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Archive for the ‘prices’ Category

Albert Marquet: Paris under Snow

The idea for this post came naturally while I was standing at the window observing the ice crystals suspended in the air outside. It’s -30° Celsius (-22°F for the uninitiated) here in the foothills of the Canadian Rockies, but with the basement furnace humming and a sturdy glass of spiced wine steaming next to my laptop, life is pretty good – definitely better than it was for the majority of Parisians in the 19th century. What was winter like in Paris then? An American traveller left this account in 1854:

“The summer and autumn are the seasons one should spend in Paris, to see it in its full glory. The people of Paris live out-of-doors, and to see them in the winter, is not to know them thoroughly. The summer weather is unlike that of London. The air is pure, the sky serene, and the whole city is full of gardens and promenades. The little out-of-door theaters reap harvests of money–the tricksters, the conjurors, the street fiddlers, and all sorts of men who get their subsistence by furnishing the people with cheap amusements, are in high spirits, for in these seasons they can drive a fine business. Not so in the winter. Then they are obliged either to wander over the half-deserted places, gathering here and there a sou, or shut themselves up in their garret or cellar apartments, and live upon their summer gains.

To the stranger who must be economical, Paris in the winter is not to be desired, for fuel is enormously high in that city. A bit of wood is worth so much cash, and a log which in America would be thrown away, would there be worth a little fortune to a poor wood-dealer. Fuel is exceedingly dear in Paris, and the buildings are not made for in-door comfort. If they were as warmly made as the houses of New York, they would be comfortable in winter, but such not being the case, and fuel being costly, comfort in private apartments is rarely to be had by any but the rich. Coal is not used to any great extent, though charcoal is burned in small quantities, but wood is the fuel principally used. It is sold in small packages, and is principally brought up from the distant provinces by the canals. The amount of wood required to make what a Frenchman would call a glowing fire, would astonish an American. A half a dozen sticks, not much larger or longer than his fingers, laid crosswise in a little hearth, is sufficient for a man’s chamber. A log which one of our western farmers would think nothing of consuming in a winter’s evening, would bring quite a handsome sum in Paris on any winter day. The truth is, the economical traveler had better not spend his winter in Paris, for comfort at that time costs money. The houses admit such volumes of cold air, the windows are so loose and the doors such wretched contrivances, and that, too, in the best of French cities, that the stranger sighs for the comforts of home. Nowhere in the world is so much taste displayed as in Paris, in the furnishing of apartments. This is known as far as Paris is, but it is always the outside appearance which is attended to, and nothing more. It is like the Parisian dandy who wears a fine coat, hat, and false bosom, but has no shirt. The homes of Paris are got up, many of them at least, upon this principle. The rooms are elegantly furnished, and in pleasant weather are indeed very pleasant to abide in, but let a cold day come, and they are as uncomfortable as can be, and the ten thousand conveniences which a New York or London household would think it impossible to be without, are wanting.”

 Bartlett, David W., Paris: With Pen and Pencil, Its People and Literature, Its Life and Business, New York, 1854

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This drawing of tarts in a low-class brasserie provides food for thought. In the Victorian era, destitute women had few choices for making a living: servitude, drudgery in sweat-shops or, failing that, prostitution.  I think that in our time the four women in the scene could be a real-estate agent, a hairstylist, a marine biologist and a police officer. Or perhaps they’d be tarts again. Who knows? The difference is that women have more choices now.

In July 1865, one of the Goncourt brothers (more about them in a future post) records his visit to a brothel where both the surroundings and the women were a step above the previous bleak picture:

“Just past the Ecole Militaire, a front shop with white curtains. Another story above a large number on the door. The Big 9. A large room lighted from above by the van daylight. Some tables and a bar lined with bottles of liquor. There are Zouaves (*), soldiers, and workmen in smock and grey sitting at the tables with tarts perched on their knees. The girls wear white or colored blouses and dark skirts. They are young and pretty, with pink fingernails and their hair carefully dressed with little ornaments in it. Smoking cigarettes or drawing on a friend’s Maryland, they walk up and down in pairs between the tables, playfully jostling each other, or else they sit playing draughts. Singers turn up now and then to sing some dirty ditty in a bass voice. The waiters have big black mustaches. The girls call the pimp who runs the establishment “the old marquis”. A negress goes by in a sleeveless dress.

