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Posts tagged ‘6th Arrondissement’


Rue Vavin – A Soundwalk

RUE VAVIN STRETCHES from the Boulevard du Montparnasse to Rue d’Assas in the 6th arrondissement. The street is 375 metres long and 12 metres wide at its widest point and two streets, the Boulevard Raspail and Rue Notre-Dame-des-Champs, intersect it.


Rue Vavin is named after Alexis Vavin (1792-1863), a French politician who, amongst other things, opposed the coup of Napoleon III. As well as the Rue Vavin, the Avenue Vavin (now a short cul-de-sac) and the Métro station Vavin are also named after him.


The other day I decided to explore the Rue Vavin, to search out the places of historical interest and to do a soundwalk.

I began at the Rue d’Assas outside one of the entrances to the Jardin du Luxembourg and I walked along the street to the Boulevard du Montparnasse at the other end.

Rue Vavin – A Soundwalk:


N° 12 rue Vavin

The first building to catch my eye was N° 12.

For over eighty years this was home to the French publishing house founded in 1901 by the orientalist Paul Geuthner. He specialised in Oriental studies and published essays, texts, language textbooks and travelogues on the Near, Middle and Far East.

Paul Geuthner died in 1949 but the business continued and although no longer here at N° 12 rue Vavin (it’s now moved to 16 rue de la Grande Chaumière close by), and despite a change of ownership, the Société Nouvelle Librairie Orientalist Paul Geuthner is still very much alive and well.


Moving on towards the next building I wanted to see I paused to look at two things at the heart of rue Vavin, both of which are emblematic of Paris – a kiosquier selling his newspapers and a Wallace fountain.

The Parisian newspaper kiosk has been around for a 150 years. Today there are about 350 of them in Paris and they account for almost half of all daily newspaper and magazine sales.

And, like the Parisian newspaper kiosk, the Wallace fountain is another piece of iconic Parisian street furniture.

Named after the English philanthropist, Richard Wallace, who lived in Paris and financed their construction, these fountains were designed by the French sculptor, Charles-Auguste Lebourg. Although originally intended as a source of free, potable water for the poor and also as encouragement to avoid the temptation to turn to strong liquor, everyone uses these fountains today. For the homeless of course, they are often their only source of free drinking water. The fountains operate from 15th March to 15th November (the risk of freezing during the winter months would imperil the internal plumbing) and they are regularly maintained and repainted every two years.


And while the Wallace fountain in rue Vavin might be one kind of watering hole, on the other side of the street there’s another, the Café Vavin.


N° 19 rue Vavin

Further along the street is N° 19.

This building was once home to the École normale d’enseignement du dessin, a school of drawing founded in 1881 by the architect, Alphonse Théodore Guérin. The only private art school in Paris at the time, it was staffed by volunteer teachers and its students paid no fees. The teaching was based on a mixture of workshops and academic classes in decorative composition, perspective, the history of art and anatomy.


N° 26 rue Vavin – Image via Wikipedia

If you’ve seen the film Last Tango in Paris you may recognise the next building I stopped to look at. N° 26 rue Vavin was the creation of the French architects Frédéric-Henri Sauvage and Charles Sarazin.


In 1903, Sauvage and Sarazin formed the Société anonyme de logements hygiéniques à bon marché, a company whose purpose was to construct good quality, affordable housing for the poorest in society. Built in 1912 as an HBM (Habitation à Bon Marché), N° 26 rue Vavin is a good example of what Sauvage and Sarazin sought to achieve. Designed on the hygienist principles of providing accommodation with plenty of light and air the building has open terraces and is covered with white tiles similar to those found in the Paris Métro which self-clean when it rains.


Unlike with most buildings in Paris, it is forbidden to attach nameplates to the walls of N° 26 partly for aesthetic reasons and partly to avoid damage to the tiles. Consequently, the main door of the building has a very clean and uncluttered look to it.


After pausing to look at a magnificent display of blooms at a flower shop I walked further up rue Vavin to the intersection with the Boulevard Raspail where I found N° 33.


N° 33 rue Vavin

Between the two World Wars, N° 33 rue Vavin was home to the famous cabaret Le Bal de la Boule Blanche. It was here on the evening of 20th February 1931 that Georges Simenon hosted a ball to launch the first two books in the then new but now classic Inspector Maigret series – ‘Monsieur Gallet, décédé’ and ‘Le pendu de Saint-Pholien’.


