From sunrise to sunset in Paris

20Nov11

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.



16 Responses to “From sunrise to sunset in Paris”

  1. I am absolutely in love with your story-telling!!! You have the ability to make me feel as if I’m walking along the streets of Paris with you!!! Thanks for sharing!!! (Love your photo of the man taking a photo of you you taking a photo of the raccoon!!! – priceless!!!) – He probably has a whole board full of pictures of people photographing this funny raccoon!!! – Weird!! 🙂 Ejoy Paris!!! Can’t wait for more stories!! **

    • 2 hmunro

      You just made my day with your kind comment. THANK YOU! I’m half tempted to go back to the raccoon house and see if I can find out what the story is. I’ll be sure to drop you a note if I’m successful. 🙂 In the meantime, thanks for following along.

  2. Thanks a million – amazing photos you have here, and I mean all of them, not just the ones of Justin on bass, Felix on guitar and me… But I like those too…. 🙂 It was great meeting you and hope we meet up again next week….

    • 4 hmunro

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Brad. It was wonderful to meet you (and Justin and Felix). Can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday evening in Paris. Best wishes for a successful trip to Brazil, and I’ll catch up with you on the flip side. Bonne journée !

  3. I FEEL LIKE I AM THERE WITH YOU AS YOUR PHOTOGRAPHS ARE BREATH TAKING! THE RACOON PHOTO JUST MADE MY DAY! KEEP CALM & PARIS ON! LOVE NIKITA! KEEP THE PHOTOGRAPHS COMING, I LOVE THEM ALL!

  4. 7 XpatScot

    Thank you H, you’ve saved me a small fortune. I don’t have to go to Paris now that it is being delivered daily to my desktop in such detail. But wait. I remember that early morning feeling, the anticipation as the day climbs through its gears towards full speed. I remember the lazy Sunday strolls through cobbled canyons whose walls ooze history. But I also remember the smell, that peculiiar, musty odour that is unmistakeably Parisian. So maybe I will have to go to Paris after all.
    BTW: I love the images that so beautifully complement the story, especially the one of the lone figure on a street in the Marais. That’s a classic !!!
    BTW 2: thank you for your offer of taking a picture on order for me. If I think of something, I’ll let you know. 🙂

  5. Another great post I’m glad you are enjoy yourself. I crave for the day that I can finally travel and see the world and that looks like a great go to spot. Can’t wait to hear and see what else you have been doing out there.

    • 9 hmunro

      Oh, yes! You MUST come to Paris if you have the opportunity. It’s a creative person’s dream; there’s something interesting at every turn. And more to come, too!

  6. I’m really enjoying your trip to Paris, thanks for bringing happy memories to the front of my mind.
    Looking forward to lots of tomorrows. 🙂

    • 11 hmunro

      Thanks so much for your kind words, Hallysann — and for being such a faithful reader. I’ll try to make the next few tomorrows worth your while. 🙂

  7. That raccoon is a hoot!
    As usual, your photos are stirring. Love the ones of the Jewish quarter.

  8. I can’t believe I didn’t reply to this one before. Glad that dead animals remind you of me 🙂

    Ok so did a quick search, how does the 40mm macro compare to the 60mm? It’s less than half the price.

    http://www.amazon.com/Nikon-40mm-2-8G-Micro-NIKKOR/dp/B005C50H2Y/ref=pd_cp_p_0

    • 14 hmunro

      All *sorts* of things remind me of you: L.A., weird foods, house fires, and — yes — stuffed raccoons. (I suppose I should explain that the last one is because of your WTF post.)

      Anyway … back to our six-inch lens discussion. (Grin.) I think the 40 mm lens would be a fine choice also. The main difference is, of course, the focal length. I’m not sure which camera body you have, but let’s say it has a crop factor of 1.5. With a 40mm lens this will give you the focal equivalent of a 60mm, while the 60mm lens will give you a focal equivalent of 90mm. What this means in real life is that the 60mm lens will make “objects appear closer than they are.” This makes it a little bit more desirable for super-up-close work — but only a little.

      Second, the pricier 60mm lens has extra-low-dispersion glass. This is designed to reduce the potential of flare and ghosting, and could in some cases (maybe) give you sharper images. But again, that’s not to say you won’t get fine images with the 40mm lens. The 60mm is just a step up, is all.

      And the last distinction is that the 60mm lens looks like it has a little more metal for sturdier construction, compared to the 40mm’s plastic barrel. This might make a difference if you’re a pro who lugs his gear around a lot, but for shooting flowers and dead raccoons (ha!) it won’t make much of a difference.

      So there you have it. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in the 40mm, if that’s what you end up choosing.

      Hope this helps, but feel free to drop me a note if you’re still on the fence. And please post some photos once you start shooting!

      • Might as well add SF now that I moved. I think I’ll probably get the 40mm once I get the return from uncle sam. I have some pics ready to post but I’m gone for a week so maybe two saturdays from now. Do you have flickr?

        • 16 hmunro

          OK, then! I’ll also associate you with SF. And Alcatraz. 🙂 And I’ll greatly look forward to seeing your photos — whenever you’re able to post ’em.


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