Thursday, November 14, 2013

PARIS - A Flâneur's History Walk

A Flâneur's walk is pleasure when it has no purpose other than to look upon the world and wonder.  Of course, afterwards, the flâneur offers his observations.

Étienne Marcel
Provost of Paris

Etienne Marcel and Hotel de Ville, Paris by DG Hudson

Étienne Marcel, who was born into a wealthy Parisian merchant family, served as Provost of Paris in 1302 and 1310 – 31 July 1358. A provost is a seignorial officer in charge of managing burgh affairs and rural estates, and administering local justice.

In 1357, Étienne found himself at the head of a reform movement that tried to institute a controlled French monarchy. What monarchy at that time would willingly accept such changes? This reform movement threatened the royal power of the Dauphin, the heir to the throne. On the night of July 31, when Marcel would have opened the gates to his compatriots, he was killed by the guards at the Porte Saint-Antoine, one of the gates into Paris. During the following days, all his colleagues were also dispatched. The Dauphin re-entered Paris. Did the Parisian bourgeoise arrange for Étienne's death or was the guard loyal to the Dauphin?

(Note: Our rental apartment in the Marais was a few blocks away; we walked near the spot where this historical event took place on our way to Pere Lachaise Cemetery.)


At the Musee d'Orsay, Esplanade

Three of the Six Continents, allegorical statues placed in the esplanade.

Three of the Six Continents statues, Musee d'Orsay, by DG Hudson

The statues of the Six Continents were designed for the L'Exposition universelle in 1878 at the Trocadèro palace. Six female statues are embellished with various details identifying the continent they represent. Recovered from Nantes where they had been discarded, the statues were exchanged for a painting by Sisley which would be displayed at the Musee des Beaux-Arts in Nantes. The six pieces, created by six different artists, represent Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America and Australia/Oceania.


Every Flaneur's dream
The Eiffel Tower draws people.
People are interesting to watch.

Eiffel Tower, and Champ de Mars, by DG Hudson

The Iron Lady, the Eiffel Tower, provides ample opportunity for any flâneur to observe various types of people. Some will be travellers taking silly or serious shots, while the ubiquitous bicycles glide by, and the tour buses unload. Visitors from all over the world want to see the symbol of Paris.

For more posts on the Eiffel Tower:

On a recent travel show I learned the Eiffel Tower sometimes becomes a skating rink near Christmas. It's another of those little touches that Paris does which sets it apart. This is done for the people of Paris. (as is the faux beaches complete with sand in the summer)


Are you interested in statues? Do you wonder who they are, if you don't know (historical figures)? Do you stop to read plaques commemorating statues or other city sculptures? Where have you seen statues or monuments that made a big impression on you?

Please share your thoughts in the comments, and thanks for dropping by. I'm always listening.

Sculptures from 1878 at Musee d'Orsay
Flâneur means a saunterer or a person who strolls about city streets observing life. Champ de Mars, Paris, originally used for military drills and gathering place for large events.