Over Under Paris (2019) by Jessica Horsham

Ligne 7

Opéra

This stop on ligne 7 was named after the Opera Garnier, which was built by Charles Garnier between 1861 to 1875, during the Second Republic under Napoleon III. It has been an established landmark in French and Parisian culture and has played a prominent role in art. Fourteen painters, mosaicists, and over 73 sculptors took part in creating the façade of this masterpiece of a building. The golden, shining statues of Harmony and Poetry are just a glimpse into the beauty of the eclectic house, with no spaces robbed of décor, colors, or theatrical effects. Not only was it once the host of the Royal Academy of Music and the Paris Ballet, but it was also the opera house from Phantom of the Opera, an iconic show and movie that has continued to live on stages throughout the world. Despite its sewage problems that are prevalent underground due to issues with its initial construction, the ligne entrance for the Opera, rather than following the typical, gothic art nouveau style has remained a marvelous, marble entrance over fears that it would disrupt the aesthetic of the surrounding area

The Palais Garnier, otherwise known as the Paris Opera, embodies the culture of Paris and the true establishment of French culture designated by Louis XIV, this was his goal. Louis XIV restructured entire world politics and the French culture to dedicate itself to opulence, fine arts, and to truly distinguish it from other countries, such as Italy. The ever-decadent designs pay homage to the rulers throughout French history. The Opera is an embodiment of distinguished French movements throughout history as it combines rococo, iron framework, baroque, and classicism all blended together. Even today, audiences are still left in awe of the immaculate designs and productions and shows from all over the world still aspire to perform here. Over 600,000 visitors still pass through the grand lobby, tours are conducted almost daily, and almost 91% of seats for all shows have been filled in the 2017-2018 season alone. In addition to this, it also helps to foster young people under the age of 28 and encourages them to immerse themselves in the ballet and theatre through its many partnerships and even discounted seating. As we walked around the area, it was interesting to see how all of the roads, just like with many historical buildings, all lead to the Opera. Romanistic in its layout, the house was able to be seen from all around and stood as the true staple of the area. Though I was unable to tour the inside of the facility due to a show being performed that day, its magnificence was still able to take my breath away from just the entrance. The arts culture in Paris is one that has left me in awe as it seems to be the heart of the French, something that binds them together and gets people talking no matter what the subject. References to previous great minds such as Chopin and Molière who all lived and performed in Paris is more than remarkable. Miami, as it undergoes its own transition to revive the arts itself simply just does not compare to the Parisian art culture, it is not limited to one or two areas in Paris as it does in Miami, it completely envelops the city itself and can be found almost anywhere. Paris has been renowned for its authentic artistic culture, attracting many artists of all types throughout its time and this building is a prime example as to why Paris is a pinnacle point for culture and the arts.  

Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette

In 1910, alongside the Opera station, what was once a north gate to the city of Paris (under Louis XIII), the Chaussée d’ Antin La Fayette station was officially opened. The term causeway was first used to explain this area as the roads nearby needed to be uplifted to avoid the marshy plains below. It was originally named after, by himself, Louis Antoine de Paradaillan de Gon Drin the first Duke of Antin who was the son of Madame de Montespan, one of Louis XIV’s favorite mistresses. The second part of the name is dedicated to Marquis de La Fayette, a French hero during the American Revolutionary War and initially the French Revolution. As of 2013, it has seen over 7 million travelers pass through the station, that is more than the entire population of the entire state of Arizona or Washington. This area is where the real Parisians go for shopping; despite how iconic Champs Elysees has become, it also has been overwhelmed with tourists. This station places you in between streets lined with stores with all recognizable names: Gucci, Longchamp, Prada, all of the designer brands. Merging fashion and art the Galeries Lafayette on Haussmann has achieved the perfect crossover. This massive department store has aimed to make the most prestigious and exclusive brands available to all with many discounted prices and mixing older and newer lines. The ultimate capitalist venture, for over 120 years, Galeries Lafayette has attracted many tourists and Parisians alike; in 2009 it recorded earrings of over one billion euros.

