Early on, in my last return to Paris, I stopped taking my camera out with me in the city. Unlike the last few years, it was cloudy and rainy almost every single day. That lends itself to some cool shots, sure, but it’s usually just a drag. Sunlight and zany cloud formations are more my thing. But there were a few nice days, and it was on those that I managed to capture what I’m going to share with you aujourd’hui.
The top shot might just be just be my all-time favorite photo – one of the fountains in the Place de la Concorde, snapped at 1/3,200th of a second. It’s what I use for the wallpaper on my cell phone, making it a frequent reminder of just how beautiful Paris is and of why it’s silly to ever leave. Few cities have anything so amazing, and fewer still hire calligraphers to hand-paint famous poems on medieval walls . . .
I’d just left the Luxembourg Gardens and was headed toward Saint-Sulpice, down rue Férou, when I saw this guy meticulously painting out Le Bateau Ivre by Arthur Rimbaud. Incredible. He actually came back every weekend for a few weeks, as the poem is super long. What little of it you see in the full shot above is a small fraction. It goes up about 7 metres and has verse after verse stretching down half the block.
Less productive men don’t paint centuries-old poems. They take naps alongside the Louvre’s pools so that others can surreptitiously photograph them. Every time I look at this photo, I assume the guy is homeless and just wants to luxuriate on the palace grounds. Then I look at his shoes and realize he’s probably just a weary German traveler or something.
The gargoyles of Notre Dame are always doing their thing, trying their very best to scare away the tourists. “Don’t come in!” they seem to say, but we do anyway.
Other statues, like this awesome one at Sacré-Coeur, just hang out and look triumphant.
For those of you who’ve only ever seen the front of Sacré-Coeur, did you know the backside is arguably even more awesome? It’s such an amazing church. Almost every time I’m up at Gontran Cherrier’s, for a croissant or five, I go a little out of my way to swing by Sacré-Coeur. I love it even more than Notre Dame.
Of course the stone work in the Luxembourg Gardens is pretty amazing, too. The shot below is one I snapped just after dawn. The statue was still pretty shadowed, but the sky and clouds had just lit up.
Speaking of fun lighting, here’s a quintet of French flags I spotted one summer afternoon in the 7ème. There are so many buildings in that area with flags, but I never seemed to catch them when they weren’t tangled or just draped perfectly about one another . . . until I got this shot. Just looking at them makes me miss the coolest country in the world.
I don’t know quite how to explain how much I love the trees in the photo below. Several times each week, I’d walk across the Pont du Carousel, heading from the left bank to the Louvre, and I’d always stop to stare down the river at Notre Dame and to look over and see my trees. They’re the kind of trees Bob Ross would have painted . . . happy trees. Permanently bent a bit westward – I assume because of how the wind blows along the banks in that section – they always seem to be rustling, whispering. Once I get back to Paris next month, they’re one of the first sights I want to soak in. I love my trees.
So there you go – some of my favorite shots of Paris. Make sure to keep an eye peeled next Wednesday, when I whip out what might be the prettiest pastry you’ve ever seen here. Oh, yes, you read that right; it’s possibly the loveliest of them all. And who is it from? Café Pouchkine, of course, courtesy of the ever-brilliant Emmanuel Ryon. And it’s the following Wednesday that I’m going to take you into the kitchen with the master himself! My apologies in advance if it blows your mind.
Two days from now, I’ll finally be back in Paris. I can’t wait. But what’s funny is that, four months into my last six month stay there, I was dying to return to the United States. Why? Because I think I was literally dying. I’d gained 35lbs. (16 kilos). I had no pants that fit, was severely protein-deprived, had the energy level of a 90-year-old, and I’m pretty sure my blood had converted to raspberry syrup. That’s why I’m just going to eat pastry-only meals most of the time – not all of the time – on this go. I think that will still allow me to liberally slog my pancreas, liver and heart, without completely destroying myself again.
