top of page
  • Writer's pictureGethin Thomas


Originally published on Photoblog by Gethin Thomas JANUARY. 07, 2021

September 2010. The last time I visited Paris.

I promise absolutely no photos of the Eiffel Tower, everyone has been there and done that, and all the other "sights" are given the same short shrift. I don't mean that in a snobbish way, I've done the "sights" like everyone does on their first visit to somewhere new, but I don't think you see the actual place until you go back and just wander aimlessly and stay in some obscure out of the way hotel, which necessitates new discoveries as you negotiate walking new routes. As a result I don't think any of the photos announce "you are in Paris" excepting one that may have the word Paris in it, but taken as a whole I think they give a portrait of the city that you may recognise. If you have been to Paris before they may entice you back for a closer look.

This was a short break only three nights, on Eurostar, hence the first photo and the only one not actually from Paris, but taken at the Eurostar Terminal at St. Pancras. The classic lost balloon, just caught as it entered the frame as I was luckily photographing the roof, which is the wonder of the place.

When I was growing up Eurostar was on a par with War of the Worlds and Logan's Run, in other words, Science Fiction dreams, it seemed impossible that one day there would actually be a tunnel under the English Channel let alone three and with two of them carrying High Speed trains to and from very distant foreign places like Paris. The third one is there in case it all goes horribly wrong.

How quickly though we take things for granted and how quickly distant places become closer and foreign places become familiar.

Eurostar is an international high-speed rail service connecting the United Kingdom with France, Belgium and the Netherlands. All Eurostar trains travel through the Channel Tunnel between the United Kingdom and France. The London terminus is St Pancras International. The trains run at up to 320 kilometres per hour (200 mph) on high-speed lines. On 14 November 1994, Eurostar services began running from Waterloo International station in London, to Gare du Nord in Paris.

On 14 November 2007, Eurostar services in London transferred from Waterloo to the extended and extensively refurbished St Pancras International. The complex underwent an £800 million refurbishment which was opened by Queen Elizabeth II in November 2007. A security-sealed terminal area was constructed for Eurostar services to mainland Europe via High Speed 1 and the Channel Tunnel, with platforms for domestic trains to the north and south-east of England. The restored station has 15 platforms, a shopping centre, and a coach facility. Wikipedia. Believe it or not this completely over the top building below is a Police Station. Fancy opening your blinds at work in the morning and looking out between these guys legs. They also follow around the other façade of the building, but the really wacky bit is the cut-outs in their chests to facilitate pedestrian access around the outside ledge. Imagine getting planning consent for something like that today, let alone the budget. You can just see the first unveiling of the idea to the client, "Well I envisage 15 two story carved marble Michelangelo male nudes decorating the exterior, what do you think?" Well someone obviously approved.

This bizarre construction below I liken to a high rise country cottage nestled inside a giant's bookcase. How did this ever happen? No wonder she has come outside and looks so confused. The book ends are chimney stacks, and you would really have to have flames licking at your ankles to venture out on to that fire escape through the ladder in the roof.

Talking about chimney stacks, this one below beggars belief. Words cannot express my astonishment at this even being considered let alone constructed.

If you are not into nudity, semi or full, Paris is probably not the place for you. It's the only place I know where the main river sightseeing boats in summer, actually include the nude bathing area on the banks of the Seine as one of the "sights", just after Notre Dame Cathedral, slowing down, hovering, getting close, and announcing it on the tour explanation in five languages, while you sit there, about twenty feet from a row of seemingly oblivious sun worshippers, leaving absolutely nothing to the imagination. At least the chap below has some modesty, although I'm not sure what he is actually using, they're certainly not Speedos.

This is a very serious and formal Parisian Greengrocer selling improbably large fruit. The penguins are however looking a little out of place. As a school kid we went on my first visit to Paris, where I entered a greengrocer wanting a couple of apples. I went in and picked up a couple to turn them over and check them out before choosing which two to buy only to get my hand slapped by the woman in charge for handling the fruit. An early lesson in the French retail experience.

They have since developed the Hyper Marche which are stores the size of Paris scattered across the countryside where you have to walk past thirty eight aisles of kettles and barbecues and fishing bait to get to the apples, the advantage being that there is little or no corporal punishment involved.

