Skip to content

Archive for


Ladurée – An English Tea-Room in Paris?

ENGLISH TEA-ROOMS are unique and the benchmark that I measure all tea-rooms by is Betty’s in York. My English audience and particularly my audience in the North of England and Scotland will know exactly what I mean.

Paris has its quintessential cafés of course (see a blog piece I did some time ago) and two of the most famous are to be found in Saint-Germain-des-Prés – Les Deux Magots and the Café de Flore.

Both are hugely popular so be prepared to join the queue if you want a table.  Listening to the sounds inside the Café de Flore, there is certainly none of the calm, genteel atmosphere of the genuine English tea-room.

Inside the Café de Flore:

But these Parisian cafés are not English tea-rooms. What we need to find is what the French call a salon de thé … and not just any salon de thé.

Louis-Ernest Ladurée, was a miller, a prolific writer and an outspoken supporter of social reform. He founded a bakery on the Rue Royale in 1862, which was burnt down during the Paris Commune of 1871. After the fire, Ladurée replaced the bakery with a pastry shop and he commissioned the painter and poster artist, Jules Chéret, to design the interior. For the ceiling, Cheret took his inspiration from the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel and the newly opened Opéra Garnier. He adorned the ceiling of Ladurée with chubby cherubs which are still a feature of Ladurée today.

Today, Ladurée is still a pastry shop as well as a chocolaterie, confiseur and a salon de thé. It’s perhaps most famous for its double-decker macaron, two macaron shells stuck together with a creamy ganache as the filling which sell in their thousands.

Today, Ladurée has expanded and as well as its pastry shops and tea-rooms in the Champs Elysées, Le Printemps and the rue Bonaparte (where I took these photographs), it’s also present in Monaco, Switzerland, Japan, Italy, Lebanon, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Luxembourg, Kuwait, and Ireland. It has come a long way from Louis-Ernest Ladurée’s first enterprise in the rue Royal all those years ago.

Inside Ladurée in the rue Bonaparte:

Ladurée is the closest I’ve yet come to an English tea-room in Paris. However, it’s a well-kept secret, but tea first arrived in Paris in 1636, twenty-two years before it appeared in England! Maybe I should be thinking about how Betty’s in York measures up to Ladurée in Paris instead of the other way round!


More From Le Village du Jasmin …

Following on from yesterday’s post, I understand from the French press today that over 100,000 people visited the Village du Jasmin over the weekend.

It seems that the Arab Spring is very popular in Paris.


Le Village du Jasmin

SIGNS OF THE ARAB SPRING have reached Paris.  The Village du Jasmin, set up on the parvis of the Hotel de Ville over the weekend, was a celebration of la Tunisie nouvelle – the new, post-revolution, Tunisia.

The sights, smells, tastes and sounds of Tunisia, complimented by the wonderful weather, were on show and they attracted a large number of visitors of which I was one.

There were exhibits of wickerwork, furniture made from palm wood, weaving, jewellery and traditional pottery as well as a selection food of course including various olive oils and traditional delicacies.  The sounds of Tunisia were also present particularly from the enthusiastic and energetic musicians.

The sounds of Tunisia in Paris:

I’ve never been to Tunisia but, having now had a taste of it, I just might go and see la Tunisie Nouvelle first hand.


One Year On …

IT’S ONE YEAR AGO since I began this blog … and the past year has been a great adventure and a great joy.  A year ago, the world of blogging was very new to me and I had little idea of what I was doing or what shape this blog would take. All I had was a vague idea that I wanted to share two of my passions – the city of Paris and recording the everyday sounds around me.

The result is this three-dimensional blog comprising words, pictures and sounds, mainly of Paris but occasionally of other places too.

If I do my job properly, the sounds should add an extra dimension to the words and the pictures and create a sense of atmosphere and a sense of place. The sounds should also allow the audience to create their own pictures of this wonderful city. Whether I have succeeded or not is not for me to say, but I hope I have.

