Over the course of one month, I have experienced more of Paris than of Miami, a city in which I have lived for almost a year. I have visited more museums and monuments here than I have in my lifetime in the United States. The accessible public transportation in Paris has allowed me to conveniently access many of Paris’s most historic buildings. Metro Line 4 runs through central Paris from north to south. The northernmost stop is Porte de Clignancourt, and the southernmost stop is Mairie de Montrouge. I will explore several stops along Metro Line 4, starting with its central stop, Chatelet, and expanding outwards both ways.
Stop 1: Chatelet- Les Halles
Photos by Haven Blackmon
Chatelet- Les Halles is the largest underground station in the world, with an average of 750,000 people passing through this station each day. It is the central stop of Paris, and given its size, a newcomer may be easily overwhelmed. With so many possible directions to roam, walking up to find an expansive, all-encompassing shopping mall, Le Forum des Halles, is captivating. Le Forum des Halles is an underground mall that was built in 1979 to replace the overpopulated market, Halles Centrales, that stood before it. The construction of the mall was controversial, as it destroyed the long history of the market there, and its modern glass architecture is juxtaposed to the historic buildings surrounding it. The market at Les Halles had existed and grown over centuries: in fact, the market originated in the 12th century, and its last expansion in the 1800s required that the remains in the Cimetiere des Innocents be excavated and moved to the Catacombs of Paris. Understandably, the destruction of centuries of history for the development of a modern mall was met with plenty of backlash.
In addition, another grand modern construction lies in Chatelet- Centre Pompidou. The creation of the Centre Pompidou was announced by President Georges Pompidou in 1969 to become a cultural center for art and reading. Interestingly, an open contest was held for architects to design this cultural center, and after choosing three architects, none French, the center opened to the public in February 1977. The center showcases modern art, from 1900 to today, and a large portion of the building is a multi-level public library.
The community around Chatelet is incredibly diverse, home to both the Jewish quarter and the gay district. The Jewish population of Paris had established a community in this area in the thirteenth century. However, Jewish people in France still faced hardships under the monarchy, which did not resolve until the French Revolution. The establishment of the gay district is much more recent. While small gay communities have gathered in numerous areas in Paris, the gay district in Chatelet is said to have began emerging around the mid-1800s.
Stop 2: Cite
Photos by Haven Blackmon
While Chatelet-Les Halles is the central metro stop in Paris, Ile de la Cite is the true center of Paris. This island is the most historic part of Paris, as it was home to Gauls before Roman conquest. After the Roman conquest, Cite, then known as Lutetia, became the Roman administrative center of the area. Two notable locations in Cite are, of course, Notre Dame, and Place Dauphin. As old as Ile de la Cite is, Paris is always evolving and these locations show the progression of the center of Paris through history.
The construction of Notre Dame officially began in 1163, yet took two centuries to complete. Because of this, multiple architects were tasked in its creation, and notable features of the cathedral are attributed to each one of them: rib vaults were brought about by an unknown architect, rose windows were implemented by Pierre de Montreuil, and flying buttresses were put in place by Jean Ravy. While much restoration has been done to preserve this historic masterpiece, it is still much older than this next location, Place Dauphin.
Place Dauphin, although not a building, was built in 1607, and remains much as it was in the 17th century. The triangular shaped park and surrounding buildings were ordered to be built by Henry IV and named after his son. The layout of this park and surrounding buildings are said to be the same as when they were created in the 1600s. This creates an interesting dynamic where the building several centuries older is in some ways newer due to restoration, whereas a relatively new (by Ile de la Cite standards) place is still frozen in time for the opposite reason.
Stop 3: Denfert-Rochereau
Photos by Haven Blackmon
Denfert-Rochereau is home to the Catacombs of Paris, a portion of the underground tunnels of Paris built up with human remains. The removal of remains from cemeteries began in 1785 to relocate them to these underground tunnels because cemeteries in Paris were overcrowded and the placement of remains was becoming unsanitary. The first cemetery to be emptied was the Saints-Innocents cemetery, followed by others for decades. The Catacombs then first opened to the public in 1809; however, more remains would be added in 1859 and 1860, which ended the addition of remains. Now, the skeletons of over six million Parisians are set in the Catacombs. Charles Axel Guillaumot was in charge of organizing the transfer and resetting of bones, which consisted of joining like body parts together- that is, stacking femurs on femurs, vertebrae on vertebrae, and placing skulls side by side so that all the remains could fit in designated areas. At first, this segmentation and arrangement of bodies seemed disrespectful and perverse, but later I realized that this was a necessary action to take to solve cemetery overcrowding. Additionally, many, if not most, of these remains were of those whom had already been dead for centuries. Eventually, the design and organization of bones became fascinating to me as I realized that the structure was meant to maximize space.
