Blog : Posts tagged with 'Paris'

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Photo post of the week

In which we like the wallpaper


Usually, when we go on holiday, it’s either an expedition in a roomy, comfortable tent, or a quick weekend trip in a Travelodge or similar. After all, when you’re going away to a city, you’re supposed to spend your time out exploring the town, not admiring the quality of the wallpaper. When we went to Rīga the other year, though, K picked out somewhere more individual for us to stay; and with this year’s trip to Paris, we found another hotel that was more than just a cluster of anonymous magnolia-coloured cells.

Hotel room, Paris Hotel room, Paris Hotel room, Paris
Hotel bathroom, Paris Hotel room, Paris Hotel room, Paris

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Photo post of the month

In which we go to a misty Paris


The Left Bank, Paris, seen from Notre Dame Spire, Notre Dame, Paris Angel, Notre Dame, Paris
Belfry, Notre Dame, Paris Bourdon Bell, Notre Dame, Paris Arrète!

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Secret Passage

In which we look for some Parisian history


Every so often, search requests come in for things like “disused stations on the Paris Metro”. I’mk not entirely sure why, because this site doesn’t have very much content at all on that topic. All there is, in fact, is this post from a few years ago, which wasn’t really about disused Paris metro stations at all: it was more about all the various interconnection lines and mysterious secret underground depots that you can see from a passing train.

When I was in Paris the other week, though, I kept an eye out. Because there are the odd one or two disused stations on the Metro, even if there are fewer than on the London Underground. I kept my eyes open, and I spotted a couple.

Firstly, if you head north along Line 5, across the Seine and through Quai de la Rapée station, you will find that the line quickly disappears underground on its way to Bastille station.* Once in the tunnel, well-lit and easily spotted, there is a stretch of broad station tunnel, heavily graffitied like almost everything on the Paris metro. This is the remains of Arsenal station: off the top of my head, the only Paris Metro station to share a name with one on the London Underground.

Secondly, turn around back to Gare d’Austerlitz, then head westward on Line 10. Past Odéon, there’s a complex network of underground tunnels linking Line 10 to various other routes; the modern line has a complex history. And somewhere in-between all the various connections, past Mabillon station, there is another secret. Croix Rouge station, originally the terminus of the line. It’s harder to spot than Arsenal, but it is there.

Hopefully, then, if people come here looking to spot disused Parisian underground stations, here are a couple of hints. If you want to see what they look like inside, there are photos on the web, of course: where doesn’t have photos on the web nowadays? Alternatively, you might prefer it the other way: sit on the Metro, ignore the buskers and the beggars, and look out the window for a flash of abandoned platforms.

* incidentally, foundations of the original Bastille fortress are visible on the Line 5 platforms at that station.

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Nationality

In which the family seem foreign


My parents are not Norwegian. They’re English, have hardly ever left England, don’t speak any languages other than English. Until last week, my mother hadn’t had a foreign holiday for 35 years, and my dad had never had one at all.

Now, often, you can look at someone, and spot their nationality. It happened to me in Paris the other month: I only had to go up to someone and say “Um … bonjour?” and I’d get: “Hello, can I help you.” Sometimes the hello came first, so I’m sure it wasn’t just the accent or the awkward pause. I’d assume that the same would apply to the parents too, as they’ve hardly ever left Britain.

But no: they set off for their first foreign holiday together after 30 years married, and they get on the ferry to Norway. They arrive at the ferry terminal in Newcastle, where you’d think the staff would be used to spotting the difference between Norwegian and English people. All of a sudden, everyone, even the English terminal staff, automatically assume they’re Norwegian. Getting on the ship, they’re being greeted: “hello … hello … hello …” – then as soon as The Mother appears on the gangplank, the greeter switches to Norwegian.* Why, she has no clue. Apparently, people from Norway, people from Newcastle, people who meet a lot of Norwegians, automatically assume my mother is one too. Strange.

(and on their return, they brought me a giant sausage. Which appears to be Danish. But that’s a blog for another day, when I’m not too lazy to get the camera out to shoot a picture of it)

* Whether Bokmål or Nynorsk, I don’t know – as the parents don’t actually know any Norwegian of either sort beyond “Does anyone know where the toilets are?” they didn’t appreciate the subtlety – never mind the subtler still differences between spoken and written languages.

