Paris to Normandy, Day 9 — Jardin du Luxembourg, Palais Garnier & Eiffel Tower

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May 3rd 2014
Published: July 7th 2014
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Photos from Day 9, Jardin du Luxembourg, Palais Garnier & Eiffel Tower

We jumped into an early morning cab, waking the driver, and said in what surely sounded like a foreigner takeover, "Luxemburg Garden." He returned a look of defeat and seemed ready to abandon his vehicle. Then I tried my best imitation of the godawful nun who tried drumming French into our souls in high school, "Jarr-dan do Luke's inborg." Immediately, relaxation and relief filled our driver with confidence.

"Ah, schar dan due looks en berrg!" he rushed the words as if his thermos of coffee finally kicked in. And we were off. It was Saturday and my good friend Jim Pattison's birthday. It was predicted to be beautiful weather according to the sun worshippers. Most of the city seemed still asleep and I was glad we were too tired or disinterested to sample the crowded nightlife last night, and half expected to have a garden stroll with m'lady all alone.

In photo 2 you'll see the other side of the structure you'll see in photos 3, 4 and 32. I know, I know. I should have taken a quick pic ala Ben Prepelka of Scenic USA to document the work so I could enlighten you here, but all I can do is offer my best Canadian accent with, "It's cool, eh?" N'est-il pas? Heyna?

The garden was luxurious but without many flowers. I took shots of statues as we walked around the beautiful morning. Although I still didn't act like I've learned anything from Ben, this crop from photo 11 will give the reader a good read about the series of queens and famous women that lined our path. The chilly air soon turned to warming sunlight as the place came alive with joggers and tai chi practitioners. As we walked, talked and enjoyed the feeling of the place, I kept remembering to acknowledge the future me who would remember these moments for the rest of my life. So many times we'd all remember some time, some place, some smell or moment and we'd smile thinking something like, "I didn't know then how much that moment meant to me." This time I knew. No matter what else happens in our lives, this time in Paris will thrill my soul forever.

On our way out we stopped to take photo 32. As we approached from the "photographer's" side, there was another guy walking toward the same spot. Since he was walking down the long side, I was first to pick a spot and bring my camera to my eye. He was very patient as I dialed in and tried a handheld HDR of 3 shots. Then I switched to an ISO of 800 and took a quick one before giving him the best vantage point he was obviously waiting for. Even before I lowered my camera, there were two others who came running past us with some rectangular devices held at arm's length in front of them toward the scene. He gave up before they were done poking their cameras. Interesting how he could have waited all day for me to get my shot, but had no patience for rudeness. Interesting and understandable.

If you go to Google Maps and look up Luxembourg Gardens, you'll see 5 photos from this gallery, and a couple are better versions. On this day we used the map Misure Arno gave us, knowing not to use Barb's phone for directions, and decided to walk to Notre Dame. Our climb to the top was scheduled for tomorrow, but today we thought we'd get a few shots from the outside. Barb also wanted to go back inside to get the genuine and blessed religious stuff to bring back for friends that needed that sort of talisman. In a very short while we were confused and had to ask someone the way. I felt a little sorry for the poor Parisienne who was too kind to say she didn't speak English, and she had a hard time telling us (while trying to remain kind) that the best way was by cab. Finally we understood her and thanked her, but if you go there now, she probably won't talk with you.

We walked what turned out to be about half the distance to our destination in the wrong direction to find a cab that took us across the Seine to the cathedral. These lazy Parisiennes. How does everyone in this country stay so slim when a few blocks is too far for them to walk? It was a short cab ride, but Barb always kept it amusing with this cute little game she played. She would watch the meter with all of her Euro monies in one hand, feeding the accumulating fare into her other hand as the meter changed, always ready when the cabby declared, "Ici vous allez!" No, I never actually heard one say that, not even the one who heard me imitating our French teacher.

Well, you probably guessed it. This was Saturday, and it was later in the morning than our near-private time in the garden, so, yes, the line was too long to buy trinkets inside with the money changers. We decided to walk, and ended up walking a lot further than we would have if our earlier benefactor said, "No Englay." There were much shorter lines in the shops along Rue d'Arcole, and Barb bought a few souvenirs. It was probably the first time in my life I ever bought someone a souvenir, but I picked up this gargoyle for Curtis Salonick, a friend whose strangely artistic photography led me to believe this prop would fit nicely in his elaborate collection.

After crossing the Seine on the other side of the island, we walked around a bit more before taking a cab back to our hotel where we regrouped for an afternoon at the opera.

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Misure Arno told us to make sure we tell the cabby the Garnier Opera because there are two opera houses in Paris. We never did ride the Metro while we were there, but I was looking forward to the famous French cab rides through Paris. They all drive like I do –as if the speed limit is a suggestion and it's coded to be about half of what it really should be. The Metro would have been cheaper and sometimes even faster. The worst part about the cab ride is that the meter still runs when the traffic doesn't. Only one time did a cabby get upset with another driver. A semi-conscious guy on a motorcycle seemed to be more into impressing his passenger girlfriend than being aware of his surroundings, and eventually swerved right into the path of our car. If our driver didn't slam on his brakes and move to the side, the girlfriend would have been quite impressed. The cyclist threw out an embarrassed hand of apology, but our driver had too much adrenaline circulating to immediately accept. Still, a motorcycle seemed by far the best way to maneuver around traffic on these busy streets.

