Discovering Paris ~ One Bridge at a Time

“Follow the river and you will find the sea.” ~ French Proverb

Bridges of Paris

Paris is a river town.

Walk along the banks of the Seine. Stroll over its historic bridges. Breathe in the iconic views. No one is in a hurry to get across. The ebb and flow of human traffic reflects the flow of the Seine itself. Slow and methodical. Romantic and magical.

No wonder it is an attraction and has been for poets, artists, writers, lovers and now tourists.

Bridges of Paris

Paris has 37 bridges or ponts across the Seine, many of which were built in the early 1800’s. Earlier than that, if we count the Medieval bridges that once stood. The architecture varies, some more sumptuous than others.

Two of my favorite bridges are the Pont au Double and the Pont Alexandre III, two distinctly different bridges, each with its own history and unique architecture.

Adjacent to the Notre Dame is the Pont au Double. It was completed in 1634, and was built to carry patients to the Hotel-Dieu hospital on the left bank. The bridge derives its name from the toll that was charged, a “double” denier, used to pay for the construction. The bridge collapsed in 1709, two more were built and in 1883 the Pont au Double was replaced by a one arch cast-iron bridge.

Bridges of Paris

To appreciate its beauty, one needs to admire it from below. Its bronze arch is simple yet appealing and almost glistens in the afternoon sunlight.

It is on the lower bank that one can observe life on the Seine. Its barges and tour boats get a very close look at the bridge. It appears they can almost touch it.

Bridges of Paris

Looking across, one can observe the people sitting on the steps watching the river traffic.

Bridges of Paris

Couples have a little more privacy.

Bridges of Paris

And, it’s a good vantage point to get more photos of the Notre Dame.

Bridges of Paris

In complete contrast is the Pont Alexander III.

Considered to be the most ornate and extravagant bridge in Paris, it was named after the tzar and was to symbolize Russian-French friendship. His son, Nicholas II, laid the foundation stone in October 1896.

Bridges of Paris

The Beaux-Arts style bridge connects the Champs-Elysees quarter with the Invalides and Eiffel Tower quarter. It opened just in time for the Universal Exposition of 1900 together with several structures that still stand today like the Gare d’Orsay, the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais which were located on both banks of the Seine. The exposition attracted an impressive 50 million visitors.

Bridges of Paris

The bridge is lavishly decorated with lampposts and sculptures of cherubs and nymphs.

On each end of the pont are two large gilt-bronze statues on 56 ft high granite pillars. Each of the ornaments on the bridge was created by a different artist and each represents a different “fame” or subject. On the right bank are the Fame of the Sciences and the Fame of the Arts. On the left bank are the Fame of Commerce and the Fame of Industry.

Visitors flock to this bridge to have their photo taken. I don’t know how many times we were asked to take someone’s photo for them and were glad to do so. Ron is obliging a young couple in this photo. Can you blame them with a view of the Eiffel behind them?

Bridges of Paris

This young couple was having wedding portraits made and I couldn’t help but take one myself.

Bridges of Paris

Different bridges. Different views. All part of the magic and romance of the Seine.

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Look Who Just Flew In ~ Paris Streets

Man and MachineSurprise! Surprise! Surprise!

One never knows who or what waits around the next corner or what will catch your fancy while walking down the street.

We were quite accustomed to the many street performers in the town squares or along the Seine. But this was unique.

The first time we noticed him, he was in the Marais,  two blocks from our hotel. The next time was in Le Halle’s and then again in the Latin Quarter at night, his carriage all lit up. Didn’t get a picture of that one. His horn has an unforgettable sound, and you know it is he before you see him.

See what one can do to a three wheeled bicycle? Must visit the scrap yard, soon. I may be on to something.

Have a great week.

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Vestiges of Summer ~ September in Paris

“Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”  ~  Anthony J. D’Angelo

Vestiges of Summer in Paris

“Bonjour Madam, Monsieur. Welcome to Paris. It is a good time to be here. The sun is shining. Oui.”

Our talkative cab driver informed us that it had rained and turned cold the previous two and a half weeks and now summer has returned. His good spirits were contagious and I hoped our good weather would last.

It did.

Our primary purpose for this Paris trip was for Ron to attend a week long Street Photography Workshop led by Peter Turnley. Peter’s opening remarks to the group of participants and me, the tag-a-long, was, “of all the years I’ve spent in Paris, I believe you are going to experience some of the best September weather we have ever had.”

And, he was right. Temperatures were in the 70’s, low humidity, and perfect walking and photography weather. As planned, Ron and I remained another week to enjoy Paris at our leisure. This was our first visit and already, I want to return.

