I ALWAYS THINK it’s better to visit a hospital out of curiosity rather than out of necessity. The other day it was curiosity that led me to the Hôpital Lariboisière in the 10th arrondissement a short step away from the Gare du Nord.
The Hôpital Lariboisière was born out of the cholera epidemic that hit Paris in 1832. The Hôtel Dieu, the oldest hospital in Paris, took the brunt of the epidemic and it is said that by the end of March 1832 every admission to the Hôtel Dieu was for cholera and practically no one was discharged. Almost 20,000 souls died from the six-month epidemic.
L’Hôtel Dieu during the cholera epidemic 1832 – Painting by Alfred Johannot
Devastating though it was, the epidemic did produce some positive results. In the 19th century curing cholera was like clutching at straws so attention turned towards prevention rather than cure. Major steps were taken to improve the city’s hygiene and by the time Baron Haussmann began rebuilding Paris in 1853 the hygienist movement had become the major force in urban planning. Slums were demolished, streets widened, the sewage system improved and a new hospital was built to serve the inhabitants on the Right Bank – the Hôpital Lariboisière.
The French architect, Martin-Pierre Gauthier, designed the new hospital based on the hygienist principles of providing plenty of light and air, a free flow of water and pavilions separated by galleries to prevent cross infection. His design comprised six buildings arranged around a central courtyard connected by colonnaded walkways.
A bequest from Eliza Roy Comtesse de Lariboisière financed the building of the hospital. The Comtesse had no heirs and so she bequeathed her fortune to the City of Paris to create ‘un hospice pour les malades qui portera mon nom Hospice Lariboisière’. The Comtesse died on 27th December 1851 and on 29th July 1853 an Imperial decree confirmed that the hospital was to be named Hôpital Lariboisière, the name by which it’s still known today. The hospital was opened in 1854.
The tomb of the Comtesse de Lariboisière, designed by the Italian born French sculptor, Carlo Marochetti, rests in the hospital chapel.
Today, behind it’s 19th century façade, the Hôpital Lariboisière is a busy, modern hospital with around 1,000 beds. Together with two other hospitals very close by, Hôpital Saint-Louis and Hôpital Fernand Widal, the Hôpital Lariboisière is part of the Groupe Hospitalier Universitaire Saint-Louis, Lariboisière, Fernand Widal, which together offer a comprehensive range of medical services.
I went to explore the Hôpital Lariboisière. I wandered through the gardens outside and along the quadrangle of long corridors inside on the ground floor, the arteries that lead to the ars medicina beyond.
Here are some of the sights and sounds I discovered.
Hôpital Lariboisière – A Soundwalk:
If you enjoyed this post you might like these as well:
LA RUE GEORG FRIEDERICH HAENDEL is off the beaten track so, unless you live in the neighbourhood, it’s unlikely you’ll come across it. It’s in the 10th arrondissement in the Hôpital-Saint-Louis quartier and it stretches just 131 metres from the quai de Jemmapes to the junction of the Rue Francis-Jammes and the Place Robert-Desnos.
The street is fairly modern, it was constructed in 1978 by the architects Jacques Labro and Jean-Jacques Orzoni and, of course, it’s named after George Frideric Handel, the German born composer who is perhaps best remembered for his Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks as well as the Messiah and other oratorios, operas and anthems.
I came upon this street the other day completely by accident. I was especially pleased to find it because, alongside the youngsters playing football outside the gates to the adjacent Jardin Amadou Hampâté Bâ, I discovered the sounds of birdsong, sounds not that easy to find amidst the bustle of Paris.
Birdsong the Rue Georg Friedrich Haendel:
The birds were nestled in the foliage on top of the metal archways that line the street and it made for a pleasant interlude on an otherwise cold December day.
THE WEATHER IN PARIS in early November has been quite exceptional, more like late summer than late autumn. It’s the ideal weather to stroll around Paris and search out places I haven’t been to for a while, places like the Canal Saint-Martin in the 10th arrondissement.
Stretching from the Place de Stalingrad to Porte d’Arsenal, the canal was born in the mind of Napoleon I as a means of supplying much needed fresh water to the city. The building of the canal was funded by a tax on wine – a case of turning wine into water then!
