This purposely spooky picture was what I confronted readers of my Paris Photo Quiz a few weeks ago. I wonder how many of you would have knows what it was and where it is too!
Well it's a mire, if you please! And not just any mire, but the mire du sud, no less.
So what's a mire (pronounced 'meer' a bit like in meerkat), you are probably asking. Well, in this case it's a device which apparently helped scientists to calculate the meridian line which passed through Paris and was the equivalent of the Greenwich international dateline today (GMT and all that).
I should tell you at this point that my descriptions of the various weird and wonderful things I'll be telling you about here on this blog will be based on a mixture of my readings, my photos and my own blah-blah and experiences. I could obviously copy and paste vast tracts of Wikipedia kwowledge, but what would be the fun in that?
So all the mistakes and omissions will most certainly be mine, and I'll be quite happy to have them pointed out, corrected and ridiculed in the comments section if you feel so inclined.
Well, having got a bit mired down in that little disclaimer, back to the question at hand. For me, the most intriguing thing isn't the actual original use this thing was intended for. It's the fact that the front of it exhibits a very strange thing: there's a hollowed out rectangle with nothing in it at all! Can you guess what used to be there?
Well apparently it was the name 'Napoleon'! It's just under the words 'du regne de', which basically means 'in the reign of', which goes to show two things. One, Napoleon considered himself as near as damn it to a King, because normally kings have reigns, don't they? And secondly, times were so turbulent in those days that monuments would go up one minute, and be torn or melted down, thrown in the Seine or defaced the next!
The 'reign' of the first Napoleon was indeed surrounded by republics and proper 'reigns' (i.e. by kings and queens) of one sort or another, and here you can see that those who brought him down didn't particularly like seeing his name chiselled all over the place, and removed it.
It also has a far lesser-known sister, on the slopes of Montmartre, and the two were 'observed' from the Paris Observatory, which is just next to the Luxemburg gardens, back in the days when there was a clear view that far. Unfortunately, from our point of view, the mire du nord is in the private garden of one of the old windmills up there and I haven't yet managed to get at it with my lens, but it's on my list!
And if you are into magical mystery tours, then have a look at my 25 question Parc Montsouris Quiz, which is a fun Google Maps adventure.
You click on the question marks for the... questions, and the happy/sad masks to see how you did. And you can enlarge any of the photos you see just by clicking on them. There's a route to follow marked on the map and everything! It looks a bit like this picture on the right, but when you do it it'll be much bigger...
In fact, I'm so excited about it, I think I'll devote a whole blog post to it forthwith. I'd absolutely LOVE feedback, so have a go, see if everything works (it's still kinda 'beta' to be honest) and tell me how you did too! Good luck, and don't cheat unless you have to :-)