Sunday, 9 December 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Younger Than It Looks"

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 1 ~ "Younger Than It Looks"

How old can you go?
And here you have it folks, I proudly give you what we've all been waiting for and as touted in Paris tourist guides up and down the kingdom for decades...

...the oldest house in Paris!


Only it isn't. Don't get me wrong; people thought it was, they really did (witness the aforementioned guide books) up until the end of the 70s. Then a chap with a stubborn tendency to not believe what he reads in guide books unless he's verified it for himself... found an older one!

Of course we'll be discovering the latter later, well, two or three other contenders for the throne actually, but for now let's just enjoy this marvellously medieval-looking structure.

Apparently it was reclassified from the fourteenth to seventeenth century as historians began to have more and more doubts about its authenticity. I've even seen the suspiciously precise 1644 quoted by one source, although I fail to see how they can be so sure.

Probably not a 14th century lamp...
Most houses of the presupposed 1300s era had a cellar, and 3, rue Volta's singular lack of one may just have been its downfall, if that isn't a paradox too far.

The road itself is rather curious too. For some reason, this little section of street, along with the adjoining narrow Rue au Maire has developed into a mini-mini-mini Chinatown or some sort of Asian backwater anyway.

"What would our middle-aged friends have made of this - cheery Chinatown in the heart of 17th century Paris"

Culture clash
You should take a stroll down there. It's amazing, honestly, in the space of a few metres off the bustling Rue Réaumur I found myself with a very old medieval house on one side and a group of loud-speaking Chinese on the other, acting for all the world as if they owned the place. And looking around, you tend to think they do.

What with Asian restaurants and those unique Chinese supermarkets giving off unmistakably oriental aromas, as well as our old-house-in-question belonging to a family of Asian hairdressers, it seems like we are experiencing the third, or is it the fourth now, Paris Chinatown in the making.

The invasion continues
What our 'middle-aged' friends would have made of that is anyone's guess. It just goes to show how times change, but the Wong remains the same. And having said that, I can't actually remember ever hearing the name Wong uttered in Paris or seeing it written. Maybe it's a South American export which didn't materialise on this side of the emigrating world.

A nod goes to the Space Invader street decorator, who says he has just put his 1000th mosaic up on the walls of the city. Even our medieval Chinese hair salon isn't sacred. Oh well. Game over for 3 Rue Volta, I guess.

Intrigued as to what the current thinking on the oldest house in Paris is? Well, of course I'll tell you, just not quite yet.

* 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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