Paris – L’ancien Et Le Moderne

Much of the Paris we see today is the product of the gargantuan nineteenth century ‘remaking’ of Paris by Baron Hausmann, that ripped out and restructured entire neighbourhoods, with scant attention to more than 2000 years of accrued history. Its ancient labyrinth of narrow, snaking streets and cramped dwellings, transformed into this sumptuous and alluring urban space.

The monumental changes that displaced and dispossessed vast populations, met with stiff opposition of course, but they were swept away by the grand vision of an emperor and his Second Empire!

Traces of the old city can still be found in many places if you care to look. Incorporated into newer structures, just like the city’s inhabitants weave their history into the very fabric of their daily lives.

History is palpable here in Paris. Even when juxtaposed with the modern. Even the most incongruously modern.Philipe Auguste Wall

A 60 metre long remnant of the Enciente de Philippe Auguste incorporated into the high school Lycee Charlemagne, on rue des Jardins Saint-Paul in the Marais district. The wall that once enclosed approximately 253 hectares on both banks of the Siene, was built by Philippe Auguste II to defend the city from the English, before he left for the crusades in the 12th century.

Foundations of another part of the wall of the same period can be viewed beneath the Musee Louvre. In the centre of the image is the rear facade of the Jesuit Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis.

Knife Sharpener, Marais - Paris

A medieval shop sign depicting a knife sharpener, now part of a modern apartment building on the site (on the corner of rue de Jouy and rue de Fourcy also in the Marais). I suspect he would never have dreamt of a need for the blue sign below!

Medieval Houses in the Marais, Paris

Twin, possibly last surviving, half-timbered houses from the 14th century, on rue François Miron (Marais again!). The plaques outside describe them as the Maison à l’enseigne du Faucheur (the house with the sign of the reaper) and the Maison à l’enseigne du Mouton (the house with the sign of the sheep) referring to hand-painted signs used to identify buildings long before they were numbered!

Reflection of the Henri de Miller sculpture, "L'Écoute" in the windows of Saint Eustache

Reflection of the Henri de Miller sculpture, “L’Écoute” (“Listen”), in the Gothic windows of  Église Saint-Eustache. Here is a close-up….Reflection of the Henri de Miller sculpture, "L'Écoute" - Le Halles, Paris

…and a look at the sculpture itself, an island of serenity amidst the giant construction site that is Le Halles at the moment.Henri Miller's "Le Ecoute" - Les Halles, Paris

Below is Louis Auguste Lévêque’s 1866 sculpture “Nymphe“, in the Jardin des Tuileries. Quite the contrast, even if just a couple of centuries older than the Roue de Paris in the carnival site beyond. The Roue is a roving Ferris wheel, first erected to usher in the millennium, and is another great way to see Paris from above. (But only when it happens to be visiting).

Nymphe & Roue - Jardin des Tuilieries, Paris

A picture of striking contrasts is this phantasmagorical fountain and the whimsical wall art in the Place Igor Stavinsky, right beside the 16th century Gothic Église Saint-Merri!

Stavinsky Fountain, Place Igor Stavinsky, Paris

And a final look at monumental Paris from bohemian (and oh so touristy) Montmarte!View from Montmarte, Paris

Until next time…happy travels, no matter where life takes you.

Posted by

Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

117 thoughts on “Paris – L’ancien Et Le Moderne

  1. Beautiful pictures of one of my favorite cities, Madhu, and a great set of pictures for Marianne’s theme. I especially love that colorful fountain beside that old church. 🙂

    1. The Stavinsky fountain is a bit of a shock the first time you see it. We didn’t mind it so much this time. i love the large mural next to the church too 🙂

  2. Madhu, I think you know that I’m not a big fan of Paris – but I have always admitted that it’s a very beautiful city. I love how you are looking a Paris here. Wonderful post .. and in that fountain have I dipped my toes … Place Georges Pompidou.

