Friday, 25 January 2013

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "See You At The Elm"


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
4th Arrondissement: Quirk 7 ~ "See You At The Elm"

Three more curiosities for the price of one, just like I did in quirk No.3 of the 4th arrondissement, now don't say I'm not good to you!

We find ourselves at another church, but not inside it, not just yet anyway. Instead we are looking up at its magnificent facade through the leaves of... a certain elm. But not just any old elm, you understand.

Well, this isn't the original of course, but ever since the middle ages an old old tree has stood at this spot in the centre of the place in front of the church. It was even known as the Carrefour de l'Orme - the Elm Crossroads.

The locals would gather by the tree, and in particular for the settling of debts, giving rise to a French expression, Attendez-moi sous l'orme ! - 'Wait for me at the elm', meaning I want paying back, and sharpish!

The local Saint-Gervais factory would contribute each year to the upkeep of the tree, and it was the subject of many sculpted or painted representations, two of which I shall tell you about forthwith.

Follow me inside the church, if you will and let's take a trip down the central isle. On either side, about half way down, are a couple of rows of sideways-facing choir stalls.

A closer inspection of the misericords - the little jutting out ledges on the underside of the upswung seats to help people keep from keeling over - reveal some very curious creatures indeed. And among them, guess what we find... a couple of our old friend the Saint-Gervais elm.

The rest of the display will have to be the subject of another quirk, for now we're going to hasten outside again and around to the right... or left, depending on which way you look at it.

On the street just off to the north side of the church is a long building and we need to look up to the second floor at the little wraught iron balconies. Right there in the middle - well, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, do I? - is the elm once again. It's everywhere!



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

Sab's Paris Quirks & Curios: "Holey Spire"


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
4th Arrondissement: Quirk 3 ~ "Holey Spire"

It's quirk number 3 in the 4th arrondissement and I'm offering you three curiosities for the price of one - now you can't say fairer than that, can you?

The first thing that strikes you about the Eglise Saint-Louis-en-l'Ile, from afar, in fact, isn't something that's there, but rather something that's missing. Unique in Paris this modest church has got huge gaping holes all the way down its spire!

The story's quite simple really, and gently amusing in a slightly irreverent kind of way. The first half of the 18th century was particularly trying for the church. The powers that be saw fit to send first storms to destroy the roof in 1701, killing several of the faithful. Then in 1740 lightning took out the bell tower. Something had to be done.

That something can be seen today, in the form of a, quite literally, very holey spire indeed. This hopefully made it less susceptible to dangers from the wind on the gusty isle.

It's time to look at the second curiosity, which can also be seen in the first two pictures. Did you guess? Yes, it's the clock.

Sticking out from the side of the building, as opposed to stuck on it, the reason is again highly pragmatic.

The street is too narrow to easily see the hour from directly beneath so the clock face(s) are at right angles to the facade and can thus be read from way down the street, very handy when hurrying to evening service hoping the spire isn't going to fall on top of you...

Which brings us to the third oddity, a dark plaque attached to the side of the church as was (and still is) often the case.

Paris Pix on iTunes & Google Play!
The inscription reads: "Loix et Actes de L'Autorité Publique".

These were put up during revolutionary times and below were posted the various and numerous new laws and judgements being passed in the flurry of the end of the 18th century.

It was strictly forbidden to cover them up or tear them down, and considering that quite a few of the notices posted must have been to announce imminent beheadings, I imagine this was respected pretty carefully.



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

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


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
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.

Paris Pix on iTunes & Google Play!
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!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

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


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 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.

Paris Pix on iTunes & Google Play!
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!
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...