Monday, November 23, 2009

Hanging in the 'Hood

I've mentioned that we're living very near the Pont Neuf, which despite its name ("New Bridge" in French) is the oldest bridge in Paris.  When it was finished in 1601 it was the newest and has managed to hang onto that designation despite the many bridges that have followed.  The fellow in the photo above is one of the faces found at the base of the ornate lampposts that line the bridge.  He looks rather like a river god, don't you think?  As if he should have strands of algae dripping from his beard.

He's not the only bearded figure on the bridge.  It was completed during the reign of my favorite monarch, Henri IV, who sits twinkly-eyed on his horse in the middle of the bridge, just above the stairs that descend to a pretty little park named after him, the Square du Vert Galant.  It's not in the shape of a square, by the way.  The French seem not to have grasped the fact that the word actually refers to a shape in English, and name many spots that might more reasonably be called a 'place' a 'square' without reference to whether it has four relatively even sides.

We've had relatively clement weather recently, and as you can tell from the photo of Henri, some bright sunny skies, but the norm is more like today's gray, shading from shifting gray skies through darker gray buildings down to paller gray water.  And the water is patrolled by these people, the sapeurs/pompiers responsible for accidents and incidents on the river.  Here they're speeding along in their bright red wetsuits on their way to something or other.  I see them snorkeling on the surface from time to time, looking for who knows what...not bodies, I fervently hope.

Looking the other direction is you-know-who, in her daytime gray, nearly blending into the other shades of the same color.  The two little pointy bits, looking almost like the spikes on the Kaiser's helmet, are the roofs of the Musée d'Orsay.

On the wall of the building at the Left Bank anchorage of the Pont Neuf is one of the ubiquitous plaques commemorating events, usually deaths of resistants, during the liberation of Paris in August 1944.  This plaque is a bit different from those others however.  It marks the site of the command post established by the commander of the F.F.I. (Forces Françaises de l'Intérieur) the resistance organisation that functioned as a virtual branch of the French Army.  It's just across the river from the Police Station that was a major point of resistance during those August days.

Our current home is in the midst of a nest of art galleries between the Seine and Boulevard Saint-Germain and most of them feature contemporary art.  I was struck by the ancient exposed beam serving as the lintel of this very modern gallery space, and serving as well as a very clear example of how things change here more through re-use rather than through destruction.


I much prefer this view from my café seat than a line of glass and steel buildings.  From the second floor up I could be in the 18th century.  The modern facades below this are a small price to pay for the preservation of the fabric of the neighborhood.  And some of the art is quite good.

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