Jul 9, 2014

The Writing's On the Wall: Murols


Paris is a big city, after all. And that means that amidst the cobblestone, limestone, mansard roofs, iron grills, and old-world Parisian charm, you will find graffiti.


France does border Italy and Spain, and sometimes the French are, if not exactly passionately Latin. They like to express themselves, whether it's through a shrug, a gesture, a shout, or a spray-paint can.
This graffiti says it all: "Exprime toi", which means "Express yourself". And they did.


On the Ile Saint-Louis quai, somebody has entered their blue period and drawn this portrait right next to the sign asking people to keep the island clean. Ironic.

Express yourself, or hush up? Here you can do both. I'm partial to Salvador Dali outside of the Centre Pompidou. Is it graffiti? More like wall art, I suppose.

Yet even here, people have managed to graffiti the wall art. Besides the mess of stuff at the bottom, I wonder how somebody got up to the top for the modernized version of the Musketeer motto: here written graphically as "All 4One". (Then again, how is that the entire length of the metro system is covered with graffiti -- every single inch of underground, off-limit tunnels?!)
Also just outside the Pompidou, somebody has defaced the Stop sign. What a heavy load we all bear. The evolution of a gymnast, spray-painted on a nearby sidewalk, also really speaks to me, as it seems that Pippa spends roughly half her waking hours doing handstands ("Watch this one!").
It appears I am more tolerant of not just funny and creative, but also old vandalism; for some reason an 1894 etching into the stone (photo below left) simply has more character to me, though I suppose P.D. in 1894 was being just as disrespectful as somebody would be 120 years later. For example, whoever did this (below right) thoroughly un-artistic graffiti on one of the small remnants of a thousand-year old city wall in the Marais is, in my mind, just a hopeless a-hole.

Yet this I love -- one of my favorite pieces of wall art in the city, found near Nation metro station. Again, it's clearly more in the camp of art than graffiti.

These are not quite graffiti, either. There's the guerilla tiler, who managed to tag a bridge post right by Notre Dame. And this pole just outside the Rodin Museum, where people -- perhaps inspired by the art they've just seen -- add their entrance stickers to the collection.

Can I have any photographic posting without Notre Dame? Probably not. Here, the view from across the river on the right bank will, in my mind, at least, always be the Bubble Butt view. Or, rather, "Buble But". Mr. English-as-a-second-language-tagger, check your spelling next time!

I also must admit that I rather like the moveable graffiti. I think cars are just so boringly one-colored, and at least this isn't defacing some 800 year old church. White vans seem to be the canvas of choice.


Sometimes, all this graffiti and defacing serves as a great backdrop.

It's colorful and urban, to say the least. It's not your typical view of Paris, but the girls want it for the cover of their future rock album. Perhaps the title will be An American Graffiti in Paris.

On the newly renovated quai in front of the Musée d'Orsay, they've set up a huge chalk walk, complete with chalk. Are they trying to pre-empt spray-paint taggers? Or prepare future generations to put the writing on the wall?


Murols is a cheese made from pasteurized cow's milk in the Auvergne, pretty much smack dab in the middle of the country and is named after a town called Murol. It was created there between the two world wars by Jules Berrioux, a cheese maker and seller. In the early days, it was basically a Saint-Nectaire with a huge whole in the middle. But over time, nearly everything about it has changed, except the shape.

It is aged a month in humid cellars and washed regularly to give it its deep red crust. Because of the short aging process and also, certainly, the pasteurization (which allows it to be exported), it  has only a mild taste, more musty like the cave than herby like the grazing fields. It's deceptive, since it looks like it would be a stinky firebomb of a cheese. The texture is about as rubbery as you would expect from a cheese that looks like a dead ringer for a buggy tire.


The name Murols not only has "mur" (wall) right in there, it also sounds a lot like the English word "mural" -- and what is a mural but writing and drawing on the wall? Some of the graffiti I've photographed is so artistic it seems closer to a mural than to an act of vandalism. Plus, there's the photo of the cheese itself that I take in the store: The sign has been scribbled on, and there's a pen sitting nearby, just waiting. This cheese is clearly meant for this story.


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