Without question the most memorable night we experienced in Paris – started with a dinner, good friends of LA Darl, beautiful food and warm and delightful company, a jaw dropping apartment.
One of the guests – I’ll call him Alain – a restoration architect, hinted that he had something special in mind for us post dinner. Hhhhhhmmmmm.
The witching hour and Alain offers to drop us home. We climb into his BMW and head back in the direction of the Marais. Alain detours and our lesson on the history, look and design of Paris begins …..
Napoleon 111, who became emperor in 1852, had a great deal of interest in developing Paris into a new modern city after the Industrial Revolution, Alain explained, as we zoom past a vibrating Eiffel tower speeding toward the Louvre.
This interest in modifying the layout of the city would manifest itself into a project that would encompass all aspects of urban planning, from streets to sewers – a tour or the Paris sewers is more interesting than you may think – and completely change the shape of Paris as everyone knew it.
We drive the wrong way through Louvre courtyard ….. “Lighting buildings in Paris is an art-form, requiring a degree from a University of Marseille “….
With the induction of Baron Georges Haussmann as Prefect of the Seine, Napoleon had an ally in the government to carry out the modernization. While neither one were trained in the arts, both men had ideas for how they wanted the city to look. Napoleon had a greater interest in the techniques and new materials that were to be used, while Haussmann paid more interest to the aesthetic quality of the modernization project.
Yet both men adhered to the classical style, creating a metropolis of neoclassical wonder.
We are now screaming beside the Seine toward Notre Dame, around the back we park and Alain paces, smokes and explains that this building is much more interesting from the rear near a garden of twisted trees.
Defying most road rules we need to get to Place de Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris, before the lights go out. Like Cinderella the lights go out at mid-night in Paris, to save money.
“The Place to Vogues is mostly owned by foreigner’s who don’t live here” says Alain dragging on his cigarette and waving his arm past the dark windows.
As we turn a corner near our apartment, he points to the garden at Hotel de Ville where he used to breakfast with the then Mayor of Paris Jacques Chirac ( 1977-1995). Chirac introduced the “The Motocrotte”, officially called Caninette which is a small motorized vehicle designed to vacuum up dog faeces in Paris, among other things.
Sadly our tour ends beside the now dark Pompidou Centre, but what a delight to spend this time with a proud, cheeky and very knowledgeable Alain and tour Paris by night.
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