Crossing the Boulevard Raspail I wanted to find N° 38 rue Vavin, once the home of the French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi who is perhaps best known for designing the Statue of Liberty. Instead, I found a building site with the inevitable site meeting taking place.


N° 50 rue Vavin

The last stop on my soundwalk along the rue Vavin was at N° 50. Today it’s just one of many boutiques along the street but in the second half of the 19th century this was the Maison Voignier, supplier of organ pipes to, amongst others, one of the world’s greatest organ builders, Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.


Rue Vavin is a fairly typical Parisian street. It’s home to some or a place of business for others, it’s also a thoroughfare from the Boulevard du Montparnasse to the Jardin du Luxembourg and it’s a magnet for shoppers. It has its own life, its own history and, of course, its own sounds all of which I think are worth exploring.



Rue de Seine – A Soundwalk … And a Surprise

THERE HAS BEEN a road running in a north-south direction from the banks of the Seine towards the original Romanesque church, which was later to become the Église Saint-Sulpice, since the middle of the 13th century. In 1489, that road was formalised into a street named rue de Seine.


Rue de Seine from North to South

Today, rue de Seine runs for some 665 metres across the 6th arrondissement from quai Malaquais to rue Saint-Sulpice. Whilst the name, quai Malaquais, may not be familiar to you, most visitors to Paris will immediately recognise the magnificent building which is the Institut de France and it is directly behind this building that rue de Seine begins.


Institut de France

In a kind of shorthand, this building is often referred to as the Académie Française but that is only partially true. The Institut de France is a French learned society that groups five academies of which one is the Académie Française. The five academies are: the Académie Française, guardian of the French language, founded in 1635, the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres (Academy of Humanities) founded in 1663, the Académie des sciences (Academy of Sciences) founded in 1666, the Académie des beaux-arts (Academy of Fine Arts) founded in 1816 and the Académie des sciences morales et politiques (Academy of Moral and Political Sciences) founded in 1795, suppressed in 1803, and re-established in 1832.


Walking from the Louvre, across the Pont des Arts and thorough the Institut de France, I went to explore rue de Seine the other day where I recorded a soundwalk to add to my Paris Soundscapes Archive and I took some pictures to share with you. I also encountered a complete surprise … of which more later.

Rue de Seine – A Soundwalk:


My soundwalk began at N°1 rue de Seine, the house in which Saint Vincent de Paul, the Catholic priest who dedicated himself to serving the poor, once lived. He was canonised in 1737.


Across the street is the Square Honoré-Champion and the statue of the French enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher, François-Marie Arouet, better known by his nom de plume, Voltaire.


Also in the Square Honoré-Champion, if less conspicuous, is a statue to the French social commentator and political thinker Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu, usually simply known as Montesquieu. He is perhaps best remembered for his articulation of the separation of powers now taken for granted by modern governments.


La fontaine du Marché-aux-Carmes

A few steps away from the Square Honoré-Champion, just across the street, is the Square Gabriel Pierné named after Henri Constant Gabriel Pierné a French composer, conductor, and organist. In the Square is la fontaine du Marché-aux-Carmes, which you can hear in my soundwalk. It was created by the French sculptor and painter, Alexandre-Évariste Fragonard in 1830 and it was installed in the Square a hundred years later. It’s now a monument historique.


From the fountain in the Square Gabriel Pierné I began walking along rue de Seine accompanied by the sound of building work taking place on the left hand side of the street close to N° 25. I stopped to have a look at N° 25 because this is where Charles Ogier de Batz de Castelmore, Comte d’Artagnan once lived. Born around 1611, d’Artagnan served Louis XIV as captain of the Musketeers of the Guard. He died in 1673 at the Siege of Maastricht in the Franco-Dutch War. A fictionalised account of his life by Gatien de Courtilz de Sandras formed the basis for the d’Artagnan Romances of Alexandre Dumas, perhaps the most famous of which is The Three Musketeers.


Next door, at N° 27, is the former home of the French poet, Charles Pierre Baudelaire.


Two doors further along, at N° 31, a plaque above the door reveals that Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, later Baroness Dudevant, best known by her pseudonym George Sand once lived here.  George Sand was a French novelist but she he is equally well-known for her much publicised romantic affairs with a number of well-known people including Frédéric Chopin.

