The Saturday streets of Paris can be busy which encourages me to get away from the main boulevards and delve into the smaller streets or move out further a field.
Having not spent much time on the left bank this visit, I decided to give my feet a rest, catch the metro and visit a museum on the other side of the river, that hopefully wouldn’t be overrun with people and wouldn’t require lining up for an hour or so.
I am not a fan of lining up and avoid it, whenever possible.
Figuring that the only people visiting the Muséum National d’histoire Naturelle on a Saturday would be parents with their children.
To my surprise the dull, grey sky had turned into a brilliant bright blue by the time I had surfaced from the metro.
The streets were quiet and heading in the general direction of the museum, I could see a mosque ahead that I had been meaning to photograph, what a surprise bonus! This is what I love about Paris, stumbling across unintentional sites along the way.
It is becoming clearer that I am getting to know Paris a little better each time. Quite often I can either glance at a map and have a general idea where to go, or I can use an inner sense with the aid of a few landmarks. I often find new routes and am surprised with myself, when I piece the areas together.
Speculating that there would not be a line up at Muséum National d’histoire Naturelle was correct.
Not a soul around.
Generally it is the security bag checks that create the lines, except for in the case of Musée l’Orangerie, yesterday, where they were crowd controlling to allow a more pleasant experience.
Spotting my camera in my bag, the security guard warned; sans flash.
Purchasing my ticket within seconds and scanning it to allow me through the turnstiles was efficient and I was already liking the experience.
Upon entering my heart sank a little, the very dimly lit museum was not going to allow for the shots I was hoping for.
The main attraction for me was the hall of evolution. A grand parade of ‘stuffed’ animals from elephants and giraffes down to tiny bugs and birds, appearing to be marching along in a stampede.
A few light bulbs went off and the guards were straight onto the rule breakers. I wasn’t going to risk being thrown out.
Trying to find the best position, I sat on the floor, putting my camera through the railing but it just wasn’t working. The light was too dim.
What I had forgotten, when I sat on the floor, was the rail above my head and thwack, at full speed the iron bar nearly knocked me unconscious as I lept up. Nursing my throbbing head, I gave up. Apologies for the lack of decent images!
Moving around the spectacular space, I watched parents introduce their children to nature, observed dozens of art students, sketching kangaroos, tigers and other exotic animals.
The museum, four storeys high, with elaborate wrought iron balconies on all four sides, overlooks the grand parade of animals.
A giraffe pokes it’s head over the fourth floor, sea life dominates the ground floor and dinosaur bones, suspended from the ceiling makes for an impressive visual feast on a grand scale.
The ceiling changes colour to indicate weather changes. It was a pale green when I arrived and had moved from white, to a moody blue, through to purple by the time I left but it was the orange wall of light that captivated me.
While others were risking being evicted for using their flash and some posing next to giant stuffed elephants. I was getting my photography fix with an orange wall.
Upon closer inspection the wall is designed to hide the shuttered windows that lie behind but the series of stairs and lifts with the orange lit backdrop makes for a spectacular ambiance and gorgeous silhouettes.
I didn’t get the shot I was hoping for but as usual I was compensated by a surprise, an orange wall of light.
Venturing outside, I now knew why the ceiling had changed so many colours during my visit, the beautiful blue sky had gone and in its place was dark grey clouds. The museum is situated in Le Jardin des Plantes and the pretty surrounding greenhouses attract local green thumbs.
When I eat in Paris, I can eat when I am hungry. Regimented eating hours go out the door and due to the constant availability of food, there is always a meal around the corner.
The pretty square that is Place de la Contrescarpe has a nice cafe that I like, the service is friendly and the food is good and reasonably priced, apart from the local drunk who adorns the square surrounded by cafés the terrace is a nice spot to sit at anytime of the year.
The cobbled Rue Mouffetard was surprisingly quiet as I strolled up there on my way to ‘lunch’. It seems anytime from after 12 noon until dinner time, the waiters invite you to their establishment with ‘do you want to have lunch’. So I guess around 3pm I had lunch.
Sitting in cafés in Paris was something that eluded me to an extent. Although I liked the romantic notion of whiling away a few hours in the afternoon, people gazing, I always felt I should be out and about exploring the city. These days I find great enjoyment and comfort in the knowledge that I can now do this. No need to rush but to simply enjoy being in Paris.
Rarely do I post food shots but couldn’t resist teasing my instagram mates who wished they were in Paris also. It worked, they replied, and it inspired an idea.
I try to be mindful of not pulling out the camera in cafés and upsetting local diners, pointing a camera in their faces, including them in photos they would rather not be in.
Normally when I have been polite and asked permission to photograph something, I am confronted with a protective, resounding no!
Explaining that my French is not good – oui, the maitre’d listens as I continue to stumble out my poor French; I do a blog on Paris and would he mind if I take a few shots.
Not only did he say yes he gave me a full guided tour!
Although I have been to La Contrescarpe a number of times, I had never ventured inside and always opted for the terrace.
He lead me through cozy pockets of the cafe, timber floors, comfy lounge chairs and books that people are welcome to read. A quiet sunken alcove down the back allows for intimate meetings he points out, one group meet every week, they are artists, the other group meeting three times a week to discuss politics and philosophy.
The French doors opening out onto the covered heated patio was another surprise I was not anticipating.
Assuming that the patrons observed the maitre’d guide me on a tour of the premises perhaps that was what made them feel more at ease when I took my photos of the interior.
Paris, always full of pleasant surprises.