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Seeing a different side of PARIS - Trip Report

Seeing a different side of PARIS - Trip Report

Jun 15th, 2009, 09:30 AM
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Seeing a different side of PARIS - Trip Report

Friday 22nd May '09
Getting into Paris this trip was via Ireland on Aerlingus after spending the last two weeks seeing a great deal of The Emerald Isle. Off the plane at CDG we bought a carnet of metro tickets and had our NaviGo travel cards (which we purchased last year ) and had them re-instated starting on Monday to Sunday.
Although pretty tired it was good to sit and relax on the RER while travelling into the city. Unlike the Underground from Heathrow in the early morning, the RER never seems to get over-crowded so it's a good time to stare out the window and catch one's breath.

Only for the second time ever, we are staying at the same hotel we stayed at last trip in 2008. I enjoy staying in different areas of Paris so always pick a new set of hotels.

The Ibis Esplanade La Defense is one of those hotels in a large chain, which gives a certain standard of hotel room which is very acceptable at their special weekend room rate of 49 euros for a double or twin room en-suite. Now, you could beat that price somewhere in Paris but I don't think you would like too!

One train change at Chatelet and we were on the metro Line 1 to Esplanade La Defense - this stop is the second to last from the Grande Arche at Defense and passes through stations like Palais-Royal, all the stops along the Champs Elysees, through Charles de Gaulle Etoile and over a railbridge on the Seine, through the towering office blocks and ending as I said at the Grande Arche.

As we passed through the metro at Esplanade L.D. we noticed a small kiosk selling baguettes filled with cheese, ham, salad etc., and realised we were darn hungry!
One was large enough for both of us and enjoyed munching on it in the room after checking in - which litterally took 2 minutes.

Showered and changed we headed out to the Champs Elysees to get our mobile/cell phones changed to French simcards. This we did at the very large SFR on the righthand side walking down from the Etoile.
The walkway to and from the metro Esplanade La Defense has a pretty hedge in full bloom. We took in the view we had come to know so very well last year and walked over to the little vineyard growing on top of the metro station. The vines had certainly doubled in side and in the watm Spring sunshine were sprouting tendrils in all directions. The Arche de Triomphe stood majestically in the distance and slightly to the right but cut in half, was the Eiffel Tower.

Walking on down on the leftside of the Champs we came across two hardworking chefs churning our crepes by the minute. Permission granted we photographed them and carried on with our afternoon stroll.
Later we took the metro to Chinatown in the 13th Arr. for our first dinner in Paris.
Walking up from metro Porte de Choissy we took in the bustling Friday night shoppers hurrying home with bags full of groceries, groups of Chinese people chatting on the sidewalk, and others like us looking for a restaurant. We were headed to Kerouac's favourite restaurant in these parts and highly reccommended.
We found La Lune , 36 Avenue de Choisy with it's cresent moon above the entrance. It was still early evening, about 7pm, and there were only a few tables occupied. We chose to sit in the window area giving us a view of what was happening on the street.
Two extentsive menu's were presented by the charming owner. We were quite overwhelmed by all the choices! Finally settling on Boeuf 'Loc-Lac' for Peter and Boeuf saute` sauce piquant for me, accompanied by Riz du Chef which we shared.
We had a Singha and a Tsing Tao beer for drinks. The whole meal came to 30.60 euros for two of us. Absolutely great food - the beef just melted in your mouth and definitely the best Chinese meal we had in all the time we were away.
By the way Kerouac - I showed the gentleman owner a print out I made of your photos on Port O' Call. He smiled when he saw the famous person who had eaten there and said he has been in business for 45 years, maybe more I don't acurately remember.
He's an awfully nice friendly person and gave us superb service - that is definitely our Chinese restaurant of the future in Paris!
After dinner it was dark so we wondered up and down the street taking some photos before we went back to La Defense.

