Over Under Paris by Fabian Rodriguez

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Introduction

Coming from a city where the use of a metro system is unheard of, one of the things that impressed me the most in Paris was the efficiency of their metro system. We like to think of our country as one of the most progressive and advanced when it comes to technology, but after experiencing how something as simple as a metro it makes you wonder.

Things I saw in every train ride!

As in any other mean of public transportation, the metro receives people from all genders, races, ages, and ethnicities. It was surprising to see how many people, young or old, were reading books or magazines in each ride. Moreover, when riding the metro, one thing that for sure it’s lost is personal space. It took me some time to adjust to the fact that people might bump into me or that they might be standing closer than normal during the entire ride.

Paris metro

Many people visit Paris and go home talking about the Eiffel-Tower, The Louvre or the Arc of Triumph. Just like every other tourist, I will do the same. However, unlike many of them I will talk about the 113-year-old Parisian metro. The metro that consists of 14 lines, 303 stations, and covers a distance of 205 kilometers. It is the largest and most complex station in the world. Moreover, the Parisian metro is the 7th busiest subway in the world with 1.5 billion passengers every year, roughly 4.5 million per day.

Purpose of the Project

The purpose of the project was to familiarize myself with Paris metro system. This is a way to understand the importance of a metro system as public transportation. The project also enhances the idea that one could find a completely different environment and culture in between each station. I will take you into a journey of ten stations in Line 2 of the Parisian metro system. I will be discussing the demographics and many different things that I encounter in each stop.

Paris Metro Line 2

Line two consist of 25 stations and as the name suggests it was the second line constructed in the Paris metro. The line runs from Porte Dauphiné to Nation and it is the 7th busiest line out of the 16. The line has a length of 12.4 kilometers. The easiest was to find what to do at every station is to look at a map of the area which highlights important landmarks and other places to visit which can be found five minutes away from the station.

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CC BY-SA 3.0

Metro Station: Porte Dauphine

 This station is very important since it marks the end of line 2 in the western side of Paris. The station also has a connection to the RER. The entrance of the metro station is one of the most astonishing ones in line two since it lays right in the middle of a park. “The Porte Dauphine gives its name to this neighborhood that is a perfect meeting point between relaxed and relaxing since it allows a retreat to the countryside thanks to its garden of acclimatization” (Dauphine. (n.d.). The town is also well known for its amazing schools which attracts a lot of family life (Dauphine. (n.d.).

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This town was rich in open areas which was really refreshing after exploring cities like Lyon and other neighborhoods in Paris where they were covered with buildings. As soon as I got off the train station I was at a park. There were many young people having a picnic there. You could also see families playing with their kids and even pets. Compared to the other neighborhoods that I had visited, Porte Dauphine was like a ghost town. Moreover, adolescents were displaying great skills at a soccer field nearby.

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I always try to find sculptures throughout my exploration of the town. As someone who is really into cars and even NASCAR I was staggered to find a sculpture of Jean-Pierre Wimille, a Grand Prix motor racing driver, who after doing some research I found out was a member of the French Resistance during World War II.

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Metro Station: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile

 It was named in 1970 after the death of president Charles de Gaulle. Charles de Gaulle-Etoile station connects to metro station 1, 6 and the RER. It is one of the most visited stations in line two since it has the Arc of Triumph just a few meters from it. Near the station, there is also Champs-Elysees which is one of the twelve avenues that connect to the Arc of Triumph.

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This is a town with great live, the many cars honking and the immense amount of people gives it a sense as if it were a city of its own. People from all ages gather to admire the Arc of Triumph. Tourists, school groups, older people and even locals come to visit this place everyday.

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Another landmark near the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile station is the avenue of Champs-Elysees. One of the busiest streets in Paris and a crucial one if any brand wants to legitimize their business. Through this street one can find people from all over the world and of all ages as well. There are also many street performers who try to earn a living by displaying their talents. Alongside the street, one can find many prestigious brands like Louis Vuitton, Apple, Zara, etc.

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Metro Station: Rome

The station was opened on October 7th 1902 and was named after the Italian capital, Rome. This is not a touristic area as there are no attractions or great buildings to explore.

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Even though this was a huge town, there were not many people in it. The streets were pretty much empty, which might be the reason why this was one of the cleanest towns I have visited in the city. The uniformity throughout the city was astonishing. It was really hard to determine the population demographic since there weren’t many people outside, but from what I got to see wealthy people in their late forties are the ones that live in this town. The small groups of people that I got to see were mostly white.

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As I set off to discover the unknown, I came across a University. It is a college well recognized for their Literature, Physics, and Technology departments. It was incredible to see how a college of such prestige could be found in the center of the town right next to a supermarket and even residential areas for non-students.

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Just a few minutes from the station, I came across the Temple des Batignolles. It is a Protestant church constructed in 1895. Its structure has a neo-Roman style to it. After seeing all those Catholic Churches, it was refreshing to admire a Protestant temple.

