Category Archives: Paris

Confessional Closed Before, During, and After Christmas

Due to unfortunate circumstances (i.e. work, the loss of the letter A on my keyboard, Christmas shopping gone awry), the blog will be closed from now until sometime in January. I wish y’all a great holiday season! Here are the last Paris photographs from last year. I figured I’d better post them now before I bring back the new batch.

bparis1sem_026From les quais de la Seine. I still have not figured out what exactly the world is screaming. Nov? Mov? French people should definitely stick to French.

bparis1sem_027Picnic on the Quai

bparis1sem_025Maman, a giant sculpture by Louise Bourgeois, at the Tuileries

bparis1sem_023Bronze by Aristide Maillol

bparis1sem_024Another Aristide Maillol bronze

bparis1sem_028The same statue put to a use the artist had probably not foreseen

paris1sem_031the guilded Jeanne d’Arc, rue de Rivoli

Have a splendid Thanksgiving, St. Niklaas, Hanuka, Festivus, Christmas, and an especially happy New Year! Thanks for all your comments over the last year. They helped me grow as a photographer. See you next year for new adventures!

Promenade au Present et au Passe

Noelle remembers my past better than I do. We have known each other since we were 10 years old and attended the same class at the Lycee Francais in Brussels. We both came from respective highly dysfunctional families and while not discussing our lives at home at the time, we probably unconsciously bonded over this common situation.

Noelle tells me I used to confide in her being relentlessly seeking the forbidden. I remember being a wild child but not expanding on the reasons. She reminds me of the immaculate walls in my house, and how my father would go ballistic on us if we forgetfully rested our fingers upon them. She recalls how after learning to put the thermometer on the radiator to feign illness, I spent most of my time at home instead of school. I was eleven. I was a mess. Noelle is my voice of the past. Sometimes, I think it would be better if she stayed silent.

Noelle and I had a lovely walk at the Luxembourg Garden (Luco) in Paris back in May.

There was an “artistic installation” called “Some Wind in the Trees.” On each ribbon was the inscription “Etre dans le vent est une ambition de feuille morte” which means “To be in the wind is the ambition of a dead leaf.” It was inspired by the masts you find in Tibetan monasteries.

Children can rent sailboats at the special cart.

Then they can lose them on the pond.

The Luxembourg Garden is on the cutting edge of the fashion world.

Of course, it has its fair share of lovers on a bench.

Places to read in peace.

Fabulous bronze statues. The original Statue of Liberty is at the Garden but I was too lazy to walk this far.

This is “L’Effort” by Pierre Roche. It depicts one of the twelve labors of Heracles, the cleaning of the Augean Stables in one day.

The back of “Le Triomphe de Silene” by Aime Jules Dalou. Kind of looks like this butt, don’t you think?

There is a whole area devoted to chess playing. On the above picture, the whites are not doing that well.

The player are fascinating to watch. So serious! Except the guy in the middle.

Their concentration is intense.

No pastis drinking here! And no women in sight. Chess players. Not the funniest bunch.

Unlike the Petanque players. They are a whole different story. Noelle and I ate many crepes watching them argue.

“Les boules”, it’s vachement serious! And stylish. The man above is modeling Armani pants.

The spectacle is also in the audience. Look at the man next to the tree. Typical Frenchman with a little beret!

Father and son. Forget baseball! In France, it is the art of boules which is transmitted from generation to generation. Petanque players have much better manners too. No spitting. No scratching. And it’s co-ed! I’m routing for baseboule and its cochonnet.

Noelle and I ate way too many crepes. After hours spent sitting and eating, she had to go home and prepare dinner for her husband and the three children, Louise, Diane and Gael.

