• LOCATION 25 | Highlights Around Parc Montsouris: From Hidden Water to Secret Villages

    Marie-Thérèse Auffray garden

    Marie-Thérèse Auffray garden on Paris audio tour Highlights Around Parc Montsouris: From Hidden Water to Secret Villages

    Once across the street, please stop and look back at the park. You can also sit on one of benches and let you gaze wander.

    Even though the park you just walked around was created in the year 2000, it was only named after Marie-Thérèse Auffray for the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Paris from Nazi occupation, in 2019.

    Marie-Thérèse Auffray was a local painter. Her first workshop was on nearby rue d’Alesia, which is to your right, but we won't go there today, so please stay where you are for now. She came from Brittany, arrived in Paris in 1920, and studied fine arts thanks to government subsidies. While she was active in the neighbouring Montparnasse scene and made a living from her art as an expressionist painter and poster illustrator, she refused the mercantile aspect of the art trade. True to her ideals, in 1936 she joined France’s left-wing struggles for some of the worker's rights we still enjoy to this day.

    When the German army invaded Paris in 1940, she joined a resistance network. She started doing contraband trips, finding eggs, milk or chicken in the countryside and bringing them back to occupied Paris. It was when she was sourcing some goods in Normandy that she met and fell in love with the woman that would become her life partner, Noëlle Guillou. They were both resistance members and started moving much more than goods. Together, they saved American and English paratroopers who landed in the Norman countryside, hid them in their house and exfiltrated them to Paris by train.

    Sometimes Marie-Thérèse Auffray would pretend to be in a couple with the soldier, and when German soldiers would get nosy, she would open a suitcase full of lace underwear to make them uncomfortable and avoid them starting a conversation with the supposed lover. In Paris, she would hide them in her new house and workshop, before connecting them with other underground networks to get them back to their armies. See what it takes to get a garden named after you when you're a woman?

    Let’s go to see the workshop where the paratroopers where hidden, there’s some more hidden nature over there. Turn to face the slope going up the street, with the Marie-Thérèse Auffray garden to your right and let’s start walking up.

    At the end of the war, Marie-Thérèse Auffray went back to Normandy and opened an inn, general store, as well as a night club called "le Bateau Ivre", the drunk boat, where even Parisian youth would come to party. Throughout her life, she remained an outspoken left-wing personality, a union member, a freethinker, and in an openly lesbian relationship - and that did not go down well in the conservative countryside.

    This reminds me that the street we’re walking on is called avenue de la Sibelle, a deformation of the word Sybille. This is another type of outspoken woman: an ancient Greek or Roman oracle, who made her own complex prophecies, sometimes near a stream of water. Maybe here it refers to the aqueduct or the Bièvre river? Or it’s related to the Earth goddess Cybele. This makes sense because we’re getting back towards Montsouris where there used to be an open-air quarry named after the Sibelle ditch in this neighbourhood. In the middle ages, that particular Sibelle was not a godly speaker, but rather a witch-like ugly old woman.

    Let's keep going, we're nearly done walking up. As you reach the top of the street, you will recognize the elevated square Mohamed Bouazizi to your right, and Parc Montsouris ahead of you.

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Highlights Around Parc Montsouris: From Hidden Water to Secret Villages