This is one of my photowalk blog posts, short on text and long on photos. Since it was a beautiful, overcast fall day here and we had nothing else planned, I decided to take a walk to the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery while Priscilla relaxed back at the flat. It's just over a one mile walk from our flat, taking you through the 12th & 11th arrondissements and into the 20th, where the cemetery is located.
The fall colors at Père Lachaise were gorgeous. We'd experienced a morning rain shower, so the colors were super saturated. As I walked through the cemetery, it dawned on me that the feeling I had walking around Père Lachaise was much the same as when I walk through the Big Woods of Minnesota. When I'm in the woods I'm keenly aware of the cycle of life, just as I was when walking Père Lachaise. I don't mean this in any kind of a morbid sense. Really it's more of a peaceful feeling.
The parallels between Père Lachaise and the Big Woods carried forward into my photography. In the woods you have to pay close attention to how your image is playing out in the third dimension. The same holds true for photographing at Père Lachaise. The image unfolds as you move from foreground to background.
Père Lachaise is the eternal home to some notable people, including Jim Morrison and Edith Piaf. I managed to find both of their graves. The crowds were light today, so I didn't have to jockey for position to make these photos. There was a small group at Jim Morrison's grave and only a couple folks at Edith Piaf's.
I enjoyed everything about my photowalk today. Priscilla and I plan to go back another day, taking advantage of the Metro to reduce the walking to and from, leaving us plenty of time and energy to walk the huge cemetery.
P.S. As a side benefit of my walk today to Père Lachaise, I happened upon a wonderful looking Kurdish restaurant that is situated on one of the tiny alleyways that Paris is known for. We plan to go check it out some night.
Yesterday Priscilla and I decided to take in the Vivian Maier photography exhibit at the Musée de Luxembourg. We are both great admirers of her photography. The exhibit is quite extensive and the quality of the prints is exceptional.
Afterward, on a whim, we decided to take a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens. This was our first time there. We had no idea how amazing this place is.
We entered the park right at the beginning of the golden hour. The late day fall sunlight gave an otherworldly glow to everyone and everything it touched. It seemed that all of Paris was in the Luxembourg Gardens this day, perhaps playing chess, or engaging in a tennis match, or simply soaking up the sun.
As a photographer who loves photographing people, I was like a kid in a candy shop. I had great light and fantastic subjects who weren’t paying any attention to me. I’m guessing we’re about a week or two away from peak fall color here, so we will definitely be back to the Luxembourg Gardens. Today we are off on the train to Nantes to visit Anna for the weekend. More on that later.
After seeing our travelers off to their various destinations, yesterday was supposed to be an R&R day for Priscilla and me, but if you know me well you'll know that I don't sit well. So, on a whim, I decided to check out the massive Bois de Vincennes (woods of Vincennes) park that is close to the eastern terminus of the #1 Metro line, the Chateau de Vincennes stop.
As I told Priscilla when I set out, I didn't have high expectations for this park, since you don't tend to read of it in any of the guidebooks, and the reference I found in Wikipedia said the park was known for prostitution after dark. But since I had nothing else planned for the day and was eager to see some fall color in this huge wooded park not too far from us, I set out after lunch. After getting off the #1 Metro at the Chateau de Vincennes station, I walked about half a mile or so through a not so promising looking area that was bounded by the long-of-tooth and walled-off Chateau de Vincennes on one side and the forbidding looking Fort Neuf military base on the other. Eventually I came upon the large Parc Floral de Paris sign at the entrance. The Parc Floral de Paris is located within the Bois de Vincennes. At this point, my expectations were still measured.
Well, I'll get straight to the punch line. My expectations were utterly and completely blown out of the water by the Parc Floral de Paris. Once I got further into the park, I realized that this was not your garden variety floral park (pun intended). Initially I came upon a large wooded area filled with all manner of playground equipment with children playing on them. It seemed around every corner in the woods you'd come upon another set of playground equipment, for all different age groups. Then I found an extensive high-ropes course where a group of young adults were zip-lining across the forest canopy and stair-stepping through the forest in midair. As if that weren't enough, there is a beautiful, glass-walled art gallery on the grounds.
But nothing prepared me for the dahlia gardens. I followed a sign pointing me in that direction, knowing that Priscilla would want reports, I soon came to learn how this park got its name. I entered into one of the largest flower gardens I've ever seen, dedicated strictly to dahlias. Actually there were multiple gardens strung together. The dahlias were in full bloom, with a riot of color everywhere you looked. I knew in an instant that Priscilla and I had to come back while these dahlias are still in bloom.
