Category Archives: Paris popular culture

The scavengers

Major nineteenth-century cities such as Paris or London depended on complex ecosystems in which the showiest sometimes obscured underlying layers. Consider a city in which by 1900 it was said that as many as 300,000 cigars (perhaps the number included … Continue reading

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The Jardin Mabille and the origins of the can-can

Paris has long been famous for dance, and not just the glamour of the ballet. The city was renowned for its bals (places and events for dancing). At one end of the social scale were the elaborate invitation-only affairs in … Continue reading

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Lost (and found) in translation

Among the pitfalls in learning French are what is known as “faux amis” (false friends) – that is, words that sound as if they ought to mean the same thing in English and French, but don’t. Like librairie, which is … Continue reading

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Everyday Hats of Paris

While there is a Paris of high fashion, there is also the Paris of everyday life. And what could be more everyday (quotidien) than dry cleaning or having a dress or pair of pants altered? This little bellhop with his … Continue reading

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Dateline Paris 1900: The Astounding Moving Electrical Sidewalk

In 1900, if you were lucky enough to have a ticket such as this one—and almost fifty million people did—you were in for an astounding treat. Paris and France went all out to make the Paris Universal Exposition the biggest … Continue reading

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The Paris Gigantic Wheel and Varieties Company Limited

It was an intriguing postcard, titled simply “Paris. La Grande Roue” (Paris, The Big Wheel). I didn’t recognize it, but I liked it, so I bought it. Little did I know that this purchase at an antiques fair in Paris … Continue reading

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Tall tales and some Paris-Marseille rivalry

Tall tales abound in every culture. When Philippa and I set out to explore our new neighbourhood in May, we never suspected that we would learn more about tall tales in France. On the nearby Rond-Point des Champs Elysées, a … Continue reading

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