Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Single or Double Bread, Sir?"

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 3 ~ "Single or Double Bread, Sir?"

A nice old-fashioned corner baker then...

It's a bit of a trend these days, to renovate interiors and leave the outside pretty much as it was, even if the original purpose advertised on the exterior is history. Which is where all the charm lies, of course.

The trick is actually in spotting these reassigned establisments as they are often quite difficult to identify with a quick glance.

In this picture from the 3rd arrondissement, in the north of the Marais district, for example, we are quite clearly looking at an old baker's shop, aren't we. I mean look, they're even advertising all the different types of bread they sell and the guy's salivating at the thought of what he's going to pig out on and everything, right?


This is a wonderful example of one of those buildings I was talking about in the first paragraph and is, in fact... a hotel!

Well, it looks like a baker...
Not that you'd realise and it had to be pointed out to me or I'd have passed it by completely thinking, oh look, there's another cute little traditional Paris boulangerie.

"When is a boulangerie
not a boulangerie?"

I actually had to go back to my original photos and find one which actually proves it. Eventually I saw some rather subtle text on the door saying what it actually is, and there's also a small notice in the window giving the room rates, but that's it.

The effort and detail that went into what was, in the end, a simple food distribution outlet is quite breathtaking.

Single or double bread, sir?
Of course the fancy gold writing on black is dramatic and eye-catching, but as if that wasn't enough, they have intricate paintings of rural scenes, seascapes and country maidens sowing the seed which grows the wheat which no doubt ends up in these very same, err, pillowcases?

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But the charm is undeniable and it's worth comparing them with today's version, some of which have made some sort of effort, but many of which are anonymous food distribution outlets. We've lost something folks, and can only admire it these days by looking into hotel windows dreaming of times gone by and trying to conjure up the aroma of the freshly baked bread of yesteryear.

Oh yes, and open sewers running down the middle of the road, rogues on every corner and urchins underfoot. But apart from that, authentic aromatic heaven.

* 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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