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Gothic Paris: A City of Stone and Glass

Gothic Paris: A City of Stone and Glass

Hidden behind thick walls of stone, medieval Paris hid worlds of colorful glass, painted walls, and gilded decorations. While Notre Dame remains off-limits to tourists as the post-fire restoration works continues, take the opportunity to see one of the most breathtaking examples of medieval stained-glass 

The Shocking Adulterous Affair that Changed France

The Shocking Adulterous Affair that Changed France

In the days of yore, when knights in shining armor pillaged and ravaged the lands, Paris stood as an overcrowded and filthy center of political, religious, and educational power. While the streets were narrow, dark, and full of mud, garbage, and other refuse, those in 

Really Old Buildings Still Standing In Paris

Really Old Buildings Still Standing In Paris

Reflecting on his time in Paris, Thomas Jefferson mused that a “walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.” For tourists and residents alike, this statement still holds true three hundred years later. While many marvel at the beauty found in the uniformity of the architecture of the Second Empire, wandering through the streets of the oldest parts of Paris reveals treasures of centuries and millennia past, offering viewers glimpses into breathtakingly scandalous and violent history that shaped the city

            Once centered around the Ile-de-Cité and spilling over onto the Left Bank, the Roman city of Lutetia has all but disappeared. However, if you find yourself wandering through the 5th arrondissement on a nice sunny day around lunch time, why not stop by a boulangerie for a sandwich and make your way over the Arènes de Lutèce. Built during the first century, this modest former Roman amphitheater, which once had seating for 15,000-17,000 people, was one of the largest structures in Roman Gaul. Built in the Greek circular style (versus the Roman semi-circle), the open-air theater was the site for where the public came together to enjoy bloody gladiatorial games, as well as theatrical performances. After it was completed in the first century AD, the theater continued to host games until the beginning of the end of the Roman Empire in the third century AD. Over the next few centuries, the once majestic arena was gradually forgotten, serving as a cemetery, before it was filled in to make way for the new fortified city walls of the thirteenth century.

            Although forgotten, the arena was not lost. As Paris underwent its magnificent transformation in the nineteenth century, the arena was rediscovered during the building of Rue Monge. Seeking to save the historical treasure from its intended fate as a tramway depot, Victor Hugo and a close group of friends and intellectuals rallied together and formed the Société des Amis des Arènes (The Society of Friends of the Arena). This group spearheaded the efforts to save the historic site, which was first opened to the public in 1896. Today, only a small portion of the original structure remains, with remnants of the stage and various niches and grilled cages in the walls visible from the center of the arena. The stepped terraces, although not original, make the perfect picnic spot, where one can watch as the squabbles between the different generations of the neighborhood as soccer balls bounce in and disrupt highly competitive games of pétanque.

Arena Lutece
Arena Lutece

            Having finished your picnic, head up the hill towards the Pantheon via Rue Clovis. While there, take a moment to stop and appreciate the remnants of the vast medieval wall of King Philippe Auguste. Started in 1190 as a way to protect the city from Norman and English invasion, the massive wall took nearly 20 years to complete. The walls surrounding the city stood between 18 to 24 feet (6 to 8 meters) high and were 12 to 18 feet (4 to 6 meters) thick. They were quiet the formidable foe for any invading enemy of the era. Be on the lookout while wandering around the medieval center of Paris for other sections of the wall, hidden in plain sight as foundations and walls for newer buildings from centuries past.

Section of the Philip Augustus wall
Section of Philippe Auguste’s wall

            Continuing your stroll down towards the river, you will eventually come to the wide Boulevard Saint-Germain filled with cafes, shops, and chocolatiers. As you wander westward admiring the boulevard’s nineteenth century architecture, the medieval Musée national du Moyen Age, also known as the Musée Cluny, is a welcome surprise. Walking around the exterior, you will be able to glance down into the remains of the ancient Roman baths. The building itself a blend of ancient, medieval, renaissance, and contemporary architecture with the completion of the new visitor entrance in 2018. The Hôtel de Cluny, as it was known, originally served as a welcome house for the abbots of the Cluny order of monks and other dignitaries. The young Marie Tudor and her cousin James V of Scotland were both guests here before and after their marriages to members of the French royal family. The hôtel has likewise been home to a number of astronomers (who converted the tower into an observatory), as well as the printing press of the Queen in the eighteenth century. Today the Hôtel serves as a museum to France’s ancient and medieval history with over 23,000 artifacts spanning the centuries. If you have some time, stop in to see the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, the crowns of the Visigoth kings, stained glass windows and statues of saints saved from the destruction of the Revolution, and much, much more.

hotel de cluny
The former entrance to the museum in one of the interior courtyards of the Hôtel de Cluny

Further along, just outside the former ring of King Philippe Auguste’s wall, stands the Abbey of Saint-Germain-de-Près. Considered to be one of the earliest of places used for Christian worship that is still standing today, the Abbey was founded in the sixth century by the son of King Clovis I, the first King of the Franks, as place to house the many holy relics the Crown had obtained.  The storage of these holy relics and the Abbey’s original use as the burial place of the Merovingian kings, resulted in the Abbey becoming one of the richest in France. This richness, however, combined with its location in the middle of meadows outside the defensive walls, made it a frequent target of Viking raids. Throughout the ninth century, the Abbey was repeatedly pillaged and set on fire. However, the faithful members of the Abbey endured, and rebuilt the Church, whose current Romanesque façade dates from 1014. The name of Saint-Germain-de-Près was given to the church in honor of Saint Germain (who had dedicated the first church in 558) following its rededication in 1163 by Pope Alexander.

