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Along River Seine

Do you know that the Banks of the Seine is listed as an Unesco World Heritage Site? Not the Eiffel Tower, not the Louvre, not the Musée d’Orsay, not the Notre Dame; these are but supporting stars – albeit major ones – to the source which fed the city and saw it rose to the grandiose that we enjoy today.

Along River Seine

Along River Seine

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Postcards: Île de la Jatte (FR)

River Seine snakes around Paris and Île de France, and with it, a number of small islands grace the region. We know all about the Île St Louis and Île de la Cité within central Paris, where the city’s history began with the settlement of the Parisii, but other islands are very much “invisible” to many. I should definitely explore more of them!

Île de la Jatte

Île de la Jatte

To the west of Paris, straddled between the communes of Levallois and Neuilly-sur-Seine, lies a small, picturesque island called Île de la Jatte, aka “Island of the Bowl”. We stumbled across it quite by chance, when Chloé and I went to Levallois for lunch at the weekend. I struggled to pinpoint why the name sounded familiar, but Chloé knows it well – it used to be a favourite hangout among Impressionist artists. Seurat’s Un dimanche après-midi à l’île de la Grande Jatte (now housed in Art Institut of Chicago) is indeed a very well-known painting to many!

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Most read in 2013

I don’t usually pay a lot of attention to my blog stats, but since I noticed a few interesting questions that landed readers to the blog (and planning to write a post on that soon), I thought, why not make a list of ten most read blog posts of 2013? This should also fall nicely into the end-of-year-listicle phenomenon, so this is my minor contribution ;)

A number of general observations: the posts are mostly Paris-related, the number one post had been read more than the other nine combined (just to show how often it has also been searched for people needing such information), and these posts were mostly published in the first half of the year – I suppose those later in the year haven’t got the equal amount of exposure time thus not as widely read yet.

Amiens

10. Daytrip: Paris to Amiens

Since I had a little free time on my hand (and I needed to grab some points for my SNCF frequent traveller status) I went to Amiens for the day to see the famed cathedral and to suss out the city in general. With a journey time of just over an hour, it’s a very do-able day trip from Paris. I wished I had opted for a late return rather than one in the late afternoon, for I lacked time to check out the Hortillonnages.

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Project 365 – Week 35

Blink, blink. September has just turned up, the French population is gearing up for la rentrée while I, well, dealing with a bunch of paperwork actually. That, and finalising the details of my upcoming holiday. In the mean time, I’m suffering from writer’s block and find it very difficult to put words to paper (or to WordPress, in this case). Please excuse me while I search for my inner wannabe-writer…

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Carved façade

26 Aug: There are the typical Haussmanian buildings, and then there are a whole lot of variations of non-Haussmanian too. I don’t think I was too far away from Pont d’Alma when I took this shot, just because it’s quirky enough to be different from its neighbours. I’ve been trying to search for more information on this architectural style, but haven’t have much luck so far. I may need to dig deeper, or whip up the thick book of Parisian architecture bible that F bought a long time ago. It’s a very interesting book, but just a bit too much French for me to read, so it’s work instead of fun reading.

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Views from the sky

Getting a window seat, preferably one which has a wing-free view, is something of a perk when flying. At least to me, it is. And that is how, once, I was treated to the most beautiful view of Paris over sunset (November 2010, Dubai-Paris), including an Eiffel Tower that was sparkling and shimmering away.

I love looking out at take-off and landing. In between, when we’re cruising at a reasonable altitude without cloud cover, everything seems like a miniature toy below. I love watching sunrise and sunset in the horizon, because it’s never like anything that you’ve seen while on the ground. I love imagining just how fluffy some of the clouds can be, especially when they stretch out endlessly. I especially love it when the pilots are nice and decide to play tour guides from time to time and point out where we are flying over at that moment.

