Paris On World Map

Parc Saint-Maur

Saint-Maur was a famous sixteenth-century chateau, built by Delorme for the Bishop of Paris. In the nineteenth century it was demolished and the grounds used for a cite-jardin, which in this case is a garden city with all the poetic sinuousness taken out of it. But the centre is a huge open space (with a horrid neo-Romanesque church in the middle) and this is calm and full of atmosphere. The contrast with the usual suburban centre – a few pathetic old fragments in a sea of traffic – is scathing. Where that gives you no time to think, here there is all the time in the world; and being in Paris but not of Paris somehow gives you the equivalent of binocular vision. Somewhere just there, intangible, is French-ness. Though there is no architecture at all to look at, one whole segment of the space is set aside for playing boules (they call it a boulodrome – what else?). It would be a good place to stay in all day, putting down roots, watching gently and sympathetically. It might mean a wasted journey, but it might also provide the illumination that no tour can guarantee. (South-east of Saint-Maur-des-Fosses, between N4 and N19.)

Paris On World Map Photo Gallery


Paris Map World Arcueil: church

Not many churches in the Paris suburbs are lovable. This one is; left over in a beaten-up old village, where peeling grey stucco is giving way to brutal sixstorey flats. Somehow, nothing went right for it: the simple thirteenth-century design was taken over by monstrous crocket capitals, much too big to fit, then those at the west end were redone in an offhand Renaissance way. The triforium is quite comme ilfaut and could go into the history blogs: but behind it are arches which look like a highly unhistoric attempt to stop it falling down. The east end is square but all the windows are circular. Oh damn.

France at its most American, appropriately enough in an international airport: large-scale and impersonal, put together like an enormous watch. The long curtain-walled terminal building sits astride the N7 which runs in a cutting on which you can pick up a bus direct from the airport. Above this is a very popular supermarket, then the main concourse. It is all rather different from London. But not so very different from Gatwick; and a comparison with Gatwick brings out what is missing at Orly: this convenient, ingenious building has no personality at all, not even in the rapid light-dark-light of the road tunnel. It is a vast slab of meat that turns out to have no flavour at all.]

Hennebique’s house, 1 avenue du Lycee Lakanal, Bourg-la-Reine

Francois Hennebique was one of the inventors and developers of reinforced concrete. This big villa and studio which he built for himself in 1904 is built in reinforced concrete too, and filled with mad devices that are witty and wholly un-neurotic. The windows are boxed out just as they come to be useful, the water-tower turns into a circular minaret, its bulgy balcony equipped with gargoyles which point upwards. It must have been a splendid house to live in – Art Nouveau freedom without Art Nouveau licence – and it is splendidly kept up as a telephone headquarters, with rose gardens on the roof. If you find Guimard’s decoration too much to take have a look at this instead.

(South-west of Bourg-la-Reine station on the corner of avenue Victor Hugo, which is the posh name for D60, from Sceaux to Choisy-le-Roi.)

Leave a Reply

37 + = 45