Here's a selection of images of France Autrefois - from yesteryear, with recent photos for comparsion. These and other 'then and now' photos of France can be found in my ebook Autrefois - France of Yesteryear & Today:.
Gare d'Orsay/Gare d'Orléans/Musée d'Orsay
Paris has many great museums but only one, the Musée d'Orsay, was previously a train station. The Gare d'Orsay, originally known as the Gare d'Orléans, was the terminus of the Paris to Orléans train line. Built for the Exposition Universelle de 1900, the Gare d'Orsay was outgrown by modern trains, the last of which left the station in 1958. Then, in the 1970s an art museum was planned and Musée d'Orsay was born. It opened in 1986.
In both photos, taken over 100 years apart, we can tell we are in the same location. The pattern and skylights of the curved ceiling of the Gare d'Orléans are easy to see in the Musée d'Orsay, as are the curved pillars.
There is still a Gare d'Orléans in France, it's in Orléans and from the inside looks something like the old Gare d'Orléans in Paris.
Postcard postmarked February 14th, 1906.
Palais du Champ de Mars/Eiffel Tower
Before the Eiffel Tower the Champs de Mars was really "champs", fields, used by the École Militaire for its solders to march on. This use gives the Champs de Mars its name "Field of War". The marching gave way to the first Fête de la Fédération, now known in English as Bastille Day. Since 1867 the Champ de Mars has been home to four Expositions Universelles, 1867 1878, 1889 and 1900. It was for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 that the Eiffel Tower was built.
Then: Souvenir photo from the Exposition Universelle of 1967. The photo was probably taken from the old Palais du Trocadéro.
Now: 2014. Photo taken from a slightly lower view but you can still see the Pont d'Iéna in both images.
Eiffel Tower/Roland-Garros dans la Ville
It's difficult to believe today, but the Eiffel Tower wasn't always so popular. Even before it was built a group of artists banded together to see that it was never constructed. Needless to say they weren't successful. After the euphoria of the Exposition Universelle of 1889, the number of visitors to the Eiffel Tower dropped off considerably, from almost 2 million in 1889 to less than 400,000 in 1890. There was another spike for the Exposition Universelle of 1900 with a little over 1 million visitors. The record low for visitors was 1902 with 121,000. During both world wars the Eiffel Tower was closed to the public.
The Eiffel Tower came into its own as a tourist attraction after World War II, as the tower saw an almost yearly increase of visitors in the post war years. In 2009 the Eiffel Tower saw its two hundred and fifty millionth visitor.
Then: Postcard postmarked July 18th, 1914. Impossible to know when this photo was taken but it looks to have been a slow day at the Eiffel Tower. That could be explained by the fact that WWI was just around the corner. The war would start a little over two weeks after this postcard was sent. In the distance, under the Eiffel Tower's arch is the former Palais du Trocadéro.
Now: From in front of a tennis court used for Roland-Garros dans la Ville, during the 2014 French Open.
The Moulin Rouge dates from 1889 and the Belle Époque, a kind of second Renaissance during which the Eiffel Tower was built and the Expositions Universelles de 1889 and 1900 were held. It was created by two businessmen who were apt at giving people what they wanted.
The Moulin Rouge gave birth to what is now known as cabaret, a word that isn't French in origin, but Picarde, a regional language spoken in northern France and parts of Belgium. A cabaret was a place were people could relax, drink and most of all, liberate themselves from the stuffiness of society.
It's debatable whether or not the Moulin Rouge is in fact in Montmartre. It sits at the foot of the hill that is Montmartre, but that said the Moulin Rouge does pay homage to Montmartre autrefois, as it was once home to many windmills.
Then: Postcard from 1909.
Paris' most famous boulevard dates back to 1670 and is an extension of the central path of the Jardin des Tuileries. The extension known as the Grand-Cours, ran until the 'Grand Égout', a stream from the right bank to the Seine used as a sewer - égout, now present day Rue Marbeuf. In 1710 a bridge was built over Grand Égout and the path was extended again to what is now the Arc de Triomphe, from where both photos were taken.
Champs-Élysées comes from Elysium, a Greek mythology afterlife reserved for heroes, the righteous and those chosen by the gods.
Then: Postcard postmarked January 11th, 1910.
Pont Neuf/Place du Châtelet
Forget the name, Pont Neuf, meaning new bridge, is the oldest bridge in Paris. Building started in 1578 under Henry III but didn't finish until 1607, under the reign of Henry IV (whose statue is in the middle of the bridge). During construction the bridge's design was changed and it was widened so that houses could be built along the sides. Needless to say the houses were never built but Pont Neuf is still standing, linking Rives Gauche et Droite with Île de la Cité in between.
