Sunday, 15 April 2012

Sab's Top Ten Perplexing Paris Pavement Plaques: No.8 ~ "Post Millennium Tension"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Pavement ~ Plaques

Sab's Top Ten Perplexing Paris Pavement Plaques
No.8: "Post Millennium Tension" ~ 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.8 ~ "Post Millennium Tension"

Now here's one I've been meaning to give you for a while now, and how splendid it is too. One of the first ever Paris plaques which actually attracted my attention as such and utterly intriguing with all its curvy lines and studs and whatnot. But what's it all about, we wonder.

It turns out that this is a bit of post millennium tension right here in the streets of the city for us to enjoy and pore over.

Back at the (false) end of the last millennium the architect Paul Chemetov had the idea of inaugurating a new 'meridian' based on the old Paris one before Britannia ruled the waves, and which passed by the Observatory, Parc Montsouris and Montmartre before heading out of town to warmer and chillier southerly and northerly latitudes respectively.

The nutty if nice idea was to have an arboreal ley line going north to south through France (I'll accord you south to north if you're of an antipodean persuasion...). The trees may or may not now exist, quite frankly I've never checked, but in Paris they seem somewhat few and far between, represented symbolically by these stubby little pale concrete posts with the wonderful aforementioned plaque atop.

I won't tell you the trouble I had finding my two or three examples of these things. I suppose I could have looked their location up on Google or Wiki, but it was much more fun trying to find them myself, and particularly satisfying too.

Not surprisingly there are a couple right near the Paris observatory on or just next to, appropriately enough, the equally stubby Avenue de l'Observatoire. To make matters just a little worse, someone's nicked one of them, so I spent don't get me started a loonnng hot minute wandering around looking for something that, like God in the quad, simply wasn't there.

As for truly ground-level examples, I've yet to complete my research, but I believe there are some in Paris, and there's certainly a bunch outside, including one in Arcueil where I used to live, but for some reason I've misplaced it, or maybe there was a car parked over it last time I went looking. Ah, what a romantic image...

What we actually see on it is the projected line of trees, represented by these cute little shiny metal dots stretching all the way from Dunkerque in the north to my second adopted Europoan city, Barcelona in Catalonia, in the south. I'll leave you to find out more if you feel so inclined. Nice, one of my favourites - hope you liked it too!



* 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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