A Layover in Doha, Qatar

Ceiling of the Museum of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar

Qatar. The only country in the world that starts with “Q.” Aerial photos of a soccer stadium with an, er, distinctive design slated to be built for when the hot, arid country hosts the 2022 World Cup—an audacious feat made possible by the nation’s burgeoning oil reserves. Camels. Desert.

That was the extent of my knowledge of the Middle Eastern country when I was researching flights from Washington D.C. to Bali. “Doha? Where the heck is Doha?” That’s the capital of Qatar as it turns out, and a convenient stopover on a trip to Indonesia via Qatar Airways. Suddenly a trip to one new country becomes two ticks on my country life list.

What was I supposed to do, connect through Los Angeles?

Within hours, my itinerary was booked. I now had a decent window of time in Doha, though not during daylight hours (5PM to 2AM). I was actually more excited about my nine hours in Qatar — my first trip to the Middle East — than my week in Bali. Some modest internet research identified a couple potential places of interest: The Museum of Islamic Art and the Souq Waqif, which includes stores dedicated to falconry. I’ve heard of many travelers taking advantage of the impressive amenities at the Doha Airport – nap rooms, swimming pool, art exhibits – but these sights were too tempting to pass up.

The fountain-filled courtyard of the Museum of Islamic Art, facing the city

I avoided planning because as long as I am in an unfamiliar land with a camera, I’m happy. And Doha did not disappoint.

After landing at DOH and confirming that my baggage would be checked through my connecting flight, I grabbed my camera bag carry-on and made quick work to find an ATM and the cab line. After a 15 minute cab ride, I was at the Museum of Islamic Art a couple hours before it closed at 8pm. Even if not for the art — which was incredible — the visit was worth it for the view alone.

After the museum closed, I walked along the water towards the souq. The shoreline was thumping with neon-laden party boats offering revelers a chance to cruise and dance along the Gulf. No alcohol, though (it’s a dry country). The spastic bursts of colors and cacophonous din from weathered speakers offered an unexpected juxtaposition against the iconic art museum in the background, floating over the inky waters of the Gulf.

Most of the souq was closing but the bird and pet market was vibrant, packed with colorful birds and fish from around the world. I was surprised to only find common pets like goldfish, budgerigars and lovebirds—Superb Parrots from Australia were a highlight.

Custom hoods at the Falcon Souq

Deeper into the labyrinth I found a few storefronts selling small, inverted leather cups with feathered tassels. I had found the Falcon Souq, a series of small shops dedicated a hobby that is deeply rooted in the Middle East. Glass cases full of hoods, jesses and gloves surround the large, sandy pits where live falcons of differing sizes and shades calmly sit on AstroTurf-wrapped perches, from the diminutive kestrel to the bulky gyrfalcon. The walls were topped with images and taxidermied models of bustards, a family of ostrich-looking birds that are a popular quarry for falcon hunts. (The Kori Bustard is the heaviest flying bird in the world).

Down the street, an outdoor outfitter had a poster on its door that reinforced the importance of this hobby: “Come and experience the Arabian life of safari camping in Qatar” it read with three items pictured: a falcon, a camel and a white Toyota Landcruiser.

A Peregrine Falcon on sale at the Falcon Souq

I sat down at a nice Persian restaurant for dinner and immediately felt the white table cloths and view of the exterior of the souq, while appreciated, was too removed from the vibrant core of the market. I left quietly and made a few wrong turns before refinding the simple stand I’d walked by earlier in the evening. It was encased with glass, full of young men hunched over grills, a window and a line of hungry customers. Ten minutes later, I had two large pieces of flatbread — one stuffed with egg and the other with some sort of minced meat — and I was sitting on the edge of a walkway lit dimly by orange street lights, listening to the spoken Arabic of passerby.

Perfect.

On the perimeter of the souq, I found a pen of camels loafing under the midnight sky. There’s likely no scene more quintessentially Middle Eastern than camels resting languorously against a backdrop of a city mixed with ancient white stucco walls, gleaming skyscrapers, well-maintained asphalt arterials bustling with luxury cars and men in flowing, white robes—or “thawb.”

