Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols: No.1~ "Carnavalet Crowning"

POSTED IN:  ~ PlacesTop 10 ~ Symbol Boat

Sab's Top Ten Paris Boat Symbols
No.1: "Carnavalet Crowning" ~ 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.1 ~ "Carnavalet Crowning"

Compare the modest little boat symbol in the photo above with the one on the left and I think you'll see why it merits being number one; they don't come much fancier than this.

Only a very select few government buildings and high profile public edifices get the full-blown gold leaf and high relief treatment, and this is one of them: the Musée Carnavalet in the Marais.

It's fitting that this building should be embelished in this way; it is the Museum of the City of  Paris, after all.

I can't say I'm the greatest fan of the actual museum itself, gloomy rooms and dusty furniture and stern portraits not really being my thing, but this splendid gateway should leave no-one unimpressed.

Surrounded by a gilded frame, curly metalwork and showy leaves, all the essential elements of the famous Paris boat symbol are there in glorious detail: the curved, almost banana-like hull with monument-like fore and aft sections; the billowing sails (3) complete with rigging; a rough rough sea, shaking but not sinking the vessel; the furling and unfurling flags flapping in the wind.

Ah. Correction. There is one very common element shared by many other of the Paris boat representations which is missing here: the oars. There aren't any oars. But there is the red and blue of the city, and the royal gold fleurs de lys to top it all off.

As often happens when you start looking around for a certain thing, you end up seeing it everywhere. That's exactly what happened with this series. The more I was conscious of the existence of the boat symbol, the more I saw of them in a bewildering array of designs, colours and materials.

Which is why the series won't be ending here but will be extended into the teens and who knows, maybe the twenties and thirties, as I share with you my latest watery discoveries. Hold tight, batten down the hatches, we may be in for a long haul...

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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