Invalides – Paris
THE WHALE ON THE INVALIDES
As we contemplate it, all green and impenetrable, we often forget that the Seine too has its wildlife. Certainly, it’s a far cry from the time when fishermen came and set up their rods on a Sunday, on the quays of Ile Saint-Louis or Ile de la Cité.
Paris’ City Hall attests that today in our urban river there are still roach, tench, gudgeon, bleak, trout, perch, pike, and eel. They even reintroduced the catfish to the waters in 1980. But who today would venture to taste a fish plucked from the Seine?
And if we fancied whale… let’s first remember the story of the Scandinavians who, in October 1995, displayed a stuffed whale called Jonas under a big top on the Invalides esplanade. We later learnt that the animal was in fact stolen from its rightful owner, who eventually identified the thieves.
More amusingly, major historiographer of bizarre Paris, François Caradec, tells us that three jokers, tired of the sensationalism of the affair, installed a mini tent next to that of the cetacean, in which Parisians could contemplate Nanar, a giant gudgeon of 70cm!
On the broad esplanade, Nanar and Jonas were themselves watched by animals. Director-in-chief of the Invalides’ construction, Louvois had in effect, signed his work, in 1670, in the form of a rebus. Those who know how to read the façade will see a wolf encircling the a bull’s-eye, another way of saying, “the wolf sees”, (Loup-vois)… History doesn’t record if Louis XIV held this animal wink against his minister…