Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Oct 15, Part 8 - Place du Chatelet, Cafe Zimmer, Sphinx Fountain (Fontaine de la Victoire)

About half a block from the Pont Notre Dame (last post), we came to the Place du Chatelet, formerly a fortress gateway leading to the Cite. Here steps lead down to one of the largest metro stations in Paris. Above ground you can see the Victory Monument with the shining gold figure at the top and a fountain made of images of the sphinx at the bottom (left). In the center of the photo is the Gothic Tour St. Jacques, all that's left of a church called St-Jacques-la-Boucherie (a church dedicated to butchers), which was demolished in 1802. The tower was built from 1508 to 1522. Now it stands alone in a grassy square and is used as a meteorological station (which must make it the most beautiful one in the world, although I don't know what others of them look like). When I first saw the tower years ago, it was gray with centuries of dirt and air pollution. It's now been cleaned and is absolutely stunning.

The Gothic Tour St. Jacques.

On the square we discoverd the Cafe Zimmer. It was certainly cozy on a drizzly day, had a nice view, and the waiters had found the perfect combination of being French and still being accommodating to foreigners like us who try to follow the customs somewhat, but do not truly know how to be "professional" cafe patrons. I read that later in a book, about being a professional patron as much as the waiters are professionals. The waiters are not college kids waiting tables while a better job comes along, and they expect the patrons to know the rules. We didn't. We came back again because we liked the location, the food, the service, and the atmosphere, but we didn't realize that when a table is set for lunch, you do not order coffe and a snack. The waiter abruptly changed the table service (irritatedly enough that we got the hint we had done something wrong) and was then very cordial to us for the rest of our visit. Another historic note: the painter Jacques Louis David was born in a house just about on this spot, and there are several theatres on the square. It has a lot of other history, too. The guy in the photo is reading Woyzeck, a play by Georg B├╝chner. Maybe he was connected with one of the theatres.

From the cafe window. I thought she was pretty, although the pic is out of focus.

Here's the fountain with the sphinxes.

Who doesn't love Egyptian imagery? In French, this is the Fontaine du Chatelet, Fontaine de la Victoire, or Fontaine du Palmier. It dates from 1806 and 1858. Whoah, look at this photo! Nice!

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