Deep under the belly of Paris lie the extensive tunnels and paths of the catacombs. They stretch for over 180 miles through the southern arrondissements. A very small portion of the catacombs are open to the public and house an ossuary, where you’ll get quite familiar with bones and skulls. Skipping out on audio tours before at other landmarks and museums around France, this time we opted in. If you ever decide to take the tour, I would suggest splurging the few extra euros to get the guide. It will give you a nice overview of the long history the catacombs and limestone mining played in the development of the city.
In a strange way, this experience made me feel like I was in Ghostbusters and some ghost was going to pop out at any minute. While at first I didn’t mind seeing human bones as far as I could see through the dimly lit paths, after a while though it became a bit creepy. All in all I think its a fascinating experience and one that better keys you in to the rich and diverse history of this amazing city. For a more sensory experience, take a look at this BBC video story on the catacombs from 2011.
With a population of just over 2 million, Paris is a pretty large city. Like most cities though, there are places of quiet, where one can feel and be physically alone in the midst the city. That dynamic has always fascinated me. I am often on the lookout for those moments of ‘big city solitude’ to go along with the hustle and bustle most often associated with cities. Sometimes they even happen among the crowded sidewalks, cafes and traffic.
This collection of photographs is a small sample of some of the ‘alone’ moments I have captured on recent trips to Paris.
Ample sunshine, fantastic scenery, outdoor activities galore – and let’s not forget the food – await all those who are thinking of making a trek to the French Alps in winter. I had long heard of the Savoie region of France but never understood its place in history or where it lay geographically. That all changed when I took a trip there for some cross country skiing and snowboarding.
I stayed in Le Villaron, just north of Bessans, and traveled as far north as the base of the Col de L’Iseran, the highest road pass in France, above the town of Bonneval-sur-Arc. Even though Bessans is a very small town, it was nice to stay even away from there, tucked away against the side of the steep valley amidst the few houses of the village. I made it as far south as Lanslebourg, to enjoy an incredible day of snowboarding at the Val Cenis Vanoise resort. Judging by the fact that it spanned four stations, had off-piste trails, and a huge variety of terrain to choose from, I thought that I would just hand over my wallet at the ticket counter. It was a very reasonable 31 euros for the day and I walked away feeling like I was the one who had successfully robbed a bank.
As the ski trails at Bessans were the primary point of the trip, I spent three days traversing the vast network of trails up, down and around the town. The trails offered their own interesting views of the river, town and adjacent valley and even at the height of the afternoon, the trails were never too crowded. The cold, crisp mornings and beautifully refreshing sunshine in the afternoons made for perfect bookends to an extremely satisfying days in the mountains. These photographs are from the Val Cenis Vanoise ski resort in Lanslebourg, Bessans and Bonneval-sur-Arc, pictured from top to bottom.
Photographing the late day sunlight is by far one of my favorite things to do. It seems that I often have more of a sense of excitement with waking up early to seize the day (and the great sunlight). There is though something special and almost calming about the late day sun. And what better place to take advantage of it than at the pyramid at the Louvre.
I thought I had seen just about every way to haul a kid around but I learned something new that day. Yes, you can put a kid on your luggage and walk around just as easily had he been by your side. I bet the little guy’s back was killing after this though!
Passengers at Gare de Lyon train station in Paris walk through the main terminal building. It is one of the busiest trains stations in Europe and handles almost 90 million passengers a year. Most trains leaving this station, one of the six major rail stations in the city, travel to the south and east of France. It was built in 1900 as part of the Exposition Universelle.
Whether your interested in history, food, art, architecture or shopping, there’s something for you in Rome. The city has a distinct feel in both color and black and white. I was struck that black and white really accentuated the history of the city. The ample sunlight during the trip was great for adding contrast and depth to many of the photographs.
This year’s Thanksgiving was a bit unconventional. It was not spent inside around the fire surrounded by family watching football while eating turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes. This year I was in Rome, experiencing Italy for the first time and it did not disappoint. The air was warm and refreshing, the sun and green trees were inviting to walk around in as the day wore on.
From the museums and historical sites to the food and drink, I was surprised by how inviting it all felt. The people I encountered were almost all nice, a bit more laid back then in other European cities I have visited. Despite the crowds of tourists it never felt rushed – as if life went by at it’s own methodical pace.
These photos are of the Arch of Constantine, Trevi Fountain, Piazza del Popolo, The Vatican Museum an undisclosed alley and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Next up – a series of black and white images
In my mind, Paris is a city that looks just as spectacular in color as in black and white. The light, people and buildings all have their own feel in both color mediums. I’ve always looked up to the classic (and amazing) black and white street photography of French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson. I find it a constant process to capture as he called it “The Decisive Moment” where light, mood and composition all come together for one split second. I look forward to my next trip back to the city to explore it as well as my own photography in more depth.
