There were a few odd sights along the way, such as this glass building which seemed to prove that unless you are a very tidy enterprise, you should not put your company in a glass building.
I finally approached the Quai d'Ivry along the banks of the Seine, where the Paris-Diderot university campus has been located. I already made a report about the exceptional conversion of old industrial buildings here. This will be a great place for a T3 tram stop.
As I crossed the Seine for the very first time on foot at this location, I was surprised to discover that there used to be an old rail line here.
And now we have arrived in the 12th arrondissement.
Obviously, first we have to cross the Left Bank Expressway.
When will I get out of this wasteland? Unfortunately, not yet, but once again that is good news for all of the future development. The moment the tramway arrives next year, these areas are going to take off like rockets.
All of a sudden, I was intrigued by these abandoned railway cars. For one thing, they were not abandoned.
One reason I knew they were not abandoned is because there were lights on.
I even returned a couple of weeks later for another look at dawn (but in a car this time!).
Definitely occupied, but by whom? Tramway workers? Train workers doing some other task? The idea of living in a railway car in the middle of nowhere is kind of cool, but how have they fixed these things up for toilets, showers and all of that kind of stuff?
That is incredible. Just wanted to say that Kellerman is one of two hostels belonging to CISP - Centre international de séjour Paris www.cisp.fr
17, boulevard Kellerman is in the 12th, and 6, avenue Maurice-Ravel is in the 12th, on the other side of all the stuff kerouac crossed. Both are on the edge of town, but there is public transport nearby. I have friends who have stayed in the Maurice-Ravel one, which seems to be in better repair. Both accomodate a lot of school groups and young athletic teams, but there is no age limit. There are small dormitory rooms but also doubles and singles for accompanying adults, which is where my friends stayed. They are not party hostels, but are clean and dependable for cheap places.
I swear, Kerouac, you deserve hazard pay for some of this.
You also deserve some kind of prize for many of the photos -- the two taken as you passed over the rail lines with their gleaming cars, and the pile of discarded signs definitely qualify.
Good call on the people in glass offices! ;D
It's a shame the old mail station or whatever that is (1st pic, #32) will soon be gone. The old railway there makes sense when viewing your photos of the river, a reminder of how big it is and how much commercial traffic it can carry.
Is the building in #31, 4th picture, that looks like an old rail station indeed an old rail station?
Thanks to you and to Bjd for the explanation of Porte. Did you see my question about what kinds of trams these are?
This is a superb and intensely interesting piece of reporting, Kerouac. Thank you!
Okay, I have questions, please, some of which may be stupid.
First, do the stops named Porte d' this or that take one to train stations going in the direction of those ports? Or, are they more an aid to orientation?
And the trams themselves ........... The overhead lines look standard, but the cars themselves are so sleek and modern. Do they travel much faster than older, more traditional trolleys/streetcars?
Please ignore my questions if you're planning on covering them later on, in context.
Thanks for this!
The portes are for orientation. All of the locals know the names and the order of the portes, and when you live in outer Paris, that is generally how you define your area to people not very familiar with it. I often tell people that I live near Porte de la Chapelle, because absolutely everybody knows where it is. If I just give the name of my metro station, a lot of people are quite hazy about the location.
The tram circles all of the portes, whereas the metro and bus lines often in the direction of the portes -- most of the metro lines go from a porte on one side of the city to a porte on the opposite side of the city.
Knowing your portes is essential to becoming a Parisian.
As for the speed of the tram, they are more efficient and silent mechanically, but they are not designed to go super fast in the middle of traffic. One advantage that the tram has is that it automatically changes all off the traffic lights to green as it approches so that it never has to stop for a red light. In empty zones with fewer stations like the wasteland I just passed through, I'm sure that it will go at a pretty good clip.
In the suburbs, they have created some trams lines like the T4 which is called a "train tram" an goes much faster in certain places. That's because they used old suburban rail lines connecting some of the towns and wove them with an urban tram system. They run like a normal tram in town and then they zip through the corn fields or whatever until they get to the next town.
