24 hours in Pareeee!

Originally, I’d planned a 5-day jaunt; half a work trip, half Parisian ‘me time’. I’ve wanted to live in Paris practically forever, and will, I’m sure, at some point – I love the city so deeply. I’ve been lucky enough to have been to Paris quite a lot now, and have ‘done’ various sights and museums, so my plan for part of this trip was to simply ‘be’ there; to write in cafes, pretending I was French.
Alas, these plans were not to be, as the week before I was due to leave I suffered a bout of ill health (after almost 2 months of feeling ‘run down’) and fainted for the first time in my life. The swollen, cut lip, bruised chin and concussion had me swiftly cancelling my trip, feeling very sorry for myself and desperately disappointed not to be boarding the £34.50 outbound train from London to the city where beauty reigns and everything feels like a fairy tale escape world.
Yet, as much as I resented the extortionate last-minute prices of Eurostar, I couldn’t resist zipping in and out in the end, going in at lunch time and returning the following evening on my original ticket. I had worked out that if I didn’t go, bearing in mind things already paid for, I would be down £84. If I DID go, bearing in mind things paid for and the ticket to be bought and money to be made there, I would be down £94. It was a lose/lose situation, and therefore a win/win situation; I was going to go to Paris! 
And then the Eurostar website didn’t work, giving my (absolutely in no need of encouragement) bank an excuse to block my card, after 5 failed attempts at purchasing a ticket. Every single time I go abroad ANYWHERE, Barclays, in the perennial prudent manner of an overly cautious parent, blocks my card. It’s a running joke in my family that I have to use cash abroad. However, this time, I’m blaming the malfunctioning Eurostar website (Barclays merely blocked my card, gamefully, for good measure); I bought a ticket easily by phone on the morning of the journey (yesterday), having packed in the hope that a slice of Paris might be a possibility after all.
Oh, Paris. It isn’t a place, it’s a state of mind. It’s one of my favourite states of mind.
As with two previous visits to Paris, I got to work with wonderful Jeremy Howitt, who managed to arrange a coinciding visit when I mentioned to him that I’d be going (he’s written a bit about the trip here if you like to read things from another perspective). This time we were joined by Jessica Taylor, a sweet, friendly model I’d not met yet but had spoken to online, for some shots Jeremy had in mind somewhat inspired by Helmut Newton. We all took it really easy, especially as I was a bit ‘dazed’ still, so there was no pressure.
The next day, we had lunch at a cafe often frequented by Hemingway, amongst other impressive literary and philosophical characters, and stopped at a cute chocolaterie (I, of course, had to try the ‘Earl Grey Tea’ chocolates, but have to say I much preferred the raspberry hearts). I’m already thinking of planning my second visit for this year, which will hopefully allow me to work with the other photographers I’d originally arranged work with, and do the ‘pretending to be French’ thing, but that will have to wait, probably, until I’m back from my ten-day trip to Scotland. Other trips to be finalised for June/July involve Switzerland, Holland and Germany, and possibly Iceland too.
Disdain and desire:





A ‘behind the scenes’ shot (while the shot is being framed)… 
(Paris wasn’t all that warm… but luckily Jess and I had coordinating purple coats. :-))


My new red ball gown; perfect, we thought, for a red cafe scene. I love the background details in these – the reflections, the handwritten chalk menu, the chairs put away for the night…







Thanks Jeremy and looking forward to the next one! 🙂

Extreme Eiffel Tower Exploits, Etc.

Hello!

I’m writing this from my hotel in Manchester, where I’m poised for a magazine shoot tomorrow, and taking some time to catch up on lots and lots of things, including reading inspiring blog posts about creativity like these, and writing this blog post, which I’m excited to show you!

I was lucky and spoiled enough recently to be taken again to Paris by photographer Jeremy Howitt (see previous entries here and here). It really was a bit of a whirlwind, and since the idea was that we’d spend two nighttimes shooting, we were free to sightsee all day around Paris on the day in between (and although I was free to book further shoots in the area, I thought it would be nice to have the day to wander around and look at stuff instead!!).

On the first evening, post Eurostar, I met Jeremy for dinner before travelling around on the metro (to the accompanying sound of the accordian; this is one of my all time favourite things about France; it really is so unashamedly French) towards Montmartre, to revisit a spot we’d worked on before. Voilà:

(Above is Jeremy’s shot of le Sacre Coeur, taken on one of many runs up the stairs to check the status of passersby; below, me in le French mac, then less so:)

The plan was basically then to walk around and try desperately to get enough privacy (in the most popular city in the world…) somewhere with an interesting background. I have a thing about cafés (though I didn’t indulge in a macaroon during this trip), and thought we just had to use this place. And I’m bossy. I love the zebra crossing in the frame, too. The staff were just closing for the night, and we had to be quick not to let them steer their wheely bins in shot…

On day two, we went to la Musée d’Orsay to see the current Degas exhibition, which was brilliant! What an amazing place. I bought a really cool poster, plus a set of 6 monet coasters and some Degas/other postcards to boost my, er, coaster and art postcard collections. 🙂

Unfortunately, France hates vegetarians, so what could have been an entire day spent browsing the jaw dropping, inspiring and mesmerising (if there’d been time), with just a quick stop in the cafe there, was necessarily cut short by the urgent desire to eat lunch. Ah well, I hope to go back at some point; and we did manage to see quite a lot!

Next on the agenda, after dinner (yeah, basically day time was spent eating and looking at stuff, and also napping after the late shoot the night before) we went to the Grand Palais, which is currently hosting an exhibition of Helmut Newton’s photography. Lots of food for thought and inspiration! The highlight was the video, made by Helmut’s wife, with behind the scenes footage and some hilarious fly-on-the-wall scenes. Best quote ever comes from Helmut arguing with her (after she notes how fortuitous it is that a model has semi-blinked in one of his images, lending a narrow-eyed, sultry, moody feel to the image): ‘You’re doing it again. Belittling me. I told her to do that. It is my direction that makes her mysterious and wonderful.’ (Or words very similar. Love it.)

After that, aware that Paris is still full of tourists and couples strolling around its streets at 10pm, we went to the Crazy Horse, which was quite an experience!!

And finally, we did some shots in front of the iconic Eiffel Tour. Surprisingly enough, this wasn’t actually planned, but I’m so glad we did it! I think these shots will currently hold my record for ‘crazy things done in the name of modelling’; I am certainly not the first model to have posed there, but it’s still a bizarre, exciting and pressure-filled few minutes (we didn’t have longer than that really; and even then we couldn’t escape the tourists, lazily-strolling locals or taxi drivers, some of whom gave me a thumbs up sign mid-drive… and the pressure was on for Jeremy who had to control focus in low (street lamp only) light). We certainly didn’t set out to be seen; we did everything we could not to be, waiting for what felt like hours for those precious gaps in the stream of people, but in the end it just seemed impossible and we had to just go for it or always regret it. I can say that modelling nude in front of the Eiffel Tower (and, to a lesser-but-still-considerable extent, in front of the café the previous night) is a sort of ‘out of body’ experience. It’s a very odd thing to do. But the structure, power and beauty of the Eiffel Tower, especially lit up so majestically (and I have to mention that at night, the tower’s illumination copyright goes strictly to Pierre Bideau), made a wonderful posing partner and some images I’m proud of! And just look at the moon (copyright Moon)!