Stop 4: Gare du Nord
In northern Paris, Gare du Nord is the busiest train station in Europe. Around 190,000,000 people arrive at the station every year, which makes it the third largest in the world. Gare du Nord train station was first opened in 1846, but had to be rebuilt less than two decades later in 1860 because of its overflowing capacity. During its second construction, it was reopened in 1864 with the design of architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff. The station expanded once again in 1884 to accommodate more traffic. This was not the last time expansion occurred for the train station as Eurostar trains were incorporated in 1994. The station now has arriving trains from the U.K., Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany. Once outside of the station, a particularly jarring sight can be seen- Maison Fond. Maison Fond is a sculpture created by Leandro Elrich which depicts a melting house at an angle. This sculpture was the first thing that caught my attention outside of the station. My most memorable experience from Gare du Nord station was of speaking with a young French woman about her own experiences studying abroad, and the stark differences between the price of education in France compared to the U.S. She emphasized that her bachelor’s degree is cost-free, and of the study abroad programs she was considering in several different countries, a program offered in North Carolina was the most expensive. As many times as I could hear about publicly funded college education, I did not fully register how the U.S. is an outlier until listening to her experience.
Stop 5: Saint Germain des-Pres
Photo by Haven Blackmon
The most well-known historic site near Saint Germain des-Prés station is the Louvre, which was originally a fortress in 12th century France. Parts of the original fortress can still be seen today in the museum. Centuries later, it was adapted to be a royal palace, and was expanded to today’s over 600,000 square feet. With the turn of the French Revolution, it became a museum in 1793, and now shows tens of thousands of artworks. I believe the most interesting aspect of the building itself is the combination of Renaissance architecture with its new modern pyramid design. While the Louvre as we see it is a 17th century structure, the iconic modern pyramid has only been in existence since 1993. I believe it was incredibly bold to add a modern structure in the very center of a museum which, at its very foundation, is nearly 1,000 years old. Of course, that is not what is visible to us, but the execution was widely controversial.
Stop 6: Porte de Clignancourt
Photos by Haven Blackmon
Near the northernmost line 4 stop of Porte de Clignancourt, is the village of Montmartre, which lies on top of a hill in northern Paris. At the very top of the hill lies the Sacre-Coeur Basilica, built in the late 1800s, which is the highest point in Paris. The basilica contains the largest mosaic in France, and is one of the largest in the world. The mosaic depicts Jesus surrounded by various saints and architecture. It is also in this village that some of the greatest European artists have lived and worked. Picasso, Manet, and Vincent Van Gogh were among the few who lived and worked here. Today, artists display and sell their own original works on the streets of Montmartre. It was also here that the bishop Saint Denis was decapitated and survived, carrying his own head for two miles while reciting psalms before his death, where the Saint Denis Basilica now stands.
The long history of Paris is not something that can be found anywhere in the United States. While the oldest structures man-made structures in the U.S. date back a mere few centuries, some remaining historical sites in Paris date back almost a millennium. After a month of becoming intimately familiar with the city of Paris, I have learned more about it than the city which I am from. Becoming so familiar with a city I am only visiting leaves me with the desire to discover more of my hometown, and appreciate what there is to learn. Simultaneously, the United States as a nation and my hometown are only recent history, so I cannot expect that there is as much to learn about a relatively new city as there is to learn about a city that has existed since BCE. Paris has taught me so much about European history and given me a newfound desire to learn about my own. My foundation here has given me a lens which I can look through to better understand my home.
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This post is dedicated to Maria Cruz’s Paris Over Under Project she had to complete for her Honors study abroad program in Summer of 2019.