Originally I went to the Bois de Vincennes in search of fall color. Yes, I saw some fall color, but I was treated to a whole lot more than that in the Parc Floral de Paris. This park is like a giant wooded playground for young and old alike. It just goes to show that you can make the most amazing discoveries when you get off the well-worn tourist path.
P.S. Later in the day, our friend Claudia told us that there is a special area in the Bois de Vincennes where people walk around in the nude. The signage directing you to that area refers to "Naturists". It's a good thing I didn't come upon that sign, because I surely would have followed it, thinking of myself as one who enjoys nature.
We've had a busy few days here since we last checked in. On Saturday, while Roberta and Maddie were off and about, we spent time with Anna just bumming around our neighborhood and lazing at the flat. She got to meet our friend Claudia at her food stall. We also introduced Anna to the Coulée Verte, which she loved. Later that night, Anna and Maddie attended a 70s/80s themed costume birthday party at Maddie's friend's flat in the 11th, not too far from here. We oldsters didn't wait up for them.
Sunday was a lazy day for the Northenscolds. Roberta and Maddie meanwhile went to see Saint Chapelle, which they came back from with glowing reports. I helped get Anna and Maddie off to the Montparnasse rail station for their train to Nantes. Roberta took in the Louvre in the morning and then met Priscilla and me at the Pompidou Centre for the fabulous Georgia O'Keefe special exhibit.
This was our first time to the Pompidou. We both loved it...the permanent exhibits and the special O'Keefe exhibit. As usual, we didn't have enough time to take it all in. But what we saw we were impressed with. We will definitely come back. I'd like to see the photography exhibits. Plus, the view of Paris from the sixth level is stunning. We made it back from the Pompidou in time for some late afternoon snacks and a dinner cooked up by Priscilla that we lovingly call garbage pail pasta. Ask Priscilla to explain it to you sometime.
Today we started with a visit to the amazing Jacques Genin chocolate shop in the Marais so Roberta could pick up some treats to bring home. Next we made our way to our favorite Paris restaurant, Mokonuts, for a wonderful and relaxing lunch at Roberta's treating. Mokonuts is less than half a mile from our flat, so it's an easy walk. After our leisurely lunch, Roberta and Priscilla headed back over to Place des Vosges in the Marais to visit Priscilla's favorite scarf shop, Sous Le Sable.
Later tonight I'll be meeting Maddie at her train at Montparnasse, as she returns from her trek to western France. She heads off to Switzerland tomorrow to visit another good friend from her study abroad. We will also bid a fond farewell to Roberta, who makes her return flight to Minnesota tomorrow. It has been so much fun having guests this week. It will sure seem mighty quiet around here after everyone leaves.
We've got a full house here at 2 Rue Charles Baudelaire this week. On Thursday, my sister-in-law, Roberta, and our niece, Maddie, arrived from Minnesota, and then on Friday Anna arrived by train from Nantes. Roberta and Maddie's first day was a laid back affair, giving them time to rest and work through their jet lag. We did manage to get over to the Marché Aligre though.
On Friday it was all about museums and walking. I helped get Roberta and Maddie to D'Orsay and then once I got back to our flat I turned around and made my way to the massive Montparnasse train station to meet Anna. After a bit of fumbling around to connect in that huge place, Anna and I met up and then made our way back to our flat to pick up Priscilla and make our way to the Picasso Museum, where we were to meet Roberta and Maddie. Whew! Even writing that all out it sounds exhausting.
After the Picasso Museum we took a walking tour of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, making our way through the Jewish Quarter and the Marais and then crossing over onto Île Saint-Louis and then Île Citie and Notre Dame. There is a display documenting the restoration efforts on the barriers that wall off access. It is an incredible undertaking. There are also reproductions of drawings of Notre Dame from school children around the country.
After Notre Dame continued on to the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Priscilla and I waited outside while the other three shoppers had a wonderful shopping experience inside. We enjoyed the buskers, Matthew and Paul. Priscilla chatted them up (surprise, surprise!) and found out Matthew was originally from New York and Paul was from Kentucky. They live in Paris now. I have to wonder how people make that happen. After all, one doesn't just up and move to Paris. The French government has more than a few rules about such matters.
We finished out the evening with a wonderful dinner at a favorite neighborhood bistro in the Marais, Chez Mademoiselle. Initially we were told that they were all full up, but once we said we'd be fine sitting outside they were happy to seat us. I suppose only us crazy Minnesotans would sit outside on a cool fall night. We must have started something though, because by the time we left at around 9:30, the entire sidewalk patio was filled. The owner, Felix, was a fabulous host for our group. Being a handsome Frenchman, with long wavy hair, didn't hurt his popularity with our group.
