P for Paris

Now we have travelled back in time to the last year of WWI.

On New Year’s Eve 1917 Ted and friends arrived at the Gare du Nord by train from Péronne. They were driven to the YMCA at Penenepe Barracks and given breakfast and a lecture.


dest gare
Le Gare d’Est, Paris. (Not Gare du Nord but you get the idea) Cherylg (fightingthekaiser.blogspot.com.au)

In France, the YMCA made arrangements for rest and recreation centers where particularly American soldiers could leave the front and relax away from the fighting.

Then they were free to take the metro to the Place de la Republic where they booked rooms at the Hotel Moderne.

Clean and refreshed they walked the streets, visiting Les Invalides and Napoleon’s Tomb before dancing the evening away at the club.

The first day of 1918 saw Ted exploring Notre Dame Cathedral, strolling across bridges and around Place de la Concorde and Champs Elysees. A concert in the evening was followed by a dance and games.

Galeries Lafayette a few years earlier

It is hard to imagine it was 100 years ago as the next morning was spent at Galleries Lafayette and Au Printemps to look at the shops.  Then it was off to the Arc De Triumph followed by an afternoon at the Alhambra where Ted met some rather nice people.

On the afternoon of the 3rd Ted and his friends visited the Louvre and “The Big Wheel” (demolished in 1920).  At the casino that evening Ted was impressed with Gaby Deslys and found the “staging and dressing very fine.  Also the dances”.  Gaby Deslys died in 1920 of influenza at the age of 38.

It was the next day at Versailles where Ted became eloquent in his admiration.

“Versailles … surpasses anything that I have ever seen.  The rooms at the palace were simply gorgeous and the views and landscape magnificent…best of all I liked the Gobelin Tapestry work”.

Ted was able to translate the French signs and explanations to his friends in the Chamber of Deputies.

Versailles I (Vertical) Wall Tapestry – French Chateau Tapestry
Screen Shot 2018-04-03 at 9.43.16 pm
Jeanne-Marie Bourgeois,Folies Bergère

That evening Ted and a friend went to the Folies Bergère.  He says, “the show was very dressy and the theatre promenade very fine.  At the interval the hall is packed with crowds of the demimonde* who are painted and powdered like dolls.”

Wikipedia  *The term was often used as one of disapprobation, the behavior of a person in the demimonde being contrary to more traditional or bourgeois values. 

The foyer of LÓpera, Paris. Cherylg (fightingthekaiser.blogspot.com.au) found this postcard in an antique shop in Oatlands, Tasmania. It was dated March 1918.

The next day’s highlight was the opera Hamlet which had marvellous scenery, singing and music. The orchestra contained 100 instruments and Ted thought the Grand Hall was a magnificent piece of architecture. Walking down the Rue de la Paix Ted recognised the fashion icons of Paquins and Worths.  At the Bois de Boulougne he watched thousands skating on the ice.  Lunch was at the Pyramides after which he booked seats for Aida.

Maximilien_Luce-La_Gare_de_l'Est_sous_la_neige-1917Arriving at the Tuileries Ted and his friends went sliding on the ice to the great amusement of the onlookers. 

Aida that night “was beautifully staged and the whole play a grand piece of singing and art”.

It was snowing all the next day when Ted and his companions walked to the Corner of Blighty*.

Miss Lily Butler opened a very popular leave club for men in Paris called A Corner of Blighty in Paris for Our Boys from the Front.  This club was particularly popular with servicemen from Australia. 


In the Place de la Vendome, in central Paris, it ran for two years.  There was no charge for its services and Lily Butler and her group of forty five female volunteers also arranged outings for groups of the men.





Ted was having a “rattling time’. Lunch at Cafe Boulant, then to the Olympia and sleeping at the Hotel Lafayette.  It was the last day so Ted bid a sad farewell to Paris and went off by train to Péronne in search of his unit.

10 thoughts on “P for Paris

  1. Hari OM
    …a rattling time indeed! Not just that, Ted displays a level of culture that was perhaps not entirely appreciated till now. Crikey – films are made of such as this! YAM xx

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This story continues to fascinate. It is incredible that you have been able to get such detail on a past that you previously did not know existed!

    Liked by 1 person

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