At 22 kilometers long, ligne 7 of the Paris metro is one of the longest lines in the system. Additionally, it contains 38 stations along the entirety of its route, making it no wonder why it is one of the busiest networks in the metro. While it was inaugurated in 1910, its north-east to south-east set up demanded continuous additions as the city expanded, it was not until May of 1987 that the latest extension was opened at the north stop La Courneuve. As the line runs throughout the entirety of Paris, from its very center to the periphery, you get to see the full range of the city’s demographics and variety in geography as you go along the various stops. From the young and rich in the heart of the city and the suburbs, to the older and less fortunate in the rundown parts, all Parisians can find themselves visiting the different stations of ligne 7. Getting the opportunity to personally visits the various stops along its route I not only got to observe the current conditions of France’s modern culture, but also a chance to analyze how the influence from the country’s past are still visible today — beyond the name of the stations.
Porte de la Villette
Historical insight: This station derived its name from the former commune, Villette, that was a Gallo-Roman village and did not become a part of Paris until 1860. The original district was called Villette, and near the location of the station was its gate (Porte de la Villette), thus its name came to be. This stop is recognized by its proximity to the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie whose current operations are based on an initiative started by former president Giscard d’Estaing. The Cité is open for public use, and although you have to pay a fee to get and visit the various exhibitions and interactive spaces, there are still plenty of other resources you can access for free, such as their public library and aquarium. Reminiscent of the Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum back in Miami, this is a space dedicated to promoting the importance of science and research and getting individuals to engage in the future of our technological world. However, unlike back home in Miami, this concept is not limited to certain locations. On our line, this is just one of the two science museums we explored. In addition, with the size and resources accommodated to these areas, it is evident the French government has invested far more in the sciences than we have back home.
Personal observations: Stepping out of the metro and walking up to the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie there was only one idea that plagued my observations: just how similar this museum, and its surrounding areas, resembled the Centre George Pompidou. Despite the Cité des Sciences being a science museum, and the largest one in all of Europe at that, the aesthetic and layout of the building was almost identical to that of the Pompiduo’s. The one key difference we saw was that positioned at the front of the museum was a fenced-off area were sheep were free to herd — something I definitely was not expecting to find in such a metropolitan area. However, we later learned that the climate and rural terrain of Paris is actually ideal for the Nuage and Odyseée ewes and thus the Cité des Sciences, as part of their effort to conserve the city’s biodiversity and spread scientific awareness, maintains its parkland as a “secondary urban reservoir.” This was definitely one of the most interesting starts to our explorations of the stops, especially considering how much this small space clashed with the modern architecture of its surrounding buildings. This place is one where the future of Paris meets its present. Inside the actual museum, there is everything from a planetarium and aquarium, to a library and cinema. As I previously noted, this sharing of space is something I had noticed in other areas of the city and really shows just how dedicated the government is to funding public spaces and getting their citizens more invested in the state.
Historical insight: The Rue d’Aubervilliers station saw its name change following the Battle of Stalingrad in 1946 during WWII. This battle is seen as one of the most decisive events of the war, turning it in favor of the Allied forces, and leaving no room to wonder of its importance in France’s history. Originally, the name Stalingrad was just associated with the city in southern Russia that was the target of German invasion forces for 7 months, and now recognized as one of the greatest events of confrontation throughout the entire war. With this being one of the many names on the public transportation system associated with WWII, it is quite evident just how much France has prioritized its remembrance and honoring of this tragedy.
Personal observations: With its vendor-lined streets and open layout, this area reminded us of Wynwood back home. You could find locals and tourists alike mingling with each other, going to explore the booths of food and merchandise sellers, all while getting to observe the world of France’s contemporary art. Moreover, with its close proximity to the fake beaches placed along the Seine, there was sure something to do for everybody that passed by. This is one of the few instances that we have been able to interact with the modern art scene of France, showing us that this traditional appreciation of it by the Parisienne culture has not been abandoned. One of the most interesting things we ended up discovering was the art installation “La Foret Escargot.” Much to my surprise, this is one of the three times throughout our time working on this project that we have seen a major public installation. This is a traveling piece in the shape of a giant snail that is made up of reused and recycled materials. The artists’ intention with this work is to educate individuals on the looming danger of climate change and how issues such as major pollution and global warming exasperate these conditions, leaving millions to wonder what will be of our future. Ironically enough, the current location of the snail is right in front of the infamous Paris-Plages, also known as the artificial beaches. This development shows the two-sided nature of Parisienne values, but also how from war to climate change, France has had taken direct initiatives when confronting some of the biggest threats to its nation’s security.
