Unexpected Jewels

Monday, May 02, 2011 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Paris, France. 
Searching for letterboxes in Paris has led to the discovery of some surprising sights, over and above the expected must-see Paris attractions.
Near the Louvre Museum, on a small square named Place Colette is what has been called the most photographed subway entrance in Paris.  Installed in 2000 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Paris Metro system, this glass and aluminum design (pictured above) was created by artist Jean-Michel Othoniel for an entrance to the Palais Royal metro station.  Called  "Le Kiosque des noctambules" (Kiosk of the night-walkers), the two cupolas represent night and day, and the colored balls are made of Murano glass from the Venice area.  Since there is actually no sign indicating that this is the Metro entrance, one might legitimately question its effectiveness, but never its style.
Publicis Drugstore des Champs Elysées
Never to be confused with your corner drugstore, the Publicis Drugstore des Champs Elyséess is another work of art applied to a mundane function.  The most prestigious street in Paris, the Avenue des Champs-Élysées commands some of the highest rent in the world, as high as $1.5 million annually for 1,100 square feet of space.  It runs 1.25 miles from the Place de la Concorde, the largest public square in Paris, to the the Arc de Triomphe, one of its most famous monuments.
Near the Arc is the Publicis Drugstore, a world-class example of the meaning of full-service.  Sitting on the site of the old Astoria Hotel, where General Eisenhower headquartered when serving as the commander of Allied Forces in World War II, the store was the brainchild of Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet, a French entrepreneur who founded France's first advertising agency.  His goal was to put luxury within the reach of all Parisians, while creating a welcoming space where people would want to linger.  As his massively successful advertising career and this project attest, he had a keen understanding of what Parisians want. More than 20,000 people pass through these doors daily.
Iranian-American architect Michele Saee completely redesigned the building inside and out in 2004, covering the exterior with the same transparent glass used for the pyramid at the Louvre.  Walls and doors that might block light were removed to expand transparency and allow an interaction between the activities of Publicis and the life of the city.  In Saee's goal to create a design that was "organic and feminine," angles were replaced by curves, vertical planes turned horizontal.
Really a complex of shops and eateries, Publicix offers a highly rated restaurant with a famed executive chef, a recording studio, a bookstore, an extensive newsstand with publications from around the world, two theaters, a gourmet food store, a wine shop, a designer jewelry store, a cigar store, other boutiques and shops, and you can even have a prescription filled there.
Fittingly, at Lafayette's grave an American flag is always on display.
A gem of another type that we encountered while letterboxing around the city was the grave of Marquis de Lafayette, renowned friend to rebellious colonists and hero of the American Revolution.  He is buried in Pipcus Cemetery, one of only two private burial grounds in the city.  Situated near the place where the guillotine was used during the French Revolution, Pipcus is the final resting place for more than 1,300 executed by that instrument.  New burials today are limited to descendants of those victims.
With its wealth of history and culture, Paris is filled with hidden gems.  We are thankful that our hobby of letterboxing leads us to some of them.  

MONDAY, 2 MAY 2011