*Also known as décrottoirs (mud scrapers), grate-pieds (foot scratchers) and grattoirs (scratching utensils).
No matter what you call them, these now-quaint architectural elements were once a necessary part of daily life. On our first visit here, it wasn’t long before I noticed that there was a boot scraper beside the front door of every house and most public buildings. Even the churches have them. So for two weeks I crouched on the sidewalk, looking like a fool, and photographed dozens of these overlooked ornaments, while Bruce gazed at the sky and acted like we weren’t actually together. Since we've moved here, there's not a week that goes by that I don't find another beauty to add to my collection.
I find them fascinating, in part because the variety of shapes and styles seem nearly endless. But more importantly, the widespread use of these little wrought iron do-hickeys says so much about living conditions when streets were unpaved, sidewalks didn’t exist, and horses were the primary means of transportation. In 1866 a journalist for La Petit Gironde wrote that, when it rained, the hard-packed dirt streets of Bordeaux instantly turned into rivers of mud. Many roads become completely impassable and others were transformed into cesspools of household waste.