Just like me, many people that have had the opportunity to travel to cities around the US, but not outside the continent , tend to romanticized this idea of perfection of the transportation system in the US. In my case, I have always known that there are faults in the way people move around from place to place, from city to city. Those who have cars spend hours stuck in traffic, while those who depend on public transportation are experiencing the inefficacy of a transportation system that clearly is urging for some changes. I remember back in the Spring Semester professor Bailly informing us that our ‘’Metro Card’’ was going to be our ‘’best-friend’’during the month we will spend abroad. Not having a clear vision of the way this was going to work, I didn’t pay too much attention to it. I thought to myself, ‘’This metro is probably going the be like the one I took when I visited Boston and Washington.’’ However, it took me just a day in Paris to understand Professor Bailly’s words and to realize why so many people consider France’s metro system to be one of the best in the world.
Métro de Paris
The Métro de Paris opened its doors for the first time on July 19th 1900. It is composed of 14 major lines that account for more than 300 different stations. The Métro de Paris is ranked as one of the busiest metro system in Europe, transporting 4.5 millions passengers a day. In addition, it serves three of the largest stations in the world including Châtelet – Les Halles. Many of the train stations are located underground. Unfortunately, due to the time when these stations were built, disabled people have a hard time accessing the metro lines nowadays.
Purpose of the Project and how it was accomplished
The purpose of this project was to dig deep into what makes Paris unique. To accomplish this goal Ligne 2 of the metro system: Porte Dauphine ↔ Nation was selected and as I explored Paris under and over, data of the people, neighborhoods, government, culture, and history of France from each of the stations was collected. A combination of intense research and observations are portrayed along this project.
Ligne 2 History
Ligne 2 of the Metro runs from Porte Dauphine to Nation. When it first opened in December 1900 its configuration was different. It was not until April 1903 that it changed to the current route it provides nowadays. It is 7.7 miles long and the seventh busiest one. In 2010, it provided transport to 92,100,000 individuals.
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History: This underground station opened its doors for the first time on October 21st1902 as a continuation of line 2 from Étoile. It was given this name after the Place d’ Anvers and the city of Antwerp. This station does not have connections with other metro lines.
Observations:One of the busiest stations of the line. Many people getting in and out of the train. Little tables of people selling candy, books, and water are seen right away when people exit the metro station. Around the area, there are several Parisian souvenirs stores. French is not the only language being spoken in the area. Many people were speaking English, Spanish and even languages I could not understand. The diversity of race and ethnicities found within this area of the train station could be due to the fact that this a tourist area that many people, regarding their religion, come visit to see the Basilica of the La Sacre- Coeur. This Roman Catholic Church not only celebrates religion, but politics as well. Tourists around the world come and enjoy not only the architecture of the Basilica but the amazing views from the top of the hill. This area is also a place filled with art history. At the end of the 19th centuries many artist such as Pissarro, Picasso, Monet and between others lived in studios nearby. It is the place where cubism, the famous movement of art, was born. Many people of my demographic were walking around and sitting in parks, demonstrating that this is a town of mixed people. Regarding an analysis I made of the people I saw and interacted with that day, I thought that a cool name to summarize it could be “The international Barrio” because of the mixed of people from different countries that I encountered there
Places/Things that caught my attention:
-Basilica of the La Sacre- Coeur: This Roman Catholic Church was designed by Paul Abadie. It’s construction started in 1875 but it was finished in 1914. It was not only built for religious purposes, but for political reasons as well. Nowadays, It is one of the monuments most visited in Paris. The style that predominates in the design of the Basilica is Neo-Romano-Byzantine. The high ceilings and a mosaic depicting Christ is one of the details that caught the attention of people the most.
-Place du Tertre: This is the place where the artists from the village come and express their art. You see many tourists walking around the little boutiques, buying portraits, books, and artwork. This place is a real representation of what Parisian streets look like, narrow streets with many caffes and restaurants around.
-The Wall of Love: a 40 square meters wall in the Jean Rictus garden square created by Frederic Baron in 2000. It includes the phrase ‘’I love you’’ in 250 languages. Frédéric stated that the wall was a way to support one of the most beautiful feelings that humans can ever experience. This place attracts hundreds of young people, who accompanied by their loved ones, take pictures with this giant mural. This is not an actual fact, but more my personal opinion. I think that this wall also symbolizes unity. It doesn’t matter where we come from or the language we speak because at the end of the day, they all signify the same. It could also serve as a way to spread awareness in the violent word we are leaving in.
