Thursday, February 27, 2014

Around Town ~ Steampunk

I enjoy reading alternative histories and the Age of Victorian Steam has captured my imagination.

Time Frozen
Metro stop Cite
In the bowels of a Great Jules Verne Machine
Shortly after we arrived in France, my wife and I met a young man who's name is Arthur Morgan.  He runs a number of French Steampunk web-properties including a Facebook page devoted to the topic.  It was exciting to so quickly meet people of like mind.

We have since become friends and are currently working on a large project together.

The first night we met Arthur was filled with visiting interesting places in the old section of Paris.  All of which were in one way or another related to the topic of steam and what I'll call for the lack of a better phrase "steampunk style".

Time Frozen
 le defenseur du temps
Time keeping.  Time guarding.

We visited le defenseur du temps in the Marais.  This massive clock is, unfortunately, presently inoperable.  Still, it's an impressive piece of art and fits my idea of what any decent automaton should look like.  It sits in a quiet courtyard between several large, modern apartment buildings.  The clock feels as old as the medieval streets that surround it.

We visited Aurouze - Pour une lutte raisonnĂ©e contre les nuisibles et parasites where the window display tells it's own amazing story.  Rats trapped and killed in les halles during the 1920's still hang in the shop window, even as the current day rat killing and bug ridding business conducts it's affairs.  At the time I wasn't sure these rats were steampunk, but I've since come to see their place in the oeuvre of French steam and cabinets of curiosities.

We talked about le metro stop Cite and how the iron sheets are held in place by massive rivets.  This led me on a photo-expedition to see if I could capture some of the flavor of the place.  It feels like the inside of a vast shaft deep inside some fantastic Jules Verne machine.

Paris Oddities
A shop for whichever pests you must see dead

We talked about le metro stop Arts et Metiers.  There is no doubt about the intention of the art found at the stop.  It truly is the interior of a Jules Verne machine.  Bright and gleaming surfaces surround the quai, and large toothed gears hang from the ceiling.

We talked about alchemy and the fact there is a wonderful street in the Marais named after Nicolas Flamel.  If you walk the rue and continue two streets to the west of that ghastly building that needs to be torn down, la centre Pompidou, you get a hint of medieval Paris and a possible whiff of M. Flamel's concoctions.  You can stop in at la cave a bulles to purchase a few bottles of beer.

The fun night ended with dinner at a Japanese sushi place just down the street from le defenseur du temps.  Fresh fish in Paris?  We couldn't believe it, but it's true.  Cheap and good, this place has been revisited many times since.

In two years of living here we've uncovered many other French steampunk-style places, buildings, and oddities.  Paris seems to be filled with incredible stuff related to ideas that can easily generate alternative history themes, and Jule Verne influenced art.

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