The Abbey in Saint Germain in 1618

             In the centuries that followed, the Abbey became a focal point for learning, as the Abbey donated a portion of its lands to the buildings for the University of Paris, eventually giving its name to the quartier itself. In fact, until the late seventeenth century most of the land in the sixth arrondissement belonged to and was administered by the Abbey. This all changed with the rise of Bourbons, who made the district of Saint-Germain one of the most desirable locations for a pied-a-terre away from the court at Versailles. Margaret of Valois, Queen Consort of France 1589-1599, started this trend when she pressured the abbey to donate lands to her. Her palace, located at 2-10 rue de Seine, became a haven of intellectual and political debate, while theatrical and ballet performances delighted guests. Following her lead, many other nobles of the court built sumptuous getaways behind large stone walls throughout Saint-Germain, making it the chicest quartier of the era. Sadly, as with many of the churches in France, the Abbey was not immune to the destruction of the Revolution at the end of the eighteenth century. The church was closed in 1792 and the other religious buildings, along with its collection of priceless medieval illuminated manuscripts, sold off. The church itself was used as coal storage site. On August 19, 1794, a massive explosion ripped through the church, destroying much of the historical art and architectural pieces. Thankfully, the church survived, and massive restoration works began in the mid-nineteenth century. The restoration work continues today, with the medieval painted interiors being restored their former glory. Make sure you stop by the tomb of René Descartes and thank (or curse) him for his creation of analytic geometry and other mathematical concepts which allowed for the development of calculus, as well as the use of reason in science

The interior of Saint-Germain-de-Près
The interior of Saint-Germain-de-Près
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Visiting paris? The 6 best spots to take black & white photos

Visiting paris? The 6 best spots to take black & white photos

Do you have an upcoming Paris visit? You have come to the right place if you are looking for some spots where you can take amazing black and white photographs! The city of love has a lot to show you and you can take some really 

Wearing a Paris t-shirt is cliche or trendy?

Wearing a Paris t-shirt is cliche or trendy?

There’s no denying Paris T-shirts have become extremely popular. Most tourists are seen wearing these Paris T shirts as they roam around trying to capture the essence of the city. However, these t-shirts have gained so much popularity that even those who have not visited Paris are seen 

12 reasons why Paris looks best in black & white

12 reasons why Paris looks best in black & white

Paris is one of the most popular cities in the world. It is the city where one of the wonders of the world resides. One just cannot get enough of the memories that it can offer. With memories that we can cherish forever and ones that can take you back in time, it is critically important that you capture all these memories in the best way possible. Let’s have a look at why one should capture Paris’s beauty in black and white. Let’s take a look at the 12 Reasons Why Paris looks best in Black and White.

1) Clear and Crisp

It has been noted that when a photo is taken in color, there are several aspects that dominate the picture. For instance, imagine that you are taking the Eiffel Tower – one of the wonders of the world. Although your subject is simple and pretty large, there are a number of colors that become part of the image, such as the sky, the lawns surrounding the tower, people, the water bodies, the clouds, and many more such interesting backgrounds. These object’s color can decide how well your picture will turn out to be. Though there are a number of images that show the tower in color, nothing can beat the black and white photos of the Eiffel tower. In fact, the photos look much better when they are taken in black and white with the Eiffel tower in the dark. The lights on the tower lend the image a touch of glamour which makes the photo one of the best memories that one can capture.

2) Natural Lighting

Paris has pretty exciting weather. While the city doesn’t get much in terms of snowfall, it does has vivid seasons. Images are usually better when there is proper lighting to the subject so that there remains a focus on what you are trying to capture. When sunlight falls on an array of clouds, it might be worthwhile to see if both of these can be blended to produce a stunning image. With proper lighting, you will also be able to capture shadows of different structures that are most likely to turn out to be amazing in black and white. You might also want to also consider capturing the sun-rays that fall on different subjects over the course of your journey through Paris. The outcome of this is equally stunning.

3) Silhouettes

During the cloudy days in Paris, it is important that you take advantage of the weather. You will be able to capture stunning silhouettes of different things throughout the day. You might want to start with the famous Louvre Museum. There might also be instances where you will be able to capture the moods of the general public and other amazing moments along the way that can aptly fit the subject. Silhouettes will also come out well in the sunny days when images are taken against the light.

