On their Nostalgia Album 1952 road trip, my father and his parents have reached the top of the Eiffel Tower en route to Carlisle after visiting Aunty Lil in Gibraltar and taking in the healing waters of Lourdes. Last time they faced northwest as the shutter clattered, allowing a vista of Saint-Lazare, La Grand Palais and the Pont and Place d’Alma. This time the first photograph is facing down the way and reveals the Trocadero. Named after the Battle of Trocadero, a tremendous 1823 victory by the French (8 years after Waterloo, 25 years after the Battle of the Nile and 18 years after Trafalgar) in which they gained control of an uninhabited island swamp on the wrong side of the Bay of Cadiz.
The Trocadero Palace and gardens were originally built for the 1878 World Fair. A large concert hall sat between two towers and wings. The concert hall contained another impressive organ by old friend of Nostalgia Album, Aristide Cavaille-Coll, whose magnificent Church of the Madeleine effort featured in last week’s episode.
In 1936 the concert hall was demolished but the wings were retained, in anticipation of the following year’s Exposition Internationale. Fully titled ‘International Exposition of Art and Technology in Modern Life’ this was held from 25 May to 25 November.
A number of pavilions were built in the gardens and along both banks of the Seine. Our own was a rather modest concrete bungalow, next door to the Canadians, and featured paintings of Chamberlain fishing. Germany’s, however, designed by Albert Speer, was a more impressive effort which, according to wiki, was adorned by ‘two enormous nude males, clasping hands and standing defiantly side by side, in a pose of mutual defence and racial camaraderie’. Impressing the judges, Speer won a gold medal for his design.
The blurry splodge at the bottom of my ancestor’s photo, presumably an interrupting handrail, disguises the Pont d’Lena.
In the modern day, the layout isn’t much different than in 1952 with the buildings at the head of the Trocadero then as now famed for their photographic opportunities of Eiffel’s 984 ft tall 1889 tower. Although I wasn’t able to find a 1952 photo from that point, I was able to locate an image taken a few years earlier which shows an unencumbered view from the Trocadero terrace. Oh, not quite unencumbered. Hitler’s in the way. Sorry about that. There’s Speer standing to the left. He’s the one the French gave the gold medal to.
Above the left wing of the Trocadero can be seen the Passy Cemetery, the resting place of Edouard Manet whose haunting impressionist piece ‘The Railway’ captured the changing times as the steam age arrived at last week’s Gare Saint-Lazare during the sparkling reign of another old friend of Nostalgia Album, Napoleon III.
Also of interest to Puffins will be the repose of Marcel Dassault (1892-1986), the French engineer and industrialist whose life in aviation spanned wood and canvas all the way to the Rafale demonstrator, the basis of France’s present-day Armée de l’Air and Marine Nationale multirole fighter.
Moving on to the next old photo, facing south we can see Swan Island (Schwaneninsel in German), a man-made island, and five bridges crossing the Seine. The one at the bottom is Pont de Bir Hakeim, formerly known as the Pont de Passy, and consists of a road crossing and an elevated rail crossing which carries Line 6 of the Paris Metro. Line 6 runs from Charles De Gaulle – Etoile (note: not the airport of the same name) which is near the Arc De Triumph to a barren roundabout at Place de la Nation with its marooned statue of Marianne. The bridge is named after a 1942 defensive action by the Free French in the Libyan desert south and west of Tobruk.
Because of the lie of the land, Line 6 soon disappears underground on the Right Bank of the Seine but on the Left Bank continues on stilts until Boulevard Garibaldi. The first elevated station on the Left Bank is also called Bir Hakeim and in the photo is largely obscured by the gable end of a building advertising Dubonnet, an aperitif invented by Joseph Dubonnet to combat malaria in the French army and made famous through giant gable end advertisements. Technically a sweet, aromatised wine-based quinquina, Dubonnet is a blend of fortified wine, herbs, and spices, including quinine which is the anti-malarial. A powerful 14.8% alcohol, Dubonnet was a favourite drink of the Queen (who lived to be 96) and her mother (101), Dubonnet was awarded a Royal Warrant in 2021.
On the other side of the advertisement is the impressive 101-103 Quai Branley which, as it stands at a road junction, is also 3 Boulevard De Grenelle. Beautiful apartments sit above a bristo, restaurant and a souvenir shop. Towards the camera, in the modern day, the cleared land has been filled with a number of horrible buildings including the Maison de La Culture du Japon designed in the style of easy-to-build out of squeegee bottles, as if for a Godzilla set. Next door, the Embassy of Australia is even worse. One suspects a Speer’s flack tower sketch fell out of his Bavarian boar skin wallet and was found by an Aussie diplomat.
The scruffy parkland at the bottom of the photo is now the running track of the Stade Emile Anthonie, named after the French athlete who founded the Paris to Strasburg road race in 1926 and invented the Olympic walking event.
The next bridge curves across Swan Island and is the Pont Rouelle which carries RER Line C, a regional rail route of 84 stations spread across 115 route miles. The line running parallel to the Seine to the left-hand side of the photograph is also RER Line C with the two branches nowadays joining underground before running into Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel station.
The next bridge at the far end of Swan Island is Pont de Grenelle-Cadets de Samur, an arched road bridge. Quai de Grenelle is the name of the avenue on this side of the river and the Cadets de Saumur refers to the 2,190 men, 870 of whom were cadets, who assembled at the Saumur Cavalry School in June 1940 to slow the German advance across the Loire.
The present structure isn’t as pictured in 1952. It is a new girder bridge, without the intermediate arches, constructed in 1966. Above the bridge at Swan Island can be seen a pinnacle. This is the raised right arm and torch of a scale model of the Statue of Liberty donated to France in 1889 by U.S. citizens to celebrate the centenary of the French Revolution. The 38-foot high quarter-size representation faces New York and weighs 14 tons.
What fascinating facts and interesting people lie yet to be discovered about those other bridges? Find out next time on Nostalgia Album!
© Always Worth Saying 2022