Six Hours in Paris

A clarinet to suavely introduce the delicate French voice. The singer hums and sings while I hold a cocktail, a cigarette, clearly with a cigarette holder, tapping  to the beat, listening to the vibrato in her voice. I’m getting confused. But through her voice I am taken there, to those time.

I had to listen to Edith Piaf for this post. If I had Six Hours in Paris, I would spend them in a cafe’, mesmerized by her voice, sobbing one moment, feeling exhilarated the next.

No, I don’t regret a thing. Non, je non regrette rien. 

That’s cause there’s always a silver lining.

“It’s booked” I yell out from the kitchen table. “Wow, we found it $600 dollars cheaper” my wife replies. Takeoff scheduled for Friday December 23rd, straight after work. Ready to see the family back in Italy, and to do so we had a layover in Paris.

It was just the typical situation. Book the flight, pack everything last minute, and then just be on our way.

Not this time. Yes, we had saved $600 a ticket, but unknowingly, had booked a 13 hour layover in Paris. “No problem, we’ll just spend the day in Paris” we both agreed. Easy, problem solved. Edith Piaf was not available, nor was the France from the first half of the 20th Century, but it’s still Paris.

Luckily I had my Fujifilm X100F. Nothing bulky to carry around, just a good looking, unobtrusive camera. One lens, one focal length. Shutter speed, Aperture and ISO the only variables to handle.

After a long and unexpectedly bad flight, in which neither my wife nor I got much sleep, we landed in Paris. It was 8 am. Our flight for Rome was at 9 pm. 13 hours to spare.

Option A was obviously the worst. Staying in the airport for all that time. It would have made the trip that much longer.

Option B was probably a decent alternative, but then again, too tiring to actually enjoy the added time we had. Walking around for 13 hours, with the rude comments from the passenger who sat behind us in the flight still blaring in our heads would have made the entire Edith Piaf journey sour.

So Option C it was. Rest up for a couple of hours, and then head out for a stroll. My wife thought it was a normal walk in Paris. I obviously thought it was a photowalk.

View from the hotel, Paris, Dec 2017

Rest up, get back to the airport, Charles de Gualle, and get the RER B that would take us to the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Riding the RER B train, Paris, Dec 2017

Before getting to our first destination, I activated the Geo Tag 2 app on my phone. A cool app that tracks your GPS location at intervals which can be customized, and saves the route in the standard GPX format, allowing you to upload it in Lightroom.

Life around Notre Dame, Paris, Dec 2017

And we were there. In Paris. You could breathe France, Europe. Cold, but coming from Detroit, it was just fine.

Portal of the Last Judgement and the Gallery of Gings right above it, Paris, Dec 2017

Having one focal length can be challenging. Are you too close? Too far? Do you have the right frame?

So although I obviously snapped generic tourist photos, I also tried to get different angles. Like of the tympanum above; a semi-circular decorative wall over entrances, doors, and windows, often containing sculptures and other ornaments. That’s something I discovered through photography. I also found out that “Our Lady”, Notre Dame’s construction began in 1163, was completed by 1345, and during the French Revolution much of the religious imagery was destroyed, only to be renovated in the mid 19th Century. Also, Notre Dame was one of the first buildings in the world to use a flying buttress, an example below.

English Gothic, 1300s AD, in York, Northern England. Photo by mikeuk / E+ / Getty Images

After having admired the Cathedral we started walking again, toward Hotel de Ville.

Life scenes in front of Hotel de Ville, Paris, Dec 2017

Truth be told, I was just stunned at having such a backdrop for making pictures. A young gentlemen entertaining passerbys in front of what is now, and has been since 1357, the headquarters of the municipal offices of Paris. Since 1977 it also houses the Mayor of Paris. In 1871 it suffered severe damage, during the Franco-Prussian War, and was subsequently restored between 1873 to 1892.

So Notre Dame was ruined during the French Revolution, and Hotel de Ville nearly a Century later, in the Franco Prussian War.

Fortunately the Pompidou Centre, designed by Renzo Piano (together with Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini) and completed in 1977, has not been around for almost a millenium and not been destroyed and restored.

The Pompidou Centre, Paris, Dec 2017

“I’ll have an Oringina and Croque Madame please”. We sat down to rest. The lack of sleep was kicking in. Option B would have certainly been a bad choice.

But a good meal will set all problems aside, and a great little meal did we have. We now had enough energy to go visit our next site. The Louvre. I wanted to see I.M. Pei‘s pyramid. How it integrates with its surroundings. How it almost selfishly becomes the attraction, all the while elegantly complementing the other buildings.

Not without continuing some street photography while walking there.

Paris, Dec 2017
Paris, Dec 2017

We get there. Geo Tag 2 is still putting dots on the map. Fujifilm X100F still warm from my hands.

The Louvre, Paris, Dec 2017

The same hands that this chestnut vendor was keeping warm.

The Louvre, Paris, Dec 2017

The weather had started to turn on us. So was the sun. It was getting closer to 9pm. We had been walking for a while. Just another bit, through the Jardin des Tuileries, which became a public park after the French Revolution.

A man feeding birds at the Jardin des Tuileries, Paris, Dec 2017

Finally, the Tour Eiffel, seen from Place de la Concorde. But I made the photo because I saw the two, probably father and daughter, expressing their love. The Tour Eiffel was just a ‘subtle’ punctuation.

Place de la Concorde, Paris, Dec 2017

As we find our way back to getting the RER B back to the airport I couldn’t help myself but to photo this entrance. A teal velvet drape behind a dark salmon (is that a color?) door and wall.

Paris, Dec 2017

Yes, because this also is Paris.

So next time you save a lot of money on a mistakenly purchased ticket, and find yourself somewhere with a camera, that you can use non-stop for six hours, and a dash of curiosity, why not discover through photography?


Until Next Time,