26 November 2014

Le Port de l'Arsenal

The next sight along my way from the Marais neighborhood, walking along the Right Bank toward the Pont d'Austerlitz and the train station, was what I would call a yacht basin. It's called Le Bassin and/or Le Port de l'Arsenal. Until recent times, it was the site of a commercial port facility serving the city of Paris.

In the 1980s, the Port de l'Arsenal was transformed into what is called a port de plaisance. Boats in this harbor have access to the Seine through a narrow channel and a lock — the water level in the basin is three meters (nearly 10 feet) higher than the level of the Seine.

To the north is the Bastille, with its tall green column, and the Canal Saint-Martin leading up to La Villette and the north suburbs of Paris.When the old Bastille château-fort still existed — it was knocked down during the French Revolution after serving for hundreds of years as a much-hated prison — the ditch that had fed water from the Seine into its moat was dug out to create today's Port and Bassin de l'Arsenal.

In the 19th and 20th centuries the new basin became an important commercial port and carried mostly péniches — barges.

There are berths for more than 175 boats in the Bassin de l'Arsenal. The péniches you see in the port are surely barges that have been converted into pleasure boats or even house boats. At least one of the two above was for sale when I was in Paris (four weeks ago today!).

25 November 2014

Chez le fleuriste

Most of the florist shops in Paris devote the majority of their display to chrysanthemums in late October. Mums are the flowers people set out in graveyards in France at this time of year, to honor the dead on the Toussaint (All Saints' Day) holiday. In fact, mums are not a flower you would give as a gift to anybody in France, because they are so closely associated with death and graveyards.

This fleuriste is on the Boulevard Henri IV at the corner of the Rue des Célestins, caddy-cornered from the Café Sully, in the Arsénal neighborhood of Paris. It's called Carrément Fleurs — "squarely" or definitely flowers. Florist's shops like this one dot the whole city.

Right around the corner is this over-the-top building façade, in the Spanish style, from what I've read. It's called the Hôtel Fieubet and dates back to the 1670s. Nowadays it's occupied by a private school (Ecole Massillon).

Finally, a view from farther downriver of the area shown in the photos above and in yesterday's post. This is the Pont Marie that links the Right Bank to the Ile Saint-Louis. It was built in the 1600s, at the time when the Ile Saint-Louis was being developed as a residential neighborhood, and is named for the architect who designed and built it, Christophe Marie.

24 November 2014

À boire et à manger

Paris, Right Bank, late October. The neighborhood: L'Arsenal. Along the river, toward the eastern end of the Ile Saint-Louis and along the Seine, a huge grange or warehouse was built in the 1500s and in it cannons were manufactured. And gunpowder too, of course. In 1563 the building exploded, and the sound was heard for many miles around.

The neighborhood is a lot quieter these days. If you're walking from the Marais over to the Gare d'Austerlitz, you can stop in at the Café Sully for refreshments. Now that I've looked at the web site and the menu, I wonder why I've never had lunch there. Next time, maybe. Right next door, there's an information center, Le Pavillon de l'Arsenal, with displays that show different aspects of the history and evolution of Paris architecture and urban planning. It's free, and it's very interesting. Go.

If you need a kilo of potatoes or oranges, or whatever, stop in chez Ben l'Epicier ("Ben the Grocer's place") on your way to the train station. Ben Maamar Abderrazak's shop is at 12, boulevard Morland, métro Quai de la Rapée, not far from the Pont d'Austerlitz and the station.