Paris So Far

posted November 4, 2012 by Holly Hayes part of trip: The Great European Road Trip

I had a good and very productive week in Paris, which I will attempt to summarize in a single blog post. I took several thousand photos, at least some of them good, so that's the main thing. My French, such as it is, ground back to life and got some practice. I got to know my way around the city again, and I became fully comfortable with the Metro, which is just as efficient but not as intuitive (or clean) as London's Tube.

My little hotel room was nice, but was too hot at night and would suddenly fill with the smell of cigarette smoke at any time of day, I'm guessing through the vents. So I mostly slept with the window cracked and kept out the mopeds and all-night drunken laughter with earplugs.

Sunday - The Big Walk

My first full day, Sunday, was very sunny and I did "the big walk," which I think I have done on previous visits as well. It takes in most of the big sights, from the Notre-Dame Cathedral to the Louvre to the Tuileries Gardens to the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, and back again. Then I headed to the Ile St. Louis, to stand with my tripod for another hour and half for some night photos of the Notre-Dame. It wasn't entirely a success, since they never illuminated the cathedral! Humph. Then I finally sat down to have a nice Italian dinner on the Ile St. Louis. Got home around 8, downloaded and copied all photos, charged the camera batteries, chatted briefly with David, researched some destinations for the next day, handled some photo orders via e-mail, then crashed. I just calculated using Google Directions, and I walked over 7 miles that day. That wouldn't be a huge amount to walk back home on my trail or track, but carrying heavy camera equipment and walking fast on either concrete or cobblestones means some seriously aching feet!

Monday - Latin Quarter

On Monday, it was cloudy, so I felt a bit more relaxed. I slept as late as I could to try to repair my muscles, did some more research on literary sites in Paris, and headed out for a walk in the Latin Quarter, my favorite part of Paris. I saw some familiar sights and some I haven't seen before, and had a really good time. The main monument I photographed was the Pantheon, which is impressive outside but ugly and boring (in my opinion) inside. It's a cold, cavernous, empty-feeling mausoleum dedicated to French heroes, most of them military but also including Voltaire and Rousseau. I also visited a couple of churches, although the one I was looking forward to the most (St-Etinne-du-Mont) is closed on Mondays. I hope I get a chance to go back. And I searched out a few places associated with Hemingway and friends, which was fun. Soon the sun was setting and I had to hustle to my twilight location of the day: the Louvre. Along the way, I walked through the Jardin du Luxembourg, which I haven't visited before and I loved. I did the best I could at the Louvre for a couple of hours, then had dinner at outside tables in the colonnade of the Louvre. Quite delicious and lovely, if a bit cold - the outdoor heaters didn't quite do the trick.

Tuesday - Le Mans and the Tour Montparnasse

And today I did a day trip to Le Mans, not for the race but for the cathedral. It has some of France's oldest medieval stained glass, lots of medieval sculptures, and impressive Gothic flying buttresses. All of those qualify as "my thing" and are the closest I have to a photographic speciality.

I got up early this morning, which is always awful, but it was worth it. After a walk to the Metro, an underground ride to the Montparnasse station, a fairly short wait in line for tickets, a nice ride on the TGV for an hour, and a 30-minute walk across Le Mans without a map, I arrived at Le Mans Cathedral.

It was very impressive and I enjoyed it very much. I did the very best job I could, using the tripod most of the time and switching between three different lenses. It took many hours.

Happily, it turned out to be a very sunny day, even though clouds were forecasted, so that was wonderful. I had a quick lunch in the sun at a nearby cafe halfway through my work, and even though it overlooked a huge parking lot (as does the cathedral!), it was great.

I had a reservation on the 4:22 train back to Paris, so I could be back for twilight. But for awhile it looked like I may not make it on! I took pictures in the cathedral until the very last minute, then set off for the 30-plus-minute walk with only 25 minutes until my train. I figured running would be involved, but then my left shin began to seriously hurt and I had to slow down. Lame! Fortunately, I was saved by discovering a tram station, and guessing correctly as to which side went toward the train station. I had no idea how to buy tickets for the tram, so I didn't! I was ready to plead ignorant foreigner if needed, but fortunately tickets were never checked, and I got to the station with plenty of time. Phew.

An hour later, I emerged from the train station and crossed the plaza to the Tour Montparnasse, a skyscraper that I believe is the tallest building in Paris. It was my goal for the evening, because it has a panoramic terrace on the roof! Those of you who know me know that I do not do well with heights, but I simply had to suck it up for this opportunity. Fortunately, it turned out not to be scary at all, as the elevator ride is extremely quick and smooth, and the terrace feels very solid and safe.

I had a wonderful time up there, despite being very cold again, and can't wait to return with David. I highly recommend it for anyone looking for a panoramic view of Paris - it is so much better than the Eiffel Tower for that purpose. It is cheaper, with minimal lines and tons of space at the top. It is significantly taller, and it includes an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower. That's a huge drawback to being on the Eiffel Tower! And they've designed it with photographers in mind, which is nice - there are large slots in the plexiglass at eye level that you can set your tripod up against. Most excellent. Mine was one of probably ten tripods up there.

Wednesday - Chartres and Halloween

The following day I took another day trip, out to Chartres. It's in the same direction as Le Mans and takes about an hour by train. I might not have chosen to do two day trips in a row, but Wednesday was the sunniest day in the forecast and I wanted to be in Chartres for that.

My visit was mostly for the famous Chartres Cathedral, which is one of the most authentic and complete examples of a medieval Gothic cathedral. It is very beautiful and one of my favorites. I photographed it pretty thoroughly in 2008, but some of it was under scaffolding back then, and I now have better equipment, so it was time for a return visit. I had a good time, even though I spent several tedious hours photographing every single stained glass window using a tripod!

next: Antwerp from the Window

previous: Halloween in France

Article Info

Page Title
Paris So Far
Added By
Holly Hayes
Date Published
November 4, 2012
Last Updated
April 15, 2024