Sunrise along the Seine

The most peaceful time to see any city is the hour before sunrise, when it is just beginning to wake. On my final morning in Paris, I woke up early and headed to the River Seine to catch these views of the city.

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With the help of the internet, I was able to determine not only what time the sun would rise but also from what direction. Comparing that against a map of Paris, it was not difficult to figure out that I would need to be somewhere between the Jardins du Trocadero and the Pont de Bir-Hakeim to see the sun rise somewhere behind the Eiffel Tower. It was easy enough to flag down a taxi at 5:30 on a Saturday morning and within ten minutes I was walking down the terraced Trocadero gardens towards the river.

The most beautiful colors are actually in the hour before sunrise, I find. So as the sun neared the nearly clear horizon, I started walking east along the river, down on the footpath that lines the Right Bank.

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There are numerous houseboats moored along the river, beautifully maintained and many available to hire for river cruises. In the distance you can see the bridge (Pont de Bir-Hakeim) from which I shot the previous picture.

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The tower is so large that it dominates your view. It looks different from various perspectives and I enjoyed watching how this changes as I walked along the river. Eventually as the river curved, I crossed to the other bank to keep the sun across from me.

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About a kilometer along the river, just past the Pont de l’Alma, is Promenade des Berges de la Seine, a public park and promenade that includes five interesting floating gardens, barges that have been turned into public parks similar to the High Line in New York City.

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Nearby was La Boudeuse, a 100-year old three-mast ship built originally in Hollande but now moored in the River Seine after a renovation a few years ago. This photo appeared in Instagram and has been tampered with a bit for effect.

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Looking back at the Pond des Invalides, the lowest bridge crossing the River Seine.

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Another kilometer or so and I arrived at Musée d’Orsay, the beautiful former train station that is now a fine museum. The Beaux-Arts exterior was glowing in the morning sun.

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Another half-kilometer along the river there is another turn at the Île de la Cité comes into view, sitting smartly in the middle of the river. It is one of only two remaining islands in the river and is the site of the medieval city was.

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Finally, I reached the end of my nearly five-kilometer walk along the river, crossing over to snap this picture of the Cathedral of Notre Dame. This beautiful walk gave me the chance to contemplate Paris on my own, watching as it went from a sleepy sunrise to a gradually awakening city.

 

Curbing Our Walking Space

After writing about some potentially good news for pedestrians in Bangkok, I have to strive for some karmic balance by writing about something else what is currently underway that is impinging on the foot-friendliness of a soi in my neighborhood.

“Soi” is a word in Thai that is often translated into English as “alley”.  It means a smaller street, often not connecting, that branches off a major road.  The neighborhood I live in is in the midst of a veritable maze of sois, some of which have footpaths (sidewalks) and others of which don’t.  One main soi on which I regularly have to walk has undergone some road construction this past week that ended up with a pedestrian unfriendly result.

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This particular soi is called Thong Lor Soi 9, indicating it is the ninth soi off a larger street called Thong Lor – which is itself a soi of Sukhumvit Road, Sukhumvit Soi 55, to be precise.  (Confused yet?)  Soi 9 parallels a small khlong (canal) that is really more of a drainage ditch with some stagnant water in it.  There isn’t much space and when you walk along it you have to be careful of passing traffic.  Thankfully, though, there is a wide dirt shoulder that you can step onto if you become concerned about the passing vehicles.

Two weeks ago when I saw workers shoveling gravel along the khlong side of the soi, I was optimistic that perhaps they would widen it just a bit, making a little more room for the many pedestrians who walk this soi from the residential area to the main street where all the shops and markets are.

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Unfortunately, the plan was not to widen the street but instead to add a curb along the side of the existing street.  Not that I’ve seen it happen, but perhaps they are suddenly concerned about vehicles ending up in the ditch like some pilot of a South African 737.  Or, more likely, they are trying to channel rain water into the storm drains (concrete rectangles with metal grates in them in the picture below) instead of into the khlong. 

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The net effect for pedestrians is that now you really have to walk in the street.  An easy step off the street now involves stepping over a curb and onto uneven ground, increasing the risk of tripping or ending up on your butt in the khlong.

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From a pedestrian perspective, the best solution would probably be to install a wide pipe in place of the khlong and pave over that area with a wide footpath.  They did this on part of Sukhumvit Soi 38 (above) and it is beautiful.  Yes, there isn’t as much greenery although that could be addressed in several different ways.  But you do have one of the widest, smoothest footpaths in the city, complete with ample curb cuts. 

I’m curious to see whether Thong Lo Soi 9 ever receives similar treatment.  For now, I’ll just have to be that much more careful when walking along the soi.

 

Hiking in Hong Kong

Sunday afternoon my host Chris and I went for a hike up to Victoria Peak.  It was a pretty good workout, two hours to cover more than seven kilometers and an elevation gain of, I think, about 300 meters (more than 900 feet).  It was also a chance to get a different point of view on a city that many consider to be a veritable urban jungle.

This is how most people view Hong Kong – tremendously dense and tremendously vertical.  But just a short distance from where I took this picture of an urban landscape, I also shot the picture below.

It could hardly be more different, right?  This hike was a pleasant break from a few days of being surrounded by concrete.  There were so many people hiking on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, enjoying the overcast weather and the temperature that dropped several degrees as we gained elevation.

A lovely waterfall on the back side of Victoria Peak, facing the south side of Hong Kong island.  Amazing, too, how much cooler the weather gets just by getting away from the pavement and concrete.  What a heat sink “civilization” is!

Here’s a map of the route we followed.  If you don’t want to gain quite so much elevation, you can walk the approximately 2-km circuit starting and ending at the Peak visitor center.  It is mostly flat and offers a view from several different angles.

All this hiking not only helped break in a new pair of cross-trainers, it also whetted my appetite for some Shanghainese food, which I’ll write about on Friday!