Friday, April 28, 2023






                                                        ( Avtar Mota outside Pantheon )

    ( 'Locks of Love' tied to the railing of Pont  Saint Michel in Paris )



        ( All above 12 photos by Avtar Mota )


The Pantheon Paris ( Greek Pantheon meaning “Every God”) is one of the popular Paris tourist attractions. This majestic neoclassical building with its 19th century paintings and sculptures stands elegantly in the midst of the world-famous Latin Quarter. Latin Quarter is the area of the University of Sorbonne.  During the Middle Ages, the University of Paris – now wildly referred to as Sorbonne – was in its golden years and the whole area was filled with students who spoke Latin. Therefore, the area was known as  Latin Quarter. Pantheon is a stunning example of both Neoclassical and Gothic architectural styles . A repository of incredible art collection, it includes frescoes, paintings, sculptures, and mosaics that depict key points in the French history, including scenes from the Revolution. Many frescos and paintings  pay homage to St-Genevieve as well as key figures from history of France . The Panthéon is conveniently located in the heart of the 5th Arrondissement( district ) next to Luxembourg Palace and the Jardin du Luxembourg, a beautiful green oasis in the heart of the city. From Pantheon,  one can also walk down to Saint-Germain-des-Prés to visit the famous Café de Flore  that used to be frequented by intellectuals and artists of the 20th century   that include Hemingway, Jean Paul Sartre  Albert Camus and  Pablo Picasso . The Sainte Chapelle,  the Sorbonne university ,the world-famous Shakespeare & Co. (book store) and the  Notre Dame Cathedral are also nearby. 

Parisians consider Saint Genevieve as the patroness saint of Paris .Sometime in the second half of 18th century , King Louis XV  of France   engaged architect  Jacques Soufflot  for building a church in honour of the saint at her original burial site in Paris . There  existed an old dilapidated church at the burial site of the saint.  Started in 1757 , the church ( Pantheon ) was completed in 1790. When the construction was over , the monarchy in France had been thrown away by the Revolution. The Revolution of 1789 transformed the monument into a temple for Great Men. During the turbulent years of the 19th century, as regimes changed, it alternated in its role as a religious and patriotic monument. The new assembly  finally decided to convert the church into a mausoleum  of distinguished French citizens keeping it free from any Royal Tomb .  For sometime in the 19th century, the Pantheon was restored to church but finally it was officially decreed in 1881 that the Pantheon shall only be used as mausoleum . The remains of its architect Jacques Soufflot were transferred to it followed by the mortal  remains of Victor Hugo. Built on the classical principles of Gothic cathedral architecture , this structure also reflects influence of  architecture style of Donate Bramante , the  Italian renaissance architect and painter  . The building also bears  influence of Greek Temple architecture especially the Façade and the Peristyle on the east side .In 1851, Jean Bernard Léon Foucault  the noted French physicist added more attraction to the structure by suspending a pendulum from inside the ceiling of the dome. At present , one can marvel at the superb duplicate of the  Pendulum, the original of which was used in 1851 by Leon Foucault to demonstrate the Earth’s rotation .One can have the best view of the Paris skyline by climbing up to the dome. It’s a steep climb, but well worth it for the view. The Pantheon building is 110 metres long , 84 metres wide and roughly 83 metres high . The massive dome is supported by four pillars .The main dome is actually a set of 3 domes held together .From the outside a single dome is visible. In 1790,  a  Cross was put at the top of the dome .  Between 1830 and 1851, the Cross was replaced by a  flag. The cross returned after Louis-Napoleon Bonaparte restored the building to church use.  However again the cross was replaced with a red flag during the Paris Commune in 1871. Later, the  cross was again installed  . The inscription on the front of the  Pantheon visible from outside reads this :-

Aux Grands Hommes, La Patrie Reconnaissante
(Great men and a grateful nation)

