Paris at Night

Eiffel Tower and the Seine, 9pm

Île Saint-Louis

Île Saint-Louis at night

Eiffel Tower sparkling, 10pm

The Seine, 10:30pm

Eiffel Tower, 10:30pm

A few weekends ago I did something I haven’t done yet here: I went out at night by myself. I know, how scandalous. It stays light here until 10pm these days, so there is no fear of me wandering the city in the dark. Well, there was, it was a real fear I had, that I would be on deserted streets alone and oh my god, what would happen?? My cousin Stacy, an experienced solo world traveler gave me some invaluable advice before I left: Find your comfort zone first, and then go beyond it. My comfort zone was being back in my apartment by 8pm for the first few weeks. I was getting everything done that I needed to during the day, and spending the evenings listening to the crowds of people heading into the Moulin Rouge (for an 11pm show!) or one of the bars around here, thinking, “It’s okay. Not yet.”

And then, one lazy Saturday where I spent the entire day inside, I decided I was ready to go outside my comfort zone. So at 9pm I headed to the bus and got off at the Louvre, before walking down the Quai François Mitterand to the Île Saint-Louis and back to the Pont Royal to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle in all its magical, enchanting glory at 10pm. That sight is otherworldly; as if the cityscape weren’t gorgeous enough with the lights reflecting in the water and La Tour triumphing over it all in the background, she literally starts sparkling every hour, on the hour for five or ten minutes once the sun goes down. And yes, I cried.

I walked around taking photos in the blue night, laughing at myself for being concerned about being out alone at that hour. 10:30 and the sky is still inky blue (in fact, some of those photos don’t even look like they were taking so late at night!) there are still throngs of tourists in the courtyard of the Louvre where I waited for my bus back home, taking photos, having picnics on the steps, laughing and enjoying the evening –including a family with two young children under the age of two, both of whom were still wide awake. If they can do it, so could I!

And I think that living in Philadelphia my entire life –and spending the last four in a gentrifying neighborhood– makes it impossible for me not to compare the two cities while I’m living in Paris. In Philly, waiting for a bus as a single female at that hour wouldn’t be the safest thing to do, and the bus would maybe have one or two other people on it, depending on the route. The bus I took home that night? Standing room only, full of old couples dressed up coming back from dinner, young kids starting their night, and tourists aplenty. The public transit system here is so much more advanced and people are so dependent on it because it works and is convenient and thorough (three things our own transit system back home is not). What had I been so afraid of? The unknown, of course. And when I got home at around 11:15 I still had to fight through the crowds of tourists to get to my front door. Abandoned, empty streets and scary muggers lurking in doorways? Where do I think I live?

Anyway, the fruits of my nocturnal bravery were worth the anxiety I had before taking the plunge. Those photos are some of my favorite ones that I’ve taken in the past month that I’ve been here.

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June 2, 2014 / art / photo / Travel / LEAVE A COMMENT / 28

28 comments

  • Gosh how exciting to be living in Paris!! I am from NY and traveled abroad to Europe to visit when I was graduating from high school and NY was still sort of known for crime at that time and I recall feeling the same exact way, how much safer it was at night and on public transit. And the men in Europe whooee

    Allie of ALLIE NYC
    allienyc.comY

    • Thanks, Allie! It’s been quite an adventure so far. It’s still jarring, feeling safer than at home, I’m glad you understand what I’m talking about! But yeah, the men here? So pretty. They all wear scarves and wear slim-fit suits. It’s like heaven. xo

  • Umm I had no idea the Eiffel Tower sparkled every night and totally just YouTubed it right now. I’m so glad you were able to push past your comfort zone and experience this magical moment in person :-)

    • Haha, I took a video of it but I need to film a longer one, too, to get the full effect. It’s an unreal sight, seriously. xo

  • Gahhh they’re all breathtaking! I love the clouds particularly. xox

    • It had been really weird and overcast that day without actually raining, so there was a lot of cloud cover. It provided a beautiful backdrop though! xo

  • Why is it light so late in Paris? Here it’s maybe light until almost 10 around the summer solstice. I thought the light was just different if you were really north or really south. Is the twilight hour longer in Paris? So many questions! I guess I should probably google it ;)

    I am so glad you stepped out of your comfort zone to take these amazing photos! And of course to find out that it was not all that scary. I never leave my house late, I get totally disoriented by the world in the dark, simply because I haven’t been in it in the dark for so long. But I love the idea of people staying out late, dinner reservations at 10 pm (gasp!), shows at 11! I don’t know but it seems so exotic to me. Maybe someday I can join them . . . in Paris. xoxo

    • I wondered the same thing for a while and it came down to a really simple answer: geography. Paris is a lot higher up on the earth than Philly, it’s probably in line with (maybe even higher than) Nova Scotia, which is 1000 miles/15 hours north of Philadelphia if you’re driving. So there is a lot more light up here! I guess I assumed it was always just a straight shot across from the east coast. Shows you how much I paid attention in geography class ;)

      It does seem really exciting that people are just starting their evening while I’m washing my face and crawling into bed. At least to me. I eat dinner here while most people are just leaving work. I have to take a few pages from their book and enjoy the evening to the fullest (but I get so sleepy!). xo

  • BEAUTIFUL. I’m just catching up on your adventures of the past week. going to be in Paris shortly myself. do you want to meet up some day towards the end of the week?? xoxo

    • Yes please!! That would be awesome! xo

  • These are gorgeous, Squerin. Tout simplement!

