Thursday, January 17, 2019
There is no shortage of places to eat in downtown Arras, France.
This could be a good thing, or it could be not so good. Personally, when we travel I have a tendency to want to apologize to all of the locals whenever we see a McDonald's (as we ran across in Canterbury, England,* following our week in France), a Burger King (though apparently the Burger King in Helsinki, Finland, has a sauna in it, because of course it does), or, in Arras, a Subway. I want to apologize because I feel that American "culture" seems to be taking over the world, and I just don't think that it's always a Good Thing® when that happens.
Fortunately, there were a lot of other restaurants around the Place des Héros and the Grand' Place, and we tried to make it a point to eat at as many of them as we could during our stay in Arras.
There was one pub and brasserie that we returned to several times, because the food and the drinks were so good there. And it didn't hurt that their logo was heraldic:
The shield with the capital B, supported by two lions rampant regardant all surmounted by an imperial crown, was found on just about everything in the place, from the menu to the napkins to some of the glasswork:
Good food, a nice atmosphere, and an heraldic logo. What more could an heraldist ask for?
* Canterbury has other issues, too. There were at least three different shops there that proudly proclaimed that they sold "American candies." I was sorely tempted to go in and ask them, "Why would you sell American candy here? Compared to most European sweets, American candy is shite!" But I didn't; I manfully resisted that urge. I'm sure that it makes economic sense to them, since they advertise it so prominently. I just don't understand why. I can have American candy anytime, and I was more than happy to be able to bring back a couple of boxes of candies bought in France and to ration them carefully until they were gone. American candy pales in comparison to what I've been able to buy in Europe.
Monday, January 14, 2019
The title of this post is a quote from the old spy spoof TV series Get Smart, and was used by the often bumbling protagonist whenever he almost, but not quite, accomplished his mission, said while holding up his hand with a small gap between his thumb and forefinger to show how close he had come.
After reviewing some of the blank shields and cartouches in Arras that I shared in my last post, today I want to share a shield that could have been heraldry, but they "missed it by that much."
It was up on the side a lovely old building in the city center:
But of course, it was the oval shield shape and bright colors that caught my eye.
It's a cunningly done mosaic surface, surrounded by decorative and heraldic elements, with the monogram CJF on it.
It could have been a coat of arms, but they ...
Thursday, January 10, 2019
It's always fun on our travels, to see the local heraldry on display.
But equally, it's sad to see some perfectly good opportunities for heraldic display that have been passed up.
That is, shield and/or cartouches, often with other heraldic or quasi-heraldic decorative elements, that display only a blank surface. I swear, sometimes it's enough to make me want to get a ladder and some cans of paint, and paint coats of arms on their surfaces.
Be that as it may, doing so is usually considered to be vandalism, and so I restrain myself. But still, wouldn't you want to do something to put some heraldry on the shields below, all found in the City of Arras, France?
They all just seem to be crying out to have their blank faces covered with heraldry, don't they?
Monday, January 7, 2019
Going back to our hotel in Arras, France at the end of day circumambulating (I hardly ever get to use that word in everyday conversation!) a couple of the nearby squares, I noticed an unexpected addition to the large diamond that marked the Hotel Diamant, our "headquarters" during our time there:
See the white rectangle with the black shield shape on it there?
I have to assume that someone, probably someone fairly tall, had jumped up pretty high to place that sticker there, or they had borrowed a chair from a nearby café to stand on to do it.
In any event, looking closer to see what arms had been placed there, I was very much surprised to discover that it was from England!
It is the arms (well, okay, arms-like logo) of the Maidstone United Football Club of Maidstone, Kent, UK.
If I had to blazon the logo (which is also found at the top of the team's website at http://www.maidstoneunited.co.uk/), I'd make it: Sable a fess wavy between three footballs* or on a chief sable a lion passant also or, the whole surmounted by the letters M U F C in gold on a black background.
Whatever the arguments that may be made as to how well - or not - the design follows good heraldic practice, it was most certainly not something that I would have expected to see in northeastern France.
* Over here in a America we would call these "soccer balls," since American "footballs" aren't round, but more like a pointed oval. Indeed, some have suggested that we in the U.S. should change the name of the sport to better align some of these differences with reality:
Thursday, January 3, 2019
Continuing our wandering about the city of Arras, France, we came across the Saint Joseph École et Collège.
(My wife, Jo, particularly liked its logo which was also displayed on the front of the building; she decided it was about time that someone recognized her as a saint.)
The school celebrated its 150th anniversary just a few years ago, so it's been around for quite a while.
But once again, it was the school's heraldry, carved in a prominent position on its facade, that really caught my eye.
I have, alas, been unable to discover anything about this coat of arms. The St. Jo website (https://saintjo.fr/) is great if you are interested in enrolling a child there, or wish to see pictures from its 150 year history, but has no information about its heraldry. (Although in one of those historical photographs at https://saintjo.fr/150-ans/ you can see another carved rendition of the school's coat of arms over a doorway behind the fencing team.)
A guess at a blazon (in English) would be: Azure a Paschal lamb passant argent distilling blood from its neck gules into a goblet (or?) in chief three roses (argent?), a chief per pale Gules a cross formy (argent?) and Barry gules and (argent?).
It's an interesting coat of arms, and probably has a story behind its design; I just wish I knew what it was.
Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Hurrah! We have officially survived 2018!
To celebrate the issuing in of a new year, here are a few heraldic cartoons about coats of arms I have collected over the years, just to get 2019 off to a good start.
Wishing you all a happy, heraldry-filled New Year!