Anyway, today, as I’m so close to being back to the City of Light that I can taste it, I wanted to take you around town in a series of my favorite photos. The top shot is certainly key among them – a view, looking northwest from the Louvre. The colors and cloudscape of the evening sky dance off one of the pools, while people lounge and walk around the pyramid and palace. But right there in the middle is that awesome Ferris wheel I still need to take a ride on. If you know of any lovely young ladies who’d volunteer as my escort, let me know. It’s even more beautiful up close…
Since these are just some of my favorite photos, they’re in no particular order. It’s a little schizophrenic. So the shot below is from the daytime at the Louvre. Can you imagine having a house where that was around the balcony, outside like every one of your dozens of gigantic French doors? It’s a little opulent.
Less opulent in scale – but no less so in skill level – check out this door knocker. Between it and the way the paint is peeling and chipping away, I don’t think this door could look more fantastically French if it tried.
Here we have The Exorcist stairs that run alongside the tram that heads to Sacré Coeur. I can’t wait to see it in the snow this winter.
Speaking of Sacré Coeur, my favorite of all the major hilltop Romanesque-Byzantine cathedrals of Paris, here we are. If you’re thinking Sacré Coeur is the only major hilltop Romanesque-Byzantine cathedral in the city . . . well, correct. But it’s still my favorite among them.
Here’s an even closer view. It really is an amazing place. Even though I live directly next to Saint Sulpice and routinely walk by Notre Dame at least a few times each week, I’ve been in Sacré Coeur way more often. One of the last times, I walked in right as the choir began singing during their Sunday service. Haunting, people . . . haunting.
Ahhh, one of the fountain fish in the Place de la Concorde. I love how it spits water out of its nose: A. Because it’s just weird and B. Because there’s no fish that has nostrils as large as Chief Wiggum from The Simpsons or Dionne Warwick, for that matter.
It wasn’t until last year that I realized the below is what a chestnut looks like before it is “just” a chestnut. Its little wrapper seems like it should be some weird tropical fruit – not something that grows in the middle of Luxembourg Gardens, like this little guy.
Speaking of out-of-place things in the Luxembourg Gardens, the palm trees are a little weird to see in a city that’s actually a few degrees north of Bangor, Maine. I love that they’re there, but it’s still a shock.
Aside from the flora of the Gardens, cloudscapes are always fun to take in. This shot was done just after sunrise, so the clouds are lit up all crazy. Plus I was shooting it all with an ultra wide-angle lens, so the wee statue in the bottom left was my focal point, but the clouds at the top periphery have this cool distortion. Definitely among my favorite shots.
Gargoyle! Now we’re over at Notre Dame. I have to admit I was a bit disenchanted by how limited the gargoyle situation is up at the top of the cathedral – or, rather, how limited access is to the gargoyles. There’re all these areas you’re not allowed to walk up there … and lines of sight that are all messed up with fencing and whatnot. Didn’t stop me from capturing this guy though, did it?
Gargoyles! Plural. It’s like they’re three little buddies here, isn’t it? “Don’t come to church! Stay away!” is what I guess they’re meant to communicate. Doesn’t really make sense to me why a church would ever want gargoyles on it, chasing away customers.
Now, if you time your visit just right, you can see the towers’ shadows line up just perfectly in the plaza below. And I know it looks like there are a lot of people waiting to get into the church there, doesn’t it? But most are just milling about. It’s actually quite easy to just slip into the cathedral and slip out. It’s only getting up in it that takes a major wait. And then they force you to stop in the gift shop for like 10-15 minutes, when you’re halfway up. If Jesus knew about that, would he be kinda disappointed? Probably.
Skipping from structures devoted to monotheism to those with a broader approach, here we are at the Pantheon. It’s only like 3 blocks to the west of the Luxembourg Gardens, so I highly recommend checking it out – at least from the outside. Can’t say the inside is as impressive as the Pantheon in Rome, which it was modeled after. Still amazing though.
Right back to Notre Dame we go. Here’s the less oft-seen northern façade, as taken in at night. Isn’t it beautiful?
And here’s the southern side along the banks of the Seine. It’s weird that the first time you see it you just can’t believe you’re right there looking at Notre Dame. But then, once you live in Paris and see it almost every day, it just starts to seem like a normal chuch. But it’s Notre Dame!
Here’s a peek inside the framework of the Louvre’s big pyramid. Cool as it looks during the day, I think the pyramid really shines at night.
