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Photographing Paris: Street Art, Public Art and Place du Tertre

THE DETAILS
Location // 
Paris, France
Length of stay // 3 nights
Travel companions // Jorge
Purpose of trip // Celebrate Jorge’s birthday!

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Seeing as Paris Fashion Week starts in a few days, I thought I’d ramble on about our last visit to the City of Light in this entry.

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This was back in November last year so the air was nippy and the trees were almost bare.

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Paris is just a quick zip through the Chunnel on the Eurostar from London, so it makes for a fun weekend getaway.

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It was Jorge’s first visit to the city so we did lots of touristy things (Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Coeur, Notre Dame).

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We also did quite a few non-touristy things (hunt for street art, get randomly lost down nondescript side streets).

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Though we didn’t visit any galleries or museums this time, there’s no shortage of creativity around here – indoors (Musee D’Orsay, Louvre, a million tiny, quirky galleries featuring up and coming artists) and outdoors (street art, public art and art in markets).

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On our first day, we climbed up to the top of the Sacré-Coeur, took a moment to admire the view and look down at the blankets spread with knockoff handbags and plastic Eiffel Tower souvenirs.

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Then we went off in search of some tea.

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Around the back of the Basilica, we snapped up a table outdoors at a small and overpriced cafe with heat lamps.

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It was time to settle in with a drink and enjoy the best part about travelling: people watching!

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We were facing the Place du Tertre, a small square where artists set up their easels and try to sell their work.

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This area, Montmartre, is very much for tourists now (much of the art is tacky scenes of Paris landmarks) but used to be a hub for artists like Picasso who lived there in the early 20th Century.

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It’s brilliant to sit there for an hour or two, watching artists create portraits from sticks of charcoal or pastels, seeing the paint splattered work spaces, musing about the street style of passersby.

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Some of the artists were doing the same.

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Others were painting.

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Some were reading newspapers, books or taking notes.

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A few were chatting with friends or trying to drum up business.

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And a handful looked like they might fall asleep.

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After a quick meander through the square, we decided it was time to escape through the quiet back streets where stray cats poked their heads around corners, slinking along ivy-covered walls, paws padding over cobblestones.

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Eventually we wound up back where we started – at the top of the (vast number of) steps that lead up to the Sacré-Coeur.

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On the way down, we took the steps on the right and I found some surprise street art tucked away on hidden walls along the way.

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When we reached the bottom, we (or shall I say I) decided this was a good sign and we should walk around to look for more.

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I don’t always go out of my way to look for street art when I travel, especially if I’m with other people.

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I do, however, tend to follow my nose to the dodgier or more creative parts of a city if I’m in the vicinity since that’s usually where I find it.

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So we walked.

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And walked.

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And walked.

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The street art scene in Paris isn’t quite comparable to that of London or New York or plenty of other places, but it definitely exists and I’m all ears for suggestions on where the majority of it is located for my next trip!

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There’s plenty of French street artists like JR, Invader, C215, Seth and a lot more.

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But there’s also a lot of scribbled tags that aren’t so pretty.

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Eventually it started to get dark which made it both difficult to take photos and not smart to be wandering through dodgy neighbourhoods.

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So we went in search of dinner.

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The next day, we walked in a different direction.

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We decided to head toward the Pompidou Center.

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On the way, we stopped to watch the Stravnsky Fountain.

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It’s a quirky little place, with 16 sculptures that move about and spray water into a shallow pool.

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We found more street art nearby.

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Besides some pasteups, there was an amazing Jef Aérosol stencil piece painted across the entire side of a building.

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Here’s a video showing the process!

It was definitely one of my favourite discoveries on that trip!

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More from Paris soon.

Tell me, where are your favourite places in Paris?

Also, check out my interview with talented French painter Françoise Nielly.

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