Monday, 3 December 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Spring In Your Step"

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
20th Arrondissement: Quirk 1 ~ "Spring In Your Step"

The slopes of Belleville, whence this photo, and Ménilmontant are rich in easy to exploit watercourses - underground springs - as witnessed by many of the street names on the sloping roads of the area.

Rue des Cascades (cascade/waterfall), Rue de la Duée (gushing spring), Rue des Rigoles (rivulet), Rue de la Mare (pool), and Rue de la Cour-des-Noues (stream/brook) are ample evidence of this.

So where's the floody water then, you're probably saying to yourself! Not much in evidence here, I agree.

Well, from the outside, that's true, but inside it's a different story. You see, this building is actually collecting water coming out from the embankment it's built up against.

You can, of  course, go inside (if you've got the key) and see how things are coming along - swimmingly with a bit of luck.

This little building therefore serves two purposes: a collection point and an observation chamber, while certain others are only used for one of those things.

This picture is of one of two similar regards on Rue des Cascades. Regarder in French means 'look' and as you can guess in this case it allowed you to look at the water to make sure everything was ok.

Here we can see the Regard des Religieux de Saint-Martin, so called because it was on land belonging to grape-growing (and grape-juice-swigging..?) Saint-Martin des Champs Abbey. As early as the 13th century water was being piped into the centre of Paris to quench the thirsts of monks, kings and wealthy individuals who could afford to pay for this rare and relished resource in those days: fresh water.

In fact, the monks effectively built an aqueduct with around 18 of these regards which had to be inspected once a year by an official. His job included testing (tasting) the water to ensure its quality, clear out any blockages and make sure no-one was illicitly siphoning off or redirecting some of the water for their own filchy purposes.

Although the exact date of construction is unknown, a plaque in Latin commemorates extensive restauration work carried out in 1663 and 1722. It mentions that this fountain used jointly by the Saint-Martin de Cluny monks, and their neighbours the Templiers, had been sorely neglected for 30 years. They were terribly proud of the fact that they had completely renovated it to its initial elegance and splendour - good for them!

* 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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