WE'VE GOT a street map of Paris all over the kitchen table this morning. No, we're not going there, except maybe in our imagination. We're looking excitedly for certain streets. Here's the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, which we've just learnt
WE'VE GOT a street map of Paris all over the kitchen table this morning. No, we're not going there, except maybe in our imagination. We're looking excitedly for certain streets. Here's the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, which we've just learnt to equate with Park Lane in London . . .
. . . the other day there was a report on the French TV news on the growing popularity of board games, jeux de société in French. Among other things it featured a family of five (as iconic French families are often shown to be, in contrast to the usual US/UK quartet of Mum, Dad and two kids: social demographers will latch on to this straight away) round the table playing Cluedo, with an eight-year-old saying Je soupçonne moi-même, I suspect myself, which if nothing else indicates early development of the celebrated French logic. The report also featured a man whose passion for board ganes obliged him to park his car outside: his garage was packed from floor to ceiling with brightly-packaged Snakes and ladders, Ludo, Scrabble, Chess, Pik-a-stix, Draughts, you name it - and of course the inevitable Monopoly.
It's possibly that many Brits living outside London gained their first acquaintance with the capital from playing Monopoly. How else would anyone have heard of The Angel, Islington, Coventry Street or Fenchurch Street Station if it wasn't from trailing one of those tokens, boot, top-hat, racing car or little dog, round the board? What notions of social inequality were unwittingly derived from the contrast in rents between the Old Kent Road and Park Lane, and how far have they been reinforced in real life as a direct result? Why is the Old Kent Road coloured brown on the board and Mayfair royal blue?
Goodness, these are deep waters.
I wondered what the French equivalents of all these London streets were. Surely the French would have adapted the London-based version to their own capital, Paris? I started my investigations. I wasn't certain that the results would mean very much to me, because my knowledge of Paris is very limited. This is partly because of a very curious circumstance. On holiday in France in the summer of 1989, before I came to live here, some very kind French friends invited us for a river trip, with dinner included, on a Bateau Mouche, one of those luxurious tourist boats that ply up and down the Seine through the riverside heart of Paris. We had driven in from near Versailles in two cars to the Bateau Mouche quay, and at the end of an unforgettable river trip and dinner our host Emile suggested that we might like to see Paris at night: if he led the way in his car, would I like to follow in mine?
Goodness knows where he took us. All I saw of Paris By Night were his tail-lights. Oh yes, I had the briefest nano-glimpse of the Moulin Rouge with its revolving red neon-lit windmill vanes, but otherwise I was so terrified of losing Emile in the swirling, darting, lane-changing, traffic-light-controlled dash that I didn't dare for a moment take my eyes off him. Dodgem cars (in French, bizarrely, autos tamponneuses) were a doddle compared with this. The upshot was that I was none the wiser about the sights of Paris than I had been before. I've never been there since. Josephine is much more clued-up about Paris than I am. She spent several months there, on and off, on exchange in her student and gap year days, and even worked there for a few weeks.
I discovered - on line, where else? - a 1937 French version of Monopoly, probably the earliest. It may have been updated since, but I doubt it. In the UK version if you land, immediately after GO (DÉPART in French), in the Old Kent Road, in the French version you find yourself in the Boulevard de Belleville. If in 1937 any stigma attached itself to the Old Kent Road and the measly rents it attracted, the Boulevard de Belleville - there's a recent photo at the end of this article - doesn't seem all that run-down to me. Maybe in the intervening years a greater sense of social responsibility has tempered the grasping capitalism of Monopoly. If, naked capitalist that you are, you've contrived to build several hotels on Mayfair, the French equivalent is the Rue de la Paix, and you've probably won the game.
Josephine and I spent an enjoyable half-hour poring over the Paris map, identifying all the Monopoly streets. Some we knew, some we'd never heard of. For the record - and let it not be said that this blog is anything but complete - here's the complete table of equivalents, with the stations thrown in. If you know Paris, it may speak volumes to you:
|Old Kent Road||Boulevard de Belleville|
|Whitechapel Road||Rue Lecourbe|
|King's Cross Station||Gare Montparnasse|
|The Angel, Islington||Rue de Vaugirard|
|Euston Road||Rue de Courcelles|
|Pentonville Road||Avenue de la République|
|Pall Mall||Boulevard de la Villette|
|Whitehall||Avenue de Neuilly|
|Northumberland Avenue||Rue de Paradis|
|Marylebone Station||Gare de Lyon|
|Bow Street||Avenue Mozart|
|Marlborough Street||Boulevard St Michel|
|Vine Street||Place Pigalle|
|Fleet Street||Boulevard Malesherbes|
|Trafalgar Square||Avenue Henri-Martin|
|Fenchurch Street||Station Gare du Nord|
|Leicester Square||Faubourg Saint-Honoré|
|Coventry Street||Place de la Bourse|
|Regent Street||Avenue de Breteil|
|Oxford Street||Avenue Foch|
|Bond Street||Boulevard des Capucines|
|Liverpool Street||Station Gare Saint Lazare|
|Park Lane||Avenue des Champs Elysées|
|Mayfair||Rue de la Paix|
If you don't know Paris, there's somewhere else where this insider knowledge may come in useful. There's a town in the Vendée called Parthenay, in the Deux-Sèvres département. It comes into its own on July, when they put on a festival of games, in the town and in the surrounding villages. Not sports, games. Anyone can join in, old or young. No use taking your football boots or your tennis racquet along when they're concentrating on mah-jongh or jigsaws, bridge or battleships, rummikub or Rubik's Cube or for all I know Top Trumps and Twister.
And of course Monopoly. If you manage to build so many hotels that you bankrupt everyone else, I hereby claim 10% of your winnings. On the Rue de la Paix or the Boulevard de Belleville. Ça m'est égal, it's all one to me.