Much to my surprise, creating this blog has led to several things I hadn’t expected. I’ve been forced to explore the city of Paris to a much greater extent than I had before. That in itself has been a great delight.  I’ve developed an ear for the everyday sounds of Paris which is more acute now than it was before and my technique for capturing those sounds has been fine-tuned. Being in the right place at the right time is often a matter of luck – but sometimes it’s a matter of judgement. My skill at differentiating the one from the other has been sharpened.

Without doubt, the thing that I least expected a year ago is the number of people who would show an interest in this blog and the number of people who would keep coming back to see what I’m up to.  Knowing that I’ve accumulated a regular audience is a great spur to do even more and to do it even better.

I’m also astonished by the number of friends I’ve made through this blog. I’m in contact with people all round the world, some of whom I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in person. Without exception, all of these people have been very friendly, often complimentary about my work and always willing to share experiences and to offer advice and support.

Through these contacts and friends I’ve also been introduced to the work of other bloggers – sound blogs, Paris blogs and blogs on almost every subject you can imagine. This has taught me that the standard of blogging is exceptionally high – another spur for me to do even better.

I make hundreds of recordings of the sounds this city each year. Some of them feature on my blog but many of them never reach the front page. As a ‘thank you’ to both my regular and occasional readers and listeners on this, the first anniversary of this blog, I offer this petit cadeau – a recording that didn’t make the front page but which is a particular favourite of mine.

Singers rehearsing in the Eglise Saint–Séverin:

I am looking forward very much to what the second year of this blog will bring.


The Pont des Arts and Padlock Pollution

THE PONT DES ARTS is one of many delightful bridges in Paris.  It’s an iron-framed, wooden-floored, footbridge spanning the Seine from the Louvre to the Institut de France – a symbolic conjoining of knowledge to power.

The original Pont des Arts was built at the beginning of the nineteenth-century and comprised an iron framework with nine arches.  Over the years it suffered structural damage from a succession boats colliding into it and from aerial bombardment during two world wars.  In 1977 the bridge suffered a partial collapse after being hit by yet another barge.  This proved to be terminal and the bridge was rebuilt between 1981 and 1984 preserving the look of the original bridge but reducing the number of arches from nine to seven, presumably to give the river traffic a fighting chance of negotiating the bridge without damaging it.

Today, the Pont des Arts is a favourite with artists, photographers and of course, tourists, taking advantage of the unique view along the Seine while the working barges and pleasure boats rumble past on the river below.

The sounds on the Pont des Arts:

A relatively new feature to be found on the Pont des Arts, as well as on some other bridges in Paris, are the cadenas d’amour – the love padlocks.

Love them or hate them, there they are – love tokens locked to the bridge by couples who have thrown the keys into the river.

The Paris city authorities are not in favour.  They say the practice “poses the question of preserving heritage,” and that “in time, these padlocks will have to be removed”,  …  “the rusty locks are becoming an eyesore on one of Paris’ most photogenic monuments.”  I’m inclined to agree.

In conciliatory mood, the Paris authorities say they will only remove the padlocks from its bridges once it has come up with an “alternative solution”.

One possible solution might be to install one or several iron, tree-like structures, as has already been done in Moscow for example, where people can hang their padlocks.

The sounds under the Ponts des Arts:

The Pont des Arts is a delightful structure and, personally, I think that the cadenas d’amour add nothing to its charm. They seem to be impossible to escape from.  Even viewing the bridge from below and with the magnificent façade of the Louvre in the background these trinkets are seen to litter the bridge. But, I’m sure there are those who think the cadenas d’amour have a charm of their own – not least the people, now long gone, who left them there in the first place.


A Celebration in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

I AM PASSIONATE ABOUT recording and archiving the everyday sounds around me.  I record anything and everything. But even I have a couple of self-imposed rules I try to adhere to – I never record people’s private conversations and I never record people at worship.  To record private conversations is simply wrong and, it seems to me, the act of worship is a personal and private thing and to record it would be an unforgivable intrusion.  Yet, last Saturday, I broke the second rule and recorded an act of worship!