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The labyrinthine depths

In which we think about secret tunnels and the literature surrounding them


There are plenty of stories in literature about the nameless horrors that lurk deep within the bowels of the London Underground. It’s popped up in TV, too – on both Quatermass and Doctor Who in the 1960s – and in film. In books, the first example that comes to the top of my head is a short story by Jeremy Dyson, but there are certainly many more. There are stories of secret tunnels and secret trains, lines disappearing into disused stations and abandoned passages.

Indeed, there are plenty of abandoned stations underneath London. There’s Down Street, for example, which was used as a set in Neverwhere.* There’s an entire disused railway, the Post Office Railway, running from Paddington to Whitechapel.** Not much is visible, though. The Post Office Railway was never open to the public, and disused parts of the Underground are generally very hard to see from passing trains. The occasional void, or brick wall, but that’s all.***

Paris, though. Paris is different. The Paris metro is full of secret passages. Every few hundred metres, there will be a mysterious junction. Lines will branch off into side tunnels, or delve between the other tracks, or disappear behind mysterious roller shutters in the tunnel walls. There are walkways and passageways, tracks that your train will never use, sidings deep under the city centre. In London the only place you’ll see trains parked underground is Triangle Sidings, between Earls Court and Gloucester Road; and that started out as an above-ground depot which disappeared under buildings in the 1960s. In Paris, there are trains parked all over the network, in single sidings, between stations. There’s so much to see if you look out of the window.

But does the Paris Metro have similar literature to the London Underground? Are there stories of monsters hiding in the Metro’s depths, or ghost trains rattling off down secret tracks, or secret government laboratories behind the roller-shuttered sidings? London has the literature, but Paris has the labyrinth visible from the train window.

* The “Down Street” in Neverwhere isn’t the real Down Street – but the real Down Street was also used for filming. If you’ve seen it: the dinner with Serpentine was shot on the remains of its station platforms, during normal service, with trains passing in the background.

** Which was also used as a filming location for Neverwhere, and also crops up in the dire Bruce Willis comedy Hudson Hawk.

*** During the war most of the disused stations were converted into government offices – including the platforms, several of which had the platforms removed and brick walls built to partition the usable space off from the running lines. So if you’re deep under London and suddenly see a brick wall by your carriage window for a few seconds, it’s probably a disused station.

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Flashback: Paris

In which we relax in a park


Photos from the Jardin du Luxembourg on a Sunday morning. Old men playing chess under a canopy. Hidden away in the groves of trees, a man practises moving a sword around. People sit on benches in the shade, enjoying the last weekend of the August holiday.

Chess players Jardin du Luxembourg Swordsman

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Follow-up

In which we explain why we were in France


Talking of Catherine and Arnaud, incidentally: they were the reason I was in France taking photos of over-priced salad cream last week. They were having a party; not an anniversary party, but a housewarming, or crémaillaire. That word, apparently, relates to an ancient French custom of hanging up a butter churn when moving into a new house. So I’m told, anyway: my French really isn’t up to much.* If you want to see photos, though, you can do.

* I can say “Je voudrais une grande tranche de gateau“, and, erm, that’s about it.

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Time

In which we commemorate things


While we’re on the subject of anniversaries:

Ten years ago, I remember waking up, in my little student flat by the university, the one with the tiny bedroom and the low, sloping ceiling that I never learned to stop banging my head on. I popped to the kitchen to get a drink; Flatmate Alan heard, and came out in his green paisley dressing gown.*

“Princess Diana’s died,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yes. They said so on the radio.”

“Really?”

“Yes.”

I put the radio on, to protests, on to the local commercial pop station – and they were playing a funereal dirge. Odd. So then, we put the TV on, and found four channels of continous news.

Five years ago today, I woke up in a hotel in Paris,** recovering from Catherine and Arnaud’s wedding. I know which day I’d rather commemorate.

* Was it really green paisley? I definitely recall something dark green and patterned.

** Well, just outside Paris, in Poissy.

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Gaul

In which we study the markup on an import


This was seen in the large Parisian department store Galaries Lafayette* the other day, in the “Epicerie Britannique” section of the gourmet foodhall:

British food at Paris prices

Click on the image for an enlargement – but if you can’t be bothered, that’s a bottle of salad cream that says “99p” on the label, on sale for €3.24** At today’s exchange rate – just under 68p to the euro – that’s a shop price of £2.20. Slightly less of a bargain than it says on the label, then. The shop was also selling tins of Heinz beans originally from multipacks, singly, for about £1 per tin. Ouch. How much does it cost to import a tin of beans, exactly?

* They do apparently have an official website, which I couldn’t get to work at all.

** That was meant to be a euro sign – let me know if it didn’t work.

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