I have given the blog a little makeover to go along with my shorter hair and started using the ever-popular “Mistylook” theme here on WordPress. While it seems that *everyone* is using it, I like its clean lines, fonts, and links, and it was just time for a little change here as well. The color scheme is very similar to the one before, though, so not all is completely different.
I’d meant to keep my original header photo so that my blog would not look too different, but now I can’t find the photo I used for it. Eh, it’s somewhere. Instead, out of laziness at not wanting to hunt it down, I picked another photo which is of the belvedère from the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, and which was also a part of the original header photo I used.
Like Living in a Children’s Book…
This week, I read another post by one of my most favorite “Mom Bloggers” in the world, Betsy Shaw. She posts on not only her personal blog Numbmum, but is also a long-time writer for the BabyCenter MOMformation website, posting under the blogname “Babe’s Blog.” A couple of the reasons I like Betsy’s blogs is that we are about the same age, have a youngest child born in the same week (early November 2005), and both live in France — Betsy and her family have been in rural Burgundy for about a year now (maybe just over that…).
Because of something she wrote on her most recent post “Arranged Marriages and Angry Bedtime Stories,” I got inspired to write about something I have been meaning to for about three months now: An Adventure Along the Rue de Mouzaïa.
In the post, she describes the clarinet playing of neighbor boy Oliver. Using lovely imagery, Betsy captured the moment and made me feel like I was there. It was this couple of sentences that inspired me the most:
It [Oliver’s playing the clarinet next door] makes life feel as rich and quirky and full of color as a children’s book. The way life should feel.
“YES!” I thought, reading those lines. That IS the way life should feel! I also realized that the simile captured how I felt about the Rue de Mouzaïa and meeting Peter Olson of Peter’s Paris — like I was living in a children’s book, where life is rich, quirky, and full of color.
So, I bring to you An Adventure Along the…
Tucked away in the middle of the 19th arrondissement, nestled in the center of Métro line 7 bis, is an area of streets containing charming late-19th Century row houses, designed (mostly) by French architect Paul Casimir Fouquiau. On a very chilly December 14 (2009) Monday morning, Peter Olson of Peter’s Paris and I met to check out this off-the-beaten-path area of the 19th in Paris and see what we could trouver.
I like the French verb “trouver,” to find; it makes me think of treasure troves, mysteries solved, and discoveries made. Peter and I found some unique things on our journey that day, including the discovery of common interests and friendship. Keep reading to trouver for yourself about what we found.
Where is the Rue de Mouzaïa?
(Source: RATP site)
Here is the map from Google Maps to show the general area of the 19th where the Rue de Mouzaïa is located. You can see Métro stations Botzaris, Place des Fêtes, Pré Saint-Gervais, and Danube forming a circle around the Rue de Mouzaïa at the center.
This one shows the specifics of the street location, just to the east of Rue de Crimée and the Métro Botzaris at the top of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont (click on the picture to see a larger version, then hit your browser’s “Back” button to return to the post):
Along the Rue de Mouzaïa, there is what has been described as
a herringbone of semi-streets, aligned on either side of the Rue Mouzaïa, between the Rue de Bellevue and the Place de Rhin-et-Danube.
Before I get to all that we saw on the walk on the rue, however, I wanted to share another hidden treasure unearthed by Peter some months before off the Rue de Crimée: the Eglise Saint Serge de Radonège.
Eglise Saint Serge de Radonège
When I met Peter at the Métro Jaurès and said we’d be walking up towards the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, he suggested we go up the Rue de Crimée to see the Eglise Saint Serge de Radonège on the way.
Located at 93 Rue de Crimée, writer Michel (Mikhail) Ossorguine (1887-1950) has recounted the process by which the church was purchased in July 1924. The history appears on the Eglise Saint Serge de Radonège website. Even though my French still sucks, Google is amazing, and through its translation page Google Translate, I was able to read the entirety of the history of how a little German church that had been started to help the German working-class poor in the late 19th Century became a Russian Orthodox one. Even if you don’t read French, go copy it into Google Translate and have a look. It is a good read (if you are into such historical things, that is. There are also some nice little personal touches in the story which I found delightful to read).
I got really curious about who Michel Ossorguine was, and I found this article online (which I also translated, thanks to my Chrome web browser), and discovered the following at the blog Bibliophilie Russe.
