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Improbable Walks

History Podcasts

Welcome to Improbable Walks, the travel podcast that brings you to the streets of Paris, wherever you are. Every episode, we discover a new street in the City of Light, strolling into the hidden history and stories of Paris, block by block. Your host is Canadian writer and long-time parisienne, Lisa Pasold. To support this podcast, please become a patron at Patreon

Location:

United States

Description:

Welcome to Improbable Walks, the travel podcast that brings you to the streets of Paris, wherever you are. Every episode, we discover a new street in the City of Light, strolling into the hidden history and stories of Paris, block by block. Your host is Canadian writer and long-time parisienne, Lisa Pasold. To support this podcast, please become a patron at Patreon

Language:

English


Episodes

Back to the Grands Boulevards

2/28/2024
In this episode, we continue our stroll along the Grands Boulevards, exploring some wild stories, literati, and even an assassination attempt that resulted in the brand new Garnier Opera house being built. And I get to chat about some of my favourite Parisians from the past, including General Thomas-Alexandre Dumas, the Revolutionary hero & father of writer Alexandre Dumas. For photos, check out my website! Thanks as always to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:20:35

Belle Epoque Spectacle: Grands Blvds (part 1)

12/19/2023
In this episode, we celebrate the holidays with a stroll past the Opera Garnier. Bright department store windows, glittering performances, and even cinema lights: the Grands Boulevards has it all. This is where the Lumiere Brothers introduced film to Paris audiences, and where Nadar ran his 19th-century photography studio. As always, for more info, links, and photos, check out my website! Thanks as always to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:24:07

Mme de Pompadour, the French President, and me

11/29/2023
Today's podcast visits the French President's palace, L’Élysée. The 365-room mansion has a history that oozes personality: once the home of Madame de Pompadour, Napoleon Bonaparte's sister Caroline also lived here for a few years. Caroline was described as "having the body of Venus and the brain of Machiavelli", which was probably not intended as a compliment, and yet, I'm sort of impressed. Visit my website for some images of the history we discuss. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music. (And yes, for you regular listeners, I have a darn November cold, so I do sound a little congested... sorry!)

Duration:00:19:45

Rue Bonaparte, a Left Bank classic

9/29/2023
Visit the street where New Yorker writer Janet Flanner lived, where the Beaux Arts school still stands, and of course, where de Beauvoir and Sartre once held court... The rue Bonaparte is a Left Bank Saint-Germain classic. For photos, check out my website! Thanks as always to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:12:48

Zola's complicated life on rue de Bruxelles

8/18/2023
Writer Emile Zola was once so poor, he pawned all his clothes and kept only a single bedsheet to sleep in. But by the time he moved into the quiet rue de Bruxelles below Place de Clichy, he had become a respected member of the middle class, a well-known journalist and a prolific novelist. Paris-born, Zola was a complicated man, and in this podcast, we talk about why he had two apartments simultaneously in this neighborhood, as well as his brave stance for justice. His defense of Captain Dreyfus led to his temporary exile--and possibly to his murder. Visit my website for some images to give you a better feel for the history here. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:20:12

The Library on the Left Bank

6/30/2023
In this episode, we visit the American Library in Paris, on the easily-overlooked little street of General Camou. This is a very short street, in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, and it's worth visiting both for the library, if you're an English-language reader, and for the architecture--both extremes of the 20th century are represented within one block, from Art Nouveau madness to stiff-upper-lip Minimalism. As always, for more info, links, and photos, check out my website! Thanks as always to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:11:19

The University of La Nouvelle Vague

5/22/2023
In this episode, we start in front of the beautiful Sorbonne and walk down the single block of rue Champollion. Named for the man who first successfully translated Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphics, this street includes a movie theatre that's now an historical monument. For film times (!) and extra info about rue Champollion check out my website! Thanks as always to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:13:09

Medicine, Monks, and Revolutionaries

3/22/2023
In this episode, we walk along the medieval rue de l’Ecole de Medecine, the Street of the School of Medicine, on the edge of the Latin Quarter. This street was also the birthplace of the Divine actress Sarah Bernhardt, and extremely important to the Revolutionaries like Marat & Danton. Our inspiration comes from an 1866 photograph taken by fascinating 19th-century photographer Charles Marville --check out my website to see the photo, and other relevant images. As always, heartfelt thanks to my tiny podcast team: Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how, and David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire, who plays my theme music.

Duration:00:20:35

Art Nouveau into Nouveau Paris

2/27/2023
In this episode, we focus on architecture & successful new approaches to urban design, from the Haussmann era's Square des Batignolles, up to the brand new street named for cellist Mstislav Rostropovitch. This route includes gorgeous Art Nouveau apartment buildings, the surprisingly lovely, brand-spanking-new, Tour Unic by Yansong Ma, and a secret relic from the Orient Express. For more info & images, check out my website. Thanks as always to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:17:26

The Insomniac on rue de la Bûcherie

1/29/2023
In this episode, meet the 18th-century insomniac writer & printer, Restif de la Bretonne. Paris is chilly in January, so it seems appropriate to walk along the rue de la Bûcherie, where logs were once unloaded from boats on the Seine, back in the days when Parisians heated their apartments with wood-burning fires. This is the Left Bank street where 20th century icon Simone de Beauvoir wrote some of her greatest work. Plus, here you can visit the famous bookshop, Shakespeare & Company. For a fantastic image of Restif de la Bretonne, check out my website! Thanks as always to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:15:34