As we came down the steps off the metro (becasue the esculators were turned off), there was a section of sidewalk that levels out before splitting into two very small steps.
I was so busy watching all the tour buses and people around I didn't see them and fell onto my knees. It was so painful I thought that was the end of my walking in Paris!
Hobbling into bed I took some Cataflam and two pain killers and tried to sleep with two very swollen and bruised legs.
In the morning I found I could walk but touching my knees or shins was extremely painfull. Lucky I brought the right pills and soon pain was a thing of the past!

Saturday 23rd May
Lovely and sunny we left the hotel around 9.30am and went and had coffee and croissants at Quality Hamburger instead of MacD's, on the Champs Elysees.
Total: 4.00 for both of us. I don't know of any other places in Paris where a cup of coffee & and a pastry costs 2 euros!

What's at the other end?

Unless you are going to the Petit or Grand Palais to see an exhibition, many tourists don't seem to wander up from Pace de la Condcorde or much further down than metro
George V. It seems that way when the crowds disapate and lovely trees get absorbed into gardens with fountains and beds of colourful flowers.
Even less tourists ( actually none!) are seen along Ave. Marigny and Ave.Gabriel where you will find on a Saturday morning the Philatilists doing some hot trading with buyers.
This is our second visit to the Stamp Market and I am interested to see what they have on South African stamps. Zilch, nothing, not one.
I saw what looked like one of the traders giving out handfuls of stamps to children. On enquiring found out they are totally free to encourage an interest for collecting by young children. I came across a small boy with his mom and handed him a few Nelson Mandela and Soccer World Cup 2010 special edition stamps.

Crossing over to the Grand Palais we saw the long line for the Andy Warhol exibition.
No interest to us so we continued photographing and crossed over into the 7th arr. by way of Pont Alexandre lll.
A bride was posing with her newly acquired husband in a most unusual gown of black & white. We then found the chains with the locks around several lampposts. I'm a bit fuzzy about the legend of those locks but I know it has something to do with both parties closing the lock and throwing the key into the Seine. I suppose to show a long a faithful marriage?

New findings in the 7th

Looking at my own made up guide with lots of scibbles and notes I see I have maked the church of Saint Clotilde and the pretty little square surrounding it. We go down rue Grenelle passing Institute Geographic Narional before turning down rue de Martignac. This very pretty church leads onto Square Rousseau with a shady little restaurant to add to the charm.

Lunch in the 14th and more exploring

I think we exited the metro at Gaite` because we seemed to walk a long way down rue Froidevaux before seeing the road that cuts through Cimitiere` du Montparnasse, namely rue Emile Richard and immediately on the corner of rue Gassendi the restaurant we were looking for - Chez Papa , 6 Rue Gassendi.
I was here for the 'boyarde' salad and before that I needed a cold beer! Paris was hot and walking for miles and miles is thirsty work. It had started to drizzle slightly but the restaurant was too hot inside to we opted for a corner table just out of the rain.
Soo the delicious lunch arrived and although starving hungry, could not finish the enormous bowl of food before me. It consists mainly of saute` potatoes, a dash of cheese, a slice of ham, a bit of tomatoe and other greens with a tasty salad dressing.
Very delicious but a man sized portion with a basket of baguette slices was more than enough - besides tonight was our GTG dinner! Better walk some more........................

We sauntered slowly down Rue Daguerre which is very similar to Rue Cler with open displays of vegetables, cheeses and seafood, alongside a butchery or two.
Just where the pedestrian part ends at rue Boulard we spied a most unusual toy shop.
Stepping into this Aladin's Cave of toys we soon were picking out a few for our new baby grandson.
Continuing on I saw a perfume shop - it's called Nocibe` , 12 rue Daguerre.
Here I found my favourite Georgio and two other Giorgio Armani perfumes I had never seen before. 87,80 euros later I left a very happy lady!
Leaving rue Daguerre at Ave Gen. du Lerclerc we turned towards Denfert Rochereau and the Catacombes. Before we knew it we were surrounded by very armed police - looking quite non-chalant I add - and some people chanting slogans and waving the red flags of The Tamil Tigers. Looking across the road at the long, the very long line waiting to get into the catacombes, we decided to pass and look for something I really wanted to see before it disappears.

