Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Napoleon & Co."


Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
Introduction 
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
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 9 ~ "Napoleon & Co."

He was Emperor of France from 1852 to 1870, and in an effigy-obsessed country with a proclivity for statues on every street crossing, you might expect there to be a few of Napoleon III around the place.

Wrong. Not a few. Not even a couple. One.

A single representation of the second emperor can be found at the Louvre, in the Cour Napoleon, appropriately enough, on the Denon wing just opposite the pyramid.

It's a splendid emperorly image, with the gent in question surrounded by any number of swooning muses with possibly a empress keeping an eye on things.

I'm always intrigued to know what the protagonists thought of all this pomp and circumstance. Napoleon III was a very practical chap not necessarily given to show which might explain the lack of statues of him around. He hated the fountain at Saint Michel, for example.


Be that as it may, if he had lasted, which he didn't, to the point of passing on his emperorship to his offspring, we need to look across the way to see who the honour would have fallen upon.

Because, over on the Colbert pavilion on the other side of the pyramid is baby Napoleon IV, as he would have been, the offspring of Napoleon III and the Empress Eugenie, Eugène Louis Napoléon!

A story goes that the birth was a difficult one, and that the emperor, highly troubled, had the following dialogue with his wife:

Eugénie (worried): "It's a girl?"
Napoléon (troubled): "No..."
Eugénie (joyful): "It's a boy!"
Napoléon (still troubled): "No..."
Eugénie (desperate): "So what is it then?!"

The child died in 1879 at 23 years old, fighting the zulus with the British in Africa. By that time the third republic was well under way, and the monumental changes to Paris overseen by his father and the Baron Haussmann had profoundly modified the cityscape to something pretty much as we see it today.

One of the funny things about the Louvre is that Napoleon I claimed to have finally completed it, but on the end of one of the wings lying along the Rue de Rivoli we can see, in the place of the usual and omnipresent 'N's a couple of 'R's, standing for... did you guess... Republic I presume.

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* 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!

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Slip of a Road"


Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
Introduction 
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
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 6 ~ "Slip of a Road"

Now, you might not find this particularly curious, but I've always been intrigued by the Rue de la Lingerie, and not for the reason you're thinking of!

I'm mean, it's a proper road, in the A to Zs and with a proper street plaque, pictured here and everything. It's just that when you actually to to try and find the thing, well, it's not that easy.

It seems that, to all intents and purposes, whilst the Beirut Café is undeniably on the Rue de la Lingerie, it's not only on it, but it is it. That's all there is. Number 2 Rue de la Lingerie and nowt else!

And very nice it is too. I think that officially it goes 'all the way' from Rue des Halles to Rue des Innocents, which Wikipedia says is the grand total of 39 metres, but you wouldn't think it.

There's a public toilet - one of the famous pee-pods - if that gives it any greater legitimacy, but it's doubtful.

I don't think it's one of the record-holders people (including me) like to tell you about, such as longest, shortest, narrowest, widest and so on, but it's a quirk which pleases me nevertheless.

The reason I'm a fan, apart from the above dialogue, is that it harks back to a time when the names of streets had real meaning as opposed to today's largely symbolic ones. They made underwear here. Imagine that - millions of knickers and bras in mass production, day in, day out, for millions of Parisian backsides an' boobs... well, you get the idea.

The area is full of similar winks to the past. Literally just round the corner is Rue de la Ferronnerie (ironworks) where dark deeds happened to Henri IV when Ravaillac attacked and killed him with plaques to prove it.

So now that I've written an entire article on about 5 actual metres of pavement all that remains is to finish off this column down to the end of this more general view showing Rue de la Lingerie in all its diminutive splendour. There, done it!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* 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!

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Architectural Abomination"


Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
Introduction 
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
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 7 ~ "Architectural Abomination"


When you think about the Louvre you generally think architectural perfection, don't you? Those legendary courtyards loving cultivated over the centuries with each successive king or emperor respecting the original design to the letter.

The result is an eye-opening marvel and truly one of the great spectacles (especially with the pyramid) of modern day Paris.

But, in all those centuries, it was inevitable that not everything would go according to plan.

Let me let you into a little secret. One particular part of the Louvre is a bit of a disaster. Have you seen it? In the magestic, well, empiric Cour Napoleon of all places.

You need to be looking pretty closely to see it though, but when you do there's no mistaking it - a big oops if ever there was one.

Look more closely at this photo on the left, a close-up of the picture above, next to the archway leading through to the Cour Carrée. Two winged figures, a modestly dressed hammer-wielder on the left and a bare-breasted damsel on the right.

So far, so good. But then look down at their feet. You can see it more clearly in the photos below. Between them are the remains of a bas relief looking very sorry for itself indeed.

On the right a poor chap has lost his arm and his head behind the drapes of the angel above him. A stubby leg completes the unhappy picture.

On the left an even weedier naked female figure looking like something from a first year art student's sketch book reclines in an absurd position on who knows what - an anvil? - clutching a strange pointy implement. I'm sure there's a rational explanation for it, really.

What's surprising isn't that certain parts of the Louvre have been renovated and even modified - given the numerous changes of regime the contrary would be almost unthinkable. What is unexpected is that they would have done such a shoddy job of it.

You'd have thought they'd have taken the time to sand down the old design before shoving the new one on top. I'd love to have been there when they were discussing how to go about the work, and if the king or emperor at the time ever looked at it and thought, God, what a mess - bring me the head of the person who did this!

The Louvre holds other secrets along the same lines which I'll bring you in due course, if I haven't done so already. Watch this space and let me know about any architectural disasters or anomalies you've spotted around the city - I'd love to hear about them!


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* 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!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Mysterious Monograms Quiz"


Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios
Introduction 
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
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 5 ~ "Mysterious Monograms Quiz"


Let me tell you first of all that all the monograms you can find below were spotted on the very same building, quite a well-known one and would all have been photographed within a half-hour period, give or take a few minutes, if my dog hadn't been making enemies with every other four-legged creature in sight.

The quiz, before this is magically transformed into a standard Paris Quirk on Paris If You Please, is this: what do they stand for?

Because they all stand for something, of course, but you knew that, didn't you? I'm sure you can guess some of them and one or two are blindingly obvious to any Paris aficionado, but others might take a little thinking about.

See if you can guess before leaving your ideas in the comments below. Of course, you might just Google it all, but surely it's more fun to try and work them out on your own first. If you think you've got it be cryptic in the comments to make it more of a challenge for the others. Look forward to hearing how you do!

The Monograms...






Good luck!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
* 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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