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Passage d’Eupatoria and its Sounds

I CAME UPON IT by chance as I was walking alongside l’Eglise Notre Dame De La Croix in Ménilmontant in the 20th arrondissement. At just twenty-five metres long and five metres wide, the Passage d’Eupatoria is easily missed.

Passage D’Eupatoria - Ménilmontant

Passage d’Eupatoria Passage from rue d’Eupatoria

Opened in 1856 as the Passage de l’Alma, the name was changed on 1st February 1857 to Passage d’Eupatoria because it leads off the adjacent rue d’Eupatoria.

Passage D’Eupatoria - Ménilmontant

When I saw the street sign at the head of the passage I was curious about the name ‘Eupatoria’.

Had I known more European history of course, I would have known that Eupatoria is a Black Sea port in Crimea. It was briefly occupied in 1854 by British, French and Turkish troops during the Crimean War, when it was the site of the Battle of Eupatoria during which the Ottomans and their allies successfully defeated an assault by the Russians on the port.

It is after this battle that rue d’Eupatoria and subsequently the Passage d’Eupatoria are named.


Bataille d’Eupatoria (1854). Huile sur bois. Musée des beaux-arts, Nantes.

Eupatoria is still a city of regional significance in Crimea (it’s known as Yevpatoria in Crimea), a region which, since March 2014, has been disputed between Ukraine (as the Autonomous Republic of Crimea) and Russia (as the Republic of Crimea).


Passage d’Eupatoria in 1948 © René-Jacques / BHVP / Roger-Viollet

Image courtesy of Paris en Images

Originally, the Passage d’Eupatoria was longer than it is today. A subsequent widening of some of the surrounding streets and the replacement of substandard buildings with newer ones resulted in the length of the passage being reduced.

Passage D’Eupatoria - Ménilmontant

Passage d’Eupatoria looking towards rue d’Eupatoria and L’Eglise Notre Dame De La Croix

Over the years, I’ve collected sounds from many small, inconspicuous looking Parisian streets and so I was keen to explore the sounds here, in the Passage d’Eupatoria. I walked to the wall at the end of the street, set up my microphones pointing towards rue d’Eupatoria, turned on my sound recorder and then walked away to explore the street.

Passage D’Eupatoria - Ménilmontant

I was expecting to capture little more than the sounds of the breeze rustling through the trees, maybe a little birdsong and undoubtedly the sound of traffic and people passing along rue d’Euparoria at the southern end of the passage.

What I actually captured were sounds that I had not expected.

Passage D’Eupatoria - Ménilmontant

Sounds in the passage d’Eupatoria:

Passage D’Eupatoria - Ménilmontant

I had become so absorbed in exploring the writing on the walls of the passage that I had completely failed to notice that a schoolyard ran along the eastern side of the passage. As I began record, children appeared in the yard and their unrestrained voices unexpectedly brought the Passage d’Eupatoria to life.

I don’t know how long the present school has been there but it’s not the first school in these parts.

For many years, the now demolished ‘Jeanne d’Arc’ school was located at N° 3 Passage d’Eupatoria and so, for me, the sound of today’s children playing alongside the street provided an audible link with the past.

Passage D’Eupatoria - Ménilmontant

L’Eglise Notre Dame De La Croix from Passage d’Eupatoria


Fluctuat Nec Mergitur – A Symbol of Defiance

FLUCTUAT NEC MERGITUR is a Latin phrase meaning ‘tossed but not sunk’ and it’s been used as the motto of the city of Paris since at least 1358.

The motto is present in the city’s coat of arms depicting a ship floating on a rough sea.


City of Paris Coat of Arms

Just as the declaration ‘Je Suis Charlie’ captured public sentiment following the Charlie Hebdo attacks in January last year, so ‘Fluctuat Nec Mergitur’ became the symbol of defiance in the wake of the 13th November attacks.


Image via Wikipedia

Three weeks to the day after the attack that killed five people on its terrace in November, the café A La Bonne Bière reopened.

Rue Fontaine de la Roi

A La Bonne Bière – After the attack

La Bonne Bière

A La Bonne Bière – After it reopened

Rue Fontaine de la Roi

A La Bonne Bière – After the attack

La Bonne Bière

A La Bonne Bière – After it reopened

Sounds inside A La Bonne Bière:

Two months to the day after the attack that killed fifteen people in the street outside, the café Le Carillon reopened.

