Thursday, 17 November 2011

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs: No.6 ~ "Châtelet"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Metro ~ Signs

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs
No.6 ~ "Châtelet" ~ Introduction
 Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

I don't know about you, but for me there's something utterly magical about all those wonderful Paris metro signs, be they the traditional ones we're all familiar with, or the rather more unusual sort we're quite surprised and rather pleased to stumble come across on our cross-city travels.

In fact the variety is far greater than you might expect and their 'form' is far from 'uni'.

I didn't realise that at first though, which is why I rarely paid them much attention; I thought they were all just variations on the good old Hector Guimard Flowy Joey Art Nouveau style. This is not the case.

In this spontaneous series I'll be bringing you ten (or so, I find restrictions so... restricting) of my all time favourite Paris metro signs, classic or otherwise. As I'm writing this introduction with only the first sign below in mind I'd be delighted to have suggestions for the other nine!

It's also a great excuse to have a bit of fun with my cameras, both fancy, and not, the pic directly below being an example of the latter. It's an iPhone shot, played around with afterwards, and the limitations of the camera sure tests the inventivity of the photographer, which is half the fun. I hope you enjoy reading my Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs articles as much as I do writing them, and I look forward to reading your comments sometime down the line!

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs
No.6 ~ "Châtelet"

At first I didn’t think I was going to cover the big yellow ‘M’ signs you see here in my Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs series.

I didn’t consider them particularly magical and the reminded me irresistibly of… but wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. The more I thought about it the more I realised they did have a story to tell.

Of course, you might  have guessed that the big yellow ‘M’, well, isn’t it one of the most incredible coincidences that the world’s largest hamburger chain just happen to also use a big yellow ‘M’ of surprising similar design and dimensions! I wonder how many times seeing this particular metro sign has subconsciously driven people towards the other ‘M’ which you can actually see in one of these pictures if you look closely. Another happy coincidence?

I also wasn’t thinking of including this one because I was most interested in the word ‘Métro’ in all its manifestations. But then I realised I was missing the point.

The ‘M’ was all that was left of ‘Métro’, which itself had replaced the more cumbersome but beautifully written ‘Métropolitain’, and there are examples of all three incarnations of the underground transport system’s name around the city for us to admire today.

I will draw the line at metro entrances with no sign, of course, given the title of this Top 10, but I’m now perfectly happy to include this rather cheery (in the chill of a mid-November night) sunny symbol of a warm train ride home.

It’s strange, but almost as soon as Hector Guimard’s beautiful art nouveau metro entrances we love today had been put up in the early 1900s the city started to do away with them, or at least not renew them in later additions to the network.

Here we see two of the new wave, with three pictures showing an older-looking circled ‘M’, although I think it is steel nevertheless. The fourth photo, from just the next station along on line 1, Hôtel de Ville, has a more modern-looking silver hoop. Iron and even stone have been used in the past and are still occasionally to be found, so keep your eyes open!

Anyway, there you have it; me and the miserable ‘M’ are now fully reconciled, he’s a proud member of my Top 10 Magical Paris Metro Signs (for the time being at least) and let no more be said about it.

By the way, did you know that the best McDonalds deal is the loss-leading  ‘McChicken’ at only €2 a piece. Terribly tempting, I can tell you.



* 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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