There are no rail stations in my pictures except for the last photo in #31 which shows an old refrigerated freight station for perishables (Gare Frigorifique de Paris Bercy) covered with graffitti. It looks like a good solid building that will be rehabilitated some day.
This is the 12th arrondissement, which was so well documented by FMT recently. However, while he entered the arrondissement in the direction of the center, obviously I must continue following the T3 line.
Even though I am back in civilization, one of the first sights is the ruin of 69 boulevard Poniatowski. It was owned by the Union of West African Countries but was never maintained and became a high profile squat, until it became so dangerous that the building had to be emptied in a very publicized event in January 2010. The city of Paris has taken over the building, but all they have managed to do is to keep the empty building from collapsing. I presume that complicated legal issues are preventing a renovation at the moment.
This is Porte Dorée, which is a bit unusual in being not at all one of the main entrances to Paris but extremely important to Parisians using public transportation -- it's the main way to the Bois de Vincennes and the Paris zoo (closed for renovation until 2014) and also is the way to get to the huge Foire du Trône fun fair (which opens TODAY by the way).
This photo of Porte Dorée is almost identical to the one on the FMT 12th arrondissement thread.
The old public housing is a bit more elegant here.
But the intersection itself was still a radical mess on the day I was there.
However, they were working really fast to put things back together (perhaps because the Foire du Trône was still a couple of weeks off...?), and I was very interested to see all of the bike path and sidewalk work in progress.
On this particular day, I had covered the area from Porte d'Orléans to Porte Dorée almost completely on foot, including the endless no man's land, so it was time to call it a day and jump into the metro and go home. (Not for long, though.)
I am in the midst of reading the entire series of novels by Léo Malet, whose private detective hero is called Nestor Burma. The series takes place in Paris, set each time in a different arrondissement, written in the 1940s,1950s. Great stuff.
Anyway, since I recently finished "Brouillard au Pont de Tolbiac", set in the 13th, the comment about the old railway line in #31there reminded me of something in the book. It was an old line (chemin de fer de ceinture) still used in the 1950s to park wagons used by the warehouses of Rungis. I suppose the proximity to the Gare d'Austerlitz added to its use.
At the time there were also ships, not just barges, using the Quai d'Austerlitz.
Kerouac, I was first lent that book as a graphic novel illustrated by Tardy, but I ended up buying the novels. Just great, even though I don't always know all the slang. But Malet was also friends with Surrealist poets and his use of language is certainly interesting. What is nice too, is that most of the street names are the same, so you can follow the story on a map of Paris.
The one I am reading now is set in the 12th and starts at the Foire du Trône, which at the time (and until about 1998) took place at Place de la Nation!
This continues to be enthralling. There are two aspects of it that really make it "like being there". One is that visitors to any large city know that lost feeling of speeding through endless unknown sections en route to or from the airport, train station, etc. There's always the tiny voice saying, "We came here?", even though the guide books have promised grand architecture, quaint alleyways, etc. The other aspect of course, is that it's a resident of the city accompanying us through this trip, providing historical context, explanations of what's going on, who lives where, etc.
I was excited this morning to see that you're still adding to the ride. Great! Love reading Bjd's additions, as well. Can't wait to keep going.
From Porte Dorée to Porte de Vincennes, which is the far border of the 12th arrondissement, I confess that I rode the bus part of the way, because it was frankly "more of the same" = messy T3 construction zone with housing and shops all along the way and the photos would have been extremely repetitive.
However, there was a place where tramway rails were actually being installed!
That is the sort of thing that really convinces me that the project will actually be completed by next year.
Then I arrived at Porte de Vincennes and the avenue du Trône, which bjd pointed out was the original location of the Foire du Trône. It left that location in 1965, but how many people know the year that it began? It started in the year 957, which means that it moved after more than 1000 years. What happened to a minimal respect of tradition?
Porte de Vincennes is going to be a key point of the extended T3 line, because actually it is going to be cut in two here. The section that started way back at the Pont de Garigliano will have a terminus here, and a new section will start on different trams to go to Porte de la Chapelle. In other words, there is no ride straight through. Everybody has to get off one tram and get on a new one if they want to continue.