Some time later, the American dancer, artist, poet and philosopher Raymond Duncan, brother of the dancer Isadora Duncan, also lived here.


Across the street, N° 26 is now a boutique but in 1618 it was opened as the cabaret, Au petit Maure.  On 29th December 1661, the poet, libetine, soldier and diplomat, Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant died here.


N° 39, now the Hôtel Prince de Condé, was once home to the French engineer and physicist, Claude-Louis Navier, best known for being one half of the Navier–Stokes equations, which everyone knows (everyone except me that is, I had to look it up!) give a description of the velocity of a fluid at a given point in space and time.

And with that nugget of information under my belt I needed a drink and where better than the Café La Palette.


Now a monument historique, the Café La Palette dates from the 1930’s. It has always been associated with artists – Cezanne, Picasso and Braque were frequent visitors, and it’s a favourite haunt of students from the prestigious art school, l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts, which is close by.


Rue de Seine from Rue de Buci

If you know what to look for, rue de Seine is a feast of history and that history continues as we walk beyond La Palette where rue de Seine crosses the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area. Once the haunt of intellectuals and revolutionaries and now a favourite tourist spot, this is the world of Jean-Paul Marat and Georges Danton, Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Juliette Gréco.

Crossing rue de Buci, but on this day too late to enjoy the wonderful street market, my soundwalk takes us up to and across the busy Boulevard Saint-Germain passing cafés and delicious food shops on the way.





Rue Saint-Sulpice – the southern end of rue de Seine

My soundwalk ends beyond the Boulevard Saint-Germain at rue Saint-Sulpice, the southern end of rue de Seine close to the Église Saint-Sulpice. This is perhaps my favourite church in Paris, not least because it has a François-Henri Clicquot organ magnificently restored and improved in 1862 by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. This organ is considered to be Cavaillé-Coll’s best ever creation and it is perhaps the most impressive instrument of the romantic French symphonic-organ era. Apart from the installation of an electric blower and the addition of two pedal stops the organ remains almost exactly as Cavaillé-Coll left it. And as if that wasn’t enough, two of the finest Cathedral organists ever were resident organists in this church, Charles-Marie Widor from1870 to1933 and Marcel Dupré from1934 to 1971.

I know I’ve digressed a little but magnificent church organs are one of my passions and the one in the Église Saint-Sulpice is as good as they get.

I haven’t though yet quite finished with the rue de Seine. At the southern tip of rue de Seine close to rue Saint-Sulpice is this gem that takes us back to the early history to be found at the northern end of the street.


Cire Trudon

Founded in 1643, Maison de Cire Trudon is the oldest candle maker in the world. It supplied candles and candle holders to the royal court of Louis XIV, as well as most of the great churches of France. Cire Trudon still make and distribute candles throughout France and across the world and they still have the original wax recipes as well as the original moulds used to form candles bearing the royal blazons.


When I was out collecting the sounds and pictures for this blog piece I thought that Cire Trudon at the southern end of rue de Seine with it’s historic connection, by date at least, with the northern end of the street where I began my soundwalk would bring this blog piece to an obvious conclusion. And so it would have had I not decided to retrace my steps to head for the Métro station Louvre-Rivoli and home.

I walked back along rue de Seine as far as the Café La Palette where I stopped, found a table outside, sat down, ordered a coffee and took out my rather dog-eared Moleskine notebook to make notes for this blog piece. Pausing to sip my coffee, I looked up and sitting two tables down from me was a man I thought I vaguely recognised. He was casually dressed but there were three men in suits hovering around him and a very smartly dressed young lady sitting by his side. I returned to my notes and then, in one of those lightening flashes that sometimes strikes one, it came to me. The casually dressed man sitting just two tables from me was the former Président de la République, Jacques Chirac.

He seemed to be on good form if more frail than I remember him from the TV and when he came to leave he had difficulty walking and the men in suits had to support him. And, no, I didn’t take a picture or record his voice – it simply didn’t seem appropriate.

It does show though that if you keep your eyes and ears open being a soundwalking flaneur can sometimes throw up the most unexpected surprises.