Like most large cities I think accommodation is on the restricted end of the scale, it's why the French invented the word bijou, so here is a ready made home improvement for the serious photographer, it can easily be added without too much inconvenience or dust to a small apartment. It's especially useful for those specialising in miniature portraits.

Who knew Marc Chagall had a side-line in street art? There's that red balloon again, I swear it is following me. "Doctor doctor, I think I am becoming paranoid. Don't worry you are quite healthy, they are just all out to get you."

Below we have an exceptionnelle example of Parisian parking, yes it is actually parked there, it is not manoeuvring. We had a meal on the pavement right here, (there were tables and chairs and things obviously, when the French invented eating in the street, they did at least go the full hog, we even had a street accessible rude waiter), and that car was parked there the whole time. Special awards had been placed on the windscreen for attention to detail, sheer narcissism, and bonus points for blocking two separate pedestrian crossings going in two separate directions at the same time, previously not thought possible.

We learned about French pedestrian crossings many years earlier when first encountering one where a woman pushing a baby in a pram was waiting to cross the road. We stopped our car to let her cross as is the norm, and also the law in Britain. The look on her face spoke volumes, she'd obviously never witnessed a small herbivorous dinosaur strolling up the high street before, either that or it was us stopping to let her cross the road, one of the two. The traffic going in the other direction just kept on coming, with all the other drivers looking on sympathetically, assuming we had broken down. That baby is now 43 and standing at the same crossing with his aged mother trying to get across. It was on that trip that we realised that white stripes on roads in France were different to those in the rest of the world.

It's probable that some gargantuan Departemente Nationale in Nantes with 16 thousand staff decided some time in the 1950's that everyone else had these things, so France should have them too. Only nobody explained to anybody what they were, so they appeared at great cost all over the country in every town. The French being an insular people and rarely leaving France ( It's true apparently, they are the least travelled people in Europe) hadn't seen anything like them before so they just assumed it was more street art. They were very popular, some were even stolen at night and later appeared in art galleries, surrounded with giant fruit.

These guys were periodically marching up and down these flower borders so I have always liked to imagine they were guarding the flowers from floral activists trying to start a riot of colour.

They are fully armed of course, which is initially shocking for us Brits, only ever having seen a gun at the cinema or on TV. I've no idea what the building is, probably a gargantuan Departemente Nationale in charge of Street Art. I've only spotted one stray petal on the gravel, so no doubt it's Madame Guillotine for the gardener later on.

We were wandering along some back street when we heard beautiful organ music. Following it led us into a beautiful church where we just wandered around in the cool dark interior listening to the reverberations of the booming organ swirling around us.

One of those special moments that are all the more special when unplanned. These were the chairs at the back of the church, not much leg room.

"C'est Obligatoire" as we were infamously scolded on an earlier trip to France when we stayed in a Gîte owned by a nasty woman who had a very brow beaten lovely husband, who when her back was turned smuggled bottles of home made wine over to us across the farmyard with a big wink.

"C'est Obligatoire" to clean the Gîte on leaving. It wasn't very clean when we arrived so we were quite impressed with our efforts, as we showed it off to her as she gave it a military inspection on our last day, holding our cash deposit in her sweaty little hand. She was even more annoyed that it was so clean, so when we looked pleased with ourselves we were summarily dismissed with "C'est Obligatoire".

But I digress. What I was leading up to was that "C'est Obligatoire" to admire art in Paris even in a hard hat on your lunch break. In fact there is so much art that I have no idea where it all ends up. If you bear in mind that most people already have pictures on their walls in abundance where do the acres and acres of new art go? I can only assume there is an art recycling centre somewhere that dismantles and repurposes used art into something useful, like cattle feed. With environmentalism gone to such extremes these days, they probably have separate bins outside for art if you live in Paris. Bottles on the left, then plastics, compostables in the one on the end and then a nice bin with an impression of the Mona Lisa on it for placing all your used art, collected every other week on a Wednesday.

Below is a Hairy shop. This display filled me with awe. It's just the massive range of hairy related objects and the fact some are even made of hair. Take a moment to have a look. There is everything, to do anything, to hair. Combing it, brushing it, cutting it, shaving it, curling it, electrically removing it, examining it in the mirror, covering it, and straightening it.

None of it any use at all to these two below.

