Interview: Virginia Jones – photographer – Paris through my Lens
Welcome to the ‘MyFrenchLife™ Member Interview Series’ – interviews with savvy Francophiles from all around the world capturing their passion secrets and tips, all about their life and their favourite places in France.
- As you read these interviews you’ll become immersed in the individual member’s ‘French Life’.
- You’ll also learn why France is so special in their eyes & how they came to be so passionate about this country.
- Discover so much more about France in the process and you’ll personally benefit from the experiences and tips these savvy Francophile frequent travelers generously share.
Introducing Virginia Jones
Photographer Virginia Jones is a former teacher, community volunteer, photoblogger, and grandmother to a handful of delightful grandchildren. She credits her first trip to Paris in 2007 as the inspiration for what has become a new career in photography.
She presents photo-talks on a variety of subjects featuring her images of both Birmingham, Alabama (USA) and Paris.
- Virginia’s ‘Travel to Paris’ talks, featuring her travel tips, and favorite places are always well attended.
- ‘From Snapshots to Creative Photographs’, her photography class series, is designed specifically for amateurs who want to improve their photographs. Virginia now offers this series in full-day workshops.
- ‘Paris through my Lens‘ is Virginia’s award-winning photography blog and her
- Instagram account is @vjonesphoto – I dare you to scroll and not salivate, or even book your flight to Paris!
Now let’s meet Virginia, shall we?…
My first Paris trip – becoming a Francophile
In 2007, my daughter, already a francophile, took me and her 5-year-old daughter Eva to Paris for my Spring Break. I was a third-grade teacher in my 18th year at the time. Up until that time, the only photos I took were of my grandchildren (5) and my third graders. I took my classroom Nikon Cool Pix camera.
When we arrived, I looked around and thought Paris was the most beautiful place I’d ever been to.
I took endless photos.
I left hopelessly in love.
The next year I bought a good camera, took two night classes and RETIRED!
I started Birmingham AL Daily Photoblog.
I returned to Paris with a friend that following November and upon returning created my Paris blog, Paris Through My Lens. My blog has opened the world to me and through them and social media, I know how many friends in Paris and around the world.
Last November marked my 16th trip! I go on the cheap and take a zillion photographs.
They say when you leave Paris, you leave a piece of your heart. Indeed I do.
What I love about Paris
I see Paris through a photographer’s eyes.
I can’t begin to choose my one favorite place, but
- I am drawn to wandering the streets and parks.
- I love the whole Marais area,
- the Palais Royale,
- Luxembourg Gardens,
- Jardin des Plantes,
- Tuileries ( when it’s not overrun with tourists)… I could go on and on.
I love stumbling upon charming courtyards, and interesting small specialty shops.
I could sit and people watch and listen to the French language all day.
Each trip we try and find a new place, museum, exhibit that we haven’t seen.
Paris is like an onion, you peel away layer after layer and there is always something new and exciting.
Am I a different person in Paris?
I wish I could say that I am transformed into a fluent French speaker but my French is sadly lacking, and my southern accent does not help.
I will say as a southerner, I’m used to speaking to strangers and smiling a lot. I’ve been told to be more serious in Paris but that’s silly. I am friendly and know the niceties (Merci, bonjour, s’il vous plait) and I find that the Parisians are warm and friendly.
My favorite locations
As I said, I go with photographs in mind so that drives where I like to go.
The parks, small shops, the Marais, Palais Royal are always on my list.
I keep a running list all year long of places I find on Instagram, blogs or Facebook.
When my travel friend Mary and I get ready to fly off, we put our lists together and come up with a loose itinerary.
I”m very fortunate to have my dear friend in Paris, Peter Olson, who always has new places to show me.
My favorite places to eat
We pretty much eat on the cheap.
We eat lunch out as it’s less expensive and often eat cheese, bread, and wine for dinner in the apartment.
5 Rue des Grands Degrés
75005 Paris La Cuisine de la Phillippe
25 rue Servandoni
75006 Paris I have also found the Treize Bakery, a few years ago and always have brunch there. Laurel is from Charleston SC and we speak the same language! Treize Bakery
5 rue de Médicis
75006 Paris Le Nemours
We always lunch at Le Nemours at Place Colette. Their quiche is delicious and so is the people watching. We’re a threat to have a glass of wine or two there later in the day as well. Le Palais Royale
Afterward, we spend a long time in the Palais Royal. It’s not only a terrific photo opportunity but also a quiet place to pull up a green chair, put your feet up and thank God you’re in Paris!
My favorite places to walk, off-the-beaten-track
Butte aux Cailles is a charming neighborhood that many don’t know about.
I also love to wander the Left Bank streets and the Marais.
My travel friend Mary, is a docent at the Cincinnati Spring Grove Cemetery so over the years she has dragged me along to most of the major cemeteries in Paris.
- The most unusual is, of course, the Pet Cemetery,
- My favorite, besides Père Lachaise, is Cimetière du Passy.
It’s small and easy to tour and just steps from Trocadero, so you can combine a visit along with your Tour Eiffel trip.
My best purchase ever!
- I found two fabulous scarves that almost feel like cashmere on Île St. Louis last year.
I’m not sure why I didn’t buy more and where it was, but I’m going back and find it!
