Our original idea was to find an apartment available in posh Marais. My mom and I settled with a great looking place in Montmartre since we were very last minute with the booking. We couldn’t have been happier after having spent time in both locations. Marais is incredibly beautiful; high end boutiques and a stroll away from Notre Dame. But Montmartre is where you want to be for a long stay - the town is packed with indie designers, home to Sacre Coeur Basilica, high end dinning, and the famous Montmartre cemetery (One of the main burial grounds during the French Revolution and resting place to other infamous names such as Jean-Honoré Fragonard). Heads up fashion designers! Abbesses is overflowing with fabric stores!
It isn’t likely you’ll want expensive meals every night; in Montmartre we had endless choices at dozens of nearby markets. Our mornings normally looked like this (a chocolatine, café crème and a quiche from around the corner).
Bare in mind that tips are included in the price at restaurants in Paris. We found out this particular establishment charged nearly 50% extra for the service if you were to eat there rather than take out. Also, on the topic of coffee, unless you’re an espresso drinker you’ll have to be more specific when ordering a coffee. A café long or an amercano is the equivalent to ordering a coffee in North America.
My first night in Paris didn’t yield much sleep, so at 6am I sleepily trudged up the hill to Sacre Coeur to watch the sun rise. The town was more or less asleep minus a few shop owners, street cleaners and groups of boys drinking their last rounds for the night. There is a image in here of my view.
I made a few visits to the cemetery since it was a 10 minute walk and housed approximately 100 feral cats (obviously I loved this). You’re likely to see anywhere from 5 to 20 on a given visit. I met an old woman who visits them daily, yelling names I assumed she gave to some and leaving food and water. I heard that this is a sort of dumping ground for people who move and need to get rid of their cats. I found this terribly sad because the population is out of control. Some of them are visibly ill and dirty or have broken/sprained paws. All 60 or so that I saw over the course of the week ran away from me save for one who purred and loved to be scratched around her ears.
The graves are so embellished that I would say it’s less eery than it is beautiful; a celebration of life and loved ones. The grave sites are so timely that there is actually an overpass built within a foot from some of the monuments.
The Eiffel tower is pretty spectacular. I think I enjoyed it better from a far due to the tourists. I gave up photographing it very quickly and joined the groups by sitting in the park with my Nutella Crepe (do you know they’re gaga for Nutella?)
My (personal) favourite place to walk around endlessly was Ile de la Cité and it’s surroundings (down to the Latin Quarter, through Marais to the Bastille, along the Seine to the Louvre and les Tuileries. The grandness of everything was overwhelming. The first day I spent there, as you can see, had the perfect sky for it.
Since I graduated university nearly a month ago my funds were at an all time low. I had more film than money in the bank so other than window shopping and student discounted museum visits I dedicated the trip to shooting. I narrowed down my 6 cameras at home to 3 so to not break my back. Here are some suggestions for photographer’s first visits to Paris:
• La Maison Européenne de le Photographie (MEP), located in Marais. It houses contemporary photography exhibits and permanent collections. Well worth a visit.
• Jeu de Paume is also well regarded for contemporary works with more attention to video installation and graphic design than the MEP, but I sadly missed my chance to see it.
If you’re in need of equipment there is Prophot who have more than one location (the Lozeau equivalent for Montrealers). For Prophot, used cameras, film, darkroom equipment and rentals (you name it) just walk down Boulevard Beaumarchais. Store after store after store! A must for any photographer.
We decided for our marché aux puces experience to go with Vanves, which had great reviews. It paid off! My mom was swooning over the antique art materials and I left with an arm full of goodies. I can’t recommend this flea market enough.
My last comments to accompany my digital shots was my day trip to Versailles. My mom decided to visit Claude Monet’s Garden in Giverny while I made my way to the palace. We both met up for dinner in Montmartre, feet blistered and patience tested. There’s certain frustration when you visit a place that you’ve studied/seen in time pieces and imagined in your minds… overrun with tourists, tourist attractions, roped off areas and large billboards with colourful maps and information. You really have to put that aside and just remember where you are if you’re to fully enjoy it. My personal goal was to see the gardens and Marie Antoinette’s estate. The palace will have to be another visit for me, don’t expect to see everything in one day.
Au revoir, Paris!