Friday, 25 January 2013

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Bargain Basement"

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
4th Arrondissement: Quirk 2 ~ "Bargain Basement"

What these stones must have seen. Or maybe not as they are the foundations as opposed to the visible portion itself.

The foundations of what, you ask. Well, it's rock solid, it's circular, and it was unearthed in the 4th arrondissement in 1899 (during the construction of the brand new Paris metro system) according to the plaque. So just over 100 years later.

100 years later than what, you ask. Why, the storming and subsequent destroying  of the Bastille, of course!

We're looking at the foundations of the ironically named Tour de la Liberté, considering it was being used as a prison when it met its Waterloo, so to speak.

This was one of the eight towers of the mediaeval fortress, most of which had a dreaded cachot - a solitary confinement cell - in their base. It dated back to the 14th century, protecting the strategic Porte Saint-Antoine on the eastern side of the city.

These aren't the only remains or signs of the old Bastille in the city of Paris and there's a good chance we'll see some more here in this series in the near future, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

An interesting fact about the highly symbolic taking of the Bastille is the number of prisoners which were actually 'liberated' in the end. While the revolutionaries were expecting hoards of miserable but grateful wretches to be released, only about seven highly unremarkable inmates actually saw the light of day.

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Ditto for the sinister instruments of torture which were supposed to be all over the place. A bit like Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, there, err, weren't any, unless you count a few bits of old armour and the remains of a printing press.

Still, the symbolism remained as strong as ever and we are lucky even to have the few vestiges we do have to contemplate and consider from another time.

If you fancy actually stomping on the Bastille itself yourself, head over to the Pont de la Concorde. This bridge was sensitively constructed partly from reused Bastille stones so that Parisians could forever trample this detested symbol of hypocrisy and oppression.

* 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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