A herd of camel at the edge of the souq

With a few hours left to spare on my layover, I found a second-floor cafe to enjoy a sweet cake and a strong espresso while watching people navigate the clogged corridor below.

I paid my bill (no tip) and walked out to the perimeter of the souq to easily hail a cab back to the airport.

In another couple hours, I was in the seat of my 2AM connecting flight to Bali, ruminating over my first experiences in the Middle East.

Here are some quick memories:

  • There are many nice cars in Doha, including a higher than expected percentage of German and Japanese SUVs and trucks. It was here where I, a man reasonably informed about cars, learned that Bentley had released an SUV. Most of the cars, no matter the value, have a sandstone-colored layer of dust accumulated on their lower halves.
  • The souq is vivacious up until midnight with mostly Qatari. The chatter of open-air conversations bounce off the narrow corridors and the air is thick with the sweet stench of shisha, smelling like half tobacco and half watermelon-flavored cotton candy. No alcohol is served but the tobacco waterpipes are omnipresent.
  • The bird market was 80% budgerigars with the rest comprised of lovebirds and cockatiels. I did see some crimson rosellas, superb parrots, button quail and one store devoted to parrots, mynas and bulbuls. There were a few red-rumped parakeets and a lot of Hermann’s Tortoises.
  • The falcon souq was very quiet save for an infrequent TV blaring in the corner of the room, opposite the omnipresent wall of couches. It appears to be a rough life for a bustard in Qatar: the preferred quarry of falconers.
  • The Qatari population seems to be a comfortable mix of different faiths and levels of piety, based on the varied wardrobes.
  • Telephone poles along the highway from the airport are illuminated in neon colors. The visual cacophony of lights across their cityscape is mostly whimsy but with a dash of garish.
  • There are porters in the souq that are armed with wheelbarrows and ready to wheel your purchases to your car.

Cold-blooded Volkswagens: Seeking Leatherback Turtles in Trinidad

It was a warm evening even though the sun had disappeared behind the marine horizon hours prior. Thickly vegetated trees—faintly illuminated by the incandescent porch lights—swayed gently in the sea breeze. The waves rhythmically massaged the stretch of sand on the dark, unseen beach beyond, a beach we’d driven three hours to visit, at night.

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Toby on his never-ending pursuit of reptiles and amphibians. This time at the streams near the famous Asa Wright Nature Centre.

It was the end of our second to last day of our week-long vacation to Trinidad and Tobago. My friend, Toby, a passionate herpetologist, selected this tropical Caribbean location – known for its reptiles and amphibians – as a fitting location to celebrate his 40th birthday. There were birds, too—we’d amassed well over a hundred species after five days, from bellbirds to toucans.

Reptiles and amphibians, though, were harder to come by. After several nights of intensive searching, we’d only located a handful of dingy brown poison dart frogs, flighty ameiva and golden tegu lizards, and a marsupial frog carrying eggs underneath the dorsal pouch of skin for which it is named. No snakes, no turtles. Cool, but not the bounty he’d hoped for.

In an attempt to change our luck, we scoured the sandy beaches on the eastern shore of Tobago—Trinidad’s smaller cousin to the north—the previous night, following the trail of turtle icons on our tourist map, looking for the telltale drag marks of a female Leatherback Turtle pulling herself onshore to lay eggs. By 11’o’clock, the only thing we had to show for it was sand in our shoes and yet another species of bird: a White-tailed Nightjar hawking insects in the bright light of an isolated, roadside power station.

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Yellow-throated Frog, Mannophryne trinitatis, in the streams near Asa Wright. One of only a handful of herps we could find.

Sorry, Toby.

And with the last three nights of our trip already booked in the industrial capital of Port of Spain, seeing new bird species—let alone herps—wasn’t likely.