I stayed behind to take a picture of the crepe menu and ate just one more little crepe for the road. Then I did not feel very well and I had to sit some more…

Paris Nemesis

Brigitta? Pregzilla? Nooo waaay! I get the news as I am preparing my trip to Paris to celebrate the wedding of said Brigitte (Bri-Bri d’Amour) and Christian, both university professors in different European countries. They began dating the previous year and while some may consider holy matrimony perhaps a bit hasty at this stage, you need to understand that their pillow talks consist mainly of discussions about the merits of Wittgenstein’s “Tractatus Logico-philosophicus.” In other words, if they don’t marry each other, who else will marry them?

Not too sound crassly unintellectual, but if my date brings up Wittgenstein over sushi and a mojito, the chances of subsequent intimate conversation appear close to nil in my book. “Philosophical Investigations” perhaps, but the “Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus”? immediate elimination from the dating pool! Poof!

Wittgenstein and Bribri, Pillow Talk

Two weeks before the trip, I receive an email from my friend Lucy. “Brigitte’s wedding is delayed. She has to stay in the hospital until the birth of the baby. No need to worry.” The birth of WHAT? Seriously? The problem with living so far from where you grew up is that you tend to miss crucial tidbits of information here and there… such as a friend’s 6 month pregnancy!

So Brigitte has decided to delay her wedding for purely egotistical health reasons. Some people’s narcissism knows no boundaries! I will still go to Paris and have a party. Off to Paris!!!

On the evening the wedding would have taken place, we visit Brigitte at the hospital.

Le Gang de l’Hopital Cochin

Brigitte, while a bit on the pale side, appears in good spirits. And quite voluminous, if I may say. The man sitting on the right is David, my nemesis.

David, most of the time, is an insufferable human being. On the above photograph, David is not offering advice on how to take the picture, he is telling me how to take it. Is David a photographer? Er, no, but David always thinks he knows better than anyone else which is generally MY prerogative. He is the only person I know to have purchased two $8,000 Canon Mark III in one week time (because he left the first one on a table in his New York hotel and oh it got stolen!) How ridiculous is THAT?!?

Anyway, David is my nemesis because he suspended me to a coat hanger one evening at school when we were kids and let’s say that I had to wait for help in order to get back to the floor and missed my bus. All the other people photographed above are very nice.

My excellent friend Lucy once told David: “David, when you talk, I always expect something really profound, then, nothing of the sort ever comes out.”

To which David replied: “Lucy, with you, I never expect anything and I’m rarely disappointed.”

While David entertains the group with crazy lady stories, I pull Brigitte to the side and shoot a few pregnancy images. Europe does not have a tradition of calling on family photographers. When I explain to Bribri that in the US, pregnant women traditionally pose in studios, she laughs her head off: “So, let me get this straight: women go to the studio, undress, wrap themselves in some kind of drapery and pose with their puffy face, their swollen legs and the 40 lbs they’ve gained? Hee hee hee…”

I finally manage to pin her to a tree for five minutes. She’ll thank me one day.

Indecision, Indecision…

Time to leave Brigitte to her hospital bed and decide how to handle the rest of the evening. Stagnation ensues. With a group bigger than two, decisions can result in long periods of intense discussions.

What’s next?

Tired of the endless tergiversations, I corner Sabine and Marco for an impromptu session. They live in Milan with their three kids.

Marco e Sabine

For the longest time, Sabine headed a hamam (Turkish Bathhouse.) I don’t think any funny business happened there but I could be mistaken. Perhaps not enough funny business happened since she left the operations.

Italian Amore

Since Marco is an authentic specimen of the Italian race, we decide unanimously that he will have the great privilege to cook pasta for us that night at David’s who lives in the neighborhood.

More walking… About that book “French women don’t get fat”, I could have written it and could have saved the publishing company many many Euros. It would have been a one sentence book: French women walk. No gas guzzling monster, just a pair of trendy shoes and strut your style. Herein lies the secret.

Mine is Bigger

The minute we get to his place, David takes out the big gun (the second Mark III, the one that did not get stolen – yet) and launches the “Mine is bigger” routine.