All in all, it was a full-fledged Parisian day, with a lot of miles worth of wear on shoes. My iPhone told me I'd walked just over 10 miles by the time we got back to our flat. Toward the end of our tour we supplemented our walking by taking the Metro a couple times. We all needed to rest our feet and joints.
Today, Roberta, Maddie, and Anna took a Giverny tour, returning with rave reviews. The gift shop there rang up record sales I expect from these three. Later today, Roberta and Maddie are planning to visit Sacré Coeur. And finally, this evening Maddie and Anna are planning to attend a 70s and 80s themed costume birthday party for a friend of Maddie's that she met on her study abroad in Italy. We oldsters are definitely not waiting up for them.
Right around the corner from our flat is the Aligre Market, an open air street market that runs for about three city blocks on rue d'Aligre. The market is open every day but Monday. Near as I can tell this is strictly a produce market. Meat, seafood, and poultry stalls can be found in the adjacent covered market, Marché Beauvau. This is where our friend, Claudia, has her stall, Babbaluscio, where she serves up marvelous vegetarian fare. There is also a large flea market on the plaza just to the east of Marché Beauvau.
The covered market, built in 1779, is one of the oldest in Paris and one of the few still in operation. The street market has its roots in the early 20th century when the nearby Gare de Lyon train station opened. I've read that many people from North Africa living in Marseilles took the train up to Paris at that time, getting off at the new Gare de Lyon station and settling in the area. They opened up street food stalls to make a living. The stalls and permits are passed down through the generations, with many of the stalls now owned and operated by third and fourth generations. This explains the sounds of Arabic being spoken throughout the market.
The Aligre Market is a locals market with zero sense of tourism. The produce is incredibly fresh. On my first visit there I picked up a couple melons, a mango, and some strawberries. They were all out of this world! We've been enjoying fresh fruit with every breakfast and lunch, and sometimes with our afternoon wine and cheese. Today we picked up bananas and apples. Payment is in cash at the street market. They weigh things out on a scale, which shows the amount in Euros. Since I can never understand the amount they are quoting me, I've learned to look at the amount on the scale. In Marché Beauvau, the covered market, you can pay with plastic or contactless payment, as we do with our Apple Watches. It's interesting that it seems more places over here accept Apple Pay than in the States, by my observation. But, if you're buying at the Marché d'Aligre, you'd better bring cash money.
Having a market right around the corner is a marvelous thing. There's no need to drive anywhere for your basic needs. When you factor in the Monoprix a few blocks away (think a shrunken Target), everything you need is available within a short walk. Of course, the market is also a street photographer's paradise. I can walk through the market making photographs of things of interest and nobody pays any attention to me.
In these "Our Neighborhood" posts I will give you an introduction to some of the notable attractions of our neighborhood here in the 12th arrondissement. First up is the Coulée Verte (green course in French). It's pronounced something like this: coo-lay vairt.
The Coulée Verte is a raised greenway that was created on the top of an old railroad viaduct. It runs for about three miles, from just east of the Bastille toward the Bois de Vincennes park. On top Parisians enjoy walking, running, exercising, and simply relaxing amidst beautiful green space in the middle of the city. In the arched spaces under Coulée Verte reside all sorts of amazing artisan shops. Priscilla's favorite is the Confiture Parisienne, a shop where they make their own jams and Madeleines.
My goal this trip is to walk the entire Coulée Verte. My family likes to tease me about my Coulée Verte obsession, mimicking the way I say it, in an annoyingly exaggerated manner. As I like to say, I am a walking fool, and in my mind there's no better place in Paris to get in a good long walk than the Coulée Verte. Our flat is only a few blocks away from one of the entrances. The last photo in the slideshow below shows the elevated view of the street that our building is on. Ours is the building on the right with the angled front.
Late day yesterday I got out for a walk on the Coulée Verte during the golden hour. On my return leg I walked by what I thought was a figurine of a pigeon that had been placed on one of the bushes, as it was completely still. When I walked right next to the pigeon, no more than two feet away, it moved! That sure gave me a start. After collecting myself, I then slowly walked back toward the gutsy pigeon with camera in hand to see if I could get a good photo. This was as close as I got. I was about three feet away when I made this photo. Immediately after I pressed the shutter button the pigeon flew away.
So this is the Coulée Verte, one of my favorite spaces in Paris. I don't recall where I first read of it. The Coulée Verte is the type of place that tends not to make it into most guidebooks. Maybe that's why I don't tend to use them anymore.
I think for my next "Our Neighborhood" post I will cover the Aligre Market, another place that is a bit off the beaten path, but well worth a visit if you want to see authentic Paris.
