September         2006
VOL. 10               NO. 3
  The Independent Traveler's Newsletter

  Off the Beaten Path  ~   life in the 12th arrondissement 
                                                     A Post Card from Paris by Rosemary Bell

Off the Beaten Path ~
  life in the 12th arrondissement 
  by Rosemary Bell

Paris Enigmas

Ici et Là

Franco-American Portraits:
  ~ An Interview  with Patrick Dumont

 Petite Pleasures
  by Maxine Schur

The Bookshelf: 
  ~ Paris by Métro - An Underground History
  a book by Arnold Delaney

Letters from Occupied France
  ~ Our newest series for history buffs
  by Arthur Gillette

Esplanade Napoléon, copyright 2006 by Cold Spring Press.  All rights reserved.
Esplanade Napoléon III, Vichy

FEATURE:  Auvergne Revisited
Our first page sponsor for this issue is a group organizing a tour of France in 2007 in commemoration of the 250th birthday of the Général Marquis de La Fayette, hero of the American Revolution and close friend of George Washington. 

For that reason, we decided it would be fitting to revisit the Auvergne, a region where the group will tour and where there is a museum in the Général's former home. 

We also take you to Château de Vollore, now owned and operated as a bed & breakfast by direct ancestors of La Fayette.

We hope you enjoy this regional feature.

French Wine Report:
  ~ The Bordeaux Wine Experience
         Wine & Culinary Tours 
  by Ronald Rens


Paris can be overwhelming with all its twists and turns, arrondissements, and grand boulevards.  When I see locals on the métro looking at a city map I feel much better.  Everyone has heard of the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre.  I am awestruck that you can find these beloved treasures in one city, and I haven't even begun to scratch the surface.  But, let us take a look at an area of Paris that isn't on the “top ten attractions in Paris” list.

I am fortunate to be on sabbatical from my teaching responsibilities and spending seven weeks in Paris.  My colleague and I needed to rent an apartment that wasn't too expensive yet close to her teaching assignment.  Tucked in the southeastern corner of Paris, lies the 12th arrondissement of which there are twenty in Paris.   Each arrondissement is divided into four quartiers.  The 12th is considered one of the largest and one of the most affordable.  It has been my home for these past weeks.

The easternmost part of the arrondissement is called Bercy;  the western part, which backs up against the 4th and 13th arrondissements, is called Reuilly.  Historically, Bercy was a major wine-producing area.  Since the late ‘60s, Bercy has been a pet project of the city and is enjoying a major face lift.  New, affordable housing, shops, bars and restaurants are built on the site of warehouses where wine being shipped up the Seine by barge was once housed.   Bercy is presently home to Le Parc de Bercy and the Bercy Exposition where major music and sporting events take place. 

Although on the map it may look far away from the pulse of Paris, the 12th is a thriving neighborhood that is centrally located to all major Paris attractions.  A ride of the efficient métro and you'll be walking the Champs de Elysées in less than twenty minutes.

I am an historian,  so it is only natural for me to wonder about my surroundings.  Why is that street named Voltaire?  What does that statue in the middle of the Place de Nation represent?  Who is Diderot?   I wonder who or what Picpus means?  What does this have to do with the 12th arrondissement?  Plenty. 

Shops at Bercy ©2006 Cold Spring Press
Shops in former wine warehouses of Bercy

The 12th is rich in history.  Who would have thought that the Enlightenment would be represented in the 12th?  Who have thought that this relatively quiet, unobtrusive neighborhood would be a catalyst for revolution?  Who would have thought that what became the 12th arrondissement was a place were heads rolled.  Yes.  The guillotine did its work in this area in the 1790s since it was outside the city center.  Those living in the city center were fed up with the smell of death and blood wafting up from the streets, and the area around the Bastille was tired of the all the gore and the crowds. Remember, this was a time when executions by guillotine were popular entertainment.  There were programs listing the names of those who were going to die on any given day, tickets were sometimes sold for the best seats, and these events were considered a family outing. 
                                                                                                          CONTINUED ON PAGE 2

Look inside

  to read our review of the handy little book, Paris Métro ~ An Underground History.


>  to meet enjoy this issue's Franco - American Portrait  ~ not about an American expat living in France, but a French expat, Patrick Dumont, living in the US!


>   for a behind the scenes look at Château Mouton Rothschild and to share in a recent Bordeaux Grand Cru Tour,  join château owner, Ronald Rens, in this issue's French Wine Report.


Message to our Readers

We regret that Part Three of Panos Kakaviatos' series, France Wine Travel, was not available for this issue of our newsletter.  We hope to bring it to you very soon. 
                       - Editor

  PARIS ENIGMAS  . . . A Quiz on Your Knowledge of Historic Paris
                                                                                                       by Arthur Gillette

Question from the last issue:   What is the origin of the La Samaritaine (Good Samaritan) department store?

Answer:   On nearby 17th century Pont Neuf there was a huge pump which provided water to irrigate the Tuileries gardens.  It included a sumptuous bridge-top manor house (with its own bells) as well as a very well-paid hereditary Governorship.  So, it was call 'Good Samaritan' for more than one reason.  When Ernest Cognac-Jay opened his store in 1907, he thought the name of the long-gone pump would draw crowds.  It did ~ by 1926 the store had a staff of no less than 6,000 and had to expand.

Our new question:  What is the origin of the word gibet (gallows), as in the infamous Gibet de Montfaucon near today's Place de Stalingrad, where in the Middle Ages as many as 14 people were hanged at the same time?

Contact Arthur Gillette,  and take advantage of his truly amazing knowledge of Paris
 by enjoying one or more of his Paris Through the Ages

[See the answer to this edition's question revealed in our December 2006 issue]


Général Marquis de La Fayette

Join the American Friends of Lafayette and Merci Lafayette French American Alliance for Liberty
on their visit to France in September of 2007 to celebrate Lafayette's 250th Birthday!
For details of this exciting tour which includes Paris, Auvergne and Atlantic Coast sites,
click the banner above or send an email to

[Reach many thousands of Francophiles by advertising in FRANCE On Your Own, email]

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