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July 10, 2013

There is a manif today. You earlier noticed that the direction of all the pedestrians had shifted. As everyone in sight heads north, you follow the stream, in a daze. The sounds of noisemakers and air horns wash over the rooftops. The deafening bang of a firecracker punctuates the shouting, followed then by sirens, then by more shouting. You see smoke and dancing figures from the safety of the side streets. Traffic has been stopped. After half an hour, the crowds move on, intent on some new destination. The gendarmes follow at a distance. You are not sure why they demonstrate; you suspect that, even lacking a reason, they would mob the Préfecture simply for something to do.

Formerly, Place de la République was a parking lot, which has since moved underground. You much prefer it that way. Without the cars, you can dawdle in the middle of the square and look about. Around you, the buildings, excepting Galeries LaFayette and the Virgin Mobile Superstore, have a more classical French appearance than those farther south: triangular pediments, traditional columns and pilasters, unadorned facades.

Only two buildings interrupt this series of French workmanship. The more notable of the two is to be found on the eastern side of the square, set apart by its brick facade. The builders maintained some continuity with its surroundings by framing the brick facade with cut Jaumont. As such, yellow limestone trims the doorways and windows and separates the building from those next to it. Above the main door, the numerals “1892” stand out, deeply impressed in the stone. You remark that a McDonald’s occupies the ground floor of this architectural blemish. Yet even this building carries only a whisper of the Nouvelle Ville with it.

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