Not everyone would seek this treasure

Strolling down Blvd Arago for what seemed absolute ages we eventually arrived at the last "vespasien" in Paris. Well, a gentlemen's urinal - in the guide Unexplored Paris it's shown in quite good nick (condition). Now, what a sorry sight. I cannot believe even this unusual piece of history is being neglected and forgotten. Very sad.
It's needs a new coat of paint for a start.

Fodorites GTG

We showered and changed for the big night, setting off for the RER Luxembourg as instructed. These trains don't run as frequently as the metro so if using it leave in plenty of time, which luckily we did. A wait of 20 min. before we were on our way but arrived just on time at Perraudin , 157 Rue St. Jacques.
A large table was already seated and waiting with a few more on another table immediatedly adjacent. We were greated by Monica and found our seats at the table with Pat next to me, Deborah & Ron at the top, Leslie (schnauzer) & Alex opposite.
Gee, I hope I've got that right!
The evening was lovely with livened conversation, and getting to know a little bit about our fellow Fodorites. After dessert I decided was the best time to present my Fodorite family with a small remembrance of the evening. The flatest thing I could pack was special edition co-memorative stamps of Nelson Madela on his 90th birthday. Every knows he is, and hopefully, in few years time will become quite valuable.
I was so pleased to hear Monica is a stamp collector, which made it all worthwhile.

Show me the way to go home

A superb dinner of Pate` foi gras, Boeuf Bourguinon, and dessert of icecream served in an Italian style with nuts and fruit ended with coffee.
We walked through the frenzied Place de la Contrescarpe heaving with young folk out having a good time! We kind of got a bit lost and went up to two young chaps leaning against a wall and asked which way to the nearest metro - they answered in impeccable "Will and Harry" accents as to where we should go!
Thank you Monica for arranging a super evening for all of us!

Photos: I wish kodak gave the same large image as Flickr but I have posted two albums so far and don't want to satrt over -sorry for the quality.
tod is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 09:53 AM
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Forgot to apologise for some typos and add the next 6 days are still to come..................................
tod is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 12:03 PM
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Your report is far too interesting for anyone to worry about the odd typo!

A question about your hotel as the price is certainly attractive... about how much extra travel time would you guess it took out in and out from La Defense?

Thanks... and looking forward to more. ;^)

ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 12:40 PM
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Enjoyed your report. What a terrific price for the hotel. Sorry about your fall - but sounds like it didn't hamper your walking, anyway.
Sue4 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 12:43 PM
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Although I'm anxious to read about the Ireland portion of your trip, I am so glad you are posting the Paris portion first!

A great read so far - keep it coming!

travgina is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 01:38 PM
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Great report and wonderful pix. I love the color of the Chinese restaurants at night.

Horrible to have to admit it, but I don't know how to get the titles above the pix like yours are. If it isn't too difficult and time-consuming to explain, would you please share your expertise on captioning. The only way I found to do it, was to add it as a comment, but then you have to stop and check comments on each one. Not a good "work around.,"

Looking forward to more. Thanks.
JulieVikmanis is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 02:31 PM
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Hi Tod

Good to see your report, I am enjoying reading about all the bits I can do next time!!

It was lovely to meet you and Peter at the restaurant and thanks again for the lovely stamp.

Keep the details coming and don't worry about the typos, just get that info down on the page!!!

schnauzer is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 10:18 PM
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Hi Tod,

I have been looking for your report and here it is. Not a different side of Paris but many different sides--what fun for you both. Very sorry to read that you fell but from all the walking it doesn't sound as if it was too bad.

Thanks again for the stamps! Such a kind and thoughtful thing to do--what a treasure for those of us who received them.

Great photos. Looking froward to reading where your wanderings took you next.
Leely2 is offline  
Jun 15th, 2009, 10:25 PM
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Great report, Tod. I'm glad you liked "La Lune."
kerouac is online now  
Jun 16th, 2009, 01:54 AM
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Wouldn't it be great to live in Paris for a long time? Enjoying this report.
TDudette is online now  
Jun 16th, 2009, 02:00 AM
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Forgot to say "and pictures also"-good going!
TDudette is online now  
Jun 16th, 2009, 03:42 AM
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Thanks all of you! I will do my best to get this report done soon as possible - it's the selection of photos and the awfully long time it takes to load them that slows things down. Anyway...........................to continue:

ParisAmsterdam: It takes aprox. 7-10 minutes from Metro Esplanade La Defense to Charles de Gaulle Etoile. From there one can connect to other lines.