Weather is a universal topic and subject to daily comments wherever one lives. From our hotel manager to shop keepers, or anyone we came in contact with, we were reminded of the previous two week’s weather and how lucky we were to be here, now. Big cities can be harsh and unfriendly, but the beautiful weather seemed to bring out the best in everyone. Plenty of smiles, eye-contact, respect and an overall friendly, helpful attitude.

The Sun King, Louis IV, left behind vestiges of 17th century France, glittering extravagances which include grand mansions (now hotels), squares, gardens, and theaters. Presently, these public places once used by the aristocracy, prove to be lovely settings for everyone… for enjoying and embracing the remnants of summer.

Walking through Les Tuileries and Jardin de Luxembourg found us in a world of people who were enjoying their leisure time. Of course, some were tourists, like us, resting for a minute while checking the map to pinpoint the next location to be marked off the list, but many were Parisiennes, perhaps on lunch break, or just taking time to read, nap or lounge in the sun while taking advantage of their abundant green spaces.

Vestiges of Summer in Paris Vestiges of Summer in Paris Vestiges of Summer in Paris

The outdoor cafes, of course, were always brimming with couples and small groups, lingering in the sunshine with an espresso or glass of wine.

Vestiges of Summer in Paris Vestiges of Summer in Paris

There was always a crowd on the lawn at the base of the Eiffle, and sitting on the wall around the Louvre was a favorite resting spot.

Vestiges of Summer in Paris

Place Igor Stravinsky, located by the Pompidou Center, is not only dominated by its creative and whimsical fountains, but also by the many locals and tourists who find its location perfect for eating a gelato or watching the world go by…in the sun, of course.

Vestiges of Summer in Paris

In the park adjacent to St. Eustache, a young woman seemingly enjoyed her time alone to read while taking advantage of the perfect weather.

Vestiges of Summer in Paris-5

Some young people along the Seine took a more serious approach to holding on to summer.

Vestiges of Summer in Paris Vestiges of Summer in Paris Vestiges of Summer in Paris-14 Vestiges of Summer in Paris Vestiges of Summer in Paris

We learned that part of the joy in absorbing any culture is to sit on a park bench, people watch, slow down and relax. We don’t have to do it all.

Vestiges of Summer in Paris

With its many parks and fountains, flower gardens and sidewalk cafes, Paris, not only is the City of Light, but for me, this September, the City of Radiant Sunshine.

“Keep your face always towards the sunshine – and shadows will fall behind you.”   ~   Walt Whitman

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One Trip Every Month: Cathedral of Trees

“I think that I shall never see a poem as lovely as a tree” ~ Joyce Kilmer

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-

Of all the years we lived in Western North Carolina and hiked the trails surrounding us, we had never been to the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest, near Robbinsville. Encouraged by our son to explore this area as he has done, we did just that. Part of the Nantahala National Forest, this 3,800 acre tract miraculously escaped the lumbering of the 1920s which resulted in the clear-cutting of much of the surrounding areas.

The best way to see a woodland is to hike its trails. The one we chose is a two mile, figure eight loop that winds through one of the few remaining tracts of virgin hardwood forests in the Appalachians.

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-

The old heart got a work out after climbing steps that ran along the rushing creek.  It quickly leveled out to reveal that a few remaining rhododendron were still in bloom.

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest- Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-

Soon, we came to a boulder with a plaque centered on it commemorating the poet, Joyce Kilmer, for whom the forest is named. He was a World War I hero who died in France, and the forest was dedicated to him in 1935 by the US Forest Service.

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-

He is also author of the famous poem, “Trees”. Those of my generation surely must recall having to memorize this poem in grade school. The first two and last two lines are the most memorable. This plaque was at the entrance of the trail.

 

As Ron and I walked, we realized  we were whispering. When we encountered other hikers, which were few,  we exchanged whispered hellos. That is the effect the forest has. One of solitude, sereneness and quiet reflection.

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-3

As we entered the area of giants, we marveled at the tulip poplars which are about 400 years old. The largest are over 100 feet tall and well over 20 feet in circumference. I have never visited the redwoods and the giant trees of America’s  west coast, so this is as close to large trees as I have been. I felt humbled and in awe.

Today, the Joyce Kilmer Memorial Forest is home to more than 100 species of trees, including virgin stands of sycamore, basswood, oak, and yellow-poplar. All the more important to preserve what we can of virgin forests. The canopy’s density blocked out the gorgeous blue sky and puffy white clouds of summer,  and then the woods opened back up to reassure us of a non-threatening sky. Because it  rained recently, the forest released its earthy aroma while mushrooms sprouted on the leaf laden floor.

Lacy ferns lined the edge of the trail, and large moss covered logs lay where fallen, maintaining a natural state.

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-2

It was important to watch our footing as the trail changed from packed dirt to tree roots to large rocks. Watching one’s head was also in order.