As well as supplying fresh water, the canal was also a working thoroughfare supplying Paris with grain and other commodities. The canal trade eventually dwindled and the canal came close to extinction but today, the canal and the surrounding area, is a vibrant, rather chic place to be.
The Hotel du Nord, on the Quai de Jemmapes, stands close to the canal. The hotel has been here since 1885 but it’s perhaps best known as the star of the film of the same name. The 1938 film, directed by Marcel Carné and starring Annabella, Jean-Pierre Aumont and Louis Jouvet, was shot on location here.
Standing in front of the Hotel du Nord today it’s very easy to slip back in time to 1930’s, black and white, Paris. Inside, with the zinc bar, the white tiles on the walls and the black and white mosaic tiles on the floor the feeling is enhanced.
Inside the Hotel du Nord:
Today, the Canal Saint-Martin is a waterway largely for tourist boats. The canal has several locks to be negotiated, which ensures that no journey along the canal will be made in a hurry.
Navigating the locks is usually watched by people who gather on top of the bridges and it was on top of one of these that I recorded the process.
Navigating a lock:
The process is simple. The lock fills to allow the boat in and then empties to allow the boat out at a lower level. The lock gates operate by hydraulics and the water operates by gravity. Today, no heavy-lifting is required, it’s all done at the push of a button.
And I can reveal that in this neck of the woods the earth moves! Well, not quite, but the roadway certainly does.
At the locks where the road is at the same level as the boats, one of them has to give way to the other and the road always loses this contest. The traffic is stopped and the road swings out of the way.
Once the boat has passed, the road swings back into place … at least until the next time.
A walk along the Canal Saint-Martin is always interesting at any time but especially so in an unusually sunny November.
AT THE END OF AUGUST I made a blog piece about La Fête de Ganesh, the annual festival to celebrate Genesha, the Hindu deity of wisdom, propriety and good fortune. In July, I made a piece about the Passage Brady with its exotic smells and the atmosphere of an Indian bazaar. So yesterday, when I found myself in ‘Little Jaffna’ in the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis in the 10th arrondissement, I couldn’t help feeling that, unwittingly, a theme was developing.
Stretching from the Boulevard de Bonne-Nouvelle to the Boulevard de la Chapelle, the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis is a mélange of Turkish, African, and Indian communities. Yesterday, it was the stretch from the Metro station, La Chapelle, to the railway station, Gare du Nord that particularly interested me and it was along here that I did a Soundwalk.
A Soundwalk in ‘Little Jaffna’:
This part of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis is quite distinctive. It would be easy to call it, “Little India”, but that would be an over-generalisation, even though one of the shops bears that name. The fact is, that what we often refer to as the Indian community here comprises a far wider diversity than just “Indian”.
Of the immigrants originating from the Indian sub-continent who have settled in Paris, only a minority are natives of India proper. Bangladeshis, Pakistanis, Punjabis, and Sri-Lankan Tamils form culturally and socially distinct groups in Paris. Something I didn’t know until recently, is that the largest these communities is the Tamil.
Most of the Parisian Tamils fled Sri-Lanka as refugees in the 1980’s during the violent civil war. Over time, they have thrived in a close-knit community in this part of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis. The soubriquet, “Little Jaffna”, comes from the name Jaffna, the capital of the Northern Province of Sri Lanka, the area from which most of these people are descended.
I began my Soundwalk at the Metro station, la Chapelle, where the African and Indian communities meet. The distinctive sounds of “M’Ice, M’Ice, M’Ice” and “Vum Ice, Vum Ice, Vum Ice”, are the African ladies outside the metro station busily trying to sell ice cubes from plastic bags tucked away in shopping trolleys. They are a common feature in all the African communities in Paris but I’ve yet to see any of them actually making a sale.
Passing through the entrance to the Metro station, crossing the road and walking towards the Gare du Nord, I leave Africa behind and enter into the world of the Indian sub-continent with all its colour, exotic smells and sounds.
A greengrocer is selling exotic fruit and vegetables outside his shop whilst inside, the checkouts are working at a frantic pace.
An Halal butcher, surrounded by colourful sari and textile shops, is chopping meat. Conversation abounds.
This is so much more than a place to shop; this is a place to see and be seen, a place to meet friends, neighbours and family, a place savour and to enjoy. This is “Little Jaffna” and these are its sounds.