Reaching to heaven

Horrified at the destruction of centuries of history, culture and art in the fire of Notre Dame. The last time I was there it was early spring, the sun had come out and shone on the centuries-old limestone. Walking around one side of the vast cathedral I looked up from the shadows it cast over the streets of the Ile de la Cite, to see the spire reaching up out of the shadows into a clear, blue heaven above:

Notre Dame from Ile de la Cite side street

In front of the iconic twin bell towers the first blossoms of spring were appearing on the trees in front of the cathedral. I was in Paris in the spring light, walking by the Seine and happy and drinking it all in. It’s ironic that mastering fire was part of what set early humans on the course to develop the level of civilisation that could create wonders like those cathedrals that took generations to build, and yet fire has devoured so much of our history and buildings, from the library of Alexandria to the Glasgow School of Art to Notre Dame last night.

Notre Dame and spring tree

Notre Dame 2

One of the great rose windows, this one at the front, between the bell towers, welcoming the curious visitor and the faithful alike, spring sun on old limestone:

Notre Dame detail

The Quiet City

Love this brief video by Andrew Julian, taking in my beloved Paris in the winter, before the tourist season starts to fill the streets increasingly. Like my own Edinburgh the tourists never really stop coming, but you can notice the difference as the seasons pass – early spring and the approach to Easter see the visitors increase rapidly here, and also in Paris. When I was last there it was very early March, so the visitors were at a much lower mass than later in the year, but certain spots like the Louvre or Eiffel Tower are eternal magnets to visitors even at that early time of year, but since we made a point of walking off the main tourist roads we often sat back and relaxed in very quiet bars (also much cheaper than those on the main drag!), or wandering through a street market. The video is rather lovely, very nice, sharp picture quality, and doesn’t hurt having Arvo Part’s music on it…

The Quiet City: Winter in Paris from Andrew Julian on Vimeo.

Can it really be five years since I last walked the streets of Paris? Strolled over the beautiful Pont Neuf, browsed for bande dessinee in the bookstores of the Latin Quarter or the boquinistes along the Seine? Lot of things have happened since I was last in the City of Light, and most of them not very nice, often think it isn’t just that I want to return to Paris, I want to return to that point before so much that was wrong and bad in my life happened.

Rue Saint Andre des Arts by night
(despite not having the tripod with me I managed to get some half decent night shots of Paris on my trip, this is one of my favourites – I loved walking Paris at night)

Since we’re on a Parisian theme, here’s a short video I shot with my old still camera, which had limited video but did the job (not HD back then, alas) – descending from the summit of the Eiffel Tower, I was near a small window in the lift and clicked the camera to video mode and let it run for the whole way down to the first floor:

La Tour

Been browsing through the fascinating Retronaut website quite a bit recently, all sorts of images from yesteryear, be it old catalogue ads, Max Sennett’s 1920s bathing beauties, old footage from the 1890s and more, well worth bookmarking and browsing through. This is one that caught my eye, some fabulous photos documenting the construction of the Eiffel Tower.



There’s something fascinating about seeing some great landmark construction in its early stages – I remember thumbing through a book I used to sell in my old bookstore which was a photographic history of the mighty Forth Rail Bridge (not dissimilar to La Tour Eiffel if you stood it up, I suppose, both huge Victorian era steel structures, immensely strong yet elegant, both still perfect over a century later, both now indelibly marked onto their respective nation’s psyche and identity).


Seeing just foundations at an area you know well but not yet with its primary landmark, then seeing pics of a partial structure, incomplete yet with enough there for you to recognise as it slowly takes shape into the iconic structure we know today…


And here are some shots of La Tour I took myself over a century later:

Eiffel Tower from Parc du Champs 4

Eiffel Tower from Parc due Champs

Eiffel Tower 2

Look at the sheer size of the legs close up – if you click on it to go to my Flickr page you can look at the larger version for details, you can make out the staircase inside the legs, a staircase I was walking up ten minutes after taking this photo. Sure, we took the lift from the first floor to the top, but for the first section we walked up through all that metalwork, it’s the best way to experience La Tour if you go.

Eiffel Tower

Looking right up inside the tower:

Eiffel Tower 4

And here’s a short video I shot standing directly underneath the tower:

Some of the huge wheels which wind the lift cables:

Eiffel Tower lift wheels

Looking down at how tiny the people look below – and this is just from the first level, not the top!

Eiffel Tower looking down from first level

View from the top of the Eiffel Tower, the City of Light spread out hundreds of feet below:

Eiffel Tower looking to Place de Varsovie and Jardins de Trocadero 2

And looking towards the Champs Elysee, you can see the Arc du Triomphe clearly here, shot from hundreds of feet in the air above my beloved Paris:

Eiffel Tower looking to Arc de Triomphe

And there is old Gustav Eiffel himself – well a waxwork anyway, in a cabin with his blueprints for La Tour on the very top of his magnificent tower:

Eiffel Tower waxworks

And here’s another short video, this time from the top, looking across the Parc de Champs du Mars, past the Ecole Militaire towards Montparnasse and the (rather ugly) modern towerblock of the Montparnasse Tower (one of the few large modern buildings in the historic area of the city centre – after this blot they stuck mostly to putting the modern skyscrapers outside the historic area in La Defense):

“Made it, Ma, top of the world!”

Je suis Napoleon!

God, I miss Paris, I so want to go back and walk her streets and explore her many boulevards, galleries, bookstores, museums, bars…