A very well-connected highfalutin Parisian attorney, David dates the weirdest women. A plastic snake adorns the doorstep of his otherwise very tasteful apartment. The ridicule snake protects him from a stalking ex with a reptile phobia.

Julie und Ingo

Ingo and his “Julee” live in Düsseldorf. Ingo’s recurrent theme is sperm competition. The argument invariably follows a declaration from David regarding his own insatiability. Ingo is also known to be very cheap and we make fun of him any chance we get.

Marco

David

David is also the only man I know whose ex threatened suicide, then attempted to off herself with… homeopathic medication. That’s one hell of a health-conscious suicide attempt, if you ask me! It would also takes months… Or the content of a whole pharmacy! In the end, it did not work very well.

I may give the man a lot of grief but, with time, I am learning to appreciate him. An evening around him is never boring. It’s just difficult to be able to place a word in the conversation David is having with himself.

Dide

Didier is currently co-producing the new reggae CD of Bako Hiriz.Band. Fun fun CD. Please listen to it here.

“Nous avons les moyens de vous faire parler!”

It is late in the evening. Only Didier and David remain. On the above photograph, David interrogates Didier.

Didier and his Thinker

Didier drew The Thinker for David more than 20 years ago. It still adorns the walls of his kitchen. Didier says it’s the only valuable piece of art in David’s whole apartment.

David’s feet

Pretty much, when you start photographing people’s feet, this is THE sign you need to put the camera away and go to bed. And so I did.

My friends should not get married more often.

Paris, Une Autre Nuit

Some folks are day people, some are night people, some, like the Spaniards, seem to never sleep. I belong to the first category: up at dawn with the beautiful morning light, hooking up the caffeine IV drip.

Unlike me, my friend Raphaelle embodies and embraces the whole concept of night person, which is why before meeting for dinner in Paris, I had “subtly” specified I needed to make it an early night.

Raphaelle

Raphaelle whom you might remember from my previous post “Paris, une Nuit” lives across from the abominable Pot on Plaza Pompidou. Walking in her neighborhood, you would think Paris is a village. Unavoidably, you run into people she knows. I even run into people I have met before. How silly is THAT?

Le Soir Peeps

These men work at Le Soir, the nightclub where a woman bit me. After the usual ritual of “Salut, mwoa, mwoa, Tu vas bien? Ouais et toi, tu vas bien? Ouais”, we leave the guys and head to the restaurant. I happily snap away. As usual. I am an obsessive shooter. I’m probably a huge pain to be around.

Goth creature

Put this woman on the streets of Dallas and I shriek in horror: “OMG, a Goth! From which eighties time warp did she crawl?” In Paris, I regard this fine Beaubourg creature as creative and stylish. Une demoiselle tres chic! Surroundings count. That’s vachement silly.

Rapha and I enjoy a fabulous Italian dinner. Her neighbor JR (who is called JR because his real name is Jean-Raphael, and two Raphael(le) are confusing in the same building) was supposed to join us, BUT (and that’s when I realize I have completely lost control of my EARLY evening) he will actually meet up with us later for a drink. As you can well imagine, it all goes downhill from there.

Le Troisieme Lieu

Rapha takes me rue Quincampois to “Le Troisieme Lieu, La Cantine des Ginettes Armees”, literally The Mess Hall of the Armed Chicks.” Despite the rather aggressive appellation, the bar/restaurant/nightclub turns out to be a hoot and a half and no girl tries to bite me – which is a refreshing change. JR joins us but no sign of Catherine, his girlfriend, who is eating pasta “but will arrive shortly.” It is 12:45 am.

Poor sod

Since my friends are smokers – and the ban on cigarettes in Parisian restaurants just took effect to their utmost chagrin and outrage – we end up spending more time on the sidewalk than in the club. The guy pictured above flanked by Rapha and her pal was literally kidnapped from the street and made to pose with them… which he happily obliged, even expressing a little too much pleasure for comfort. We had to shoo him away!

