Tag Archives: Paris

Paris Icons

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”       Ernest Hemingway – ‘A Moveable Feast’                                                                        

Elsewhere I’ve posted ‘Paris – Ville Lumière‘ and the interest it garnered has resulted in a pointed prod to produce another photographic essay that concentrates on iconic images of that splendid city. If you have good walking shoes, the time and the stamina, Paris offers a plethora of grand architectural and historic buildings, around almost every corner a charming, oft unexpected site, whether a flowered garden, a statue and fountain or a mouth-watering food stall in a neighborhood street ‘marché’ that caters to the fastidious eating habits of Parisians.  I will not offend by identifying the obvious, such as the Tour Eiffel or Notre Dame, however, now and then I’ll add a dash of spices, tidbits of interesting information perhaps useful to make your future foray to ‘La ville lumière‘ more  pleasurable.  Bon voyage!

(NOTE: To improve your viewing experience click on the photos below to enlarge – once for medium, twice to zoom in.

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Astride ‘La Butte Montmartre’, fabled domain of the artistic and bohemian, the Basilique du Sacré Coeur keeps a watchful eye over its people.

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Allow me to offer a useful bit of advice to the future visitor.  The scenic photos of the Sacré Coeur  above are taken from the rooftop patio at the shopping mecca known collectively as Printemps and Les Gallery Lafayette.  There’s no entry fee and it offers the best photographic vista, 360 degree around, of what’s interesting to be seen in Paris, as in the photos.  Furthermore any woman is delighted by the eclectic and fine quality shopping and a man can easily find that gift he needs bring back home.  A winning combo by any standard.
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The Centre Pompidou (center) the foremost tourist magnet in all of Paris; when you consider what it comes ahead, Notre Dame and the Tour Eiffel, just to name two, it’s quite a compliment to its successful incorporation of several cultural venues.  The new city library and the largest museum of modern art in Europe are but two of the attractions in this ‘high-tech’  design that ‘turned modern architecture on its head’.
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Place Georges Pompidou’ in front of the museum is particularly noted for eclectic and often novel entertainment, mimes, jugglers, bands, street performers; offered for a small donation, freely given I might add, relaxed crowds gawk and applaud on any given day.
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In colorful Mongolian garb a trio set up in front of Le Centre Pompidou to offer authentic ‘throat’ singing accompanied by fine musicianship on traditional instruments.  If you’ve not heard this complex and unique form of singing go to YouTube and type in ‘Mongolian throat singing’.  You’ll find several choices – amazing control.
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This clever fellow created humongous soap balloons – imagine back to the time when you’d have given up all your precious toys for that kind of magical power. Check out the rapt expressions on the children, and the not so young.
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For a brief moment the young lady fancies her chances of capturing a bit of bubble magic – not quite as it soon burst.  During the twinkling of an eye though she was a child again and that’s  priceless.
 
