Monday, March 8, 2010
On Friday I took a very long walk around my neighborhood, the 16th Arrondissement of Paris. It was a really good walk, I think I took close to 100 pictures on Friday alone. I saw so many things just in a matter of hours! I always go the same direction from my apartment, toward the Eiffel Tower and the Trocadero metro station...so I decided to go the other way. Maybe 100 yards down the street and I hit the Avenue Victor Hugo--full of beautiful shops and boutiques and all kinds of cool stuff! There is one store that is entirely different kinds and shapes of candles, and another that is an apparently really famous chocolate shop where the owner makes all sorts of different shapes from chocolate, HUGE shapes, I mean like bears that are almost as big as me...there were actually eggs made of chocolate across a table, one with a chicken on top of it that was about 5 feet tall. Then the street hit the Place de Victor Hugo, so I just continued around the circle down Victor Hugo...and hit the Arc de Triomphe! Yep. 15 minute walk from my house...who knew? So of course I had to follow where curiosity lead me: right down the Champs d'Elysees! There were sooo many people, so I just continued walking. I was simply noticing the people that were out and about and how many different kinds of people are in this city. Compared to the town I come from Ann Arbor is pretty diverse and seems to have people from all kinds of places...but Paris is exceptional in its diversity. I have met people (some in my French classes) from Russia, Africa, Sweden, London, The Netherlands, Korea, Germany, Italy, China, Australia, and various areas of the U.S. It is just such a cultural center of the world that I am still trying to comprehend it. So I simply people watched...taking in the different languages that I heard and the way people would interact with each other. I was sort of trying to see if I could tell the tourists from the true Parisians. I still have no idea unless I hear someone speaking English...even then I suppose they may not be tourists. So I people watched, taking in how much of the of the world is represented in such a small part of it. Then I got to the end of the Champs d'Elysees, to the Les Invalides and took a lot of pictures, especially from the view I had on the Seine River. Some of the architecture of that spot was absolutely magnificent. I found myself paying close attention to little parts of much larger, grander things...like on small statue that was situated on the edge of the bridge...it was a small, winged figure that had some grafitti in red on the side of its abdomen. I wonder why someone chose to put the graffitti there, if it was supposed to symbolize something. It was actually quite sad to see; it almost appeared as if the it was bleeding, being made from very dark stone the red stood out very well, you can sort of see the red in the photo on the right...I tried to cut it out at the time but looking back I wish I had taken a picture of the whole thing so that the effect of the red could be seen. Anyway, I turned around and began walking along the Seine river. I took pictures of the boats that were alongside of it, tied up--not because they were necessarily pretty or extravagant or anything of the sort really, but simply intriguing. They reminded me of an old movie I have seen (and certainly don't remember very well) where the grandfather has a boat and takes his grandkids for a ride down the river. They all seemed sort of old, well-loved. That's why I liked them I think...I know Paris is know for it's beauty and high-class sort of things, where every building looks fit for the king from an outside perspective, but to me it is the little things that people have here, the small places that are well-loved and little-known that I think are interesting. In other words, what is the "Parisian lifestyle" on a smaller scale? What happens when we think of it in the context of someone we normally wouldn't think twice about, like the old lady who "slowed you down" as she walked in front of you on the sidewalk, or the blind man who sat across from me on the metro this weekend...what is Paris to them?