June 5-6, 2006
Paris had arranged beautiful spring weather for my short stopover, and so I skipped the Louvre and instead went on a little bridge discovery tour along the Seine. Paris itself seems to have rediscovered the Seine over the last decade – after building ugly inner-city expressways along its banks in the sixties, it’s now redesigning long stretches for human use, with accessible quays, harbors for house boats, and an open air sculpture museum. The bridges follow the trend: Three of the most recent ones are pedestrian bridges, providing easy access to the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Among them, the Pont des Arts does not only lead to the Louvre, but hosted its own art exhibition with photographs by Francis Gazeau.
There are currently 36 bridges across the Seine in Paris, with the new Passerelle Bercy-Tolbiac scheduled to open this July (although, looking at the construction site, a slip seemed possible). They come in a large variety of styles – from the exuberant Pont Alexandre III to the ultra-modern Pont Charles-de-Gaulle, from the solid stone mass of the Pont Marie to the levitating steel wave of the Passerelle Bercy-Tolbiac. I didn’t walk the entire stretch of the Seine, so some bridges are missing, but I left it at 37 photographs. Wikipedia has a nice collection of entries about all of Paris’s Seine bridges.
My hotel is near Rue Mouffetard, which according to my guide book Hemingway made popular among American tourists. I didn’t read what he wrote, but I did notice that I wasn’t the only photographer around, and that part of the street was graced by some of the same (French) chain stores as Fillmore Street back home in San Francisco. Nevertheless, the narrow street with its outdoor cafes, the small shops, the fruit market, the playground, and for most of its length no cars, felt like a very comfortable neighborhood street.
Do I Look French?
Apparently I do. Several times in these two days I get asked for directions by people who clearly speak French better than I do. Apparently neither my German face nor my California-purchased outfit warns them that I don’t belong to Paris. Another side effect of globalization?