    From church to Republican temple, the Pantheon has always remained a symbol and a sanctuary dedicated to greatness. Eighty one persons are interred or commemorated inside the Pantheon. This list includes Mirabeau ( a revolutionary)  ,Voltaire ( writer and  philosopher ), Jean Jacques Rousseau ( writer and philosopher ), Victor Hugo ( writer ), Lazare Carnot ( politician and scientist ),Marcelin Berthelot( scientist ), Emile Zola ( writer ),Jean Perrin ( Nobel Laureate and scientist ), Louis Braile (educator) ), Rene Cassin ( Nobel Laureate and Human rights activist ) , Gaspard Monge ( mathematician ), Marie Curie ( Nobel Laureate and scientist ), Pierre Curie ( Nobel Laureate and scientist ),Andre Malraux (writer and politician ),Alexandre Dumas ( writer )and many politicians , military officers and clergymen. In fact, French president Nicolas Sarkozy wanted celebrated author Albert Camus to be reburied in the Panthéon to mark the 50th anniversary of the French writer's death. Jean Camus, the son of the late author  opposed the  plan. However, Jean’s twin, Catherine Camus, remained undecided. The plan was shelved .It is pertinent to mention that Marie Curie, winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for her work on polonium and radium, was buried in the Pantheon in 1995. To avoid any risk of radiation contamination, her coffin is shielded by several layers of lead. Her body is perfectly preserved due to the radiation to which she was exposed during her work.

 Admission to the Panthéon is free for all EU citizens and permanent residents of France, but tourists  have to pay a small fee for a Pantheon tour. There are free pamphlets and audio tours available inside, as well as guides you can speak with if you’d like to learn more about the art, architecture, and history of the building.

  • Adults – 11.50€
  • Youths (18-25) – 9€
  • Children (Under 18) – Free
  • €3 extra to access the upper parts of the Panthéon (April-October).

From April to  October,one can also go up to the cupola, and visit the higher part of the Panthéon.


We were told that from April 2023, Pantheon in Rome shall also be charging tourists  five Euros as entry fee. In high season (July to September), the Paris Pantheon is open every day of the week from 10:45 a m to 7 pm. In low season (October to March), the Pantheon is open every day from 10 am to 6.30 pm. We visited Pantheon( Paris) on 27th of April ,2023. Using RAR train , we walked a distance of about 2 km from Chetelet ( pronounced as Shetlay ) to Pantheon crossing both the  divisions of the Seine river  near Notre Dame cathedral .At Pont Saint Michel ( bridge  ) , I saw some Punjabis  selling mineral water bottles to tourists for one Euro. They appeared semiliterate and from rural background. Were they Indians ? I don’t know. They could be Punjabis from Pakistan also .Were they Kabootars ( illegal immigrants ) who had arrived in Paris through some improper route ? I don’t know and can’t  say much. I saw  ‘Love Locks ’ tied to the railing of  Pont Saint Michel ( Pont means bridge in French ) . These locks of love are tied by lovers or newly married people  . The 'Lock of Love ' is a sort of tradition or ritual that is practiced on the bridges of the Seine River in Paris. Couples inscribe their names on padlocks, lock it on the bridge and throw the keys into the river. The ritual symbolizes love locked forever. These locks are like  'Threads of Faith'  ( Dhaesh in  Kashmiri) tied  inside the abodes of saints and Sufis in Kashmir   . 


                      ( Sorbonne University )

 I wanted to go to Sorbonne university nearby ( about 800 metres away)  to donate my book ‘Landscape And Lament’ to the university’s  library but the sky got overcast and there was every apprehension of heavy downpour. We saw just three sunny days since our arrival ( 7th April ,2023) in Paris  .It may be pertinent to mention that Jiddu Krishnamurti , Mohammad Hamouda Bensai ( Algerian philosopher ), Nguyễn Hồng Giáp  (Vietnamese scholar), Jacques Derrida (French philosopher), Boutros Boutros-Ghali ( sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations), André Comte-Sponville ( French philosopher) and many more well known names have been students at Sorbonne university . I have been told by Dr K N Pandita (eminent Persian scholar and historian)  to bring some soil from Sorbonne , a university with which  Dr Zabiollah Safa ,his teacher and Guru from  Teheran University was associated . I shall surely do so upon my next visit to Sorbonne . We boarded bus no 24 for our return journey to Ecole Vetrnaire, Alfortville . I would conclude with a couplet of Urdu poet   Ahmed Faraz :-


“Kisi ko ghar se nikalte hi mil gayi manzil,

Koyi Hamaai tarah umar bhar safar mein raha”



( Avtar Mota )



 Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
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Tuesday, April 25, 2023





Café de Flore, Paris , France        

      ( Avtar Mota at Cafe de Flore ,Paris)


  ( Pont Neuf Bridge ,Paris)


Café de Flore, Paris , France

( Above 14 photos by Avtar Mota )

If you walk near the cafes and the restaurants in Paris, the aroma in the air is so tempting that you want to go inside and try  what is getting cooked. Inside these cafes, you may also rub shoulders with celebrities from films, theatre, literature, music, art,  fashion and any other field.