Station: La Chapelle
History: This metro extension opened its doors for the first time on January 31st1903 as a continuation of line 2 from Anvers to Alexandre Dumas. It is not the typical underground station. People get out to a high- open bridge. The name of the station comes from the Place de la Chapelle, (after Barriere de la Chapelle), a gate that was constructed for the collection of taxes as part of the Wall of the Farmers- general. This station has connections with metro line 4 and 5 as well as with the RER.
Observations: Not many people getting in and out of the train in this station. The area is not as modern and it seems to be a low income neighborhood. The buildings, the parks, and the streets are not very clean. One of the areas with highest number of homeless in parks and streets. As you get out of the train, little business are seen all around the streets. The prices are reasonable and it is important to highlight that the street food is not expensive in comparison to other areas in Paris. As I moved around, the race and ethnicity of the place caught my attention. There were many Indian people walking around. It was easy to distinguish since the way they were dressed was very characteristic of their culture. Research done afterwards confirmed that this place is well known for its activities and colors that depicts the culture of Sri Lanka and South India. Back in the 1980s, many ethnic Tamils fled the violent civil wars in Sri Lanka and came to France for refugee. Nowadays, over 100,000 Sri Lankan Tamils live in France and the majority are concentrated in Paris; being the reason why, specifically in this neighborhood, the Tamil language could be found in every corner (from people speaking it or in propaganda in the streets). Without a doubt, this area has a different touch when it comes to ethnicities and culture. As I moved through the area, I felt that I wasn’t in France anymore, I was traveling in my mind to a whole new world. I felt the same feeling I have every time I go to ‘’La Pequena Habana’’ and I’m being transported to my roots, to ‘’Mi Cuba Bella’’.
Places/things that caught my attention:
-Little market shops: authentic Sri Lankan and Indian food can be found easily in these stores. Spices such as curry is one of the most demanded in the area.
-Indian Clothing shops: in these stores people are able to find cotton clothes and jewelry that are a true depiction of the Indian culture.
-Chapelle Notre Dame des Malades: a small Catholic Church with a magnificent architecture. Big windows and high ceilings are one of the unique patterns that make the church unique.
History: This station was originally called Rue d’Aubervilles. It opened its door for the first time ever on January 31st1903. Several alterations were made to the line, but in 1946 the station name was changed to ‘’Stalingrad’’ after the Soviet victory at the battle of Stalingrad in WWII. This station has a connection with metro line 5 and 7.
Observations: the design of this metro station is similar to La Chapelle. It is not the typical underground exit that most individuals are used to see. People get off in a high-open bridge that somehow connects them to metro lines 5 ,7 or to the streets. One of the things I noticed was the lack of tourists attractions. This might be the reason why there is not much diversity in ethnicity around the area. The majority of the people I observed were locals having picnics, riding bikes and exercising. As I moved far out of the station, I noticed that the number of young people started to increased. Many of them were just sitting in small cafes and bars facing the streets (Typical Parisian tradition) having a good time with friends. I would say that this area reflects a mixed of young people and seniors that cluster around specific places depending on their social group. The streets were not as clean, but people seem to live in harmony.
Places/Things that caught my attention:
-Place de la Bataille-de-Stalingrad: it is a square found in the 19tharrondissement of Paris that was named after the Battle of Stalingrad, one of the largest battles of World War II between Germany + allies and the Soviet Union.
-Embassy of Algeria: the embassy plays an important role here in France. It helps local, Algerian, and international citizens in France with different type of papers and consular services. For example, how to apply in order to obtain an Algerian visa, how to become an Algerian citizen etc.
-Plaza Havana Club: as I walked around the area this plaza was one of the big surprises of the day. I would have never imagined that they would have an area dedicated to ‘’La Habana’’ the capital of Cuba. This Plaza runs in between June 27thto September 27thwith the objective to bring a piece of Cuba to Paris .In this plaza, bartenders prepare Cuba’s most famous cocktails: Mojito, Daiquiri, Cuba Libre. As a Cuban, it is truly an honor to see my roots being brought to another continent. It was such an incredible experience to see a piece of mi ‘’Cuba Bella’’ en las calles de Paris.