As a final note, perhaps I can mention that my soundwalk in rue de Seine is one of the longest sound pieces I’ve published on this blog. The conventional wisdom is that people tend not to listen to sound pieces for longer than two or three minutes at a time because they either lose interest or have something more pressing to do. I think it’s a function of the sound-bite world we have become used to.

In my sound recording practice I take the view that it is not the sound recordist or the listener who dictates how long a sound piece should be but rather the sounds themselves. Sounds need both time and space to breath, to speak and to tell their own story – and the sounds themselves will tell you how long they need to speak. A three minute sound-bite of the edited highlights of rue de Seine would be rather like reading a newspaper headline and completely ignoring the article beneath. It simply wouldn’t tell the story or reflect the sonic tapestry of the street.

So, if you have the time, I encourage you to listen to the whole sound piece. It is after all unique. The sound colours and textures are those that I recorded at that time and on that day. Tomorrow, both they and the actors will have changed and the sounds will be different.


Musée National Eugène Delacroix

TUCKED AWAY IN A little courtyard just off the rue de Furstenberg in the 6th arrondissement is the Musée National Eugène Delacroix or the Musée Delacroix as it’s usually known.

The museum is quite an intimate place housed as it is in what was Delacroix’s apartment where he spent the last six years of his life from December 1857 until his death in August 1863. He moved here because it was conveniently close to the Eglise Saint-Sulpice where, despite his failing health, he was working on his frescos in the Chapelle des Saints-Anges.

Eugène Delacroix

After Delacroix’s death, the apartment was let to various tenants until it was suggested that the studio should be demolished to make way for a garage. It was then that the Société des Amis d’Eugène Delacroix was formed to prevent the destruction of the studio and to provide for and maintain the premises and to promote Delacroix’s work. In 1952, the building was put up for sale and the society, unable to acquire the premises, gave its collection to the French State in order to secure it and to create a museum which eventually became the Eugène Delacroix National Museum.

Inside the Apartment:


Today, the Museum comprises part of Delacroix’s original apartment, his studio and a garden. We know from his journal and letters that Delacroix was happy here:

“My lodgings are decidedly charming (…). Woke up the next day to see the most delightful sunshine on the houses opposite my window. The view of my little garden and the cheerful appearance of my studio always fill me with pleasure.”

(Journal, December 28, 1857).

Delacroix’s Studio

Inside the Studio:


Delacroix’s Studio – Inside

The Museum’s collection is displayed in both Delacroix’s apartment and in his studio and it comprises paintings, drawings, lithographs, autograph works, and some personal objects, including some magnificent souvenirs of his trip to Morocco in 1832.  Some works by his friends, Paul Huet, Léon Riesener, and Richard Parkes Bonington, are also featured. The collection is regularly added to with new works acquired through the combined efforts of the Louvre and the Société des Amis du Musée Eugène-Delacroix.

Delacroix’s Studio – Inside

I made this visit to the museum on a beautiful summer’s day. There were some other people there as well but I was lucky enough to have the studio and the garden practically to myself. While sitting in the garden I could quite see why Delacroix found this such a delightful place. I walked from the garden up the wooden steps to the near empty studio and I was fascinated by the sounds and the seemingly extra loud click of my camera as I took the photographs for this blog.

The Musée Delacroix really is a delightful place and it’s well worth a visit.

What you need to know …

Musée National Eugène Delacroix : 
6 rue de Furstenberg, 
75006 Paris:  Tél. : +33 (0)1 44 41 86 50

Getting there :

Métro : Saint-Germain-des-Prés (ligne 4), Mabillon (ligne 10)

Bus : 39, 63, 70, 86, 95, 96

The museum is open daily except Tuesday, 9:30 am to 5 pm.

Full ticket price : €5

Closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25.


Saint-Sulpice in August

THE MIDDLE OF AUGUST is perhaps not the best time to go sound hunting in Paris. It’s a curious time, the weather is hot, the locals are for the most part away on holiday and many bars, restaurants and shops are closed.

I was in the 6th arrondissement on Saturday where I found this usually bustling area particularly quiet. Beyond a near empty Place Saint-Sulpice the Eglise Saint-Sulpice glistened in the summer sunshine. It’s dedicated to  Sulpitius the Pious, it’s the second largest church in Paris and it’s always worth a visit so I went in.

