The old Jewish quarter is achingly hip nowadays. Jim Morrison was living there when he died. The shopping is fantastic, the markets full of the freshest and most expensive fruit and vegetables, the restaurants catering to all tastes.
Baron Georges-Eugene Haussmann cleared the slums of central Paris to lay out a grand design of long wide avenues in the mid 19th Century. Napoleon III had returned from exile in London in 1848 and was disgusted by the filthy, overcrowded centre of Paris. So he appointed the Baron to renovate the city, with modern sewerage (les egouts), clean air and plenty of light. The plans incorporated new railway termini, an opera house and street lighting so that flaneurs and prostitutes could walk the streets in the evening in comparative safety. The wide pavements allowed restaurants to place tables outside on the street, for drinking and dining en plein air. The plan included parks, clean water supplied by reservoirs; 100 miles of boulevards constructed over 17 years, costing the modern equivalent of US$ 75,000,000,000.
One district escaped from his plans – Le Marais, (marsh) a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood which is now gentrified. See next week’s Doors.
A flaneur, is a boulevardier, someone who enjoys strolling round town. We walked for miles around Paris, observing the different localities, some posh, some down at heel. And I photographed some doors.
Walking down the hill from Montmartre, I passed the cemetery. Most graves have narrow plots with a stone pillbox containing the family ashes.
They all have DOORS.
The most famous and largest graveyard in Paris is Pere Lachaise. It covers 110 acres of a hilltop in north-east Paris. For fans of “Emily in Paris”, there is a scene in which Luc takes Emily there, to show her the tomb of Honore de Balzac. It took us ages to find it. Jim Morrison, lead singer of the Doors and member of the 27 club (rock stars who died aged 27), is interred in the cemetery, as is Edith Piaf, Chopin, Proust, Sarah Bernhardt, Moliere, etc.
Napoleon declared the cemetery open in 1804, saying that any citizen had the right to be buried there, regardless of religion or race. It now holds the remains of over a million dead. After the Paris Commune was overthrown, 147 communards were lined up against a wall in the cemetery and shot.
Outside the cemetery, there is a monument to Parisians who died fighting in World War One, with thousands of names written on metal plaques.