But we were on vacation, and the Grand Rivierè region, isolated in the far northeastern corner of the country, hosts one of the largest nesting beaches for the endangered Leatherback. And it’s also one of the most reliable spots to find Trinidad Piping-Guans, a critically-endangered bird species that numbers in the low 100’s and is found nowhere else on earth. And we had a rental car and weren’t scared of a three-hour drive. And I had a credit card.

With one simple email we had a room booked at an eco-resort on the turtle-nesting beach—our most expensive night of the trip (even if it had been our only reservation that night, which it wasn’t).

After an elegant late dinner in an open-air cabana and a five-minute walk, Toby and I were milling in a dirt parking lot with fellow nature enthusiasts and a guide from the Turtle Village Trust.

He marched through the perfunctory speech setting the stage for the ecological significance of the Grand Rivierè, which hosts one of the largest densities of Leatherback Turtles in the world. The species – weighing up to 2,000 pounds – can be found in marine waters in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian Oceans from the Arctic Circle south to New Zealand and South America, making it a candidate for the world’s widest-ranging vertebrate. Up to 500 females haul up every night on this sandy beach to each lay around a hundred eggs deep in the sand. Those eggs will hatch into an even percentage of males and females if the temperature is just right, 85.1° in fact; more females if warmer, more males if cooler (editorial comment consciously avoided). After two months, hatchlings emerge from the sand and instinctively head to sea. For every hundred turtles born, only a handful live long enough to reach sexual maturity, believed to be about 15 years. After mating, the females will migrate nearly 4,000 miles one-way to the same area where they were born. The males will remain at sea their entire lives.

Our 3.5-hour drive—and welcome cocktails—suddenly didn’t seem so grueling.

We followed the naturalist out of the parking lot. It grew darker and darker as we walked down the dirt road towards the beach. Light confuses nesting turtles, which navigate by stars at sea. Beach-side homes and guesthouses were nearly dark. The number of tourist who can visit every evening is capped and flashlights and flash photography are strictly prohibited.

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Nesting female Leatherbacks, on the Grand Riviere beach in Trinidad. Picture taken with a tripod and a 12 second exposure.

As the dirt underneath our feet turned to sand, my eyes started to adjust. Slowly, enormous black forms began to appear on the wide stretch of sand before us. I was speechless. A fleshy boulder glistened in the moonlight, its long, flat appendages straining to catch enough soft sand to move its hulking frame. First it was one, then two, then a separate cluster of four. We would soon count over 50 of these Volkswagen-sized marine reptiles in an area close enough to be seen in the near darkness. The density of behemoths made it difficult to navigate amongst them.

We trailed the red flashlight of our guide to find a female who was depositing ping-pong ball-sized eggs into a deep, narrow pit she’d excavated with her hind flippers. To avoid using a flash, I set my camera on a tripod for long-exposure shots. It was nearly impossible to focus the camera in the near darkness and the turtles shifted restlessly. Achieving a sharp image of one of these turtles seemed as likely as a hatchling reaching adulthood.

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A female, laying eggs under the red glow of our guide’s flashlight.

We stayed with one female and watched gelatinous tears stream down her face. I knew that she was dispelling the salt she ingests during a pelagic life, from drinking seawater and a diet that consists entirely of jellyfish. But, considering her journey, and the arduousness with which she completed this evolutionary imperative, it was hard to not anthropomorphize this as pain, or perhaps cathartic elation for her near-completed journey. We knelt beside her and placed our hands, in sheer reverence, on her smooth, hydrodynamic shell.

Nearby, hatchlings were discovered in the tailings of an adjacent female’s excavation (with the density of breeding females, nests are bound to be built on top of one another). Following our guides insistence, Toby and I eagerly helped them to the water.

One by one, members of our group peeled off until Toby and I were the last. We decided it’d be best to leave the turtles in peace and let our guide go home.

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A female on the beach the following morning, just around 5AM. I used a brief swipe of my headlight to illuminate her head.

