Some Attractions Of Paris
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
"INFORMATION now is vulgarly common," and knowledge may be acquired by merely reading advertisements. Pictures of Paris' fine buildings, as familiar to the stay-at-homes as to the travelers, recall the story told of a man who praised some views of Constantinople:
"Very like," he said, "very like," although when questioned, acknowledged he had never been there himself, but had had a brother who always had a great mind to go.
There are undoubtedly people who do not enjoy Paris, who are quite insensible to its charms and remain non-conductors of its fascinations, but the fault is more often in the state of their mind or digestion than in any lack of interesting things to be seen.
Then, of course, there is always the patriotic element to deny its beauty with the oft reiterated exclamation: "America's good enough for me!" and one American family hurried home last autumn because the son had been made president of a foot-ball team. Naturally the world's masterpieces faded into nothingness at the prospect of winning such coveted laurels.
Accommodations are provided for all tastes. The exclusive go to the Hotel Ritz, where the few guests pay for the many who cannot afford to go. The splendor-loving now go to the Elysee Palace Hotel, where the immovable, pompous lackies, in knee breeches and silver chains, are so far above attending to your wants that they evidently think: "They also serve who only stand and wait."
The old Continental still holds its former patrons who prefer to go "where they are known," although the comfortable Regina now attracts Americans who compare it favorably with New York. The quantity of new hotels in Paris is only exceeded by the number of pensions, where "enough is as good as a feast"—in spite of the fact that the complaining guests would prefer the feast. The Hotel Bristol and the L'Athenee are pronounced excellent, and in fact there are hotels enough for any one wishing to change weekly during a year's stay.
The students who can afford neither hotel nor pension live usually happily, if not sumptuously, on nothing a year, and buy from the street venders just enough to satisfy the appetite, until, with a franc earned or borrowed, they may dine with the delight of a Beau Brummell at a cheap cafe.
The best part of a true Parisian's day is his dinner, and the cafes are so crowded every night one would think their motto: "Do not put off until tomorrow what you can eat today." The expert chefs use their art to disguise ord;nary dishes, so that everything is served a la masquerade, and general indigestibles covered with "soothing sauce" are eaten regardless of their heart-burn flavor. Everywhere is the spirit, "Let us eat, drink and be merry," and though it shortens their days it lengthens their nights.
At the Tour d'Argent, Frederic prepares his famous pressed duck and takes daily as much pains with it as an artist would bestow upon his supreme effort. It is so picturesque to see the white-haired old man anxiously basting before you the savory morsels, that the feast for the eyes is as pleasing as that later to the palate.
The Cafes Voisin, Cuban and the Cafe de Paris rival each other in their delicacies. Each restaurant has its own special piece de resistance. At Marguery's, on the Boulevard, the fillet of sole is unsurpassed, while Durand has the reputation of cooking eggs in every way known to man. At Duval's numerous places everything is standard, and one is sure of procuring a good meal at a comparatively low price.
The Cafes de Madrid and Armenonville have held a long sway in Paris, and now as the custom of five o'clock tea is rapidly growing, many distinguished-looking women are found in the afternoon at Paillard's and Rumpelmeyer's. Fuller's little American place has a perennial patronage, but every season a different cafe is in vogue. They spring up with mushroom rapidity, and unless, like the more fortunate they have some past tradition to hold the public interest, they are in.favor only as long as the whim of fashion lasts.
You will never know until you visit London how near you can go to another cab and yet not touch it, nor until you are in Paris how many times a day you can collide with another cal) and not be killed. The cochers are often more like brutes than their horses. They are no respecters of persons, and in the usual exchange of words when they are not paid enough, it is just as well so few travelers understand what they say. Their voices alone suggest a revolution. After a collision with another cab, a cocher will shout back all kinds of insults to the other cabby who has promptly driven off, and though far out of hearing, the irate cocher continues his shouting just for his own satisfaction, until the affair assumes dramatic complications. With the hundreds of automobiles ploughing unmercifully through the crowds one needs as many eyes as Argus before crossing the streets, and timid women reach with sighs of relief the little life-saving stations in the middle of the boulevards, where they try to collect enough courage to leave these little islands and plunge again into the sea of con-fusion.
If there is transmigration of the soul no one would care to return to Paris as a horse. There is a society here now similar to our Humane Society, but the beating goes on with such unabated force that one wonders if the society has grown weary in well doing.
Any one with a little money may take a cab, but it requires intelligence to reach one's destination ins bus. Their omnibus system is considered by the Parisians absolutely perfect, and covers the city's entire territory. It is often one's experience that the busses go everywhere except where one wants to be. If you do not go to the station to wait the next bus with 'the expectant crowd, your efforts to stop one along the streets will make you as ridiculous as a comic valentine. It requires the nimble feet of a premiere danseuse to mount to the top, and skill is more required than grace.
One could go to a different church s.lmost 'every Sunday in the year, these edifices are so numerous. Notre Dame is, of course, the favorite, and has been the scene of so many magnificent celebrations it would be interesting to see even if it were not architecturally beautiful. The Madeleine, with its wonderfully adorned bronze doors, is the church of the aristocracy, and the music is exceptionally goo:1 It is lighted from above, and as there are no side windows, with the enormous crowds, the air is stifling, and ushers are often kept busy with fainting women.
La Trinite is especially noted for its fine organist, M. Guilmant, while the rococo St. Roch and St. Eustache are always visited by sightseers, and the latter on Good Friday has the best music in Paris. - The most imposing church just finished, of the Sacre Co ur, situated on a height, is visible from all parts of Paris, and many brave the climb up Montmartre to see its vast interior.
