Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Sab's Top Ten Perplexing Paris Pavement Plaques: No.6 ~ "Pole Position"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Pavement ~ Plaques

Sab's Top Ten Perplexing Paris Pavement Plaques
No.6: "Pole Position" ~ Introduction 
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 Perplexing Paris Pavement Plaques series, I'd be delighted to hear about them!

Sab's Top Ten Perplexing Paris Pavement Plaques
No.6 ~ "Pole Position"

As a slight twist on my usual street level lurking perplexities, here's one that as it says is quite a bit further down. 21.1 metres below, no less.

However, whilst not quite qualifying as 'pavement' in the strictest sense of the word, it's certainly to be found underfoot, and for all I know under several feet, as the endless corridors and passages of Saint-Lazare lead us on interminable and intricately interwoven trails around the under-ground in the quest of making it from one line to another in less than ten minutes.

I'd love to see a diagram of all that tangled skein of tunnels; I reckon it would make the mess of computer cables behind my desk look like a couple of freezer bag tags.

This bright shiny thing to which I was inevitably attracted is part of the newish Line E of the RER and for reasons I've never quite understood they insist on calling the Saint-Lazare end a 'pôle'.

They use this term quite a lot in French actually, to refer to things like business centres and commercial areas around which, I suppose, activities and people are imagined to rotate. So be it.

The one we see above is one of several scattered around the fancy, if leaky, Line E terminus. I suppose, logically, there should be some more at the other end, which would presumably be Tournan or Chelles Gournay according to the map I'm looking at.

Having commuted out to Tournan for over a year I honestly can't remember any Pôle Tournan landmarks, but I wasn't looking for such things at the time, and as it is quite clearly way outside the official Paris city boundaries, and bearing in mind the name of this article and blog, I frankly don't care either way.

On a lighter note, and much as I love such initiatives, I can't help wondering what the point of these plaques is.

You'd almost certainly already know you were at Saint-Lazare station, so that's a bit redundant. Being aware of which way is north is, as I've already mentioned, one of the most useless pieces of information anyone could wish to have in these treacherously weaving and wending wormholes.

Realising you're on the 'passerelle intermédiaire', whatever that is, is also pretty meaningless and the only effect knowing I was that far below street level would have would be a slight queasiness.

Which leaves us with the fact that it's quite shiny. And a pole. And not being a difficult chap, that's good enough for me.



* 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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