We weren’t gone for long. By 5:00AM the following morning—before our prearranged birding tour—we were out on the beach again to find several dozen turtles in the dim twilight. Black Vultures had gathered to eat the eggs that had been dug up the previous night. Armed with a camera and tripod and the ability to use my headlamp as a supplemental light (impending daylight makes it less likely to disorient turtles with camera flashes), I made quick work of the twenty minutes we had. Thankfully, some of the images turned out.

It wouldn’t have mattered though: I will never forget these impressive animals.

The drive was already worth it but, just in case I had any doubts, within an hour we had crippling views of the national bird of Trinidad, the piping guan. Another endemic that had previously eluded us, the colorful Trinidad Euphonia, was seen minutes later.

That evening, back near Port of Spain on a boat tour of Caroni Swamp, the guide miraculously found a roosting Amazon Tree Boa in an area as massive as it was dense: a proverbial cold-blooded needle in a mangrove haystack. We joked that it was a pet planted there every morning for awestruck tourists. That didn’t matter: it was our first snake in the country.

Check.

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RESOURCES

The Cars of Cuba

Nocturnal Tidepooling: Sea Pens on a Friday Night

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Tidepooling at night at Golden Gardens, the light of Seattle in the background.

I haven’t posted in a while. It is hard to contribute to a travel blog when you, um, haven’t traveled. But sometimes adventures can be found just around the corner from home.

As a child, I spent many summers down at the beach, searching the area uncovered by the receding tide for a smorgasbord of animals without spines: urchins, anemones, nudibranchs, and tubeworms, to name a few. Tidepooling was a highlight of my summer growing up.

But I’d never been tidepooling during the winter.

Due to some astrophysical energy that is beyond my comprehension, there are roughly two high tides and two low tides every day. In the summer, the most dramatic low tide of the two is during the day—at winter, it’s at night. And so I did what any self-respecting thirty-something would do on a Friday night: strap on some rubber boots, a headlamp, and a couple heavy layers and headed to the beach.

I checked NOAA’s website to find when an especially low tide coincided with a Friday or Saturday night: a minus 1.8 tide at 11:15pm on Friday January 31 jumped out. I selected Golden Gardens off Ballard for the chance to see sea pens, a brilliant orange quill-like anemone that sticks out of the sandy substrate.

Before you judge my sanity, know that a dozen friends – from nudibranch neophytes to anemone experts – joined me on this adventure in to the unknown. No one had been tidepooling at night and, by all accounts, it was time well spent.

Highlights included: several massive Red Rock and Dungeness Crabs, a couple Kelp Crabs, and one Graceful Crab; a couple massive Moon Snails and a Sun Star in the beds of eel grass; a message in a bottle; and, thankfully, several sea pens … one of which, when stroked lovingly, glowed in the dark (courtesy of bioluminescence).

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A small Red Rock Crab (Cancer productus)

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A massive Dungeness Crab (Metacarcinus magister)

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A Kelp Crab (Pugettia producta), liberated of several of its limbs.

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Whelks inside a hollow post, with eggs.

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An Orange Sea Pen (Ptilosarcus gurneyi)

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Message in a bottle. No word on what it said.

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A Moon Snail (Polinices lewisii).

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A Moon Snail (Polinices lewisii)

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The same moon snail, illuminated from underneath.

 

 

Church Ceilings, Around the World

Grandiose, Ostentatious, Awe-inspriring, Humbling …

Such is the way that religious institutions—churches, synagogues, temples, mosques—are described around the world. Their designers created physical tributes to the deities that guided many lives throughout the centuries. Even today, in an age when our attention is torn from one flashing screen to another, these monuments still stop us in our tracks.

By setting my camera on its back pointing up, I tried to capture the diversity of these structures and the sense of the awe they all convey.

 

Sagrada Familia: Barcelona, Spain (1882 – current)

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Duomo di Messina: Sicily, Italy (1197, 1908, 1947)

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Pantheon: Paris, France (1790)

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Galleria Umberto: Naples, Italy (1891)

Not a religious institution per se, but some people take shopping very seriously. Even on Sunday mornings.

