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Through My Lens: Portico of La Madeleine

When I’m photographing my European churches, I’m always on the lookout for an unusual angle. Here’s one: from the portico at La Madeleine.

Happy Easter!

Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, Paris, January 2011

Through My Lens: La Madeleine

Today is Palm Sunday, and I’m posting a photo of Église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine, commonly known as La Madeleine. You’re right, it doesn’t look much like a Christian church. That’s because the building was originally intended to be a temple to celebrate Napoleon’s army. After the fall of Napoleon, King Louis XVIII decided that it would instead become a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. It was eventually consecrated in 1842. La Madeleine is located in the centre of Paris in the 8e arrondissement.

One interesting bit of trivia about La Madeleine: Frédéric Chopin’s funeral was held here in 1849, and he had requested that Mozart’s Requiem be sung. The Requiem has parts for female voices, but La Madeleine did not allow female members in its choir. Eventually, the church decided it would allow a mixed choir to sing at the service, but only if the women stood behind a black velvet curtain.

Through My Lens: Inside Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais

Last Sunday, I posted a photo of Église Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais. For today, the Fifth Sunday of Lent, here’s a photo of its interior. I quite like the look of the wooden stools, though I don’t imagine they’re too comfortable to sit on for an entire church service.

Through My Lens: Église Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais

Église Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais is located in the 4e arrondissement of Paris, just steps away from Notre-Dame. The church is named after Saint Gervasius and Saint Protasius, twin brothers from Milan who lived and died, it is believed, during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, last emperor of the Pax Romana. The present building dates back to the fifteenth century. Although its interior is Gothic, the façade (not pictured) is in the French Baroque style.

I took this photo of the back of Église Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais from Rue des Barres, and it is my photo choice for today, the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

Through My Lens: Église Saint-Germain de Charonne

For the Third Sunday of Lent, here is a photo of Église Saint-Germain de Charonne, located in the former village of Charonne, which was annexed by Paris in 1860 and is now part of the 20e arrondissement.

It is believed that the first church on this site was built to commemorate a meeting that took place in 429 between Saint Germain, Bishop of Auxerre, and Saint Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris. Parts of the present structure date back to the twelfth century. The bell tower was added in the fifteenth century. What is most unusual for a church within Paris is that the parish cemetery remains intact, and was still in use as recently as fifty years ago.

Through My Lens: Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix de Ménilmontant

One of the advantages of spending time well outside the centre of Paris, as I did one winter, is that on neighbourhood walks you sometimes come across surprises like this church. Église Notre-Dame-de-la-Croix de Ménilmontant is my photo choice for today, the Second Sunday of Lent.

This church was built to accommodate the population growth of Ménilmontant, a neighbourhood in the 20e arrondissement. Construction began in 1863, and was completed in 1880. Its architectural style is what’s known as the Second Empire style, which was popular in France during the reign of Napoleon III. It’s known for combining materials (such as iron and stone) and styles (such as Romanesque and Gothic) in one building.

Through My Lens: Basilique du Sacré-Cœur

Seeing as it is the tenth anniversary of my first-ever Lenten series, I thought that for this year’s series, I would return once again to Paris, whose churches were my inspiration a decade ago.

For today, the First Sunday of Lent, here’s a photo of the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart). Thanks to its location at the top of Montmartre in the 18e arrondissement, it’s one of the most recognized landmarks in all Paris. The basilica was built as spiritual reparations on behalf of France for its part in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870. Its unique Romano-Byzantine architectural style was influenced by Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and San Marco in Venice. Construction began in 1875, and the basilica was consecrated in 1919.

Solitude

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the winter I spent in Paris. Although I was on my own, ironically for being in a city so far from home, I had way more face-to-face contact with friends and family than I’ve had this winter. That is not something I ever thought I would say.

Pandemics, eh?

Not everyone enjoys travelling on their own. I really enjoy the trips I take with other people, even when they require a lot of compromise. On the other hand, if I limited my travel to the trips that suit the interests and schedules of my friends or family — well, I’d be giving up a lot of opportunities.

And so, I do a lot of solo travel. I’ve learned a few tricks over the years to help me be comfortable (and safe) when on my own in a foreign country.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned this year, it is this: if you can handle the solitude of living alone during a pandemic, you will thrive at solo travel.

Jardin des Tuileries

Through My Lens: Paris in the Fall

Well. That was … a week. I can’t remember another time when the world held its collective breath for four days. The tension reminded me of double overtime during Game 7 of a Stanley Cup final. In this age of instant communication and fast results, we aren’t used to having to wait so long for an outcome.

Along with yesterday’s news about the US election results came an announcement from BC’s Provincial Health Officer of new orders limiting in-person social interactions. The restrictions — the latest effort to combat the rising number of Covid-19 cases — went into effect last night and will last for two weeks.

For the first time during this pandemic, the orders apply to only two health regions of the province: Metro Vancouver and the Sunshine Coast for Vancouver Coastal Health and all areas of Fraser Health (which includes the Fraser Valley).

One restriction in particular jumped out at me: travel in and out of these regions is limited to essential travel only.

It’s not like I was about to jump on a BC ferry, but these restrictions do not bode well for me seeing my friends and family who live on Vancouver Island anytime soon. It’s starting to look like making any kind of travel plans is still a long ways off.

Which means that this blog will continue to be powered by my travel memories.

Here then is a photo to acknowledge an anniversary that slipped past me while I was distracted by the goings-on south of the border.

Ten years ago this week, I arrived in Paris for the winter. It was a bit of a rough landing as my wallet was stolen out of my bag while on the London Tube a few days prior to my arrival. Getting money wired to me proved to be a challenge as all of my ID, including my passport, was gone.

And then, on top of all that, the home exchange I had arranged for the three months I planned to be in Paris fell through and I had to find another place to live for the last two months of my stay.

Let me tell you: that was four days where I was holding my breath.

In the end, everything got sorted and I had one of the best winters of my life. And I have to say, although I don’t think there is ever a bad time to be in Paris, autumn is particularly lovely. I took the above photo on my first long walk through the city — after I had started to breathe again.