Rue Alibert - La Carillon

Le Carillon – After the attack

Le Carillon

Le Carillon – After it reopened

Sounds inside Le Carillon:

My most profound memory of the aftermath of the November attacks is that of a young woman, in her early twenties I suppose, who, a few days after the attacks, walked across from Le Carillon and sat down beside me on a Parisian green bench and began sobbing uncontrollably. She was distressed and utterly inconsolable.

Sitting beside that young woman on that day it seemed unimaginable that a few weeks later I would be recording the sounds of life returning to Le Carillon and the sounds of young people once again enjoying the company of friends.

Fluctuat Nec Mergitur!

Place de la République


A Clean-Up For The Canal Saint-Martin

ONE OF THE MORE unusual sights in Paris at the moment is the recently drained Canal Saint-Martin.

Canal Saint-Martin

The double lock at the upstream end of the Canal Saint-Martin

Opened in 1825, the Canal Saint-Martin is a 4.5 km stretch of water connecting the Canal de l’Ourcq to the Seine.

From the Bassin de la Villette at its upstream end to its junction with the Seine at Port de l’Arsenal downstream, the canal comprises nine locks and two swing bridges and from one end to the other it falls some 25 metres.

For the final 2 km at its downstream end, from Rue du Faubourg du Temple to Port de l’Arsenal, the canal runs underground passing under Boulevard Richard Lenoir and Place de la Bastille.

Canal Saint-Martin

The double lock looking downstream to Place de Stalingrad

On Monday, 4th January, work began to drain and clean the canal and to do some renovation work to some of the locks.

To get things underway a dam was installed at the upstream end of the canal. Once the dam was in place the lock gates along the canal were opened and some 90,000 cubic metres of water drained from the canal into the Seine.

Canal Saint-Martin

The dam separating the Canal Saint-Martin from the Bassin de la Villette

The canal has a large fish population and so some 10 cm of water was left in the bottom of the canal initially so the fish that didn’t manage to escape with the flow of water could be rounded up in nets and transferred to the Seine.

Once a waterway supplying Paris with fresh water, grain and other commodities to support a growing population, the canal trade eventually dwindled and the canal came close to extinction.

Today, with its romantic footbridges and mysterious vaulted tunnels, the tree-lined Canal Saint-Martin conveys passenger boats and pleasure craft and has become one of the key tourist spots in Paris.

In contrast to its romantic image though, the canal takes on a different aspect once the water has been drained.

Canal Saint-Martin

The canal was last drained and cleaned in 2001 and during that operation 18 tonnes of fish were recovered and 40 tonnes of rubbish gathered. The haul of garbage and occasional treasure could be even more this time around.

Canal Saint-Martin

The other day, I walked along the Canal Saint-Martin from the Bassin de la Villette to Rue du Faubourg du Temple where the canal enters the 2 km tunnel before it reaches the Seine. It is this above-ground stretch of the canal that is being cleaned.

Canal Saint-Martin - République

Looking downstream to the tunnel entrance at Rue du Faubourg du Temple

Anxious to capture the cleaning operation in sound and since I couldn’t get close to the canal from either the Quai de Valmy on one side or the Quai de Jemmapes on the other, I chose to record from the top of the footbridge crossing the canal close to Rue du Faubourg du Temple.

The recording doesn’t last for long and it isn’t perfect – but it is historic since these sounds are only heard every ten to fifteen years!

Sweeping bottles in the Canal Saint-Martin:

Canal Saint-Martin - République

All the detritus from the canal is being transferred by road to barges on the Canal St-Denis that will take it on for disposal.

At a cost of €9.5 million, the cleaning and renovation work will take three months and the Canal Saint-Martin is due to open for business again on 4th April.

Canal Saint-Martin - République

Looking upstream from Rue du Faubourg du Temple


‘Je Suis Charlie’ – One Year On

ONE YEAR AGO TODAY, 7th January 2015, at just before 11:30 in the morning, two brothers, Saïd and Chérif Kouachi, forced their way into the offices of the French satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in rue Nicolas-Appert in Paris.

Armed with assault rifles and other weapons, they killed eleven people and injured eleven others in the building. After leaving, they killed a French National Police officer, Ahmed Merabet, in Boulevard Richard Lenoir, close to the Charlie Hebdo building.