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The Pantheon: Rome, Italy (126AD)

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Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See: Sevilla, Spain (1507)

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Rumbach Street Synagogue: Budapest, Hungary (1872)

In Hungarian: Rumbach utcai zsinagóga

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St Joseph T.M.L. Masjid Mosque: Port of Spain, Trinidad (1954)

 

Holy Trinity Cathedral: Port of Spain, Trinidad (1816)

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception: Washington D.C., USA (1959)

Washington National Cathedral: Washington D.C., USA (1990)

 

Metropolitan Cathedral Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago: Santiago, Chile (1880)

 

The 35 Bridges of Paris in an Evening

Three shapes emerge when you look at a map of Paris: a circle, a spiral, and a horseshoe. The peripherique is the 35km circular highway that defines the boundaries of “Paris proper.” The spiral is provided by the twenty arrondissements (or “neighborhoods”) of Paris that—in an effort to disorient tourists—begin in the middle and spiral out like a clockwise snail shell to the twentieth in the eastern portion of the city. About halfway down it’s 775km body, the Seine River snakes through the circular border of Paris, creating an oblong horseshoe within its circular border.

On a sunny Sunday in late March, I traced the horseshoe on foot to take pictures of each of the 35 bridges that span this renown river (37 if you include the peripherique—which I didn’t). It took six hours to walk the 14km horseshoe, following the Seine downriver, east to west. Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the first bridge at 5:00pm, the sky produced the brightest, flattest light I’d ever seen; but I was already committed.

Once the sun went down, and the street lights turned on, the photo opportunities improved.

It was a fun study of the sheer diversity of Parisian bridges, from the oldest Pont Neuf (“new bridge,” ironically) built of stone in the 16th century, to the newest: a steel pedestrian span built in 2006.

 

Bridges of Paris – East to West

Pont = “Bridge” in French

 

Bridge 1 – Pont National

Completed in 1853 as a railway bridge and named Pont Napolean III (the famous Napolean’s nephew) until 1870. The peripherique bridge, and some of Paris’ nearest industry, loom in the background.

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Bridge 2 – Pont de Tolbiac

This span was built in 1882 in a push to urbanize eastern Paris and, appropriately, it’s currently flanked by a cement company. It was hit by a downed British plane during World War II.

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Bridge 3 – Passerelle Simone-de-Beauvoir

Erected in 2006, this passenger/cyclist only bridge was the 37th built in Paris. Named after the 20th century author who significantly influenced “second-wave feminism” through her 1949 book The Second Sex.

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Bridge 4 – Pont de Bercy

A suspension bridge was built on this location in 1832 to replace a congested ferry service. This toll bridge was replaced in 1864 by a stone structure. It wouldn’t remain untouched for long: a second bridge was stacked on top for the Line 10 metro in 1904, and the width was doubled in 1989 to accommodate increased road traffic.

I was especially drawn to the bold graffiti on the abandoned building behind it.

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Bridge 5 – Pont Charles De Gaulle

Pont Charles de Gaulle was built in 1996 to relieve congestion on Pont d’Austerlitz to the north, the busiest bridge in Paris. It also created a direct connection between Gare d’Austerlitz and Gare de Lyon (pictured below), two popular train stations in southeastern Paris.

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Bridge 6 – Viaduc d’Austerlitz

The Viaduc d’Austerlitz is used solely for the Line 5 metro. When it was completed in 1904, the 460ft bridge was the widest single span in Paris. It is currently second only to the 1996 Pont Charles-de-Gaulle immediately to the south.

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Bridge 7 –  Pont d’Austerlitz

First constructed in 1805, this stone mason bridge was widened in 1854, and again in 1885. It was named after the Battle of Austerlitz of 1805 when, under one of his greatest victories, Napoleon defeated the imperial armies of both Russia and Austria in present day Czech Republic

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Bridge 8 – Pont de Sully

Composed of two spans that cross the tip of Ile Saint Louis, the first Pont de Sully was built as a pedestrian bridge in 1838. Construction costs were regained through tolls until 1872, when it succumbed to corrosion and collapsed. The current bridge was built in 1876.

