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Hello, my name is Adam Roberts and I’m a blogger. Paris is my home, but it’s also the subject of my blog. Paris for me is not about what is beautiful or fashionable, and I’m rarely near any of the city’s principal monuments. For me it’s a place to constantly explore, a kind of giant adventure park, where I hunt for clues and try to solve mysteries – which can be mine, or other peoples. What inspires me are the things that I class as the invisible, which are not literally places or things that we can’t see, but rather those that we don’t notice – generally because there are so many other things in Paris that jump out at our eyes. I think we learn a lot more about Paris from these things than we do from the main tourist destinations in the city Like all cities, Paris is a living organism, which is constantly changing. What I like to look for are the little things that have survived from other times – which might just be a certain energy, or the particular layout of a street. Let me show you some of these. Belleville (Walk along path in the centre of the Boulevard de Belleville) We’re standing at the bottom of Belleville – which is also where I have chosen to live – and a place that is constantly fascinating for so many reasons. Belleville was actually a very large village when annexed, and it has retained a very independent spirit from that time. It’s now a district shared by around 180 different nationalities, making it the most multi-cultural part of Paris. Where we’re walking now was - until 1860 - a wall and gateway, the mur des fermiers généraux. This wall – which surrounded Paris - marked the frontier between Paris and its neighbours, but it was also a way of collecting tax on incoming goods. As these taxes made prices higher inside Paris – particularly for things such as alcohol – a whole industry sprung up outside of the walls. Belleville was particularly well-known for its guinguettes, which were bars where Parisians came to drink and dance. Although none of these survive today, we can still find some interesting traces. (Cross the Rue Dénoyez) This is the Rue Dénoyez. Mr Dénoyez was one of the Guinguette owners, and the road leads up to Rue Ramponeau – who was also a guinguette owner in this district! The spirit of the guinguette lives on today in the Aux Folies café on the corner, which was once a caberet where Edith Piaf and Maurice Chevalier performed, and is full of an interesting mix of people at all times of the day and night. The Rue Dénoyez though has become well-known today for another reason – street art. It is almost an open-air gallery today, a place where street art is not only tolerated but encouraged. You’ll always find something going on here, and unlike a lot of street art in Paris which has become mumified, here it is constantly changing, so there’s always something new to see. Charonne Some of the most interesting parts of Paris are the suburban villages that were annexed into Paris in 1860. Some of these – like Montmartre or Passy, are today very chic and very Parisian, but here in Charonne we can still find the atmosphere of a village today. It has its market (film walk through stands) and also a kind of urban greenery. In a recent survey of the
CNN Go Paris : Invisible Paris Script
city, the Passage des Deux Portes was found to have the highest number of wild plants in the city (film me looking at some plants, David Attenborough style…). (Walk up Rue Saint Blaise) This is the Rue Saint-Blaise, a the main street of the ancient village, and when we look up towards the Saint-Germain de Charonne church, we are looking at a perspective that has hardly changed in hundreds of years. The church is currently being renovated as it was found to be slowly collapsing. Paris is sometimes compared to a swiss cheese as there are so many holes in the ground beneath it, and the church was slowly falling into one of those holes. We can though still visit the cemetery, which is almost unique in Paris. During the French revolution, the city of Paris declared that churches and cemeteries should be kept separate, but as Charonne was then outside of the city, the same rules didn’t apply. Today, this is one of only two places where you’ll find the two together, and an incredibly peaceful place (film around the cemetery). The Bièvre River Although it might not look like much, this is one of my favourite parts of the city. From this point, in all directions, there are things that I find fascinating. Over there is the first residential skyscraper built in Paris, a building that dates from 1960, and in behind me is one of my favourite buildings, Auguste Perret’s Mobilier National, which is a curious mixture of the modern and the classical. Perhaps most interesting of all here though is something that really is invisible. I’m standing here on top of a river that was finally completely covered over 100 years ago, called the river Bièvre. The river still exists, and near its source to the south west of Paris it is a very beautiful country stream, but as it approaches Paris it was sent undergorund, and sadly today it is one of the only rivers in the world that has no outlet. It used to flow into the Seine, but now it just flows into the Paris sewer system. We shouldn’t imagine an idylic, pastoral scene in Paris though, as for most of it’s recent history until its burial it was a slow-flowing polluted stream, used mostly by the leather and dyeing industry, and the decision to cover it over was mostly for public health reasons. Nevertheless, we can still follow its trace in Paris and see how it affected the construction and development of the city. 19th century Paris is a place of long, straight boulevards, but here on the Rue Croulebarbe we can see the curve of the river. Markers on the pavement plot the route of the river and points of interest. Here we can see where once there stood a bridge over the river – strangely enough to a place called the Ile aux Singes, or monkey island – and here there is still a few stones left from that bridge. Another way to plot the route is to follow the creations of a group of artists, known as Lez’arts de la Bièvre, who have produced many creations above the river. Here we can see a wall with stencils and paintings from artists such as Miss-Tic, Speedy Graphito and Jeff Aerosol. Some of these are nearly 30 years old, making them almost ancient monuments in themselves!