Scenes from Paris 2015

 (Click on any image for a larger version.)

This the Hotel Cluny Square where we stayed, located at the intersection of the Boulevards Saint-Germain and Saint-Michel. The hotel is nice and ideally situated close to the center of town, metro entrance is twenty paces from the front door, on the RER B Line which goes directly to the airport. Actually the hotel occupies the second story and above (which the French call the first story and above). The entrance is behind the guy in the red shirt.

Gargoyle at Sainte-Chapelle.

Interior of Sainte-Chapelle. This reminds me of something. The Sainte-Chapelle cathedral for some reason is located inside the courthouse, which means of course one passes through a security check to get in. I would have thought the USA would be second to none in theatrical security measures, but I was wrong. On the way out we passed a sentry who was gripping with both hands, I exaggerate not, two-inch-thick chest armor, and here we American daredevils are walking around in T-shirts and flip-flops and no body armor whatsoever. I didn't take a picture because I was genuinely scared of pissing him off.

Another time we were shopping in a convenience market and a party of soldiers came in (doing their shopping), wearing combat fatigues (which I can imagine happening in the U.S.) and all slinging automatic rifles (which I cannot imagine happening in the U.S.).

Art Nouveau railing at the Île de la Cité Metro station.

Vegetables and fruit at the Place de la Monge market.

Detail of Rodin's "Gates of Hell", which is a highly sculpted pair of bronze doors.

Cultural note: Any construction project, digging in the street, etc., seems to entail setting up a temporary building, on stilts if need be.

One afternoon a gay pride parade came down the Boulevard Saint-Germain right past our hotel room window. This consisted of a swarm of mostly young people, some in flamboyant costumes but most not, cheering and rocking to music from truck-mounted loudspeakers. Some carried signs with straightforward slogans, but to me it seemed the real message was "Look at me! I'm Gay!" And so it went on for hours.

Coincidentally this came a couple of days after the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. It seems to me that in this day and age in the USA a similar parade would be met with a shrug. My impression of French sophistication in sexual matters suffered a blow.

The picture shows not the parade, but the ensuing cleanup operation which I found more impressive. The parade left the street and sidewalk littered with empty bottles, scraps of paper, etc. A swarm of workers bearing brooms, leaf-blowers, and other implements of destruction immediately followed, blowing all the detritus into the street. Then followed water-spraying and vacuum-trash-sucking trucks which left the streets remarkably clean. 

Sculptural group in the Notre-Dame cathedral showing what appears to be a funeral interrupted by the guest of honor climbing out of the coffin. Reminds me of a certain bit of by-play from Monty Python. 

Detail of the Notre-Dame cathedral.

Songbirds at the Île de la Cité bird market.

You remember those scenes from the movies where the evil mastermind's underground lair is located in an abandoned transit station? I was pleased to see that whoever built the Île de la Cité metro station had the foresight to plan ahead for this. The station is a cavernous space walled with plates of riveted metal. 

Detail of the Petit Palais.

Architectural detail of a school building.

Architectural detail of—sucker!—this is not Paris, it's Epcot! Point being that in most cases you would expect the Disney version of something to be heightened, idealized, fantasized, but not when it comes to Paris. Every Parisian street is filled with buildings designed to delight the eye. Disney has no need to exaggerate. (Photo courtesy of vmpyr_david.)

Within the U.S. I have noticed regional variation, but generally we seem much less interested in building our environments to inspire delight. I suspect this reflects some lingering Puritan attitudes. Maryland, where I live, is perhaps the nadir. "Should we put a fountain here?" "Naah, the building has four walls and roof. Our customers are lucky we gave them that much."

Pont Alexandre with the Invalides in the background.

One of my mottoes is: If you're going to do whatever it is you're doing right now, why not do it with a little style? This ice-cream truck driver clearly lives by the same words.

Detail of the Pont Alexandre.

Yours truly on the Pont Alexandre.

Mysterious iconic message seen on a building.

Some kind of strawberry desert at the Café de la Paix. The taste was a level beyond what I'm used to as well.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"Yours truly," :-)
Those are beautiful pictures. I like the little subtleties you saw that most people miss. The little ice cream truck made me feel like going out right now and get a big ice cream.

Salut et bonne journee.