(and other regions of France in August)... falls mainly on the car, it would seem.
Paris has enveloped me, it's official; I'm now a fully fledged Parigot participating in one of our favourite annual rituals.
Yep, I'm writing this from a rain-drenched A71 traffic jam from hell, desperate to relieve myself (you do want all the details, don't you?), listening to the motorway radio cheerfully telling us it's only going to get worse but here's Bill Withers... Yeah, right!
The (cunning) plan was to get a head-start on the rest by hopping down to Orléans on the Friday night to stay with conveniently located relative, get to bed early, hit the road around 5am and laugh all the way to the Pyrenees.
The Friday evening restaurant was our first mistake. The hearty breakfast our second. The real circulation problems started around 10am on the Saturday morning. Strangely enough, so did we.
Traffic conditions in France are colour-rated, which appeals to my artistic soul, from Green (Good), Orange (Ordinarily irritating), Red (Really bad), and Black (Bloody awful).
Not wishing to be labeled racist, I'll just refer to today's conditions by the colour of the clouds: totally dark grey.
Makes me ruefully think I should have shut up and stayed Seine-side, listening to Knoffler-challenged hobos playin' tunes on their geetars...
Sunday, 31 July 2011
(and other regions of France in August)... falls mainly on the car, it would seem.
Saturday, 30 July 2011
At a time when we're heading off on holiday (vacation?), well some of us anyway, other's aren't quite so happy to be on the move.
This was taken, if you've been following, on the platform at Les Halles station in Paris, a total surreptitious grab shot, although the moggy in question does seem to be aware of something going on.
I guess he's not on holiday - probably just been taken to the vet or being dropped off at someone's before his owners go off to enjoy themselves cat-free for a couple of weeks.
'What are they thinking?' always crosses my mind when I see animals in such a situation. Do they know what's going on? Are they scared for their lives or just sleepily resigned to the situation? I guess we'll never really know, and maybe they do get used to it and are comforted by their owner's familiar tones comforting them from time to time.
That's the funny thing of not being able to talk to animals - to what extent do we know what they're thinking or even how they're thinking. Surely not like us. With much simpler emotions, I suppose. Perhaps only being concerned with the first couple of levels of Maslow's hierarchy of needs pyramid, for example: food, water, sex, sleep, excretion and why not security, health, employment and a family to belong to. But over and above that, probably not much. Are they happy? Is happiness a valid emotion to anthropomorphise onto these beasts we like to think of as our friends? I'm not so sure, but I'm not so sure it isn't either. After all, what do we really know?
Well we know we can put them in a cage and cart them around the train system of Paris for a while and they'll probably be none the worse for it. But do they mind? Do they have a choice? Do they know what choice is? Does it matter? I'm not telling, I'm asking.
Friday, 29 July 2011
Heh heh, this would be really funny if it didn't smack of whingey xenophobia as witnessed by the fact that most of it's in English.
Having said that, there are quite a few Parisians I've met over the years, and as an old English teacher that probably runs well into the thousands with whom I've talked in some depth about all manner of things, who would agree that Parisians aren't always the most affable of characters.
There was even a series of very amusing ads for the 'Parisian' newspaper, featuring characters wiping shit off their shoes on their neighbour's doormat and tutting as someone dropped litter only to insouciantly let their dog crap on the side walk five seconds later.
The tagline to the ad was 'The Parisian: it's better to see him in the newspaper', which was quite clever, and goes to show that someone, somewhere, has a sense of humour and the ability to see the funny side of life in the Big P.
Which is why it bores me to hear certain tourists and relatively new expats moaning about Parisian life. Personally I've never experienced anything I haven't met elsewhere, and reckon it's just a case of not expecting things to be the same as 'back home', and then you won't be disappointed.
Then again, this sticker is probably just an actual Parisian laughing at themselves and their just occasionally merited reputation. Good for them!
