Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols: No.4~ "Heavy Water Wading"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Symbol Boat

Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols
No.4: "Heavy Water Wading" ~ Introduction 
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

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.4 ~ "Heavy Water Wading"

If you remember how delighted I was to discover my first 'made in brick' Paris boat, along with my sadness that I hadn't seen any others like it, then you can imagine my excitement when I found this gem.

It's quite an accomplished piece actually; they haven't just taken any old raw bricks to fabricate this charming vessel. It's rather difficult to see what they've done, but the bricks look like they've been specially shaped just for the boat.

Although, the more I look at this, the more I'm working it out. In fact, although that bottom row does look like jutting out bricks, I think the boat may be covered in small tiles, just like the building itself (when is a brick not a brick..?) and some have been specially cut for the curves, like for the bottom of the sails.

Not only that, but the whole thing is truly 3D with beautiful smooth curves on the edges of the hull and the sails themselves.

Probably the loveliest and most subtle touch, however, is the delicate waves formed by the actual edges of tiles it looks like, which gives a delightful lightness to the inevitable heaviness of the chunky brick-boat.

Perhaps I need to scour the lower-cost government housing of the outer arrondissements more, because that's what this seems to be, with the city's symbol reminding us of these slightly grim flats' genesis.

Here we're nearly at the périphérique, near to Porte d'Italie in the 13th, and it's true that the architecture round these parts isn't what you'd call typically Parisian. Nor is the use of the land. Imagine a huge band of blank terrain left over from the vast sloping trench protecting the city left over from the last ring of defences protecting the city known as the Thiers wall.

This was destroyed following the first world war, military techniques (e.g. planes) having made it largely pointless. It was progressively rehabilitated with sports facilities, parks, the odd cemetery and lots of cheap housing for the less well-off as we see here. Yes, I'll definitely have to do a proper tour of the Boulevards Maréchaux, on the traces of the Thiers wall, soon. I bet I'll discover another one like this too. How much do you want to wager? A trip on the new Titanic?

Discover all my Paris boat symbols... 

* 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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