FYI France

File 3: Ejournal and archive

by Jack Kessler,

June 15, 2011 issue. This file presents an archive copy of the issue of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which was distributed via email on June 15, 2011 - and, a little later, on, and at Facebook-Jack Kessler's Wall-

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Versions of the following have appeared online regularly, since 1992, as a feature of the FYI France ejournal, ISSN 1071-5916, which is distributed for free via email every month except August. Ejournal subscriptions may be obtained via email request to:

Here this file is one of a number made available - hopefully attractively, all in one place, and relevant to libraries and online digital information work in France and Europe - as part of FYI France (sm)(tm), an online service to which anyone can subscribe for 12 months by postal mailing a check for US $45, payable to Jack Kessler, to PO Box 460668, San Francisco, California, USA 94146 (site licenses also are available): please write your email address on the front of your check. And you can pay via PayPal, on the FYI France homepage:

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Paris the City, histories real & digital


Several points of interest, for anyone with curiosity about or a passion for Paris, particularly its history... for sojourns or for daydreaming, this summer or anytime... Not a complete list: the moveable feast enjoys many locations, forever shifting -- but the following make useful additions to any visit, en-chair-et-en-os or virtual --


** Crypte archéologique du parvis Notre-Dame

The Roman city, Lutetia, unveiled and explained, as-revealed beneath the great plaza in front of Notre Dame and generally: dramatically presenting the maps and the reasoning which drove the ever-rational Romans to fortify this particular place, for fording the Seine, girding Gaul, and building the city...

Having visited this you will be able to see in your imagination these roots of Paris -- forever afterward, as you study the city, think about it, walk around, enjoy it -- the great north-south cardo maximus axis of the rues St. Martin & St. Jacques, the tiny mid-river island with its defenses, the road southward climbing the gentle hills carrying legions to Aquitaine, later on troops desperate to aid Martel against the Moors, later still seashell-bedecked pilgrims to Compostela...

Civic life began, for Paris, at this little river-ford Roman Empire provincial town, now revealed a few feet down beneath the square in front of the magnificent but much later medieval cathedral. Paris had humble but tough and enduring beginnings.

Also, it's cool down there, under the ground, sheltered from the sun within the "Crypte archéologique du parvis Notre-Dame" -- the moveable feast gets hot, in the summertime.


** Musée de Cluny

The groups of pilgrims climbing the Mont Ste. Geneviève on the road to Compostela grew more numerous...

Paris in the Middle Ages grew, and changed: a monument to the transition as telling as the parvis Notre Dame's crypte, with its Roman town and Gothic cathedral, is the Quartier Latin's Musée de Cluny, with its Roman baths and Medieval townhouse.

"Outside the walls", both the latter were were... The baths, in their Roman era, were over on the Left Bank safely-distant from the superior officers who, originally perhaps and later, ordered and disciplined things on the more closely-regulated island -- and the officers were a safer distance too, from their own regulations, when they crossed-over on the bridge for a visit to the baths -- the thermae were a place to relax, then, to indulge, to misbehave a little.

The Medieval era country house, too... Nowadays it is little and low, compared to its towering modern central city surroundings. The location once must have been bucolic, though, looking out over yards and gardens and vegetables and even pastures... remembering that Passy and the Champs Élysées still were "champs", much later, when Franklin and Jefferson lived there...

The "green" medieval views from the Musée de Cluny's upper-storey windows now must be imagined in movies, but they are an important part of historical Paris. They're no longer available in the Sorbonne neighborhood by 1615, but they're very much in evidence still just down the road, surrounding St. Germain, per the wonderful Mérian map of that date which my "iPad app" of that map shows so clearly -- vegetable gardens & orchards & fields & windmills -- so the older faubourg, in closer to the Ile, must have enjoyed such amenities and their associated dangers, not so long before.


** Musée Carnavalet

La ville radieuse: many have dreamed of "designing" Paris, and this museum has collected many of those designs and dreams and displays them well -- to the latest visionaries, who may wonder at how immensely-grand the dreams in the past were, also to the skeptics who shake their heads knowingly over the gargantuan reality Paris now has become, and how different that is from anything ever dreamt for it.

"Paris"... now 12+ million people, plus daily commuters from as far away as Chartres, 18% of the national population, more Parisian than French and more trans-national than France -- and nowadays branchée 24/7, plugged into our bright new digital world, networking with London, New York, Tokyo, Shanghai and other Global Cities, and the Silly Valley, and visiting formerly-nearby Lyon or Toulouse or Limoges only occasionally, and "en passant"... "Paris et le désert", plus ça change...

