"All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players."  --William Shakespeare

Entries in Louis XIV (2)


A Night of Accessibility


Whether your goal is to have the romantic time of your life, or to gorge yourself silly, or just to wander and discover tiny streets and massive monuments, most of the world agrees (tourists vote with their feet and currency) that Paris is THE destination. While the early kings named Henri gave that idea some traction in the 1500s, Louis XIV started showcasing the place as a world metropolis in 1670 when he ordered the defensive city walls torn down and the Grands Boulevards built on top of them.

More walls went up later, for tax collection purposes, but the impetus to create the Paris of today really took off under Napoleon III, Napoleon I’s nephew, who came back from exile in 1848 with a grand plan in his back pocket, and a willing Prefect of the Seine, Georges Haussmann, to hammer out the details. It’s their Paris of boulevards and monuments that people think of as modern Paris.


But this isn’t a history lesson, it’s merely preface to say that Paris is an OLD city.

And old cities are tough to retrofit for modern needs. Like those of the disabled. Those tiny, romantic sidewalk cafés with tables barely bigger than the average American's girth, narrow walkways between tables, and Turkish toilets in the underground caves, are useless to people in wheelchairs. And cobblestone streets that can barely be navigated in heels probably PUT people on crutches.


Even the Métro, one of the best in the world, first opened in 1900, long before the advent of disabled access, though the old wooden trains used to have seats set aside for the wounded of both wars. But how, one wonders, did they get into the station? Only the newer stations and lines have anything close to adequate elevators, escalators, and train access.

Paris Play had the privilege Saturday of working with a group of photographers from the Paris Photography Meetup Group to document the yearly gathering at Place Stalingrad of Jaccede.com, a group that works to spotlight and lobby for disabled people to gain the same kind of access that most of us take for granted.


Jaccede isn’t about demonstrations or agitation; it creates a survey of the town and offers an app that tells disabled Parisians (and visitors) which shops, Métro stations, restaurants, streets, etc., are most easily used by people with various kinds of disabilities, from the wheelchair-bound to the blind.


The night is also a social gathering of the disabled in large numbers, for dancing, playing, partying, hanging out with volunteer jugglers, tightrope walkers and clowns, and serves as a gentle reminder to the able-bodied who cut through the Place Stalingrad to enjoy a leisurely stroll along the beautiful Basin Villette that Paris is everybody’s city.


Some memories of that night below, and a celebration of some of the citizens that we might sometimes overlook. 








A Dance to the End of Summer

While it was an Italian invention, the French took to ballet like canards to l'eau. Catherine de Medici, the Italian who married French king Henry II, and who was responsible for much of the French Renaissance in art, and culture, and architecture, was ballet's first major patron in France; but Louis XIV, a passionate dancer whose nickname "Sun King" came from a 12-hour ballet in which he danced five different roles, cemented its place in French history and culture.



But this post is not about ballet.



It's about choreography, the kind of subtle choreography we're learning to see in Paris, where it seems that not only individuals dance to their own internal drummers, but even groups are often arranged by some master choreographer like Balanchine, or the Sun God, Apollo.



Richard and I will be standing on a Metro platform and there, across the tracks, a sudden rearrangement of waiting Parisians becomes a dance of its own. If he's quick, he can capture these moments in the Metro, in the streets, at cafés. If not, at least we saw the moment, and, like rainbows, we know they'll reappear when the angle and the light are right.



Here then, some of the choreography we've noticed, from soloists, duos, or ensemble players. Call it Paris Play's dance to the end of summer. May you keep an eye out for your town's tangos, tarantellas, or full-out ballets, and enjoy them as much as we do.




A Chorus Line


Channeling his inner Gene Kelly



A mosh pit


Sometimes, your hair can dance for you


A dog who thinks he's a cat


Dances with not-quite wolves




Street art by Miss-Tic