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Paris is a shopper’s delight – Dior luxury goods and of course world renowned brand names in fashion.
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On the Champs Elysées, luxurious co-exists now with the mundane, such as Burger King and MacDonald’s.  No photos of those in my camera, needless to point out.
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The old elegance with the extra cool new design in automobiles.  
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Paris offers the best and most varied  entertainment one can imagine.  At almost every street corner or ‘place‘ you’ll discover  talented artists plying their trade in return for a voluntary donation on your part.  Below, this woman plays a manual organ, hand-cranked with vigor while singing with verve traditional songs associated with the incomparable Edit Piaf.
The lissome accordionist is found on the Place du Tertre a stone’s throw from the Sacré Coeur; if you want to hear a fine rendition of the  theme from ‘Emilie’ and other golden oldies, check her out.  Talented buskers at every corner and well worth lingering to give a listen and maybe drop a coin.
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A jazz band up for the week-end from the south of France served up an upbeat and fun performance in front, appropriately enough, of the Académie Nationale de Musique.
Very professional, super hip – a cool jazz band and fine vocalist entertain the lucky passers-by, me included. 
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City Hall and the ubiquitous carousel, a children’s delight seen everywhere in France.
L’Arc de Triomphe du  Carrousel’ looking from the nearby Louvre up the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe at the top, both built to commemorate Napoleon’s victories.   The obelisk (also due to Napoleon’s military excursion to Egypt) is visible about half-way.  A splendid stroll by any standard that can be named, anywhere.
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From atop  the ‘Arc de Triomphe’ a comely visitor captures a souvenir photo looking down Les Champs Elysées; at the top end of the photo, the Louvres museum.  The Eiffel Tower shows up from almost any angle anywhere within the city.
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Photo editing magic! What is she pointing her camera at?
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The Champs-Elysées and the slightly insane traffic below.  The one thing that a driver must never do is stop for whatever reason.  I’ve even witnessed minor bumper to bumper hits but I’ve never seen even a driver  stop to check for damage – it’s part of the game.
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The crazy traffic below, drivers navigating their way to one of the 12 avenues that make up the spokes of the Etoile.  My first time I was forced to go around twice before I mustered the courage to just head for my exit and miraculously managed to do so without a scratch.  Hence, every time I’m in Paris whether I need to or not I force myeelf to drive around just to get my driving brain adapted to the helter-skelter traffic, and okay, I now consider it fun especially if I have a neophyte along for the ride so I can show off my ‘cool’.
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Note no lanes or any kind of traffic pattern indication – you just make up your own driving path as you go.  Democracy or is it anarchy?  Somehow it works.  Oh, by the way this was in mid-morning in what is considered light traffic. 
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From the top of the Arc de Triumphe – the ever present Tour Effeil and below a panoramic view of Paris.
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The Louvre and it’s iconic pyramid entrance, once an object of controversy now a proud symbol of architectural imagination melded with practicality.
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From the concourse outside a peek at ancient sculptures cleverly displayed – great if you’re in a hurry, and best of all no entrance ticket need be purchased.  
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This young couple in the ‘Jardin des Tuileries’ somehow couldn’t find enough free room on a bench; they opted to share the same space, vertically.  Nice!
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Historic, splendid, iconic Notre Dame Cathedral.   I believe it’s impossible to take a poor photo from any angle.
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Inside Notre Dame, glorious glass rose, the main transept and splendid pipe organ sights that never cease to reward my visits, no matter how often over the years. 
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One of the famed gargoyles keeping a close watch on the City of Lights!
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La Conciergerie, a historic building that includes the remnants of the oldest royal palace in Paris, dating to the beginning of the 14th Century.  Later displaced in favour of  the Louvre as the royal residence, it’s located on the historic and charming Ile de la Cité, the island in the middle of the River Seine just up from Notre Dame.  Today it houses the Prefecture de Paris police and various legal offices and trial courts.
On the Pont Neuf, a glittering bridge spanning the Seine leading to the Left Bank and in the background the Invalides, a fine military museum displaying memorabilia of past wars and especially Napoleon’s impressive tomb.
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When I checked out this photo the results were rather surprising – first of all I couldn’t quite fathom other than the Obelisk in the Place de La Concorde what were the other two buildings.  ‘Mon grand ami‘ set me straight; the second building with the columns was the ‘Palais de Bourbon’ where the French Assembly meet and in the background the Invalides.  What had thrown me was the fact the Seine River flows just in front of the Palais but it’s not visible and I wouldn’t have guessed except he lives permanently in Paris.  Lucky fellow!
In front of the imposing Pantheon where the ‘great and noble’ of France are honored in final homage.  Of great interest it’s where Foulcault set his famous instrument, a pendulum that proved the existence of the earth’s rotation – check it out it’s still doing its thing without a hick-cup.  It’s impressive and for me at least, a hint to understanding our home planet’s incredibly precise ride though the cosmos.
The Palais du Luxembourg is the seat of the French Senate.  However, it is best know for  a 25-hectare formal garden populated by statues, ‘parterres’ of green lawns and stately treed aisles for leisure strolls.  There are large basins of water where children (of all ages) sail model sailboats; there’s also an apple and pear orchard and an excellent ‘théatre des marionettes’.  For those with a nostalgic bent (mea culpa) I recommend finding a Joe Dassin rendition of a splendid “Le Jardin du Luxembourg‘ and if you’re like me listen and allow yourself a heartfelt sigh.  He was the much loved troubadour of an entire generation of the young and the young at heart.  RIP Joe.
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Methinks I’ll now listen to Joe reminding me of a time when life was simpler and notions of friendship and love weren’t looked upon as the domain of romantic, emotional fools.   That’s it for now mes amis.  Next time I’ll take you along to lovely Nancy and regal Reims.   A bientôt

PARIS BY NIGHT

“Never go on  trips with someone you don’t love.”                                                      Ernest Hemingway – ‘A Moveable Feast’

Paris by night is dazzling as a courtesan without being garish; enchanting as a demure debutante without ever becoming trite.  For young and old it’s a feast for the eyes, a boost to a weary spirit and gentle massage of the senses.  No need to identify the iconic images of the City of Lights, enjoy.

(NOTE: To improve your viewing experience click on the photos below to enlarge – once for medium, twice to zoom in.)

It’s worth mentioning each night, every hour on the hour there’s a zippy five minute laser show that elicits oohs and aahs from the shadows where you didn’t even suspect anyone was there waiting for the show to start.

Walk under and look up, only in this manner can you get a real idea of just how big and high the Eiffel Tower is; no wonder it dominates the skyline from almost any angle.  

