Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Rooftops of Paris

1) I'm amazed that in my three years of living in Paris and countless visits, I have a) never stepped in dog-deposits on sidewalks and b) almost never injured myself while strolling through the city. (There was one painful and embarrassing encounter with a bitte de trottoir which I'd rather forget.)

Why should I have expected to have more pedestrian accidents?

Because, try as I might to be mindful of the sidewalk in front of me, I find myself constantly looking up. Paris buildings above the second-story level provide an endless and rich source of architectural surprises or day-to-day drama.

Architectural surprises often come in the form of mosaics or mythological characters as friezes. Day-to-day drama can be on balconies, windows, or roofs. (Once, riding on the 92 bus on upscale avenue de Villars one early morning, I spied a pair of expensive -- Christian Louboutin? -- spike heels perched on a second-story window ledge, shutters closed. The story of how and why they were there wrote itself in an instant in my mind.)

But for real drama, last week I was wandering up a narrow sidewalk in the 9th arrondissement when a flicker of movement on a rooftop caught my eye.

A worker, maybe a ramoneur (chimney sweep), was walking blithely along the 8th-story edge of the mansard. My heart leapt into my throat as I watched him casually amble along the slippery tin roofline, occasionally peering over. He stopped, wrote something on a clipboard, pirouetted to another spot, leaned over. The vertigo in me was suffering vicariously, but clearly this guy was sure-footed and confident. I heaved a sigh of relief when he disappeared over the other side of the roof ridge. Not that he was any safer, mind you, but at least I knew I wasn't going to witness his untimely demise. Out of sight, out of mind.

2) There are times when, eye-level viewing of the rooftops of Paris is somehow comforting and embracing. I was staying in an apartment in the 16e near place Victor Hugo, and the view from the 4th-floor balcony made me feel grounded and connected to the city.
A few streets over, the curtained rounded windows; others shuttered for vacation.

The chambres de bonne on the top floor: how many students living in those cramped and underheated garrett rooms?
In the mid-ground, a trio of church bells.

And in the foreground, an up-close view of the grey metal ridges typical of almost every Parisian mansard roof.

3) Then sometimes there are the spectacular views of the roofs of Paris. A friend loaned me her Paris studio in the 15e arrondissement for my last 2 days in Paris.

Wow. Paris from the 23rd floor is another story (pardon zee pun). These are views of the 15e and the broad expanse of the suburbs to the west. Mostly flat, modern roofs.

Bonus: do you spot the hot-air balloon from the Parc André Citroën (both photos)?


Anne Doyle said...

Aaargh! Don't you just want to scream at them to "BE CAREFUL!" But they do seem to be surefooted--thank heavens.

Lovely photos.

Feet on the ground,

c'est Jeff ici said...

I love paris rooftops. I'm sitting in my study looking at Caillebotte's painting of Paris rooftops in the snow as I write this. You seem to have good access to spots to take pictures from. I have to depend on finding windows in public places that look out onto rooftops. Most of the big department stores have places like that. Musee d'Orsay has a few but you have to be sneaky.

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Yeah, Anne. Brrrr!

Jeff, I do love Paris rooftops. The view from le Printemps is fabulous -- here's another post on that: said...
This comment has been removed by the author. said...

Often when Nancy and I would be wandering one would be looking up and one across and both say "wow, did you see that?" and then at the same time say "yeah" then realize we weren't looking remotely to the same spot. Our second (and *sigh*) our final trip to Paris, we made sure we had a top level room with a view.


Casey said...

A few years ago my husband and I spent a wonderful week in Paris....I too should have been looking down. We were just walking back to our apartment, we'd picked up a few necessities, and couldn't believe how beautiful Paris was after a warm rain.

Well, that's when I didn't see the steaming wet pile of dog doo doo and slipped in it. Not only did I twist my knee pretty badly...but I some how managed to disperse the dog doo doo up my back and coated the inside of my beautiful new black Paris rain coat.

aaaaahhhhh memories....thanks for reminding me. I still love Paris.


Victoria, Bellingham, WA

Claudia said...

I agree I love to look at the rooftops in Paris and we had the chance to over Christmas when we rented an apartment in the 15th Arr. I thought I'd share the view we had, as we loved and never tired of it. Our trip may have overlapped with yours.

Des Coulam said...

Congratulations - A really good and interesting blog. All of us Parisian bloggers have our own take on this wonderful city - and yours is first class. Keep up the good work - and if you want to add some Parisian sounds don't hesitate to contact me.

Best Wishes,


Sandro said...

I just had a look of a book with watercolor pictures of Paris roofs in a local bookshop.

It's really a captivating subject, full of atmosphere and charm, Parisian charme indeed.

Thank you for your lovely blog!

Italy and France are my favourites European countries

Gillian said...

Having just come from two years in Amsterdam i have a bit of a 'thing' for rooftops... i practically lived on them there! And here i cannot stop looking at and photographing them. They simply so often emulate drama and narrative. I really enjoyed this post and the pictures... and will remind myself to also watch where i am going when i am looking up!

Polly-Vous Francais said...

Merci, all!

I am addicted to rooftop views. More to come!

Aliza Eva Berger said...

Hello, im a producer from Paris and currently looking for urban rooftops. Your photo that you took on the roof in the 15th goes into that direction. Could you give me the contact? Thank a lot



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