to the announcement), but made up some of that to arrive only 20 minutes behind schedule. Compared to the outward journey though, it was a much less relaxing trip, as we hadn't done the upgrade to Premium (it was more costly for this return route) and had a particularly noisy family seated near us. Nevertheless it was still a hassle-free way to travel, as always with Eurostar, and we were quite soon home, reflecting on a brief but fun weekend, and resolving not to leave it another twelve years before returning to Paris.
Somewhere in northern France