Aerial view

Aerial view

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The 300 steps of Tour St Jacques

For a very long time, the Tour St Jacques (i.e. St James’ Tower) had been under scaffolds for restoration works. It wasn’t until shortly before my move to Paris that it emerged cleaned and repaired to the eyes of the public. However, access to the tower itself remained elusive. No more. Between 5 July and 15 September this summer, every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, visitors can ascend this former bell tower to the church of St-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie via some 300 spiral stairs to the open summit, but only if you are quick enough to book a spot among the 136 per day.

Dedicated to St James, the detroyed church and its tower form part of the landmarks on the French pilgrimage route of El Camino de Santiago. This tower that measures about 12m by 12m in base dimension and attains 62m in height (including that of the statue of St James on its pedestal) is the sole structure within the heart of Paris where a complete 360° panoramic view is on offer. A summer day blighted by heatwave may be unappealing as a day to work those gluts and go all the way up, but the effort is richly rewarded.

Tour St Jacques

Tour St Jacques

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T-rex on Seine

Some amazing photos have surfaced online of a full-scale T-rex sculpture in Paris and encouraged by Mags to check it out (met with an enthusiastic yes by Jesper to search for it together), I headed down along the River Seine to Pont d’Alma yesterday evening. The T-rex hunt was made easy thanks to mentions of Bateaux Mouches on some of the photos because otherwise, it would be bloody hard work under the hot sun. This chrome dinosaur is, how do I put it, not exactly soaring over the River Seine.

French photographer Anthony Gelot had done a phenomenal work in capturing the beauty of this sculpture by Philippe Pasqua along with *the* Parisian landmark, there’s no doubt about it. However, the articles I’ve read with hyperbolic claims along the likes of “larger-than-life installations”, “soaring” and “towering” had me expecting something epic. On seeing it in person, I mentally kicked myself for not managing my expectation better. At a frame size of 3m by 6m, it’s safe to say I have seen many more magnificent real skeletons of T-rex (including Sue in the Field Museum, Chicago) and this pales in comparison. Nonetheless, it made an interesting subject to photograph and we started clicking away.

T-rex on the Seine

T-rex on the Seine

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Project 365 – Week 22

Paris constantly surprises me. Streets that I use on regular basis still contain unknown elements, waiting to be discovered. Double-takes on my part become something I look forward to and I am also gradually more observant, provided I’m not in a hurry or lost in my own little world. I should start exploring them by foot instead of flashing past them on a bike or on the bus.

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Fontaine des Innocents

27 May: In the past, the royal procession of a newly-crowned King of France would enter the city on a route that includes rue St Denis and passing by Châtelet to get to the Palais de la Cité (today used as Palais de Justice). Commemorative monuments (most of them on temporary basis) would be erected along the route and the Fontaine des Innocents was among those erected to welcome the royal entry of King Henry II. Back then, the “fountain” was not free-standing but built against the wall of the former Holy Innocents’ Cemetery (hence the name), with taps to provide water to the citizens of Paris. The “windows” were actually part of the viewing balcony! It was moved to its current location in mid-1800.

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Project 365 – Week 7

I have just realised, while I’m keeping up with this photo project, I am falling behind with my reading. A whooping seven weeks into the year and I’ve just finished my third English book, never mind none in French yet. And rather frantically, I haven’t been able to find my public library card either. A spring cleaning is seriously needed because I’m hoping to make this year the one where I make full use of the libraries around Paris instead of buying more books when I have no space to store them.

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Winter sunset

11 Feb: Frédéric often tells me how much he loves the winter sky, specifically the softer colour hue at the end of a fine day. This evening was one of those where you couldn’t take your eyes off the horizon, where shades of colours blended into one harmonious palate. I wasn’t the only one who stood rooted at a spot looking up – a number of people on my Twitter were excitingly sharing their photos of this beautiful evening.

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The rising water of River Seine

A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that the level of water of River Seine had been unusually high. I made note of it during my photo round up of Week 5 and quickly forgot all about it. It appears the water level hasn’t subsided since and remains at flood level that footpaths of the embankments are currently closed for safety reasons.