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Bridge 9 – Pont de la Tournelle

Currently graced by a structure built in 1928, the site has hosted a bridge since the middle ages; unfortunately the original wood structure was destroyed in the flood of 1651 and its stone replacement was demolished in 1918.

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Under Pont de la Tournelle with Notre Dame in the background, downriver.

Bridge 10 – Pont Marie

Pont Marie was completed in 1635, after twenty years of construction, making it one of Paris’ oldest bridges. Fifty homes were erected on the bridge shortly after opening, despite appeals from the bridges designer (Christopher Marie). They were washed away during the flood of 1658. Each of the bridges five arches are unique.

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Bridge 11 – Pont Louis-Philippe

Its present form was built in 1860, but the site had hosted two bridges before it, the first of which was a nameless suspension bridge that was replaced in 1833.

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Bridge 12 – Pont Saint-Louis

This current metal span dates to 1970, but the location—which connects Notre Dame with Ile Saint-Louis—has hosted seven iterations before it.

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Bridge 13 – Pont de l’Archevêché

This bridge, the narrowest in Paris that allows cars, was built in 1828. Once Pont des Arts was cleared of its famous “love padlocks” in 2010, intrepid lovers fixed their heartfelt hardware on Pont de l’Archevêché, just a “locks throw” from Notre Dame.

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Bridge 14 – Pont au Double

“Double” stands for the “double denier” coin pedestrians were charged to cross the first bridge, dating to 1634. Following a second bridge in 1847, the third and current version—made of cast iron—was built in 1883.

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Bridge 15 – Pont d’Arcole

In 1854, this bridge was the first wrought-iron bridge to span the Seine (differentiated from the familiar cast iron by containing more fibrous content and less carbon). The Eiffel Tower was made from wrought iron thirty five years later. The bridge sagged suddenly in 1888 by 20cm; it was finally corrected in 1995. Hôtel de Ville can be seen in the background.

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Bridge 16 – “Petit Pont”

Small, unassuming … and ephemeral, the Petit Pont has existed in its current form since 1853 but at least twenty-four predecessors have been washed away since the 9th century.

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Bridge 17 – Pont Notre-Dame

While not the oldest bridge, the location hosted the first bridge in Paris—le Grande Pont which was destroyed during the Norman invasion of 886. Its current (metal) form was built in 1919 to replace the tight stone arches of its predecessor, nicknamed “Devil’s Bridge” by the boats attempting to pass underneath.

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Bridge 18 – Pont Saint-Michel

The late 14th century saw the first bridge at this location. Common during the Medieval Period, houses lined both sides of the bridge, which may have contributed to its collapse during an especially extreme winter in 1408. The current bridge was built in 1857 and played host to many of the killings in the Paris Massacre of 1961, where numerous Algerians were bound and thrown in to the Seine by the police.

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Bridge 19 – Pont au Change

Built in 1860, the Pont au Change was named after the money changers and goldsmiths that lined its predecessors during the 12th century.

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Bridge 20 – Pont Neuf

Inaugurated in 1607, le Pont Neuf—”new bridge”—is the oldest in Paris, an irony not lost on most guidebooks. Pont Neuf was the center of the city and the top tourist destination before the construction of the Eiffel Tower. Jugglers, musicians, and prostitutes vied for the attention of the public, much to the delight of numerous pickpockets.

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Bridge 21 – Passerelle des Arts

This site hosted the first metal bridge in Paris, completed in 1804 under Napoleon I. In the 1970’s, however, the bridge was decommissioned due to damage sustained from the heavy hand of boat traffic as well as bombers during both World War’s. The replacement bridge—a near identical copy to the original—was built in 1984. As a symbol of timeless love, tourists affix engraved padlocks and throw the key in to the river below; all locks were removed in 2010 but the tradition continues. Institut de France can be seen in the background where the Académie francaise—the official authority on the French language—is located; the Louvre is located immediately behind the photographer.

