“I hope that man gets swine flu,” I muttered under my breath. I didn’t really mean it, of course, but I’m occasionally an impatient photographer, and people kept walking into my shot. I was standing near the top of the Abbey of Mont Saint-Michel in a light drizzle, desperately trying to get a photo as the sun broke through the clouds.
As one group would leave my frame some other person would walk in. Rather than keep moving, they’d find the one spot that made it impossible for me remove them later, and would camp out and take pictures or rummage through their backpacks.
“Your shots are going to be terrible,” I’d say. “Your family called. They said they don’t want to see your pictures when you get back, so maybe you should just keep walking.”
Just moments before I was hanging over a wall/cliff, trying to shoot part of the abbey that jutted out dramatically over the water. A set of doors in the lower wall was apparently a human factory, as people just streamed out of it like it was some magical womb that produced French adults.
Hopefully I don’t have any magic powers, as about 60 people will now have various diseases, including hantavirus and super AIDs. If that did, in fact, happen to you, I’m very sorry about your typhoid. But really, it’s your fault since you took so long to move.
This dapper chap lives at Passy Cemetery.
The chapel at Versailles.
View of the Seine from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower, as seen on my first day in France, shot from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
One of the things I love about Paris is the amount of green space spread around the city. There was a neat little park behind my apartment, and I discovered this hidden gem (Jardin Michelet) while walking nearby. Tucked between some large apartment buildings, most people passing by probably had no idea it existed.
One of the themes I was committed to working on was the Eiffel Tower reflected in puddles. One of the days I wanted to try it ended up being super rainy, so I ducked into the aquarium at the Trocadero. It was really dead.
One part of the museum has a massive wall with giant, swimming animals projected on it. Across from the wall are balls that visitors can spin that turn these animals in all directions. Feeling a little mischievous I waited until I was alone in the hall and turned all the animals upside down. Like giant goldfish on their way to Valhalla, they dutifully floated that way for a few minutes. I laughed quietly to myself as confused children entered the room.
Detail of the altar thing (pulpit?) at the beautiful Sainte-Chapelle.
Long exposure at the Arc De Triomphe, site of one of the craziest traffic circles in the world.
Paris has a lot of awesome flower shops, all of which seem to treat their window displays as works of art.
Although I think the Rodin gardens are a wonderful place to spend time, I personally don’t like Rodin’s work for the most part. Bored trying to shoot “The Thinker,” I found this flower more appealing in the end.
Interesting skull art in the Oceania portion of the Louvre.
Hot chocolate art in a French cafe.
Sharks in waiting at the aquarium.
Young love on the Seine.
A path of reflection, at the beautiful Albert Kahn gardens.
I hadn’t originally planned on visiting the Palace of Versailles when I visited France this time. Pictures of the gardens I had seen made them seem sort of boring, and I don’t personally find palaces and such very interesting. I mean, it’s cool to see how the kings and queens lived and to learn about the insane ritual that followed them every second of every day, but it’s not really my bag.
Nevertheless, Versailles turned out to be one of my favorite places in Paris. Marie Antoinette’s estate (specifically the Queen’s Hamlet) is incredible, and is something you absolutely have to visit if you’re in Paris. If you can make it out there, I’d encourage you to spend time at the main palace, and then spend the rest of your day at her estate. Skip the Grand and Petit Trianon palaces if you’re limited on time. I ended up visiting twice, and would have gone back again if I had more time.
This next group of photos are all from the Queen’s Hamlet, which Marie Antoinette had built to escape the rigors of court life at Versailles. Built to resemble a rustic French village, it’s almost startling how simplistically beautiful it all is compared to the grandeur of the nearby palaces.
The Temple of Love.
The moulin (or mill). The wheel itself is only decorative, and doesn’t actually connect to any machinery inside the building. The queen built what was essentially her own Disneyland (see the rock fountain below).
Part of the estate is still a working farm and vineyard.
This guy lived at the farmhouse. Because of his two-face coloration, I named him Louis Antoinette in honor of the king and queen who last lived here. He seemed to like it.
I wasn’t going to make this joke, but I think it’s clear you forced me to: there is a fair amount of livestock to be found through Versailles. Here, your mom poses with some of them. (Hey-oh!)
The Tour de Marlborough, built to resemble a lighthouse.
The queen’s house and billiard room. About 12 people contracted the plague while I waited for this shot, if my magical powers are as good as I think they are.
Another shot of a farm house in the hamlet.
The structure on the right is called the Belvedere Pavilion, and is a neat little building. Having fallen on hard times since being used for music and dance prior to the French Revolution, it recently got a face lift.
The structure to the left is listed simply as “the Rock” on the maps provided to tourists. Built in the 1700s, it’s actually a man-made structure that has small waterfalls starting from the upper levels. A small grotto with a peep hole and staircase allowed the queen to hide from annoying guests.
Invalides, as seen from the Eiffel Tower.
The artist’s square is a neat place to hang out in Montmartre, near Sacre Coeur, but if anyone offers you a free portrait, it’s best to say no. This man sits for a paid portrait. Note the third face on the wall.
The Mona Lisa is a small, inconsequential painting at the Louvre surrounded by other works of art far more interesting. And yet, for some reason, it is always swamped. It’s so strange. Notice that it’s set behind like 6 inches of bullet proof glass, while all the other works are in open air. So odd….
If you want to see it up close, keep your hands on your belongings. Pickpockets are known to operate in the tight crowd.
Prayer, Mont Saint-Michel. Not pictured: a sign just out of frame that says “no pictures.” Sorry sign, but I couldn’t pass it up.
Note the white border around the columns in this shot. They mark the edges of a window that is a looooong way up the side of the abbey at Mont Saint-Michel in the cloister, which saw construction begin in the 13th-century. As you can imagine, the window wasn’t there originally. I’m pretty sure that prior to the 20th-century people knew that accidentally walking off this ledge would be fatal, so it amuses me that there’s no balcony or railing or anything. Many a monk was likely lost to a mis-thrown football.
Chaos in the traffic circle around the Arc de Triomphe.
The Grand Arche of the Defense. Go here if you can.
Finally, the shot I was waiting for at Mont Saint-Michel. Just a few minutes earlier the lighting was more dramatic, but what are you gonna do? Mostly alone for a moment, I took a breath and pressed the shutter, thankful at last for a decent shot.
My picture taken, I promptly walked across the garden and stood at the wall for like 5 minutes.