    • Merciiii, er, Squsk? HA! xo

  • What magic photos! Really nice that you decided to catch the beauty of Paris during late hours and I
    hope you were encouraged to take many more walks with your camera, day and night. Love the results!

    • I absolutely was. I want to try real midnight in Paris one of these days! I feel like I’m the only person in Paris in their apartment in bed at that hour! The city is so alive! xo

  • Gorgeous gorgeous. I applaud you on being safe and cautious but I’m glad you didn’t miss out on a night adventure. It’s Midnight. In Paris. Next task for you is to find Hemingway for me, k thanks.

    • Thanks, m’dear. I just finished “The Sun Also Rises” which felt super weird to be reading in Paris, as if at any moment Hemingway would round a corner on the way to Saint-Germain. Kind of trippy. xo

  • Je suis contente que tu as passé ta zone de confort! Tu as réussi à faire des très belles photos! J’imagine que pour toi, ces photos sont tes préférés parce que tu te dépassé à toi même! Mais mois, mes préfères sont celles de la dame aux oiseaux ! Il y en a tellement de poésie dedans! xo

    • Ah merci Eva. J’aime les photos de la dame aux oiseaux, aussi, naturellement. J’etais peut-être exagérant, mais j’aime bien la tour, tu sais! :) xo

  • Oh gorgeous photos, and well worth the adventure I think. I love that it stays light so, so late. I think it encourages the world (and toddlers!) to be up and about and living light later and later. I was just talking to a friend of mine, a Greek American about this very thing. Partying until all hours, with the kids! Crazytown!

    • The beautiful thing about it is that, because the days are longer, people pack as much enjoyment into the light hours as they can. You’re right. People have picnics outside with a bottle of wine on the steps of Sacre-Cœur at 10pm. I don’t know if that will translate to my life back in Philly, but I’m hoping to try!! :) xo

  • I think it’s one of the real upsides of living in a global city – they are so densely populated that you are safe to walk around at night. I feel much safer in London at night than the small country town that I lived in before.

    Hard to imagine crime happening inside the periphique isn’t it?
    PS your photos mean so much more to me now that we’ve walked those streets together :)

    • But I don’t think I’d even feel as safe in New York, you know? And certainly not Philly. We might have an international airport but we are hardly a global city. You make a good point about the city/country though! Whenever we go to Jamal’s parents in the deep, deep NJ suburbs I wake up in the middle of the night, terrified by the silence!

      You’re so sweet. I’m still so happy you came to see me!! xo

  • Ugh, just when you think Paris couldn’t get any more gorgeous, she goes and lights up the night sky! She’s a real show-off. Glad you pushed past your comfort zone and had a great night.

    • SUCH a drama queen, right? ;) She certainly knows how to steal the show. xo

  • Such a dramatic and beautiful sky for the best back drop to the Eiffel, stunning. Ahh, Summertime in Europe, I’m also loving that it stays light til 10pm, I’m making the most of it by walking the dog. I really love the smell in the atmosphere as the darkness starts to cool the warm air around us. Sublime :)

    • Aw I’m glad to hear Dudley is benefitting too!! Summertime here is just so magical in so many ways, the light being of course chief among them, but also the temperature! It was almost 30 degrees (F) warmer in Philly than it was in Paris yesterday! I am in for a shock when I get home and it’s not breezy and nice! xo

  • Yay for pushing past comfort zones! Paris might just look even prettier at night!

    As for being afraid of walking past a certain hour in Philadelphia, I totally feel you. I don’t even live in the city, I live in the Main Line! My second job involves getting there at 3:30am to bake off pastries and bagels, and it’s close enough to be a 20 minute walk from home, but my husband prefers that I drive because he doesn’t want to worry about me walking the streets when no one is out there. I don’t share his concern (I mean, we live in the Main Line…), but if it makes him feel better, I’ll drive instead. There goes some possible exercise, right out the window!

    • Your husband is smart to make you drive! My two best friends are nurses in the city and I always, always worry about them coming home from night shift. Better safe than sorry! You just never know, and 20 minutes is still enough time for something to happen! If you lived in northern Sweden you could totally walk, though, because in the summertime there the sun RISES at that hour or earlier!! My Swedish friend told me that and it blew my mind. xo