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Friday, April 02, 2010

Next Stop on the Pub (Art) Crawl: Au Petit Fer a Cheval in Paris

2 April 2010 | Fran Jurga's Hoof Blog at

"The Little Horseshoe" Sidewalk Cafe in Paris, France, originally uploaded by Flemming Søgaard.

Here's the third stop on our tour of the great pubs and pub signs of the world that honor the horse's hoof and its culture and craft.

This time, we're leaving behind the heavy horses and forges depicted so beautifully inside and outside the British pubs. We've hopped across the English Channel to the sidewalks of Paris, widely believed to be the world's most beautiful city and home to the world's most sophisticated people.

The "art" in this sense for this story is that the Parisians seem to have perfected the "art" of living well, and nowhere is this more evident than when you sit and watch Paris go by from a for-real Parisian sidewalk cafe.

This one has signs lettered in florid art nouveau calligraphy.You won't need a menu; just look up and be reminded that you can have a cafe au lait, a beer, or an aperitif.

Yet the cafe's name is in bold letters. No nonsense, so you won't forget where you are.

And the name? I believe that Au petit fer a cheval translates, literally, to "of the small iron of a horse" or "The Little Horseshoe". Would you expect to see a cafe called that in big-city Paris? No, but that is all part of the charm of the city that never sleeps!

From here you could hop on your bike and pedal over the National Veterinary College at Alfort, where Professor Jean-Marie Denoix shares his vast knowledge with students, and home to the museum of veterinary anatomy.

When the Republican Guard horses parade through Paris, the farrier goes along. Photographer friend Jim Freeman became intrigued by his frenetic activity as the horses approached. He said he acted like the stage manager for a rock concert. Notice the leather bag of shoes and tools over his shoulder...and he came to the parade dressed to work. I wish I knew his name. (Thanks, Jim, for the loan of this picture.)

You might also check out the historic forge at the stables of the Garde Republicaine (Republican Guard), a sort of national mounted police corps that parades through the streets of Paris with its own mounted marching band. Think of them as a cross between the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Spanish Riding School...with all the savoir faire and mystery of the French Foreign Legion.

The Garde Republicaine has an incredible tradition of horsemanship. When was the last time you tried this? Their attention to detail and tradition would be tough to top.

And then there was the day one of the horses dumped his rider and took off through the city here to watch a video of a loose horse galloping through the sights of Paris. Perhaps our farrier friend was at the wheel of the pursuit vehicle.


Julie Anderson Perron said...

Fabulous trip to Paris Fran... horse lover's style, of course! Fun read and great photos!

Tracks said...

I want to know where he got that tool bag!

Fran Jurga said...

I know (sigh), I have serious tool bag envy. This guy is so Paris...right out of Farrier Vogue! My guess is that the saddler would have made it for him. I wish he'd make one for me. I have one sort of like that from Australia. It is flat on the bottom, open on top, with short handles. And I treasure it. Made by a saddler, what a great gift to give a visiting American!