Station: Colonel Fabien
History: This station open its doors for the first time ever on January 31st1903. Back then it was called Combat after Barriere du Combat, a gate built for the collection of taxes that later on was demolished. Moreover, the name of the station was changed in after Pierre- Georges Fabien, a colonel who shot a German soldier and that gave birth to the armed French Resistance in Paris.
Observations: this is the usual underground station that most people are used to see. Even tough it does not have connections with other metro lines, a decent amount of people make use of this station. Once you get out from the station, you can see a lot of movement in the area. Young people walking around, cars everywhere, seniors walking their dogs, and tons of cafes and bars. The architecture of the buildings varies depending the direction you move from the station. For example, to the left of the station more modern buildings can be observed (more spacious balconies and the designs of the buildings were different). However, to the right of the station typical Parisian buildings are depicted ( old buildings with narrow balconies filled with colorful flowers and cafes at the bottom of the building). A few tourists in the area, but the majority are local people.
Places/Things that caught my attention:
-Place du Colonel-Fabien: a square that has trees and benches around it. It was named after the communist resistance hero Pierre George, whose war name was Colonel Fabien. This square was one of my favorite things I saw in the area since people could just sit there and relax for a bit.
-Albert Camus Monument: in the area, there is a big monument dedicated to Albert Camus. I didn’t know who he was, but just by seeing the monument I was astonished. After doing some research, I found out that he was a French philosopher, author, and journalist that won a Nobel Prize in Literature when he was just 47 years old.
-Self-Service Gas Station: I had never seen a self service gas station before. It took me a few minutes to realize that there weren’t a cashier in the gas station. People were just putting gas, there was not even a little kiosk where to buy water or soda, ‘’it was just gas.’’ This is something that we do not see in Miami and that I was surprised to see. That night, I thought about how effective would be to have these self-service gas stations. Maybe it is faster to put gas on? But then, I realized that this might left many people without work.
Station: Pere- Lachaise
History: this typical underground station opened its doors for the first time on January 31st1903 as a continuation of line two. It received the name of the Pere Lachaise Cemetery which adopted its name from Francois d’aix de La Chaise. A cool fact about the station is that in 1909 it was the first metro station to have an escalator. In addition, it is one of the busiest station of metro line 2 and has a connection with metro line 3.
Observations: It is definitely one of the busiest stations of the metro line 2. The amount of people getting in and out of the train is incredible, but it is important to highlight that not as many people as are seen in Anvers. The surrounding area is filled with cafes and people selling shoes, books, and music records. There is a mixed of ethnicities in the area since many tourists from around the world come here to see the graves of international stars such as Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Theodore Gericault, Colonel Fabien, Jim Morrison between others. It is satisfying to see that not only adults come to this place to pay tribute to such iconic people. I saw little kids talking about famous painters that they consider their idols and just seeing their cultural level is something incredible and that I think we have to make sure we expand to America. When it comes to languages, I heard a few people talking in Spanish and English (some of them were from Spain). But in general, I could not tell if there is a certain ethnic group that characterizes this area. I think the main reason being the high number of tourists that frequent the area.
Places/things that caught my attention:
-Pere Lachaise Cemetery: one of the most visited places in Paris (3.5 million average annually), Pere Lachaise Cemetery was named after Francois d’Aix de la Chaise (Louis XIV’s confessor). It opened its doors in 1804. It has 44 hectares and around 70,000 burial plots. Different art movements are found within the cemetery. For example: baroque, gothic, neoclassical etc. This cemetery is very different from what we are used to see in America, maybe this is the reason why I was so captivated by the designs of the graves.
-Notre Dame du Perpetuel Secours: a small Catholic Basilica that depicts the gothic movements. One of the main characteristics that is easy to observe in this church is the pointed arches and vaulted ceilings. This church is not visited by many people, so as soon as you go in you can feel the peace, the silence. In addition, the stained glass work was beautiful. It gave the church a unique touch along with the images of the saints all around the Basilica.
History: this typical underground metro station was called Place du Trone, the place where the guillotines used to be and where many got beheaded. However, it was renamed in honor of Bastille Day in 1880. This name comes from the Place de la Nation which is nearby the exit of the last stop of line two metro station.