This the gargantuan Ministère de la Culture, you can tell can't you. Try escaping if you work in there. It looks more like a prison designed by Philippe Starck. He came up with that lemon squeezer. Only the French could create a controversy over a lemon squeezer.

Starck's Juicy Salif citrus squeezer for Alessi caused controversy in the 1990s when it was first produced because it looked beautiful but was not at all practical for squeezing fruit.

Forgive me but the point that the critics overlooked is that it was aimed at people who bought giant fruit in art galleries not people who wanted to bake a drizzle cake.

I have since concluded that this building may be where the used art is recycled. Also deep inside is where thousands of people search the internet for new English words that can be banned, while their co-workers think up ridiculously contrived French versions of the same thing, which never catch on.

You are so used to my sense of humour by now that you're never quite sure when I am just telling you something ludicrous that happens to be true or when I have drifted off into fantasy.

This from

The French government has published a list of 18 words officially accepted as the French translations of tech-related words such as spoiler, clickbait and podcast.

The Academie française has made various efforts to replace English terms like spoiler, hashtag and Twitter followers with French equivalents, but now the Journal officiel - which is used to officially publish new French laws and decrees - has listed 18 approved French terms.

Some of them are;

Ludopublicité - instead of advergaming, the method of advertising using video games. Ajustement automatique d'intonation - instead of Autotune, to describe the technical polishing of dodgy singers. Infox vidéo or vidéotox - instead of deepfake for faked online videos, usually of politicians. Infox or information fallacieuse - instead of fake news. Audio or audio à la demande - instead of podcast. Responsable des réseaux sociaux - instead of social media manager as a job title. Directeur/directrice - instead of showrunner for a TV series. In French a film or TV director is know as a réalisateur or réalisatrice for a female director. Minialbum/mini-album - instead of extended play (EP) for an album of a longer length. Mode express - instead of fast fashion in the sense of cheap, short-lasting clothing. Mode durable - instead of slow fashion Responsable de la promotion en ligne - instead of traffic manager. Another job title, this one refers to internet traffic rather than cars and bikes. Romance urbaine - instead of chick lit. Technologie de la mode - instead of fashion tech.

A word of warning though - a lot of these new 'official' translations have been rolled out in recent years and not many of them have caught on.

I don't think I really need to say any more on this subject, the Academie has already used five words for every one of mine. Theirs were a lot funnier though and they weren't even going for the comedy angle.

This the high art of eating in the street opposite the Ministère de la Culture. Brits eat a sandwich at their desk but Parisian bureaucrats need at least three hours and at least three courses.

More street art, this time it appears to feature Einstein if I am not mistaken. The graffitists are obviously a sub branch of the Ministère de la Culture.

Below, what the Academie now insists we call "Mode Express". What the rest of us call tourist tat. Ok, some miniature Eiffel towers have crept in down there on the right so I was wrong, so sue me. Three for nine Euros, I find it highly unlikely they are Made in Paris. There are even some tiny Mona Lisas in there, in fact this is Paris in cheap miniature, sorry, "Miniature Express". Maybe this is where the repurposed used art ends up. Maybe those little Eiffel towers are cast from old used giant fruit?

This is a really useful apartment shape, probably by Philippe Starck. Imagine trying to fit book cases in this corner or even fitting in some giant fruit. Better still it would make a great improbably large lemon squeezer.

Yet more art. This I think has melted as it was extremely hot. Or it may just be awaiting collection to be cast into little Eiffel towers.

Some sort of renewable power generation system I think, although it was probably a mistake popping it in amongst the sculptures in the riverside sculpture park, as some idiots were actually standing admiring it thinking it was one of the exhibits.

Below, all shops in Paris are boutiques even when you want a sandwich, and I especially love the Wikipedia description of boutique.

The term "boutique" and also "designer" refer (with some differences) to both goods and services which are containing some element that is claimed to justify an extremely high price.

Eight Euros for the Classic sandwich and this was ten years ago. The Euro having collapsed, they are probably now thirty eight Euros. The cans of Coke are particularly boutique don't you think?

At first I thought it was more street art but it was just a shadow. It's not always easy to tell.

This was the remnants of a street market, although enlarge those rotten peaches, place them on a plinth? You know where I am going. At least there was nobody around to slap my hand when I took the picture.

