Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Streets of Paris

Today I'm sharing a montage of Paris street scenes. It was hard to pick which photos to include and which to save for another theme. There's an overwhelming selection and dividing things into themes is a rather random decision. Some areas, like Montmartre deserve their own post. In fact, every arrondissement could have it's own post. I could, and probably will, do a separate post for signs, windows, statues, bridges, gardens, the Seine, monuments, churches......Whew. Let me stop and catch my breath...... I could go back for a thousand visits, take a million photos, and still never capture everything I want to remember and share.

So, let's settle for the best I can do, a hodge podge of scenes, a small taste of things. Got your walking shoes on? Paris may be a city obsessed with fashion but even more it's a city designed for walking, so choose your footware wisely. Ready? Good, let's get started.

Paris streets come in hundreds of varieties but this is how I picture a "typical" street. Not a tourist street, this would be a larger street that met the basic shopping needs in a residential area. Trees of course, as there are almost everywhere. And check out the fountain at the end of the block. I think this particular street is in the 11th arrondissment.

We're in the Latin Quarter here, or perhaps next to it, St. Germain de Pres. Notice the little cement spacers to keep the cars off the sidewalks. I like the way the building seem to be built organically to fit wherever they could.

Latin Quarter again. I love the older streets that wind and curve.

Of course it is a tourist town and there isn't an area where you won't find at least a few of these shops that sell "Paris tchotchkes" - scarves of course, berets, bags, and anything and everything with I "HEART" Paris stamped onto it. I took a photo of this one because it had William's name on it.

The ubiquitous cafe chair - everywhere. This one might look deserted but don't think for a minute you can sit in one without ordering. That would be like going inside a restaurant and sitting at a table and then telling the waiter you were just resting. But there are lots of public benches in busy spots.

Streets might be narrow and winding or long and wide, but they often open up into plazas (les places) big and small. This one had an awesome fountain. They also have traffic circles. All the ones I saw, with the very dramatic exception of the Arc de Triomphe, are regulated by multiple traffic lights. They're actually the one thing that would make me think multiple times before attempting to drive in Paris. It's not real clear where exactly the cars are meant to go. I think you just have to memorize the different ones.

Another scene in the Latin Quarter. I really liked this area, and the areas around it. Yes, it was touristy, but there was a lot of competition for dining and so there were good deals to be had. And you could slip away from the busy streets easily. Notice all the chairs and placard signs? I love this. Here (in this town and I think most U.S. towns) we have so many regulations for what can and cannot be put on a sidewalk that it discourages sidewalk dining or advertising. Apparently we're are too stupid to watch where we're walking and we might trip over something and sue someone. Sigh. We have a new restaurant uptown that sits on the corner of Main Street and a side street with a really wide sidewalk. It would be perfect for some outdoor dining, but I bet it's not wide enough for us precarious-on-our-feet Americans.

This scene is from Montmartre area, which I'll do in another post, but it was a good example of how famous landmarks peek out at you from so many locations.

Montmartre area again, a good example of the small fruit and vegetable markets to be found in all the residential areas.

Coming down into the Pigalle area, this was a busy tourist street but I liked this section filled with fabric and discounted clothing stores. We didn't stop but I would have loved to dig for treasures. Look at the cute little Pierrot painted on the building.

Another scene from the same area. Trash in the gutter - the tourists (and I think a fraction of the horde were locals who came to this area too, for shopping with friends) took a heavy toll on the street. See the sign - two euros de metre. Quilting fabric might be exorbitantly priced in Paris, but if you got creative with different fabrics, it wouldn't be as costly.

Same area - see, I told ya, hordes of people.

And then quiet. Are you noticing all the beautiful old buildings, not just in this photo but in all of them? Most of them are built with light or white stone but there are areas where people have indulged in brightly colored storefronts.

Another quiet street. I think this was in Montparnasse area, near St. Sulpice perhaps. You never knew when you'd stumble upon an ancient street tucked away around just a few steps from someplace full of cars and people. Some are filled with workshops and studios (ateliers), galleries, offices, restaurants....

Some are private.

You never know when you'll turn a corner and bump into something large too. This is Elise de la Madeleine, a beautiful church. I think this is the 2nd arrondissement, but it might be on the edge of the 1st.

I've shown you this street before, full of nurseries and pet shops.

Bicycles everywhere.

Vespas, scooters, mopeds, motorcycles everywhere too. Two wheels are cool in Paris. I liked the pink ones one saw fairly often. (although black, of course, was the most popular color in wheels and clothes and bags and....)

I liked this street scene, in the Sorbonne area. It's a bit funky around the edges, filled with students and professors and young families. This shows people walking, dining, and a couple of young people having an impromptu garage sale in the foreground.

Same area, we followed this family for several blocks. I thought they looked almost like charicatures of a young Parisian family, they were so beautiful. Well, actually, I didn't see their faces at all, but the odds are they were indeed beautiful. But I mean beautiful in the sense of grace and poise and style.

Of course we can't forget the streets along the Seine. Here are the little street shops along the river. There's a name for them, I can't remember what it is. They're large boxes that open up to display photos, old books, posters, paintings. At night or during bad weather they fold them back together and lock them up and all you see are what look like miniature green "box cars" topping the wall. Notre Dame in the background.

Of course I couldn't forget the most famous boulevard in Paris, the Champs d' Elysee. It's spelled many different ways online so forgive me if I got the wrong one. Here I'm standing across the circle around the Arc de Triomphe using a telephoto lens to shoot back down towards Place de la Concorde, marked by the skinny tower with the gold top in the distance.


Now we are down towards the other end, looking back up at the Arc de Triomphe. I'd planned to walk the entire street, just so I could say I did, but we never really got around to it. I know it's famous and all, but we didn't really love it like we did other parts of the city. It's touristy and overpriced and busy and actually seemed more like the U.S. in some ways than other areas. You have to spend some time there just to window shop in shops most of us couldn't afford to buy a tie tack in, and to know what it's like, but in my mind, it's overrated. Of course I didn't walk the whole thing, so I might be mistaken. Here I'm standing on the edge of the sidewalk to take the photo but the sidewalks on either side are incredibly wide, as wide as the street itself.

A closer photo of traffic and that big ol' arch. Shadows are forming. We're losing daylight.

Of course, Paris streets don't sleep just because night arrives. But I'll show you Paris at night another time. I've dragged you all over Paris today and you all look completely exhausted. It's time to get off our feet, no matter how comfortable our shoes started out. Here we are standing walking across the river towards the plaza in front of Notre Dame, a good place to stop and watch the young people hanging out, the tourists all stretching their necks and cameras upward trying to capture the front of the cathedral. We'll stop for you to take a few photos too, and then maybe head back over the bridge into the Latin Quarter to find a place to sit, a cafe or brasserie where we can sit, eat, drink, and laugh for hours more. In Paris, the night is young.


Blogger JulieZS said...

What a lovely post! I feel as if I've been walking around Paris all day.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Jaye said...

Fabulous photos. I love the way you captured the sense of the place. It makes me want to go to Paris again.

9:08 AM  
Blogger Dara said...

Same here - I was there for 3 days in 1985 and I can still feel it. Wonderful pics and commentary.

5:40 PM  
Blogger the glitter fairy said...

Thank you sooooo much for the lovely trip to Paris! You really captured its essence in those shots. It has always been a dream of mine to visit Paris...maybe someday...thanks for the "day trip".
The Glitter Fairy

5:34 AM  
Blogger Jana said...

Amazing photos! I like that your photos are of the common things, not just the grand buildings. *One day* (meaning when the kids are older or out of the house) I will get to visit Paris.

1:14 AM  

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