We got out right in front of the Palais Garnier, and my camera was to my eye as Barb handed our driver a fistful of Euros. This place is known for promoting international entertainment, and there was a wonderful street performer working the crowd in front of the building. We decided to walk completely around the magnificent structure before feasting our senses on the inside marvels. The building reflected in photo 44 appears to be a structure that curves at a street corner, but it is not; the illusion is created by the curve of the glass. Some of the folks inside surely thought I was taking a shot of them.

Again the interior shots required very high ISO settings, and I longed for the use of my tripod. Eventually we made our way to the balconies in front of the building where we could look down to the street performance. You may notice a couple streaks in the right upper edge of photo 54. I wondered what anomaly caused this distraction, and finally realized that they are strands of hair of the girl standing to my right. I have many more photos of the performer who was quite a gifted guitarist with an amazing list of tunes and an engaging personality to work with the crowd. When I later typed in the web address he displayed on his tip case, the computer went nuts with all kinds of malware warnings so I won't be able to promote him here.

We left the magic of this place and headed "over that way." I forget our intention (if we had any), but we ended up back at the Louvre before we headed back to our favorite Cafe Republique for a repeat performance of great taste. Afterwards we picked up my tripod and headed over to the Eiffel Tower. Misure Arno insisted the lights come on at 8 and the 5-minutes-every-hour light show will start at 9.

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We arrived on location before 7:30 wondering why we hadn't questioned Misure Arno's advice. In addition to the d'Orsay near-miss-information of yesterday, we were realizing that lights on the tower would be somewhat meaningless until the sunlight gave up its watch. We walked to the side hoping for a peopleless shot or two before heading to the spot I picked out earlier to setup for the light show shots. We were told back on Day 1 to say we don't speak English if someone on the street were to ask. So when a couple of ladies walked up and said, "Do you speak English?" I dutifully lied. They immediately recognized my lack of fibbing talent, and continued, "We were wondering which way is the line to the top." Without hesitation I explained I wasn't sure, but think it's over that way –at least I've seen a lot of folks walking that way...Well, you ladies have a nice night. I checked for my wallet and didn't have one because I never do.

This reminded me of a story. Stop me if I told you this one. I was in a bookstore with a book to my face when I noticed a guy walk in and approach each patron, hand them something, then move on to the next. When it came to my turn I took it. It was a business card saying something like "I'm a veteran and I am now a deaf mute and I'm too proud to beg, but if you would like to contribute to my cause by buying this pin to show your patriotism, it would be appreciated." Pinned to the card was a lapel pin fashioned as a waving American Flag. He then went back to each patron in the same order and picked up his wages. He seemed rather suspicious, and on some kind of speed drug. When he came to me, I kept my eyes on my book while I handed him back the card saying, "I can't read," which I thought would be the joke of the day until he replied, "That's okay, man."

After a few shots of mostly playing with the fisheye and welcoming the return of the tripod, Barb & I packed it up and headed for "the spot." Photo 62 was taken at 8:31, and you can clearly see the sun hadn't packed it in yet. It shows some of the folks waiting behind where we'd be for the next 2 hours. You can see parts of the large park where we setup on a footpath that separated the section where folks picnicked from the section you can see in the remainder of the shots where it was closed off to public access. Once while we waited, a drunken guy wandered in that restricted area and immediately bicycle cops escorted him out.

Many folks came by and asked if I'd take their picture. They see a tripod and think that this professional photog knows how to work their phone and will get that great shot they can't. One couple was amazed to think that I thought of using flash to bring out their faces, and it occurred to me that not everyone thinks in photographic terms. Where we were setup was the perfect spot for the old grifter gig of asking me to take a picture while an accomplice swipes my gear behind my back, so everyone's snapshot has my tripod in the shot.

It's quite a festive atmosphere in the park waiting for the lights to come on and the Saturday night fun to begin. Burning balloons like miniature hot-air vessels appearing, rising and disappearing in the night sky over the city of lights before it's officially lit is the tease that steals the attention of many. A guy sits on a bench off to the side and plugs his guitar into a portable power amp and serenades the crowd with beautiful music. Barb decided to use her phone to google lights eiffel tower, and quickly learned that they automatically come on with the street lights. The time each day varies with the length of daylight, suggesting a sensor somewhere. We also quickly learned that Misure Arno and the hotel's concierge could both be replaced by a phone app. I wonder if those Viking earpieces could also be replaced by an app.

Photo 63 was taken at 8:44, and photo 64 was almost 9:32, which is when the street lights and tower lights finally illuminated. The marquee-like light show starts on the hour AFTER the lights first come on, which, of course, meant we'd be staying about another hour unexpectedly enjoying some of the Paris nightlife. We still hoped to get up early tomorrow because Misure Arno and the concierge assured us we should get to Notre Dame early to climb the tower which opens at 8am, but the lines start much earlier.

I put the photo that appears at the bottom of this post to a Facebook vote, and the results were somewhat what I expected. Each one had its good and bad points, so it was difficult for me to chose one. Many expressed what I felt about the 3 of them, but most ultimately voted for only one. When I counted the votes, all three tied, each getting exactly seven.


13th July 2014
Eiffel Tower, 3rd of May, 2014 at 21:40

Eiffel Tower
Love this and many of your photos. I have nominated one for photo of the week. Keep an eye out for it. I am also interested in what type of camera you are using. Seems to have a great dynamic range. Cheers, Rob
14th July 2014
Eiffel Tower, 3rd of May, 2014 at 21:40

Thanks so much, Rob. For the France trip I used the Sony A7R. The photo galleries on my website that are linked to the blog posts will have all of the EXIF listed at the bottom of each photo.

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