This is done for reasons of traffic regularity. Since the line is so long, if something goes wrong in one section, it will not disrupt the other section.
Meanwhile, I was back on the old bus for a little while to try to make some progress.
Now I was in the 20th arrondissement, but here are a few signs for the boulevards that I took along the way, in case you ever participate in a French quiz show.
You all know what an elegant city Paris is. Well, here is a lovely place to buy your fashionable slippers while waiting for the bus.
I kept working my way north. Porte de Montreuil is the location of the second biggest flea market in Paris on the weekends. It is also the location of an overcrowded shopping mall called La Grande Porte that you can see here.
These outer areas of Paris used to have numerous "last run" cinemas. Most of the theatre buildings have been replaced by other ones, but some are clearly recognizable.
As you might imagine, other people out on the street often seemed very perplexed to see me using my camera. They saw absolutely nothing worth taking a picture of. Of course, back in the days of film cameras, I would have agreed often.
I arrived at Porte de Bagnolet, the main eastern entrance to the city and the beginning of the A3 autoroute.
They were totally restructuring the traffic circle, which looks like it might become a lovely civilized place, next year.
Time to get away from traffic for a few minutes, so why not take a look at this square, which I have driven past hundreds of time but never seen on foot? I wonder who designed the old time park signs and decided that they should look like this.
I knew that this park wouldn't be "sensational" but it's always interesting to see what has been done in the outskirts.
It was certainly spacious.
The big buildings of the suburb of Bagnolet loomed nearby.
Back out onto the streets...
Some new commerces might be better off waiting a bit.
This crummy looking greengrocer reminds me that the little workers' paradise of La Campagne à Paris is on top of the hill across the street. I should go back there some day.
I hadn't realized the Foire du Trône had been moved away in 1965. In 1998, there was a demonstration of "forains" along the rue du Fbg St Antoine, complaining loudly that they were being forced to move further out of the city. I had assumed that they were still at Nation, but I see I was wrong. Mind you, there is not much space for a big funfair at Place de la Nation any more.
Your pics are interesting, Kerouac. I have walked around the 20th quite a lot and it's indeed a strange mish-mash of high-rise buildings, shops and small streets with houses. I suppose that once the tram is in, it will all become even more cleaned up and lose its character as prices climb.
The demonstration of the forains back then was because the mayor of Paris at the time, Jean Tibéri, wanted to kick the Foire du Trône out of the Bois de Vincennes. He felt it was attracting too many low class elements (well, hell, it's a fun fair -- what is it supposed to attract?!).
Post by tallyhotravel on Apr 10, 2011 17:10:42 GMT
<<other people out on the street often seemed very perplexed to see me using my camera. They saw absolutely nothing worth taking a picture of.>>
Several times during your thread additions I've almost asked you this very thing. I was wondering what people were thinking. I try to take pictures of common, everyday happenings to show my students what daily life in France is like. Whenever I whip out my camera, my 22 year old son goes bananas and threatens to leave me on my own if I don't put it away! I try to be discreet, but he gets embarrassed no end.
At any rate, I'm glad you photo-document the things you do and share with us here.
"The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page." St Augustine
The next big porte along the way is Porte des Lilas. The suburb on the other side of the périphérique here indeed has the lovely name Les Lilas (The Lilacs). Many people think that the charm ends with the name.
There is a little bus station for multiple suburban bus lines.
This is the side of Paris at the highest altitude, and the metro is buried so deep that all of the stations have elevators to the surface.
During WW2, most of these stations were closed because the German army occupied them to put their most important equipment. Even the most intense bombing could not have damaged these deep stations.
Otherwise, the area looks just as normal as many other areas through which I have passed, with lots of construction mess.
There was a little extra space here to create a village of prefab construction bungalows. All of the offices and some of the worker housing is put in these things when there is a huge construction project. (I read that the project at Les Halles will have more than 700 of these steel modules.)
There is a house for sterilized pigeons right next to the worker housing (maybe they are sterilized too?).