Observations: at first, the station seems very quiet, but as you move around you realize that is actually very busy. This might be because the station has connections with metro lines 1, 6, 9 and the RER. Once you get out, there is one of the cleanest and most beautiful parks I have ever seen. The surrounding area is extremely clean and there is no much noise around it. The majority of the people I observed were adolescents walking around and even sitting in the park with bottles of wine. I emerged myself in their culture and sat in the park to eat some almonds that I had, and right at that moment I realized why my demographic decides to sit around this area. I had no other preoccupations in mind than just to feel the breeze as I lined back in the grass. After research was done, various tourist websites affirm that there is an incredible night life around the area. This makes sense since I saw numerous bars around the area. In addition, the architecture of the neighborhood is basically 18thcentury buildings where the majority of the citizens are in the middle-class range.
Places/Things that caught my attention:
– Place de la Nation: back in time, this place was famous for having the most cases of guillotines during the French Revolution. Nowadays, a giant park sits around it and in the middle of it there is a bronze sculpture called:The Triumph of the Republic. Shops and colorful flowers can be seen from the Place, allowing individuals to have a pleasant time while sitting in the park.
–Building that resembled an allusion of the novel Nineteen Eighty- four by the English writer George Orwell. The drawing had the big eye as if it the government was watching every move we make as citizens (‘’Big Brother is watching you’’). Back in time it was a way to criticize the government’s radical actions. This is something that characterizes French citizens. Since the era of the French Revolution many individuals protested for what they believed was right.
History: this underground station opened its doors for the first time in October 7th1902. It was named after Place Pigalle which celebrates the life and contributions of the sculptor Jean- Baptist’s Pigalle. It is one of the stations that serves the well known by many Red- Light district.
Observations: this metro station is used by a decent amount of people. However, its busiest hours are at night. It has connections with metro line twelve. This area is one of the most visited by tourists. You could hear different languages being spoken and this is because many want to explore the red- light district. Pigalle’s reputation comes from many years ago where prostitutes used to hang out. This area is also known for its influence in the arts and this is represented by several museums and theaters in the area. As soon as you get out of the metro, you see young couples, single individuals and even parents with their children walking down the street that takes you to Moulin Rouge. This shows the difference in culture between French people and Americans. It was really shocking seeing how open French people are when it comes to certain topics. The main street was filled with sex shops and ‘’dance places.’’ Propaganda of these places were all around the street and as I looked more around the more shocked I was. This is something that we don’t see as often in America unless you go to Las Vegas. In addition, there were many bars and cafes in the area that allow people to sit and have a good time for a while.
Places/Things that caught my attention:
-Sex shops: along the streets there were countless sex shops. It was spurring to me to see hundreds of people entering these stores. This made me think about how conservatives Americans and even Latin families are when it comes to topics like this one.
-Moulin Rouge: just a few meters from the metro station, there is the famous Moulin Rouge. Moulin Rouge was the place where the Can-Can dance was given birth. Nowadays, it is a cabaret that offers tourists attractions. Individuals can enjoy the musical dance experience and have a good time. It’s symbol is a red windmill that reflects passion and sensuality.
-Musee National Gustavo Moreau: this museum highlights the role that art played and still plays in France. It is dedicated to Gustavo Moreau, painter who based his work on the symbolism movement. I couldn’t get in since it was closed, but I wanted to make sure to learn more about the art in this area.
Station: Bares- Rochechouart
History: not the usual underground station. It opened its doors for the first time on January 31st1903. Originally it was calledBoulevard Barbès,but its name was changed eight days later to what we know today as Bares- Rochechouart. A cool fact about this station is that Pierre Georges also known as Colonel Fabien killed a a German soldier when he was getting into the train in this same station.
Observations: a decent amount of people make use of this train station. It might be due to the fact that it has connections with metro line 4. I noticed specifically something different in this station, there were groups of men sitting in the stairs of the metro and trying to talk to people as they passed by. These men didn’t look like homeless, but I didn’t quite understand what they wanted. As I walked around, I didn’t feel safe in the area since there were large groups that looked like ‘’gangs.’’ The surroundings were not clean, there were even clothes and food in the streets. This area has a lot of African influences. The majority of the population is black and the way they dress its characteristic of African cultures. Women wear long and colorful dresses and a big hair ribbon where they balance bags of food and different objects (this was really cool to see). Research done about this neighborhood showed that this area is known for African and Asian roots. However, I didn’t observe many Asians in the area.