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Metro Station: Blanche

The station was opened back in October 21, 1902. “There are sex shops and dive bars, you’ll find chic cocktail lounges, barista cafés, gastro-bistros, and trend-setting hotels that make a visit to the neighborhood feel like a discovery” (Ladonne, 2017).

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The neighborhood’s naughty appeal dates back to the 1880s, when everyone from down-and-out artists to British royalty flocked to a slew of watering holes, including Moulin Rouge, for a night of drinking and dancing” (Ladonne, 2017).

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As a result, many tourists visit the neighborhood hoping to have a good time or to see something that they have never experienced before. People from all ages can be found in this area, especially the younger population who are more open minded about this topic. In these streets, I was able to witness something of a culture shock as I saw some Parisian walking their kids, who were maybe 8 years old, next to sex shops and night clubs. This would have caused a riot back in the United States, which puts things in perspective, and makes me question how open minded we really are.

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However, this town did not only have to offer naughty entertainment, in fact it had a rich artistic culture. A few minutes into the outskirts of the town, one can find many theaters and comedy halls. A few minutes from the main street and it was as if I were in a different city. There was no tourists, no big crowds and no sex shops. This is a very modern city which is one of the reasons why the younger population is prominent.

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Metro Station: Anvers

The Métro station, Anvers, was named after square d’Anvers which received its name from the Belgian city of Antwerp (Anvers Metro Station). By the end of the 19th century, the town (Montmartre) became a popular area for artists, singers and late-night revelers to hangout (Davidson, 2019). “The area welcomes daily throngs of tourists, who continue to be charmed by the essence of “old France” that still hangs in the air”(Davidson, 2019).

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The hill on which Montmartre, and the basilica, Sacré Coeur, stand, was used for protection in battle (Davidson, 2019). During the Siege of Paris in 1590, it became the prime spot for Henry IV to fire artillery down onto the city below and it was later used in 1814 by the Russians (Davidson, 2019). There were many tourists from all over the world; people from all ages came to see the Basilica and the town of Montmartre.

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The fact that there were many souvenir shops enhanced the idea that this was a town for tourists. There were many artists selling their work on the streets. However, these were not ordinary artists since their artwork was unique to them. There are not many towns that give me a sense of authenticity in France, but the town of Montmartre gave me that. The old cars, the narrowed streets, the music playing in the background, and even the architecture made me feel like a real Parisian.

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This town has a huge amount of culture and art within it. There are many theaters and music halls like the Theatre de L’Atelier and La Cigale. This was all caused by the many artists like Monet and Picasso who lived in the area.

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Metro Station: La Chapelle 

 A great number of people get off at la Chapelle but a great number of people also get on. The community did not seem to be very developed. La Chapelle, commonly referred to as “Little Jaffna” just like the capital of Sri Lanka (Davison, 2019). Here, one can find shops and restaurants reflecting the presence of Sri Lankan and South Indian culture and one can even hear the Tamil language (Davison, 2019).

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While walking on the streets it was very clear that the population of the town was composed mainly by immigrants. There was a big population of Southern Indians and Sri Lankans. The big Indian community was reflected on the many Indian stores they had, like supermarkets, restaurants and shops.

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Just a few minutes from the station a catholic chapel can be found, Chapelle Notre Dame Des Malades. I was surprised to see how different this chapel looked from the other ones I had visited in Paris. From the outside it looked like a normal building where people lived their normal life. Who would have thought that after walking in I would have found a small piece of Notre Dame. I was captivated by the fact that I now understood how to identify each movement displayed in every building I saw. This church, just like Notre Dame, had a gothic style and the stone structure of the church, the sharply pointed spires, and the stained glass reaffirmed this. However, the fact that the arcs had a more oval shape instead of pointy, suggested that the church was also influenced by the Renaissance movement.

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While exploring the town, I came across the Theatre des Bouffes du Nord. After seeing the many Indian stores, I was intrigued to see whether the plays were French or Indian plays. To my surprise the plays were French. It was really amazing to see something that reminded me that I was still in France.

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Metro Station: Stalingrad

The architecture is classic Parisian but a little rundown and threadbare, which together with the lack of tourist sites, is one of the reasons why the streets and sidewalks aren’t cleaned as often (MinibarRaider, 2008).

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There does not seem to be a great interest in this station by tourist groups. It was eminent that the young population was underrepresented in this town. The majority of the citizens in the area seemed to be much older, from their 50s up. The town was not very clean as there was a lot of trash in the streets. There was a great balance between the African American community and the white community. As I moved away from the station, a much younger population was perceived, and the city was much cleaner.

