Paris Tips: Keeping Cool at the Wallace Fountains
By Theadora Brack
Feeling all parched while you’re out and about in Paris? What to do? What to do? Follow my lead. I’ve got you covered!
Fortunately, there are 108 historic “fontaines Wallace“ and three functional “puits artésien” (artesian wells). Situated around the city’s busiest squares and at intersections in each arrondissement, the drinking water is free for sipping.
So grab an empty bottle!
Meet Sir Richard Wallace
Rewind! “Les fontaines Wallace” were named after the British philanthropist and art collector Sir Richard Wallace, who generously financed the installation of 50 fountains throughout Paris after the Franco-Prussian War left the city with almost no clean drinking water.
Brasserie des quatre femmes
Designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg, these cast iron fountains in four versions remain iconic darlings of the Paris streetscape. Uniformly painted a deep emerald green, they’re easy to spot.
The largest model, nicknamed the “Brasserie des quatre femmes” (brewery of the four women), flaunts four fetching caryatids, symbolizing kindness, simplicity, charity, and sobriety. Curvacious stunners, the figures are draped in sinuous tunics that are pinned just-so to reveal a handsome knee. Oh, la la!
Fountain of Youth
My favorite “puit artésien” in Paris is located in Butte-aux-Cailles (Quail Hill) at Place Paul-Verlaine in the 13th arrondissement. This historic well has been gushing forth since 1866. It’s definitely worth a sip. My actor friend Nausicaa calls it her “fountain of youth.”
Tip! After topping off your bottle, check out the surrounding hilly, cobblestoned neighborhood. Once an infamous red light district (quail was slang for prostitute), Butte-aux-Cailles now offers an impressive number of cheap eats, bars, and shops. Hello, time travel.
Finally, here’s a cinematic tidbit: In the 2001 film “The fabuleux destin d’Amélie Poulain,” Amélie’s concierge in Abbesses was named “Madeleine Wallace” because she cried like a Wallace fountain!
Clipping from Francophile Ben Franklin, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water, my friend.” Bottoms up!