Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Sab's Top Ten Perplexing Paris Plaques ~ "When Thèbes Rises"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Plaques

Sab's Top Ten  Paris Pavement Plaques
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

'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

1) When Thèbes Rises
I thought I'd start off this list with one of the most mysterious plaques in the city.

It's to be found at Place de la Concorde, right next to the Obelisk, and I've just read a whole bunch of posts not able to make head or tale of its intriguing inscription:

"AU
LEVANT DE
THEBES
SURGIT A
PARIS
LE NORD"

I'm not going to add to the debate because I'm not able - I have no pet theories of my own - but I will tell you that it translates, roughly, as 'At the rising of Thèbes, the north comes to Paris'.

Utterly incomprehensible, I think you'll agree. There are clues in there somewhere though, simply not enough to make sense of it at all. Thèbes is a city in Egypt near Luxor, whence the Obelisk, so that can't be a coincidence.

A few of the stabs at explanations talked about the north being symbolic for the good and right way, with Napoleon possibly being the one to come back from Egypt to sort things out.

I don't know, but I'd be interested to find out one day, as I know a few other Paris nerds out there would be too.


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Sab's TOP 10 PERPLEXING PARIS PAVEMENT PLAQUES ~

1) WHEN THEBES RISES ~ 2) CONCENTRIC GENIUS ~ 3) ROSE LINE RAMBLINGS
4) ASTERIX, PAR TOUTATIS! ~ 5) DEAD CENTRE OF PARIS ~ 6) COMING SOON
7) COMING SOON ~ 8) COMING SOON ~ 9) COMING SOON
10) COMING SOON
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* 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!

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs ~ "Sentier"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Metro ~ Signs

Sab's Top Ten Magical Paris Metro Signs
by 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

1) Sentier
McDonalds pulled off a massive marketing coup by sneakily merging their famous golden arches (the famous McDonalds' yellow 'M') into the urban landscape where it uncannily resembled the ubiquitous modern yellow Paris metro 'M'.

But not all Paris metros play McBall. At the one we see here, proudly announcing the presence of the Sentier station on line 3, there is indeed an 'M', but that's about the only relation it bears to the American hamburger chain.

This one is bright red and far less flowing, indeed it's almost robotic in design, with its chunky serifs, and the whole letter is slashed through with the equally unsubtle blue bar with the word 'métro' on it, delimited by a couple of white dashes.

This latter element is actually 'revealed' by slits cut in the metal panel itself and (I realise I have to verify this as I type) I believe is backlit at night so you can clearly se what's what. The whole is unified with a fairly classic underground train symbol - the circle - which reminds me of London's equivalent, albeit in blue as opposed to read.

I'll refine this piece as I get more info, but we're not looking at art nouveau here, of that I'm fairly sure. Could it be called art deco? Or is that what the famous one's already are? Oh dear. Anyone? Something tells me that's a possibility. I love the way the more classically Parisian elements of Haussmannian buildings with typical carved heads set this sign off splendidly.

When we look at one of my original, rather gloomy iPhone pics here, before fiddling, we can see that it's not quite as spectacular as my final photo would have you believe, but in real life it's actually much nicer than in the second picture, so that doesn't really matter in the end.

Now I have a question, as I start my quest to discover the ten most magical Paris metro signs, and my question is: are there any other signs in the same style as Sentier? I'm sure someone out there is living just above one if there is and will leave a comment to let me know. In the meantime, I'm scratching my head: what-oh-what is going to be number two? Hmm, let me think...


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

1) SENTIER ~ 2) BOURSE ~ 3) MADELEINE
4) PALAIS ROYAL - MUSEE DU LOUVRE ~ 5) VANEAU
6) CHATELET ~ 7) PLACE MONGE ~ 8) COMING SOON
9) COMING SOON ~ 10) COMING SOON
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

* 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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