My excuse for doing so was that this was a very public act of worship broadcast live both on television and on radio. It took place in the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris and, according to the order of service, it was a Messe d’action de grâce pour la beatification de Jean-Paul II – a mass to celebrate the beatification of Pope John-Paul II.

The Cathedral was full to the rafters so, by the time I got there, it was standing room only. The mass was presided over by no less than the Archbishop of Paris, Cardinal André Vingt-Trois. He was appointed Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in November 2007.

Cardinal André Vingt-Trois at work:

Regular readers of this blog will know of my love of the wonderful creations of the master organ builder, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

The organ of Notre Dame de Paris that we see and hear today is a Cavaillé-Coll creation built around the François-Henri Clicquot 18th century organ.  Over time the organ has been restored, modified and upgraded and today it even makes use of state-of-the-art computer technology.  With five keyboards and close to eight thousand pipes it is the largest organ in France.

Louis Vierne, Léonce de Saint-Martin and Pierre Cochereau have played this organ – immortal names in the world of Cathedral organists.  Imagine then the thrill of listening last Saturday to Jean-Pierre Leguay, Organist Titulaire de Notre-Dame, playing this ‘King of Instruments’ as the ecclesiastical procession left the cathedral with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois bringing up the rear.  Around a thousand people, me included, followed the procession bathing in the majestic sounds of the Grand-Orgue de Notre-Dame.

For everyone else this was a celebration of the beatification of Pope Jean-Paul II – but for me it was a celebration of the genius of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.

The Grand-Orgue de Notre Dame:


Going Up – Going Down

I DON’T KNOW ABOUT YOU, but as I get older, the prospect of climbing hills becomes much less attractive. There aren’t that many hills in Paris but, if you want to visit Montmartre, then you have no option but to negotiate a hill.

Walking up the hill is one option but there is an alternative  – the funicular railway. The original funicular was built in 1900 and was water powered. In 1935 it was converted to electricity.  The funicular we see today was modernised in 1991.

Climbing 36 metres in a little over a minute, the funicular carries over two million passengers a year.

Going up:

It’s easier to walk down hills than to walk up them so it’s not surprising that more people use the funicular to go up than to go down. Occasionally, I do take the down trip.

Going Down:

The Montmartre funicular has become part of the Paris Metro system so a simple Metro ticket will avoid the need for the alternative – a 220-step climb. I recommend the funicular!


A Tale of Two Weddings

A WEDDING TOOK PLACE in London last Friday.  In Westminster Abbey, nineteen hundred invited guests and an estimated television audience of two billion watched as the bride entered the Abbey as a commoner and left as a Princess.

A wedding took place in Paris last Saturday.  In the Eglise Saint-Sulpice around one hundred invited guests and no television audience watched as the bride entered the Church as a commoner and left feeling like a Princess.

In Westminster Abbey, the bride entered to a fanfare sounded by the trumpeters of the Central Band of the Royal Air Force. In the Eglise Saint-Sulpice, the bride entered to the majestic sound of the original, completely un-restored, Cavaille-Col organ.

Last Friday, Westminster Abbey was in total lock-down. No one except the invited guests was allowed in and every move inside the Abbey was scripted in advance.

Last Saturday, the Eglise Saint-Sulpice was hosting a wedding but it was still a working church, anyone and everyone was allowed in… and in they came – tourists and locals all stumbled upon this wedding.

In Westminster Abbey the bride and groom left to the sound of the London Chamber Orchestra and William Walton’s ‘Crown Imperial’.

In the Eglise Saint-Sulpice the bride and groom left to another majestic sound from the wonderful Cavaille-Col organ together with unscripted and completely spontaneous applause from the uninvited guests.

These two newly married couples face very different futures. I wish them both well and much happiness in their new lives together.