thanks for nothing, hitler!

May 21, 2007

things are a lot better than were previously reported. i’ve got a plan to deal with the prefectards at the police station, involving a kind woman (who works for the région d’île-de-france) who offered me her aid.

whenever i end up in some kind of financially-stable position with some kind of real-estate to my name, i’ll make sure that she is welcome to treat my home as hers anytime.

today, i went to le havre, france’s principal container port. normally, i would have taken photos, but i learned, much to my disappointment early this morning that the batteries in my camera were dead and that i wouldn’t really have a chance to buy fresh ones. in any case, it’s probably best that i spare you that experience, as le havre is (mostly) one fantastically-ugly town.

the city was settled at the mouth of the river seine, the same river which flows through paris. it became an important national (and, later, european) port. during the second world war, the place was nearly completely flattened. during reconstruction, the local authorities decided that it would be a good idea to commission auguste perret to design and engineer the new centre-ville.

now, it’s no secret that i am an occasional admirer of high modernism. i think that there’s a degree of quiet, almost holy introspection possible when it’s done right. unfortunately, modernism has been usually implemented not on a piece-by-piece basis (as cities usually develop), but by razing and rebuilding on so-called master plans. the industrial system triumphs, yes, but at the expense of any kind of diversity, colour or excitement. the monumental scale is completely out of proportion to its human users.

in any case, perret figured that this was a perfect opportunity to show the world that france was back on her feet by building a completely modernist city. and modern it is! block after block after block of concrete buildings! crummy arcades that are totally insincere! the most basic of amenities imaginable! almost too-fittingly, the whole situation is finished off in the civic centre area, with a giant cinema in the shape of a volcano (or a nuclear power plant’s exhaust chimney, depending on who you’re asking) with a bronze outstretched hand inexplicably jutting out from the base, designed by oscar niemayer (who also designed the french communist party’s headquarters at the place du colonel fabien in paris’ 19th arrondissement, and brasilia, the capital city of brazil, which has since been highlighted as a disaster in urban planning theory). sadly enough, somebody over at UNESCO has decided that this is important enough to classify as a world heritage site, meaning that it’s pretty much protected from design change forever. (kinda makes you wish for world war three to break out so that the damn place would get flattened again.)

in addition, most of the trip consisted of a visit to the port. i suppose that normally, this would be interesting to parisians. however, i’m a vancouverite, and vancouverites tend to learn how the port works by osmosis. ergo, very boring. in addition, this was taken in on a bus. the same bus in which we came and went. in all, about seven hours. in. a. bus.

finally, the weather was crap (typically norman, one might say).

that being said, i build a few amicable links with some others in my class, and participated in a silent game of chicken with one mystery gent (that, oddly, continued until several days later – i lost).

so, yeah. seriously. don’t go to le havre. ever.

i can just imagine the horror of people arriving in france from england or ireland by ferry: “we came all the way…for THIS?”

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2 Responses to “thanks for nothing, hitler!”

  1. Milan Says:

    That’s rough about the camera batteries. Mine ran out during our first day in the Louvre so I had to pay an arm and a leg for some alkalines from the gift shop.

  2. mkushnir Says:

    it kinda is. but as i said, it’s probably best that i spare you the would-be photos.

    in any case, a prof has invited the class up to his personal summer home in normandy. thankfully, this is in the countryside (which i’m starting to appreciate much more than i did before), so we’ll see how that goes.


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