Monday, September 19, 2011

Pont de Bir-Hakeim, Paris

The steel bridge, Pont de Bir-Hakeim, crosses the River Seine, connecting the 15th and 16th arrondissements.  A competition was held in about 1902 for designs for a bridge which was to accommodate the anticipated crowds of tourists for the World Fair.  The bridge was to have two levels, the lower designed for pedestrians (with views of the Eiffel Tower) and vehicles (at that time horse-drawn carriages), and the upper for the Métro Line 6.  In 1948 the bridge's name was changed from Pont de Passy to Pont de Bir-Hakeim, commemorating the Battle of Bir Hakeim in which French soldiers fought Germans in 1942. 

The first photo shows the eastern end of the bridge, over land.  At this point, only the train tracks are elevated.  Vehicles and pedestrians are at street level and can enter the bridge on our left.

 On the western end of the bridge, both levels are elevated.

 The pedestrian walkways are in the centre of the bridge and on the two sides.  The stone and cement pillars tell us that this section of the bridge is built on the Isle de Cygnes (Isle of Swans), an island which briefly emerges from the River Seine.

The decorative lights recall earlier times,  

but do not always work . . . .

 Youth enjoy rapid a more crossing on the flat bridge.

But there are brief times when the bridge is very peaceful, no trains, no traffic, few pedestrians.

The River Seine has been an important trade route for centuries, even granting rapid access to visiting Vikings.  Now you often see house boats lining the banks and sightseeing boats making their incessant rounds.

The fastest boats these days are those operated by the river police.

Looking north from the bridge, you can see the Eiffel Tower (cut off in this panoramic view).

The next photo looks south from the bridge.

One couple seems to have been on their honeymoon in Paris and wanted their photos taken with the Eiffel Tower as backdrop. 

Now we are looking toward the western end of the bridge.  Majestic 19th-century condos with wonderful views now have the métro going right past living room and bedroom windows, hardly what the architects and original owners envisioned.

As we leave the pedestrian and vehicle level of the bridge, the cars can turn to join the very busy road which runs along the river, and pedestrians can take a steel bridge across that road.

We are on the bridge level, looking down at traffic, and straight across at the hill in front of us.  You can just see the 70 some steps that lead up to the métro level and beyond.

I'm still wondering how lads managed to write graffiti at this level.

 Smart car and cigarette . . . .

This shows the métro station (Line 6), stopping right at the level of someone's apartment.

The day was heavily overcast, the bridge's colour is subdued, and elevated trains never seem to enhance life at street level, but the bridge works beautifully and is certainly worth a visit.  I hope to return to see it at night.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Vancouver Cantata Singers ready for 2011-12 season

During a photo shoot for the choir's publicity pictures for the coming season, I managed to take a few shots on the side.