Sunday, August 25, 2013

Notre Dame

Notre Dame is probably Paris's second most famous landmark.  This is my quest to get some decent photographs it.

The first week we were in town, we went to the Île de la Cité, the Island of the City, in the middle of the Seine.  Unfortunately, it was overcast and grey.

The cathedral is amazing.  The scale is hard to wrap your head around as you walk up to it.

We climbed the temporary bleachers that face it (setup for the 850th anniversary of the cathedral), and admired it.  But none of photos from that really came out well.

We walked around it's south side, through the park between it and the edge of the island.

There's a great view from there of all the detail that went into the upper stories: the buttresses, sculptures, and gargoyles.

The best find there, though, was the small playground.  My daughter had a blast.  I love that Paris is sprinkled with little playgrounds.

We walked around the south side, and then crossed the bridge at the east of the island so we could go to the other island, Îsle Saint-Louis, to get lunch and (hopefully) some Berthillon ice cream.  No luck on the ice cream front.  But as we crossed the bridges, we saw that the view of the cathedral was better from the bridges and the Left Bank.

This is taken from Îsle Saint-Louis, right at the edge of the wall, above the quay.

But an overcast day just doesn't make for great photographs.

So during our week off that we took in July, we tried again.  No go, it was overcast again, and the lines were ugly, so we went to Ste Chapelle instead.

So about a week ago, the weather looked nice, with lots of big puffy clouds going past, so I decided to head back down while my daughter was napping, and see if I could finally wrangle some good photos of the cathedral.

And I planned ahead, thinking that I might have the best luck on the edge of the Left Bank.  And I think I was right.

I took the Metro to the Cité station, and then headed straight South, crossing the Petit Pont.  I was rewarded with a view of the cathedral that was about the right scale to actually see it, but there were trees in the way from here at the middle of the bridge.

So I finished crossing, and starting walking along the edge of the sidewalk, peeking at the cathedral through gaps between the sales stalls.

Getting better.  But it wasn't until I got to Pont au Double, the pedestrian-only bridge that runs to right in front of the cathedral, that I started getting some great views.

Then I went down the steps and started taking photos from down on the quay.  It's really a great place to view the cathedral from:

It's nice being able to get some glimpses of people for scale, too.

And from there, with a long lens, you can still make out all the wonderful detail, which is easier to see now that the sun is out.

I admit to having a soft spot for the gargoyles.

Once again, the view from Pont de l'Archevêché is wonderful.  Although not everyone is a fan of the locks.

I ended in Square Jean XXIII, which is at the East end of the cathedral.  It quite a lovely place, with the fountain and all the flowers.

The full set of photos from the last trip are here, with geo-encoding if you really want to see where I was standing.

Jurassic Paris

A Tyrannosaurs Rex in Paris?

Yep.  A parisian sculpter has created a 'life size' sculpture of a T-rex, in polished aluminum.  It's beautiful.  He created castings of a real skeleton to produce this.

It's been shown in various indoor spaces, but was recently installed at the docks of the Bateau Mouche on the bank of the Seine.  I headed down to see it.

 I would have loved to get closer, but I'd need to have tickets for riding the boat to do that.  So I had to settle to taking distance shots with the 200mm end of the lens

These zoomed-in shots show up much detail went into it.

It's sitting on a reflective sheet that lights it from below, creating beautiful effects.  It was a partially cloudy day, and as the clouds passed in front of the sun, it was continually changing in the light.  Wonderful.

And I had to take at least one image and turn it into a high-contrast black and white.

In some digging around for some night-time photos, I found this link which has some more details about it.

It was commissioned by the daughter of the owner of Bateau Mouche, to help promote contemporary art along the Seine.  I think this is a great idea.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Royal Chapel in Paris

When people go to the center of paris, to the Isle of the City in the middle of the Seine, they're usually headed to Notre Dame.  And for good reason.  But if you go to the other end of the island, you can find something else that's quite amazing.

In late July, we took a stay-cation here in Paris, and headed over to see Notre Dame one day (like everyone else).  Unfortunately, everyone else was already there.

Remembering an amazing photo by +Trey Ratcliff of the interior of Ste Chapelle, we decided to go look at it, instead.

Ste Chapel was the royal chapel.  It was built by King Louis IX in the mid 13th century to house relics from Christ.  As such, every inch of the interior is covered in beautiful colors, gold leaf, or mosaics.

It's incredible on the inside.  But the outside is a little uncertain, as it's within a courtyard of the Palais de Justice.  A rather foreboding location.  But the gates of the are quite nice.

The church is covered in scaffolding from restoration work that they're doing on the windows.  Such amazing windows...  But we're not there yet.

The entrance takes you past this stonework, into a lower chapel

And the lower chapel is beautiful, every surface is painted in beautiful colors, or gold leaf, or a statue...

At the end of the lower chapel, is this beautiful tableau:

The details are just amazing.  I strongly recommend spending a good bit of time down here before heading upstairs to the main chapel.

After we spent a good while looking at the details in the lower chapel, we found the stairs in the corner, and headed up into the main chapel, where you arrive in a corner via a spiral staircase.

As beautiful as the lower chapel is, it doesn't prepare you for what's upstairs.

The walls of the chapel are almost non-existent.  It's supported by external buttresses so that they could have these amazing stained lass windows.  My pictures don't even come close to doing it justice, so I will instead link to travel photographer Trey Ratcliff's dazzling photo of the chapel.  Please go look at it, because I can't convey just how amazing this place is, and his photo gives a feel for the awe that it inspires when you're there.

This is apparently the largest collection of 13th century stained glass in existence 2/3 of the windows are original.  While we where there, about 1/3 of the windows were covered for renovation work, so I didn't try to get a sweeping view like Trey took.

Here's a closeup of a small portion of one of the windows, to give an idea of the amount of detail involved:

And the rose window over the original entrance, which is a terrace on the second floor (US floor numbering).

At the East end of the church, the altar is just amazing

And as in the lower chapel, the walls are covered in intricate details

Even the floor is covering in mosaics

All in all, it's a wonderful place to visit, definitely worth the hour or so to see it in detail.