Paris  city is littered with historical landmarks. There’s the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower,  the  Versailles Palace,the Tuilieries garden, the Sainte Chapple ,the Le Bon Marche (the world’s first high-end department store), the Pantheon  ,the Notre Dame Cathedral —the list is endless. But none reflects the Parisian way of life as authentically as some old cafes, brasseries and restaurants amongst which ,  Café de Flore occupies a pivotal  position.   Situated on the corner of Boulevard Saint-German and Rue Saint-Benoît in the sixth arrondissement, the Flore, as it’s so fondly called by the patrons,  is one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris.

We visited  St Germain des Pres today. We came by RA-  D train going in Nord ( north ) from Alfortville.  Alfortville is close to Paris city  . Getting down at Chatelet ( pronounced as Chhetle ) , we walked to   St Germain des Pres  using google map and city mapper as our guides. We went via Louvre museum and crossed  River Seine at   Pont Neuf  (9th bridge ). Constructed in 1578 (though it was not completed until 1607), this bridge joins the left bank with the Ile de la Cité in front of Place Dauphine. From Pont Neuf, it is just a walk-able distance of less than one km to arrive at Aux Deux  Magots close to which lies Cafe de Flore. One can also go by  Metro o train from Chatelet to Saint-Germain-des-Prés every 5 minutes. Tickets cost €2 and the journey takes 5 minutes . Alternatively, Bus RATP operates a bus from Châtelet to Saint-Germain-des-Prés every 30 minutes. Tickets cost €1 - €3 and the journey takes 10 min. In this area (Saint-Germain-des-Prés)  are the three cafes  that were the favorites of the literati of 20th century Paris. There is the Brasserie Lipp, Cafe Dr Flore and Aux Deux Magots.Camus is said to have preferred Brasserie Lipp. Jean Paul Sartre and Georges Sand  liked  Cafe  de Flore. .

Just  10 yards  away  from  Les Deux Magots ( cafe and restaurant ) , and occupying just as much space in France’s literary history, is the Café de Flore. Apollinaire and Salmon would come here to work on their arts review, “Les Soirées de Paris,” while André Breton spent entire days here and across the street at Les Deux Magots. French poet Jacques Prevert also set up shop at the café, bringing in groups of friends for the night. 

The cafe derives its name from the sculpture of “Flora”, the goddess of flowers.One can find this sculpture on the other side of Boulevard Saint Germain.The café gained new fame in the 1940s and 50s when it became a hot spot for existentialism after Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre started spending a good part of their days over  here, reportedly hashing out their philosophies from morning till night. Occasional visitors to Cafe de Flore included  poet Guillaume Apollinaire ,Descartes , Trotsky, the Giacometti brothers, Zaskine , Albert Camus ,Pablo Picasso , Arthur Koestler, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Marcel Carne ( film director ), Serge Reggiani ( actor ) ,Jane Fonda ( actor ), Juliette Gréco ( singer ), Boris Vian( singer ) ,Georges Bataille, Robert Desnos, Léon-Paul Fargue, Raymond Queneau, Roman Polanski, Lawrence Durell,Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai and  many more. Jean Paul Sartre wrote this :-

“We settled down there completely: from nine in the morning until noon, we worked there, we went for lunch and came back at two o’clock and then we talked with friends we made until eight o’clock. After dinner, we met the people we had appointment with. This may sound strange for you, but we were at home in the Flore”. Another important detail, under the Occupation, we couldn’t find Germans in the Flore. The roads of the Flore were four years for me the 'Roads to Freedom' ."


( Simone de Beauvoir and Sartre in Cafe de Flore)
              ( Pablo Picasso in Cafe de Flore )
                                                       ( Celebrities at Cafe de Flore )
                                                ( Hemingway in Cafe de Flore )

                                 ( Sartre and Camus calling it " Sante " at Cafe de Flore )

The Guardian archives (28 August 1983: A boiled egg and a slice of Sartre, s'il vous plait) has this to convey:-

When Sartre moved from Montparnasse to a hotel in St Germain-des-Prés, he used the cafe to write in. He came from opening time until midday and from the afternoon until closing," Boubal said. "I didn't know him by name, and he usually came with a woman who sat at another table in the corner. The woman was de Beauvoir and during the afternoon the couple went to the room upstairs where "you would see them with huge files writing interminable articles".It was not until months later when Sartre had completed his 350,000-word philosophical study L'Etre et le Néant and de Beauvoir published her first novel L'invitée, that he discovered their names. Later in the war, Sartre became so well known that a special phone line was installed for him, but when his popularity surged in 1946 and the bar became full of literary tourists he worked only from his flat in the Place de St Germain. By then, Sartre and de Beauvoir were surrounded by friends who included Camus, then editor of the Combat newspaper, and Juliette Greco, who later became the best-known singer in St Germain-des-Prés's youth cult known as "existentialists" after Sartre's philosophy.”

