About a year ago I adopted the French Republican Calendar for my personal journalling. Why? Really for no other reason than to be different. It offered me the opportunity to learn the Republican Calendar through practise (a word-a-day sort of arrangement). The upheaval of the switch to a new system in France in 1795, caused confusion, was not widely adopted and in the end was discontinued by Napoleon during the Empire. This was not before such references such as the Coup of 18 Brumaire and lobster Thermidor forever embedded the poeticisme of the calendaring system in our historical memory.
From the realm of ‘too far fetched’ to be believed comes word that members of the UX, a shadowy underground organisation, have been cleared of charges in their daring, but clandestine operation to restore an antique clock at the Patheon in Paris. According to UrbanResources, the UnterGunther is “Swiss-French urban explorers team whose activity is to restore the invisible parts of the heritage in total clandestinity.” This latest caper involved a year long process to secretly repair a huge clock in the Pantheon which had fallen into disrepair. Not only did they carry out this task undetected over the space of a year, they built a lounge within the dome of the Pantheon, wired into electrical circuits and even installed a networked computer, all under the unsuspecting nose of Pantheon staff. When the UnterGunther cell finished their restoration, they made the decision to reveal their work to ensure the clock received ongoing care. The Guardian has a story in English on their acquittal.
The group were charged with tampering with a lock (their sometime means of ingress and egress) and the head of security for the Pantheon took retirement. Despite the fact that the group has demonstrated the clock to have been fully restored, the staff at the Pantheon have, for undisclosed reasons, chosen not to wind or cause the clock to operate. Apparently the group is already at work on their next operation. Encroyable!
Speaking with Matt Leighninger this morning I was reminded of one of my best tips for those looking for offbeat sights in Paris – the military models at the Musée de l’Armée. The museum is a treasure. A grande promenade stretching from the Seine leads up to the building. The courtyards are filled with captured and antique canons…hundreds of them. The canons are often works of the craftsmen’s art. Inside the museum are amazing collections of all things military stretching from earliest times to the present. There are guided tours, expositions and of course Napoleon’s Tomb adjoins the museum proper in L’Eglise du dôme. The museum is enormous and can easily occupy the better part of a day for the day. Continue reading
It’s always amusing and often telling to compare where we are now to where we thought we’d be. Whether through sci-fi novels, advertisements for the house of the future, or in this case prints from an exhibition at the Bibliothèque nationale de France (bnf), facets of the futurethink can provide a particularly prismatic view of past preoccupations. Paleo-Future Blog has a nice collection of images of life in the year 2000 from the BnF. Natalie has weighed in on how prescient these illustrations actually are.
One thing that springs to my attention is the sense that the future was going to free us from contact with the ground. Flight seems to make so much more possible. Continue reading
Having just returned from one of my favourite cities in the world, I was fascinated to find a Paris Metro Virtual Experience. This media-rich site offers wonderful history of the Paris Metro and the opportunity to take a virtual tour with static images and rel-time soundtrack along a number of lines. Additionally, the author of the site has completed station by station architectural mosaics of particular lines. If you have ever had the opportunity to travel on the metro (arguably one of the most efficiently run systems in the world) this site may bring back some memories. Continue reading