Ossorguine was a Russian journalist and a writer. He was affiliated with the Socialist Revolutionaries at the beginning of the 20th century [Ed. note: it says at this site – the Bulletin des Biblioteques de France – that he was a follower of Bakunin] . It was because of this affiliation that he took refuge in Italy for a time between 1906 and 1916. In both 1919 and 1921, he was arrested by Soviet authorities. In 1922, Lenin expelled Ossorguine from Russia along with 150 other intellectuals. He then moved to Paris [in 1923] but kept his Soviet passport until 1937. He saw great success in the U.S. in translations during this time. During the Nazi occupation, he lived in the free zone and boldly sent articles hostile to Nazism and Communism to the American press, who published the writings under his real name. Mr. Ossorguine published twenty books including five novels. He was a Freemason and is known for his novel “The Freemason” describing the Masonic lodges of the Russian emigration.
In the history that Ossorguine wrote, I appreciated this description:
Once on the property [at 93 Rue de Crimée], I was amazed. Imagine a large area uninhabited for ten years, located on a hill. At its foot, houses, trees, and grasses surround the yard, separated from the street by the rear facades of nearby houses. The vegetation of ten years’ growth gave the whole a very picturesque charm.
(Taken from the church website history, translated by Google, and edited by me.)
You can see for yourself how picturesque the area is.
As rich and colorful and quirky as a children’s book, no?
For more on the Eglise Saint Serge de Radonège, see Peter’s Paris post here, and Paris-Bise-Art’s post here. They have some lovely photos in their posts, including ones of the interior, which Peter and I were not able to see that day. I noted on the church website that you can call to make an appointment to visit the inside. Guests are welcome freely to see the exterior, though. Here is another informational site from the Institut de Théologie Orthodoxe Saint-Serge.
The following photo is what the entry gate to the property looks like. It’s on the right hand side of the street as you walk south and up the hill towards the Buttes Chaumont. It really is a very nondescript entrance, so keep your eyes open if you choose to try to trouver it!
Continuing the Journey
Peter and I walked up the Rue de Crimée and up to the corner of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont at Rue Botzaris. We crossed the Rue de Crimée to continue on Rue du Général Brunet, crossing Rue Compans. We then turned right onto the Rue de Mouzaïa.
Looking south up the hill towards the Place des Fêtes on Villa d’Alsace
A Paris.fr Architectural Walks article describes the architecture of the Mouzaïa this way:
Owners of building lots had to comply with a exact specifications: the houses were to include a ground floor and up to only one floor above ground level, due to the instability of the ground (no basements could be constructed). The homes were to have been built from one of four standard plans comprising a front garden and courtyard at the rear…
The houses are linked together along narrow streets with the steep north-south direction to provide an overall very strong unit. The architecture is very simple. The main facades of the houses were originally in red brick. Today, most are covered with a white or tan stucco [Ed Note: we saw lots of colorful homes as well]. The ground floor almost always includes two elements: the entrance, very close, which is enhanced by a small wrought iron marquise and a window or door-window overlooking the garden located at the front of the house. As for the ground level, it is often pierced with two openings, one large enough for the main room and another smaller one for the lighting of the water closet. These windows are often embellished with decorative geometric patterns, slightly raised.
This photo shows the uniformity of the homes
Here is a home showing the original red brick (on Villa d’Alsace).
A home with a stone façade and showing the wrought iron marquise and the windows as described (on the side street Villa Eugène Leblanc)
Why the ground instability?
According to the Paris.fr article, one of the oldest and largest gypsum quarries was in operation in this area until the 1870s. The ground instability is due to the fact that there are giant holes/caves from quarrying several meters under the earth where the houses are built.
The website auxpetitsjoueurs.com (French) says that:
The area of Mouzaïa, whose name is taken from a locale in Algeria, is located on a former gypsum quarry which had operated since the Middle Ages. The material extracted was even used to build the Statue of Liberty and the White House in Washington!
The thirty “workers’ houses” from the street Mouzaïa were built in 1890 by Paul Casimir Fouquiau. They are both a reflection of site constraints because of the ground instability due to the presence of the quarries and a first public effort to improve housing and sanitation for poor workers living in Paris.
Here are some other photos capturing the quaint, colorful, and quirky storybook feel of the neighborhood:
Walking past the homes, I cannot help but wonder what they are like inside. (On the Villa de Bellevue.)
I liked the rustic wooden look of the shutters on this one. I think that the smaller window on the right must be the one for the W.C.
Even on a cold December day there were lots of colorful flowers. It must be even prettier in spring and summer!
While the sky was shining brightly, some of the homes were in the shade, leading to somewhat darkened photos. Here’s another home with the tiny W.C. window.
This yard was very quirky! Peter got an even better shot of the yard, hopping up on the ledge of the fence to get a picture of the yard from over the fence.
