Woke up to a clear sky and no rain! For a mercy there would be no need to walk head down, umbrella inside out, battling wind and rain today. There was even a tantalising piece of sun over the rooftops. Time to get out there and explore.
I fancied some untouristy spots today so first up was this little alley.
With its corbels, outside drain in the paving stones, and jetties to the first storeys of the houses you can tell this is an old street. It used to lead through to a field where bowmen practiced their archery, and was a side entrance to the Barbette residence where Queen Isabeau of Bavaria, (wife to Charles VI King of France) used to live in the C14. Apparently a contract killing took place in this alley on November 23rd in 1407: Louis Duc d’ Orleans (brother of Charles VI) was killed here by order of Jean sans Peur, a long-standing rival, as Louis was returning from a visit to Queen Isabeau. Shame about the graffiti and that it is not in better condition but perhaps it was always rather down at heel, if it was the chosen site for murder!
A few streets further on another interesting object. This convex wall with its pediment and doorway was originally a water fountain provided in 1710 to give housewives and water carriers a continuous supply of good water.
The Prince de Soubise gave the land and the city councillors provided the water supply. There are two small black plaques low down on the wall to the left of the door: the top one shows a boat which is the emblem of the city of Paris.
The lower, wider one bears a line of numerals which illustrate sea level.
Specifically, sea level measured in the Port of Marseilles, the difference with a zero level taken on a nearby bridge on the Seine in 1719 and another differential with the water levels in the Paris Bassin de la Villette. On 31st May 1856 Baron Haussman ordered that sea level elevations be mapped out citywide. His orders required that “verified elevations be inscribed upon cast iron markers along with the Crest of the City of Paris and placed at intersections and street corners, at the base of monuments , upon the walls of city docks, and other places deemed necessary”. From Paris to Marseilles there is only a difference of a few meters.
My enthusiasm took me further on to see the oldest stone house in Paris: passing on my way the Pompidou centre on one corner
with this building opposite
and just round the corner the oldest building which belonged to Nicolas Flamel, who, it was claimed, was an Alchemist and discovered the Philosopher’s Stone. I would have expected Harry Potter enthusiasts to be coming here in their droves.
There is a message inscribed along the String Course which has been removed recently, I presume for renovation work, which was put there while Nicolas was still alive. He was a scribe at the University of Paris and financed free lodgings for agricultural workers and fruit and vegetable growers from nearby areas: he financed this altruistic enterprise using rents from the shops he let out on the ground floor. I gather that the String Course wording, when present, is as follows” We men and women, living under the roof of this house built in the year fourteen hundred and seven, are honourably bound to recite one Paternoster and one Hail Mary every day, and to ask God, in His Grace, to forgive the sins of the poor departed. Amen”.
On my way to my Tutorial I passed several great gateways with doors wide open revealing little cobbled streets disappearing from view, again rather like Harry Potter.
One was half-timbered with old wooden doors and huge paving slabs, very like others from the C14. History is all-encompassing here!
More hard work. Blanche is getting more friendly all the time but also now rather frustrated. She says I understand and know enough that I should be speaking more fluently. She is trying to make me speak without thinking since she says my French is correct but I spend so long pausing to mentally check tenses and words that it appears halting. But I cannot just open my mouth and let it pour out which is what she wants. I haven’t had enough practice to give me the necessary confidence.
She is asking me what I want her to do for me! Anyway, we had a good chat about films, more literature, and she recommends that I visit the Hotel du Nord where the film of the book of that name was shot. Apparently it is alongside a canal which is very pretty – so that is where I am bound on Wednesday. I must try to think what I can ask her to do for me to help, but I don’t know what, which is a problem.
Then a quick walk home, wash and change, before going off out to dinner with my friends. Just after I arrived home an amazing hail storm began with thunder and lightning. It went for half an hour and all the streets and roof tops were thick with hail. Luckily it was all over before we had to venture out for the evening.
Mes amis returned from the Netherlands mid-afternoon and this is our last outing here together. We walked to an Italian Bistro we like where we had the speciality of the day which was white truffles, it being the season. The staff were lovely but had problems accepting that we would share the dishes as none of us could eat a whole starter, first course and dessert. We each had a starter of beef with truffles, then shared a seafood risotto and a ginger sorbet made with lime liqueur. Gorgeous. I walked them back to their flat, picked up some last grocery items, bade them a fond farewell, and walked back to my flat.
I think I covered several miles today. And hundreds of years.