Place de la Bastille
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The Bastille holds a place of importance in French history. By crossing the Seine and following the Boulevard de la Bastille, you will find the site of the Bastille Saint-Antoine, which was a major part of the defenses ordered by Charles V in the dark ages. Original construction began in 1370.
Louis XIV had the ramparts demolished but kept the Bastille as a luxury prison for people of quality. Seen by the commoners as a symbol of the arbitrariness of the old monarchy, the Bastille was stormed by local Parisians on 14th July 1789, and later razed. A column surmounted by the "Spirit of Liberty" on place de la Bastille was erected not to remember the surrender of the prison with its last seven occupants in 1789, but the July Revolution of 1830, which replaced the autocratic Charles X with the "Citizen King" Louis-Philippe.
Months after the birth of the Second Republic in 1830, the workers took to the streets. All of eastern Paris was barricaded, with the fiercest fighting on rue du Faubourg-St-Antoine. The rebellion was quelled with a horrible massacre and deportation of the survivors, however it is the less contentious 1789 Bastille Day that France still celebrates. Political protesters have always used place de la Bastille as a rallying point, and still do.
Built by the well-known architect Carlos Ott, the Bastille Opera was inaugurated on July 14th 1989. This modern building was designed both to integrate it into the town of the suburb beginning just beside it, and the old faubourg Saint-Antoine, known for its working-class bustling neighborhood. The Bastille Opera was built with the mission to drag the people in and make them at home and make the lyric spectacle speak to them directly.
This area was filled with low-rent housing for a long time but is now one of the most trendy areas of Paris. You can find anything from old tool shops and ironmongers alongside cocktail haunts and sushi bars; laundries and cobblers flank electronic notebooks outlets.
You'll find art galleries clustered around rues Keller, Tamandiers and the adjoining stretch of rue de Charonne. And, on rue de Lappe, a very Parisian tradition: the "bals musettes", or dance halls of the1930s "gai Paris", frequented between the wars by Edith Piaf, Jean Gabin and Rita Hayworth.
The most famous bals musette,"The Balajo", rue de Lappe was founded by Jo de France, who introduced glitter and spectacle into what were then seedy gangster dives, and brought Parisians from the other side of the city to savour the rue de Lappe low life. The rue de Lappe can still be as dodgy a place to be at night as it was in prewar days. The bouncers at clubs like the Chapelle des Lombards, and at Balajo itself, the heavy drug scene, and the uneasy mix of local residents, have taken the soul away from a street that ten years ago deserved the special affection that Parisians of all sorts gave it.
Interactive Bastille Map:
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