The present church, which took one hundred and forty years to build, was completed in 1732 and it stands on the site of a much earlier, thirteenth-century Romanesque church. The present church is noted for several things; the Marquis de Sade and Charles Baudelaire were both baptised here, the church is home to a gnomon, a scientific instrument used to determine the time of the equinoxes and hence of Easter (it featured in Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code),  a side chapel in the church houses two murals by Eugène Delacroix, Jacob Wrestling with the Angel and Heliodorus Driven from the Temple and … Saint-Sulpice houses a magnificent Cavaillé-Coll organ, perhaps the finest instrument of the French symphonic-organ era.

My sound hunting adventures in Paris have taken me to many places and I’ve discovered many different sounds, but few sounds affect me as much as the sounds of the organ and particularly the organs of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll. On Saturday, I was able to capture the sounds of his finest creation.

The Organ of Saint-Sulpice:

Just as he did with the organ of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, Cavaillé-Coll reconstructed and improved upon the existing Saint-Sulpice organ built by François-Henri Clicquot. The instrument is reckoned to be the summit of Cavaillé-Coll’s craftsmanship and genius. The sound and musical effects achieved in this instrument are almost unparalleled.

Some world-renowned organists have played the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Sulpice; Louis James Alfred Lefébure-Wély was the organist from1863 to 1869 and then for the next one hundred years just two people occupied the post, two of the most illustrious names in the world of church organ music, Charles-Marie Widor from 1870 to 1933 and Marcel Dupré from 1934 to 1971.

The Organ of Saint-Sulpice:

It is largely thanks to this continuity that the organ of Saint-Sulpice has avoided the changes in taste and fashion which have ravaged so many of Cavaillé-Coll’s other creations. Appointed in 1985, Daniel Roth is the current organist assisted by Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin.

I have no idea who was playing the organ on Saturday and somehow it didn’t really seem to matter. They were practising and clearly having fun whilst I was perfectly happy to sit and simply let the rich palette of Cavaillé-Coll’s sounds wash over me.

You can hear more of the organ of Saint-Sulpice here.


Cour du Commerce Saint-André

APPROACHING FROM THE RUE Saint-André des Arts in the 6th Arrondissement it’s easy to miss but once found, the Cour du Commerce Saint-André reveals a rich seam of Parisian history.

In the heart of today’s Latin Quarter, this cobbled passageway was created in 1735 originally to connect the Rue Saint-André des Arts to the Rue l’Ancienne Comédie, which it still does.

Sounds inside the Cour du Commerce Saint-André:

In 1776 the passageway was doubled in length and reached across to the Rue l’Ecole de Médicine. Georges-Jacques Danton, a leading figure in the French revolution lived in the Cour du Commerce Saint-André close to the Rue l’Ecole de Médicine. Danton’s house together with that part of the Cour du Commerce was subsequently torn down to make way for the Haussmann development, the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

There is a piece of history in the Cour du Commerce that dates back hundreds of years before the passageway was created. Before leaving for the Crusades in the early 13th century, King Philippe-Auguste fortified Paris by building a thirty-foot high defensive wall around the city. The Cour du Commerce Saint-André is actually built on the site of the moat that surrounded this wall. The wall itself included thirty-four defensive towers and part of one of these towers survives today in the Cour du Commerce.

Un Dimanche à Paris is an elegant Salon de Thé and restaurant in the Cour du Commerce. But all is not what it seems.

Inside, amidst the tables, stands the remains of one of the defensive towers from the Philippe-August wall. Whilst Un Dimanche à Paris is a modern creation, it’s worth remembering that this tower was built somewhere between the years 1200 and 1215.

Beside the Philippe-August tower, Le Procope, the oldest café in Paris seems modern in comparison. It’s only been here since 1686!

It’s the rear entrance that’s in the Cour du Commerce; the front entrance is in the adjacent Rue l’Ancienne Comédie.

Francesco Procopio arrived in Paris and opened his first café in Rue de Tournon in 1675. He moved to the Rue l’Ancienne Comédie in 1686. Proving that location is everything, the Comédie Française theatre moved in across the street and Le Procope’s future was assured.

Further along the Cour du Commerce Saint-André from Le Procope we find N°8.