Upon entering this massive department store, it is easy to see why this spot is not just a regular mall nor is it solely an artistic creation. With its massive, ornamented glass ceiling, it almost resembles an opera house or a museum at the least; it is a true work of art. Walking up to the building itself could not have matched the surprise and astonishment of stepping through the larger than life doors at the entrance. Decorated in the overwhelming rococo style typical to Parisian life, it was easy to see why it attracted so many tourists; there were people from all over the world, speaking different languages, and all there for different purposes. Some were there to seriously shop, while many others, like myself, were there to get a glimpse at all of the elite brands housed there. Despite all of its ornate décor, the heart of this building is not in the culture nor the art, it is capitalism. Though France is seen as a champion for universal healthcare and its social policies, the consumer culture has invaded these beliefs born from the revolution. Despite the equality that has continuously been strived for throughout the years, these brands are representative of the separators that society uses to distinguish and segregate people of different classes. The fact that areas such as these are more popular than many museums shows the dedication that people have to their looks and perceptions rather than culture, art, and knowledge. These brands are not all inclusive nor do they focus on the people, these brands are almost all about maximizing profit. Many factories are located in less developed countries to take advantage of the cheap labor and ever lower working wages. Even a progressive nation such as France has fallen under the predatory clutches of capitalism, a system that negates almost all of the country’s beliefs.

Pont Marie—Cite Internationale des Arts

Similar to many stops on this line, the Pont Marie station was opened in 1926 and was named after a nearby bridge over the Seine that connects to the Ile Saint-Louis, one of the natural islands in the Seine. This area is a typical yet unique residential area due to the conditions of those who live here: artists of all kinds with workshops. There are two distinct areas like this that can be found in Paris, this one located in the Marais, one of the first buildings, and in Montmarte. This area has been supported and funded by the Ministry of Culture and Foreign Affairs and the Academy of Fine Arts. These housing projects have not been a new concept to French history as under the reigns of Francis I and Louis XIV, they have both brought over incredible artists, housed them, and paid for their necessities in order for them to paint for the royal family and France as a whole. One of the most notable names was brought over by Francis I and he, luckily, brought over some of his most prized possessions; perhaps you’ve heard of Leonardo da Vinci? Or maybe the Mona Lisa? This idea to create Paris as a true creator’s habitat has remained throughout its years.

Areas such as these continue to shock me. It is truly amazing that countries as advanced as our own, continue to support the arts in overwhelming ways. While Miami-Dade County has made great strides towards funding the arts and artists of many kinds, it is still not a state-wide initiative nor is it a country wide one. This brings into perspectives the values of our country versus France; in many ways, while France has traditionally been our greatest ally, it has also been one of our biggest opposites. The arts in the U.S. has not been as emphasized or cultivated, funding in our public-school systems for the arts has been drastically decreased and is almost nonexistent. Art appreciation and art history are classes that are required in the curriculum in France, this is something that is not instituted in the U.S. whatsoever. Art is one of the only things that remain from times of history and wars, it is one of the best, most tangible ways to recreate, envision, and teach history through. While this area was not entirely the most artsy, it did have an extremely cute outdoor bar, along the Seine where people of all ages, mainly of the younger generation, were lounging and engaged in a multitude of discussions. There were also many street performers, and as we moved through the area, we stumbled upon the Bastille monument. It was interesting to see how the area had developed around it to match the demography—there were tons of restaurants, cafes, and bars around this monument where the entire history of the world had changed, so to the times have changed.

Palais Royal—Musée du Louvre

In an effort to expand the public’s access to art and the Lourve, the platforms added for ligne 7 were opened in July 1916. This entrance has been specifically redesigned by Jean-Michel Othoniel, titled Kiosk of the Night-Walkers in 2000 for the 1000 years of the Metro. This bright glass bead structure is yet another unexpected design that starkly contrasts the other metro stations as well as the surrounding area. The main attraction to this area is the Lourve, an old defensive fortress that was then opened by revolutionaries with the artworks they seized from the royal family and many lords, is the world’s largest and most visited art museum. It first opened on August 10, 1793 and has grown enormously since then. The Lourve has originally pieces from the beginning of time up until the present day and is home to many of the revolutionary pieces that not only changed the art world but also impacted the entire society around its times.