There's a film, "An American in Paris" and here is a visual reminder of it. In amongst the trash left after the fruit market for some reason I found this great little still life. A used Edward Hopper print, that's your American right there and an old lettuce, also something black and vaguely lemon shaped, I'm not sure what it was. The print was just lying there waiting for the used art recycling collection team, the lettuce if I'm being a bit picky should have been in the compostables. Always separate your rubbish.

I'm not sure what it is really saying about me when I go to Paris for three days to take a photo of an old discarded lettuce.

This was a very idiosyncratic shop that I think sold electrical parts, somebody has to. But even here the feeling we're headed towards boutique and street art is never very far away.

This one below is positively disturbing, I haven't even included the one with the curled up cat in a basket. Maybe I should do Paris part 2? With all those Energiser batteries I had a horrible feeling that he was about to leap out at me cackling maniacally.

This is the elongated park that inspired New York's High Line.

The Promenade Plantée is a linear park spanning 4.7 kilometres built atop a disused railway line in the east of Paris. Starting from Bastille, the first part of the walkway is elevated on the Viaduc des Arts before crossing the Jardin de Reuilly. It finally goes down to ground level and through tunnels as you approach the eastern ring road.

The Academie ruled that High Line was too snappy and memorable and English when it was proposed, and they get paid by the letter, so Promenade Plantée it was. An added advantage for the Academie was a bonus accent thrown in above the first e, that's a pay rise for someone right there.

We in Britain have hundreds of miles of Promenade Plantée since we stopped pruning the sides of our railways, but ours which are just as pretty and green have trains running through them, admittedly this makes walking the dog a bit risky but you can't have everything.

Apparently Etourdi below, means dazed or stunned, scatter brained or thoughtless so it seems an odd name for a second hand bookshop. It brings to mind the Laurie Anderson lyrics of "Let X=X".

"You know, I could write a book, And this book would be thick enough to stun an ox"

They've probably got one in there big enough to stun an ox.

It ends,

"I - I feel - Feel like - I am - In a burning building - And I gotta go Cause I - I feel - Feel like - I am - In a burning building And I gotta go"

So that brings us right back to the woman in the high rise cottage with the ladder in her roof in photo number three.

I am coming to the end of my guided tour of Paris now and as we have touched on French retail quite a bit and street art quite a lot it seems apt to end with this decorative super market, which if the Academie spots it will end up as Super Marche. It has a Commedia dell'arte feel to it though, which makes it more Italian than French.

I will end with the full lyrics of Let X=X because I can, and I like them. If you don't, you can stop here. I think I will do a Paris part 2 with what I have got left.

I met this guy - and he looked like he might have been A hat check clerk at an ice rink Which, in fact, he turned out to be. And I said: Oh boy. Right again Let X = X. You know, it could be you It's a sky-blue sky. The satellites are out tonight Let X = X You know, I could write a book And this book would be thick enough to stun an ox Cause I can see the future and it's a place About 70 miles east of here. Where it's lighter Linger on over here. Got the time? Let X = X I got this postcard. And it read, it said: Dear Amigo - Dear Partner Listen, uh - I just want to say thanks. So... thanks Thanks for all the presents. Thanks for introducing me to the Chief Thanks for putting on the feedbag. Thanks for going all out Thanks for showing me your Swiss Army knife. Oh and uh - Thanks for letting me autograph your cast Hug and kisses XXXX0000 Oh yeah, P.S I - I feel - Feel like - I am - In a burning building - And I gotta go Cause I - I feel - Feel like - I am - In a burning building And I gotta go

18 views4 comments

Related Posts

See All


Unknown member
Sep 13, 2022

The intro to the post...perfect and so accurate. I remember seeing the movie "Le Ballon Rouge"in one my high school classes (probably French) Good way to learn French...NOT! To think that movie is as old as us.

I also remember our first trip on the Eurostar, the kids were in awe. All in all a very nice post as we get to see not the "normal" view of Paris. Well done as usual.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Sep 13, 2022
Replying to

I will have to look at a possible part 2.


John Durham
John Durham
Jan 26, 2022

Another wonderful tour, especially since I'll never get to Paris (nor would I want to do so). I love the new theme for the blog - very clean and bold.

Gethin Thomas
Gethin Thomas
Jan 26, 2022
Replying to

Thanks John. Well done for sleuthing me out at my new blog. Still playing about with it but pleased so far.🙂

bottom of page