Historical insight: Located in the 10th arrondissement, near the edge of the city, is the Château-Landon station. This is one of the few stops along this line that has historical ties to some of France’s most important eras. More recent in history, is the story behind the station’s name. It is based on the property owned by a member of the Landon family that was developed during the reign of Louis XIV. However, it has ties to even further back in time. This station is close in proximity to a street that previously was utilized by the Romans as a road to travel from old Paris, Lutetia, to up north.
Personal observations: From our stop and exploration of the area, it quickly became apparent to us that this neighborhood is different from the ones we previously visited. With its residential buildings and peaceful streets, the nearby streets reminded me more of my home in the suburbs than the chaotic mess that is Paris that I have grown accustomed to. Free from the commotion of constant traffic and pedestrians, this was a nice reminder that there is more to the city than the frenzied nature of its urban center. Being a residential area, there was not much to explore — no historic churches to study or museums to walk around — however, this does not mean it was any less interesting to observe. It was a reminder of how Paris and its many arrondissements have been forced to adapt their spaces to the ever-growing population and their changing needs.
Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette
Historical insight: This is one of the original stations of the line, it was first opened in November of 1910 and is located in the northern area of the route. Its original name, simply Chaussée d’Antin, was in reference to a nearby street of the same name that was self-declared by the first Duke of Antin. Moreover, the stop has deeper ties to France’s history because it used to be the site of a marsh that saw dramatic and rapid development as it was part of the route frequently taken by Louis XV on his way in and out of Paris. The second part of its name, however, came much later in time and alludes to the nearby Rue La Fayette, as well as the flagship store of Galeries Lafayette located along this street. This stop is particularly interesting to observe because it is one of the many sites that proves just how consumed by shopping the French are, just like the Champs Élysées.
Personal observations: Walking up to the storefront of the Galeries Lafayette my friends and I had no idea what was hidden behind its grand entrances. Even just trying to get inside was a mission on its own, like trying to get through a maze. Much to our amazement, the store spanned across various streets wherein each division specialized in a different department. However, walking inside was an entire experience in its own. Similar to the Macy’s flagship in Herald Square, this place was straight out of a dream. Walking in you are immediately overwhelmed with the presence of designer names and luxurious brands. Still, if fashion is not your interest there is still more to be in awe of. Whether tourists or local, one can find themselves amazed by the pure beauty of its architecture and featured artworks. Even for me, a well-seasoned shopper, it was impossible not to get overwhelmed. Originally, I did not think the people of Paris would be so invested in the malady of the consumer culture that plagues the United States. For once, most European societies, especially in Western countries, are pushing towards more minimalistic and eco-friendly means of living. Moreover, given France’s violent persecution of its aristocracy and elite, you would think they would not concern themselves with such frivolities as designer items. However, it is evident now more than ever, that no matter where you travel to in the world you will not be able to escape the grasp of capitalism.
Historical insight: One of the original stops for this metro route, the history of this station and its surrounding areas highlights some of the most important components of France’s culture. Named after the nearby Palais Garnier, this station offers easy access to this lavish opera house that has become one of Paris’ many globally recognized landmarks. The architect of the Opéra, Charles Garnier, oversaw the building of it after construction began in 1861and lasted up until 1875 when it was finally open to the public. Its original purpose was to host the shows of the Académie Royale de Musique of Paris, which went on to include both opera and ballet shows as their popularity arose within the elite of France. This development is definitely one Louis the XIV would have been proud to know about. As part of his cultural arts mission, he founded the music academy to enhance his subjects awareness and appreciation of the arts, hoping to have a global impact — of which we know he was successful in. The beauty and magnificence of this location, even Gaston Leroux saw it as a source of inspiration for the book The Phantom of the Opera, that then went on to gain international praise in the musical and film adaptations.
Personal observations: One of the first things noticeable from this stop is that its exterior sign is one of the few that does not copy the standard art nouveau style. In contrast, it has a marble entrance that matches with the opulent aesthetic of the Opera Garnier. Getting out of the metro we quickly made our way to the opera house in the hopes that we could enter and see its equally stunning interior in person. Unfortunately, there was a performance going on at the time of our visit so we were unable to do so, but that did not stop us from enjoying its decorative and bold exterior and looking deeper into the location’s history. One of the key things I learned during my trip is the difference getting to see these locations that we spend years hearing about and studying in person. Personally, I feel it has helped me not only understand the concepts being taught better, but also the relationship between these historical facts and our modern world. Paris, being a city so rich in history, is somewhere you can constantly do this. For example, even centuries after being built the Opera Garnier still stands and Louis XIV’s influence over society still remains.
Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre
Historical insight: Originally named Palais Royal, this station was renamed in 1989 and since then has seen further changes, especially in relation to its appearance. Located between the Louvre Palace and Louvre Museum, this stop is frequently overwhelmed by visitors (tourists and locals alike). Its exit is by one of the main entrances to the famed museum, leading you right out to the iconic pyramid designed by architect I.M. Pei, that has become one of Paris’ most iconic landmarks. In fact, despite the recent addition of this pyramid, it is one of the many famous images synonymous with the museum itself. However, the station itself is famous for its very own artwork and not just its close proximity to it. In 2000 artist Jean-Michel Othoniel revealed Le kiosque des noctambules, his work that gave the entrance to the station a completely new look and set it apart from all the metro stops in Paris. Unlike the standard art nouveau designs of other entrances, the work by Othoniel included various aluminum spheres and colored pearls covering a bare iron structure. While this modern look contrasted with the traditional design of the Haussmanian buildings in the surrounding Place Colette, it added to the history and beauty of the area.
Personal observations: We originally came across this station as we were heading towards our class at the Musée du Louvre. As we passed by the piece done by Othoniel I was intrigued because of the juxtaposition between the work’s colors and shapes and the surrounding brick buildings. It intrigued me because its appearance reminded me of something that belongs in Downtown Miami, and definitely not the center of Paris. Had it not been for our professor pointing it out to us I would have never guessed it was the entrance to a metro station. However, being so near to one of the internationally recognized museums I could not have envisioned their metro entrance design anywhere else in Paris. For decades the Louvre has been viewed as the epitome of art by millions across the world. They instantly recognize its name, can identify the most famous pieces displayed here, and spend weeks, months, years, dreaming about going. After visiting, I can definitely say it was one of the most memorable days of this program for me. And if I ever get the chance, I would love to take on the challenge of spending whatever indefinite numbers of days it takes to walk through the entirety of it. This stop reminds me, as well as the millions of others that go by it every year, of just how easily accessible the height of French culture is thanks to the sacrifices of the Revolutionaries.
Historical insight: Out of all the metro stations in Paris, Châtalet is definitely the one to visit. Even for those that are not big fans of public transportation and prefer to either walk or drive, Châtalet is like no other stop. Words are not merely enough to describe the restless energy of this place, with everyone you pass by blurring into one large, moving figure as they frantically rush to their various destinations. Its first platform opened in 1900 just three weeks after the original metro route of Paris, ligne 1, was inaugurated and trains started running. However, its platform on ligne 7 would not open until 26 years later. Its name finds origins in the Place du Châtalet that used to be located along the Seine river before Napoleon had it destroyed.
Personal observations: During our free times in Paris, Châtalet was where our journeys always began. In fact, a majority of our exploration of it was not during our times to work on the project, but rather when we were hanging out with our friends and looking for new things to discover. While we frequently visited this stop throughout our class times, getting to explore the surrounding area outside of academic purposes is a must for all those that come to visit Paris. It was beautiful to see how a place that once was delegated to the most marginalized groups in the city, where they faced the utmost oppression and disgraceful living conditions, has transformed into such a popular hub of activity.
Pont Marie — Cité Internationale des Arts
Historical insight: This station was opened during one of the lines earlier expansions in 1926. Part of the southern route, it is located near the right bank of the Seine and derives its name from the nearby bridge. It is also recognized by its second name, which refers to the stop’s proximity to one of the Cité Internationale des Arts sites. Coming into fruition after World War II, this project offers public facilities to international artists of all crafts. This is the second location we visited throughout the completion of our project in which the arts have had a significant historical and cultural impact on the development of the area, once again proving where France’s sociocultural values lay.
Personal observations: Walking along the river on a sunny afternoon this place proved to be the perfect place to be. As we made our trek to the Colonne de Juillet located at the center of the Place de Bastille we found ourselves distracted by all the individuals hanging out on the walkways bordering the river. This is one of the few stops along our line that had a more relaxed and social atmosphere. As opposed to the Île de la Cité, the areas along the Seine is more open and spacious, and allows individuals, especially its locals, build a sense of community urban city’s usually lack.
