Flâneries in Paris: Art Nouveau Discovery near Place Victor Hugo

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Flâneries in Paris: Art Nouveau Discovery near Place Victor Hugo
This is the 23rd in a series of walking tours highlighting the sites and stories of diverse districts of Paris. Art Nouveau, Art Déco – which is which and where in Paris could I find buildings in those styles? A little research told me that a stroll down the Avenue Victor Hugo would lead me to some interesting examples, but first I had to negotiate the underground maze which is the Étoile metro station and try to surface in the right place. Exit 8, Avenue Foch did the trick.   The gold and turquoise façade of the Café Prunier at number 16, Avenue Victor Hugo stood out as soon as I saw it. Its design dates from 1925, when the Art Déco movement was really taking off and I immediately spotted two features I’d read about. The large rectangular windows, their shape a little softened by carved wooden surrounds, were an example of geometric shapes which replaced the curves and flourishes of Art Nouveau. And the stunning turquoise mosaic tiling covering most of the building’s front was certainly both bold and elegant, two characteristics sought by Art Nouveau designers. They favored animal motifs too and here fish shapes swirled among the decorative circles and pentagons.    Further along the avenue, came a mix of sophistication and the everyday. Monoprix was there, but then so were the jewelers Godenot Pauliet, with a Rolex-themed window display. Alongside Zara and Petit Bateau was what might be the most literary bus stop in Paris, the “Victor Hugo Paul Valéry” stop, named after two of France’s best-known writers, the 19th-century novelist who brought us Les Misérables, and the 20th-century poet who is still one of French schoolchildren’s must-study authors and who once wrote that “poetry is to prose as dancing is to walking.” The 16th arrondissement oozes culture and sophistication.  The next part of the plan went awry, a reminder perhaps that a flânerie should not be over-organized. I crossed the Place Victor Hugo and picked my way through a maze of elegant little streets towards the Porte-Dauphine metro station. I’d seen pictures of its beautiful Art Nouveau framework, the long wrought-iron “stems” of lily-of-the-valley which hold up the glass canopy roof, the abstract flower and leaf patterns so delicately “woven” from the dark green metal. But, alas, works were in progress and a tarpaulin covered the whole station entrance. It’s classified as a monument historique, so I know it will be unveiled again eventually and meanwhile I’ll go and have another look at the other two stations in this same exuberant turn-of-the-century style, Abbesses and Châtelet.    Porte Dauphine station, designed by Hector Guimard. Photo credit: Unuplusunu / Wikimedia commons
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Lead photo credit : "Dragonfly" Art Nouveau entrance designed by Hector Guimard. Photo credit: Peter Clericuzio/ Wikimedia commons

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Recently retired from teaching Modern Languages (French and German), Marian now has time to develop her interests in travel and European culture and history. She will be in Paris as often as she can, visiting places old and new, finding out their stories and writing it all up as soon as she gets home. Marian also runs the weekly podcast series, City Breaks, offering in-depth coverage of popular city break destinations, with lots of background history and cultural information. She has covered Paris in 22 episodes but looks forward to updating the series every now and then with some Paris Extra episodes.