More quirkiness. These yards reminded me of some of the ones I saw once-upon-a-time in the formerly hippie Boulder, Colorado.
Here is another photo showing the wrought iron work on the fences and gates around each home.
A pretty address placard.
Another row of the cobbled pedestrian “villa” streets, this one looking up towards the Place des Fêtes. (Villa Emile Loubet, I think.)
Many of the houses are painted in bright colors. (Villa Sadi Camot)
Looking down the Rue de l’Egalité towards the banlieues (suburbs) north of Paris.
When I walk through neighborhoods such as these, I can’t help but wonder at what it looks like inside the homes, who lives in them, and what each of their stories are. Am I nosy? I suppose. I think it is more of the reader and writer in me, however, that craves to know the answers to the questions, “Who, What? Where? Why? When? How?”
I suppose I should have become a journalist instead of an English teacher. 😉
After the Mouzaïa
After walking the stretch of the Rue de Mouzaïa, Peter and I walked further to the east to what we discovered was the Parc de la Butte du Chapeau-Rouge (and this link in English), which is on the very edge of Paris just inside the Périphérique, the ring road around Paris. Walking down the Rue de Alphonse Aulard to where it connects with the Boulevard d’Algérie, we entered the park.
Here is some information about this park, from the site in English about Paris’ parks, squares and gardens:
The Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge gets its name from an old tavern in the area. The park covers 46,880 square meters and is situated on the slope of a hill, offering an excellent view of eastern Paris. It was designed in 1939 by Léon Azéma in the neo-classic style typical of the 1930s and it was Léon Azéma, along with two other architects, Jacques Carlu and Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, who designed the Palais de Chaillot two years earlier, in 1937. The Parc de la Butte Chapeau Rouge is on the eastern edge of the city and bordered by a large auto-route so it’s not often frequented by Parisiens or tourists.
There are three notable sculptures in the Parc de la Butte du Chapeau Rouge:
- At the main entrance the stone sculpture “Eve” created by Raymond Couvègnes in 1938 stands in a fountain.
- “Deux Femmes et un Enfant” (“Two Women and a Child”) created by Pierre Traveres also in 1938.
- A marble sculpture called “Both” created by the Belgian sculptor Eugene Dodeigne in 1990.
In the 19th century, the Parc de la Butte Chapeau Rouge was part of a large network of gypsum quarries in the 19th arrondissement, as was the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. The quarries had the nick-name of “the quarries of America” because these quarries shipped gypsum (plaster) to America hence the name “Plaster of Paris.”
A view to the east.
A view to the north.
Check this “view on black” for a more detailed view of this picture. It really shows the wonderful view from the park of the northeast of the suburbs surrounding Paris.
This, I am assuming based on what information I can find online, is the sculpture “Deux Femmes et un Enfant” (1938) by Pierre Traveres, mentioned above (I saw photos online of the other two sculptures in the park in the linked articles, but Peter and I did not see them that day).
I learned something about the design of the park from the Paris Walking Tours site (part of the same information quoted earlier):
The park was designed in 1939 by Léon Azéma in the neo-classic style typical of the 1930s. It was Léon Azéma, along with two other architects, Jacques Carlu and Louis-Hippolyte Boileau, who designed the Palais de Chaillot two years earlier, in 1937.
The park really does have a late 1930s feel about it. Maybe it is getting picky, but I kept thinking the Palais de Chaillot was more Art Deco, so I looked up about the architectural style of the Palais. It says on Essential Architecture dot com that the Palais de Chaillot is something called “stripped classical” which appears in public and institutional buildings from 1900-1945. The site also says this is a style where, “columns, entablatures and pediments have been peeled off or … a starkly functional, symmetrical building to which the classical orders could easily be added. Rarely, however, was ornament completely eschewed, and a few touches of Art Deco were not uncommon.”
So there you go – why some neo-classical buildings from the 1930s often have an Art Deco look and feel. The statue reminded me a little of the paintings done by Diego Rivera, who also created works in this same period.
I think we must have exited the west side of the park around Boulevard Sérurier. While I don’t really remember exactly, I think we may have continued down the Rue David d’Angers. I for certain remember seeing the statue at the Place de Rhin et Danube. I also know for certain that we eventually connected with the Rue Manin because I have a photo to prove it:
Some of the history of the school can be found at the school’s website. Here is a little bit of it:
Under the Third Republic, in response to a growing population and the aspirations of creating a secular school, the City of Paris built around the 1890s, along the rue Manin, a series of school buildings: a middle school, primary school, and kindergarten occupying 30, 40, 40a and 40b of the street.
