Mar 17, 2017

Hot Tin Roof: Tomme de Carayac


The city of Paris has asked for its rooftops to be considered a Unesco World Heritage site. And why not? They certainly are something special. Between the Mansard roofs, the tin roofs, the orange chimneys/vents, the dormer windows, the slate tiles, and the oddball shapes and angles, it's hard to mistake this cityscape for anywhere but Paris.

Interestingly, there's only spot in Paris that's already a Unesco World Heritage site, and you can see that in the photo above, too: the banks of the Seine. It's hard for me to believe there aren't more places on this list (the Louvre, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, the Eiffel Tower) but perhaps it would be too much if they started naming all the world patrimony sites in Paris -- it's be practically all of central Paris itself.

That's a little bit what the bid for rooftop heritage status feels like -- like they're getting all of Paris in there. But really, it's just the rooftops they're after.

Paris is most famous for its Mansard roofs -- named after French architect Mansart (no that is not an error; the spelling changed along the way). These are some perfect example of Mansard roofs: double slopes, with the lower slope at a steeper angle, and either/both interrupted with dormer windows.

The roof at the Louvre is considered the oldest example of this, built around 1550. But we owe the name to baroque architect François Mansart, who lived in the first half of the 1600s. And we owe the popularity of the roof itself in Paris to the re-working of Paris in the mid 1800s under Napoléon III by the Baron Haussman.

When you look out the window and see a view of Paris rooftops, you just have to take a peek. In this case, I'm actually in the Mansard -- which the French use to mean both the attic/dormer space inside and the roof on the outside -- of the Hotel de Buci looking out at the other Mansard roofs.


Often, the roofs are covered in slate tiles (or at least slate colored). But many others are covered in metal sheets. If you've got a good roof-top balcony, this would make for a nice place in the summer to have a chat on a hot tin roof (rim-shot...).

This next photo could have been our view for the 5+ years we've lived here. It was in an apartment in the 5th that we were offered at the beginning. It would have meant living with truly detestable, enormous, heavy modern furniture (three of the four of us literally had to climb up to the dining table chairs), and overall I'm happy not to be living on that block. But oh -- the view! The photos I could have taken out this window in all seasons, all lighting! Yes, Notre Dame is impressive, but its the rooftops leading it up to that make it so wonderfully Parisian.

A quick painting out a hospital window to celebrate the end of a surgery and the great view over the roofs.


Whether you're looking from above...

 ...or below...

...the Paris rooftops get my vote for a real treasure, whether Unesco ends up agreeing or not.

THE CHEESE: Tomme de Carayac

Tomme de Carayac (at the top of the three cheeses), related to La Carayoquoise and the Cremeux de Carayac, is a farmhouse cheese made from raw sheeps' milk in --where else? -- Carayac, in the departement of Lot down in the Midi-Pyrénées. It's made by only one cheesemaker, whose known for his excellent work with sheep cheeses.

It's slightly unusual to have orange-rind sheep cheeses (not unheard of, but unusual), partly because sheep milk is a little more delicate than cow or even goat milk and takes more finesse to wash the cheeses in brine, the trick to getting orange mold. The animals only give milk from mid-December to mid-June.

The cheese is silky inside, though it's not a melt-in-the-mouth cheese. More of a chewy thing -- you bite it and it bites back. There is some good funk to the smell and taste, thanks to the orange molds, but it's not a whopper of a strong cheese.


The slab of Tomme de Carayac I photograph happens to be shaped something like a Parisian Mansard roof (though to be truly Mansard, it should be slanted on all four sides -- not just the front and back!). And I happen to photograph it on a slate that looks very much like a roofing tile.


  1. Believe it or not, I had never made the connection between "une mansarde" (an attic) and Mansard !!
    So thanks a lot, Kazz !

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