Then: Postcard postmarked May 13th, 1918.
Cour du Carrousel/Place du Carrousel
Sometimes greatness takes time. Conceived in 1662, yet not started until 1849 the Cour du Carrousel wasn't finished until 1908. For a time during the French Revolution the Cour du Carrousel (now called Place du Carrousel) was known as Place de la Fraternité or Réunion du Temps, and the guillotine was located there.
Before 1662 the Cour du Carrousel was home to walls built by Charles V and the Cour d'Honneur of the Palais des Tuileries, where the Cour du Carrousel now sits. Today the Place du Carrousel is the link between the end of the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre's main pyramid entrance.
Then: Postcard postmarked October 16th, 1909.
As this postcard can attest, Montmartre has gone through many changes over the years. The Impasse Girardon of yesteryear is nothing like the Impasse Girardon of today. But if you walk along rue Norvins towards Sacré Cœur you can see the church's steeple as in the old postcard.
Impasse Girardon was first known as Impasse de la Fontaine-Saint-Denis when it was a street in the once village of Montmartre. If you continue along Impasse Girardon into park Suzanne Buisson you'll notice Fontaine-Saint-Denis under a statue of Saint-Denis holding his head. Legend has it that after being decapitated Saint-Denis took his head, walked to Fontaine-Saint-Denis and washed it. The martyrdom of Saint-Denis is how Montmartre gets its name, Montmartre means martyr hill.
Then: Postcard August 1907.
This is another street in Montmartre that has changed and looks nothing like it once did. Le Maquis mentioned in the title of the old postcard was actually a working class Montmartre neighborhood.
After becoming part of Paris, Le Maquis, was a haven for the working class and poor who were displaced during Haussmann's renovation of Paris. Le Maquis was on the north, non-sunny side of Montmartre Hill. Legend has it that Le Maquis took its name from French for resistance - Maquis.
Rue Caulaincourt opened in 1867 and was soon named after General Armand-Augustin-Louis de Caulaincourt Duke of Vicenza.
Then: Postcard from 1903.
Now: 2014, at about 69 Rue Caulaincourt near Le Bistrot du Maquis Restaurant.
Restaurant Ledoyen/Pavillon Ledoyen
The origins of this restaurant date from 1779 and a 600 sq foot auberge - inn near Place Louis XV, now Place de la Concorde. From its beginnings, Ledoyen was an eatery where France's movers and shakers got together. During the French Revolution, Convention Nationale members ate here. In 1848 Ledoyen moved to its present location in the Jardins des Champs-Élysées. Today Ledoyen is a 3 star Michelin restaurant and is still home to power lunches and political intrigue.
LeDoyen gets its name from Antoine-Nicolas Doyen, who ran the restaurant for a time. His last name could be pronounced 'Ledoyen'. In the distance of both photos are the domes of the Petit Palais.
Then: Postcard photo taken during the January 1910 flood of Paris.
On the Web
Listening Discovery.com by FluentFrench.com: Sign up for the free course that helps you learn to hear spoken French. This is a 4-day course delivered by email and video, with exercises. This method is simple once you know it, but takes most people 3 days of work to really understand it.
Almost Summer Reading
(Not Quite) Mastering the Art of French Living: Every year upon arriving in Plobien, the small Breton town where he spends his summers, American writer Mark Greenside picks back up where he left off with his faux-pasâ€“filled Francophile life. Mellowed and humbled, but not daunted (OK, slightly daunted), he faces imminent concerns: What does he cook for a French person? Who has the right-of-way when entering or exiting a roundabout? Where does he pay for a parking ticket? And most dauntingly of all, when can he touch the tomatoes?
Murder Without Pity: Paris, France: dark with fog, riots over police killings, and Far Right demagogues.
Such is the milieu surrounding dogged state criminal investigator Stanislas Cassel. However, this grandson of a French propagandist for Nazis during their WWII Occupation, ashamed of his family's history, avoids anything political. Instead he buries himself solving small crimes, which he calls his Little Miseries.
Global Insurance Net: If you are thinking about moving to France you will need health insurance to get your visa. A great company that will help you with this is Global Insurance Net. I found out about Global Insurance Net in 2006 through another expat and have been recommending them ever since with no regrets. Carlos Perez the President, CEO of Global Insurance Net has always been very easy to work with.