“One the first floor, there is a long corridor with a lot of tiny cells just big enough to contain a little window with broken blinds, a bed, a chest of drawers, and, on the floor, the inevitable basin and jug of water. On the wall there is one of those colored pictures entitled Spring or Summer that you win at a fair and, hanging from the mirror, a little Zouave doll.

“These twenty-sou women are not at all like the terrifying creatures drawn by Constantin Guys, but poor little things trying to ape the language and dress of the higher class prostitutes.”

Constantin Guys: Girls in a Bordello

Moving up the scale of prostitution to the very top, the Goncourts report the following:

“April 7, 1857

Anna Deslions

“Rose [Goncourts’ housekeeper] has just seen in the concierge’s lodge the night-clothes—or morning-clothes if you prefer—that our neighbor La Deslions (see the post Dinner with Courtesans) sends by her maid to the house of the man to whom she is giving a night. It seems that she has a different outfit for each of her lovers in the color that he prefers. This one consists of a white satin dressing gown, quilted and pinked, with gold-embroidered slippers in the same color—a dressing gown costing between twelve and fifteen hundred francs—a nightdress in batiste trimmed with Valenciennes lace, with embroidered insertions costing three hundred francs, and a petticoat trimmed with three lace flounces at three or four hundred francs each, a total of some three thousand francs taken to any house whose master can afford her.” (For comparison, the daily wage of a maid was one franc.)

(*) Zouaves: Body of light infantry in the French army, composed of Algerian recruits, popular for their exotic uniform.

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"Impériale" omnibus, early 1850's

Parisian transport was regulated since the early 1800s and no public vehicle could circulate in the city without a special permit. In 1853, the first double decker buses called impériales appeared in the streets. The upper floor was uncovered and admitted only male passengers as the women’s voluminous crinolines were a dangerous obstacle in climbing the steep steps. The creation of the Compagnie Impériale des voitures de Paris  in 1855 merged all existing public transport companies. Twenty-five public transport lines covered 150 km of Parisian streets.  In the 1860’s there were thirty-one omnibus lines, which served the city’s main thoroughfares from 8 a.m. until midnight.  Private cabs, hailed on the street and marked with red numbers, cost 2 francs the hour. Small steamboats known as mouches (flies) or hirondelles (swallows) plied the Seine.

Left: In 1855 Paris saw faster and larger two-horse omnibuses with 24 seats. Inside seats cost 30 centimes and included a transfer. A seat on the impériale cost 15 centimes, but no transfer was possible.

Below: Horse-drawn tramways were introduced in 1873.newpicaday at gmail
Below: In 1900, the city welcomed motorized tramways and Parisians experienced the first ride underground in the métro.

(Photo Richard Nahem)

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(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

 Paris, the City of Light, is a veritable charivari of pleasures after nightfall; the visitor must only beware of not regretting the effects of a too-eager readiness to yield to the siren calls of its temptations and intoxications.

Theatres,  cafés chantants and dancing halls

The Grand Opéra, rue Pelletier. Properly the French Opera, run up in a hurry in 1821(to replace a building in the rue de Richelieu, at the door of which the Duc de Berri was stabbed and which was pulled down in consequence). In front of the portico three dastardly Italians tried to assassinate the Emperor and the Empress in 1858, and now this building is being replaced too, by a splendid edifice designed by M. Garnier, due to open in 1871. The government provides 900,000 francs of annual subsidy. Peformances on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and often Sunday.

 The Opéra Comique, Place des Italiens. In this handsome hall are presented lighter works, by modern composers such as Aber, Halévy etc.

The Théâtre Italien, Place Boildieu. Here a select audience listens to Italian Opera, in a season which lasts from November to April (after which the singers generally repair to London).

The Théâtre Français, rue Richelieu. The seat of the French regular drama – classic works and modern alike, with a government subsidy of 240,000 francs. Molière was once its manager; in later years it has been the scene of triumphs of Talma and Rachel. The manager is allowed to withdraw an actor from any other theatre to the Comédie-Française (as it is also known) on one year notice.

