Monday, April 30, 2012

My Day in Paris

Paris, Tennessee Eiffel Tower
What drew me to Paris, Tennessee, a town of 10,000 people near the Kentucky border? Paris is only about forty five minutes away from our Tennessee River haven, and my husband was fishing with a friend for the day. The nesting herons could wait. But why Paris? Because this is a photography blog, I can show you rather than tell you. For one thing, Paris has its own Eiffel Tower.

I wanted to go to Paris for the Eiffel Tower alone. You see, the last time I saw this tower it was in Memphis, in 1991. Memphis in May was honoring France, and to help celebrate the occasion, some engineers at Christian Brothers University got the idea to create a scale model of the Eiffel Tower, sixty feet tall. This was quite an endeavor, involving a lot of time from both professors and students.  Christian Brothers had no use for this impressive tower after the festivities were over, and offered it to Paris, Tennessee.  

The refurbished Eiffel Tower now sits on a rise among the tennis courts, the playground, the walking trail, and the municipal pool in Paris. Luckily it was a good day for photography, partly cloudy and a pleasant temperature. I had two shots of the tower that I liked, and finally decided on this one for my post because the clouds were the most interesting, and because the tower is framed by the leaves of a tree. The background in a photo is important.  In this case the tower was far enough away from me that I was able to point my camera at the sky, depress the shutter half way, and then quickly move the camera back to the subject without releasing the shutter before clicking. The result of that is that the blue sky and clouds show up much better than if I focused directly on the tower. If I had not done that the sky would have been washed out. Of course I could have fooled around with the exposure settings on the camera instead, but this was just easier.  If you use this shortcut make sure it will not interfere with your automatic focus. You could not do this if you are close to your subject.  

I learned from my visit to Paris that since 1991, the pride and marketing focus of the town are dominated by the tower. What a wonderful thing the CBU engineers had done for this place!! I started taking photos of everything with the tower in a sign, but I quickly gave up. I felt surrounded by tower signage. It was on the water tower. It was embedded in a fountain.  
From the downtown fountain in Paris, Tennessee
The shops in town use the motif. It was on an Elementary School sign. It was the name of a street. This was one of my favorite uses of the tower by a private business.  

Shop, Eat, Live

World's Largest Catfish Fry Activities

Although I love the tower, and heartily approve of the use of the tower as a symbol for the town, I decided that there must be some other similarities to all things Parisian, and I began to search them out!   Fortunately, the downtown streets were bustling on Saturday.  I had happened upon the last day of the World’s Largest Catfish Fry.   If there is anything that is more important to Paris, Tennessee citizens than the Eiffel Tower, it is this week long celebration. Everywhere there were signs saying that official business stopped on Friday because of the catfish fry. 
Unfortunately, I only got to see the catfish race. I’m taking a slight detour here to prove that I am not making this up!   I saw a catfish race!   It was a no brainer to make this photo black and white. Who wants to see a catfish in color? This is not a fishing blog!   
Catfish Race in Paris, Tennessee

Despite this large event, which attracted a few hundred people in front of the courthouse (Paris is the county seat of Henry county), I found a place to park, and immediately discovered more connections between Paris, Tennessee and its larger namesake. This looks a bit like a Paris street scene, complete with an artist painting portraits.   

Parisian sidewalk artist at work

I could not resist this shot of a traditional Parisian sidewalk café. 
Parisian Sidewalk Cafe

Now I was on a roll, and I hadn’t even left Court Square! I found the Arc de Triomphe, with the Champs-Élysées in the background.


From the sculpture garden at the Louvre:

And, from the countryside outside Paris: 

The Seine River, left and right banks, aka Big Sandy

Naturally Paris has a winery, which provided many comparisons to the larger Paris—the one in France.     But I bet even France doesn’t have bottles of wine in the shape of an Eiffel Tower.     Henry County, Tennessee, unlike Benton County,  doesn’t seem to have many issues with spirits.   Venus de Milo (complete with arms!) was found at the winery. 
Venus de Milo

With the winery came my favorite Eiffel Tower signage 

As you can tell, I had fun with this blog.  You don't have to take photography seriously.  And it can take you exciting places like Paris, without the expense and time necessary for a plane ticket.   I think I had a better time in Paris, Tennessee taking photos than I would have trying to speak French in the other Paris.  Many of my best shots from the day didn't fit the theme, and I am embedding a slideshow for these, which include traditional street photography, more Eiffel Tower signage, and scenes from the surrounding countryside.  I even include my best attempt at Versailles! 

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