After struggling quite a bit on my first day in Paris, I woke up on day 2 and left the hostel feeling like a new man. For starters, I’d requested a room change – to be moved below the 5th floor where the wifi signal couldn’t reach. They put me in an empty room on floor 1 – not only way less of a hassle to run up and down all those stairs, but since I had first pick of beds I got the only free-standing one, leaving the far less convenient bunks for the Brazilian guys who checked in the following morning.
At breakfast I went through and marked everything of interest on a big city map, hopefully alleviating the previous day’s disorientation issues. Despite the supposedly “all bad ahead” weather forecast and icy cold air, the sky was again blue.
Paris, here I come!
The first thing I did was return to the top of Butte de Montmatre and ascend the highest tower of Sacre Coeur, a spectacular mountaintop cathedral. The tourist crowds had not yet arrived, so it was just me, a sweeping view of Paris, and the sound of a beautiful harp played by a street performer off in the distance. Apparently I’d gotten there just in time, for as I made it back down those long, twisted, narrow staircases the first bus full of Asian tourists had just pulled up and the flood gates had officially opened.
Then as I walked down the narrow road leading away from Sacre Coeur, something happened.
I finally started remembering how to photograph.
It’d been so long since my last trip that both blogging and photographing really just didn’t feel natural anymore. The blogging has been coming back little by little, most notably once I started writing things down as I did them (as mentioned a couple posts ago). Contrast this to going out for a whole day – or weekend – and trying to recall everything later. It wasn’t until around the conclusion of Queen’s Day that I actually started taking breaks to jot things down in realtime; At this particular moment I’m sitting on a park bench just a few blocks away from Sacre Coeur. And while I’m sure these words won’t actually find their way online for at least a week or two, at which time I’ll be several cities away, at least the thoughts have been recorded and will be just as vivid as ever. Even if they are a little late.
As for photographing, the way I see it there are three simple rules:
1) Be willing to wiggle your way into crazy spots to get that perfect frame
2) Be shameless about embarrassing yourself
3) ALWAYS have a camera in your hand, switched on, with your finger on the shutter button. Many of those priceless moments – a bird flying by, an old man hugging his grandson, a flower blowing through the foreground – can disappear in the blink of an eye.
Anyway, back to it. After Sacre Coeur I headed for a stroll through the Grand Avenues, Paris’ covered shopping arcades. Boy do these places feel different from Teramachi, Kyoto’s covered arcades – like stepping back into the sepia-toned Paris of the early 19th century. Apparently the Passage des Panoramas, one of many covered boulevards, was the very first place to receive gas lighting in the early 1800’s.
I exited their isolated little world disoriented as usual, but this time was smart enough to stop and ask for directions before starting off towards the river. On my way there I stumbled on two unusual things:
The first was a massive protest that I genuinely mistook for a street party. Rather than shouting political slogans over loudspeakers, these protesters danced to samba music, played drums, and blew whistles. Since I have no idea what they were protesting, to me it basically was a party, and something very cool to find by total chance 🙂
The second was a single road teeming with enormous-breasted prostitutes. Such roads can be found throughout most of the world, but what was particularly strange about this one was the fact it was still broad daylight – and not a seedy back alley, but a main pedestrian and vehicular thoroughfare, with supermarkets, art galleries, and restaurants. And prostitutes with their bras hanging out.
As I continued on towards the river I routed myself through centre Georges Pompidou, a bustling outdoors walking area with shops and street performers, the magnificent St Eustache church, the rooftop gardens of the Forum des Halles (another outdoors hangout), and Hotel de Ville before finally arriving at the bank of the Seine. Turning along the river I stopped for a look inside Notre Dame before crossing South and heading to the Rodin Museum, where I kicked up my highly blistered feet in the shade of the famous statue, The Thinker.
God, I can’t believe I originally planned to see Paris in just a couple days. That would’ve been more than impossible – although the first day was less than efficient, I have been on my feet for two solid days now and I haven’t even seen a fraction of what I’d planned – let alone anything social or farther afield.
It’s just incredible how there really is something…well…incredible…around literally every corner of Paris.
After finishing up at the museum I concluded my second day of tourism at the foot of the world’s most recognized monument.
I’ll let you take a guess which.