The Odéon, near the Luxembourg. A minor Théâtre Français, but not an inferior one. Here Beaumarchais’ play Le Mariage de Figaro was first produced in 1784; nine years later, the entire troop of actors was arrested by order of the Revolutionary tribunal. It has several times been burnt down.

 Théâtre des Variétés, Boulevard Montmartre. A neat and much frequented house, in which the amusing musical vaudevilles of M. Offenbach can be seen.

The infamous Boulevard du Temple, or ‘Boulevard du Crime’, on which the smaller theatres played the most lurid and distasteful melodrama, has now been destroyed to make way for the regime’s march of progress.

The Théâtre Gymnase-Dramatique, Boulevard Bonne Nouvelle, is respectable. The plays are moral and the performers are all married.

Note Ladies do not patronize the pit, or parterre, of any theatre; gentlemen admitted here should in the interval ensure their places by tying a handkerchief around the banquette. Be also warned that at the Grand Opéra, the claque sit here. This disagreeable cohort, paid by the management in this and other theatres to respond favourably to the entertainment in question, should on no account be shushed or silenced in their mercenary activities. An attempt to abolish the claques in 1853 proved totally unsuccessful after a fortnight.

Tickets for all Parisian theatrical performances may be booked from a central office on the Boulevard des Italiens; avoid the profiteers who swarm outside the more popular theatres – their offers are always excessive in price, and frequently entirely bogus!

Cafés chantants.  Spectators sit and listen to music, sometimes of a coarse nature, executed by performers often outrageously overdressed. No charge is made for admission, but one will be expected to take refreshment, usually of an inferior quality. The company is not aristocratic, but the visitor need not fear annoyance or impropriety. The most celebrated of these institutions is L’Alcazar, rue du Fauburg Poissonière. Here the fabulous Theresa, whose salary exceeds 20,000 fr. per annum, sings, twice a week in the winter season, ditties of a satirical and even saucy turn.

Bals publics. It is difficult to imagine scenes more curious or fantastic than those presented by these public dancing halls. At the most refined level, bals masqués are presented during the winter in the Grand Opéra – the pit being boarded over and joined to the stage. Gentlemen may be admitted (10 fr.) in plain evening clothes, but ladies should be masked or in costume. The gorgeous and glittering revelry of the polka, waltz, and mazurka reaches its climax at 1 a.m. Strict etiquette is by no means the predominating characteristic of the fair who resort to this pleasantest of pandemonia. It will be conceived that if a visitor should take the ladies of his family to witness this display, he must take them to a box as a mere spectators, for to mingle with any of these too vivacious groups, could be worse than indiscretion.

Elsewhere public dancing halls abound. Some of the smaller establishments in the suburbs are little more than dens of all the vices: official efforts to curb their activities and proliferation have not been altogether effective.

In the centre of the city, more commodious establishments may be found, among them the Salle Valentino, rue S. Honoré. The architecture is a medley of the Moorish and Greek; the columns are gaily painted, and the recess is backed by mirrors which greatly enhances the brilliancy of the scene. There are a billiard table, a shooting gallery, a dynamometer for amateurs of muscular strength, and tables where trifles may be raffled for. The visitor must expect to see every variety of embrace not excepting the ursine hug. Admission 2-3 fr.

Jardin Mabille, Avenue Montaigne. A large circular space, with a pavilion for the orchestra in the centre, is reserved for the dancers, and lighted by a profusion of gas-lights suspended from artificial palm trees. A snug corner is laid out for refreshment; here the votary of Terpsichore may treat his partner to a refreshing lemonade. An immense covered saloon affords the visitor a secure asylum from bad weather. The company of this elegant garden comes under the description of ‘the gayest of the gay’, but licence is not carried beyond propriety. Admission 2 fr.

 Would that the same could be said of the Salon de Wauxhall,  rue de la Douane, which partakes of the character of the manufacturing arrondissement surrounding it, and is not much more respectably attended than the Holborn Casino! The police make forays on its bacchic excesses, and arrests are made.

A novel and hilarious diversion is provided by an American importation. In the Roller Skating Club, rue Jean Goujon, skating on shoes soled with rubberized wheels is demonstrated daily by ‘Professor’ Fuller, a master of the Art who claims to have been ‘decorated by every Sovereign in the world with ice in his dominions’. The first of such institutions in Europe.