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Bridge 22 – Pont du Carrousel

This present span was built in 1939 slightly downriver from its original location (circa 1831) to better line-up with Place du Carrousel, where the famous glass pyramid of the Louvre is located.

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Bridge 23 – Pont Royal

Pont Royal is named as such because it was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1689, making it the third oldest bridge in Paris. It replaced a burned-down wooden toll bridge, which replaced a congested ferry service.

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Bridge 24 – Passerelle Léopold-Sédar-Senghor

This passenger bridge—one of the newest in Paris—was constructed in 1999, though two different bridges have occupied this location since 1861. It is named after the first Senegalese president (1960-1980) who was also a poet and the first African member of the prestigious l’Académie française.

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Bridge 25 – Pont de la Concorde

The bridge design was approved in 1787 and construction continued for several years, even through the social and political turmoil of 1789. In fact, stones used during construction were taken from the demolished Bastille prison, a symbol of French imperialism that was stormed by a crowd on July 14, 1789 to mark the beginning of the French Revolution. The name of this bridge followed the course of history: Louis XVI, Revolution, Concorde, Louis XVI for a second time, and, finally, Concorde again. It was widened to handle increased traffic in 1932.

The Assemblée Nationale on its southern side. Second image below is taken underneath the bridge, aiming through the arches across the Seine.

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Bridge 26 – Pont Alexandre III

Inarguably the most ornate bridge in Paris, Pont Alexandre III was designed by Gustav Eiffel and completed in 1900. It connects the Grande Palais with Napoleon’s tomb at Invalides and was constructed as to not obstruct views of either.

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Bridge 27 – Pont des Invalides

A single span was originally planned in 1821 where Pont Alexandre III is currently located, but the suspended design required two large towers that obscured the view of Invalides. It was therefore moved downriver but the crumbling structure was demolished in preparation for the 1855 World Fair. The replacement bridge suffered some damage during the late 19th century but has required little maintenance since. The artwork signifies military victory on land (upriver) and at sea (downriver).

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Bridge 28 – Pont de l’Alma

Completed in 1856, Pont de l’Alma (commemorating the first victory of the Crimean War a couple years prior) became more than just a bridge to Parisians. A famous statue (of a member of the French infantry) on the bridge became a gauge for water levels: when water reached his feet, the riverside walkway should be closed, whereas the river is deemed unnavigable when the water reaches his thighs. Amazingly, water reached his shoulders during the Great Flood of 1910, which caused over a billion dollars in damage.

This statue was retained when the bridge was rebuilt from scratch in 1974.

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Bridge 29 – Passerelle Debilly

A passenger bridge that was moved to its current position after it was built for the 1900 World’s Fair. It is named after Jean Louis Debilly, an army general and recipient of the Commanders Cross of the Legion of Honor who died in battle in 1806. It is in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

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Bridge 30 – Pont d’Iéna

The Eiffel Tower looms over Pont d’Iéna, but the bridge predates it by eighty years. Napoleon ordered its construction in 1807 and, unusual for the time, construction was funded entirely by the State. Napoleon’s First Republic fell in 1815, a year after the bridge was completed. Fortunately, the bridge was spared from the wrath of Prussian General Blücher who wanted to blow it up; the famous battle after which the bridge was named was where 28,000 Prussians lost their lives—10 times the French casualties.

The bridge was widened in 1937.

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Bridge 31 – Pont de Bir-Hakeim

Made of steel, Pont de Bir-Hakeim was completed in 1905 to replace a structure built just twenty five years prior. It consists of two levels: one for cars and pedestrians, and another for the Line 6 metro. It was renamed in 1948 to commemorate the 1942 French victory over German forces in the Libyan desert.

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Bridge 32 – Pont Rouelle

Built for the C line of the RER train, Pont Rouelle lays a nice sweeping arc across the Seine. I accessed the bridge by walking down Allée des Cygnes, a thin sliver of an island that extends under three different bridges, with Pont Rouelle in the middle. It was built in 1900, decommissioned in 1937, but then opened again (to trains) in 1988.

