Friday, 20 June 2014

Abandoned Places IV: La Petite Ceinture (Montsouris)

So in the spirit of walking as far down La Petite Ceinture as possible, we decided to go back down where we left off in the 14eme and see how far we could get before we hit another dead end. Having walked halfway from Parc George Brassens to Montsouris, we wanted to see what we would discover if we kept going (we also took a guest writer from New York down with us this time).

We came down through our "usual" entrance and covered the first bit of familiar territory, which however had been newly attacked with the artistic paws of the underground Parisians, as such the tunnel walls looked different to the last time we came down.  

Here are some more pictures of the tunnel walls.

My favorite part of this section was how green it was when we came to the end of what was, frankly, a very long tunnel. We presumed by this point we were below Montsouris, but it was quite hard to tell.

Next time we are going to head up to Bercy and see how much we can see over there. Since each section is so different from the last, I am excited to see what we will find up there...

(This is actually from another time we went down, for a night time walk, armed with candles and music. I quite liked this one as it was so different from the others).

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Abandoned Places III: Jardin d'Agronomie Tropicale (Human Zoo)

So after weeks of planning to go, but not quite managing to for one reason or another, we finally made it to the Jardin d'Agronomie Tropicale. The Jardin d'Agronomie Tropicale, aka The Human Zoo, is located just outside Paris by the Nogent-sur-Marne commune and the bois de Vincennes (in English, a suburb just outside Paris Nogent-sur-Marne, bordering the Vincennes woods). Here lie the remains of the colonial exhibition of 1907, where buildings were constructed to represent the countries under French colonial rule, Indochina, Madagascar, Congo, Sudan, Tunisia and Morocco. There are also a few other Asian elements, a bridge amongst others. These buildings were made to represent the "villages" of the countries they represented and had inhabitants shipped over to live there whilst the exhibition was open, for people to come gawk at. Hence "Human Zoo". The entrance point is shown below with a typically Chinese archway. Being surrounded by such distinctly non-Parisian architecture was beyond surreal, knowing how close we were to Paris, yet feeling hundreds of miles away was indeed unsettling. Especially when you consider what the purpose of the place was.

The first section had a very strong Asian feel to it, and for me it was especially surreal having been born in Tokyo and travelled around various parts of Asia whilst very young but barely remembering it, I kept getting these ghost inklings of a memory that I could barely grasp. Below are some pictures of the Asian "village" followed by a picture of the Indochina building, the back of the pavilion and an interior shot of one of the Tunisian buildings. 

We got inside the Tunisian building fairly easily, walking through here you could clearly see how much it had fallen into a state of disrepair, and how much France don't want to draw attention to its existence.

There were also several greenhouses that housed exotic plants, one or two are still in use and the others were being potentially in the process of being revamped whilst we were there (our brief exchange with the gardener yielded little, aside from the generous permission to let us roam free inside the greenhouses).

 (This another shot of the inside of the Indochina building - I am still learning how to format blogspot how I want to…).

 Below: side view of a sweet little house that overlooks the veg plot, and the interior of one of the greenhouses.

Here is inside another greenhouse and the outside of another, followed by more pictures of the inside of the greenhouses.

Here are some photos from when we were wandering around the Moroccan area, which was especially "weathered".

The remains of a chair where presumably there was a fire at some point.

 Below are more photos of the Moroccan pavilion, which of course we snuck into too...

This building was particularly surreal, the remains of the shower blocks and kitchen was still visible, it just astounds me that they really shipped as many as 35 000 people to places such as these in the colonial era, just for people to look at… It was even stranger to be inside the buildings, watching people walk past the windows and look in at us (obviously wondering how/why we got in and whether we were actually supposed to be there)-- I can't even imagine how it must feel to be shipped to a foreign land for the sole purpose of being watched. 1984 anyone?

Clearly at some point, as is always inevitable, other people have gotten in and made their mark.

I love being in buildings such as these, that have been left to be taken over by nature and gradually collapse. Its an odd type of beauty, and a reminder that the mark of humanity can be eradicated, eventually.

 I especially adore the way the greenery completely takes over, how structures once completely man-made, are now under the control of nature.

Finally, at the end of our trail, we were met with a memorial and the back of the entrance point. This place really was stunning and very eerie. I would strongly recommend a visit if you are looking for something unusual in the Il de France region or feel in need of an escape from the Haussmannian boulevards of Paris (despite Haussmann's attempt at renovating Paris, it is somewhat claustrophobic at times). It will be well worth the trip.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Street Art 13: A Street Art Walk Around the 13th

My most recent ambles around Paris involved a street art walk around the 13th arrondissement of Paris, using this map we followed a trail of art and it was truly stunning. I have very little sense of direction so I had to rely on my trusty friend and his iPad (I am really quite bad when it comes to technology also).

These were the first two we saw, both are by Seth, the trademark blue hair (of which I am jealous of) is telling. 

This one was particularly interesting because the face was not painted on but cut away from the plaster, and was made by the sculptor Vhils (Alexandre Farto). Below is a piece by Inti.

Below, The Alapinta Crew, Aner and Maher, from Temuco and Villarrica, represent the vitality of a Chilean Mapuche lands in this graffiti. 

Below left is a mural by Obey (Shepard Fairey), below right is just a pretty view of the church at Place d'Italie that I risked taking whilst standing in the middle of a road!

Above by C125.

 This rather cute cat (above left) is another example of C215's work, above right M-City.

Below, Jana et Js, a duo of photographers looming over rue Jeanne d'Arc. Above is of course Obey's work from behind the bridge, as I rather like industrial bridges I could not resist this picture. 

Above is another by C215 and this one was easily my favourite. Birds, feathers, stunning colours… Its just incredible. We by no means exhausted the map and only explored a small section of it, however when we came to the end of the section we wanted to explore that day, we came upon a WIP (below). I would strongly recommend exploring the 13th, it really is worth what became a very long walk...