Just a bit farther along was something that I had always wanted to see a bit closer instead of driving by all the time -- the huge children's hospital "Robert Debré."
Driving on the périphérique, I always see this huge hospital turning its back to the traffic (thank god).
But for once, I was on foot facing the real entrance. It will be great to have a tram stop here, because it has never been the most convenient place in the city for public transportation.
Family events having allowed me to overcome my aversion to hospitals, now I just walk into them as though I had a valid reason to be there.
There are very nice interior gardens, etc.
But as usual, the place is a whole city in the city.
There was a good scale model of the complex on display.
Okay, I had seen where the little children of France go when their chubby little cheeks go from rosy to grey, but there was actually something else that intrigued me even more.
Before the hospital was ever built (in 1988), there was a huge tract of empty land there.... and a huge abandoned church. The official name of it is Marie Médiatrice de Toutes les Graces. The cardinal of Paris wanted to build a church because Paris had been spared destruction during WW2, and the first stone was laid in 1950. The church was completed in 1954.
I think it only stayed open for maybe 15 years at most. Being a church built after the famous separation-of-church-and-state law of 1905, it belongs to the Catholic church and not to the French republic like all of the old stuff. Well, the Catholic church does not like to drain its bank account with upkeep, so it was just abandoned when there were no faithful to support it.
I first saw it as a graffitti covered squat on an overgrown lot full of trash. But when the hospital was built, the church was rehabilitated. I guess they figured that a huge hospital full of sick children would incite people to look for an appropriate place to pray.
So at last, I thought I am finally going to see the interior of this place.
No such luck! It was closed. It has been turned over to the Portuguese community of Paris, and they have better things to do than leave it open when there is no mass scheduled.
So I just admired the view from this high and hilly section from which you could see relatively far into the eastern suburbs.
The round tower is the TV transmitter of Romainville, which covers the zones that the Eiffel Tower can't reach because of the hill.
Thanks for all this, Kerouac. These are places I have never been, simply having no reason for going there. 25 years ago we had friends living in Les Lilas at the border with Romainville, but they left long ago. And I never go to Paris by car, so don't even take the périf.
I'm glad that people are not finding this as boring as I feared. Just because something interests me doesn't mean that it interests anybody else in the world.
This metro station has always troubled me, in spite of its nice entrance at the far end of the rue de Mouzaïa.
Le Pré Saint Gervais is the name of a suburb about a kilometer away, on the other side of the périphérique, so there is no reason to use that name on this station other than wishful thinking. There was probably some real estate lobbyist involved or something along those lines.
The périphérique has become an increasingly formidable wall cutting Paris from the suburbs, especially when you add the big sonic barriers on top.
As we arrive at Porte de Pantin, something weird is going to happen to the tramway construction, but first I had take a look inside this hideous modern church. Am I getting religion?
Wow, you really need a lot of faith to find a deity in a place like this. Can you even spot the church from this view?
Didn't think so. It is the little square in the center of the picture. The big building behind it is a Holiday Inn.
Anyway, being a glutton for punishment, first I followed the path where the tramway should "logically" have been built.
There is absolutely nothing along here except the impressive hole where the "Philharmonie de Paris" is being built at the Cité de la Musique.
I didn't come across anybody here, not even a bicycle. So it is completely normal for the tramway to abandon this area. All of the things down in the Parc de la Villette -- the Cité de la Musique, the future philharmonic auditorium, the Zénith, the Trabendo, the Cabaret Sauvage -- are all accessible from a lower level from which I am cut off up here.
The Trabendo specializes in world music.
The Zénith is a major rock/pop venue with 5000 seats.
In the middle of the Parc de la Villette, you pass over the Canal de l'Ourcq, the continuation of the Canal Saint Martin.
Hmmm.... I seem to have misplaced my photo of the Cabaret Sauvage on the other side of the canal, and I know that you will never forgive me. (modified to add that it is the round roof on the right side of the photo above)
But where did the tramway go instead of coming this way?
