Sunday, 22 August 2010

Our own little Arc de Triomphe

This is one of the reasons that I love love love Paris.

On my bike route between the Great Apartment and my apartment is this impressive edifice, the Porte Saint-Denis, modelled on the Arch of Titus in Rome.  Theirs is 'only' 15 metres high, whereas the our Porte Saint-Denis is 25 metres high, and although Rome's arch dates from 82 AD, ours is pretty damn old too: it was constructed in 1672 and still looks pretty sharp after recently being sandblasted. Hope I'll look this good when I'm 430 years old.

I must say, when the sun hits it from the south side, it is quite breathtaking, and as it's hard to believe that it was once a gate to the city, right on the edge of town...
What I especially like about it is how incongruous it is, a huge arch in the middle of an otherwise fairly ordinary Parisian neighborhood. Some people have apartments that look directly onto it, which probably guarantees either continual amazement or constant shadow.
I also love going down there, not because it's just next to one of my favourite bars, Chez Jeannette, but because it is one of the most improbable endings to any Parisian street that you are likely to see. This is how it looks from the north...
...and to prove that it's been there for a very long time indeed, here's a photo taken from the Albert Kahn archives, showing how it looked - perhaps more regal still - in 1914. I love this photo. I think one day it would be great giant size in the Great Apartment kitchen to replace our yodel-friendly mountain scene.
If you'd like to go and see the Porte Saint-Denis yourself just head north from the Great Apartment on boulevard de Sébastopol or rue Saint Denis (takes about 10 minutes on foot). The former has lots of traffic, the second has quite a grizzly collection of ancient (but harmless) hookers. Your choice.

You'll also find a few more photos here on my Flickr account.