Thursday, 28 July 2011
Cowardly as it may seem, and you'll realise now why I didn't gravitate towards war photography, I tend to prefer observing heavily armed soldiers from the other side of the tracks.
Here's a case in point. Down-town Paris, that uniquely aromatised antrum known as Les Halles (you'll know what I mean if you know it) and it's just another day, another loser surrounded by four or five machine-gun totin' urban storm-troopers being told to get his trousers back on. Or pants if you prefer. Or possibly both. Oh dear.
Don't mock it though, I've been there. On the other platform, I mean. The entrails of the city are a veritable microcosm of all that's not right with our society. Occasionally the antics of our unfortunate fellow metro mice are funny, but mostimes they're simply sobering.
And to lighten things up a bit, check out the cat-in-a-box pic I also took on the platform at Les Halles, and let it not be said that I always dwell on the uncomfortable side of the city. As boxes go it doesn't look too bad, but if looks could kill you might think differently. I asked him how he felt but apparently the cat had got his tongue.
Wednesday, 27 July 2011
Must say I'm cheekily pleased with this one. Tell you what, I'll send the first three people who guess what the top and bottom orangey-red things are a Paris Set Me Free / Paris Photo Quiz bookmark (click pics for bigger versions), you can't say fairer than that.
Oh, and for additional glory you could even have a go at guessing what the building in the background is. So either you know your columns from your cake-hole, or you'll be stabbing in the dark and might just get it right and we'll all be in awe of your prescient Paris skills...
Don't red and green go well together, by the way? Reminds me of a classic shot of mine (ha ha haaaaah!) with a close-up of a rich green Wallace fountain backdropped by a lovely bright red Paris restaurant canopy. Very pleasing. What's your favourite two-colour combination?
Tuesday, 26 July 2011
You may not like McDonalds. No, that's not a prohibition, just an avowal of what the world doesn't seem to get.
They're pretty successful, you see. But does that give them the right to take over every historic building in sight and stick their evil 'M' all over it?
Now I have to admit that I haven't yet researched this building; for all I know maybe that stupid Ronald McDonald clown built it himself, but I doubt it somehow.
All credit to them, the Paris council do have limits, and apart from the aforementioned 'M' and accompanying awning, oh yes, and a couple of huge banners draped all over the front of it, they haven't really touched it much, thank goodness.
Assuming this building is original and old it will certainly feature at some point in my Paris Quirks & Curios series, but until that glorious day when I'll hopefully have rather more to say about it, let us just gawp and wonder... what on earth will they Mackify next? How long before we have Notre Dame des Frites? The Eiffel Tower Shake? The Sacré Coeur Beurgeur? Only time will tell.
Monday, 25 July 2011
What is it about ourselves?
I very rarely include myself on Paris & I, after all I have an entire blog for weird self-portraits over the years, but in this case it's relevant.
At the Gare du Nord there's a very strange and apparently artistic contraption which makes sinister noises, billows steam and has a wide screen where you can see yourself going by, and you know how much fun that is, don't you? It's the same fascination people exhibit when they look in a shop window and see a TV screen with themselves on it. Or peering up at the train driver's mirror or monitor on a platform trying to spot themselves truly.
So the piece is onto a winning idea straight away. The twist here, and there is a twist, is that there's a time lag of about three seconds between you doing whatever highly intelligent, if slightly self-conscious thing you do when you're looking at yourself and seeing it projected on the screen.
Watching people interacting with this thing, or even just realising what's going on, is quite fun. They will walk across the area and just as they are passing the screen see themselves appearing. This can lead to minutes of amusement, waving at yourself then standing quite still as yourself waves back. Killer hilarious.
This shot was taken with the very device I'm waving in my hand at an impossible angle, illustrating the concept.
What does it all mean? Oh, you know, you're an intelligent person, so I imagine that your guess is as good as mine. It means whatever you want it to mean in the end I suppose. And you'll probably be right.
Sunday, 24 July 2011
This ad's been gracing the metro entrance of the eternally-under-reconstruction Luxembourg RER B for what seems like an inordinate length of time, which doesn't make me feel so bad about publishing it a good few weeks after I took it.