I have been backwards and forwards many many times over this wonderful photo essay of yours Kerouac! I have my maps out, my highlighters, and notes are being copied down. I can't wait to be back in Paris and hop on the tramway! Thank you so much for taking us on this very interesting ride. More if possible ;D
A few comments and questions: Reply 31 - photos 11 & 12- There is a 'tourist' river boat featured in both of these photos. Why would they be up here and where would the one in 12 be heading? Or are they neither operating for tourism?
Reply #30: Thanks for putting Lao Viet, 24 Blvd Massena on this route. I cant make out if Pho is one of the dishes featured on the menu of photos?
Reply #33: I know that arched wall where the TGV passes by in photo 12!!
I could see in the distance that they were building a tramway bridge across the canal de l'Ourcq, but in the meantime, I had to find a way around the obstacle.
So I backtracked and re-entered Pantin.
One very surprising thing about the city of Pantin (pop. 52,698) is that it is twinned with the city of Moscow (pop. 10,126,424). That's because Pantin was a communist stronghold for decades while Paris was very right wing. Now both Pantin and Paris have socialist mayors. I saw on the Moscow wiki article that it claims to be twinned with Paris (and not Pantin). This is absolutely not true because Paris is twinned with only one city in the world -- Rome. As for Moscow, it is also twinned with Chicago, perhaps because of the climate.
There's a Courtepaille restaurant behind a fence protecting it from the soon-to-disappear wasteland. It is very unusual to see a restaurant of this chain anywhere other than a freeway rest stop.
It's next to a suite hotel -- lots of such places, as well as other business hotels, lurk just outside the Paris city limits to cater to middle range businessmen who need to find a good room 20 or 30 euros cheaper than inside Paris.
This street would take me over to the canal unobstructed.
Oh, but look! There are other hotels here. They're not business hotels, though. They're the type of place where Jason Bourne can take a nap for a couple of hours and have a shower before the assassins find him and break down the door.
Therefore, I need to check the rates. You never know.
At the end of the street across the canal, you can see the Pantin town hall.
There's a subtle something about these working class suburban municipal buildings that tells you they just don't have the same refurbishment budget as the city of Paris, even though they try their best.
I glance over at a "national dance conservatory" along the canal before I turn in the direction of Paris along the canal.
I will never cease to marvel at how much money France pours into culture at every level.
Down the canal in the direction of Paris. I need to return to the tramway line!
There is an extremely impressive building here and it is quite certainly one of the main reasons that the tramway will pass right in front of it. It is the former Grands Moulins de Pantin, a giant flour mill. Its only rival in the area was the Grands Moulins de Paris in the 13th arrondissement, which is now a university campus building (if anybody remembers my Industrial Archiecture Transformed thread). As for Pantin, the flour factory has been transformed into luxury offices for a division of the BNP Paribas bank. Really, really big luxury offices, about which the bank made a point of saying "we don't care that it cost 20% more than building new offices." That's banks for you. But the end result is lovely.
I could see the new tramway bridge.
But once again I was in a dead end due to construction!
I had to backtrack through some old industrial streets, more along the idea that Parisians have of the "beauty" of Pantin when the name of the city is mentioned.
By hook or by crook, I will make it back to the tramway line!
Our boy is lost in the gray wastelands behind warehouses! Will he escape to ride that tram again?
I have been so frustrated, knowing that this thread was being augmented and not being able to view it because of internet problems.
Wow -- it really grew and continues to get more and more interesting.
Some comments & questions, please ~~
You mention several times about the disruption to commerce because of construction. What does happen to all those businesses whose access is cut off? Do they just sink or swim, or are they compensated in some way?
Reply #42, picture #6 ~!!!~ fabulous
Living where I do, you'll forgive me for goggling over how together France is. Gad, the planning around demographics, the not unattractive modular offices & housing, the wisdom in dividing the line ... *sigh* just wonderful!
The renovation of the old flour mills is a real triumph. And thanks for reminding us of your Industrial architecture transformed. Honestly, I had forgotten about it, but it was a favorite of mine & is a stellar thread.
I'm such a hick, but can't help blurting out, "Paris is so big!"
Have you been down in those very deep stations? Kind of creepy. Surely they have been incorporated into some novels.
