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?’
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