4) Interesting Patterns

Paris, being rich in culture, has a number of places where you will be able to find amazing and intricate patterns. One of the most famous places where you can find interesting patterns are in the Catacombs of Paris. This is an illuminated tunnel which, once upon a time, was a limestone mine, with millions of oddly arranged skeletons forming a unique pattern in different angles. Another interesting place where you will be able to find patterns is in the Sainte-Chapelle. This was the residence of the King of France until the 14th century where you will be able to find sainted-glass windows which depict biblical scenes. Capturing such patterns in black and white will show the depth of the image and ensure that your photos are noticed.

5) Architecture

Paris has a rich architecture and is proud of it. You will be able to snap amazing images of the architecture in Paris. With the images being devoid of colors, the beauty of the architecture will be highlighted, and you will be amazed at the result that it produces. With amazing architecture in the form of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur and many more, your images are sure to be noticed, especially when taken in black and white since the locations and subjects are so beautiful.

the pantheon paris
the pantheon paris

6) Infinity points

Paris, being the capital of France, is one of the most happening cities in the country. You will never be able to run out of places that you can visit in Paris. Black and white images of infinity points are something that you must try in Paris. There being quite a few gardens, the rail system, and endless roads all contribute to the beauty and landscape. The endless points offer amazing detail to the surroundings, even though there is no color in the images.

7) Landscapes

There have been several debates among a number of photographers where there is still discussion between color and the black and white landscape images. Though the debate can never come to an end, you might want to capture black and white images of a particular landscape with fog or mist hanging over. With the temperatures in Paris dropping to single digits in the winter, there are chances of mist or fog in many areas. Black and white images of landscapes with a pinch of fog, mist, and cloud can be a perfect combination and something that you will cherish forever.

8) Motion Blur

In case you want to induce some energy into your photos then Motion blur is something that you might want to explore. With the fast-paced life of Paris, you will be able to find a number of instances where you will be able to capture a motion blur which is nothing but keeping the focus on the subject and blurring out the background of the image. When the background is heavily colored, it often catches public reaction to the background rather than the subject. When this is captured in black and white it is guaranteed that the image will gather more attention.

9) Water

One of the best snaps you will get for the water bodies in Paris is to get on a cruise on the river that runs through the city. With black and white images, you will be able to capture the reflections of multiple parts of the city. The fountain and benches surrounding the Eiffel tower is another interesting location.

10) Clouds

We all know how beautiful the clouds look from above while travelling on a flight. Have you ever wondered how beautiful the clouds would look in a monochrome photograph? Every nuance, curve, and twist of the clouds and its trail would be captured in perfection. Paris, with its variety of seasons, offers the nature and outdoor photographs plenty of opportunities. The clouds against a bright sky, the clouds against a night sky, clouds at dawn or dusk, and clouds hiding the sun – there are so many ways to explore this stunning beauty.

Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir
Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir

11) Texture

Black and white photography can bring out the textures in the image. While color keeps one from appreciating the finer points of the image, with a picture that doesn’t have any color, all the focus is on the subject and the image itself. Here, the viewer gets to enjoy the beauty and appreciate the textures. If you are planning to convert the image into black and white later, you should also photograph that piece accordingly. The nuances and texture would be affected differently, leading you to capture emotions, shapes, and lines in a different manner.

Since the is no longer any color in the picture, when a viewer sees a picture, it may not be the vibrant red of the rose that may be calling out to them. Instead, they might be attracted to the texture of the flower, the petal, and its textures. Light, depth, contrasts, textures, and shapes all play an important role here. In Paris, there is no dearth of places where you can find active textures. It is usually a good idea to look for such opportunities during dawn or dusk.

12) Portrait Images

One of the most favorite sections where there are endless possibilities are the portrait images. In Paris, you will be able to find places where there are people putting up their own shows. It is a good idea to ask for their permission before taking a picture of them. Black and white portraits highlight the human emotions. They add a deeper meaning to the images and one can easily understand by looking at the images, the emotions and feeling. A colored portrait can easily distract the viewer.

To Sum It All Up…

There are certainly many more reasons why Paris looks best in Black and White and I’m sure some people will still disagree and say it looks better in color. However, I strongly believe that Paris should be experienced in color but viewed in Black & White. This is what behind my photography philosophy and why such images turn out to be a better memory when compared to colored ones. Paris has a diverse culture and there are many mind-blowing spots where capturing black and white photos would be great. While there are many more reasons why Paris looks best in black and white, these are some of the ones that hold a special place in my heart.

After The Notre-Dame Fire

After The Notre-Dame Fire

April 15th, 2019 will always be remembered as the day the Notre-Dame cathedral caught on fire. Yesterday, April 16th I went to look at the damage with my own eyes and see what’s left after the fire. The good news are, and I’m sure you