Brennt Paris? Is Paris Burning?

Is Paris burning? It’s certainly not burning hot at the moment except maybe for the strikes. There is something about France which is incomprehensible to most people around the world. I assure you, you are not alone, a lot of people are confused around here as well. There has been major political and social upheaval in the streets for years on end. Possibly since the revolution but even way before.

Disclosure: in order to give the (false) impression of a deserted Place de la Concorde, I did away with some of the motor cars that were racing past us towards the Champs-Élysées. Will you be able to spot where they were? Above all, you will notice the incredible sharpness of this picture, due to my beloved 60-year-old 35 mm manual Nikkor f/2 lens

Brennt Paris? Is Paris Burning?

It may have started with peasants’ revolts in the Middle Ages aka ‘Jacqueries’. Who knows exactly. Hordes of angry and unhappy people roam the streets and cause lots of aggravation. All the others, the vast majority, put their blinkers on and trudge on. It’s nothing new. Some of these fights are justified, some less. Some are useful, some aren’t. It still amazes me though that so much anger and violence are needed.

Place de la Concorde

At the end of February, the wife and I went to visit the Hotel de la Marine. We ended up on the Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI was beheaded and endless numbers after him. It’s also the place where a lot of fighting took place in 1944 for the liberation of Paris.

A stone’s throw from the Place de la Concorde and the Hotel de la Marine one can find the Hotel Meurice, where the German Governor of Paris was located, Von Choltitz. We’ve told this story already.

Is Paris burning
Is Paris burning? Maybe not in the sense that Hitler thought it would. Yet, with the current strikes against the state pension reform, it’s piping hot and it won’t cool down before long.

About Place de la Concorde

To prepare this post I have wanted to try Bing and its new conversational bot. It did a pretty good job of scraping the Net. I’ve had to correct a few glitches but the result is pretty good. Quotation marks are de rigueur, though.

‘Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris, measuring 7.6 ha in area. It is located at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées, between the Tuileries Gardens and the Seine River. It was designed by Ange-Jacques Gabriel in 1755 as a tribute to King Louis XV, whose statue was placed at its centre. However, during the French Revolution, the statue was torn down and replaced by a guillotine, where many famous figures such as Louis XVI, Marie-Antoinette, Robespierre, and Danton were executed.

The square was renamed several times until it became Place de la Concorde in 1795, symbolising peace and harmony. In 1836, a 3,300-year-old Egyptian obelisk from Luxor was erected at its centre as a gift from Egypt to France.’

Is Paris burning
Paris wasn’t burning on that warmish February Sunday but the sun was shining brightly anyway.

Hotel de la Marine, the former Navy Ministry

We visited the Hôtel de la Marine on February 26th, a historic building located on Place de la Concorde in Paris. It was designed and built between 1757 and 1774 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel, the king’s chief architect. It used to house the royal furniture storage until 1798, before becoming the headquarters of France’s navy ministry for over 200 years.

Is Paris burning
The old and the new: a beautiful brand new modernist canopy above the hall of the Hotel de la Marine is welcoming visitors.

The building reopened to the public in June 2021 after a major renovation that restored its original splendour. We relished the beauty and elegance of its architecture, its rich collections of artworks and objects, and its fascinating history.

I highly recommend visiting this monument if you have an interest in French history, culture, and art. It is open every day from 10:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. (except on Tuesdays), with extended hours on Fridays until 9:30 p.m. You can book your tickets online at hotel-de-la-marine. paris/en or buy them at the entrance.

Taking that picture without any of the selfie-taking tourists was a bit of an achievement.

The King’s first footman’s tragic ending

At the Hôtel de la Marine, you can visit his apartment on the first floor, which consists of several rooms decorated with paintings, furniture, and objects that reflect the life and taste of Marc-Antoine Thierry, Baron de Ville-d’Avray, was born on December 29, 1732, in Versailles.

Beauty, not just the devil, is in the details. Hôtel de la Marine in Paris

Wasn’t Paris burning in 1792?

He was a close servant of King Louis XVI, holding the positions of superintendent of the king’s private apartments, and intendant of the Garde meuble (later turned into the Ministry of Navy, hence the name).

The mob killed him on September 2, 1792, during the September Massacres at the Abbey prison in Paris.

In September 1792 too, Paris was burning and it still does. Its embers are still fuming.

Yann Gourvennec
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