Saturday, February 5, 2011

The first time I saw Paris

View taken from the Jules Verne restaurant, May 1, 2006
A chapter in Pat Conroy's book, "A Southerner in Paris," made me think again about my own experience of Paris. Conroy writes, "Parisians and polar icecaps have a lot in common except that polar icecaps are warmer to strangers."

This comment cracks me up. My own impression to the contrary, Parisians my husband and I met seemed warm and welcoming, tolerant of my, Je parle francais un peu.

"In Europe, climate shapes character, and the Parisians have been left out in the rain too long," Conroy said. "To Parisians, all Americans are Texans, grinning cowboys."

So true. But even to the rest of the United States, Texans appear caricatures like J.R. Ewing since many people believe Dallas the city exists for oilmen, ranchers and football players.

So much for stereotypes.

Another Conroy observation made me cringe as he characterized the Japanese as "untiring photographers" [who] "… experienced the city of Paris through glass, through square apertures and focused lenses."

That's how I travel too, my camera a barrier between me and raw experience. Because I love that the possibility exists to capture a scene––a split second in time when the light illuminates a drab building or an architectural detail or the unguarded look of a person unaware that someone even notices them––I lug around my camera and lenses.

Life. No one can stop the crush of time pressing us into the next moment, but people can freeze-frame a few images that remind themselves how wonderful life is.

The river Seine courses through this ancient city.

Outside Notre Dame Cathedral, this medallion marks the center of Paris.

Inside the cathedral
An astonishing sanctuary
Even with Ken Follet's Pillars of the Earth,
attempts to describe building cathedrals fails to capture the architectural feat.

The cathedral's flying buttresses hold up this massive structure.

View of the Eiffel Tower from a Batobus, a great way to get from one end of the river to the other. And yes, it rains a lot.

Alongside the Louvre, uncanny seeing the street without cars or without hearing sirens. Paris is a city of sirens.

I love this angle from the courtyard of the Louvre, which makes the building look like a titanic sinking ship.

On what's called "the People Bridge" another photographer snaps a candid.

Sun sets on one of the bridges across the river

How many hands have handled this handle?

A guardian of the city atop the Musée d'Orsay

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