St.-Germain l'Auxerrois, opposite the Louvre, defies time. Its old bell that rang the signal for the death of the Huguenots in the Massacre of St. Bartholomew in 1572, is now owned by the Comedie Francaise and is still rung whenever "Charles IN." is played. Dr. Morgan's American Episcopal church has a large congregation, and our countryman, Dr. Thurber, greatly endeared himself to his people who go regularly to the little church in the Rue de Berri. The Russian church is a little gem and the exquisite decorations always cause exclamations of admiration. There is no organ, and while a portion of the finely-drilled choir sing the accompaniment, the rest sing the air, and the resulting harmony could not be surpassed in an angel choir.
When leaving the Russian church it is customary to walk or drive through the Park Monceau, in which are situated some of the finest French homes, among others that of M. Menier, the so-called Baron de Chocolat. In the Faubourg St. Germain, aristocracy, having taken root, refuses, in spite of encroaching trade, to move over on the plutocratic Champs Elysees. The Countess de Castellane's home, in imitation of the Petit Trianon, is the center of the curious gaze, while the houses of the late Ex-Queen Isabella of Spain, and the Rothschild brothers, receive their share of public attention. The fine residence of Dr. Evans, the American dentist who assisted Empress Eugenie in her flight, was leased to the state during the Exposition of 1900, and known as the Palais de Sovereigns, was the abode for all royal guests of the Republic.
In the old part of Paris stands the Palais de Justice, the law courts, on the site of the ancient palace of the early kings which was their dwelling-place before the Louvre was built. Down below in the Conciergerie, the cell of Marie Antoinette, now a chapel, and that of Robespierre are shown once a week. The old Ste. Chapelle, close at hand, reminds one of Hillis' remark that Gothic architecture is a petrified prayer. It was Louis IX. who erected it as a receptacle for the Lord's crown of thorns and other presumably holy relics he had purchased during his crusade, and its antique stained glass windows, recently restored, reflect the richest possible tints.
The Louvre, so long used as a royal residence, represents the work of scores of architects, the generosity of dozens of 'kings, to say nothing of the taxes of many generations of people. It is now considered the finest museum in the world, and it requires two hours merely to walk through it, even though not stopping. The Venus de Milo holds her court down stairs amid hundreds of other priceless statues, while the paintings up - stairs recall the day that the great painter Millet, arriving an unknown country boy in Paris, said he was sure when he entered Paradise he could experience no more ecstatic sensation than when he saw those miles of pictures for the first time.
In the Luxemburg Museum the modern paintings and statues are placed, as an artist must be dead ten years before his work is transferred to the Louvre. In the Palace of the Luxemburg the' Senate has its meetings, but it was originally built as a home for Marie de Medici to console her for leaving the Pitti Palace in Florence, and Rubens was then commanded to paint for it those numerous pictures of her life that now adorn the walls of the Louvre.
The Place de la Concorde has had a remarkable existence. Louis XIV.'s modest equestrian statue, surrounded with figures representing Justice, Strength, and Wisdom, Caused a passing wit to inscribe beneath it: "Here we see Vice on horseback, and Virtue on foot," and the Revolution speedily removed the whole statue. It has been said that columns in France should be put up on hinges that they might be more readily taken down!
To celebrate Marie Antoinette's wedding, elaborate fire-works were to be set off here, but as they exploded unexpectedly:this square became the scene of a frightful panic—an evil omen, people said, for the young bride's future. The guillotine, devised by Dr. Guillotin, stood too in the Place de la Concorde to do its ghastly work, and Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI., Robespierre, Charlotte Corday and Mme. Roland all perished on this spot. In the center, at present, is the Obelisk of Luxor, and though the fountains play daily on each side, as Chateaubriand said: "All the water in the world would not suffice to wash away the blood shed there."
Statues representing the large cities of France surround the square like a guard, but since the Franco-Prussian war that of Strassburg has been draped in black. It is significant that after their loss the French did not tear it down—the score between France and Germany is not quite settled and many hope one day to recover that city.
The old land-marks of the Boulevards, the Porte St. Denis, and the Porte St. -Martin, were erected by Louis XIV. in memory of his Dutch and German victories, but the Arc de Triomphe is the finest arch in the world. It is over one hundred and fifty feet in height, and Napoleon built it to commemorate his ninety-six battles. In a most modest way he ordered a figure of Fame on one side, with a trumpet to proclaim afar his victories, while opposite History writes them down, and Victory crowns him! Only royalty is allowed to drive under this arch, consequently during the Republic the main passage is barred with a chain.
In an unbroken line one can see from L'Arc de Triomphe down to Napoleon's other Arc du Carrousel in the Tuileries Gardens, one of the finest vistas in the world. When the defeated Emperor, departing for St. Helena, took his last look at these then unfinished mockeries of his triumph, another pang must have been added to his downfall. But his return was unprecedented among all his triumphal entries into Paris. It was in the reign of Louis Philippe that his remains were brought from St. Helena to be laid in the Hotel des Invalides, and it was one of the greatest days ever known in the city. As the great doors of the Invalides were thrown open to admit the coffin, the old Chamberlain, as in former days, of Napoleon's reign, announced unexpectedly in a loud voice: "The Emperor!" and the surprised crowds were as startled as if the living man had entered. He lies there now in a red granite sarcophagus, with his brothers, Joseph and Jerome, nearby, guarded by a nation.