A Kind Of 'Grand Tour'

photo: rue de la paix, place vendome

From the Opéra, the Rue de la Paix and the Place Vendôme.

A 36-Hour Spring Week

Paris:- Wednesday, 22. March 2000:- Even if I do not watch the TV-news every night, I try not to miss the imaginative and occasionally fanciful weather forecasts. On Monday evening the TV-weather lady said northern France was in for high times.

According to the satellite-photo animation, it looked like it could be true; for Tuesday and most of today. In some years Paris has a 'good high' in February. This can produce a bright, hard light from a low sun. A month later, in March, is better.

Getting a mini-high nearly on the date of the Equinox is pretty rare. This year the event was supposed to happen at 7:35 on Monday; with 7:35 being something called 'Universal Time.' I don't know what this 'time' is in relation to 'Paris time,' and I probably slept through it.

No matter - the high was predicted for Tuesday. A bit like a farmer, I want to know whether it will be sunny, overcast or rainy, because it affects what I may be able to report.

Nearly every year around this time I do a 'grand tour' of Paris, so I have been waiting for this high for a month. Unsurprisinglyphoto: on montmartre I missed sunrise by hours, because I knew I had to do some regular Tuesday errands. Being ready to capture the late afternoon was my target.

Up on Montmartre on Tuesday, under real blue, with light and shadows.

Actually, I have someone else's list of nine Paris areas. At first I thought I would try and do the whole thing in one day, but with Tuesday's errands and unpredictable weather, I accepted the idea of doing it over two days and crossed my fingers for this afternoon.

Yesterday I started off at 16:00 with the idea of doing the - relatively - off-the-main-route Montmartre and Trocadéro, with a homeward slide through Montparnasse as the third side of a triangle loop.

There is no métro station located directly in front of Scare Coeur. You have the choices of métro Lamark-Caulaincourt or métro Abbesses; with either there will be walking involved. I chose the north side Lamark-Caulaincourt because I think it is shorter to the top, but it is probably equal with Abbesses.

After the climb up, after catching my breath, Montmartre is invigorating when bathed in light. A good number of other people had come up for it too, but this goes on all the time in all sorts of weather. The 'Butte' buzzes with commerce for visitors, with the motors of cameras, and even the quieter contemplation of the ultra-wide view of Paris.

Instead of taking my one photo and running, I took many. I contemplated too. With Scare Coeur at my back, the Rue Steinkerque below was like a magnet, and I went down it to métro Anvers, for the ride to Trocadéro.

The place is not its old self with the platform between the two wings of the Palais de Chaillot closed. One ofphoto: tour eiffel the cafés still had light on it, and an old RATP platform bus in front of it. The museums were closed because it was Tuesday.

The faster way around the Palais to the garden side is the north one. The two may be equidistant, but I think the north way is easier.

Winter and summer, fall and spring, the Tour Eiffel remains one of Paris' top draws.

Like Montmartre, there is no métro stop at the base of the Tour Eiffel so the RER 'C' station of Champ-de-Mars is closest, followed by the métro stops at Trocadéro, Bir-Hakeim or Ecole-Militaire. The tower is big, so if all you want is a clear view of it, any of these stations will do.

But once on the way to its base, it is a bit of a trip to the nearest métro. The 82 bus, from Porte Maillot to Luxembourg, does run across the Pont d'Iéna, so it can save some walking.

By the time I got to the métro at Bir-Hakeim, my feet said I had done enough walking. Near sundown anyway. Photo total: 49 exposures for the two shots desired.

Today, Wednesday, I do not start at dawn like all dedicated photographers, but I do get to Bastille while it is still morning - maybe even in 'Universal Time.'

The Opéra at Bastille has stairs facing the place for a bit of elevation. On some days Bastille looks fine with its 'July column' and on other days it is just so-so, like it is around noon today. The place needs shadows and these are either morning or evening.

The Place des Vosges is not on my list, but the Marais is, and it is close to Bastille. Here in its square, the mid-dayphoto: place de la bastille light works because there are shadows somewhere all the time. The centre of the place is the usual community playground.

I go out on the Rue du Pas de la Mule - which doesn't sound too 'royal' - to pick up the métro at Chemin-Vert on the Boulevard Beaumarchais.

The prison is gone at Bastille, so the cars rotate endlessly around the 'July Column.'

As confusing as the métro map is, I get on a line running directly to the other Opéra, which most people know as the Opéra. This turns out to be a total flop because its front is still behind the scaffolding hiding the renovation work. The back side is finished, and this can be admired from the Boulevard Haussemann for its lack of soot.

The photo needed here is called 'Opéra-Louvre,' so I head south through the Place Vendôme, thinking I can go east to the Louvre from the Tuileries. If I had made notes beforehand I would have done this, but instead I go west, towards Concorde.

There are a lot of people taking the sun or their lunches; either freelance or at the kiosks scattered around. I walk on the white sand toward the big wheel at Concorde, and once there hop into the métro to ride up under the avenue to George Cinq.

This is a good station in the middle of the Champs Elysées. It is easier to get into and out of than Etoile. On the avenue, the flags are up for Morocco and its new king - a mostly red flag when I would have expected green.

The Champs-Elysées is - as local boosters say, 'the most beautiful avenue in the world' - is its usual over-sized self, with its usual hordes; especially on the north, sunny side.

It is odd how crowds are. There are waves of people and you think there are thousands, and then therephoto: champs elysees is a little pause, and if you shoot during this, it looks like there are only a few people. A second or two later, there are a lot again.

The after-lunch Champs-Elysées strollers and flag fanciers.

It is now my lunchtime so I ride from Etoile. A guy in front of me decides to outsmart the ticket barrier by stopping halfway through. Too soon, I have already put my ticket in, and his manoeuvre kills it. I jump the locked turnstile bars but can't get through the metal baffle, so I have to jump out again and use another ticket.

After lunch and a short siesta, I decide to get some photocopies and give part of the Boulevard Montparnasse a quick once-over. Vavin is still being my favorite corner; with the sun's long afternoon rays seeping into it from Rue Delambre.

This gives a Wednesday photo total of 85 exposures for the five shots desired. I won't get all of these processed until Saturday, because of the Café Metropole Club tomorrow and some family business on Friday.

By chance, the latter photo will take me up to the Tour Eiffel's second landing on Friday, which will give me a long shot of the Invalides, which is on my 'grand tour' list.' Friday does not have Wednesday's weather so I don't know if this shot will count.

Also on my 'list' are Saint-Germain, Saint-Michel and the Luxembourg gardens. By chance I shot all three last week and did not use the photos; so I'm glad I have them 'in the can.'

For the moment, I shot the nine photos I set out to get. I have used the term 'grand tour' loosely for this, because there are no islands and no Seine included. A good tour can't be complete without them.

While talking earlier in the week to the server-lady, Lindaphoto: le dome, montparnasse Thalman, I claimed this 'grand tour' could be done in one day. She wants to give it a try before Easter. Bring a picnic, have a party.

Le Dôme in Montparnasse isn't as casual as it was, but some of the rest is pretty relaxed.

We'll get a ten-ticket 'carnet' for the métro. Maybe we'll also get 'OpenTour' bus tickets, so I can shoot from the top of the roofless bus. It goes by all the major sights. It is also possible to hop on and off it.

To do it all 'in one day' we'll have to do it without walking much. Montmartre has mini-buses - as well as the little trains - running over and around it, so if we get these straight we may be able to do it.

But for this, I think I'd better call it 'this Equinox week around some places in Paris,' rather than 'grand tour.' The 'grand tour' needs to be really grand.

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