Monday, January 30, 2012


What does the title of this post mean?  It is the time, 5:11pm.  Why so?  To make a point about Paris.

Yesterday, on the train back to Paris, I was scheduled to arrive at the train station Gare du Nord at 17:17.  This station is right in the heart of Paris, on the northern side of the city.   So I was shocked that I could look out my train window at 17:11 and see nothing but green fields.  It seemed impossible that 6 minutes from my very urban destination I would see only agricultural land.  But such was the case.

Similar to the fields I saw from my train window six minutes north of Paris Gare du Nord (photo was taken earlier in the journey)

The density of Paris is quite amazing, as well as its strong urban boundary.  This is not a boundary in the sense that they have been working with in Portland, Oregon.  This seems much more organically, well, French.  Repeatedly during my time here I am struck by the perception that there is a much greater cultural acceptance of very strong control over the built environment.  Antoine Picon, noted expert on Paris, shared just such an example in a conversation the other day - building heights have been controlled in Paris since around the time of the Renaissance. Luckily for the French, and for the world, that control is partnered with a very consistent, and consistently good sense of taste.  The city in effect becomes its own work of art.

Fascinating.  Very French?