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Day 90: La Tour Eiffel

Start of week 4 since the big move, and I still haven’t posted any photo of famous Parisian landmark, so this evening, after work, I took some time to traverse west of the city in order to grab a photo of the infamous La Tour Eiffel by night. It was a rather impromptu decision, so I don’t have my mini tripod with me to help steady the shot. This turned out reasonably well but the sparkly version, not so great.

I took the bus to cross the city and it makes sense – no métro changes plus I get to see the view above ground. The 7th arrondissement used to be sort of my “home” ground in Paris, and as we passed some of the more familiar streets, I started to feel all very nostalgic of the neighbourhood. I should try to come back more often, and find time to get to Champs-Elysées somehow. I may have been travelling in and out of the city (and now all moved here) but it has been a very long time since I was at the stylish thoroughfare. 2-3 years perhaps?

Day 89: Urn on window sill

While a large number of building in Paris are typically Haussmannian in style, there are of course parts of the city that still boasts architecture from other era, from Romanesque (e.g. Église Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre) to Gothic (e.g. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris), to super modern (e.g. La Défense) and we certainly should not miss the period where Nouveau Art was all the rage.

Art Deco was the call of the day and on Boulevard de Sébastopol, today, it is Monoprix (a supermarket chain) that occupies the building above. Each window sill facing the junction between Boulevard de Sébastopol and rue Réaumur are sporting these stylish urn. It really was not a bad thing when the movement stormed across Paris in rejection of the uniform Haussmannian look.

Day 88: Still winter time

Another day, another part of Paris to show off. I was running a personal errand around rue Réaumur in the second arrondissement today and upon exiting a shop, I had this pause moment. Hang on, is that the right time?

It appears this beautiful clock – with a Middle Eastern vibe from where I stand – is still running on the winter time. Who is the caretaker or who has the key to manage the dial? It ought to be corrected, or it’s going to get quite confusing for random folks passing by, like me.

Day 87: Opulent dome

I do not belong in the world of glittering richesse such as that inhabited by the regular clienteles of Galeries Lafayette. I feel gauche (despite being on Rive Droite for a change) and it was all I can do not to wince each time I see the price tag of the lovely things they sell in this grand magasin. Clad in nondescript pair of jeans and ballerina flats without fancy designers labels on anything that I own (ok, one exception, my bag, which I technically – ahem, assumed possession – from my aunt), all it took was one look to determine that I am the interloper within the elegant establishment (the bag is hopelessly out of season).

Just look at the glass dome adorned by metal frames here – isn’t it fabulous? Inspired by the styles of Byzantine and Art Nouveau, many have come near and afar to admire this lavish dome – it is quite a landmark in its own right. Up at the terrace of the building, one may also have a cup of coffee/tea/hot chocolate while taking in the view of Paris. Decadent? Bien sûr! It’s their middle name afterall. ;)

Day 86: Door from Middle Ages

During our walking tour yesterday morning, we were brought to the front courtyard of Musée de Moyen Âge-Cluny for a spot of historical guide. The structure of the Hôtel de Cluny is pretty much intact since the middle ages, its façade well preserved and the one main structure missing is the wooden gallery for the sentry who kept guard the townhouse.

Our attention was drawn to the scallop shells motive found on the door, as part of coat of arms and bas-relief at the first floor level. Legend has it, back in the old day, a pilgrim (someone important to the Abbey of Cluny? It seems I wasn’t paying enough attention) on the route to Santiago de Compostela (i.e. the Way of St James, Chemin de St Jacques in French) found himself in danger of sinking in a marsh to a muddy death. However, his prayer to St James was heard and he was saved when scallop shells (emblem of St James) emerged from the marsh and opened a path for him to continue his pilgrimage. Whether you buy this or not, it’s up to you. ;)

Random trivia of the day: St Jacques is the equivalent of St James in French, and scallop is named after him, as la coquille St-Jacques.

Another random trivia of the day: to one side of Musée de Moyen Âge-Cluny is the famous Boulevard St Michel but to the other (parallel) side is rue St Jacques, one of the main thoroughfares of Paris in the middle ages.