Though I’ve taken a few weeks off from posting Maryland photos, I’ve done it for a good reason. I recently spent a week in Paris and am currently working in East Africa.
Despite all the clichés about Paris and France, there’s got to be some truth to them. The city is at once both magical, beautiful and frustrating and incomprehensible. I can’t deny those observations but am always impressed by the exquisite architecture and delicious food that each new visit brings.
As the My Maryland project has focused on stripping away the complexity of my photography and just going for it, I tried to apply some of that same spirit to these photographs of Paris. Many of them were made with the help of the awesome Vélib’ bike sharing program which allowed me to explore many new areas of the city I had never been to before. If anyone is making a trip there I recommend getting a one or seven day pass, you won’t regret it.
Nothing says summer like baseball. The sounds of vendors selling beer and pretzels, the smell of barbecue filling the air and families enjoying America’s pastime together as the sun sets over a beautiful sky. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Oriole Park at Camden Yards which was a true original in that it was the first modern ballpark that was made in the mold of the classic venues of old. It stuck its nose up at the monolithic bowls of the 1970s like Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh, Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati and Veterans Stadium in Philadelphia.
Last Friday was Floppy Hat Night and what person in the right mind wouldn’t want to go and get their very own hat that even features the state flag on the top? Here’s hoping I can take a trip to Aberdeen, Bowie or Frederick before the summer’s out to catch some minor league baseball and soak up the atmosphere there.
When deciding to make the drive home from Rockville to Pittsburgh last weekend to visit family I knew I wanted to try and stop along the way to see what I could find for the photo project. Interstate 68 crosses Western Maryland and is a great jumping off point for exploring that part of the state. I have been to Cumberland on several occasions but hadn’t really stopped to take a look around in many years. So often when traveling back and forth between the two cities I am trying to get there as quickly as possible and don’t make the time to stop. On Saturday, I stopped at the historic train station downtown that now serves as the headquarters of the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad.
I had planned on just wandering around downtown and seeing if anything piqued my interest. After noticing that there seemed to be a fair number of people around for early on a Saturday morning, I found out that the railroad’s excursion train would be running shortly. As you don’t see steam engines operate very many places in the Mid-Atlantic, I knew it would be a unique opportunity to capture something unique.
Merriam-Webster defines it as being “markedly friendly to France or French culture”.
I recently got back from my second trip to France in less than a year. While I visited Paris as a kid, these last two trips allowed me to explore not only Paris in more depth, but several other parts of the country. Paris is of course a good city to just wander around in and enjoy the architecture, sites, sounds and food. I only had a day there but was lucky enough for it to be bright and sunny. It was a Monday and the museums were closed. In retrospect it was actually a good thing because it probably would have been a shame to spend so much time inside.
The other stop was to Dijon. Sure, Dijon still does have the famous Moutarde Maille shop in the downtown part of the city but there was a lot more to see. Dijon is the gateway to Burgundy the famous wine growing region. The wineries are easily accessible by a short bus or train trip.
While France recently got voted by a survey of people from other western countries as the rudest country for tourists, I would have to disagree. People can be a bit snippy to tourists in Paris but considering its the most visited tourist city in the world, a little animosity now and again from the locals shouldn’t be out of the question. It can at sometimes be maddening and inexplicable why the French do things the way they do but if everyplace where like the US it would be a very boring world. My travels have brought me to several different parts of the country, both in cities and small towns, and by far I have found the people to be very pleasant and welcoming. On top of that, the culture and history are unique and it is matched with simply beautiful architecture, mountains, beaches, to say nothing of French gastronomy.
70 years ago today, the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor.
When I put together travel arrangements to visit Hawaii two summers ago, I made it a point to see Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial. I never thought I would get a chance to see this place that was so seminal in American history. I arrived early on a cloudy and humid morning in anticipation of a long line of visitors like myself wanting to see the memorial. After getting my ticket, I had time to walk around the visitor center complex on the shore. There is a very interesting exhibit of all the ships that were destroyed during the Pacific campaign. After about an hour I boarded the boat over to the memorial. As a kid watching the yearly observance on the nightly news, I had always envisioned this big memorial way out in the water. And for some strange reason that notion persisted for many years. In reality the memorial is quite small and very close to the shore of Ford Island.
As the people aboard the boat slowly made their way up the ramp and into the memorial, there was barely any talking. I was definitely taken aback at how much oil was still leaking from the ship, even after so many years. In some sense it made it feel more real to me. We were given about 20 minutes at the memorial before we needed to make room for the next group.