Crue of River Seine

Crue of River Seine

A few days later, I was out after work one evening along the quay again, and this time, I saw water that had spilled over what was normally a pedestrianised path. I guess, given the amount of snow and rain we’ve been getting this winter, this is to be expected. Little did I know that there have been warnings given by the city about the high level of River Seine. I do read the news nowadays, really, except my news feed had been kinda swamped by articles relating to the raging debate in the Assemblée Nationale.

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Project 365 – Week 5

As I’ve promised previously, back to normal transmission. I’m glad that the days are getting longer, but I’m a tad frustrated too that I’m rather busy at work so by the time I’m out of the office, it’s dark outside. There’s a limit to how far I can go without being home too late for dinner either. I must try harder to get more variations!

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Musée Curie

28 Jan: The first woman to ever receive a Nobel Prize, Marie Curie was an extraordinary scientist. She won not only one, but a second Nobel, and both in different disciplines (Physics and Chemistry). Her former lab has now been transformed into a small museum and it was also here where her daughter and son-in-law made new discovery that went on to win another Nobel Prize for themselves. The museum is open Wednesday to Saturday in the afternoon from 1pm to 5pm. The admission is free. (I must come back when it’s open one of these days!)

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Day 300: Les péniches

Autumn colours have really bloom in the last few days. Last week when I passed this very same spot, there were speckles of orange and yellow, with a lot more green. But now, look at it, the leaves are burnt orange, ochre and golden in hues. Simply beautiful. Soon these trees would be stripped bare by nature though…

I like it how these péniches are so well lined up along the River Seine (at authorised quay sides of course), and the little touches the owners put to make them as homely as possible. In the horizon, Grand Palais looms large. It is currently hosting an exhibition of Matisse, Cézanne, Picasso… the Stein Family. Should be a good one, and I need to find time to go over.

Day 279: Across the river

I’m beginning to believe that if you throw a coin at something in Paris, you’ll probably hit a landmark of some sort. Some more famous than the others, of course, but sometimes, even what seems to be something nondescript, could well bear a sign to tell you that someone famous used to live or do-such-and-such here.

Standing along Quai François Mitterrand and looking over the River Seine, on a large scale, it’s easy enough to spot Square du Vert-Galant, Pont Neuf, statue of King Henri IV (of France) and the dome of the Panthéon. With a navette throw in there for good measure. Could be nice with some blue sky over it though, don’t you think? Pretty please, I’d like the grey days to be over.

Day 232: Sunny sunny day

We have a weekend of heatwave upon us. The forecast is for the temperature to hit over 30°C today till Monday, although there’s also a risk of rain tomorrow. It’s like it couldn’t make its minds to stay ensoleillé or not. For now though, I’m going to make the most of the sunny spot that has been missing from the city for a few weeks.

Look, isn’t Paris so beautiful on a day like this? :D

I took this photo from Pont du Caroussel, crossing the River Seine from Louvre to the quarter of St Germain (we were in search for ice-cream and were on our way to Grom). The bridge ahead is Pont des Arts (with hundreds of love locks) and in the background, you should also spot the towers and spire of Notre Dame Cathedral as well as the spire of Sainte Chapelle, both buildings standing on Île de la Cité.

Day 148: Salsa en Seine

Summer months in Paris bring out plenty of outdoor activities, one of them being Danse en Seine where daily, from 6pm onwards, the amphitheatres at Jardin Tino Rossi are occupied by dancers and spectators alike. And everyone’s welcomed to join in and wiggle along. From salsa to tango to rock, this spells FUN to me even if I chickened out from taking part today. What can I say? It has been a loooong time since I last danced properly, so I was feeling shy about it. Besides, I was out on a photowalk and not exactly in proper shoes for dancing. I didn’t expect them to be there, since it was only mid-afternoon at that stage.

Four couples were dancing to some pretty pop tunes but well-adapted to salsa dancing with the beats of one-two-three, five-six-seven. This pair were the best among them – with the guy leading very well and the girl dancing so very elegantly. I would be so lucky if I can do a fraction of what she did. They made all the steps and moves seemed so effortless. Anyway, next time I head out there again, I am going to join in. Wish me luck!