It's been a whirlwind of a few days for us here in Paris. We arrived on Wednesday, September 22 and got to our flat at midday where we were met by Natasza, the agent for our flat. Her abundance of energy more than compensated for our jet-lagged persons. She gave us the rundown on our flat and the area around us. I suppose I should now give you the overview of our flat.
The flat at 2 rue Charles Baudelaire is large by Parisian standards. We have two bedrooms, a living room and dining room, an excellent kitchen, and one bathroom. The view out our balcony is beautiful. We get wonderful late day light on that side of our flat. The street directly in front of our building is pedestrian only, so this flat is nice and quiet.
Our building is right around the corner from our favorite market in Paris, the Aligre Market. There are food stalls in the covered market and then every day there is a street market that runs for a few blocks. Our friend, Claudia Cabri, has a food stall in the covered market. That's where we first met her two years ago. We enjoyed having a little catch up with Claudia. I picked up her vegetarian lasagna and a couple pieces of polenta cake for our first dinner in Paris. It was all delicious! Everything at the market is incredibly fresh. For our first breakfast, I stopped at a favorite bakery, Blé Sucré, for pain chocolat and a baguette, and then I picked up some fresh melon, mango, and strawberries at the street market.
In the afternoon we met our friends Ellen and Jean-Pierre at the Galerie Miranda, a gallery specializing in photography. A friend of theirs, Gerard Dalla Santa, had an exhibit of his landscape photographs showing there. I enjoyed his work. As I told him, his photographs from the Burgundy region and Pennsylvania were honest.
After enjoying a coffee with Ellen and Jean-Pierre, we headed back to our flat to get ready for our evening plans, the Jamie Cullum concert at the Salle Playel. Priscilla's eagle eye allowed us to score a pair of tickets to this sold-out concert. Jamie is one of our favorite performers. He is a pianist and singer whose work is a bit hard to categorize, but if forced to I'd say his work is a fusion between jazz and rock. Jamie's Paris dates are his first concerts since before COVID hit. We made it to the concert hall area early enough to grab a delicious light dinner at Bencco, an Italian deli. The concert was outstanding. I'm sure it will go down as one of the highlights of our time here.
Today is a lazier day for us, after getting in several miles of walking yesterday and taking the Metro a number of times. Since we arrived on Wednesday, I've been out a few times in our neighborhood with my camera. I'll close out this post with a slideshow of photos from our neighborhood.
This is a short post to let you know that we are on our way. Next up, Paris! I expect the next post I make will be on our first day in Paris. We will acquaint you with our flat and the neighborhood.
As most of you know, photography is my thing. I've been into photography since fifth grade, so that adds up to over 50 years of making photographs. I agonize over what camera gear to bring more than any other packing decision I have to make.
In 2019, the last time we went to Paris, I brought just over nine pounds of photo gear...one DSLR and two film cameras along with four lenses. While I certainly didn't carry all that gear with me on the streets of Paris, I did have to schlep it there and back on the airplane. I'm cutting that weight in about half this time, only bringing my Nikon Z6 mirrorless digital camera and three lenses. That's right, no film cameras this time.
Since early 2019, I've been shooting film almost entirely for my personal work. I've been developing my own film at home, and as of this year, I've also been printing in my own darkroom. It's a fair question to ask why I'm not bringing film cameras to Paris this time. Well, here is my answer to that question. A large part of the enjoyment I get from shooting film is doing my own processing, scanning, and printing. I can't realistically do any of that when we're in Paris. Plus, with more cameras and formats comes more decisions. Which camera do I bring today? What film should I shoot today, black and white or color? Do I shoot digital or film today? While I enjoyed shooting film in Paris in 2019, it did come with a certain amount of handwringing. I plan to avoid that angst this time.
Case in point. When I happened upon the scene of the Notre Dame fire in 2019, the only dedicated camera I had with me was an Olympus film camera loaded with black and white film and fitted with a moderately wide angle 35mm lens. The only digital camera I had on me was my iPhone X. The images I captured that day that ended up in the Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper were captured on my iPhone X. I didn't get my film back from processing for a number of days. I do wish I had taken my Nikon digital camera with me that day when I set out for a short walk down to the Seine before dinner. As it was, I ran out of film and my iPhone battery ran quite low, forcing me to ration my shots.
It's true that many of my favorite photographs from our 2019 trip to Paris were made on film. While I know that part of that is the unique way that film renders an image, I also know that in large measure it was due to the fact that when I was simply walking around with no special destination in mind, I took a film camera with me. Those images of everyday life in Paris are the ones that are most evocative for me. I'm hoping that those everyday scenes captured on my digital Nikon Z6 will be every bit as evocative. As readers of this blog, you will get to judge for yourselves.