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Bridge 33 – Pont de Grenelle

The current metal span was completed in 1968 but a couple other bridges have occupied this space since 1821. Pont de Grenelle is most famous for hosting a smaller replica of the Statue of Liberty, built in 1889 and the second of three found in Paris.

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Bridge 34 – Pont Mirabeau

When completed in 1897—after four years of construction—Pont Mirabeau was the widest and tallest bridge in Paris. The two piles represent boats: one going upstream, the other downstream. Each boat contains a statue in both the bow and stern. The first image below captures “Navigation” (foreground) and “Abundance” (background). The second image shows “The City of Paris” on the Right Bank side of the bridge, downriver.

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Bridge 35 -Pont du Garigliano

Named after a French victory in Italy in 1944, Pont du Garigliano was completed in 1966 and is Paris’ tallest bridge.

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By the time I took this picture, it was 10:45pm. Several smashed out car windows were telling me it was time to go home. It’d taken me nearly six hours to walk nine miles along the Seine. On my memory card lay 557 images of 35 bridges.

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Paris at Night: Eiffel Tower and Bir-Hakeim Bridge

It happened again.

The sky looked damned tempting when I glanced out of our window: puffy balls of cotton back-dropped by dark storm clouds. In between those clouds was a celestial commodity that had grown rare in recent weeks: blue sky. I threw the tripod and camera in to my backpack and headed to the metro in pursuit  the increasingly elusive Parisian sunset shot. Emerging from the Javel – Andre Citroen stop in the 15th arrondissement I glanced upwards—the skies still looked promising.

Tonight could be the night. I quickly took some shots of some apartments lining the Left bank of the Seine before heading across the Pont Mirabeau (“Mirabeau Bridge”) to the Right Bank.

It had rained a lot recently and the waters of the Seine were the highest—and brownest—I’ve ever seen. In fact, the riverside highway, Georges Pompidou, was closed due to flooding. I joined a handful of Parisians who assembled, by foot and wheel, to take advantage of this rare opportunity.

Unfortunately, an enormous storm cloud moved in that, while only giving periodic spits of rain, kept every other cloud in the sky from absorbing the light of the setting sun. Tonight won’t be night, as it turns out: the atmospheric unicorn eludes me yet again. The dry lining to this storm cloud, however, were reflections shots afforded by several puddles underneath Pont Bir-Hakeim. Both pools swelled and receded with each passing barge.

A passing French photographer, Pierre-yves Calvat, captured me taking a photo with the Eiffel Tower in the background. It is now featured on my about page: be sure to check out his website.

It was a nice, mostly dry evening photographing two bridges, some brown water, and a large metal spire.

 

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Apartments and office buildings along the Left Bank.

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High water rushes past Pont Mirabeau, completed in 1897. This sculpture—one of four gracing this bridge—depicts “navigation on inland waters”. She’s got her work cut out for her … but she’s facing the wrong direction.

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Two trains approach one another on the Line 6 metro while crossing Pont Bir-Hakeim.

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The one fourth sized replica of the Statue of Liberty, built three years after its larger cousin in 1889
as a gift from the Parisian-American community to the French govermment.

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The elevators pass each other towards the top of the tower.

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A tourist boat passes underneath Pont Bir-Hakeim, built in 1905 and later named for the victorious battle against the Nazis in Libya in 1942.

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A half-submerged Georges Pompidou highway, looking south towards buildings on the Left Bank.

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Eiffel Tower with Bir-Hakeim Bridge in the foreground.

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A train passes on Line 6 on top of Bir-Hakeim Bridge.

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A tourist boat passes the Eiffel Tower, as shot from top of Bir-Hakeim Bridge.

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A long exposure shot of the Eiffel Tower “light show” that happens every hour, on the hour, after sunset.
In this photo, flashbulbs appear to all be illuminated at once when in fact they fire rapidly in quick succession.