Historical insight: One of the later additions to ligne 7, the Place Monge station was inaugurated in February of 1930. Its name references French mathematician Gaspar Monge that was renowned for his work with descriptive geometry and role in re-establishing order following the French Revolution. Before it temporarily operated as a station for ligne 10; however, in April of 1931 it was officially integrated into ligne 7 when its connection to Pont de Sully was completed.
Personal observations: The neighboring area of this stop was one of the places that best displayed the diversity of French culture and values. Acting as a meeting point between religion, love, and science, it is impossible for one to get bored exploring the surrounding locales. Our first surprise occurred when we came across the Grand Mosque of Paris. While we did not go into the place of worship, we walked towards the back and headed towards the cafe they run. Much to my amazement, a majority of the people we saw there appeared to be white and affluent French citizens — the complete opposite of the demographic we saw head instead to attend religious services. Then, less than a five minute walk away is the Muséum national d’Histoire Naturelle that contains various buildings for different subject matters. Even more fascinating are the large open jardins located right next to the museums. In such a small area, you get to see some of the most defining values of French culture interact with one another, and it truly is a fascinating thing to witness.
Historical insight: Located along the edge of the Latin Quarter, station Censier-Daubenton is home to one of the liveliest neighborhoods in Paris. One of the most notable features in the area is the Rue Mouffetard that goes uphill and leads to a pantheon. This street is actually one of the most important historical landmarks of the city as it used to link Lutetia (old Paris) right to Lyon, another city of importance to the Roman invaders. While the street has undergone many transformations since these medieval times, it still is one that holds a lot of energy and spirit, and truly I was not surprised to discover it was one of the various sources of inspiration for Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
Personal observations: Walking along the streets near the station there were two things that immediately caught our eyes: a small garden located in a roundabout in the middle of a pedestrian street and a church with a photo exhibition displayed along its fence. Moreover, for an area so near the Latin Quarter its peaceful and relaxed atmosphere was not what we were expecting (however, this may be due to the fact that we went on a Saturday afternoon and the hectic atmosphere of the city has considerably toned down to accommodate for its residents’ weekend plans). Walking up to the church that had caught our attention we discovered its name, Eglise Saint-Médard, and that it is dedicated to one of France’s patron saints. St. Medard was originally associated with the weather, but he was also later invoked to protect winemakers, brewers, and farmers — can it get any more French than that? Moreover, the church was originally built in the 15th century to honor relics of St. Medard, but since then has gone through various stages of renovation that has incorporated different styles of art. From Gothic, to Renaissance, and even classical, this church, like much of the rest of Paris, has seen many changes and had to adapt to these new conditions. Stepping out of the holy site we traversed back to take a deeper look at the photographs located along the church’s fence. After further research, we discovered that the exhibition put on by Claire Garate and Patrice Leconte was actually relevant to our project: it’s subject matter focused on them portraying what the “real” Paris was to them. From photographs of graffiti to children observing national spectacles, they, like us, embarked on the journey to establish a different, more authentic relationship with Paris and its people. Still, even after exploring this we were amazed by the infamous Rue Mouffetard. Walking uphill, it was evident that the street’s tradition of craftsmanship and butcher stores was still going strong, even after it was considered to be an uncleanly part of the district because of its constant rodent infestations. But Paris, like many other urban cities, has fallen trap to the cyclical nature of the least desired areas becoming the most desired as people look for new things to obsess over.
