Saturday, September 19, 2015

Journée de patrimonie

On the journées de patrimoine ("heritage days"), buildings and locations in Paris that are usually closed to the public become, briefly, opened. For cultural and educational reasons, which I think we can agree are some pretty good reasons. For me, this has the sense of a city-wide, adults-included day of field trips.

First I went to a water-processing plant. The exterior of the building is adorned with a giant sculpture of a dragonlike worm, slithering through the fabric of reality.
Its transparent sections reveal a subject-matter-appropriate fountain within.

Inside, the plant has a mostly gravity-driven system to take in water from the Seine and filter out most of the solid particles, bits, and grit. Then the water is pumped through Paris' non-potable water supply, and used for non-potable water applications like washing the streets and filling the ornamental fountains.
The inside of the plant looked like the most fun, human-tube-sized toy set that I will never, ever, be allowed to tinker with or disassemble. Tant pis. Everyone who signed up for this tour was a fully-grown adult. We were issued hardhats to walk around on the catwalk. The walls were decorated with blueprints of the inner workings, with complicated color-coding and engineering shorthand. I would've happily spent time trying to decode them, but we got shuffled along and back into the dragon's welcome courtyard before I could crack the codes.

Next I proceeded to Les Invalides, where I and a bunch of prepubescent kids (and their parents) got to visit the secret ballroom section of the Musée de l'Armée.
The ballroom, apparently rentable for elite parties and fancy events, has chandeliers plentifully strewn about, and walls casually decorated with actual pieces of armor and weaponry. Authentic. It seems like the sort of high-stakes set dressing that guarantees a sword fight will break out during your soirée. (And that is why I should never be allowed to rent this venue.)
The light was plentiful --- clearly the building predates electric lighting and petty concerns like "retain heat through insulated walls and windows." The view is straight down the Esplanade des Invalides and across the Pont Alexandre III, which only heightened my conviction that fancy-dress balls held in this room would certainly be crashed by a high-speed action-movie chase, probably involving flinging someone on a cable from a helicopter as it whips across the river.

This post's theme word is plutolatry, "excessive devotion to wealth." My admiration for costume dramas derives not from plutolatry, but from an appreciation for delicate and fussy detail-work.

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