Paris is notorious for her nightlife, so it should be no surprise that her residents sleep in on a Sunday. Still, I’ve never gotten used to how desolate the city can feel.
I got up before dawn today and was in the Bastille métro station by 7 a.m. It was a bit eerie to be alone in this warren of white-tiled tunnels, with only the hum of the ventilation system to keep me company.
But the train arrived as scheduled, and just a couple of stops later I was on the Ile de la Cité—the very heart of the city, where Paris was born.
Esteban gives me a hard time about my love affair with this spot. I somehow end up here every day, and every day it’s a bit different—yet it always feels comforting and familiar. Standing on the Pont D’Arcole, I often feel as if I’m remembering something I’d long ago forgotten.
This morning the light was spectacular. And because the sun rises and sets at a leisurely pace in November, my “golden hour” of opportunity stretched into almost two.
On a whim, I strolled up the hill to the Panthéon. The sun was still not high enough to penetrate the old neighborhood’s canyon-like narrow streets, so I didn’t shoot much architecture. But I did stop to chat with a Romanian clochard for a while, and I paused to admire a beautiful courtyard. It’s hard to understand how some live in such misery while others enjoy such comfort and luxury.
As I started back toward home, one of the streets felt oddly familiar. “Is this the one with the raccoon?” I wondered to myself. The lone, stuffed raccoon in a shop window had been one of my favorite Paris WTF moments last year. And there it was again.
As I paused to take a photo for my friend Kluckmeister, I suddenly made out the silhouette of a man in the background. He was taking a photo of me photographing the raccoon. We shared a hearty laugh through the window. In hindsight, I wish I’d rung the bell and asked him, “WTF is with the raccoon, dude?” Oh, well. Next time.
My walk home also took me through the old Jewish quarter in the Marais. The street-sweepers, shopkeepers and butchers were already hard at work.
But the beautiful Place des Vosges sat silent and mostly empty. I especially loved the reflection of the street in one restaurant’s window: There was a Salvador Dalí quality to the image of the empty wine glasses occupying the crosswalk and floating in space among the cars.
After a late-morning nap, Esteban and I headed out for a walk along the river. On Sundays, the city’s residents trade their rapid, staccato pace for a lazy, ambling stroll. They sit on benches, walk their dogs, chat with their friends and neighbors. I was happy to be a part of this vibrant communal life.
As the evening shadows fell, we again made our way toward the Panthéon. My blogger friend Brad Spurgeon was playing a gig, and I was eager to finally meet him in person.
I’ve followed his blog for almost a year and have come to greatly admire the passion he has for music—and for open mics, in particular. I was charmed by his enthusiasm and absolutely wowed by his and his friends’ musicianship.
It was wonderful to meet you, Brad — and I hope to catch up with you again!
Well … it’s now long after sunset. Time to call it a day. Tomorrow is another day in Paris.