From studying the works contained in the Lourve through a book and online sources to seeing them in person will leave one simply out of breath and in disbelief. I found myself wondering how so many of these great works were produced in their time realm and have lasted the true test of time. Art ties people to history, it ties people to ancestors and those long gone. The pieces in this museum have changed, criticized, and forced society to confront issues thereby pushing forward progress. All of those pieces have affected my life and have helped to guide me into the current society in which I currently live. The Lourve cannot be conquered in one day, or two days, or even a week. This massive museum deserves the full time it truly takes to explore it and it truly embodies the entire French culture—from its early beginnings to its lowest points to its current state.

Place Monge

Opening in February of 1930, this station and the neighboring attractions will represent many of the most radical French ideals still in place today. This was one of the first stations to cross under the Seine and it is named after Gaspard Monge, the French mathematician who later invented descriptive geometry. This area is surrounded by an almost entirely Islamic community with almost all of its restaurants specific to a specific country or region—allegedly some of the best lamb can be found by walking through these streets. Just a few blocks away from the station lie the Grand Mosque of Paris, the Jardin Des Plantes, and the Museum of Evolution. The Grand Mosque of Paris was built in 1920 by the architect Maurice Tranchant de Lunel, however, it required a great number of Moroccan, Algerian, and Tunisian craftsmen to add of the miraculous detailed symmetrical work that is attributed to all typical Islamic art. It is now the 3rd largest mosque in all of Europe and the oldest in France. Its main goals focused on promoting the visibility, safety, and comfortability of Islam and Muslims in France. The Jardin des Plantes was originally the Royal Garden of Medicinal Plants in the 17th century and was perhaps the reason why surrounding this square, the French government decided to build many scientific museums around it, such as the National Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Evolution. The embracement of science, knowledge, and logical reasoning has been one to separate France from the U.S. and other countries just as France sternly separates itself from religion. In 1920, there were regulations in place that initially prevented the French government from contributing to the construction of the mosque as it violated a law strictly forbade such actions towards any religion. Despite all of its focus on its technological advances in all fields, the U.S. is not nearly as accepting of all of these ideals as is France. There are still many states, districts, and neighborhoods that refuse to accept the theory of evolution nor do they go out of their way to keep religion and the state complete separate. In many of the southern and western public schools, Christianity is taught almost on a daily and issues such as climate change, practicing safe sex, the human anatomy, and evolution are entirely ignored. This does nothing but hinders students and often times prevent them from pursing further education or setting them back very far behind other students. Academically, students in the U.S. are already behind in areas such as art and literature, in a country where mathematics and STEM designated jobs are praised, it is ridiculous that such critical lessons are left up to the discretion of so many people. While I have been raised Catholic, I am thankful that my family has not simply ignored the sciences, but the same cannot be said for other children in the U.S. Even on a campus as diverse and progressive as FIU, if one were to propose an entire museum dedicated to evolution, there would certainly be those opposed to it within the community. The U.S., and as one would say, its “puritan values,” continue to affect the development of the nation and all of its people. These same issues are not present in French culture and society where rather than a freedom of religion, it is a freedom from religion in all of its aspects.

