Americans in Paris

Vote from Abroad in Paris

Today’s the day when Americans at home and abroad take a stand.  The world is watching.

Paris, France. 2018


Ce n’est pas possible


In my hometown it is illegal to smoke in public places: indoors, outdoors and anywhere near a  sports field or playground.

Smoking on an outdoor patio is not possible.

This picture is not possible.

Paris, France. 2018

About this post:

If you’re a photographer, you’ll understand my obsession with smoke.

Like sunbeams and shadows, tendrils of smoke, rising but not obscuring a face, add character to a picture.  But chasing smoke is like chasing sunbeams.  It’s elusive and transient.  In urban street photography, particularly in Canada and US, it is increasingly rare.

My Health Conscious Self says “That’s a good thing.”
My Photographer Self says “There’s always Paris …”

Modern day Miss Havisham

While strolling through Parc de Sceaux I observed this lady dressed in white, complete with wedding veil and bridal bouquet.

I looked around for the wedding party, anticipating a full entourage of groom, maids and newly minted in-laws. But no, this lady was on her own.

Calmly, vacantly, stepping to music heard only by her, she ambled through the gardens, stopping occasionally to take a selfie.

Paris, France. 2018

Postcards on the Seine

Les Cartes Coquines

The banks of the river Seine are lined with fold-up vendors (les bouquinistes) selling classic prints and old postcards.  Thousands of people jostle by on their way to Notre Dame.  Along with all the other tourists, I took the requisite (but boring) photos of the cathedral.  I also took shots of these iconic stalls.

Later that day I processed the photos and found a gem of a montage.  Mixed in with the prints of Chat Noir and Moulin Rouge were photos of two saucy ladies from the 1920’s.

The Mona Lisa is placed right beside them.   If you look closely, you can see her rolling her eyes.

Paris, France. 2018

Surprise Un, Deux, Trois

It’s been ten years since we last visited Paris and I’d forgotten the minor incongruities of the vivre à la parisienne. 

I remember now that old Parisian homes, which are so beautiful to look at, have all the architectural foibles of eighteenth century design  retrofitted into twentieth century needs.  Case in point – Stairs and Indoor Plumbing.

Our AirBNB was on the second (in French parlance) floor (which is really the third floor by any other language) and accessed through a winding set of creaky wooden stairs. The well worn steps and sturdy iron rails could have evoked romantic images of people running up and down, a la Gigi or Amelie.  It did not look romantic to two people coming off a seven hour flight and sporting two hefty suitcases.  This was Surprise #1.

Surprise #2 was the spiral staircase inside the apartment. It was located at the entry, leading up to the main floor.   It looked cute and modern but was actually vicious and mean, particularly for people with dodgy knees and big (Size 7) feet.

When I was eight years old I wished mightily for a spiral staircase in my home.  I must have seen it in a movie,  where a lovely young thing ran down the castle tower to a pumpkin or a prince or some such thing.  Going up and down those stairs, I had many chances to channel my eight year old self.  I tried but my much older self complained bitterly about the frequency of going up and down.  It had to do with the plumbing, which was Surprise #3.

Spiral staircase to main floor. Note the strategically place furniture in front of stairs.

Surprise #3 was that apartment’s one and only toilet was under the spiral staircase.

The toilet which is not in the bathroom.  The bathroom is upstairs. 

It was a tiny toilet, installed (I think) according to eighteenth century plumbing.

It might not have been so bad except for the location – across from to the entry door with no dividing wall and the proximity of a full length window with look-out into the neighbor’s kitchen.

But the size. It was tiny. How tiny? Let’s just say, anyone over 5′ 5″ had to assume the position and reverse their way in.

OK. OK. Maybe I exaggerate.  There was no dividing wall between the toilet and the front door but the landlady did put a piece of furniture in front of the stairs to block the view.  And while it’s true that the window did overlook the neighbor’s kitchen, there was also a full length curtain to pull.

However, there’s no disputing the size.  Plus, it didn’t have a wash basin.  For that, we had to go to the main floor,  where the shower and sink was installed.

Hence, twice as many ups and downs those *$#@@$ darned stairs.

Paris, France. 2018