Julie: When you have loaded all the photos and are previewing your 'album' there are some choices you have to click on - Just below the photo (small) you will see the word OPTION - click that, then choose the 'add photo title' or look on the extreme left of your screen and see a window already giving you the options headed Edit Album .
Hope that helps - one more thing - when you do add a title or change photos around, you must click the SAVE or SAVE & REPLACE option or else it reverts back to the original choice.

SUNDAY 24th May

We decided this morning breakfast was going to be a couple of those talked about galettes made with grated potatoe, onions, and Comte cheese, having read a post by Cape Cod in 2008 about the organic market, or correctly named "Marche` Biologique Raspail", on Blvd Raspail.
Exiting the metro at Sevres-Babylone nearest the Hotel Lutecia we soon spotted 'our man'! There he was griddling away as fast as he could - every now & then he would have to leave his galettes to serve another customer. Soon we made our way through the throngs of shoppers holding piping hot and very cheesy galettes.
Nearing the other end we bought some cherries to complete our breakfast 'on the hoof'. It was a beautifully sunny day so was our oportunity to visit Belleville.

For this walkabout I brought along my Thirza Vallois "Around and About Paris 13th-20th Arrondissements".
She suggests this walk on a Tuesday or Friday if you combine it with a plunge into present-day ethnic Paris winding up at the open-air market on Blvd de Belleville.

Taking the metro to Telegraphe as instructed we find out that this metro is not accessible at the moment. This mean't getting the metro back to Porte des Lilas, the stop before Telegraphe.
As we came out on the street I spotted a MacDonalds. It was already pretty hot, I guess around 11am now, so we went to have a drink. I am one of those tourists who has given up carrying a water-bottle around because it just adds to the weight of my purse.
I get a beer & a coke for Peter - an elderly man who looks like a person who had his whole world on a sort of pully leans over and says to me " You are lucky they served you the beer - because you have to order a meal if you drink alcohol"
"I've already eaten, I say
"It's because they can see you are a tourist they don't mind" he adds.

Well refreshed, it's back into the sun and a slow saunter up Rue de Belleville (Not Blvd), towards Telegraphe. Along the road shop windows have displays of clay tagines and I want to buy one so desperately!
At the top we see the metro entrance all shut up. Telegraphe is not called this for nothing. Here you will find a plaque fixed to the cemetery wall showing where in Sept 1792 Claude Chappe
had chosen to test his experiment the 'telegraphe' here because of it's notible altitude (128.5m).
This would have allowed Paris to communicate with the provinces of France who were engaged in a patriotic republican war against the monarchies of Europe, but the 'sans-culottes' wrecked his brilliant invention suspecting he was communicating with the incarcerated royal family. He tried again on 25th July the following year when he sent a telegraph to Ecouen, a distance of 35.5km away.
Then followed the connection with Lille to the northern most hill in Montmartre and Strasbourg was connected with Belleville.
The cemetery we are standing next to, did not exist at the time, only opening in 1804. I took a brief peek inside the gates.

Turning into rue du Telegraphe we walk past the reservoir of Belleville until the corner of rue du Borrego & rue de la Duee.
Here she suggests going along Passage Gambetta, then rue Haxo where you will find the church of Notre-Dame-des-Otages.
Being a Sunday we skip that part (but there is a lot of history here -Communards) and turn into rue Taclet instead. This leads to a lovely leafy area called Villa Georgina (it's a special name for us) It's quiet and peaceful with creeping vines hanging onto the stonework.
Back onto rue de la Duee we continue down to Sq. de Menilmontant. Just opposite is the narrowest alley in Paris - an 0.80m wide crevasse - Passage de la Duee.