Next: Sightseeing

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(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

Le Train Bleu restaurant, Paris. Typical 2nd Empire interior design.

Restaurants and Cafés

Dinner is served between 4.30 and 8 p.m. Very large portions are the rule, and the visitor will find that one French appetite is sufficient for two Anglo-Saxon appetites.

The carte: nothing can be more bewildering to the stranger than to have this printed list, of some hundred dishes, placed in his hand, and he soon begins to feel uncomfortable at the contempt that his ignorance must inspire in the waiter. We therefore recommend – for reasons of as much economy as of personal dignity – that the visitor favours the fixed price menu of the day, available at all but the very smartest establishments.

For those who do not wish to risk the possibility of digestive contretemps, plain, wholesome English fare is offered by Lucas, in the rue Madeleine (ham or roast beef, with boiled cabbage and mashed potatoes, 1 fr. 20 c. English cheeses; half portions available); also by the well-established Byron’s Tavern, rue Favart, Taverne Britannique, rue Richelieu, and His Lordship’s Larder, rue Royale. Beware signs in windows advertising ‘Veritable Warranted Cheddar’ or ‘Stakes from London, Day and Night’.

The stranger should not as a rule venture below third class, but he may safely patronize a new form of eating house, the cremerie or bouillon, in which simple dishes and collations are constantly ready for instant purchase and consumption. These places do not minister to the refinement or romance of dining out in Paris; no ceremony beyond eating and paying is attached to them; but they do have the advantage of the utmost convenience.

For those who wish to sample the full glory of Parisian cuisine, with expense no object, we would single out Café des Anglais, Boulevard des Italiens. Obtaining a table is not easy; there are times when those without réclame or a title seem to be tacitly excluded. The restaurant upstairs (in which smoking is not permitted) has long been the haunt of la jeunesse aristocratique - the Duc de Rivoli, Prince Paul Demidoff, the Marquis de Modena &c. A beefsteak costs 1 fr. 75c. The cellars, which contain over 200,000 bottles of wine, including some of the Château Lafitte dating from the previous century, make a faery dining hall. The ground-floor café is but plain and typique, and open all night. Beware cocottes. Véfour, Galerie Valois. Salmon mayonnaise (the receipt a closely guarded secret), 2fr. 50c. The 36-page menu here lists twenty hors d’oeuvres, thirty-three soups, forty-six dishes of beef, thirty-four of game, as well as forty-seven of vegetables and seventy-one fruits en compote. Trois Frères Provençaux,  Galerie Beaujolais (not to be confused with its pallid imitator, the  Deux Frères Provençaux, rue Dauphine), has four salons and eighteen private rooms; fine wine, cod with garlic a speciality.

Note Ordinary red table wine is usually drunk mixed with aerated water – this precaution is especially recommended in inferior restaurants.

 

Ilya Repin "Scene from a Parisian Café" 1875

Paris boasts at least twenty thousand cafés. The more salubrious of them present the visitor with a sprightly scene. Around are luxurious couches for your accommodation; mirrors, gilding, and tasteful adornments of decorative skill enrich the walls; whilst every art that can be used to attract and retain the visitor is brought into operation – the daily journals, draughts, chess, dominoes, cribbage and billiards. Excellent coffee, chocolate and liqueurs are supplied at reasonable prices. Ladies are at perfect liberty to frequent these saloons, and are numerously found there. The utmost decorum prevails, and the freedom and ease of conversation, carried on in a low tone, forms an additional attraction to these popular places of resort. Smoking is generally prohibited until the evening.

            Coffee is served either as a demi-tasse (strong, black), or as a mazagran (in a glass, with an accompanying carafe of water), or as capuchin, with milk. Never tip, even for a single cup of coffee, less than 10c. Should you give less, you risk the embarrassment of an ironic shout of ‘Un sou pour le garçon!’