Opened in 1880, Cafe de Flore  has appeared in many Hollywood and French movies and music albums. During World War II, the café was untouched by German occupation, providing an escape and a sense of freedom during a tumultuous time.It’s here that at the turn of the 20th century, French author Charles Maurras set up camp on the first floor of the Flore to write his book. In 1913, poet Guillaume Apollinaire and André Salmon transformed the café into a publishing house, which became the birthplace of literary art magazine Les Soirées de Paris, and eventually, the catalyst for the Dadaism movement.

The café  continues to be the face of the intellectual life of  Paris. Politicians, artists, musicians,  intellectuals, film personalities , fashion Icons, designers, writers still keep visiting and patronising the place. 5hey come to meet, relax and talk in its cosy ambiance . No music is played inside the cafe.  Crowded with tourists and visitors , we had to stand in a que to go inside and seek a table. The air inside is a mixture of aroma of the  dishes and the fragrant  perfumes used by  the visitors. Although afternoons are best for perching on a table outside and enjoying the pulse of Boulevard Saint-Germain, there's also a vibrant after-dark scene. In other words, there's no wrong time to visit. The cafe provides  dine in facility till  midnight and no carry away or home delivery facility exists. In Paris, the bill in bars and restaurants includes a service charge, so you do not have to leave a tip. However, if you have been satisfied with your meal and the service you are welcome to do so. A tip in general amounts to 5 to 10% of the bill.


  (Moroslav Siljegovic , the present owner of Cafe de Flore Source ..Getty Images )

            Since 1984, Moroslav Siljegovic has been efficiently  running the Flore.  Maintaining  the solid reputation and the  old traditions of hospitality at the Flore , he also runs the “Closerie des Lilas” a restaurant known for serving  its clientele with fine wines , coffee, desserts ,chocolates , oysters , lunch , dinner , breakfast specialties in an ambiance made pleasant by piano music .


Café de Flore  does a very good service to  the French literature through the ‘ Prix de Flore’ annual prize. It is awarded every year at the Café de Flore  in the month of November  to  youthful authors. The award is  judged by a panel of reputed journalists.

Cafe  de Flore may  appear a little expensive  even if you order a cup of  coffee  or simply a croissant. But  remember, you are not paying for a commodity but for the invaluable experience of  being inside an institution that was patronised by great writers, artists and intellectuals  of Paris. You are paying for sitting in a space that was shared by some Nobel  laureates  and legends of the world.

I end this write-up with a poem, ‘ Jab Teri Samandhar Aankhon Mein’ that poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote in Paris .He wrote the poem while  sitting on the bank of River Seine .

(Jab Teri SamandarAankhon Mein
Faiz Ahmed Faiz)

“Yeh dhoop kinaara sham dhale
Milte hain dono waqt yahaan
Jo raat na din jo aaj na kal
Pal bhar ko amar pal bhar mein dhuaan
Is dhoop kinaare pal do pal
Honton ki lapak
Baahon ki chanak
Yeh mel hamaara jhoot na sach
Kyon raaz karo kyon dosh dharo
Kis kaaran jhooti baat karo
Jab teri samandar aankhon mein
Is shaam ka sooraj doobega
Sukh soenge ghar dhar waale
Aur raahi apni raah lega”

(When, In Your Ocean Eyes
translated from Urdu  by
Mustansir Dalvi)

(That time of dusk,
when on the edge of light
two moments reconcile,
that instant

that is neither night nor day,
tomorrow nor today
that lives forever for a blink,
that vanishes in a wink

on this edge of light,
in brief respite
lips lunge for lips
arms flash in embrace

our union is beyond falsehoods and truth
why keep secrets,
why hold reproach
what reason to cling to deceit

when, in your ocean eyes
this evening sun should sink
householders will fall
into peaceful slumber
and the traveller
will make his way)

( Avtar Mota )



 Creative Commons LicenseCHINAR SHADE by Autarmota is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.5 India License.
Based on a work at http:\\\.