Clocks – Travel in Paris 18


Your damn watch has stopped
your phone battery is dead, and you’re not sure
if you’re on time for that train. But fear not! Because Paris has
more than 14,000 public clocks. some of them are simple
functional instruments. others are works of art. The oldest one, built in 1371,
is on the façade of the Palais de Justice. The hands are in moulded copper;
the minute hand in the shape of a lance, the hour hand ending in a fleur-de-lys. Just across the Seine
next to the Louvre, the clock on the district town hall
of the 1st Arrondissement… is decorated with the signs of the zodiac. On the other faces of the tower
are a barometer… and a thermometer. The Musee d’Orsay,
which was once a train station, has several giant clocks on its façade, but none of them match
the splendid gilded clock on the inside. The telephone exchange on rue Bergère… is an early 20th century
functional construction. High up on the side of the building, a splendid wrought iron clock
breaks the plainness of the red brick façade. Near the Pompidou Centre, in the dull pedestrian zone called
the Quartier de l’Horloge, is le Défenseur du Temps. It is sadly out of order now,
but in its day, the automata would go
into action on the hour and the man would fight a bird,
a dragon and a crab, representing air, earth and water: At Saint Lazare station, the sculpture called l’Heure pour Tous
won’t help you set your watch, but luckily, right behind it,
there’s a real clock. I hope I make that train!

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