    1. Yes, it is right behind the Centre Pompidou. And I know you aren’t a fan of Paris. We had a pleasant dinner one evening at Sorza by the way. Thanks for the suggestion 🙂

  3. superlatives are not enough for this glorious look at Paris … thank you Madhu for these tantalising glimpses and your explanations … your photos are just wonderful, I love the composition of the Nymphe and the Roue … which has not been there in my visits 🙂

    1. Thank you Christine for your very generous comment! Much appreciated 🙂 I think the roue only returned early this year.

  4. Madhu, these pictures are gorgeous! You have shown me a side of Paris that I missed. I especially love the small things that millions of people walk by without noticing, like the knife sharpener carving. I guess I’m going to have to go back to Paris and take a closer look! 🙂

    1. Maybe you should go back Gilly 🙂 A second trip gives you time to really look at things that you never noticed were even there in the first place.

  5. I really like how you used the theme, Madhu. Beautiful images and just enough explanation so I could see what you are seeing. Great post.

  6. It’s mind-boggling to think that vast tracts of the Paris we see today were 19th-century urban renewal projects. Those wide boulevards and roundabouts would have been hopeless for the barricades of would-be revolutionaries.

    As for the way “L’ecoute” is marooned in the middle of a construction site – he seems to be shielding his ear from all the noise! Thanks for sharing these photos Madhu, I did not expect to see half-timbered houses in Paris at all. 🙂

    1. Ha ha, yes L’ecoute seems to be shutting out the noise rather than listening 🙂 I was so disappointed to find it isolated and behind barricades in that dump James. I hadn’t had time to visit this area on our last visit and was looking forward to spending some time there.

    1. Thanks David. We have a very long bucket list and very little time, so we wondered whether we would regret this ‘wasting’ of precious time on a return visit. But we can never tire of Paris 🙂

  7. What a wonderful view and history of this great city! Have you ever thought of setting up a tour company, and serving as guide? You’d be fabulous, and I’d sign up.

    1. Oh yes, several times Angeline. Have even seriously explored setting up a website to offer day by day itineraries. The amount of time I would have to devote to update data puts me off though. Guess I have gotten plain lazy.
      I promise to let you know if I ever go through with it 😀

    1. Paris is full of such contrasts Rabirius. We just need to keep our eyes open. Thanks for dropping by 😉

    1. Me too. I went expecting him to be in a lovely green plaza and was shocked to see that mess! It was a lovely walk though. Thanks Jo 🙂

  8. Madhu! what a wonderful Blog. I am saving Paris and now you’ve enforced that. Your Header is just incredible!!!!!!

  9. Thanks for another history lesson Madhu. The selection of photos for your gallery is simply exquisite. 🙂

    1. You are most welcome LuAnn and thank YOU for being such an appreciative audience 🙂 Hope Terry’s treatment is going well.

    1. Me neither Elisa! Seven full days and a bit wasn’t anywhere near enough even on this our third trip! 🙂

  10. It’s incredible you found all these hidden gems! Most visitors go to Paris and see the most obvious, yet here you are showing us very historic sides of Paris. Hats off to you my lady!

    1. Oh thank you Dennis, means a lot 🙂 It helped that this was a repeat visit. I returned to the Eiffel for pictures and it was a circus out there! Never again 😀

  11. Old and new…mostly I get angry when I see them together like in Place Igor Stravinsky. I cannot look at it without making suffocating sounds that brings my husband running into my study wondering if I’m OK..

    If they are moderate…like they usually are – i’m quite satisfied with them, but there is a limit, a line drawn where I cannot digest it..(Surely my own fault, I’m working on it. )My solution is ususally to look either way and focus only on one of them at a time. Maybe I’m a bit crazy…

    1. Surely you know what I mean! I clicked too fast here… Yhis is a wonderful take on Paris – as interesting as it could be – but I have difficulties with the position of certain works of art, where I think they would do better in their own way in another place!

