The appeal of cobblestone for me is difficult to describe. I attempt to do so at the risk of appearing off kilter, not a daunting risk though as risks go.
When one who has not grown up with it encounters cobblestone, it is obvious, without the necessity of any study on the matter, that streets have been constructed in that manner for centuries. There arises a sense of union with those of much different eras who also walked cobblestone streets. I suspect that this phenomenon does not occur with people who have known little but cobblestone. But for me walking cobblestone is a kind of time travel.
I would be timid about mentioning this were it not for a blog entry by Alysa of some time ago, 6 September 2010, 5:07 p.m. Eastern to be exact. Her subject was her little bottines, her lady's boots of the Belle Époque--Belle Époque design anyway. She said this concerning her feeling upon walking some cobblestone in Paris, which caught my attention:
I love how they let me connect to the past; when I walk along a cobbled street, I feel just as the women living in Paris a hundred years ago must have felt.
What a great comfort for me to encounter that statement. I felt a little less off kilter, or at least delighted to find that one other person in this world was off kilter in the same way. . .and doubly delighted that I do not have to wear bottines to get that feeling.
All of the side streets in this colonial city are cobblestone. Even the new subdivisions being constructed are furnished with new cobblestone. There are instances of what should more properly be called flagstone in some more heavily traveled streets, but for the most part the streets are cobblestone. My point is that in the case of this Mexican city, the cobblestone is not some remnant of the distant past. The reason for this is the combination of cheap material and cheap labor . . .
. . . and back-breaking labor it is.
I had the opportunity to watch a crew install a cobblestone drive here at the tennis complex in October of 2009. A couple of the men spent the entire work day sitting on the ground breaking rocks to a suitable shape and dimension.
In the case of new cobblestone the stones are usually mortared into place. That is also true of some of the old cobblestone. Most often, however, sandy soil is used to fill in between the stones. It serves quite nicely after being packed in.
I encountered this crew on calle Aldama this morning on the way to mail a card. They were totally redoing a stretch of street. (The two photos above are with the new camera, by the way, a camera more suitable to my station in life.)
Those feelings that I experience in the streets here and have attempted to describe above were remarkably intense when I first came here. They persist. They were there immediately upon my recent return, and it felt a lot like coming home.