A man and his dog

Two minutes later, same place, a man and his dog. The cigarette ban is probably going to lead to a whole lot of outdoor socialization. The movement would be called Bonding by Bitching.

Catherine

It’s 1:30 am. Miss Catherine has finally finished her noodles. She is seen here in her best imitation of a Parisian hooker and misses the mark completely, if you ask me.

Bicycle Man

Bicycle Man! Out of nowhere, this hooded fellow appears and starts demonstrating his daring cycling dexterity. He later hints casually that he may very well have stolen the Velib bike from the City of Paris. While not advocating theft in the least, I feel that the machine could not have ended up in the hands of a more bicycle-loving felon.

It’s LATE. I absolutely must go back to the hotel but somehow I am dragged to Rapha’s apartment for a last night cap.

Negra Bouch Beat

At this point of the night, the degree of intellect shown by any of us in conversation is close to nil. While we cruise the net looking for our lost childhood, Rapha comes out with the startling revelation that she never goes to the hair salon and proceed to demonstrate how she cuts a piece of her hair every morning with the help of office scissors.

Home Cut

The method seems inflation-proof. I would have never known.

The remains

Delirium Tremens no doubt. JR is fascinated by the curly black lock. Just when you thought we couldn’t possibly attain another level of silliness…

The mustache

We manage! I’m not sure whether it looks more like a mustache or hair growing out of his nose. JR is a goofy man.

It is 3:30 am when Rapha decides to treat us to a defile of the latest Paul Smith fashion.

Defile

Oh but wait, you have to see it in color to get the full effect.

Color defile

It’s 4 am. My early evening turned out to be a lovely very late night kind of soiree. Sometimes, you just cannot win.

Le depart

Au Revoir!

Hanging out with crazy French people makes me feel incredibly normal.

Pompidou’s Pot

The Pompidou Center in the Beaubourg area of Paris once revolutionized the world of architecture with its “inside-out” design. Both architects on the project, Renzo Piano, and Yale educated Richard Rogers subsequently won the Pritzker Prize for their vision, the equivalent of the Nobel but for architecture recognition.

Centre Pompidou

You may love it or hate it, the fact remains that the museum and its surroundings always offer interesting sights.

Beaubourg fountain

L’Oiseau de Feu (The Firebird) – Stravinski Fountain

In 1982, Jacques Chirac, then Mayor of Paris, commissioned a fountain as an homage to Igor Stravinski. Adjacent to the Center, it is composed of 16 aluminum and steel statues animated by motors, each representing one of his compositions.

L\'Amour

L’Amour

Surprisingly for such a modern work of art, the fountain was built with the Gothic St. Merri Church as a backdrop. The church was nicknamed “The Little Notre Dame” for being built on the same plan as the famous cathedral.

M. Chat

Now look up! In places which seem impossible for a human to reach, you might be able to spot Monsieur Chat (M. Chat.) In 2007, after four years of French clandestineness and 80 Parisian spray-painted M. Chat, street artist Thoma Vuille was finally caught orange-handed in flagrante delicto. A mere 300 Euro fine later, Monsieur Vuille was finally soaring towards the high roof tops of recognition.

Parisians seem to like mixing the old with the new: the Glass Pyramid at the Louvre and the Buren Columns at the Palais Royal immediately come to mind, but sometimes, I’m sorry, you just have to draw the line.

Le Pot Dore

Le Pot Dore (The Golden Pot) – Jean-Pierre Raynaud

The above abomination is one of the most well-known work from artist Raynaud. After The Pot toured the world including a stint in the middle of the Forbidden City in Peking, it seems to have rooted right in front of The Pompidou Center. The historian Jean Clair qualified Le Pot Dore as a specimen of garden dwarf art. I concur. It took me 30 years to accept Malevich’s White on White as art; I don’t think I have enough decades left in my life to view Pompidou’s Pot as a worthy masterpiece. Thought-provoking? Certainly. Because it’s absolute doodoo.

