Voici Paris

Swan, Seine and Notre Dame early in the morning.

Swan, Seine and Notre Dame early one morning in April 2013.

Yes, Paris is a tourist trap.  Join the crowds in the most famous areas and it is anything but romantic.  You’ll be jostled, approached by scammers and people wanting to sell you cheap junk, maybe even pick-pocketed.  Did you know that there is another Paris? I found it.  This other Paris is peaceful, poetic, inspirational and while not exactly silent – almost.  How do you find it?  You get up early.  Those same areas which are vile at the height of the day are fresh and gentle early in the morning.  At this time of day you WILL find the Paris of your dreams.

Man cycling on rue Saint Jacques before dawn.

Man cycling on rue Saint Jacques before dawn.

rue de l'Echaudé under a gradually lightening sky.  I have drawn this area many times.  It is my absolute favourite street in Paris.  Saint Sulpice is in the distance.

rue de l’Echaudé under a gradually lightening sky. I have drawn this street several times. It is my absolute favourite street in Paris. Saint Sulpice is in the distance.

Woman and dog on a morning walk.

Woman and dog on a morning walk.

Later in the day, peace reigns but you have to be a bit creative in finding it.  For instance I love to walk by the Seine.   Divine views – with peace – may be found in the 5ème (the Latin Quarter).  A gorgeous morning’s walk starts at Jardin des Plantes.  After admiring the plants of this impressive garden, a short walk takes you to the Seine.  There, the Musée de la Sculpture en Plein Air (outdoor sculpture museum) is situated within Jardin Tino Rossi.  This free sculpture garden beside the river is almost empty of people.  Barges steam by on the Seine, the odd person walks a dog, fishermen fish, birds sing.  If you want to rise above it all – for free – you can go to the nearby Institut du Monde Arabe at 1 rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard and take the elevator to the viewing terrace.  Stunning views are all yours. You may see one or two other people up there or you may be quite alone, as I was.

A view of Notre Dame from Institut du Monde Arabe.

A view of Notre Dame from Institut du Monde Arabe.

View with Eiffel Tower and Saint Sulpice from Institut du Monde Arabe.

View with Eiffel Tower and Saint Sulpice from Institut du Monde Arabe.

Two other free and queue-less views over Paris are those seen from the roof terraces of  Galeries Lafayette and Printemps (Maison) department stores.  The Galeries Lafayette roof terrace closes when weather is really bad however Printemps is open as long as the shop is.  A café is on this level of Printemps.  It is called “Café Déli-Cieux”.  You don’t have to eat there to see the views.  You can just discreetly walk through to the outside area.  I bought myself lunch and oh how I enjoyed it as I sat by the window watching the clouds rush over Paris.  Then I went outside for lots of photography.

Stormy skies over Eiffel Tower as seen from the rooftop terrace of Galeries Lafayette.

Stormy skies as seen from the rooftop terrace of Printemps.

A view from the rooftop terrace of Printemps (Maison) store, level 9.

Sacré Coeur view from the rooftop terrace of Printemps.

I’ve read that as Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are so close to one another, the views are almost identical.  I disagree.  Both are worth visiting as the vantage points give you quite different viewing experiences.  However if I only had time for one, I’d choose Printemps.

A pair of swans on the right bank on October 25th 2012.

A pair of swans on the right bank on October 25th 2012.

Another tip for receiving the spirit of Paris is to be a slow visitor; meander and linger.  I spotted two swans from the opposite river bank.  It took me a while to cross the bridge but they waited for me.  When I got a few metres from them I got down on my haunches and ever-so-slowly sidled down the cobbled path so as not to startle them.  I didn’t care what I looked like doing this! I must have sat with them for about 45 minutes.  It was sublime to just be: me and the swans.  The interlude I had with them was a highlight of my trip.  The world raced by on the quai above but down by the water’s edge it was blissful.

Here are a few more photos from my Parisian walks.

The conversation.

Café scene in Saint Germain des Prés; deep in conversation; or, as my father used to say, he’s ‘giving her a line’.

Dining with dog.

Café scene in one of the 19th century covered passages scattered around Paris.   This one is Galerie Vero-Dodat.

Self portrait in an art shop window.