 

A few minutes from the metro station, I came across the 10 Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad which is a square named after the Battle of Stalingrad that took place during WWII. Many people think of the French as arrogant people, however, the fact that they named a square after a battle that happened in Russia and that they even named the station as such suggests otherwise. These memorials reaffirm the love that the French have for nature and fountains which date back to Louis XIV.

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As I walked through the town, I came across an Office Depot. I was very surprised but then again, I realized this was another statement of how well the French mix with other culture.

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I discovered the Fontaine du Conservatoire Municipal. The fountain was completed in 1987, by the architect Fernand Pouillon. It is a pretty impressive fountain and of great stature. However, it was not working due to vandalism.

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Metro Station: Colonel Fabien

One of the stations that I had to check out was Colonel Fabien since it had my name. The station was named after Pierre Georges, best known as Colonel Fabien. He carried out the first assassinations of German soldiers during WWII (Calves, 1996).

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Just in front of the metro station, one can find the Place du Colonel Fabien, which also commemorates the colonel. This square had exercise machines where a couple of older people where working out.

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A town of much younger people. This could be seen in the modern structures of the buildings and the daycares and parks for little children that they had.

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Near the Colonel Fabien square, there was a statue celebrating the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature, the French philosopher, Albert Camus. The statue stimulated the modernization of the town as it appeared to be abstract.

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Metro Station: Pere Lachaise 

 The Pere Lachaise metro station was a station with a lot of movement. One of the reasons for this is the fact that nearby one can find the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. The younger population was palpable. Most of them were from their twenties to their late thirties. Lots of people get off at this station.

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There were lots of tourists visiting the cemetery since there are many famous historical figures buried there, including Oscar Wilde and Jean-Francois Champollion. Another important person, who I thought was interesting to be buried at this cemetery was Colonel Fabien.

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Just across the street from the cemetery, the Notre Dame Du Perpetuel Secours can be found. This is a beautiful church hidden within the town. Once again, I was able to identify its gothic structure with the sharply pointed spires, and the stained glass.

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Metro Station: Nation

“Some of the most lively places in the capital, you’ll always be able to have a good night at one of the many bars and restaurants” (What to ser and do in Bastille).

Nation is one of the busiest stations in line 2 as it connects to line 1,6,9 and the RER. This station is also very important since it marks the end of line 2 and 6 in the eastern side of Paris. Today, the neighborhood is best-known for its active nightlife, the Opéra Bastille, a modern opera house, and the Promenade Plantée, an elevated park walkway that sits atop the train line, stretching eastward and splitting the district in two (Bastille).

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The younger population was well represented; however, it was made up mostly by white people. This was a really clean neighborhood. It seems like a wealthy area. The modern twenty and twenty first century architecture was compatible with its young population.

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Something that is never missing from these neighborhoods in Paris, are parks and gardens where people go to socialize with friends and families and even lovers while admiring the view. As soon as you climb the stairs out of the station your eyes meet the Square de la Place de la Nation. The square is widely known for having the most active guillotines during the French Revolution (Bastille). Right at the center of the Place de la Nation, one can find The Triumph of the Republic, a large bronze sculpture that celebrates the triumph of the republic.

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As someone who is going into the medical field, I was wondering how private clinics looked here in Paris. I found the answer to my question in the outskirts of the neighborhood in nation. I was astonished to see how different these clinics where from the US. Normally, in the US, a private clinic is found in a building with other private clinics or business. However, here I found some clinics that were blended into the city apartments.

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References

Anvers Metro Station – What can be found nearby? (2019, January 22). Retrieved from https://job-in-france.babylangues.com/metro-expo-resto/4-anvers-metro-station/

Dauphine. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.junot.fr/en/neighborhood-paris/Dauphine

Davidson, C. (2019, June 26). Paris to South Asia in a Metro Ride: Exploring the La Chapelle Area. Retrieved from https://www.tripsavvy.com/la-chapelle-little-sri-lanka-1618685

Davidson, C. (2019, June 03). A Full Guide to Montmartre, One of the Artiest Paris Districts. Retrieved from https://www.tripsavvy.com/guide-to-the-montmartre-neighborhood-1618711

Ladonne, J. (2017, January 04). A Neighborhood Guide to Pigalle, Paris. Retrieved from https://www.fodors.com/world/europe/france/paris/experiences/news/neighborhood-guide-pigalle-paris-12218

MinibarRaider. (2008, September 11). 19th / Stalingrad area? – Paris Forum. Retrieved from https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g187147-i14-k2244867-19th_Stalingrad_area-Paris_Ile_de_France.html

Calvès, André (1996). “La Colonne Fabien”(in French). Retrieved 2015-04-04.

What to See and Do in Bastille/République/Nation Neighborhood. (2017, May 29). Retrieved from https://www.france-hotel-guide.com/en/blog/bastille-republique-nation/

Bastille – Nation Neighborhood, Paris. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.urbansider.com/discover-plan/paris-at-a-glance/bastille-nation/

 

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