Accordin’ to History…Opening a store during WWII

ACCORDIN’ TO HISTORY: How passionate must one have been, how optimistic, to have opened an accordion shop during WWII in Paris? One answer might be found by closely looking at this photo. This shop, in the 14th, opened its doors in 1944, while Paris was still under the horrid grip of Nazi occupation, and yet you assume with the some inkling of knowledge perhaps, like the sounds of the surf from a distant, unseen shore, that the owner knew that Freedom, D-Day!, was not that far away.

Or, did its doors open after June 6th 1944? Did the owner, –confident of a return to Parisian life with songs in the street, lightheartedness once again flowing in homes and bistros ….streets and alleys, like the spring rain, ..did he know the tide had turned (and if so, How?) How was he so sure that music would, once again, be in demand? Did he see nervous Nazis looking for the exits? Was he privy to insider details , that others weren’t? Or, was there just speculation that after an Allied victory,  everythign would be settled with Accordeon music. He was at least half right.


PS: I recently walked past this store (May 2014) and noticed a big sign saying it had relocated. And, it had, but only to the adjoining store where its instruments are still for sale and on display. It’s very hard to speculate on the store’s long-term future, but it certainly seems to have defied the odds so far!

A Door to More….?

Hidden in plain sight is this old doorway. I spoke to folks in the Quartier who say it once served as an entrance for the yard’s owners. But they say t’was “a cette epoche, la” (back in the day). Don’t you want to peek over the top? See what the rest of that tree looks like? Do people laze around in summer or sun in the backyard? Someday I’ll pop back over and test my luck. For now its just one of the awe-inspiring, yet ordinary sights that continuously thrill me.

Oh, if all the ancient doors and walkways, bricks and walls –and hidden gardens!– in Paris could talk. If they could I would sit down and listen, enraptured no doubt, till end of days.



When Signmakers Go Bad

Read At 50 Kilometers an hour...Don’t let the signs fool you. Driving is Paris is a snap. And a crackle and a pop. Moto (Motorbike) drivers regularly resort to sidewalks to avoid red lights, traffic jams or simply to scare the bejejus out of people. Be careful. I have seen countless Paris cars (what are called ‘toasters’ in North America) driving blithely along jogging paths and bike-lanes, and sadly, have watched them get pried out from under trucks. They zip in and out highway lanes, blithely unawares to the large metal rolling things that only slow them down. By far, the worst of these are the no-permit required, electric motos/scooters used by teens use to zip around Paris. They are noisome, and keep 22% of Paris up at night with a grating sound approximating a small nuclear reactor explosion. C’est la vie.

Time Capsule Courtyard

Somewhere int he 6th…..Hidden behind those tall and often imposing typical Parisian wooden doors is a hidden court yard that used to have a street running through it. It is a private time capsule. Long since sealed off, it is now court yard cum Petri dish, a frozen moment of Paris from a century or so ago. I’ve more photos to add but for now will post this one. I would have stayed longer to shoot but no sooner than I began walking about two tough looking pigeons (the one on the right was smoking unfiltered hand-rolled smokes) headed my way. They were far tougher looking that they appear. More pix soon…

Paris Pigeons…(duck and bring a lighter)

Life in Paris….(Written after Month 4 in the city)!

The pigeons are bigger; fly faster & often hit you. And, not by accident. (More on this later.. )

Everyone smokes, …. even pigeons. Even while flying. Can’t imagine how they lite up in flight. The sun definitely sits lower in the sky and stays up later. It also has a 3-pack-a-day habit. Huge numbers of kids smoke here. Shocking. I play hoops in the park. In NYC you break for water. Here, they light up. Sadly, it’s true. The Seine is never the same twice. Its colour, texture and attitude vary with weather, ones frame of mind and probably the number of cigarette butts tossed in…

During Roman rule Paris was called Lutetia, And, the Seine was twice as wide. Paris is an old, old city with many secrets. The more you learn of this, the more you’re enthralled. I’d explain more, but…’s secret. Most elevators are extremely small. I’m hardly huge & often my shoulders touch the sides. They’re more like coffins, actually. When I die I’m opting for a French elevator. Mine will probably just have a ‘Down’ button.

I discovered a street plaque marking Robert-Houdin’ s birthplace. He was a French magician, staggeringly talented and probably one of the world’s best. Harry Houdini named himself after Houdin (& awkward Tony Curtis portrayed him on film). Later, the French genius George Melies bought Robert-Houdin’ s studio …. revolutionized magic & illusions & became the world’s premier & most innovative and prolific movie maker…hundreds of films including the amazing ‘Un homme de tetes’(The Man with the Heads, 1898) & ‘Voyage Dans la Lune’(Voyage to the Moon -1902!) which NASA copied decades later.

Melies invented inspired avant-guard film techniques in use today. He wrote, acted, produced, directed, and hand-made the sets. He shot in colour. Paris is full of astonishing stories like this. And it’s right there in front of you. Sometimes you trip over it. Bread is an art form. I would have fattened up quite a bit save for all the walking and gawking.

There is no ‘service’ culture here. None. Food often passes its ‘best-buy’date by the time you get to the cashier. You will wait an ice-age before getting a clerk to notice you in any Paris store. Then they will ignore you. You must understand this in proper historical context: throughout the ages France has been invaded attacked and pillaged by innumerable hoards… no-one is attacking these days the natural target for this accumulated hatred is the customer.

In Paris, the customer is not ‘always right’, but in fact not only ALWAYS WRONG but is;

a) Unnecessary
b) Criminally suspect until proven innocent by buying ridiculously expensive (and useless) items then exiting without asking for help in under 12 seconds.

Our son is now bilingual: He ignores Anne & me in both languages.

According to the govt, 30% of all French therapists are frauds. … in the world do they know this? And what is the difference….(French humour!)

A bientot!


Dream Sunrise near Bordeaux

Paris’ Urban Armandas…and….

Like the imposing prow of a proud battleship, Paris buildings anchoring corners often appear set to steam into an intersection, you can almost hear the waves crashing in their wake, yet sit imperially, unfazed by traffic, pedestrians or mindless tourists below. Paris is awash in these urban Armadas and to stop and suddenly catch site of one will stop you in your tracks and quicken the heart rate.

I’m David Poratta and I hope you like my site. It is all about the city I love. My adopted home. The good, the enchanting, the ethereal, the wondrous, the magical and the hidden, the vexing and the nerve-wracking. The secret and the hidden and the blatantly beautiful. Paris is a gift you get to unwrap every day, or every morning or late afternoon if you pay attention!

If you have a question about Paris, or have always wondered about some aspect, fact, half-remembered myth of folklore, ….anything, write and ask. I’m thrilled to help! or Thx!


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