Citizen participation

I have noticed over the years that the French are enthusiastic participators when there is an intellectual challenge. I have seen children from maternelle (pre-school) to lycée (high school) in museums looking for gowns or paintings or machines, listening intently to docents and responding intelligently to questions about collections. At a huge exposition of postage stamps, children and adults clutching question booklets moved from display to display, reading the captions and studying the stamps to find answers. At la Bagatelle, people bend over to study and smell the roses, so they can vote for next year’s winners in several categories.


The first Saturday in July, I joined Guy and Caroline in La Chasse des Trésors à Paris, a city-wide game in which teams of 1-6 people follow cryptic directions full of historical and literary references, with many puns, that take them to parts of Paris with which they may not be familiar. Merchants in 15 of the arrondissements agreed to distribute the three clue cards that, when deciphered together, would take people to the final location and check-out.

We chose the 13th, as it was easy to meet at the starting point, and we would be near home at the end. Apparently two or three routes were set up in each district (to spread out the participants), and for the first time there was an English language version of the booklet, but it was definitely not a direct translation of the French. Sometimes that was an advantage, e.g., finding the boulevard that bears a summer month (August Blanqui) is more obvious in English than French (in which the 8th month is aôut). Sometimes it created extra challenges, as the clues seemed to conflict.

The 13th arrondissement is seldom even mentioned in guide books, but it was an independent village before incorporation into Paris, and it has some lovely parks and enclaves of row houses laden with vines and flowers, as well as offices of Le Monde, a public swimming pool in a beautiful brick building, and an artesian well 583m/1950’ deep where many people fill bottles with pure spring water. There is also an original Wallace drinking fountain, but it is not functional. [There are many functioning and well-used Wallace fountains throughout Paris, but I think there are only a few originals now.] And of course all the usual shops, services, and eateries.

>> Individual houses are uncommon in Paris. This one is in a small enclave of houses on streets named for flowers.

Filling bottles with artesian spring water (583m well) in Sq P Verlaine Public pool at Square P Verlaine

>> The artesian spring’s fountain is appreciated by local residents, as is the adjacent public swimming pool.

Our friends thought they knew the area quite well, but la chasse took us places they had never been before. Our route did not take us into Chinatown southeast of Place d’Italie, so I’ll have to see that area on my own. The hunt took us three hours, after which we used an AutoLib’ to drive to our apartment, where Gordon had prepared a meal for us (entrée+plat+dessert).

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3 Responses to Citizen participation

  1. Jansi says:

    You seem to be taking full advantage of all Paris has to offer! I’m enjoying reading about your jaunts so much. Keep ’em coming!

  2. astrid Bennett says:

    Sure makes “the big smoke” we live in feel really dull and boring. I think it would be a great idea to introduce “la Chasse” in Toronto!

  3. Debbie hagman says:

    Wow my daughter Jill the French teacher will be at the farm this weekend and I can hardly wait to show her your blog. She may want to subscribe as well! Super interesting! Sounds like fun!

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