The opportunity to explore Paris through such an authentic manner is something I have never gotten to experience in any other city before. Despite the fact that I was raised and have lived a majority of my life in one of America’s most known urban areas, Miami, I have little experience with public transportation. However, in Miami this is the norm — you either have a car or go nowhere. As a result, there is a sense of detachment between me and my home. Especially since I live in the suburbs and the real heart of the city, where all the cultures and societies of Miami meet, is approximately an hour from me. I always felt like there was something missing that did not make me a “true Miamian,” something that I found in Paris throughout the completion of this project. First off, the line is far removed from the ones we commonly used when traveling with our classmates and professor; therefore, when we first started our project it was like we had to get accustomed to the metro all over again. In order for us to access the stops at ligne 7 we had to switch over from various lines and sit through long commutes (sometimes up to an hour!). However, this entire process allowed us to have a more accurate understanding of local citizen’s everyday lives. With just one swipe of our Navigo cards, we got to see the reality of the Parisienne streets, looking behind the idealized views of the city and seeking the authentic beauty of the city. Whether you take the metro just to go one stop over or take the entire line down, there is this sense of community that you feel with your fellow travelers that I have never experienced in Miami. Much to my surprise, having such easy access to the entire city is one of the things I will the most about Paris. When I first came I was skeptical of the public transportation, especially since the stations along our line are visibly some of the most rundown we visited; however, the beauty of Paris is that everyone ignores that. The metro, and in fact the entire public transportation system, is a symbol of unlimited freedom and equality, and something the Revolutionaries of the 19th century would have proudly celebrated the inauguration of.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Metro Line 1 crosses Paris from east to west and is the most used line, transporting over 200 million passengers every year. This is due to the proximity to many national monuments and tourist destinations and because it has more connections to other lines and RERs than any other single line in Paris. It is one of the 16 lines currently making up the metro system and connects the La Défense and Château de Vincennes stations, stretching a length of 10.3 miles. In this project I will be exploring the history of the stations I chose to go to and the effects of the historical events on my present day observations of the surrounding areas.
La Défense is the western end to Metro Line 1. It brings many people to their jobs every day as it is located just underneath the business district slightly left of Paris. This area was not always the business district, in fact the skyscrapers and towers it is known for were not erected until around 1965. Paris saw an economic boom in the early 1970s and this sector then grew in proportion. As more people began to work in this district, more public transportation options were made available, including an RER rail line connecting the area and the Place de l’Étoile. There was an economic crisis that primarily affected La Défense at around 1974 to 1977 but with their recovery came new projects that offered a greater diversity in architecture and in culture. In 2005, a renewal of La Défense occurred and projects such as the renovation of old buildings, construction of new office space and new monuments made La Défense what we see it as today.
First stepping out of the terminal to see where we were, I was very surprised and in awe. Not only was La Défense extremely different than the rest of Paris, it looked even more futuristic than any area I’ve seen before, even more than some places in Miami. I was surprised at the way they used space, to not only make the buildings look like they were a hundred years ahead of modern architecture but also in that they incorporated green areas. I feel as though many business sectors fail in doing this, making them tiring places to work everyday but this business district offered areas of running water, bright colors, and gardens to allow for mental breaks from the hustle and bustle of the work day.
Bastille is a station on three of the 16 metro lines of Paris: the 1, 5 and 8. The location surrounding the Bastille station is significant in French history. The Bastille was a fortress built around 1380 to hold weapons and be a stronghold. It was taken control of on several occasions but the most famous being on July 14th, 1789, when the people of Paris took hold of the fortress and took the gunpowder held there while also freeing several prisoners. This marked an important moment in the French Revolution and is still celebrated today, as Bastille Day. The column seen there today is to recognize the overthrowing of Charles X.
With how much historical significance is related to this area, I thought that there would be more recognition given to the Bastille. Having researched it beforehand, I knew only a monument stood in its place but for some reason I was expecting something larger, especially since on Bastille Day, Paris hosts large celebrations and the Eiffel Tower is the center of a firework and music display. Right next to the monument there are restaurants and cafes named after the Bastille, which sort of solidified its place. However, overall I think that the Bastille itself is not so important as what it stands for, and what it represents is seen throughout Paris, not in a single monument to its existence.
Charles de Gaulle- Étoile
Charles de Gaulle- Étoile was originally called Étoile, after its location, but then the name of President Charles de Gaulle was added in the 1970s. President de Gaulle was a very revolutionary figure in WWII as he advocated for the rejection of the idea that France was defeated and encouraged his people to continue to fight. It is another popular metro station, serving lines 1, 2 and 6. The station sits underneath the western side of the Avenue de Champs-Elysees and under the Arc de Triomphe, one of the most widely known monuments in Paris. This large structure has the names of famous generals and battles that were engraved in 1836 and honors the unknown soldier with a tomb and an eternal flame. Place d’Étoile, where it stands, is named after the star formed by the 12 avenues that radiate out from it.