Literally, the pyramid shines brilliantly in the evenings. The shot below was done at a very low angle, right against the surface of the water in one of the pools – lest you think the ground around the Louvre is made of one gigantic mirror. I can’t count the number of times I’ve headed off to the museum at night just to soak this in. And while I don’t have a shot of it here, there other cool thing is that there are these super bright lights at the top of the Eiffel Tower that twirl around, and they shoot all the way out passed the Louvre here. So you’re taking all this in, lights from the tower are whipping across the sky, and you can look way out in the west and see the Arc de Triomphe (different from the arc pictured below). Oh, and you’re sitting in the courtyard of a ******* palace! Don’t want to forget that bit.
When I was going through all the photos I’d taken in 2011 and came across the final one I’m sharing here, I thought it wasn’t particularly well lit and was definitely pretty clichéd. “Oh, look, it’s a woman all by herself in the middle of Paris. Loneliness in the City of Love!” But I kept coming back to it; it’s now my favorite. Head tipped against her left hand, one foot casually resting on the ground, I now see much less of a loneliness than I see a relaxed quiet that’s every bit my own Parisian life. Even though some of my best memories are those I’ve shared with others, there are times when a solitary moment is just as indelible . . . and even preferred.
Looking at just my 2011 Parisian photo catalog, I have 9,364 photos of pastries, chocolates, croissants and candy, but I have 23,236 non-pastry photos from all around Paris and across France. You’re actually more likely to find me wandering the streets, camera in-hand, hunting down a cool doorknob or old church to snap than you are to find me in a pastry shop. But it occurred to me a few weeks ago that pretty much all the “My Life in Paris” photos I share with you guys are just scenes that I think are funny and can write something silly about. So I thought it was about time to share some of my finer snapshots with you. It’s my bid to play real photographer for a day, so I hope you enjoy them.
The top shot is what I saw every morning, when I’d leave my apartment – the amazing Saint-Sulpice. It only took them eleven years and 28 million euros to refurbish the left tower there, and it’s quite a contrast with the dingy decaying one to its right. Given that I’ve snagged apartments directly on either side of it these last two years, there’s a pretty serious pull for my 2012 pad to be right there, too. Much as I want to be closer to Café Pouchkine and Jacques Genin, I don’t know if I can resist the allure of the above.
And who doesn’t love the Luxembourg Gardens? I still remember the first time I saw it, years ago. It’s one of those experiences where’re you’re like, “No way!” The design and scale of it all is just so over the top. Yet, despite it being a half block from my place, I spent the first four months of this last stay in Paris barely ever visiting it. It was only in mid-August that it dawned on me that I’d neglected picture-taking in the Gardens. So I wound up visiting several times/week, paying particular attention to sunrises and sunsets. The above got snapped one day right after opening at 8 in the morning. The sun was just poking up over the horizon. So that western expanse of trees was still pretty dark and just starting to get hit by direct sunlight. Together with the clouds, I thought it made for a pretty dramatic landscape.
There’s nothing quite like the Obelisk in the Place de la Concorde either. Once at the entrance to the Temple of Luxor, it’s a pretty special piece. I always wonder if Egyptians get a little ****** when they see one of their national treasures right in the center of Paris. Of course the backstory is that it was a gift from Ottoman Egypt to Paris, so it’s not like it was plundered booty. Make sure to check it out on a sunny day, when the top and figures along the base sparkle . . . blindingly.
Just off to either side of the Obelisk are the awesome Neoclassical fountains. Unlike the Obelisk, which is better enjoyed midday, these guys really show off their magic in the early morning and evening, when the angle and colors of the sun bring them to life. This is easily my favorite photo in the whole set. With the detail in the sheets & drops of water and the contrast of the lit vs. the unlit side, it’s intense in a very olden-timey way.
Scaling the dome of Sacré Coeur is always a good time. Probably not the best thing for people afraid of heights or who suffer from claustrophobia though, given the at times cramped quarters and mix of indoor/outdoor climbing. It’s stunning for those up to the challenge. And it’s my all-time favorite among all the European domes I’ve climbed. I thought this shot was particularly cool because of the geometry and shadows. The shapes and tones – too fun.
