Gallic Fever

Toujours francofolle !

About the “header” photos

From where I lived for six mostly-wintry months in the 19th arrondissement, the Buttes Chaumont park was a four-minute walk up the short Avenue de Laumiere. Often, I waited at a bus stop facing the local town hall and right next to the park’s main entrance. Many other foreign residents would much rather walk in a gorgeous park than figure out Paris bus lines and use them, but for a long while, I avoided so much as entering the park. To me, nature, even well-groomed nature, is scary. But eventually, I succumbed to curiosity about the park’s  architectural adornments: the Temple of Sybil (see it in the photo) and a floating footbridge that, when seen from my usual distance, looked like a landscape architect’s plaything. I waited for sun — which could be a good wait during some of my months — and eventually did join the passing runners and baby carriages on the outer paths of the Buttes. My determined march up to the Temple was steep and high enough to increase my sense of health. Company on the summit was sparse but in really good weather, the space available — about the size of typically tiny Paris student’s studio — must fill up fast. From the Temple, you can see most of the 19th, which is saying a lot. And, the footbridge, as it turned out, was sturdily stable. So much for any possible Tarzan’s Jane sensations. But as my vantage point for the park panorama, the bridge was peerless. I looked forward to another walk across in the blooming season.

The Pont Marie takes you to the Ile de la Cite.

Unforgettable backdrop for scenes in the classic Bertolucci film, “Last Tango in Paris,” the Bir-Hakeim bridge, above, is one of only three Paris bridges bearing Metro tracks. (Not only that, but the Bir-Hakeim station is where you’ll get off for your tour of the Tour Eiffel.) So, your lightness-of-being Metro rides above the Seine can be had only via Line 6 (Etoile-Nation) over the Bir-Hakeim — and via Line 5 (Place d’Italie-Bobigny) that travels on both Pont de Bercy and the Austerlitz viaduct. Merci to three of my super-parisiennes for their gracious help: Claire – the inveterate bus rider, Jacqueline, who has walked me all over her historic and elegant, Passy neighborhood near the Bir-Hakeim bridge, and Marie-Paule – the Velib’ devotee. (The Metro bridge question happens to be tougher to answer than you might think, which is why I gave up and called on my pals for assistance.) Longtime and recent friends, some of them my 19th arrondissement former neighbors, never fail to spike the temperature of my Gallic fever. . . . Merci, voisins!

Art nouveau Metro signs by Hector Guimard.

The Metro experience improves when you enter a station through the art nouveau graphics and structure designed by Hector Guimard. Yes, I’ll take the Metro before the New York subway anytime (except rush hour, the great equalizer). But whenever I can, I allow enough time to take a bus and take in the whole passing Paris scene — including, often, a Guimard Metro entrance, and maybe other art nouveau marvels, too. Beyond speed, the occasional Metro ride does offer the benefit of station posters advertising concerts and exhibitions I might otherwise miss. Otherwise, though, time spent underground in Paris seems a waste. I truly admire the many bike types who subscribe to Velib’ and enjoy total freedom of vision.

 

Every ten minutes, the tower twinkles for three minutes.

Every ten minutes, the tower twinkles for three minutes. 

Gargoyle's point of view is a typical Paris photo subject.

Gargoyle’s point of view is a photographer’s  Paris favorite.

The Promenade Plantee in the 12th arrondissement inspired the NYC High Line.

The Promenade Plantee in the 12th arrondissement inspired the wildly popular NYC High Line.

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