Saturday, 1 October 2011

Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds: No.1 ~ "Your Number's Up"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Fading

Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds
No.1: "Your Number's Up" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

So there I was, wondering which of my 'Sab's Top Ten's to add a new item to, when I suddenly remembered a rather intriguing item I discovered recently.

It isn't a wall sign really, and it isn't one of those splendid old shop signs, and it's not a sign of war, and it's certainly not a pavement plaque or a bridge... so what is it?

Well, it's a fading sign of a Paris which is no more, that's what it is. Hence my new 'Sab's Paris Top Ten', proudly if enigmatically entitled 'Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds', and this serendipitous discovery is going to be Number 1!

I hope you enjoy this particularly intriguing series, and do send me suggestions for future items - I'll always buy you a coffee and a croissant for your efforts!

Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds
No.1 ~ "Your Number's Up"

Not everyone would notice this faded smudge up above street and eye level in a side street of Paris' Marais district, as I, indeed, didn't for nearly 2 decades.

Then, on my way, appropriately enough, to one of our Paris If You Please Meet Up group's monthly Paris quizzes, I saw it. Or did it see me, peering down from where it's been, quietly retiring and slipping away for over 200 years?

Thanks to the wonders of modern scIence I'm able to bring you a zapped up and Sabbified version below, as evening was falling and the light was failing and it's actually a miracle I even ended up with an image at all, and what's more, I can still more or less remember where it is, so that's all good then.

And what is it? Well I reckon it's one of the old street numbers from Napoleon's day, started back in 1805, when the 'new' Paris numbering system was introduced, in itself a new concept for Parisians.

To help them grasp the essentials, and have a vague idea of their orientation I suppose, numbers on streets parallel to the Seine were painted in red on a yellow background, as shown here, while roads perpendicular to the river displayed the numbers in black. Shame about the number though. There ain't one, it's long gone.

I'm particularly please about this one, because I found it all on my ownsome, with no help from anyone, no books, no hints, no whispered conversations in darkened corners; just walking down the road with my eyes up, and there it was. So if I can do it, then anyone can.

It's not the only one in Paris, there are a few, some of them in a fairly or even very good state, some deplorable and one really almost gone.

Which is a shame, but at least they're there, and hopefully will remain so for a while yet for people like me to go skidding through dog dejections and tripping over little old ladies in our obsessive attempts to unearth (I prefer the French dénicher)  every last one of these intriguing secrets.

We never will, that's the great and oh-so frustrating thing. There will always be one last secret to seek out, but you can discover another in Sab's Top Ten Fading Paris Finds No.2, and I don't even know what it will be yet. Now that's intriguing.



* Sab Will runs Photo 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...

© 2011 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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