A strange-looking girl stares us straight in the eye, or should that be her eye stares us straight in the eyes, enticing us to buy the new Nissan Cube care.
The slogan reads: "La symetrie, c'est moche" (symmetry is ugly).
It takes you a while to figure out what's going on here, as you say to yourself, yep, she sure is... unusual-looking. Then you realise that her face is composed of half her face and its mirror image. Disquieting.
The car has no such perfect pretentions, and is resolutely unsymmetrical. Absurdly so.
I like the name 'Cube', as I'm rather obsessed myself with the square form, and also because I discovered an intriguing thing last week: Notre Dame de Paris is NOT symmetrical by a long stretch. Or should that be wobble? But that's another story.
Have an utterly asymmetrical day, y'all!
Saturday, 23 July 2011
The gamut of human life crept up and slapped me in the park I was cogitating in the other day.
Down the side of Notre-Dame-des-Champs (our 'Lady of the Fields', although I'm not exactly sure what she was doing out there) is a funny little park.
This is laid out around a not particularly spectacular central lump of mud, and the benches there form a sort of slightly exploded cabalistic communal area where disparate chips off existence's old block come to pass a moment or two.
As I cast my gaze around this loose circle, everyone facing each other but no-one seeing nothin' (or seeing everything, who knows?) I was intrigued to note: a knot of semi-nomadic, cloppe(cigarette)-swapping vagabonds arguing over a light; a tired tourist twosome of the ever-so-nice middle class type replete with sensible shoes and matching macs, taking a break from the monuments and poring over their Paris plan considering their next conquest; a guy flat-out on his bench, slowly sinking between the slats, periodically spluttering tortured supplications from the depths of his stupor to whatever gods he may pray to, Bacchus perhaps; a single young lady doing the iPhone thing, somewhat startled to find she's only one bench hence (from the delusional jerking maniac); a calm coloured couple, not doing a lot, or possibly exactly the same thing I am, motionless, casting around...; a solitary wannabe travelling hippy type, who no doubt would love to have dreads to match his music (which we're all sharing) if he had vaguely the right sort of hair, emptying his backpack of beer and desperately trying to look like the aforementioned street cool loafers; a calm multi-cultural couple, he with real dreads (I'm assuming, under the tea-cozy) with a sleepy white girl, he keepin' his music to he-self...
Wannabe pant-sagger wanders over to dread-cozy man with a beer to offer, shows him his drawings, engages conversation, offers toke, discusses dope dealing ops - Amsterdam's damn cool - street peeps shuffle off ciggies smouldering, tourist couple still poring, schizoid guy now snoring, iPhone girl shooting uneasy glances, impassive couple... yep, you guessed it, no news yet.
I was going to include myself in the cast of characters and get you to guess which one I was but in the end it didn't work out that way. But I did learn something interesting: Sabazios was a nomadic horseman and 'sky father god' of the Phrygians and Thracians, who were contemporaries or possibly earlier than the ancient Greeks we are so fond of from the Iliad and the Odyssey. Although I'm crap on a horse ever since being terrorised by one as a kid that wouldn't move however much I dug my heels in until the day we went outside when old lazy bones decided it was time for a gallop... But anyway, apart from the equestrian issue, Sabazios'll do me just fine for now. I just need a mane to go with it.
Friday, 22 July 2011
The funniest little house you ever did see. Not quite on a prairie, but on a curious grassy mound not apparently serving much purpose at all.
Unless you peer through the iron grill and notice the set of stone steps leading down down, way down into the bowels of the earth. Hmm, spooky, don't you think?
I thought for a long time that this was a not so subtle entrance into the underground tunnels of the city, and because of its proximity to Denfert Rochereau, why not into the Catacombes themselves?
This was wrong, I discovered a while ago, when I found an identical structure on the other side of the railway tracks but in a telling axis and this second find offered a far easier solution to the mystery.
