Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy

I have two passions: Photography and Elton John. I was able to combine both in the aftermath of the Internet bubble implosion in 2001. The Customer Relationship Management consulting company I worked for in Cambridge, MA had just downsized from 250 employees to just under 60. I was newer to the company so obviously one of the first to go. The positive side to it all was the opportunity it presented. I had always wanted to live in or around Hollywood so that appeared to be in my near future. I would just go out and make a go of it – not as an actor but as a business owner of something and as a photographer.

In the meanwhile, though, I looked around to see where Elton John was playing in the Spring of 2001. I thought the further away from Boston the better. He was in Europe at the time, playing in the UK, Germany, Italy and in many other cities but it was Paris that caught my eye. This was the opportunity I sought. In April of 2001, he was scheduled to play at The Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy in Paris which had opened only 17 years earlier in 1984. The Palais Omnisports de Paris-Bercy is also used as an indoor sports arena and is located in the 12th arrondisement, a beautiful section of Paris on the Right Bank of the River Seine.

I had been to Paris a couple of times before that and found it to exude an enticing and addictive energy, an energy that a photographer, among other artists, senses and wants to capture. The first images of Paris to come to mind were Boulevard St. Germain on the Left Bank, Le Cafe de Flore (made famous by Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir and other post-war intellectuals such as photographer Robert Capa, and authors Ernest Hemingway and Truman Capote), the Eiffel Tower and the sights and smells of Rue Mouffetard, a cobblestoned hilly street where fresh fish, meats, vegetables and so much more line this street for sale. It is one of the oldest streets in Paris and is also a great place to buy some of the best made crepes in the world. The name “mouffetard” is derived form the French word for “mouffette” which means “skunk”, an apt name for the smell of the street in the evening after meats, poultry and vegetables have had hours to bake in the long, hot sun – similar to Haymarket Square in Boston. Rue Mouffetard is located on the Left Bank in the 5th arrondisement along with the Latin Quarter, The Pantheon, and the Sorbonne.

Some of the top Paris attractions that I visited were:

  • The Eiffel Tower
  • The Arc de Triomphe
  • Rodin Museum
  • Notre Dame Cathedral
  • Versailles
  • The Louvre
  • Hotel National des Invalides
  • The d’Orsay Museum
  • The Basilica at Sacre Coeur
  • The Luxembourg Garden
  • Tuileries Garden

In the end, though, the appeal of Paris lay not in the restaurants or food markets but in the Parisians themselves. Parisians seem to own soft, knowing smiles and determined ethics. They certainly know how to enjoy good coffee, they don’t mind walking and they love to debate politics. In fact, it’s the latter that enticed me to follow a parade of women marching for the rights of midwives to be granted equal employment rights. I didn’t understand the extent of the entire debate but it was fun to photograph this non-violent march through the streets of Paris for about 2 hours. Women with placards and painted faces marched (sometimes strolled as if amazed that hand in hand while the police – almost too expectant, as if this sort of thing happens frequently (it does!) – calmly redirected traffic and stood guard by their motorcycles ensuring that nothing got out of hand. It didn’t.

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