Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Parisian Statues of Liberty

The weather has often been seasonal so far this summer, which is a welcome change from the standard succession of dry heat waves. It has even rained quite a bit at times. We need the rain, so I can’t complain, although I’d prefer that it rain during the night, rather than during the day when I sometimes need to go out.

I took a picture of the Eiffel Tower from the Mirabeau bridge recently. This bridge is about a mile downstream and southwest of the Eiffel Tower. It’s a good spot for a photo because it shows both the tower and the Grenelle bridge, and the Grenelle bridge is interesting because there's a 1/5-size replica of the Statue of Liberty on the central island on which the bridge is anchored. So you get both the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower in one shot, which is great for confusing tourists and others who don’t know the city well.

There are actually several Statues of Liberty in Paris. One is next to this bridge, as I’ve just mentioned. It's not an exact replica of the one in NYC, but it’s similar—it was a gift to the city from a group of American expats in 1885. Another is much smaller, and in the Luxembourg Gardens, and it’s not an identical replica, either. It was a gift from the sculptor himself (Bartholdi) to the City of Paris.

And that’s not all … there’s a full-size replica of the flame of the statue in NYC alone, at the intersection on the place de l’Alma, where Princess Diana died. After she was killed, people thought the flame was a monument to her, but no, it has nothing at all to do with her. So many people left junk at the site that they put a little rope around it, although it appears that most of her groupies have grown up or forgotten her because there isn’t much junk around the flame these days.

If you’ve ever seen Roman Polanski’s film Frantic (which is a moderately interesting film), the final shootout occurs around the first of these replicas, near the bridge.

Excursion boats on the river, like the Bateaux Mouches and the Bateaux Parisiens, used to go all the way out to the statue at the Grenelle bridge on their 70-minute river cruises, but after an accident a few years ago in which several boats bumped into each other, this part of the cruises was removed. Too bad, as you could get some really nice shots from the boats. I don’t know if any other companies pass by the statue.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Latest videos, and Bastille Day

One advantage of digital technology is that it costs essentially nothing to produce digital photos or videos, once you have the equipment. This allows me to go out and take pictures or videos freely … one of the few activities that I enjoy that doesn't cost lots of money. As my school has given me very few hours of teaching lately, I've been shooting more videos in order to take my mind off the fact that fewer hours mean even less money to live on.

I finally did a video on the Promenade Plantée. It’s 23 minutes long, which is about ¼ of the time required to walk it in real life. It’s the only video that someone has disliked so far. Maybe it’s a bit on the long side. But I did want to show how the parkway looks. And much of it is in my hand-hand traveling “you-are-there” style.

I’ve also done a throwaway video on the rue de l’Échaudé, a tiny, quiet street in the Latin Quarter just slightly off the beaten track of tourists. Despite its proximity to the touristy areas, it's usually almost deserted. I selected it just because I liked the quiet of the street; it has no particular sights of interest.

And I’ve also finished a video on the Marché d’Aligre, a market on the east side of town. People talk about it in the same way they talk about the rue Cler (i.e., they exaggerate a lot), but it's really a street market like any other in Paris, and street markets are legion in the city. I suppose visitors come to the city, see one street market, and are struck by its charm, and assume that it is unique. But Paris has street markets in every neighborhood, and they all have that same charm … that’s one of the attractions of Paris.

I found many of the merchants at the market to be very hostile. France is a country that is hostile to photographers generally, which is unfortunate since it is very photogenic. Some degree of paranoia is par for the course whenever you take pictures in public. But this market was worse than most. I felt as though I was not welcome there, whereas at most street markets the merchants seem to be happy to see customers. Maybe I looked too European, although there were plenty of customers there who looked very French. The merchants seemed mostly to be of recent immigrant ancestry, so perhaps they regarded those who are obviously not of the same ancestry with suspicion. They weren’t all that way, but enough of them were like that that I don’t have any pressing desire to shop there in the near future. I just wanted to get it on video because some visitors to Paris ask about it, having read wonderful hyperbole about it in a travel guide somewhere.

In other news … today is Bastille Day, the French equivalent of the Fourth of July in the United States. There’s a huge parade on the Champs each year on this date, although it’s essentially a military parade and some French people question the appropriateness of a strictly military parade these days. There are also huge firework shows throughout France in the evening, especially the big one at the Eiffel Tower. The crowds watching the parade are enormous, so I’ve never even tried to go to see it in person. And in the evening, the city is filled with drunks who use the holiday (and every other holiday) as an excuse to binge drink. So I just stay home on Bastille Day. It’s a day off work, which is all that matters.

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