Monday, 14 December 2015

The Smallest House in Paris

Measuring just a little over one metre wide, three metres long and five metres high, there is little doubt that the property at number 39 Rue du Chateau d'Eau is the smallest building in Paris. But how did it get there and what purpose does it serve today?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Paris...à contre-jour

'Paris à contre jour' is an ongoing project aiming to share the essence of locations across Paris through a series of short black and white films. Film-maker Mischa Harmeijer told me why he launched the project and what he is hoping to achieve.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Some ideas for the Journées du Patrimoine

This weekend sees the organisation of the annual Journées du Patrimoine heritage days event, an opportunity to discover places normally hidden away from public view. Although many locations listed as participating in the event have been featured on Invisible Paris, here I will only list the places that you can only visit this weekend. The others you can go to anytime!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Another look at Hemingway's Paris

Ernest Hemingway left an impression on Paris unlike any other writer working in the English language, to the point where his mark has almost become pollution. A vast number of guides and walking tours exist that claim to offer a glimpse into his city, an industry the man himself would no doubt have thoroughly disapproved of.

I'm not particularly fond of Hemingway the writer, and even less enamoured of the man himself, but I was pleasantly surprised by a recent book I received, "Hemingway's Paris: A Writer's City in Words and Images", by photographer Robert Wheeler.

Friday, 24 July 2015

The new Central Park?

6km to the north-east of Paris, the parc Georges-Valbon is so big that it spreads across the territories of five suburban towns. With the future Grand Paris aiming to redynamise the region, it is perhaps not surprising that such a facility should become one of the new focal points, and plans are afoot to transform it into the 'Central Park' of Paris - much to the chagrin of local residents.

I decided to take a closer look at this immense haven of fields, lakes, forests and prairies - although even finding an access point already proved to be quite a challenge!

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A guide to the ruins of Paris

At the end of the Commune in 1871, Paris was a burned out shell. A few short months later, tourists were returning to the city, not now to visit the monuments and sites, but rather to experience the ruins first hand. A surprising guide book helped them find their way around.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Challenge 10: The vomiting god and species of spaces

Could I track down the location of an unusual Paris façade and unveil the story behind this building's cover? If the jacket proved relatively straightforward to find, the contents of the book were richer than first imagined!

I enjoy receiving unusual missions, and the one sent by reader Dave was atypical to say the least. “Somewhere in the 16e arrondissement is a building with a vomiting man sculpted into the façade,” he wrote. “Please can you tell me where it is and the story behind it?

Monday, 4 May 2015

All neon in the city of light

It’s not often that I review novels on this blog but I was intrigued by the pitch for Dan Gennoe’s “All Neon Like Love”. Add in the fact that the book features London and Paris as two of its major characters, as well as the opportunity it would give me to interview someone who seemed like he might have something interesting to say and I was sold.

Having said that, I’m now not actually going to review the book as such. This is a blog about Paris, and it is how the city is represented in the novel that interests me. Fortunately, the Paris chapters are the strongest parts of the novel anyway, with landscapes that play a real role in driving the narrative. More than London, it is also a city that provides both comfort to the main character and drives him closer towards insanity. But more on that in a minute.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

The Parisian who travelled through Paris

François Maspero, who died last weekend, was a celebrated publisher, author, journalist and translator, but for me he will always be known as the writer of a unique travel book centred on the Paris suburbs.

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Tracking Charles de Gaulle in Petit Clamart

Given the ubiquitous nature of the name today – on airports and train stations, avenues and public buildings – it may be assumed that Charles de Gaulle was universally popular in France. And yet during his time as President, he was the target of over 30 assassination attempts. Most schemes barely got off the drawing board, but one came within centimetres of success. Finding myself close by to the scene of that attempt, I went in search of those significant centimetres.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Mystery Visits in the Paris suburbs

Last week I was invited to take part in the first of the ‘visites mystères’ organised by the tourism office of the Seine Saint-Denis department to the north-east of Paris. Although the clue given beforehand was short on mystery, the tour that followed – of the Saint Denis basilica - was an exceptional opportunity to discover the unknown and unseen. 

The visit organised in Saint Denis on a Friday evening promised ‘contact avec les âmes millénaires qui peuplent ce royaume’ (contact with thousand-year old souls who people this kingdom). This could describe only one location – the Saint Denis basilica – the ancient resting place of the French royal family, and it was no surprise when we were led in that direction.

Friday, 27 February 2015

The landscapes of an invisible town

A photographic promenade in the south-western suburb of Vélizy, a transitory territory of anonymous destinations and invisible architecture. At first sight at least…

For most Parisians, Vélizy is synonymous with two things; a sprawling shopping mall and a procession of office blocks and industrial units. This double axis of work and consumption could seemingly provide the town’s maxim.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Le Marché aux Puces

A winter’s day at the Saint Ouen flea market inspired writer and amateur anthropologist Blyth Brentnall to ask herself an important question; are we looking in the right places when we visit touristic sites?

A banquet for the eyes: antiquated furniture, crate-loads of jewellery, sacred artifacts from across the world, ritzy vintage and couture clothing; marvels that once belonged to another person, another era. These are the sights at the heart of Le Marché aux Puces, a popular flea market located in the poorer area of Northern central Paris. The objects here beg the question, ‘what is their story?’

Sunday, 18 January 2015

New year, new projects

After running the Invisible Paris blog for over six years, 2015 will mark an important turning point, both for me and for the blog. I have a new – and incredibly time-consuming – project to work on this year, which I hope I will be able to share with you before 2016 begins.
At the end of 2014 I signed a contract with a publisher to write a book on Paris. It is not a paper version of Invisible Paris, but I hope I will be able to incorporate a little of the blog’s spirit and vision of the city. Instead, the book will feature a full (although necessarily incomplete) history of Paris, along with several essays on today’s city - and lots of illustrations and photos!

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

The birth of a new République?

Paris changed last week, perhaps forever. The city I have called home for nearly 20 years was hit hard, but has rebounded spectacularly. As the reverberations continue to be felt, nobody seems sure what will be left standing and what will topple over, whether Paris will become place of new found respect and civility or flatten back out into a city of dislocation, distrust and mutual misunderstandings. Only one thing is certain; a number of new dates, names and places have sadly been written into the city’s history books.
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