Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Paris: Tour Montparnasse to Place d'Italie

Tour Montparnasse

For our third Parisian walk we met up with our friends Del and Arlette, who now live here, for this walk starting at the Tour Montparnasse. This building is 208m and 56 storeys high. When it was completed in 1973 it was the tallest office building in Europe (but well behind the Eiffel Tower at 300m). It wasn't part of the walk, but we couldn't resist going up to the viewing area of the top of the building. It was a pretty clear day and the views were outstanding. It was especially pleasing to identify the major landmarks and establish or confirm their relationship to each other across the city. I was most surprised by how big the Jardin de Luxembourg appeared. Notre Dame can be made out just behind the palace buildings.

We did a walk thorough it in March 2010 but the aerial view gives you a very different perspective.   An it would be wrong to not include the Eiffel Tower with the Palais Chaillot behind it, a reminder of our art deco walk in 2014.

We walked along Boulevard Montparnasse and I noted another nice art nouveau block with stone carvings of flower shapes. We turned right into rue de Montparnasse and then rue de Gaite where I spotted a building on the left with this beautiful frieze of floral tiles.

We Reached avenue de Maine and had a rather pointless detour which took us past a place where there once a chateau and down a street which once had a bakery with original painted glass décor – both no longer extant (the chateau was demolished in 1850!). However, re-emerging on the rue de Maine there was another fine art nouveau house at 29-31 rue Maurice Ripoche.

We passed the classic Mairie of the 14th arrondissement ...

... and made our way to place Denfert-Rochereau. Two 18th century pavilions stand here on the line of the 18th century city wall. This one contains the entrance tio the Paris catacombs: once they were underground stone quarries which provided the stone to build medieval Paris. In the 19th century some of these were filled in, to prevent the frequent sinkholes from opening, and others were converted into ossuaries to house bones from over-full cemeteries.

We continued along the charming leafy path along the centre of rue Remy-Dumoncel.

At the end we headed right and left to find the charming Villa Seurat, a lovely cobbled street which includes a number of artists' houses including that of the pointilliste Georges Seurat. I think Villa Seurat is the one on the immediate right.

We next passed the reservoir with its attractive pavilions.

Then turned left into Avenue Reille where at number 53 is the very first house designed by Le Corbusier, in 1922.

Just to its left is the delightful Square Montouris: a narrow winding street on a hillside which has a fascinating miscellany of turn of the 20th century houses, including a couple with wonderful  decorative tiles.

At the end of the square is the very pleasant Park Montsoris (1875), the second largest in Paris.

The final stage of the walk took us along Rue de Tolbiac, where I enjoyed this nice juxtaposition of art nouveau and art deco shopfronts.

Then through the Butte aux Cailles area to place d'Italie where I liked this new building (a shopping mall, sadly) with coloured metalwork adding interest.

                                                                                                                                                                    Conditions: warm and sunny.

From: Walking Paris by Giles Desmons (New Holland, 1994). References to shops, bars and restaurants may be out of date, but it remains a good guide. There is a 1999 edition.

Distance: 4.25 miles.

Rating: four stars. 

Footnote October 2016

 I was interested to see a report on ArchDaily that the Montparnasse Tower has often been cited as one of the architecture world’s most hated buildings, and criticized for its discordance with the Parisian urban landscape. Just two years after its completion, new buildings over seven stories high in the city centre were banned. The Ensemble Immobilier Tour Maine-Montparnasse (EITMM) has just selected 7 notable firms to continue to the second round in a competition for the renovation of the tower. It will be interesting to see who wins and what they make of it.    

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