The Friday Fillip: Paris, the Sights, Sounds . . . and Smells

It’s still August, which means that the locals have left the city and not yet returned — a great time to visit Paris. What’s that you say? It’s just not possible at the moment for you to hop on a plane and plunk yourself down in the city of lights? Tant pis.

But the Friday Fillip to the rescue, if only virtually. Besides, this way you don’t have to exercise your execrable French and get excoriated by the experts. Our trip to la région parisienne is strictly a faute de mieux thing, requiring nothing from you other than a few clicks of the old souris.

Let’s start with the sights, and the way to do that is with a couple of panoramic photos of the city. Panorama 360 by Giles Vidal gives you the long shot, as the city turns slowly beneath your gaze. (Warning: there’s corny concertina cum Chevalier music, but you can squelch it with the available controls.) You can stop the turning whenever you wish and focus on an arrondissement that happens to catch your eye. But for really good, sharp close-up views, I recommend Paris 26 Gigapixels in full screen mode. This site is keyed to the usual monuments and tourist attractions, but you don’t have to take the tour: you can go flying off over the rooftops on your own, if you please. The detail is really quite remarkable.

Having given old Maurice Chevalier the boot, you may want some replacement sound. After all, big cities make noise. It’s all part of the experience. So I direct your attention to Des Coulam’s Soundlandscapes, a website based in Paris that features a number of field recordings of life in that city. Let’s start with the Gare de l’Est, as trips often do. You’ll find a bunch of photographs, some useful history, and just about halfway down the long web page, controls for the sound file. Not into Gare de l’Est? Try the Gare de Lyon, then.

Then you might slip sonically over to the Pont au Double, near Notre-Dame, for a dozen minutes of boats and people recorded under the bridge and another dozen recorded on it. If that pont doesn’t do it for you, try the sounds recorded on and around the Pont de Bercy. There are other soundscapes from Paris on the site, such as noise from the Fête National or the Tour de France. And, shades of Chevalier, a solid fourteen recordings of real Parisian street music, a delightful baker’s dozen plus one.

Speaking of bakers, smell those fresh croissants? You might, in a few months’ time. According to Edible Geography, a Parisian perfumer recently transmitted the scent of champagne and macarons from Paris to New York, using an oPhone, an object not yet generally available. However, if you’re keen you can download an app that will allow you to send smells — even though no one is there to receive them yet. Here’s a video describing the oPhone Duo, made as part of a crowdfunding project for the machine:


  1. Merci, Simon! C’est magnifique!

  2. Thank you for the tour!