Rats!

palais

Out and about a few nights ago, I aimed to take a few more photos of the neighborhood at night before my upcoming move. After pizza and wine with a friend, we walked down by the Seine. The bridges and official buildings are lit beautifully at night (including the Palais de Justice de Paris, above).
After recently watching an excellent documentary on the evolution of Paris city planning, I especially wanted to get photos of the Pont Neuf. This bridge was built by Henri II in the late 1500s and, as the “new” bridge, was distinguished from the older, house-lined versions that spanned the river at that time. Today it is the oldest standing bridge linking the left and right banks of Paris, via the Île de la Cité, and the Parisians are fiercely committed to its upkeep, both structurally and visually, with the most recent restoration completed in 2007. The stone arches are stunning, there are small benched alcoves carved into the walkway above for pedestrians to stop, sit and take in the view and, amusingly, the bridge cornices are lined with grotesque masks – 385 in all and each completely different.

pont neuf
I was delighted to get a well-lit photo in which each mascaron could be seen clearly. Continuing my walk, I ended up in the Galerie Du Vert Galant, a small park at the western tip of the Île. I had previously visited the park during the day and it is beautiful, lushly green as the name would suggest and filled with well-manicured perennials. A perfect place for a quiet, romantic picnic on a slow summer afternoon. However, at night, the picture (although fuzzy) was a bit different.

rats
Rats. Everywhere. Can you see them? The little brown blurs?  At least 15 at a time, with many more squeaking in the bushes. As a scientist who routinely works with animal models of disease, rodents do not usually make me so queasy. But many rats, each as large as my shoe, running back and forth only a few feet away definitely made my stomach turn. I watched, sickly mesmerized as they scurried about, jumping over each other, only kept away from the walkway by a tired looking Rottweiler, obviously used to the commotion. The sight took me away from the modern world for a moment and back to a time when the Pont Neuf was built, to relieve an overcrowded city, rife with plague, probably spread by the ancestors of the creatures in front of me. Shuddering, happy for the electric streetlights above me and modern health care, I quickly scurried home myself, feeling well enough connected to history for one night. Eeew.

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