Paris is filled with architectural wonders: Notre-Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Grand Palais, Pei’s Pyramid… Whether medieval, contemporary or anywhere in between, the city offers enough structures to fill your time for weeks. After hitting the must-see monuments and museums, those of us who are lucky enough to visit Paris frequently become flâneurs: we just wander around, looking up and looking down, taking in the little details that regular guidebooks do not cover. We start noticing the different designs of heurtoirs and chasse-roues, niches in stone walls that used to contain oil lamps, public horloges and cadrants solaires, old wells with their iron pulleys, street signage that preceded the familiar cobalt enamel plaques, bullet marks that remind us of turbulent times, the occasional boîte à sable, perhaps even the boule aux rats at the church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois.
Four years ago, I picked up a copy of Curiosités de Paris from éditions Parigramme. They specialize in Paris-centric titles and I own almost all of them. It quickly became my inseparable travel companion. I refer to it for explanations about odd architectural discoveries I make during my walks. Sometimes, I comb the book ahead of my trip to identify unusual sights and objects I will encounter in the areas I plan to visit. The book is organized by categories but also features an index by arrondissement that cross-references hundreds of small treasures. Here are a few samples gleaned from my various scavenger hunts.