High up in the tree canopies we heard the twitter of song birds but could not see them. They remained hidden in their lofty cathedral. And on the trail, the only sound we heard was our own breathing and footsteps. No creatures of the forest made their presence known that day. Perhaps they were watching us instead.

One tree we noticed was heavily carved into. Thankfully, it was limited to the one tree and not others, marring the natural beauty that Joyce Kilmer describes in his simple poem.

Finishing the figure eight loop trail, we crossed the bridge and watched the water gurgling and cascading over the moss covered rocks. Light dappled the area and children could be seen playing in the water.

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest- Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-

This was a lovely forest hike.  I felt we had the trail mostly to ourselves which only enhanced our experience of walking in this cathedral of trees.

One last look at the information kiosk before heading back to our family gathering at Lake Fontana.

Joyce Kilmer Nat Forrest-

Have you been on any hikes this summer? And where in this incredibly diverse world were they?

Do check out Marianne of East of Malaga for her One Trip Every Month Challenge.

 

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A Moment in Time

“In the end it’s not about how many breaths you took. In the end it’s about the moments that took your breath away.”  ― Volksweisheitheit

Fontana Fog

If I could stop time, it would be for moments and pictures like this. An afternoon fog lies on the lake calling curious young grandsons to check it out. First, there are three quietly walking on to the dock. From a short distance, we adults just watch them as they enter their private world of discovery. What do they see, we wonder, but are content to just observe. Another grandson joins them to see what they are looking at. A turtle? The loch ness monster? The youngest child who has been taking pictures all day, and some good ones, I might add, ignores his buddies and photographs the beauty. As they head back to the car, one grandson remains for one last look while our son walks down to join him.

Fontana Fog Fontana Fog Fontana Fog

Another special moment in time.

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Beating the Heat

“We grew up around the creek. We wanted to ensure it would be around for years to come for other people to enjoy.”   ~   Margaux Isaksen

One way to beat the heat this summer is to head for the river or creek. A friend of ours we were visiting took us to Deep Creek near Bryson City, NC, in the great Smoky Mountain National Park to just have a look at how popular tubing has become.

This is what we saw regarding this summer ritual.

First, stop at a roadside vendor to rent your tubes or bring them from home.

Tubing Deep Creek

Next, find a place to park and claim your picnic table.

Tubing Deep Creek

You may be content to tube right here or go to the campground on the other side of the river and camp for a week like many do.

Tubing Deep Creek

If you really want to maximize your tube ride, then you must carry your tube up the paved path to one of the bridges. All ages could be seen hefting those huge water lounges for the long hike. The further you walk, the longer the tube ride.

Tubing Deep CreekTubing Deep CreekRemember that small children float faster than adults and if you want to keep up with them, tie them to you.

Tubing Deep Creek

Most importantly, lay back and enjoy the lush mountain scenery.

Tubing Deep Creek Tubing Deep Creek

Be sure to pause in front of the waterfall or take a dip.

Tubing Deep Creek

Finally, lounge in the summer sun on your tube after a long ride down a cold water creek.

Tubing Deep Creek

Summer Fun. Stay Cool!

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Hunter’s Café

Road trips for us inevitably take us off the beaten path, especially when we ask locals about the best places to eat.

Take Hunter’s Café.

While stopping in a wine and cheese shop in Darien, Georgia, we noticed a lovely oil painting of an old weathered clapboard restaurant. The rendition of the small café showed it on a dirt road, surrounded by huge live oaks and looked too interesting of a place to pass up. Being supper time and hungry, we inquired about its location, if it still existed. The owner of the wine and cheese shop was the talkative, friendly sort who gladly gave us directions.  I loved his southern drawl and charm.

After getting in the car, we repeated the directions to each other but didn’t bother to write them down, confident that we understood them clearly.

The cafe is located off of hwy 17 on Shellman Bluff in Georgia’s coastal low country. Sound’s easy, but it wasn’t. It took us two stops along the way, asking for directions.  Advised with new information and gas, we headed down dirt roads, lined with massive live oaks with their gnarled branches reaching out over the road. Finding the correct dirt road to get to the sound was the tricky part.

“There it is,”  I proclaim. “Just like the painting.”

Hunters Cafe, Darien, Ga- Hunters Cafe, Darien, Ga-

Definitely off the beaten path, the crab stew, sweet potato fries and cold beer was worth it, and so was the front porch view of the marsh adjacent to the Julienton River which meanders towards the Sapelo Sound.

Hunters Cafe, Darien, Ga-

In business since 1967, the waitress couldn’t imagine why we had such a hard time finding this iconic place.

“Why honey, everyone knows how to get here. You just didn’t follow the right person. Next time, look for a truck with fishing poles and follow them here,” she laughed.

If only it were that easy.

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