Châtalet

Opening in August of 1900, the Châtalet station is the center of Parisian life and is the largest and most complex metro station in the world. This station was named after a castle that was located on the right side of the river Seine but was destroyed by Napoleon in 1802, the term itself was used in medieval times to describe a small castle. Châtalet is home to many different groups of people, from the gays to the Jews, this area is a huge melting pot yet somehow it all radiates Frenchness and the Parisian culture. It is also home to the Centre Pompidou which not only has the largest modern art museum in Europe, but also a vast public library, right in the center of Paris, it has had over 180 million visitors since 1977 and continues to attract tourists from all over. This center was the first site for a large, free public library. Centre Pompidou is a sore thumb compared to all of the other buildings surrounding it, but it is reflective of the art movements it holds within. Châtalet is also home to an extremely large, lower end shopping mall and simply adds to the lively nature of streets of bars, cafes, restaurants, and stores with a variety of products. Despite this area once being one of marshland, it is now constantly filled with people and is often a great site to celebrate big victories before the traditional Champs Elysse. On the night of the Algerian soccer win, the streets in Châtalet erupted into a happy chaos with people running, shouting, and chanting. This is an area that is meant to draw people together to gather and discuss issues and share in their most joyous moments. In addition to this, it has made remarkable efforts to attract the younger generations by just offering a multitude of places to hang out without being charged expensive prices and free areas to relax or even study—this lively place has something for everyone, even for those who do not find themselves in other crowds can easily find themselves amongst these streets. Bringing together different forms of art, literature, and academia, and attract millions of people yearly is something that this area has been able to perfect. The leading city of culture and art purposefully plans areas such as these, even the great president Charles de Gaulle advocated for such a site as this in 1968. Once again, we are able to see the repeated importance of truly free and accessible education to all in France. The library in the Pompidou is massive and requires no charge to enter and simply sit and read or study or use the computers. France values its citizens and rather than see providing for them as a burden, views it as an investment into the future and progression of France. This thought process acts in a positive reactionary force and reinforces the trust and relationship between the government and its people. These outward support for the betterment of the daily lives of its citizens, rather than just the economic status of the state and top 1% is an idea that was born out of the revolution and has luckily persisted.

Stalingrad

The Rue d’Aubervilliers station was renamed Stalingrad in 1946 after the Battle of Stalingrad in Russia. This was the target city of German forces in the Soviet Union and fighting lasted 7 months. It was one of the largest and bloodiest battle in the history of the world, there were over 2 million casualties. Despite the Germans revolutionary tactics in war, Russia had the winter on their side and was eventually able to defeat the Germans and push them back. This changed the atmosphere of the war and its trajectory forever—this marked the turn of the war in favor of the Allies. Today, in Paris, the area seems very similar to Miami’s own Wynwood. Upon exiting the station, it did not feel like the rest of Paris, there were a ton of street vendors and the apartments and store fronts were not in the best conditions nor were they preserved the same way that one is used to seeing along the streets. However, once walking a few more blocks, you were thrown into a more artsy, organic lifestyle that is associated with many European cities. There was a major art installation piece entitled, “La Foret Escargot” by the Inzouk Association, a collaborative effort of 22 artists. This snail has just begun its journey in Stalingrad and will be slowly moving its way towards Malakoff in 2020. Its prime focus is to develop a greater respect for the environment, with almost all of its materials being reused or recyclable pieces. However, such a structure as this has then focused on forcing the “urban sub dwellers” to understand and wonder about the future of their waste and reconsider the life of an object. Then, a huge outdoor project looms behind it, the Paris-Plages. These artificial beaches provide a multitude of activities for people of all ages to take part in during the particularly hot summer days; though seemingly a tourist spot at first, it was overrun with locals.

It is quite ironic, yet beautiful, how the “La Foret Escargot” was installed in the hottest summer that Paris has ever known. There have been multiple heat waves, days of 100+ degree weather, and even instances made by government officials to cool off in the fountains (even the famous Eiffel Tower ones) all due to climate change. Climate change is real and it is ridiculous that there are people in positions of power who truly ignore the research and data of scientists. Despite having signed the Paris Agreement in 2016 to pledge to lower emissions and pollution, while there have been significant strides, this summer is a testament to the fact that more must be done in this battle against climate change. The Paris Agreement is a great starting point for the directions that states should begin to take, however, the earth does not rely on such agreements nor does it wait for anyone. Action must be taken, and it must be taken now. While in the Jardin des Plantes, there were multiple stickers and floor artwork dedicated to environmentalist groups advocating for stricter measure to combat climate change. While nations such as the U.S. and the U.K. have digressed in their promises due to leading officials, France has not. The people of France have not allowed such an extreme issue to be left unhandled. Art installations such as these force those naysayers to truly reassess the situation and are even used as an education tool for children to learn about the effects of their daily lives in order to inspire them to reduce waste. This installation was supported and partly funded, as well as given the space, by the French government—despite whatever issue it may have going on, they are still one the leading progressive states and that is evident by the way the climate issue is being handled.