Babar in the kids' hospital ~~ so charming, so French! Again I marvel at the amazing green spaces and pleasant, unhospitaly decor of these giant hospitals you show. Don't they know that even visiting a hospital is supposed to be a miserable experience? ( )
Okay, enough blather from me, except that I need to climb on my soapbox for a moment:
other people out on the street often seemed very perplexed to see me using my camera. They saw absolutely nothing worth taking a picture of. Of course, back in the days of film cameras, I would have agreed often.
At any rate, I'm glad you photo-document the things you do and share with us here.
For what it's worth -- and I think it's a great deal -- Kerouac inaugurated this whole photo-thread concept on a now defunct forum. When he did, he encouraged others to do the same about their areas. One of Anyport's main functions is to give a platform for everyone to share pictures and text about places or, indeed, about anything that interests them. So, yes -- daily life in France is certainly interesting, but so is daily life in Bonn, in Oklahoma City, in Valencia, or in Podunk. I, too am grateful that Kerouac photo-documents and shares, but one major thing he's shared is the concept, so that we all can all do the same in our individual ways. Just a friendly reminder that whoever you are, and wherever you live, it can be intensely interesting to others, so don't be shy!
Bixa, Ditto. Count me among the grateful fans of this site and concept. I keep picturing myself doing this, but then come the if's: If I could overcome technophobe qualities. If I could pry the good cameras out of our daughters' hands next time they're home. If, um, what was my other excuse?
But we love and value these real life essays, you who do them so well.
Post by frenchmystiquetour on Apr 14, 2011 16:55:54 GMT
Sorry I've been away but I've been busy working on the business and I needed time to sit down and read this whole thread at once, which is remarkable as usual kerouac. I'm quite familiar with most of the ground you covered as I'm always entering the city from the south or east. Whenever I bike to Versailles or Montparnasse I follow the tramway and I must agree that The Pont National is a disaster at present to cross on my bike. I've given up on the temporary "sidewalks" and just take the death defying route in traffic. I think I'm able to get from there to the Pont du Garigliano in about the same time as the tram.
I hadn't thought about it but now I realize the tram is the reason there has been construction ongoing at the Porte Dorée for over a year. And you reminded me about the nearby Foire du Trône and that I had agreed to take reporting duty off of your hands this year so I'll try and make it out there next week. I'm backed up in report writing as I have to re-do some of my reports for the business website and I'm still sitting on my trip report about my recent vacation in Italy. I'll try not to let the Foire report sit too long. At least you're going to do a report about the Parc de la Villette, which I had been contemplating. I love that park and its neighborhood. When I was in French class we went there for a field trip to visit the bio/organic fair.
I had some friends visiting from the US last week and we explored some of the public housing projects and they marvelled at how much nicer the ones are here compared to the US. To them they looked just like any old high rise apartment buildings. You've covered so much here I'm at a loss for words so let me just say "well done".
The street takes me to the Pantin train station. All of the old suburban stations look like this if they were not torn down and replaced over the years.
The old main entrance is long abandoned and has been replaced by a turnstile entrance.
Rare are the stations without a commemorative plaque.
War of 1939-1945 (that's the name of WW2 in France)
15 August 1944: departure of the last convoy of deportees to the death camps in Germany.
15 to 25 August 1944: An armoured train is parked and fires on the mills, the town hall and Sadi Carnot school. They are burned and damaged.
Several resistants are killed in combat or executed trying to free hostages held in the station; the occupier, harrassed, frees them upon fleeing.
26 August 1944: Pantin liberates itself.
During this war, 27 local rail workers perished.
Passerby, never forget!
The sacrifices made by the fighters saved the honour and the existence of the nation.
I kind of felt as though I was the first person in this century to even glance at the sign. Maybe that is a hopeful event. After all, France considers Germany to be its closest ally, and every opinion poll supports this.
I took the overpass over the rail lines. As a little boy, I would just about pee my pants with excitement when the train from Metz would pass through this station. I could see the station signs because the train was already slowing down to arrive in Paris.