Places/Things that caught my attention:
-Drawings that resemble African roots in buildings: I think it is really cool for artists to describe ethnics groups through art. A beautiful representation of African women caught my attention as I walked around the era. I think, this is a nice way to show how we value other people religions and culture despite where they come from.
-Gare Du Nord: one of the busiest train stations in France that not only serve nationally, but to other countries as well (For example: Belgium, Germany, Netherlands, United Kingdom etc). It’s architecture is breathtaking and when you look at it closely it looks like a palace.
-Hopital Lariboisiere: this hospital was finished in 1853 as a way of aiding with the second cholera pandemic that France was facing. I got the chance to enter and explore the hospital. Something that caught my attention the most was the courtyard right in the middle of the hospital where several patients and even doctors were sitting around. This is something that we don’t see back in America. In addition, inside the hospital there was a church in which people were praying. To me it was strange but cool at the same time since back home churches and hospitals are separate institutions.
History: this underground station opened its doors for the first time on October 7th1902. It doesn’t have connections with other metro lines.
Observations: one of the most calm stations from line number two. Barely any people getting in and out of the train. As you get off the station , you can rapidly notice that this a middle-high class neighborhood. It offers a pleasant and peaceful environmental as there is many shops around the area that are not too crowded. It is characterized by its cleanliness and nature. There are hundreds of trees that surround the area. In here, you could feel a more ‘’familiar environment.’’ Parents walking around with their children and mascots. The buildings that surround the area are from the Art Nouveau art style and many of them have sculptures visible from every side of the streets.
Places/Things that caught my attention:
-Parc Monceau: an elegant park surrounded by hundreds of trees. Such a peaceful public space where people come and sit in the grass to play games, talk, and have picnic. It was built in the 17thcentury and even nowadays people who visit enjoy the beauty of the numerous statues, the large pond, and the singing birds. I sat in the grass as I ate an ice cream and I engaged in a conversation with a group of French teenagers. This was a real culture shock, but one of the best experiences I had in Paris.
-Paroisee Saint- Francois de Sales: a small Catholic Church found nearby Parc Monceau. It highlights the power of the church. I couldn’t go in since it was closed but I would’ve loved to explore the art movements that the church itself portraits.
Station: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile
History: this underground station opened its doors for the first time on September 1st1900. It was originally called Étoile but after the death of Charles the Gaulle the station name was changed to what we know today as Charles de Gaulle-Étoile.
Observations: definitely one of the busiest stations of the metro line number two. Hundreds of people getting in and out of the train. This station has connections not only with metro lines one and six, but with the RER as well. It was hard to catch up any specific ethnic group in the area since this stop is used by countless tourists in order to visit two of the most famous places here in Paris: Avenue des Champs- Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe. Large groups of people are seen around the area. These people come from all over the world just to see with their own eyes the history of France. I saw a group from Brazil, people from Argentina, Asia etc. I also saw many photographers around the area. There are many cafes and shops in which people sit around to have a good time while looking at one of the most impressive monuments in history. Overall, the streets are relatively clean when you look at the number of people that visit this area everyday.
Places/things that caught my attention
-Diversity of people and culture in the area
-Avenue des Champs- Elysees; 1.2 miles long and 230 feet wide, this famous avenue runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle, right where the Arc of Triomphe sits. This is the avenue in which many recognized stores are found, for example Louis Vuitton. Right in this avenue is where the final of the Tour de France takes place. Many people love to walk around the area and I was there I enjoyed the walk through the famous avenue.
-The Arc de Triomphe: extraordinary architectural monument created in 1806 by Napoleon in order to honor those who helped him defeated the Austrians. In the arch itself are the name of the generals that helped Napoleon in the wars and also the name of the battles they won. The architecture of the Arch blows people away.This has been one of my favorites monuments that I have visited here in Paris. The tomb of the Unknown Soldier found within the Arch is the part that I like the most about it.
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Imboden, D. (n.d.). Paris Métro (2019). Retrieved from https://europeforvisitors.com/paris/articles/paris-metro.htm
La Basilique du Sacré Cœur de Montmartre. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/
Le mur des je t’aime. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.lesjetaime.com/
Paris Perfect. (2018, December 11). Some Interesting Facts About the Place du Tertre. Retrieved from https://www.parisperfect.com/blog/2017/03/place-du-tertre/
***All pictures were taken by Sheila Rodriguez Riera ***