Gear: Canon 600D. Sigma 18 – 200ml lens.
Location: The 3rd and 10th arrondissements in Paris. In particular around the Canal St Martin precinct.
Observation: Once upon a time I used to learn French. I was 13 and in my first year of high school. That was now 30 years ago! (Ye gads, audible intake of breath.) Oddly I still remember the first full French phrase that I was ever taught.
Our professor was Mr Leask. A lithe man with a whisper-thin moustache and very poor faux leather jacket. Still he was about as close to French as you were going to get in Christchurch, New Zealand in the 1980s and he was a decent teacher.
I think I remember this sentence so vividly because it was such a ridiculous phrase to teach students who had thus far only been taught words like bonjour, merci and au revoir. The phrase was, and I remember this as clear as day…
Thierry, ca suffit c’est mauvais pour les dents
- Terry that’s enough it’s bad for your teeth.
So I was prepared at an early age to converse, albeit briefly, with French men and women about sugar and/ or dental procedures. Thanks Mr Leask. Outside of those topics I was doomed to flail.
So that is why these photos are my submission into the Weekly Photo Challenge theme of Alphabet. I merely see joined letters rather than French words per se.
Canal St Martin. My Paris nirvana.
I have been lucky enough to visit Paris many times over the years and it sits alongside NYC as my favourite city in the world. And I guess it is this familiarity that breeds curiosity.
The last few times I have visited I have sought to, as much as possible, discard the tourists and mingle more with locals. There are ways that you can still do this even in Paris. Visiting in the low-season, exploring by foot and lots and lots of people-watching. Noticing where the locals wander will often lead you to great hidden spots.
And so it was that about five years ago I did exactly this. I wandered north from the Marais kind of following along with, but not exactly, some hipster-looking young Parisians. The environs that I entered started to become grittier and certainly less ‘pretty’ than the Marais. The walls lining the winding lanes and avenues started to become scrawled with graffiti and the boutiques changed markedly.
To use a music analogy I had left a safe mainstream commercial radio station and wandered into a university radio station run by the students. I’d traded Coldplay for the Ramones and I loved it!
Canal St Martin and most of the 3rd and much of the 10th arrondissements have now become gentrified and ‘discovered’. They are still fabulous but no longer a secret.
You can read more about why I love it here in this Canal St Martin post or get more of a flavour in the gallery below.
Paris Alphabet. The signs of the 3rd and the 10th.
Click an image to enlarge.
All images © Saxon Templeton