N°8 was the location of Jean-Paul Marat’s printing press where he published his revolutionary newspaper, L’Ami du Peuple, The Friend of the People. L’Ami du Peuple was a vocal advocate for the rights of the lower classes against those Marat believed to be enemies of the people. On 13 July 1793, Marat was murdered in his bathtub by Charlotte Corday. The last edition of his newspaper was published the day after his death. Charlotte Corday was guillotined on 17 July 1793 for the murder. During her four-day trial, she testified that she had carried out the assassination alone, saying, “I killed one man to save 100,000.

The physician, Dr Joseph-Ignace Guillotin once lived here at N° 21 Rue l’Ancienne Comédie – a very different N° 21 than exists today.

Contrary to popular belief, Dr Guillotin did not actually invent the guillotine, that was down to one Antoine Louis. Dr Guillotine in fact opposed the death penalty, even though his name has become eponymous with it.  As a member of the Assemblée Constituante, during a debate on capital punishment, Guillotin proposed that “the criminal shall be decapitated; this will be done solely by means of a simple mechanism.” The “mechanism” was defined as “a machine that beheads painlessly”. At that time, beheading in France was typically done by axe or sword, which did not always cause immediate death. Guillotin hoped that a more humane and less painful method of execution would be the first step toward a total abolition of the death penalty.

Nevertheless, it was here in the basement of N° 9 Cour du Commerce that Dr Guillotin carried out experiments using sheep to try to perfect the machine that beheads painlessly.

The Cour du Commerce Saint-André is a perfect example of the living history to be found in this city. It’s well worth a visit.


Spring in the Jardin du Luxembourg

SPRING SEEMS TO HAVE arrived in Paris right on cue this year.

On the day when the clocks went forward by one hour, the sun shone and people took to the parks to relax, to picnic, to sunbathe and to celebrate the arrival of spring.

In the 6th arrondissement against the backdrop of the French Senate, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the second largest public park in Paris and yesterday it was awash with people enjoying the sunshine.

There are close to a hundred statues in the Jardin du Luxembourg and they also seemed to be enjoying the arrival of spring.

Even the French poet, Charles Baudelaire, seemed to be looking especially dapper in the midday sunshine.

The sound of Spring in the Jardin du Luxembourg:

Those of us who live in this city are very lucky to have wonderful public spaces like the Jardin du Luxembourg to share and to enjoy at any time of the year but especially in the spring and the summer when they look at their absolute best.


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.


A Perfect Day In Saint-Germain

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE it when an otherwise ordinary day turns out to be extra special! That’s what happened to me earlier this week.

After a rather tedious morning I met a friend for lunch in Saint-Germain in the 6th Arrondissement. We arranged to meet at a restaurant I hadn’t been to for a long time and I had quite forgotten what a delightful place it is. The restaurant, the food and my friend were on sparkling form so our three-hour lunch simply couldn’t have been better.

After lunch my friend left for another engagement and I wandered along the Boulevard Saint-Germain to have a look at the Christmas market … my fifth Paris Christmas market this year.

My walk ended with me going into the Eglise Saint-Germain as I often do when I’m in this area. I hadn’t though expected the surprise that awaited me when I went inside.  The organ was being tuned.

Organ Tuning in L’Eglise Saint-Germain:

These sounds are a short extract of the thirty minutes of the organ tuning that I recorded all of which have now been consigned to my Paris sound archive.

Regular visitors to this blog will know of my love of the organs of Aristide Cavaille-Coll, many of which are to be found in Paris, but the organ in this church is not one of his creations.

This organ was built by Pierre Thierry in 1679 and it was modified by Louis-Alexandre and François-Henri Clicquot in 1766. Organ enthusiasts will know that the magnificent Cavaille-Coll organ in the Cathédrale Nôtre Dame de Paris was built around an original François-Henri Clicquot organ.

Earlier this year, I was in L’Eglise Saint-Germain for a wedding when the organ was in full flow and what a delight it was to listen to.

The Organ of L’Eglise Saint-Germain:

So, there we are – an ordinary day transformed into a perfect day by a delightful lunch in a perfect setting with the company of a dear friend followed by an unexpected sound feast. What could be better?

Well, hot, roasted chestnuts might come a close second!

For another organ tuning experience you might want to look at this – my visit to Warsaw in March of this year when I happened upon the tuning of the organ in Saint John’s Cathedral in the old city of Warsaw.