Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Paris; a Tale of Two Cities.



It’s midnight, Friday night in Brentford. It’s a town I love, where I lived and worked for many years, where I knew all the villains and all the good people too…everyone knew my name.

Now, as I walk round some of my old haunts I keep meeting people being sick after a long Friday night. I feel a bit strange - I don't have my usual walking stick with me. This time I have a steel one. I wonder where I might be going where I might need an edge like that?
My night is just starting and I can see Mars bright red and high in the night sky.

The coach is early, waiting for me when I arrive – off to Paris!
To save miles we head through an empty city – Earls Court then the Chelsea Embankment and then along the river, up through Peckham, New Cross, Lewisham and out through the dark countryside to Dover – bright lights and bustle.

There is nothing on earth like a journey that starts at midnight, except perhaps for sailing out of Dover at dawn. Too early for that today, this time its dawn at Calais:

We fight through the Pas de Calais (the North country) dark and depressed, all mines and flooded farms like Belgium. This was where Van Gogh was at his maddest when he came to preach to the miners who didn’t listen but gave him plates of potatoes instead.

On through Picardie and the endless farms and graveyards of the first world war.

We hit Paris, through the suburbs, past the Stade de France and onto the Peripherique - best road in the world.

11-00am here’s the Place de la Concorde:

And I’m straight onto the Metro, to Pigalle for the Carrefour to get a baguette hot from the oven, a lager and some cheeses:

I walk through the Red Light district and into the tourist quartier;

And then make the long struggle up to the Butte and Montmartre;

This is what I’m looking for;

The best view in Paris – the rooftops and the Eiffel Tower.
I didn't have any of these;

Because I had a reservation at the best restaurant in Paris - with good company too:

Then I headed off to this;


The Pompidou centre – as unfortunately the Picasso museum still hasn’t reopened.

I couldn’t get to grips with the Pompidou – queuing for tickets, not allowed in until I put my bag in the cloakroom so queuing again. Queuing for the toilets. Then my Camera batteries go so its back down and queuing for my bag all over again. The contemporary galleries were shut as were some of the others.
The Henri Cartier Bresson exhibition queue was never less than an hour long – not enough time for that. So I got grumpy but I did enjoy the Brancusi workshop in a separate museum on the plaza outside.

From there I walked to Les Halles, having a chat with some campaigning Kurdish exiles outside and then down to the river Seine - I walked across several bridges taking pictures of padlocks and Bateaux Mouches, past Notre Dame and back to the right bank.

By then I was footsore and tired of rich parisiennes and tourists. Where did I go next?   
I said it was a tale of two cities - the other half tomorrow.

Click on any photo for a slideshow and better quality .
Neil Harris
(a don't stop till you drop production)

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