I spend a lot of time around the Louvre. It’s an amazing museum to visit, even if it takes 4 or 5 individual visits to casually see everything; trust me, if you’ve never been there, it’s at least three times as huge as you think. Then there are the beautiful fountains that run throughout the day … the amazing sunsets … the Tuileries Gardens just off to the side … and of course the view at night. I’m not sure how I got lucky enough to catch just two people in the frame, reflected along with the pyramid in one of the pools, but I it made for a great shot. It might be that after thousands of photos of the pyramid, a few generally work out. Who knows?
Here’s another shot from the Louvre – this time from a set of gates along the northern arm of the palace. I loved the overlapping shadows, coming from three different angles, combined with the lines in the path and different intensities of light. Notice how the middle right intersecting shadows lines look basically exactly like the pyramid’s framework?! I wonder if that’s part of what inspired the pyramid’s architect, I.M. Pei?
I wish I had the backstory on this awesomeness from along the rue de Vaugirard, in front of the Sénat. I’m sure one of my French readers will fill me in the comments section (s’il vous plaît). I’d often walk by it on my way to Carl Marletti’s shop or any time I was walking back from the 5ème. I waited for a cloudless day, and then spent a good half hour waiting for the sun to perfectly align so that it would light up the body and face of the statue in the center of the shot.
Last but not least, La Seine. I was out one evening, at sunset, taking videos of waves (cause that’s normal, right?), as the Batobus would go by. The river is beautiful, as is, but the odd angles of waves the boats would generate was amazing . . . especially as they bounced off the banks of the river and then back into the wake of others. Fortunately I didn’t just have my video camera, but also my regular camera, and caught this. It might be a turbulent scene, but it’s so calming. I can’t wait to stand on the Pont du Carrousel and take it all in again.
There are tons of other photos to share with you – plenty in color, too. I just wanted to share some of my favorite black-and-white ones today. Hopefully they’ve inspired a few dozen of you to immediately book your flights to Paris. I even tracked down the latest Air France deals page, so just click here for the lowest available Air France fares. God knows I started checking flight – just for fun – while working on these.
I thought I’d share a veritable panoply of images with you today. They’re all either photos that didn’t come out quite right, images I thought would be funny to write about, or ones I snapped explicitly because they were so trite. I mean, really, nothing beats 3rd rate art school photography more than that same photography done completely self-consciously.
The top shot in today’s series is of the famed Musée d’Orsay at sunset. Tragically, there’s a huge ad on the side of museum these days, while it undergoes renovations, so there are no good photos to be taken. Rather than do a few exposures that would allow me capture both the awesome sunset and the museum, I just went with some camera settings that would allow the final shot to be vaguely remiscent of a 1970s Eagles album cover – that is…if the Eagles were French. And the shot below was just a candid shot of this nice couple who’d sauntered into the Luxembourg Gardens. The lady seemed dazzled by the place, and I got the impression that her male companion had been there a few times before and was happy to tell her all about it. Cute shot, if a bit ruined by some unfortunate camera settings.
I can’t tell you how many times I photographed the intersection below. It’s long been my favorite – if one can legitimately say they have a favorite intersection – and I always wanted to capture the perfect balance of sun, clouds, and street life. While I have yet to go through all of my shots from this summer, this vaguely approximates what I wanted to get. But, keeping with the theme of effed-up shots, the mini-crane on the right side, the absence of pedestrians/bicyclists and the solitary cloud puff didn’t quite make it all I needed it to be.
Ok, ok, now this shot is the absolute embodiment of the poor art school photography I mentioned earlier. Cause, you know . . . there’s something aesthetic about. But, at the same time, the whole billowy clouds (a la Chris Isaak’s Wicked Game video) silhouetting city rooftops is just phenomenally jejune.
This one might be my favorite in the whole set. I’m all for people having tattoos. While I have none myself, I think they’re awesome . . . especially neck ones. But there’s just something weird when I see a guy walking down the street hand-in-hand with his girlfriend and then notice he has a butterfly tattoo on his left arm. If he’s been walking with another guy, then I’d be like, “Awesome. They look happy together, and what a nice butterfly tattoo that is.” But instead I was like, “I wonder if she approached him in a bar and was like, ‘Hey, nice butterfly tattoo. Wanna buy me a drink?’” It just doesn’t compute.