Late into the night ‘bateau mouche‘ ferry enchanted tourists along the world’s most romantic river – the Seine of song and poems.

For my money nothing beats the Arc de Triumph at night and then a stroll down the Champs Elysées to check out the other tourists who are checking you out – harmless fun.

Notre Dame’s superb stained glass windows, especially moving at night when the muted whispers of visitors lend a serene, spiritual tone to the house of God.

Wandering at night somewhere not far from Parc Monceau, I was surprised to see an onion-domed church that serves Eastern rite parishioners.  I’ve got to find the name.

Style, elegance and class!

A show room on the Champs Elysées – the old boy displayed a je ne sais quoi that might be envied today.

Even a casual car fancier might fall for this one; fast and fancy, like a showgirl from the Moulin Rouge.

One last glance before heading to the hotel; after a long, pleasant stroll through the City of Lights sleep will come easy tonight.

Paris – Ville Lumière Part 1

Travel cognoscenti, well-heeled jet-setters and youthful backpackers, illustrious artists and writers have heaped  praise on  Paris as the finest walking city worldwide par excellence and I’m in total agreement.  During my visits I generally eschew the speedy métro or convenient surface bus service although there are a few bus routes that provide splendid tours of the city for the price of an ordinary fare – I’ll let you in on a few as I go along.  For now, let me assure one and all nothing beats a good pair of walking shoes, a street map in the hip pocket – start bright and early so you can dawdle over your café au lait and croissant at one of the ubiquitous corner bistros and mull over your day’s itinerary.  With a powerful caffeine jolt propelling you start hiking being sure to keep your keen eyes on a swivel, eagle-eyes checking left and right, up and even down so you miss nothing of the wonderful sights of Paris.

(NOTE: To improve your viewing experience click on the photos below to enlarge – once for medium, twice to zoom in.)

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It’s important to understand the physical lay-out of the great avenues you’ll surely walk along (Champs Elysées, for one); Baron Haussmann designed the city central avenues to radiate from a central ‘place’ like the spokes on a bicycle wheel.  No matter how often I try to remind myself, avenues, even the major ones, do not run parallel to each other but gradually diverge until after several blocks you’re no longer where you may have imagined to be.  Don’t worry, get the map out and adjust to head in the direction you wished for in the first place; in the meantime nothing will have been lost as I’m sure you’ll discover numbers of fascinating nooks of the city about which you had no knowledge.   Have your camera ready at all times – there’s a photo op at every corner.

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Spanning 2000 years of an often turbulent and illustrious history, Paris is an amazing amalgam of the old and new and if you are a neophyte visitor you’ll surely head for the sparkling, high tone boulevards a courtesy of Napoleon’s desire to beautify his capital city and Haussmann’s urban planning genius.  You’ll come across parks, large and small, choose a comfortable bench and catch the sight of hurried Parisians and other travelers such as you; it will surprise and simultaneously charm you far beyond what you had dreamed of when you closed your eyes and planned this very moment.

For my part it’s a fundamental precept that wherever I travel I seek accommodations centrally located with a view from the window (when possible), comfortable certainly and of course affordable.  It’s one reason I never (really never) book a hotel ahead but rather chance on finding what I need first seeing with my own eyes.  Admittedly it is at times stressful but in the final analysis always worth the sometimes hard work.  On my latest jaunt to Paris I was extremely fortunate.  Serendipitously, I discovered cheery accomodations in a wonderful location one street from the Marché Poncelet.  The leafy view from inside the room demonstrates what I mean by cheery.  

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At the front desk, Julien, a fine fellow whose cheerful demeanor and tips concerning things to do and see in the neighborhood of the Hôtel Flaubert was proof Parisians are friendly notwithstanding occasional bad-mouthing by unsophisticated visitors who are surprised they’re not impressing anyone because they’re paying for the privilege to gape at the treasures in plain sight everywhere int the City of Lights.  

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From my room window I’m checking for signs the sun is about to come out again.  However, I hasten to add there’s absolutely no reason not to go wandering about the streets of Paris, rain or shine, it’s always a magnificent outing worth any small weather related discomfort.

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There are historic and interestingly designed places (squares) within a few minutes walk of each other, featuring grandiose statues of famed figures (some are obscure to most foreigners, but it’s fun to make a note of the name and Google it later) reminding passersby they once contributed to the city and country.  The not-to-be-missed Place de la Concorde, Place Vendome, Place de l’Opéra, Place Pigale, of course you want to go there to snap a good shot of the Moulin Rouge, but save your money, it’s a tarted up old whore not worth the cheap Champagne at a premium price.  From there start climbing the  steep, winding streets of Montmartre where a succession of great and unknown artists lived their dreams of fame, and of course take a long gander upon the city from the imposing viewpoint on the steps below the iconic Basilique du Sacré Coeur.