- I find inexpensive little gifts for friends at the Monoprix.
I usually load up on their cocktail napkins and everyone loves their sturdy shopping bags. I’m obsessed with them too.
- For special chocolates, we like Hugo and Victor.
They have special small boxes of chocolates that resemble marbles!
- If you have a love of gardening, there’s a lovely book/gift shop at the Concorde entrance to Tuileries.
- Of course, the Louvre museum shop is spectacular as well.
Best purchase? Le chocolat chaud à Angelina’s bien sûr! I waited way too long before I tried it.
Most notable experiences
- Notre Dame – In November 2017, I was able to connect with one of the three organists at Notre Dame. Long story, but he was coming to my church to play a concert and speak the following March, so I emailed him to ask if I could meet him and photograph him playing. He agreed and Mary and I met him before the mass in driving rain and then climbed the one million steps to the organ loft. I never gave a thought to how high the loft is! The view was breathtaking and after the fire this year, that experience will forever be one that I cherish.
I was astounded how many dear friends and readers reached out to me after the fire. I was so very touched by their kind words.
I’ve had other memorable encounters with Parisians.
- Once a waiter at Cafe Bonaparte chased me down to hand me a bag full of Galeries Lafayette scarves I’d forgotten.
- In 2015, I was lucky enough to have lunch and a tour of Galeries Lafayette from one of their social media team. That evening was the horrendous terrorist attacks so that of course was memorable in a different way. Two nights later, we were in the Marais when there was a false alarm and ended up hiding in an apartment stairwell. A lovely family took us in their apartment until we ascertained that it was a false alarm and safe to leave. I will never forget their kindness.
- Over the years I have been fortunate to become friends with wonderful expat photographer Meredith Mullins. In 2009 I spent an afternoon with her wandering around her home on Île St Louis taking photos. Since then, whenever she’s in town we meet at Le Reminet for lunch. I’ve done two photography classes with her and value her friendship.
- I have also loved getting to know photographer Carla Coulson and meeting up with her several times as well. She’s so fun and I am in awe of her talent as well.
- Oh, my Bucket List you ask? The south of France. Maybe I’ll win the lottery!
Most notable exhibitions
- I FINALLY went to Paris Photo in 2017 and was able to take a quick photo of the famous Magnum photographer, Elliott Erwitt! It is sensory overload there and it was my first time inside the Grand Palais so it was a photographer’s paradise.
- Last year we saw the Klimt at the Atelier des Lumières. That was probably the most fabulous exhibit I’ve ever seen.
- And I’m looking forward to Van Gogh this November (2019).
- Through the years I’ve been privileged to see exhibits of Cartier-Bresson, Brassäi, Yousuf Karsh, Judith Miller, Vivian Maier, and Elliott Erwitt.
- I think the Architecture Museum is the best-kept secret in Paris. It’s fabulous and I always recommend it.
Tips and what I like to share
- For first-timers to France, Polly Platt’s French or Foe is an absolute must.
She teaches you how to get along with the French and the niceties everyone should learn. I ALWAYS start with “Bonjour” then “Parlez vous anglais?” I never assume they speak English, but I always am very appreciative that they do. If not, I launch into what Peter says is my franglais with sign language!
- Helping others with my tips is always a challenge for me, one which I’m yet to solve… Several years ago, I toyed with the idea of publishing an e-book that combines my 15-page document of tips, etc along with photographs. It wasn’t going to be a Rick Steves tome, but just “my Paris”. I have lots of friends who meet with me before they travel to France and want my help. I got tired of typing up the lists of ‘restos’, etc so I created what I called Paris 101. I must get on with that! Watch this space!
- For everyone – PowerPoint: I compiled my images into a PowerPoint format for French teachers. I call the program ‘Photos in French’. There are two available: ‘Colors of Paris‘ and ‘People of Paris‘. These are popular tools for conversation starters, creative writing, descriptive exercises, backdrops, etc. – contact Virginia
- For teachers – Posters: I also offer classroom posters and selected photos for Transportation, Signes, and Parks and Monuments. – contact Virginia
And if you’d like to know more about Virginia
- Photo-blog: ParisthroughmyLens.blogspot.com and
- Instagram: @vjonesphoto
- Virginia Jones Photography
- Virginia contributed some 17 articles and photo stories to MyFrenchLife.org in 2012-2013.
Virginia very kindly added her view of the MyFrenchLife Community:
MyFrenchLife to me is a warm and welcoming place for French lovers to share their wonderful experiences. I learned a long time ago that people who love Paris want to talk about it and I’m one of them!
Thank you Virginia – I loved finding out more about your Paris persona, and your photographs. You are, I’m sure, an inspiration to many other members – Judy
What is your ‘French life’ dream? Taking time out to capture the beauty of Paris perhaps? Please join the conversation in the comments section below.
1-6, 9-11 © Virginia Jones
7 – via Le Riminet website
8 – via le Nemours website
To read other MyFrenchLife member interviews – inspiring Francophiles all of them:
1. Keith Van Sickle
2. Ray Johnstone
3. Henrie Richer
4. Janet Hulstrand
5. Virginia Jones – this one
6. Gina Hunt
7. Jane S. Gabin