The Defender of Time

12/31/2022
In this episode, I chat with Heather Stimmler about the Quartier de l'Horloge, in the 3rd arrodissement beside the Pompidou Center. We visit restored automaton, admire its music, and discuss whether a breathing dragon would make a reassuring clock... Happy New Year from everyone here at Improbable Walks, and big thanks to Heather! Check out her Secrets of Paris for all sorts of insider news about the City of Light. As always, my website has extra links & images to accompany this podcast. Thanks to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise, and general know-how. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:15:03

The Queen's Flower Market

10/30/2022
Today, let's visit a flower market on Ile de la Cité, right in the middle of Paris. Two good reasons to check this area out now: first, the Marché aux fleurs is due to be renovated, and second, back in 2014, the market was named for Queen Elizabeth II--this is highly unusual, in France. We'll talk about why. We'll also discuss Mad King Louis (or, more respectfully, Louis IX) and raise a glass to Inspector Maigret. Visit my website for images. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the wonderful New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:16:12

The Roman Arena Hiding in Plain Sight

9/17/2022
This Latin Quarter episode begins at Place Émile Mâle and features the strange story of the disappearing Roman arena. We also talk about the discrete author of The Story of O, and the wonderful botanist, Bernard de Jussieu, who is responsible for my all-time favourite tree. This episode wraps up in the lush Jardin des Plantes, where so many Parisians took refuge in the shade during this past excessively hot summer. Remember to visit my website for extra links & images. As always, thanks to Bremner Fletcher for technical expertise. The Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:16:13

Reading the stars on rue Sauval

7/29/2022
Today, we're walking along a small street near the Louvre that's packed with history. Let's talk about Catherine de Medici's personal astrologer, the 1940s Resistance fighters of Les Halles, and talk about successful vaccines of the 1700s. Visit my website for images. I am using a new microphone for this episode - if you have any thoughts about whether it is better or worse than the old one, let me know! (you can contact me through my website) As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the wonderful New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:13:14

The Most Famous Avenue in the World

6/29/2022
Today, we're walking along LES CHAMPS ELYSEES, the most famous avenue in the world. From an inclusive coffeeshop to the Guerlain perfume legacy... and most particularly, my favourite steampunk historical fact: in the early 1900s, inventor Alberto Santos-Dumont used to park his dirigible (yes, a flying machine) outside his apartment on the Champs. Visit my website for images. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the wonderful New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:14:39

Impressionists in Clichy

5/31/2022
Once upon a time, the Avenue de Clichy was the place to meet the great Impressionist painters. Why? Because this was the location of the famous CAFE GUERBOIS. In this episode, we check out the place where artist Edouard Manet used to buy his paint supplies, learn about Claude Monet's friends (and how they kept him alive), and stroll through the gorgeous little-known park of Batignolles. Visit my website for some images, to give you a better feel for the history here under our feet. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:16:49

Coffee and Revolution in the Cour du Commerce-de-Saint-André

4/30/2022
Wow, did April ever whoosh past in a blaze of work & sunshine here in Paris! Today, we're walking through a gorgeously historic "passage" near Métro Odéon on the Left Bank--we look at coffee in the 1600s, and brilliant Revolutionaries like the printer Marat and the orator Danton. Visit my website for some images, to give you a better feel for the history here under our feet. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:15:19

Picasso on the rue des Grands Augustins

2/24/2022
Artists Sonia Delaunay, Robert Delaunay, and Pablo Picasso all lived on this little Left Bank street. Poet Apollinaire stayed here briefly. And King Louis XIII was crowned right here in the road, when he was just a child! The rue des Grands Augustins is a stroll down memory lane for me, because I lived on this street in the late 90s. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the New Orleans accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:16:09

Architects of the Modern

1/5/2022
Today's episode walks into a neighbourhood of wonderful Modernist villas in the chic western residential arrondissement of Paris, the 16th. Welcome to the rue Mallet-Stevens, designed by the delightful architect, Robert Mallet-Stevens (who I refer to as "RMS" during the podcast, because his name is such a mouthful.) RMS is undeservedly forgotten, unlike his contemporary, Le Corbusier--whose Fondation runs two villas just a few minutes' walk from the rue Mallet-Stevens. So we get to visit both architects' work, in one elegant stroll. As always, Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher and to David Symons, the marvellous accordion player who performs the Improbable Walks theme music.

Duration:00:13:32

Bertie's Belle Epoque (King Edward VII in Paris)

11/29/2021
Today's episode explores the beautiful hidden courtyards of Place Edouard VII, near the Opera Garnier in Paris. We'll talk about the Fragonard Perfume Museum, the gorgeous Athenée Théatre Louis-Jouvet, and we'll discuss why Bertie--Queen Victoria's heir, Edward VII--really preferred the city of Paris. We'll also talk about why I believe Bertie should be commemorated wearing a smoking jacket, not a military uniform. Visit my website for extra links & images. Improbable Walks is grateful to the technical expertise of Bremner Fletcher (though even he couldn't fix my stumble in this episode, where I refer to an ENTIRE BUILDING as a painting. Listen for it, and forgive me. I had a cold while doing this episode, and I was stoned on cough syrup. All better now!) As always, the Improbable Walks theme music is performed by David Symons, New Orleans accordionist extraordinaire.

Duration:00:18:00