    2. Ha, ha, I agree….that fountain is rather ‘over the top’ 😀
      Sometimes these incongruous additions to the landscape work. When they don’t, I think we just get used to seeing them in a particular space and they begin to look right after a while.

      1. Yes…it works like with words and language. Teaching Swedish can be frustrating when Swenglish is taking over. But….sometimes I use those expressions myself…

  12. What a wonderful selection of ancient and modern in Paris, Madhu. I never fail to be impressed by the glass pyramid entrance to the Louvre amidst the old buildings, displayed in your header. Absolutely wonderful 🙂

  13. Your blog is a visual delight. The photos of Paris are wonderful. Showcasing the changes opens our eyes to how things never stay the same even with suburb architecture. Progress isn’t always progress. It’s such a shame but the young sou;d never know it and if they did they wouldn’t be able to understand the sadness of it all.
    I saw the movie ‘Midnight in Paris’ a few nights ago. The scenery was mesmerizing. Movies can do that. ~~~~~ : – )

    1. I love that movie and was hoping our airline would show it on the flight up. No such luck. Yes, change isn’t always good. And even when it is, the price is almost always pretty steep. Thank you for stopping by Isadora 🙂

    1. No, it is the Pyramid entrance to the Louvre, shot at night. The moon played hide and seek behind some pesky clouds all evening, and I couldn’t quite capture a perfect orb.

  14. This is true. Very evident in Paris. But only a blogger like you can articulate it the best. My eyebrows did meet when I was in Paris and saw the circus really looking out of place. And, the fanciness and so much elegance, the restaurants, shopping shops and sweet treats and jewelry stores are so in there, obvious, that it defeats the real “tourism” part of being in Paris.
    Well, I guess you can really expect with Paris being such a big, popular city.

    1. I love everything about Paris Rommel. Except the crowds at the Tour Eiffel!! That felt a bit tacky this time.
      Happy to see you back after all this time. Hope all is well with you 🙂

  15. Fabulous contrasts between old and new, Madhu. That shot of L’Écoute surrounded by construction is my absolute favourite. xxx

    1. Thanks Ailsa. It was such a surprise spotting him in the church windows!! never expected him to be in the midst of all that mess 🙂

  16. I remember reading about the history of the Louvre when I first found out the original form of the monument. It looked very much like a medieval castle with dungeons. As for the whimsical fountain, the colorful statue looks like those installed at Centre Georges Pompidou, Niki de Saint Phalle I suppose. Another great post of yours Madhu which reassures me to pay the city another visit in the future!

    1. The Louvre is a royal palace built over an earlier fortification Bama,. The reason why it is so sumptuous! And you are right. The fountain is the very same one! Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had money – and time – growing on trees? We could return wherever, whenever…. 🙂

  17. Absolutely gorgeous post and gorgeous photos. I love it. Ville Lumière (Paris) can surprise every time when visiting it.

    Happy Friday!

  18. Not sure if my previous post was added. So, I apologize if you get a repeat. I love the stunning vistas you shared – many of which we missed when we visited Paris in June. Lovely photos. The mix of old and new adds to the city’s charm. Thank you for sharing, Madhu.

  19. Thank you for sharing those very special places … all previously unknown to me in spite of numerous visits to Paris. I have bookmarked your post in my travel file so I can search them out the next time. Lovely photos and fabulous information! Merci mille fois!

  20. I am trying to figure out how many visits and days one needs to fully enjoy Paris – a lifetime of springs and autumns would be my estimate.. I often stop to have a sneak peek at your Parisian posts though I have missed so many other destinations on your blog.

  21. Great selection Madhu! (As usual) the two wooden houses are indeed deemed to be the oldest standing houses in Paris. (I’m going to Paris next Wednesday!!!!!!!!!!) 🙂
    Have a great week-end!

Leave a Reply to B Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s