Saturday, 19 January 2013

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Any Drug You Like"

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
1st Arrondissement: Quirk 20 ~ "Any Drug You Like"

There's a pharmacie in the Rue Saint-Honoré, la pharmacie du Mont-Blanc, which isn't quite like the others. Not a big difference, but a difference nevertheless.

You need to cast your eyes up, just above the word 'Pharmacie' and to the right, above the number 115; you'll notice a strange inscription: FABRIQUE D'EXTRAITS EVAPORES DANS LA VAPEUR ET DANS LE VIDE.

My poor French off the top of my head would suggest something along the lines of 'creation of extracts evaporated in steam and in a vacuum.' What's going on here? Sounds slightly suspect, don't you think?

I wonder what Marie-Antoinette and her presumed lover, Axel de Fersen made of it. This was her favourite apothecary, you see, and she would come here for her beauty products and creams. Perhaps she also took their cacodylate, a malodorous, toxic liquid supposedly efficacious against fatigue. Or maybe their long-life tea - presumably for giving humans a longer life, and not just the tea...

Axel de Fersen would have made use of their encre sympathique - invisible ink - in his elicit correspondence with the queen.

The most intriquing is yet to be uncovered, however. For there are other substances which can be created by this ground-breaking process expounded on the wall.

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A special device allowed the practitioners, in 1803, to isolate two substances with which we are very familiar today: the narcotic drugs opium and morphine.

Whether or not Marie-Antoinette and her lover indulged in opium-fuelled debauchery is anyone's guess, despite what Hollywood directors would have us believe.

French scholars said they were dismayed with a recent film, having battled for years to play down the libertine, 'let them eat cake' stereotypes and clichés.

What do we see in the trailer? Kirsten Dunst eating cake and lying naked on a chaise-longue...

* 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...

© 2013 Sab Will / Paris Set Me Free - Suggestions, questions, requests and offers always welcome!

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