Day 85: Say cheese!

Paris is already teeming with people everywhere on any ordinary day. On a Saturday, it’s akin to madness in the city. Go near anywhere popular and you’ll find yourself crowded in very quickly. Of course, for those on a leisurely walk or sitting at the terrace of a café somewhere, it is the perfect opportunity to people-watch.

Zarin is in town for a couple of days, and we met up this morning for a walking tour, some sightseeing and food hunting. When we stopped by the fountain at Place St Michel for a spot of photo taking, I saw these two cutest little girls grinning for their photographer, presumably their mum? Quietly, I slipped behind them and grabbed this shot. The composition is not perfect, but that’s what stealth photography is like. A hit or a miss. This is about half-half. ;)

Day 84: Faune dansant

There are statues and sculptures aplenty in Luxembourg Garden, including replica of the Statue of Liberty. Random information of the day: the Statue of Liberty is French by nationality, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and brought to life by Gustave Eiffel, who was assisted by Maurice Koechlin. The completed statue was disassembled and shipped in crates across the ocean before being reassembled – the latter took some six months for the erection to be completed.

Back to the sculpture above. Named “Faune dansant” (i.e. dancing faun), this sculpture of merriment and music can be found close to the site of the Medici Fountain in Luco. Despite the name, the depiction is really that of a satyr rather than a faun, which is half goat, half human. In mythology, satyrs are pipe-carrying and dance-loving creatures. Looking at this sculpture, I half expect woodwind tunes to fill the air, so I can close my eyes and twirl to the melody.

Day 83: Perspective

As you may have noticed, most of my exploration of Paris so far has been on the Left Bank (“Rive Gauche” as we call it here). Today is no difference. Well, it is weekday and there’s a limit of how much distance I can cover after work. Inevitably, it’ll be somewhere nearby that I can get to, easily, on foot.

This door on rue Monsieur Le Prince has a lovely sense of perspective and depth to it. The door was cleverly carved in the way it looks nearly three-dimensional, and felt quite the same way too. It was not a simple flat carving by any mean. To me, this is no longer just the front to a building. It is a work of art in its own right.

Day 82: Gasp, wide eyes!

Métro stations in Paris have their own characters. Certain stations are cultural, e.g. if you’re at Louvre-Rivoli, you’ll see casings with “artefacts” to reflect the fact that you’re at the station for Musée du Louvre (although I assume the items are replica rather than the real deal); certain stations are under renovation works (these are not that interesting); certain stations get thematic advertisement series, like this one.

Odéon has been given the creative advertisement treatment this week. Walking along the platform, the faces of the kids looking surprised, astonished, delighted, gleeful and all, it pulled me in right away and I knew I had to act fast. One minute before my train arrived and off I scrambled, searching for my camera in my bag. Reviewing the photos at home, the posters are marked with “Ce qu’il/elle a vu? Regardez le quai d’en face” – “What did he/she see? Look at the opposing platform”.

Don’t ask me what were the advertisement posters on my side of the platform. I didn’t pay any attention at all.

Day 81: Femmes Éternelles

From time to time, photo exhibitions are held along the fence of Jardin du Luxembourg. In conjunction with International Women’s Day a couple of weeks ago, the French Senate together with Olivier Martel brought forth “Femmes Éternelles”, an exhibition of 80 portraits of women from all over the world, with scenes from daily lives to ceremonial events. I have been over to look at them a number of times at this stage. What can I say? I really like them.

One particular photo that touched me most is that of mother and child in hospital, taken in 1987. The baby was living inside a bubble and yet laughing so joyously, a look reflected in the mother’s visage, despite what must have been poignant that she could not yet held her baby close to her without the barrier but keeping her morale high that this would be the good start the child needed. It is a powerful image, even if not as colourful or exotic as other shots of the series.

The exhibition runs until 15 June 2011, and if you can’t make it to Paris between now and then, you can still enjoy the photos from Martel’s website. Which photo inspires you most?

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