rue de babylone

Lots of rambling about water

Okay so I hope I don’t sound like too much of a nerd if I say this but… turns out I find the historical water delivery systems of Paris super interesting? xD;

I mean, apparently water was the reason why the right bank grew much faster and much wider than the left bank! Because the right bank was more kind of swampy (well, that’s why there’s an area called “The Swamp” there (Le Marais)) so it was easy to dig wells and such. The water was close to the surface. On the left bank the water was much much deeper so digging wells was a lot of work and so people just mostly wouldn’t go live there.

Just look at this map from the 16th century and see how much bigger the right bank is:

(Also just to make things confusing, the right bank is on the left and the left bank is on the right on this map.)

And this is why Rue Plumet for example was still mostly just surrounded by open fields at the beginning of the 18th century and why a guy could plausibly buy the lands and build a ridiculous secret corridor between Rue Plumet and Rue de Babylone. And this is also why Boulevard de l’Hôpital (the Gorbeau House) and Boulevard Saint Jacques (The Field of the Lark) were still almost half-countryside in the 1820′s and 1830′s despite being technically within the contemporary borders of Paris. The city hadn’t properly reached that far yet because it had only had two centuries to expand on the left bank. (Actually in the Rue Plumet area (Les Invalides) it was even worse because they didn’t get proper water delivery before the late 18th century.)

By two centuries I mean that it was in the early 17th century that they started building big pumps and aqueducts to carry water all over the city. There was a huuuuge pump on Pont Notre Dame! That I’d completely missed! It’s not in any of the canon era maps even though it was definitely still there in canon era.

And when I say huge, I mean like this:

That’s a water pump. On the Notre Dame Bridge. Idk about you but I’d have put this on the maps. 

Also that thing was right there when Javert jumped into the Seine… Somehow that totally changes my mental image of the scene…

Anyway, I also found that in canon era most of the public fountains got their water from the river through pumps like this (admittedly not surprising) but not only that, two of the three (or possibly four) pumps that were in use at the time where downstream from the city. I mean… yeah, I know people didn’t have quite the concept of hygiene that we do now but getting your water downstream from one of the biggest and filthiest cities of the era…. Let’s just say no wonder the cholera thing happened. The Notre Dame pump isn’t a very good location to get drinking water either but at least it’s not collecting ALL of the filth of the city. Geez. And they directed the water from those downstream pumps all the way to Faubourg Saint-Antoine and Quinze-Vingts which are way upstream from all the pumps and would have had cleaner water much closer at hand. (Although at least there seem to have been much fewer public fountains over there, possibly because this was the aforementioned swampy area where you could easily dig wells? Also they were relatively newly built parts of the city.)

Oh and apparently the Chaillot pump was also downstream of the Chaillot sewer exit (or whatever you call those) and something similar was going on with the Gros Caillou pump. WONDERFUL. Excellent design! Bravo! What were you doing?!! (Both of these pumps were built by the brothers Périer. These guys founded the Compagnie des eaux de Paris apparently trying to make a profit out of the water business but then they went bankrupt and the city of Paris bought the company.)

Seriously though, I know people didn’t believe in the germ theory at the time but wouldn’t you at least want to NOT drink sewer water?!! And I mean based on the location this was probably where the King’s water came from! At least after the Samaritaine pump on Pont Neuf was dismantled in 1813. (I didn’t actually find anything about where the Tuileries got their water after 1813 but all the surrounding fountains were supplied by the Chaillot pump.)

But no, apparently the water of the Seine was considered to be of excellent quality at the time. And these new and fancy steam pumps were considered superior to the old ones by most people (except those who were anti-industrialists). I mean they had good reasons since the new pumps could operate day and night and worked a lot better than the old ones.

^ Fancy new Chaillot steam pump

To be fair apparently there were people who criticised these decisions even back then. It just seems that they weren’t really taken very seriously… Like this one guy apparently brought up the Chaillot sewer thing and their solution was to build a new pump a little bit further downstream in Auteuil so it wouldn’t be right next to the sewer entrance. This was actually done in 1828, except then it seems like they just kept still using the Chaillot pump ANYWAY?? And I should note that the new pump was STILL downstream from the sewer, just further away! Aaaarrrggghhh!

My guess is that the cleanest water sources were the ones that came from outside of the city, from Rungis, Belleville and Pré-Saint-Gervais (the latter two water delivery systems actually date back to the Middle Ages but had been mostly abandoned by the 19th century, only delivering water to six fountains in Paris – as in six shared between the two). And maybe marginally speaking the canals although they were also used for boat traffic so they probably weren’t as clean as the other three.

NOT THAT I KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT THIS MIND YOU. I’m not a historical epidemiologist so I wouldn’t know what kind of water was safer. But I mean… based on common sense these sound like reasonable conclusions. I still wouldn’t drink from any of these, though.

^ Aqueduc Médicis in Arcueil with a covered access chamber or whatever you call those things in English. Most of the aqueduct was underground but it has overground parts too. 

Short summary of the chronology of Parisian water delivery systems up to and including canon era: (the dates are for when they started operating)

12th century: Eaux du Pré-Saint-Gervais (an aqueduct)

13th century: Eaux de Belleville (an aqueduct)

1608: Pompe Samaritaine (a pump, dismantled in 1813)

1623: Aqueduc Médicis/Eaux de Rungis (an aqueduct)

1671: Pompe Notre Dame (a pump)

1780: Pompe à vapeur de Chaillot  (a steam pump)

1786: Pompe à vapeur du Gros Caillou (a steam pump)

1825: the canals Saint-Denis, de l’Ourcq and Saint-Martin

1828: Pompe à vapeur d’Auteuil (a steam pump)

I just realised that it’s possible that Hugo talks about some of this in Les Mis? I actually haven’t read the sewer chapters yet. xD


Yves Saint Laurent Beauté Noel 2013: Asia-exclusive “Palettes Parisien Nite” Avenue Marceau and Rue de Babylone swatches!

Despite the other two venerated French couture houses Chanel and Dior going with neutral palettes (accented with stronger lips), Pink is in for YSL Beauté this holiday season!

From November, the brand will be launching 2 limited edition palettes; one for the eyes and one for the cheeks, centered around soft, luminous, spun-sugar tones.

Avenue Marceau - a wet & dry eye shadow quad with mauve, ivory, gold and deep purple shadows that are translucent glimmering washes when used dry, and beautifully metallic when applied wet.

Rue de Babylone - a cotton-candy pink blush that’s matte, with a pearlescent “heart”. Don’t worry about it looking frosty; the colors blend together to form a luminous pink. The best thing is the heart isn’t an overspray, so you don’t have to worry about it disappearing after 1-2 uses. (I’d say this color suits pale to medium skins better as it has a very pale and almost matte base which can be too pastel for darker skins.)

Picture notes: Rouge Pur Couture Lipstick No 27 and Glossy Stain No 17 in the top image are not part of the holiday collection; just posed there for visual effect since they go perfectly with the 2 palettes! (And yes, they are 2 of my absolute favorite lip colors from the brand.)

Unfortunately, these 2 palettes are Asia-exclusives, so if you don’t reside here, you’ll have to look out for it while you’re traveling here, or else ask someone to bring it back for you as a super-luxe stocking stuffer!

Avenue Marceau retails at SG$88 and Rue de Babylone at $70. Both will be available at the YSL Beauté boutique in ION from this coming weekend.