'Don't look down', the saying goes. Well I'm about to ask you to do exactly that, not once but ten times.
Maybe you already have, as you've wandered the streets of Paris, wondering at all the wonders and occasionally tripping over something somewhat strange underfoot without knowing quite what it's about.
Readers of the Da Vinci Code, and the inevitable film, may well be familiar with at least one of the curious metal plaques you'll find lurking down there on the pavement, or the sidewalk as our US friends might prefer.
It turns out that there are quite a few of these things, and I don't mean quite a few copies of the same plaque; there are quite a few completely different metal plaques on the streets of Paris, each with its own story to tell. So let's see what's been under our very feet all this time without our even realising it. If you know of any others which would fit right in to my Top Ten Paris Pavement Plaques series, I'd be delighted to hear about them!
Sab's Top Ten Paris Pavement Plaques No.2 ~ "Geocentric Genius"
I'm pretty pleased with this one, people. Most of what I've discovered around this city has been done all on my lonesome, but I have to admit that finding this, just a handful of months ago, RIGHT next to a place (Zee Breeteesh Coonseel) I worked for years, really took me by surprise.
Then again, although I use the words 'nestled' and 'nestling' far too often for my lyrical liking, never have they been more appropriate than here, for this particularly perplexing Paris pavement plaque.
It's not on the pavement, though, as you can see. It's naughtily nestling in the green green grass (that which remains after the 'No Ball Game' notice ignorers have had their lunchtime of fame) on the Esplanade des Invalides.
And what's it all about? World domination, folks. Or at least global coverage, in these geocentric days. It's another of those strange finds which seem to be scattered at irregular intervals over much of the city, as you'll already be aware if you've read me for a while. But this one was a new one to me; an absolute surprise. And you know how much I love surprises...
A grimmish dark grey marble slate nestles - damn! there I go again - unnoticed and unremarkable if it isn't to receive a curse from a would be Messi who has the misfortune to tumble on to its nobbly surface, which would at least offer the chance to practise their acting abilities. Not that Messi isn't one of the 'cleanest' and of course most brilliant players on Planet Football today. Sorry, the most... etc.
I only correct this potential misunderstanding as I live with someone who grew up coming out of her apartment and seeing the Camp Nou (home of the legendary Barça football club) at the end of the road, so you can see where I'm coming from. But I digress. Now where was I?
Ah yes, nobbles and grimmishness. For grim it is, and a nobble it does indeed have. Not a big one, mark you, but there's unmistakably something there, and we're not talking a scuff or a scratch. As nobbles go, this one is here to stay.
So what's it all about? The words enlayed in grudging gold give the clue we need: 'Institut geographique national' lies above the bobble; 'Réseau géodésique français' lurks below.
Géodé-quoi? you may well be asking. As I did. Turns out it's a pan-planetary location system, allowing us to, hmm, did you guess... locate things in relation to other things, oh yeah. Groovy man.
It's all very komplicated and klever anyway, but the long and the lat of it is that there's a bunch of these things scattered all over France (and, presumably, the rest of the geosphere) like a burst packet of M&Ms, allowing the lay of the land to be more easily understood, mapped and navigated by all who sail in her. So now you know. Sweet.
~ Sab's TOP 10 PERPLEXING PARIS PAVEMENT PLAQUES ~
* Sab Will runsPhoto and Curios Tours in Paris, and also manages a variety of Paris and photography-themed sites and blogs. He writes an illustrated Paris Chronicle every day, runs a Meetup group for Paris lovers, interviews Paris personalities and reviews Paris books (on this blog), and even contributes to the city's street art (shh), so feel free to browse some of the links below and in the right-hand column to find out more about what he gets up to out there...