“What makes Paris so special?” I get this question a lot. There’s food, art, centuries of history … and I love the Parisians’ flair for sophisticated simplicity.
But what draws me back again and again is that there’s always something new to discover — if you have an attentive eye. To me, Paris is a master class in seeing.
During our last visit, Esteban demonstrated superhuman patience as I continued my obsession with door knockers.
These were all new to me, gleaned from streets I’d never explored before.
And why not? The door knockers stir my imagination. I like to wonder about their symbolism, who crafted them, and how many human hands have touched them over the centuries.
The St. Jacques shell motif — symbol of the pilgrimage to Santiago — adorned many homes near the St. Clotilde basilica, an important stop for pilgrims on their way to Spain.
Some are gorgeous little works of art.
Others are flat-out bizarre, like this dragon-man-lady …
… and this menacing face (which reminded me of Christopher Walken).
Regardless of their appearance, I like to think about the Parisians who continue to use them and care for them every day, like the gardien of this apartment building in the Latin Quarter.
Sometimes the door knockers are missing entirely, victims of rust or theft or thoughtless remodeling.
But it would be hypocritical to protest too much, because I have remodeling to thank for the door knocker that almost literally fell into my lap after visiting several bouqinistes and brocanteurs to ask where one might find an “heurtoir de porte ancien.”
It’s huge and weighs almost three pounds, but it should adorn our front door quite nicely. Also, there is no chance Esteban and I will ever again miss one of our neighbors’ visits (assuming they can lift the hammer).
As an added bonus, while sifting through my photos I noticed it has a fraternal twin somewhere in Paris. Gosh … if only I could remember where!
Looks like I’ve just found my excuse to go back.