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Rather than endlessly going on rapturously, let me lay out for you some of my favourite sites, the famed and the less so but each one in my opinion worthy of a lingering look.
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When I downloaded this photo I realized it was the first time I’d actually visualized this particular angle of three iconic views of Paris.

Place de la Concorde fountain and of course the ever-present Tour Eiffel keeping a sharp eye on all of Paris.  A couple of centuries ago the ‘place’ was hardly harmonious as thousands including Danton, Robespierre and not a few noble heads lost their heads, literally, to the Révolution‘s blood thirst. 

 One of the unusual acts  you’ll come across all over the city: this one set up ‘shop’ steps from the Pompidou Centre.  I admit I was just as happy as the giddy gamins who were cheering him on urging bigger and bigger bubbles.  

So delightful especially for children of all ages, me included.  I wonder it there’s a secret formula? It may be fun to try it out for yourself, what do you think? Hmm… warm water, dishwashing soap and two sticks – nothing to it, right?

The arch called Le Carousel  is pictured with the Louvres to your back and looking down (or up) the Champs Elysées.  Framed in the far distances the iconic Arc de Triomphe.  

In front of the most visited site in Paris, Le Centre Pompidou (pour les Arts) that incidentally is not close to being my favourite, however, there’s always lots of action in the wide plaza, with musicians, acrobats, mimes, buskers of all types showing off their skills for a multitude of tourists.  Some of the acts are really first class and worth spending the time to watch, applaud and drop a few coins in appreciation.

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Considered as one of the world’s very finest art gallery, the Louvres seen from the main concourse and central fountain.

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The glass pyramid located amongst classical architecture set off passionate debate when it first came into existence.  Today the functional aspects (main entrance and ticket counters) cleverly camouflaged as an artistic creation is praised by one and all.  I for one had been dubious until I actually saw it with my own eyes – bravo!

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A free preview of what you can discover inside, for the price of a ticket.  On the other hand, if you’re in a hurry and just want to take a look from the outside, there are several viewpoints that are meant for you to enjoy, perhaps entice you to buy that ticket after all.

There’s never enough time in one visit to see it all with the  proper respect for the masterpieces and unique artistry on display.  Choose a few theme rooms, relax on a bench and take your time to enjoy.  Come back another time, the Mona Lisa will always be there to greet you.

Visiting Paris from a southern provincial town, this band put on a spirited show with fine style and good toe-tapping offerings.  The young fellow on the small snare drum who beat the beat with gusto was a fun front-man.

Le Moulin Rouge needs no introduction.  Look but don’t bother getting clipped inside.  A good starting point to the Sacré Coeur.

There seems to be yet another antique children’s carousel all over the city; laughter of happy children and organ music always evokes sweet memories.

This lovely mademoiselle played a fine rendition of the theme from Emilie, the movie that enchanted the world some years ago.

Energetically cranking the small mechanical organ, this fine songstress was a throw-back to the early street chanteuse of Paris, Edit Piaf being the best known, of course.  Her voice was evocative of Patachou and Juliette Gréco, singers known  and loved for their Parisian roots.

This Parisian icon is even more exciting at night.

A pretty tourist exclaimed, “Ah, worse than Tokyo traffic.  Crazy!”  She took video to show back home they don’t have it as bad as the Parisian ‘Kamikaze drivers!”

Seen from above the traffic is simply too ridiculous to contemplate challenging, and yet, after my first go around (yep, I couldn’t get off at my avenue) I managed to navigate my way out.  Since then each trip I make it a must to go around at least once to sharpen me up for the frantic Parisian traffic.  Oh, one secret of not getting stuck – NEVER stop, no matter what keep on going even when you’re sure the other driver will hit you or vice-versa.  Magically the slow dance winds its way around without a pause and everyone finds their way out.  Admittedly once I did see a minor fender bender but it was of no account as both drivers waved to each other and kept on their merry way.  I found it splendidly civilized behaviour.

A night view of the Champs Elysées.

La Madeleine – fine classical architecture and splendid interior.

It’s on every woman’s shopping agenda, especially for cosmetics. Gallery Lafayette and adjacent Printemps are a shopper’s mecca, even men can find something to like about shopping.

Have to have one of the Tour Eiffel but many more to come in Paris City of Lights Number 2

Finally a view of the Sacré Coeur from the viewpoint provided by le magazin Printemps.  It’s one of the great tourist bargains of Paris, the open air café on the top floor provides a splendid panoramic view of the city.  More to come next post, hope you enjoyed a small sampling of what you’ll discover for yourself some day soon, I hope.  Aurevoir mes amis.