Self portrait in an art shop window, Musée du Louvre behind.

rue du Petit Point before dawn.

rue du Petit Point before dawn.  Saint Severin in deep shadow on the left.

early morning on the Seine

Looking towards Grand Palais around 8 a.m.

last sun from Pont Neuf looking towards Hotel de Ville.

last sun – from Pont Neuf looking towards Hotel de Ville.

Two girls admiring their purchases on Pont Neuf.

Two girls admiring their purchases on Pont Neuf in the late afternoon.

Approach of a spring thunderstorm (April 2013).

Approach of a spring thunderstorm in April.

Thundery skies over the Seine, April 2013.

Thundery skies over the Seine and Conciergerie, April 2013.

Orchid shop (with reflections) at Place Lépine.

Orchid shop window with reflections at Place Lépine.

Paris grunge at Les Halles.

Paris grunge at Les Halles.

streetscape within a painting.  I pointed my camera through a gallery window and focussed on the street but through an abstract painting on the gallery wall.

A bit of street reflected in an art gallery window.  My lens was aimed at an abstract painting within the gallery.  I blended the streetscape with the painting.

Family at The Pompidou Centre.  I love how in Europe people take their small children to art galleries and discuss art with them.  I do not see this happen in Australia.

Family at The Pompidou Centre. I love how in Europe people take their small children to art galleries.  Where I live, art seems to be for adults only.

Finally, a message I endorse.  Found on a wall in the Marais.

Life is Beautiful –  a message I endorse. Found on a wall in the Marais, possibly on rue Quincampoix.

Voici Paris This was the name of an exhibition of photographs at The Pompidou Centre in 2012.

Voici Paris
This was the name of an exhibition of photographs at The Pompidou Centre in 2012.  I borrow it for my post!

My recipe for Paris is – visit popular sites early in the morning before tourists get out of bed.  Later in the day range far and wide.  There is so much to explore beyond the obvious tourist attractions.  Voilà!

Return to Contents of Posts page       Related page: Kyoto to Paris

About juliepodstolski

I am a realist artist who works in coloured pencils.
Image | This entry was posted in art, photo portraits of cities, photography, travel and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Voici Paris

  1. Anne Mccaughey says:

    Oh Fantastic, Julie, not only the photographs and Oh I could see some gems of paintings in them, but also in the advice…..Thank God most people don’t take it, though. Paris would be full pre-dawn as well. You are so right….any world just on the fringes of that early light becomes amazing, never mind that precious sense of ‘owning’ a place. I remember going to see Stonehenge on a glorious autumn morning with mum and Claire. Mists wreathing, frost on grass and hardly any light til the sun rose. No people. Cold….but so worth it, for a real glimpse of a magical doorway. An hour later anyone would have wondered what the small grey upstanding stones, backed and fronted by giant highways and COMPLETELY surrounded by tourists in a snake-line, could possibly be worth seeing.
    So, like you, I really try for the early world. You are also so right about time too, meandering, dawdling, even sashaying(not quite so sure about bent double creeping) proper ways to see somewhere rather than frenetic rush…think thats why I hated the cruise so much. Well done for making me remember this precious attitude!

    • Ha ha – Anne, we’ll see how many people read my blog ie how many people I come across pre-dawn next time I’m in Paris!
      Hmmm, I can picture you at Stonehenge. You and Kate Bush.
      Hey – what’s wrong with the bent double creeping – I’ll do anything for a bird photo op!

  2. Ann Kullberg says:

    Beautifully written post once again – you pull people in. I always feel like I’m seeing the world through your eyes. I’ve always loved late afternoon for photos…but you’re making me love early morning!!

    • Thank you, Ann. Late afternoon is certainly easier on a body than early morning. Especially in winter, early morning means dragging yourself out of a warm bed and hitting the freezing air – but once you do it – it is pure magic.

  3. lel says:

    Wonderful Julie !

  4. awesome ! I love Paris !

  5. Thanks Julie, you took me back to my Paris trip last year. Great memories and lively photos. Karen

  6. You make me want to go to Paris RIGHT NOW! Having the time to meander is very precious.

  7. elisaruland says:

    I’ve never regretted getting up before dawn to enjoy the world with my camera. Getting to that point is the hard part! Beautiful tour of Paris, I love the shot of the man cycling through the dawn mist, and of course the young family at the Pompidou.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s