The symbol of Paris is a boat. Strange, you might think, unless you think about it a little more.
Paris is a river-based city. That stretch of water has both brought invaders and protected it down the ages. The Paris area, taken as a whole, is purported to be Europe's busiest port.
The river Seine is synonymous with the city and the French capital would be unthinkably lessened without it.
The motto of Paris is 'Fluctuat nec mergitur', which means something along the lines of 'tossed by the waves but does not sink'. Which is metaphorically true enough. Paris has been invaded or under siege or simply revolutionised countless times, and yet has never suffered the whole scale destruction many other cities have.
The symbol of Paris is a boat, often depicted as being rocked on a restless sea. They might not be immediately obvious, but as soon as you become aware of the idea, as often happens, they suddenly start cropping up all over the place. This Paris Top 10 is devoted to the little, and sometimes not so little boats of Paris, in all their incarnations. As ever, if you find a wonderful one you haven't seen here, do tell me and I'll add it in.
Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols No.3 ~ "Brick Ship House"
'Twas a mirthless, mirky day, cloud covered and shadow-free, the day I took this shot.
The overcast conditions, therefore, didn't lend themselves to highlighting the full glory of this nevertheless glorious example, in red bricks if you please, of Paris' proud symbol. Only modern technology combined with my searing-edge sharpening skills prevent the photo on the right from coming across as a nebulous browny blob.
Although intricate detail here is necessarily lacking, what a marvellous representation in the crudest of materials.
Curiously, it's a kind of meta-level pixelisation, almost mocking the underlying structure of every image we look at on our screens every day. When always-on bits and bytes masquerading as pictures were nothing more than a twinkle in old Tim Berners-Lee's watery eye.
As you can see from this page, I only took a couple of shots of this piece, so went looking for others' efforts on the web just for interest.
More fool me. All I got on entering 'Paris boat symbols' into Google images was a couple of rows of my very own pictures from this self-same series, except, obviously, any made from red bricks, as I haven't yet published this opus as I type. No doubt this situation will be rectified shortly...
The establishment is scholastic, and schools, swimming pools, sports centres, fire and police stations, and other municipal buildings are one of the richest sources for a vast variety of this ubiquitous city symbol.
To my knowledge, though, and that's an open invitation to correct me if you can, this is the only such creation. Indeed, although there's certainly a ton of fancy brickwork around Paris, and a surprising number of red brick buildings in fact, this is the only time I can remember seeing an actual picture tailored from terra cotta.
As you wander the city, or even browse the cheery pages of Paris If You Please, you'll find a fascinating range of representations of the thing. Go to the Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols index to do just that (a work in progress, admittedly.
Some have a sole sail (as here), others two or three. Some are oar-propelled (as here), others rely on wind and wuthering alone. Some are high up on walls (as here), others way down on lamp post bases, benches or electricity junction boxes. Some are made of red brick (as here), others... oh, you get the idea.
Oh, by the way, if a red house is made of red bricks, and a blue house is made of blue bricks, what is a green house made of? You'll tell me in the comments if you got it right, I hope ;~S
* 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...