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.5 ~ "Scratch Me A Sailboat"
It's a truism, but the more you look for something, the more potent the seed you have sown in your brain, the more often you find it sprouting.
Such is the case with the city's symbolic sailing/rowing boat.
I'm now literally incapable of walking the streets of Paris without my eyes being continually drawn to one representation or another of the mythical Paris boat icon. They are, with no exaggeration, everywhere.
What's even more pleasing is that I'm feeling that I'm still at the very beginning of tapping the true richness of this most curious of Paris 'secrets'.
I've got about twenty of these things, all radically different from each other, waiting to be published here, and the idea of a Top 10 has become almost laughably redundant. I'm just going to publish them all and see what the 'Top X' ends up as. I wouldn't be surprised if a Top 50 is created in by the end of this particular topic.
The version I'm delightedly sharing here was most unexpected; subtly and shallowly scratched into the side of a lump of what looks like some sort of composite but may be actual stone, this isn't even a bas-relief, but more of a carving and charmingly done it is too.
All the elements we expect are there, the sail, the oars, the proud prow and stern, the billowing flag, and of course the rippling waves. The motto of Paris is fluctuat nec mergitur - tossed by the waves but not sunk - after all.
Perhaps the only way this differs from many representations is in its single sail. I would say the majority have three sails, but as I type these words I'm having serious doubts; even the extremely simplified boat symbol used today by the Mairie on a myriad of printed documents all over the city only has a single curved triangle to represent this element of the design.
Be all that as it may, this was a glorious find on a sunny Sunday afternoon a stones throw (although I wouldn't advise it) from the hallowed dome of the Institut de France which we can see in the final picture.
In fact, it's in a charming if tiny little garden I've always been fond of for a lovely statue of a girl, but always being drawn to the latter, and not having implanted the aforementioned 'seed' until recently, it had never registered before.
I thoroughly recommend you try the 'seed' trick, as it really works wonders. A serious word of warning though. I have the strange affliction - too many darn seeds in my head. The result is that wandering with me through the streets of Paris is somewhat infuriating if I've got my 'seed-spotting' hat on, as my eyes are everywhere and nowhere and I look quite the loony escaped from the asylum. You're always welcome to wander the city streets with me but sometimes I think I should put a disclaimer: Only nutters need apply.
* 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...