Day 145: Guarding over Paris

Sainte Geneviève is the patron saint of Paris and standing really really tall on Pont de la Tournelle over River Seine is a statue of this wise and brave woman (who was said to have saved Paris from the plunders of Attila the Hun and performed numerous other miracles for the people of Paris), protecting the young Paris (depicted as a young girl here – holding a ship used by the Parisii tribe?) from all that sought to cause her harm.

This iconography is similar to the stained window of Église St-Pierre de Montmartre (photo on Flickr) which would quite ambiguously tells you it is Paris that Sainte Geneviève is looking out for. In this creation, Paris is holding Notre Dame Cathedral in her hands. Of course, note that Notre Dame wasn’t built until several decades following the death (and canonisation) of Sainte Geneviève, the representation at Pont de la Tournelle would probably be a more accurate depiction. But, what do I know? I am no historian.

Day 140: Génie sur Seine

I never quite get nymphs, sirens and water spirits straight. I’ve seen the terms used interchangeably in some writings, while other sources portray them as distinct creatures, albeits water/sea related. Who’s right and who’s wrong? However, I do think of nymphs and sirens as creatures with seductive nature, so I would deduce this sculpture to be a water spirit if anything. Just look at it – she’s so young and carefree!

Pont Alexandre III is undoubtedly the most elaborately decorated and opulent bridge of Paris. This water spirit is only a small component to the bridge which spans River Seine to link Les Invalides on the left bank to both Grand Palais and Petit Palais on the right bank. From gold-gilded statues to Art Nouveau lamps to bronze sculptures, this bridge is, and will always be, a wow factor to all visitors to Paris.

Ps: yup, French wiki confirmed this is a water spirit (génie).

Day 138: A view from Pont de Tolbiac

Today, a quick photo, still of River Seine, but from the east end of the city. Yup, the complete other side from where I was yesterday. And like the majority of Parisian neighbourhoods close to the périphérique, there are also plenty of modern buildings here and busy quayside with various docked vessels of varying sizes. I wonder how much trades are taking place along this part of River Seine?

It has been a while since I play around with the different modes of the camera so here’s the return of the miniature. I really am not making enough effort to get to know my camera well. I’m still struggling to handle the manual mode, especially at places where it’s dark/dim or during the night. The response time is extremely slow for most part, which is something I’ve not experiences in the past with the manual mode of my previous Ixus. I can only deduce I’m doing something wrong, since there’s more control settings on this camera and in correlation, it should means I could work it better. Now, if only I know where my manual CD is.

Day 137: A view from Pont du Garigliano

Visitors to Paris tend to stay within the central area of the city – let’s face it, there are so much to do one need not venture further out in any case – and as a result, perhaps the only tall buildings they would have noticed are Tour Montparnasse and those at La Défense (and you can spot them right from Champs-Élysées). Otherwise, Parisian architecture seems rarely topping the sixth or seventh storey in height, much less constructed with plenty of steels, metals and glasses.

Down by Port de Javel, standing on Pont du Garigliano, one may not recognise Paris if not for the Tour Eiffel which stands beyond the horizon of tall modern buildings. It is still quite pretty here, with less human traffic (at least that was the case when I was out there this evening) and the feeling that the dynamism of Paris is something that I would need a lot of time to fully understand. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I would be able to find time somehow to soak all the knowledge in.

Day 112: Sunset, romance

I did something bold today. Sort of. I was out on a photowalk to celebrate Friday and around sunset, on passing the quay, I thought this couple would make perfect subject for photo of the day. I approached them to ask if it’ll be ok for me to grab a shot. Much to my delight, they ok’ed it, wheeeee. (OK, I know this is probably no big deal to a lot of people but it’s major for me – I hate intruding on others.)

While the couple were friendly and cheerfully agreed, I noticed the girl being a tad camera-shy and my doubts started creeping in. The guy, well, he was happy to show-off the romance that they’ve got. So in my hurry (feeding off my anxiety) this is the best I manage to photograph them. I wish I’ve taken a bit more time and composed the photo better. Well, it’s a learning experience anyway. Hopefully next time I’ll fare better than this? ;)


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