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Radio: Ouvrez Grand Vos Oreilles – A New Exhibition

I AM OLD ENOUGH TO remember the ‘Golden Age’ of radio, the days when radio was more popular than television and many years before the internet and social media took control of our lives. I was then, and still am, a huge fan of radio.

In conjunction with Radio France and l’Institut national de l’audiovisuel, the Musée des arts et metiers celebrates the history of radio broadcasting in a new exhibition opening tomorrow.

Radio: Ouvrez Grand Vos Oreilles! or, roughly translated, Radio: Listen Up! is a fascinating exhibition which, as the name suggests, is as much about listening as seeing.  As well as the collection of documents, domestic radio receivers and sound recorders, including a wonderful collection of Nagra field recorders, the history of radio is also told with archive sounds.

Some of the archive sounds at the exhibition:

French radio grew from very humble beginnings. At Christmas in 1921, an early radio enthusiast huddled round a homemade crystal set may have been lucky enough to detect a signal transmitted from the Tour Eiffel. In the ninety years since then, radio has evolved to embrace changes in technology, changes in society, political upheavals and even war.

In today’s multimedia world, radio still holds its place in broadcasting information, culture and public debate.  Long may it continue!

Radio: Ouvrez Grand Vos Oreilles! runs from 28th February to 2nd September 2012.

Here are some of the exhibits on show:

And here is the collection of Nagras:

A Nagra II (1953)

From L to R: Nagra III (1963) Nagra SN (1970) Nagra E (1985)

Nagra E (1985)

Nagra ARES C

Nagra ARES


The exhibition is at :

Musée Arts et Métiers, 60, rue Réaumur; 75003 Paris: Tel: 01 53 01 82 00

Opening times: Tuesday to Sunday inclusive from 10 h to 18 h. Thursday 10 h to 21 h 30

Closed: Mondays and 1st May.

Tickets: 5,50 euros; Reduced Tarif : 3,50 euros

Nearest Métro: Arts-et-Metiers (Lines 3 & 11) or Réaumur-Sébastopol (Line 4)


Rue de Vaugirard

STRETCHING FROM BEHIND THE Théâtre de l’Odéon in the 6th arrondissement to Porte de Versailles in the 15th, the rue de Vaugirard is the longest street in Paris. Yesterday, I walked all 4.3 kilometres of it.

The origin of the rue de Vaugirard is a little uncertain but we know that the upper reaches of it were once the site of a Roman burial ground. We also know that Vaugirard was once called Val-Boitron, or Vauboitron named after the seigneur of a hamlet belonging to the Abbeye de Saint-Germain-des-Près. In the middle of the 13th Century an Abbot called Gérard, or Girard, turned Val-Boitron into a retirement community for the clergy of the Abbeye de Saint-Germain-des-Près. The name Val-Boitron thus became Val-Girard and then, in 1355, it became Vaugirard.  It was in 1860 that the former hamlet of Vaugirard was formally incorporated into the 15th arrondissement of Paris.

Yesterday, I began my walk at the Théâtre de l’Odéon.

The sounds of the rue de Vaugirard:

The rue de Vaugirard is full of gems for those who have the time to stop and take notice. After the Théâtre de l’Odéon, I came upon the French Senate building.

And then this curiosity, La Maison de Pupée, a shop selling dolls, doll’s houses and various other things from the miniature world.

Bookshops abound.

And a former Carmelite convent, which has a special interest for me.

Today, this former Carmelite convent is the Institut Catholique de Paris, still occupied by nuns of the Carmelite order. But, between 1888 and 1890, a physicist, Édouard Branly, occupied part of this building. He was doing research into electromagnetic waves and in 1890, he first demonstrated what he called the “radio-conductor,” which later became known as the coherer, the first sensitive device for detecting radio waves. With my mobile phone in my pocket, equipped as it is with state-of-the-art Wi-Fi, I couldn’t help saluting Edouard Branly and wondering what he would have made of it.

Further along the rue de Vaugirard I came upon this delicious art neuveau façade.

And then the new headquarters of Président Sarkozy’s UMP party. I couldn’t help thinking that, with the presidential election coming up soon, battle lines were being drawn inside this building.

The rue de Vaugirard also has a Metro station named after it.

It is possible of course to descend into this station and to take the quick route to the end of the rue de Vaugirard at Porte de Versailles. If one chooses to do that, this is the sound one would hear.

Metro from Vaugirard to Porte de Versailles:

Whether taking the Metro or walking, the rue de Vaugirard comes to an end at the Porte de Versailles exhibition centre.

Centuries of history reside in the rue de Vaugirard, the longest street in Paris. I really enjoyed exploring it yesterday and I recommend a walk along this street to anyone who wants to discover more about this wonderful city.


Behind the Paris Metro

YESTERDAY, I TRAVELLED on Metro Line 1 to Bastille, something I do often. And, even though I travelled on one of the sparkling new automatic trains, I took the journey pretty much for granted. Alighting at Bastille, I emerged from the exit at the Boulevard Henry IV, which is something I seldom do.

Just off the Boulevard Henry IV I came upon this building.

A very helpful plaque on the wall told me that this was once the sous-station électrique Bastille built in 1911 and designed by the architect Paul Friésé. Now a national monument, this was once part of a chain of early twentieth-century electrical sub-stations used to supply power to the Paris Metro.

I don’t know what this building looked like inside when it was opened but I think we can assume that it looked something like this postcard depiction of another electrical sub-station at Quai de la Rapée.

Today, a company called TDF (Transformation et Distribution de l’Énergie électrique) is responsible for managing the power requirements of the Paris Metro and I was surprised to learn that 90% of the electricity used comes from Austria and Germany rather than from France.

While I was admiring this piece of industrial archaeology, below ground in the Metro station Bastille, life was as colourful as ever.

Below ground at Bastille:

As a regular traveller on the Paris Metro I seldom give any thought to the vast infrastructure that lies behind the operation of the Metro. Yesterday at least made me pause and think about it.


Paris – A Personal View

I AM DELIGHTED TO present a new piece in my Paris – A Personal View series.

For each piece in the series I invite a guest who lives in Paris to visit one of their favourite places or a place in the city that has a special meaning for them. With access to a microphone and sound recorder the guest talks about the place and tells us why it’s special to them.

Today my guest is Forest Collins.

Cocktail-stalker, opinion-foister, and things-happening-maker, Forest Collins, seeks out superlative cocktails in the city, spills all on the blog and shares these spots with readers through regularly organized soirées. Her blog, 52 martinis, is the most widely read English language blog on Paris cocktail bars. You’ll also find her frequently writing about unusual eating and drinking experiences for well-known Paris based websites and publications. Join in the fun by following her on twitter @52martinis or check out the 52 martinis blog.

And Forest’s chosen place? The Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Forest Collins at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise:

Photo from Wikipedia

Memorial to the Dead

Oscar Wilde’s Tomb … Before 

Oscar Wilde’s Tomb … Today

Photo from Wikipedia

I am very grateful to Forest for giving up her time to visit and talk about the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise.

Courtesy Note:

Unlike other sounds on this blog, the sound piece ‘Forest Collins at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise‘ is not covered by a Creative Commons license. The copyright for this piece rests jointly and exclusively with Forest Collins and Des Coulam.  It follows therefore that the downloading of this piece for any purpose is not permitted without the express permission of both Forest and Des. We have no wish to spoil your enjoyment of this piece but simply ask you to respect that the work is ours. Thanks for understanding.