Flâneries in Paris: Surprises at Sèvres-Babylone

Flâneries in Paris: Surprises at Sèvres-Babylone
This is the eighth in a series of walking tours highlighting the sites and stories of diverse districts of Paris. Sometimes, I plan a walk to see specific things. Sometimes, I just set out to see what turns up, and in this case, walking no further than 15 minutes from the Sèvres-Babylone metro station, I found a number of surprises: a little corner of Indo-China with connections to Louis XIV, a church I’d never heard of which nearly 2 million people visit every year and a set of giant pink flying creatures which appeared to have been blown from bubble gum. To name but three… Hôtel Lutetia. Photo credit: Celette / Wikimedia commons I did already know about the first thing I spotted: the Hotel Lutetia on Boulevard Raspail, just by the metro exit, played a central role in the German occupation of Paris in the 1940s, when it was requisitioned by the Nazis. In 1945 however, on the orders of General de Gaulle himself, it became a center for displaced persons arriving in Paris, many of them from the concentration camps. The plaque on the wall recalls both the joy of those who came here having found their freedom and the anguish of those who waited in vain for relatives who never arrived. Today the Lutetia, which reopened in 2018 after a massive four-year restoration, is the only designated “palace” hotel on the Left Bank. Square Boucicaut @ corno.fulgur75 at Creative Commons What else could I find? I crossed through Square Boucicaut, one of those tranquil little Parisian parks which manage to be both well-ordered and well-used. The mature trees and little pathway named after Pierre Herbart – author and resistance fighter – who died in 1974, resonated continuity, but the office workers enjoying some lunchtime sunshine and the moms with baby slings and trailing toddlers heading for the playground spoke very much of today. A notice reminding everyone that “the grass takes its winter rest between mid-October and mid-April” seemed reassuring, a promise that all would always be well in this pretty little corner of Paris. La Chapelle de l’Épiphanie @ Thomon at Wikimedia Commons

Lead photo credit : Sèvres Babylone, Paris @ Phil McIver at Creative Commons

More in Catherine Labouré, Chapelle de l’Épiphanie, Flâneries in Paris, Rue Babylone, Rue du Bac, Sèvres-Babylone

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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.