But you know what? I'll let you wonder about what it could be. If you've been following my Paris Photo Quiz series on Facebook here, you'll probably know what it's for already. If now, well, you only have to ask, or guess if you are the fun-loving type! The cats are not an original feature, by the way. See you down in Paris?
(A Paris iPhone street photograph by Sab Will for the 'Paris and I' photo blog @ paris-and-i.parissetmefree.com )
Thursday, 21 July 2011
Why do tourists have all the fun? That's what bugs me. While we worker ants are slogging away at our lunchtime sandwiches grabbed between meetings and phone calls and lessons and dressing-downs and how-was-your-weekends, there they are, out there in our city, living it up like there's no tomorrow.
Of course, the average visitor's joie de vivre and pure pleasure at just being here makes it difficult to suppress a smile - I still get some enjoyment from others' happiness, despite my pseudo-bitter 'n' twisted on-line persona.
And check these two out. The epitome of sated intellectual, architectural, historical and cultural satisfaction. Grabbing Paris by the throat and shaking the very essence out of her.
All day long, for the entirety of their short visit to the other side of the world. Dynamic and untiring, they scour the city to uncover the secret formula which makes this place everything it is and everything other cities aren't. I don't think they've quite found it yet.
Wednesday, 20 July 2011
Another bar-me pic. Interior design. I should have been an interior designer. No, I should've been a photographer of interior design. No, that's not true too.
But it's another world, the world of the café, the Parisian interior decor and there are many bloggers who often offer glimpses of this universe in between I don't know what luscious entré and to-die-for dessert. It's not a world I'm all so familiar with.
If a feature is going to grab my eye, it's more likely to be a grubby detail in some dodgy café somewhere as opposed to a designer restaurant designed by leading whatnot Monsieur so-and-so.
But I like the simple juxtapositions, the sneaky shadows (have you ever wondered what 'a shadow' really is? Turn the light off, or another on... and it's gone - there's ephemera for ya!
This pic's a queasy lop-sided affair, in an effort to get the elements all in, leaving a gaping great hole on the mid-top left, although there's a certain coherence produced by the diagonal produced by the top of the lamp, the lamp's shadow and the coat pegs left-hand side.
Why am I bothering you with this? Perhaps it's the closet interior designer in me desperately trying to say something intelligent about this unfamiliar territory.
But - oh - is that the time? I'd best be off. 8pm is closing time in some Paris cafés - can you believe that? Time to snuff out the lights, wipe away the shadows and start all over again tomorrow morning. I intend to be there, for a while at least.
Tuesday, 19 July 2011
Running to catch up here, being that time ran away with me for a while there, and I find my objective of one Paris iPhone pic per day a leeettel beeet behind schedule.
Reckon I'll get back on track just in time to go off for a few days and get behind on things again. Funny how time creeps up on us when we're looking the other way. Always envied kids, who have no idea what they're not regretting the way us oldies do. Or wishing. It's the same in the end.
Have you ever considered just how bizarre the concept of a memory actually is? The idea of it. Does it really exist, this present sensation of something we name a recollection of another time, place... and person?
To what extent do the things we've done in our lives 'exist' as such, and do they possess a more fundamental reality than the things to come, just because we've chosen to view life from the point of view of younger to older rather than the other way round. When we're dead and gone will it really matter or have any meaning what order such and such group of events took place? I'm not so sure.
And if someone leaves behind no friends or family to remember them, can we really, honestly say that they actually existed at all.
Just wondering. Old lady, young lady, or is it the other way round, side by side in the Paris metro. Hem heights wither, hen night delights slither up and down the temporal timeline we've chosen to measure our daily dilemmas by.
My flannel-clad knee seems awkward and incongruous between such womanly curves as I stab away at my round-cornered rectangular universe where a large part of me lives and don't tell me it doesn't. As much as anywhere else, I reckon. Your eyes are distinguishing between light and dark areas on a piece of plastic right now, remember; what makes us think we're in the process of interacting with another human being for an instant, I wonder.
