Monday, 24 May 2010

Au Bon Coin

Natural time is cyclical, but time in the city is counted in layers. In London for example it is said that the Roman settlement of Londinium was situated around twenty feet beneath the levels of today's city. As we walk around a place we don't walk in our forefathers' footsteps but above them.

The Earth's crust is a book filled with the pages of time, but the archeology of the city is not so well documented. New roads are built over ancient pathways and tall buildings grow from the walls of long abandoned dwellings, but sometimes these layers of the past pop back up to the surface through happy accident.

In the Rue de l'Orillon, renovations to a building have slowly revealed the wooden shopfront of an ancient wine trader; "Au Bon Coin: Commerce de Vins". In these Belleville backstreets, once known as the Basse Courtille, such establishments were once very common. Paris historian Jacques Hillairet wrote the following about the street in his Dictionnaire historique des rues de Paris:

Emplacement du cabaret de Jean Ramponeaux, à l’enseigne du Tambour-Royal. Jean Ramponeaux vendait son vin un sou moins cher la pinte que ses confrères de la barrière, ce qui lui attira une telle affluence qu’il y avait autant de clients dehors que dedans".
(Position of Jean Ramponeaux's caberet called the Tambour-Royal. Jean Ramponeaux sold his wine one sou cheaper than his rivals at the city gateway which attracted such a crowd that there were as many people inside as outside).

As more recent layers of materials are scraped away, a previous aspect of the city reappears. Another fresh layer will probably soon be placed on top and new stories will be written, but let's hope that this physical trace of the past does not disappear forever .

8 comments:

Starman said...

When I first saw the title, Au Bon Coin, I thought you were writing about a restaurant by that name in which I ate dinner with the owner of the apartment where I was staying in the 13é. I'm not at all sure where it's located.

Owen said...

Ah la bonne piquette, un sou moins cher ! Sans doute une bonne affaire... Between you and Peter, no stone left unturned...

Peter (the other) said...

Mr. Starman, perhaps you mean this one.

Cergie said...

Un peu comme les affiches de métro qui réapparaissent lors de rénovation notamment porte de Vincennes.
Je crois qu'elle a fini par disparaitre à jamais celle-ci.
(Il n'y avait pas de recul pour prendre la phto car pas de quai en face)

Cergie said...

Merci pour la biographie de Jean Ramponeaux ; je t'ai déjà expliqué qu'il fait partie de l'histoire de ma famille puisque mon père était menacé du Grand Ramponeaux...
Il y a des vestiges du passé dont il faut bien se débarrasser pourtant mais c'est un fait que pas ceux-là.

Je suis allée voir l'expo Turner, au Grand Palais, et toi ?
A l'époque de Turner on peignait de très grands cieux et à ses débuts, Monet aussi et plus il a pris de l'âge et moins il a peint le ciel notre chez homme > nymphéas et son étang, toujours.

Peter said...

It seems that many of these shop signs are today fortunately saved; the possible problem may be that the butcher‘s shop does not sell any meat, but probably some fashion…

Therese Cox said...

Word nerd that I am, I wonder if you've heard the word "palimpsest" - originally used to refer to a manuscript (often on papyrus) that has been written over, often with the original, half-erased text beneath still showing. A friend and fellow ghost sign admirer used the word when describing a sign like this and I love all the implications that go along with it. Cities being written, rewritten, erased, read...

Anonymous said...

I live on this street, and it was wonderful to see the sign appear from under a plastic front. It was not so wonderful to wake up some weeks later and see that workmen had chipped away the entire thing, to replaster the building. It is, unfortunately, now gone forever.

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