Seated at a tiny table in the corner of a French café sipping on ice tea, Virginia Jones is at home. This particular cafe is in Birmingham. But you can easily envision her in another café 4,482 miles away enjoying coffee and pain au chocolat.
“It had been my first time out of the country. I wasn’t prepared for how much I loved it,” said the retired teacher of her first trip to Paris.
The spring break trip in 2007 with her daughter and grandchild became a pilgrimage at least once a year. She’s now travelled there 15 times. Her love of the language, culture and food has made Paris her second home.
“I love the beauty on every corner,” said Virginia.
She began taking pictures of windows, churches, people, anything that caught her eye. Images from her first trip were taken with a point and shoot camera borrowed from the school where she taught. She retired a year later, upgraded her equipment, and headed back to Paris. She takes more than 3,000 pictures on every trip for her photoblog, Paris Through My Lens.
Her most recent trip last November took her into the organ loft at the Cathedral of Notre-Dame where she took pictures of titular organist Vincent Dubois playing during mass. His only request? Don’t fall.
“He said 'take all the photos you want. Just don’t get too close to the edge and fall over.' We could almost touch the rose window,” recalled Virginia. "It was surreal.”
Navigating the famous cathedral and climbing tight, twisting staircases to the choir loft left little time to
talk, so she’s looking forward to the Religious Arts Festival Banquet on February 8 at 6:30 pm in the Great Hall. Vincent will be the speaker. He’ll also play Requiem and solo organ works of Maurice Duru e at the IPC Choir Concert on Sunday, February 11 at 3 pm.
“My house is going to be empty that week,” she said.
She's helping IPC member Sonny Williams supply the decor for di erent events. Virginia is loaning several of her "millions" of books about Paris, plates and her Ei el Tower collection. It includes a four-foot light up tower that served as her Christmas tree for a few years.
Virginia will lead a photo talk on Sacred Spaces in Paris Monday, February 5 at 7 pm featuring churches and cemeteries. Additional photographs will be on display on the second floor including the woman with the red umbrella. It’s the image featured on the cover of her book, Paris Rouge.
“I stood on the radiator and hung out the window to get the photo. She was walking down the street with the
umbrella,” laughs Virginia remembering that particular shot.
There is certainly a story behind each photograph. She can’t wait to share them and create new ones as French music, art and food arrives at IPC February 4- 11 for the 47th Annual Religious Arts Festival. Vive la France!