The parklike square is full of families seeking shade under a few small trees, some lying on picnic blankets. Probably most are from the enormous block of flats which looms overhead.

The square was once the propery of the Saint-Simoniens with neat vegetable gardens, a magnificent orchard and lilac trees.
Briefly, in 1832 the son of a wealthy banker and alumnus of the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique (which today still trains France's topmost mathmaticians and engineers) retired, oropted out of scociety more like it, at the age of 36 with 40 of his mates after inheriting the propery from his father.
Prosper Enfantin, was inspired by the doctrine of Comte de Saint-Simon and wished to promote the notion of justice and brotherhood through a life of simplicity.
To cut a long story short, these bearded chaps dressed up in red & purple, sang songs about equality and attracted the ire of the police who did not find them at all amusing! They ended up in prison for a year and the propery put up for sale.
Once released Prosper Enfantin travelled to Egypt where he stayed for four years. Here this brilliant engineer came into his own, befriending Mehmed Ali, Viceroy of Egypt, and conceiving the plan..........to build the Suez Canal.
Sadly he did not live long enough to carry out the project but it was taken over by his disciple, de Lessops.
So there you have it.

Walking out of the gate I detect we are going too far down for us to be in line with the top of Parc de Belleville. Exiting the little parc in rue de Menilmontant and turning up rue Pixerecourt I forget to follow the road over rue des Pyrenees, where two blocks further along we would have come across a provincial red-tiled roof of a one storeyed house.
It is the gatepost to a quiet side street, appropriately named rue du Retrait where, at nos.29/31 Maurice Chevalier was born on 12th Sept.1888.
Not a great mishap as at the time of writing her book, this was an empty building site waiting for another concrete tower.
Maybe it's there already?

The writer suggests turning into Rue des Pyrenees & walking up to Place Guignier, Cite` Leroy, and Villa de L'Ermitage, rue des Cascades, coming across le Regard des Messiers & le Regard de la Roquette, both of which are points of interest in the book "Unexplored Paris".
But, one can only accomplish so much on a day when the temperature is rising to a very hot 29C I believe.

So, we turn into rue de L'Est and up Pyrenees and eventually walking down rue des Envierges and seeing some of the local women hanging out washing in their windows and conversing with passersby in the street. At last arriving at a lovely rural square with a Wallace fountain, a little restaurant, and a view over all of Paris! WOW!

Standing in the shade of the building covering the outlook over the Parc de Belleville we see people setting up for a show. Soon the amphitheatre begins to fill up and a juggler comes out and gets the crowd, especially the children, enthralled in his skill of never missing a baton?juggle?
When his performance ends a man comes out in disguise but soon peels off and shows his stuff. This chap is a dancer for sure - just look at those legs, just look at those splits!

Feeling hot & tired we snag a small table and two chairs and drag then into a tiny patch of shade. At this place you go inside and get your beer and bring it out yourself.
A good hour passes as we enjoy the atmosphere of being around the locals.

Well and truly rested we take the long flight of stairs down through a lovely curved vine awning. Every now and then the steps are crossed by a narrow footpath brimming with roses.
There are shady benches along the paths but we carry on down until coming out into the open lawns.
The heat pushes us forward and we leave the lovely and enchanting Parc de Belleville.
We keeping walking straight ahead and arrive at Blvd de Belleville where the market is still going on. Traders are trying to out-shout each other with last minute bargains for the housewife.
Strolling through I find the oddest tomatoes I've ever seen.
Enormous size with ridges running from top to bottom. The stall-holder tells me they are the best - 'Very delicious'!

The afternoon has worn on and we are definitely feeling a bit footweary. We go down the metro at Belleville and decide to go back to Chinatown in the 13th. Last year Peter wanted to take a ride on a tram we saw running along a track on Blvd Massena. Funny how one tends to go back to unfinished business!
We get out at metro Porte de Choissy once again and stand waiting for the tram.
The route takes us partly over tar road and partly over a grassy area every now and then. We just loved it. So different to the noise of a bus or metro train. This is silent and glides beautifully along it's track.
We go to the end of the line, Pont du Garigliano and get back on to come all the way back.