After the attack and with the gunmen on the run, France was plunged into a state of shock. There was an outpouring of sympathy for the victims, support for freedom of speech and defiance against the perpetrators. The symbol for all this became encapsulated by the declaration, ‘Je Suis Charlie’.

Place de la République - Charlie Hebdo

At about 8:45 the following morning, 8th January, as police continued their search for the Charlie Hebdo attack suspects, a lone gunman shot two people in the southern Paris suburb of Montrouge.

The gunman, armed with a machine-gun and a pistol, shot dead a policewoman and injured a man before fleeing. The French authorities initially dismissed any suggestion of a link between the shooting and the Charlie Hebdo killings, but later confirmed the two were connected.

A breakthrough came later in the day when the Charlie Hebdo attack suspects were believed to be in the Aisne region, north-east of Paris.

By the morning of the next day, 9th January, the manhunt entered its final phase as police closed in on Saïd and Chérif Kouachi who were holed up in a printworks at Dammartin-en-Goele, 35km from Paris.

Meanwhile, in Paris, another siege was under way.

A gunman, Amedy Coulibaly, the man suspected of the shootings in Montrouge, took several people hostage at a kosher supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in the east of Paris and was threatening to kill them unless the Kouachi brothers were allowed to go free.

With the Kouachi brothers surrounded at the printworks in Dammartin-en-Goele and Coulibaly holding hostages in the supermarket at Porte de Vincennes, it was decided to mount simultaneous attacks by special forces to resolve both situations.

At a little after 5:00 pm the special forces at both locations were unleashed and the attacks took place. Saïd and Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly were shot dead. Fifteen hostages were freed from the supermarket and the bodies of four others shot by Coulibaly were recovered.

Notre Dame - Charlie Hebdo

In the aftermath of the Charlie Hebdo attack and before the supermarket siege, a national day of mourning was held on 8th January with the bells of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris peeling out and then falling silent while a minute’s silence was observed across France.

Place de la République - Charlie Hebdo

On Sunday 11th January, somewhere between one-and-a-half and two million people marched from Place de la République to Place de la Nation in a display of unity and solidarity.

Place de la République - Charlie Hebdo

My memories of the Charlie Hebdo attacks are still vivid. As the events were unfolding, I visited the attack sites, stood outside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris for the minute’s silence, took part in the march on 11th January and recorded sounds that reflected both the tension in the air and the overwhelming solidarity on the streets.

One year on, I visited the attack sites again and I was not the only one to do so.

On Tuesday this week, François Holland, Président de la République, Manuel Valls, Prime Minister, and Anne Hidalgo, Mayor of Paris, visited the Charlie Hebdo site, and then the site where the police officer, Ahmed Merabet, was shot dead and the supermarket at Porte de Vincennes. At each site they unveiled a plaque and laid a wreath in memory of the victims.

I followed in their footsteps and as I did so I couldn’t help reflecting on the sounds I recorded standing in the rain in Place Jean-Paul II outside the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris on 8th January last year, the national day of mourning.

The Bells of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris speaking for the nation:

What became known as the Charlie Hebdo attacks stunned the nation. At the time, it was impossible to imagine that terror would return to the streets of Paris again later in the year and on a scale that would make the Charlie Hebdo attacks, horrific as they were, seem like a skirmish. But it did.

Things will never be the same again.

Rue Nicolas Appert - Charlie Hebdo

Tributes outside the Charlie Hebdo Office: January 2015

Rue Nicolas Appert

Tribute from the Président de la République and the Mayor of Paris: January 2016

Rue Nicolas Appert

The plaque on the wall of the Charlie Hebdo Office: January 2016

Boulevard Richard Lenoir - Charlie Hebdo

Tributes to Police Officer Ahmed Merabet in Boulevard Richard Lenoir: January 2015

Boulevard Richard Lenoir

Tribute from the Président de la République and the Mayor of Paris: January 2016

Boulevard Richard Lenoir

The plaque in memory of Ahmed Merabet: January 2016

Porte de Vincennes

Tributes at the Hyper Cacher supermarket: January 2015

Hypermarché - Porte de Versailles

The now re-opened Hyper Cacher supermarket: January 2016

Hypermarché - Porte de Versailles

The plaque and tribute from the Président de la République and the Mayor of Paris: January 2016

Rue de Charonne

Rue de Charonne: November 2015