Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Have We Got Floors For You!"

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
by Sab Will,  wannabe offbeat Paris street guru

The title says it all: quirks and curiosities. And as luck would have it, Paris is packed with them; you just have to know where to look!

In this on-going series I offer you some hand picked, photographed and commented oddities which particularly interested me, and I hope will do the same for you.

I'm an avid collector of such items so any comments and suggestions you may have would be very welcome. So, without further ado, let's get straight onto...

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
3rd Arrondissement: Quirk 4 ~ "Have We Got Floors For You!"

Take a look at this pretty anonymous Paris façade. Nothing special here, right?

Almost. But if you look a bit more closely, just to the left of the drainpipe, you'll see a slight mark on the wall, not dissimilar to many others you'll find all over Paris. With one notable exception. The vast majority of the others say 'Gaz à tous les étages' (gas on all floors) whereas this one adds eau (water) into the bragging rights.

Because that's what they were doing, back in the days of the late 19th century, when running water and on-tap gas were just coming along with the new heavily Haussmann-influenced Parisian apartment blocks.

"Hey, we've got floors!
And we know how to use 'em!"

They were shouting about the fact that their building had these modcons which were exactly that - revolutionary and highly desirable attributes - and would be used by developers to sell their investments in Paris real estate and many are happily still visible today.

For some reason, though, gas seems to have been the one to advertise or perhaps there was an enormous printing run of the 'Gaz à tous les étages' plaques and they were sold off cheap, who knows? Not me.

The result is that there are hundreds of these gas-only plaques all over the place but very few variations. There are variations, though, as we can see here.

This is a particularly beautiful example of the rare 'Gaz et eau à tous les étages' plaque in all its blue enamelled glory. I only know of a small handful of these as I type, and this one is in relatively splendid condition, if there is such a thing.

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The only other variation I'm aware of in the same style is a plaque citing water only ('Eau à tous les étages'), of which I know only two or three. In fact, I found a new one in the 6th arrondissement just a couple of days ago, which I will bring to you in due course. [Special Note: since this was written other variations have come to light - watch this space if this sort of thing interests you!]

There is another plaque relating to the conveniences of the house which is even more exciting than this one, with three or four examples I'm aware of still existing in the city, the mythical 'Maison Salubre - tout à l'égout', which you may already have discovered if you've followed my 20 Paris Quirks series, but I'll show you the others here too when I get to the relevant arrondissements.

Do let me know if you find any others - I'll buy you a coffee in your fav Paris place ;~S

* 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...

© 2012 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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