Can you see why I snapped this shot? Yep, cause it’s ******* creepy. That’s the kind of doll you know comes alive at night.
The photo below does double-duty as both a totally insipid shot and one I thought require some commentary. So it’s in a restaurant, napping behind seats in one of the booths. What are the odds the next person that sits down will notice there’s a cat there? I’m doubting they’re going to see it. But I bet when it wakes up and pops its head over the cushion, the person facing it will probably **** themselves.
I was pretty excited to get the shot below. No, not because it’s a cool site to be seen – because, after all, it’s a garish arch in the middle of a dirt path – but because this is only known shot ever taken without at least 20 Japanese tourists standing directly in front of it. Truth be told, the French themselves, as well as Russians, Germans, Americans and more tend to patrol this area in packs. I always think there should be some law, in every major tourist city, that tour groups must have fewer than 10 people. Especially when you’re in a museum and there are 30 people huddled around a painting or sculpture you’d like to see, it’s really frustrating. Andy Rooney recently retired from making crotchedy comments on 60 Minutes, so I’m . . . just sayin’.
I literally took the shot below while thinking, “God, I hope no one sees me taking this photo.” Do a search of either “solitary chair paris” or “solitary chair tuileries” on Google Images or Flickr, and let me know how many artistic shots you come up with. I also have a few shots from it at a distance, as I wasn’t sure what better amplified the vibe of a 14-year-old having taking the photo that best exemplified their sense of isolation.
So there you go. Did you enjoy these random and generally banal and not-quite-right shots? I have many more interesting ones I’ll be whipping out soon enough. But I think the next non-pastry entry I’m going to do will be all about my favorite café. So get ready for some super awesome photos coming your way.
August is almost here, which means Paris is about to shut down for a month. While I’ll continue to give you Monday, Wednesday and Friday pastry entries, I’ve decided to temporarily cut back on Tuesday or Thursday posts. They’re some of the most time-consuming photo/musing spectacles to create, and the August dip in site traffic would make it feel like a partially fruitless effort. That said, I’m going to use the time to take a ****-ton of photos around town, so I’ll have a nice stockpile of material for the months ahead. Keep tuning in for the pastries though . . . I see no reason not to show them off at all times!
But today we’re going to just look at a bunch of random photos I think are cool. Case in point . . . the above. What guy could possibly need a Ferrari, when he could be driving the ultimate ***** magnet? And yet, for all its awesomeness, can it really beat a tricycle so awesome that its 4-year-old owner sees fit to bike lock it? In the event you’re thinking that’s a staged shot or just some one-off scene . . . no, I walk by that little girl’s bike almost every morning. It’s occasionally not there, ostensibly when she’s out taking it for a spin.
Does your neighborhood fromagerie/charcuterie have a large basket of goose eggs perched atop a huge wheel of parmesan cheese, which itself is overseen by a herd of cow figurines? No? Then you don’t live in France.
This was my lunch one day at Jean-Paul Hévin: La Princesse, a chocolate éclair, some Anne d’Autriche hot chocolate, and a nice pot of Lapsang Souchong tea. It’s all part of seeking the human=>pastry transformation.
Is it a bench that’s just missing its wooden slats, or is it a piece of art installed in the Parisian urban milieu? We’re invited to sit, but yet we’re unable. This is clearly a wry commentary on France’s shift toward American-style capitalism and the toll it’s taken on the collective psyche and lifestyle of the French populace. Or, again, it could be that the bench slats just need to be replaced.
This is one of the strangest pieces of graffiti I see on a regular basis, and I love it . . .
Everybody’s favorite statue on Rue de Sèvres . . .
I wish the sun had been shining at a perfect angle so that the shot could have been more balanced, but seeing as how Paris is not at the equator, the below is as good as it was going to get at 8 in the morning.
As an Atlantian toddler, I can’t count the number of times I wanted to sit with my trident, atop a large fish, and just flex . . .
So there you go – my latest favorite random shots from around the city. I hope, before I leave, I get a photo of the tricycle girl with her trike . . . or, better yet, locking/unlocking it, before checking to make sure it’s secure. And then I need a photo of me shaking her hand, congratulating her on dispensing with insouciance and opting for circumspection.