Château-Landon

Located near the edge of the city and merged with a major train stations sits the Château-Landon station which was opened in November 1910. Its name traces its ties back to the times of kings and queens with it being named after a noble family, and it sits on the old Roman road that leads up to Saint Denis. This area is solely residential and is located on the outskirts of Paris which drastically changed the neighborhood itself. It was extremely quiet and many of the storefronts at the bottom were all small restaurants or places to buy groceries, many of which were closed at the time. This is stark contrast to any areas closer to Paris or even the Latin Quarter where there is always a steady flow of traffic and activity roaming on the streets. This quiet, homey area really shows the way that the residential lives differ based on where you live—there were more smaller children and families flocking to the smaller parks located along the canal even compared to the larger parks in Paris where there is a significant older population. Despite its quietness, this area was nice to remind me of the multiplexity of Paris—it is simply not always crowded areas and the ever going activities. Areas such as these are where those who we pass by on metro rides rushing to get to different places eventually retreat back into, these are the quiet places they often prefer to the commotion of Paris. It was a different change of speed and intensity that is often associated with Paris.

The Porte de la Villette

Opened in 1910 but serving as a Gallo-Roman village during the Roman empire, the roads along Porte de la Villette link modern day Paris to the ancient roads that led to Flanders and eventually Rome. Fashioned similarly to the area surrounding Pompidou, and itself, it is all fashioned in a very modern design with a lot of shared, common spaces, floating gardens, and various technological hubs. In the middle of the Parc de la Villette lies the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, opened in 1986; this museum focuses on all things science and technology, promoting science and its culture. It is the largest science museum in all of Europe and has several floors dedicated to many things such as a mini aquarium, a huge public library, and even a planetarium. This center and square alone could be considered its own mini city as it has almost all of the commodities needed all within the square. Its goal is to spread scientific discovery, exploration, and general technological knowledge amongst the public and the youth. In its massive library, it even has free classes and activities for everyone—with workshops focusing on areas of employment, health, and languages. Each workshop has different levels and different opportunities for those based on age, and they are all free to the public. It works in conjunction to the school, under the same name, to further conduct research, display it, and run the entire museum and all of its parts, creating a more hands on environment for all students. This structure alone represents the emphasis that France has placed on the sciences and education. The true birthplace for such strong ideas stem from the French Revolution and its complete abolishment of the monarchy and traces of the church and religion. By separating itself from the church, France and its leaders have then been able to build upon science and revolutionize it to develop new technologies and techniques. This scientific revolution has been able to launch new and improved cures for diseases, maintaining high yielding crops, and solve the issue of clean water and a sewage system for France. These were just a few of the immediate issues science had begun to solve for the country and as such has remained a pillar of its society for the many years after, it is still reflected today. This museum and research centers proves to the world that France, despite being the center for art and culture, can also take on the role of science and discovery.

Censier-Daubenton

This ancient, yet clean looking stop came as a surprise as it had been site of a former Roman village along the ancient Roman road that linked Lutetia to Lyon. It has served as a place of inspiration for numerous writers and artists that have created magnificent stories based on these streets, including Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables. Laying on the outskirts of the Latin Quarter, it is easy to see how the environment of this area remains lively and as a true testament to time. Tucked away in the corner is a large, gothic styled church, the Saint-Medard Church, that was ransacked in 1561 and as a result has been rebuilt immediately after with its interior being updated as far as 1647. This church had immaculate stained-glass windows that featured 3 female saints and only Saint Michel, something I found rather unusual considering that it is often the men saints or Joan of Ark who are normally celebrated in most historically relevant churches. Also, though it is still a lively area, it is not typical of the young, broke students that populate the heart of the Latin Quarter. This area, less chaotic and with more road space (remember larger for Romans), is a much more refined and expensive area, yet the park next to the church remains a favorite amongst the population’s children. However, the era of craftsmanship prevalent throughout France remains here with several butcher shops, brasseries, and cheese specialists. This area also has a massive basilica at the top of the hill that has been preserved very well from the ancient Roman times. This stop was able to mix in all very important and different time periods of French history all in one area: the Romans, the French Revolution, and the emerging political uproar and modernism.

All images are CC by 4.0.

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