            Tortoni, Boulevard des Italiens. Renowned for its ices and sorbets. Café du Helder, Boulevard des Italiens. Open after the theatre; food, at a price (half a chicken, 4 fr.!!) Well known for its absinthe, a spirituous liquor which, if taken in any quantity, can be ruinous to both moral and physical well-being. Café Leblond Favre, Passage de l’Opéra. Stockjobbers from the Bourse breakfast there. Sherry cobbler, mint julep, American grog, and other Yankee potations purveyed. Café de Suède, Boulevard Montmartre. After-theatre suppers of goose aux marrons, sauerkraut and potato salad, served in private cubicles. Literary and journalistic clientele, of a radical political nature. A famous habitué is Le Guillois, the eccentric editor of the newspaper Le Hanneton. To publicise this he adopted the ludicrous habit of taking out the copy in public places, pretending to read it, and gasping loudly: ‘This newspaper is remarkable! The critics are excellent, the drawings clever! And so much for a ridiculously low price! Truly, this Le Guillois the editor is astonishing man who deserves to succeed!’

Next: The Guide to Gay Paree – Part 5: Shopping

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Le Grand Hotel du Louvre

(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

Hotels and Accommodations

Paris contains some 4,000 hotels and lodging houses, many of them bearing in their names the evidence of the entente cordiale - hence the Hotels Chatnam, Bristol, Windsor, Manchester, Brighton, Liverpool, Westminster, Dover, Bedford, Canterbury, Richmond, Lancaster, Clarendon, Nelson, Byron, Walter Scott, Prince Regent and several Albions, Londres, Victorias, Iles Britanniques, and Angleterres. Those on an expansive budget should note:

Grand Hôtel, Boulevard des Capucines. A new hotel, financed by the Jewish bankers Pereire, of great show and size (not to be confused with its neighbouring rival, the Grand Hotel du Louvre against which it has been wrangling a costly and bitter legal suit). Seven hundred rooms, for which one can expect to pay 20 francs per diem. For all the splendour of its public quarters, designed by M. Charles Garnier, do not recon on quiet, prompt attendance. There are few private w.c.s and many damp, dark corridors. More commodious to traveling agents for commercial houses than families seeking cheer and respectability. A lifting machine, operated by hydraulic press, raises clients to their floor, thus circumventing the fatigue of staircases. Electric bells operate throughout.

Hôtel Meurice, rue de Rivoli. Much patronized by visiting royalty and aristocracy. Our intelligence has it, however, that standards in this establishment have fallen since it passed out of private hands and into those of a joint stock enterprise, the Paris Hotel Company.

Hôtel de Calais, rue Neuve des Capucines. Frequented by the elite of American society. American breakfasts served (buckwheat cakes, fishballs &c.). Close to the American banking house.

Visitors intending to stay for longer periods should not hesitate to take a furnished apartment: a reliable agent can be found in A. Webb, 220 rue de Rivoli, tea dealer and wine and brandy merchant. Many English, Americans and Russians of more than moderate means prefer the leafy residential stretch of the Champs Elysées.

Next: Restaurants and Cafés

 

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(From Paris Partout! A guide for the English and American Traveller in 1869 or How to see PARIS for 5 guineas)

PARIS! - gay and beautiful Paris – rich in architectural treasures, teeming with historic associations of deepest interest – favoured in its genial climate – replete with endless novelty – the abode and dictator of European fashion – full of all that art and science can contribute to beguile the sense – its people renowned for their wit and daring – in fact, in sum, in total, THE PARADISE OF TOURISTS!

 

From London

Of the different routes available, the speediest is that adopted by the South-Eastern Railway, whose accelerated special tide trains leave regularly from Charing Cross, passing to Paris via Sevenoaks, Folkestone (indifferent refreshment room), and Boulogne. Weather permitting, the entire trip is of a duration c. 10 hours. Return ticket, one month’s validity, £3 10s.

 Passports

Since a French regulation of 1860, English citizens are now exempt from the expense and annoyance of passports; but although by no means absolutely necessary, one of these documents, or a card of identity, is most strongly recommended.

 Customs

Attention is generally paid only to cigars, on which a levy of 10 centimes per item is payable. Certain books and newspapers, of inflammatory or political tendency, can cause difficulties or embarrassment.

 Money

25 francs equal £1; 5 francs equal $1.

Next: The Guide to Gay Paree Part 2:  Arrival in Paris

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