Our old building at 40a, was first a middle-school girls boarding school. It became a co-ed middle school serving nearly 450 students during the 1970s, and the boarding school was abandoned. In 1981 the school was named “Georges Brassens” in honor of the singer/songwriter who died that year.
(English translation by Google Translate, with editing by me.)
The history goes on to explain that student population growth in the 1990s led to a newer middle school being opened nearby in 1993, and that now the school buildings serve the students enrolled at the nearby Paris Conservatoire.
Here’s an interesting thing — I discovered from this post that I live just up the street, not two minutes by foot away, from the main Paris Conservatoire. Founded in 1795, it used to be located in the 9th arrondissment, but is now on Avenue Jean Jaurès in the 19th. I have walked past the building a bajillion times, and even photographed it, knowing that it had something to do with the arts, but not knowing it is the headquarters of one of Europe’s preeminent conservatories of music and dance.
Apparently, the Lycée Georges Brassens is an extension of the conservatory where classes are offered on a flexible schedule so that the budding artists can practice their arts outside of regular schooling.
The former entrance of the school for girls.
The Cimetière de la Villette
The last and final discovery that Peter and I made was the Cimetière de la Villette. It is located at 46 Rue d’Hautpoul, off of Rue Manin. Interestingly, the middle school that was opened in 1993 to replace the Georges Brassens school is visible from the cemetery.
This is a corner of the modern middle school (called a collège in French) outside the entrance to the cemetery.
Here are some other photos of the cemetery.
It is not a very large cemetery.
It’s still populated, though.
Modern buildings surround the cemetery, which the Paris.fr site says has been in existence since 1828. However, it also mentions that
The original cemetery was beside the old village church, which had been raised in the fifteenth century on the Rue de Flandre. In 1770, a second cemetery was established at the gate of that church. Both cemeteries were still in business until 1806… [There was] a third field of rest … which itself closed in 1831, three years after the creation of the cemetery on street Hautpoul.
Google Translate kind of let me down with interpreting exactly what was meant in this history, so I am not sure I interpreted correctly what is on the original French site, but I think the gist of it is that all of the cemeteries were apparently combined into the Cimetière de la Villette by 1828. The Paris.fr also covers some of the notable dead in the cemetery, including “the aptly named Just Mougeot (1846-1864), pupil of the Conservatoire des Arts et Metiers, who drowned in the age of 18 years, trying to save a young man.”
Something is missing in the translation for I don’t understand the aptness of the boy named “Just.” (Was it justice that he was drowned saving another? Is a “Mougeot” another name for a hero? I don’t get it…)
Another view of the collège from the cemetery gates. I have a feeling it is a lot prettier with leaves on the trees and other foliage in bloom; still, it is no Père Lachaise. From a historical perspective of working class Paris in the 19th Century, it does hold some interest. It’s not crowded with tourists, either!
Lunch and Conversation
In need of warmth and sustenance, Peter and I followed Rue Manin back to Rue Crimèe just at the northeast lower corner of the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. We stopped to lunch in a restaurant near the Place Armand Carrel and the Mairie for the 19th. I think it might have been La Kaskad’ Café, but honestly, I don’t remember for sure. I know I found something I could eat on the menu (a Salade Niçoise), I had a warming coffee, and it felt really good to sit and thaw out after being in the chill air outside. Peter and I enjoyed a very good conversation during lunch about life, the universe, and everything. After lunch, I walked with Peter to the Métro Colonel Fabien, where I learned one thing more from him as we said goodbye at the Métro.
From late October to the end of December, Métro Line 2 at Jaurès was closed for repairs, so we were using the stop at Colonel Fabien a lot. Each time I went to the Métro there, I saw this building and wondered what it was:
Peter told me that it is the French Communist Party Headquarters. The building was designed by architect Oscar Niemeyer — famous for designing the public buildings in Brasilia, Brazil as well as the United Nations buildings in New York City. The UK online publication of Building Design has an excellent article on the structure, with photos of the interior here: “Edgar Gonzalez visits Niemeyer’s French Communist Party HQ.”
All good stories must come to an end, and this is where this one does. I hope you enjoyed Peter’s and my adventure along the Rue de Mouzaïa and that you have gotten a satisfactory taste of Paris off-the-beaten-path from this post. To read a couple of other good posts about the Rue de Mouzaïa see the following:
- Villa Paris: Out In the Country In the City at Ric’s Metropole Paris (2001)
- Les Villas de la Mouzaïa – Beware of the cats! by Fred Moussaïan (updated in 2010)
Until next time (which will be soon — I am meeting Peter again next week, fingers crossed!), I am your