(Google's Ahmit Singhal pointed out -- only yesterday, at their "online search event", -- that "mobiles" usage patterns, in global cities like Paris, increasingly reverse traditional work patterns -- that nowadays we use our "mobiles" to "seek knowledge" on our lunch hours, and at night, times when previously we would leave-the-office -- so some places & people truly have become a "24/7 world".)


** Musée, Conservatoire national des arts et metiers

What really happened -- after the dreams, of the éclaircissement, what happened but had not been so clear, in the rationalist thinking which predominated back then -- industrialization, the great machines, the creativity, and the very different results of the confrontation of all that with "government" in 18th and 19th c. France as vs. Germany, and the UK, and the US and Japan and other places... although current events are suggesting that the jury may still be out on all those outcomes, it seems...

And for fans of Umberto Eco, the pendulum of Foucault still is there, masquerading its mysteries -- and the Statue of Liberty is there too, near its sister-sur-Seine -- in the little church which is the conservatoire's CNAM museum.

Be sure to make the trek upstairs, for the fabulous roof-beams, and the fascinating collection of scientific instruments -- Pascal's "calculating machine", for anyone with digital inclinations -- all displayed beneath the brave banner,

-- the terrible twentieth century changed much...

And the story here is far older than Eco, older than Foucault, the story goes back to frankincense, see below...


** Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal, Bibliothèque national de France

Soirées... One entire aspect of Paris is its "evenings": its gatherings -- whether afternoons or evenings or very late into the night -- never mornings, for Paris soirées are alcoholic and exhausting and that doesn't match with mornings -- but Paris gatherings discuss and debate everything, they are where a young américain can learn about a previous "Vietnam War", and about Parisian women, and a young américaine about Parisian men, it is where the movies of Woody Allen are debated endlessly, and the oulipiènnes literary merits of Lady Gaga's poetry and évenements are dismissed and defended, "attitude" becomes a science, where conversation & communication are the reigning arts.

It is a very old art-form itself, in Paris, the "soirée" with its animated and occasionally-cruel and always-exciting conversations. The 19th century's version of it began right here, in fact, at the Arsenal -- Victor Hugo, see below...


** and, NEW!, Paris Ipad Apps...

Among many extraordinary Paris history online applications now, most interesting and some even useful, are several excellent iPad applications: and France has joined the iPad craze... needed-knowledge for that Paris soirée "cocktail", then...

The best Paris iPad app I've found so far is:

"DK Eyewitness Travel, Paris"

-- suitable for projection and classroom use, this -- one can view, through that beautiful little glass screen, very good photos and interesting descriptions, and nice maps, and often-beautiful site plan drawings of major Paris monuments -- good organization and very attractive mise en page... no reliure on which to comment, sadly, the era of "marocain" is grown-brittle and is fading...


** National Geographic Magazine, their February 2011 issue

In-print, on-iPad, also on-iPhone, plus there are online sur-la-toile extras -- the National Geographic has become very multimedia --

This American society's magazine, with their always-excellent visual sense, presents,


" Getting There: It involves manholes and endless ladders.
" What to Wear: Miner's helmets are good.
" What to do: Work, party, paint or just explore the dark web of tunnels.

"By Neil Shea, Photograph by Stephen Alvarez

It's a view of Paris of which few who know and love the place, including native Parisians, ever really have heard... although they may have suspected...

I remember Fellini's scene in his "Roma", where he and the director of the new Rome subway works are riding together in a subterranean cart, the latter complaining that every time they dig they run into something new, something "Phoenician", or "Greek", or... his subway layout plan, it will look like a plate of spaghetti!

Paris has this about its past and in its bones and foundations, too. Victor Hugo loved it, remember his caressing descriptions in Notre Dame de Paris... Paris always reveals surprises, things you never knew were there, things which once were there but are no longer, things of which you've never dreamed or had nightmares -- and it's always in motion, ever-changing, the moveable feast.

The National Geographic piece evokes all this well, to the great surprise of many who thought they themselves knew all, about Paris -- see both the fascinating February 2011 print magazine issue, and their more extensive online digital version below --


** And, finally, Paris walks -- an institution of European Culture since at least the Middle Ages...

The Left Bank -- begin at the BnF Tolbiac, see the Arènes de Lutèce, stop at the Musée de Cluny, the rue de la Huchette, St. Germain des Prés, the bords de la Seine, the Invalides, the Eiffel Tower... and,

One way in which the digital never will beat the virtual, is city walks in Paris.

But... the digital does comes close, nowadays: on GoogleEarth -- and on GoogleMaps -- and WikiMapia does an excellent and very interesting job as well --

Each of the above now can be experienced in very interesting new ways: for example, drag the Google StreetView "little man" -- upper left hand corner of the map, in -- to the map, and try each of the walks mentioned above -- it is amazing how much more there is to know of Paris, via the virtual reality version of it available globally & anytime & online now.

Bonne route!


Jack Kessler,






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