My dead are better than yours

Just like any restaurant, club, or bar, the popularity of a cemetery rests upon the fame of its clients. In this case, its dead people. The Pere Lachaise in Paris got off to a rough start. It was inaugurated in 1804 with the burial of Adelaide Paillard de Villeneuve, a five year old girl. Who? Exactly my point.

For years, the cemetery dwindled with an inhumation here, an inhumation there… until 1817 when in a brilliant marketing move, the Mayor of Paris relocated Moliere and Lafontaine to Pere Lachaise. Et voila! By 1830, it boasted more than 33,000 tombs.

Pere Lachaise stairs

Climbing the stairs of the entrance Boulevard de Menilmontant, I realize how American I have become. My first thought does not address the beauty of time passed, but rather crudely the need for good liability insurance.

Per Lachaise an alley

Taking a walk in Pere Lachaise constitute a wonderful reprieve from the city’s crowded parks. Peaceful and artsy. That’s the one place where you can safely shush a child who does not belong to you. Respect for the dead trumps exclusive parental rights.

Dilapidated tombs

Some tombs appear dilapidated. Some wrestle with precarious balance. It’s charming.

Pere Lachaise mausoleum

Ancient mausoleums still bear the signs of remembrance.

Tomb of frederic Chopin

Then of course, there is the mingling with the famous. Chopin in the above flowery tomb. Across from him, Laprade holding a very small bouquet in comparison. Not as well-liked I suppose.

Laprade

But the numero UNO reason why Americans all over the world know about Pere Lachaise is of course… The one and only Jim Morrison. Well, not to re-ignite the fire of resentment towards the French and spark a new freedom tomb controversy, but I surmise Jim Morrison got robbed.

Jim Morrison\'s tomb

Clearly. His tomb is lodged behind a mausoleum and wedged between two tombs. And what’s the point of being buried in Pere Lachaise if you don’t even have a commemorative statue adorning your place of respose? In all fairness, there was a bust but it was stolen in 1988. I opt for a life-size rendition. Preferably circa “young lion” years. With the leather pants s’il-vous-plait.

Seine Scenes

May seems the perfect time of the year to visit Paris. If you are lucky, you might enjoy great weather, and if you are a photographer, you might come home with more shots featuring Parisians than tourists. Go in July or August, and all bets are off.

That peculiar afternoon, after splurging on a whole box of Pepitos (French cookies most excellent), I atoned for my gluttony by taking a vigorous walk on the “Quais de la Seine.”

Velo Quai du Louvre

The bicycle you see on the photograph is a Velib. In July 2007, the City of Paris for ecological and health reasons inaugurated a new service of bike self-service. It offers stations located about every .2 miles and more than 20,000 bikes. The service is free for the first 30 minutes, then you pay a modest fee. Owning a bike in Paris exposes you to the following hazard:

Velo sans roues

Unfortunately a very common scene in Paris: the remains of a bicycle dutifully chained to a sturdy structure. Renting a bike seems more reasonable now, doesn’t it? Tourists may also use the service under the form of short-term subscriptions. I, myself, had to walk to expiate the Pepitos but the whole idea seemed lovely anyway.

Le lecteur du Quai du Louvre

Why on earth would you read the paper at the office when you can do so Quai du Louvre? Really.

Le musicien

A musician Pont du Carroussel. Notice the couple in the background. The beer in the foreground.

Mammy tricote

Why restrict your knitting activities to the fireside when you can produce a Seine-inspired sock?

Peniche a deux mats

And why wouldn’t you convert your barge into a beautiful two masted sailboat?

Bookseller sur les quais

A timeless sight

Marche aux Fleurs

The flower market on Ile de la Cite

Notredame

Impossible to circumvent: Notredame

More Notredame

The attention to detail in Paris is fascinating.

Lovers behind Notredame

Nothing better in the world than to make out behind the Cathedral

Metro La Cite

By this time, I am so pooped from atoning for my sins that I allow myself to take the metro. There is just about enough time to go buy another box of cookies…

Pepitos