To paraphrase my good friend Pink, "Is there anybody in there? Just click if you can feel me. Is there anyone at (the) home (page)?"
Monday, 18 July 2011
Ever since Paris Plage ('Paris Beach' to you an' me) laid down its sandy bed ten years ago, it's been providing foto folks like me with enough fodder to fill a fousand albums.
People do funny things when they're pretending to be at a seaside resort in the middle of a land-locked sweaty summer city.
This is, as I said, the tenth anniversary of this annual dirge denial where those of us unable, unwilling or simply uninterested in going away for the holiday period pretend we are, after all, not in the middle of a hot metropolis, if just for a few stolen moments.
Are we convinced? No, not really, but then the novelty of it is still quite refreshing, as long as you're not some whinging pom whining on about tax-payers money and the like. Sure, we could spend money on a lot of things, just as we could forego an overpriced lunchtime sandwich just once in our life and give our €4.50 to the side walk squatter we pass every. single. day. on our weasely way from the metro to work in the morning. But don't.
The reasons for buying, or not buying such and such an idea are complex, and probably not even a deep understanding of my Scottish compatriot's Wealth of Nations or Theory of Moral Sentiments would leave us much clearer, in our own minds, of what the best thing to do with money really is. Life just ain't that simple I'm afraid. Or pleased. Complexity keeps things interesting, don't you think? Keeps us on our toes. Provides us with choices.
Stripy or plain? Red or blue? Do you want wafers with it? To lie or not to lie. To dare a gentle caress. It seems like the marrow of life, the simple existential choices can still survive, even on a sprinkling of imported sand cloaking a normally polluted route for the rat-race in a tourist trammelled city in the jolly month of July. Yeah, I'll have wafers with it.
Sunday, 17 July 2011
Meeting people who are as excited as me by adopted city is almost as exciting as being in my adopted city itself. OK, I admit, sometimes it's rather more exciting, but I'm not supposed to say that!
Folks from all walks of life come along with me on my Paris photo or curiosity tours and, between you and me, I often learn as much from them as they do from me, just about different things.
Last Saturday was a case in point; two lovely ladies from New Zealand came over for a half photo, half historical stroll tour and I did my best to supply some interesting tidbits of information whilst providing plenty of photo ops of course.
I had a very specific request for this tour, which was: show me something of the German World War 2 occupation of the city. Now this was a dramatic and deeply painful experience for France and for Parisians in particular. If you've ever seen that shot of the Rue de Rivoli lined with swastikas you'll know what I mean - it sends a flush across my face every time.
Finding actual evidence of those day though, in the actual streets and buildings of the city was both the real challenge and the most interesting part of the experience.
I'm ok with historical stories and discourses on past events, but when all's said and done, being a highly visual person, I want to see something. Bullet holes, old posters, evidence of rebuilt ruin, I don't care, but my eyes burn for evidence, as my brain absorbs the theory.
I'd like to thank this Kiwi lady in particular, because she sparked off a new angle for looking at Paris in my head. And reminded me of other quirks I'd always meant to cover but had forgotten about until just now like this one from just a few days back about nature's war-wounded innocent victims in a classic Paris garden.
But more than anything I enjoyed the chat about these two ladies' home on the other side of the world, the way they do things there, how they think about us over here, and a whole bunch of other, unexpected, unpredictable and enriching insights into other people's lives.
It was also the last day of the Tour de France, which was slightly unfortunate, as one of the most impressive theatres of the liberation of Paris, with one of the craziest quirks, was slap bang in the middle of the last stretch, at Place de la Concorde. But we made it, just, before scuttling back to Ile de la Cité in search of other wonders and, it has to be said, coffee and conveniences.
See you again soon in Paris, ladies, good luck with the rugby, and my most heartfelt commiserations about Cadel Evans (arch rival Australia's first ever Tour de France winner!). ;-D