Walking up rue de Choisy we decide 6.30pm is not too early for dinner. We head this time for Tricotin. It's a very large restaurant which boasts more than one kitchen specialising in Chinese and Vietnamese dishes.
Most of the tables are large for 6 or more people but we take one near the windows.
We wait for some time before being attended to and order drinks. We decide on our good old standby's of a beef dish and sweet 'n sour pork with a rice accompaniment.
The place is empty except for a large table of ladies and one other of a local family. We then spot a couple that was on the tram with us. We wait and now see our waiter is sitting at a table having his dinner. The manageress is also having her dinner.
The food arrives with another waiter but we have to ask for sauces and chopsticks. It's delicious but not like La Lune.
We found the waiters here don't look at you and have a very off-hand manner. We almost felt unwelcome.
Maybe because it was early, maybe they just see so many faces, maybe our waiter's shoes hurt?! Anyway, after a year of wanting to go there so badly I can honestly say it was a disappointment.

Back to the Ibis to pack - we move out Monday morning to a new hotel on the Ile de Cite.
More on that in a day or two! Here are the photos:

tod is offline  
Jun 16th, 2009, 04:17 AM
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Fantastic report. Love the way you travel. Nothing like getting out and about on. I'll be bookmarking for my next Paris visit as Belleville is somewhere I havent ventured as yet.
wellididntknowthat is offline  
Jun 16th, 2009, 04:18 AM
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Oops that should be "out and about on foot."
wellididntknowthat is offline  
Jun 16th, 2009, 04:34 AM
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I've been to Paris many times, but never have visited most of these places. This trip report gives me new ideas for the next time...merci! Loved your pictures.
kwren is offline  
Jun 16th, 2009, 08:27 AM
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Want to try the tram and Belleville! Again, great report and pix.
TDudette is online now  
Jun 16th, 2009, 10:27 AM
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Tod, one of the best things about your photos of the view from the Parc de Belleville is that it shows how far you can be from the Eiffel Tower and the Tour Montparnasse and still be in Paris. I bet a lot of people looking at these photos didn't even notice the Eiffel Tower!
kerouac is online now  
Jun 16th, 2009, 10:43 AM
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Thanks for the nice comments - I suggest to anyone wanting to walk around in these double-digit arrondisements, that you take along a very detailed guide book.
I have the three Thirza Vallois "Around & About Paris" which not only gives you the historical lowdown but suggests a walk with a map for each area.
With something like this in hand you can pick out what you can accomplish and leave some for next time. They are paperback and very light to carry.

Another couple of "walking" suggestions are:

PARIS - History & Mystery by Peter Cain - You can find their schedule of walks on www.paris-walks.com

CITY WALKS - PARIS by Christina Henry de Tessan
This comes as cards with a map and description of each walk.
Very handy if hauling a heavy guide book is not your thing.
Just pick the cards you want for the day and step out the door!

I also have the sixth edition of:
PARIS WALKS by Sonia, Alison and Rebecca Landes.
These walks are only in the most touristy areas but do give great information at what you are looking at along the way.

At the moment I have been loading more photos and hope to carry on in a day or two.
tod is offline  
Jun 16th, 2009, 11:01 AM
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Kerouac - Yes I think that little A shape in line with the 'cigarette lighter' shape of Tour Montparnasse might well be missed, but hope now most don't miss the distance factor.
In ancient times people walked that distance to church and back every Sunday to say Mass - icy winters too.

I want to tell you that the book "Unexplored Paris" by Rodolphe Trouilleux has a page on the Mouzaia district.
He heads the page "Quarries of America" - referring to the gypsum quarries that once were there.
Also mentions the area gets it's name Mouzaia from an area in Algeria.
I have had this book for at least 5 years and never took any notice of that page probably because of the heading and also his photograph of those long steps is not very good. If I hadn't seen your photos I wouldn't have recognised the same place.
tod is offline  
Jun 16th, 2009, 11:32 AM
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Tod, I think you were the one to give me the History and Mystery reco - a great book, thanks! I bought it before our trip.
flygirl is offline  

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