I’ve studied the Arc de Triomphe in school as an art history lesson but this is really a structure that has to be seen in person, emerging from the subway station to see it in the near distance is breathtaking because you don’t realize how large and intimidating a structure 50 meters tall can be. Besides it being intimidating, I’m always impressed by the propaganda artwork on the side, the high panel reliefs really make you believe that a better and more prosperous country will arise. It is amazing to me that this monument is just surrounded by a circular road with a lot of traffic because it feels as though it should be in isolation, no modern thing is worthy of being next to it. However, despite this initial impression, I find it a good thing that it is surrounded by the stores of the Champs-Elysees because it helps keep modern people interested in something that was finished being created 183 years ago.
Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre
This station of Line 1 was one of the original eight stations used when the line first started running. Like many stations, it’s original name was changed and this occurred in 1989 at the opening of the Louvre museum. The Louvre attracts over 9 million tourists a year, being the canon usually used for art history education and therefore being of interest to anyone interested in art history. The entrance on Place Colette is one of the most notable things about the station itself, having been designed by Jean-Michael Othoniel. He used colored beads to make a very unusual entrance surrounded by a very traditional area. Originally the Louvre- Rivoli also lead to the entrance of the Louvre but it no longer provides direct access.
I honestly do not know how I can describe the Louvre in a way that does it the justice it deserves. To put bluntly, it was beautiful. To extend that thought, it was awe inspiring, motivating, tear jerking, incredible. All of the works that I had seen in my art history books were right in front of me, the ones I had written essays about and memorized the names of the painters, sculptors, artists who created them with their bare hands. The most amazing to me, especially to witness in person, was Bernini’s Hermaphrodite. How he managed to make stone appear soft enough for me to jump in will forever be lost to me, but I appreciate it greatly. One downside to the Louvre is that obviously, it is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, meaning the food and culture surrounding the museum were very superficial and not as authentic as I found the rest of Paris to be.
The Louvre Rivoli station was not one of the original eight stations in metro line 1 but it was implemented just a month after the others in August of 1990. Its original name was changed once the museum opened, as was the case with the Palais Royal- Musee du Louvre station. It used to have direct access to the museum entrance but no longer does. This station is the first station to be culturally decorated, it holds replicas of some of the most famous museum pieces. Full renovations occurred in 2014 and that is the station seen today.
Unlike the other stations, with this one I really enjoyed the platform itself. I felt like I could get a taste of the rich history and culture of Paris right from the second I stepped off of the train. The lighting and colors really interested me. Again differing from other stations, this one gives every user of the metro a museum atmosphere, with its lighting and dark color scheme. Even the seats are different to create this illusion. I personally love that the culture in Paris is so accessible to everyone and this is the embodiment of that.
The Saint Paul station opened August of 1900, less than twenty days after trains first began running along the metro line. This area is famous for Le Marais (the marsh) where both the gay district and the Jewish district lie. Because of the unique gathering here, it displays many buildings and areas of architectural and cultural significance. This area was once known to be “shabby” but now is rather trendy. Jewish people have been living in this area since the end of the 19th century, and was called the Pltezl. During WWII when Jews were being prosecuted, this area diminished in its original population but has made a comeback since. Le Marais is also home to many art galleries, trendy places to eat, and fashion displays.
The area around Saint Paul was one of my favorites. It was nice to see underrepresented groups in an area that was predominantly minority filled because the culture expressed there is different than what is seen in the majority of Paris. The gay district I found to be rather explicit but since it was seen everywhere in the district, it made it more mundane and the explicit nature was not looked down upon and could just be enjoyed for the entertainment factor by tourists such as myself. I love seeing minority groups being able to express themselves freely and so I loved this area. The Jewish district was also pleasant to walk through but obviously in a different way. I liked the selections of food present and the synagogues were beautiful. Besides the Le Marais area, there was a very little visited church that I stopped which I wish would be appreciated more. The architecture was on par with a lot of other famous churches and it is unusual because it was the first southern facing church.
Champs Élysées- Clemeceau
This station was one of the eight original running when metro line 1 first opened. It is one of the few stations that lead to the Avenue des Champs Élysées. The official residence of the President is located north of the station and to the south are both the Grand Palace and the Petite Palace. The Avenue is well renowned as one of the most beautiful avenues in the world and makes for a fantastic day of shopping. Luxury brands have stores there alongside more practical brands such as Zara and Nike. On Bastille Day this Avenue holds a large national parade to celebrate and this Avenue also hosts the ending of the Tour de France. A trip to Paris is not complete without visiting the Avenue des Champs Élysées and luckily, this metro station drops many tourists every year right there.
The commercialism concentrated in this one area is heavy and intimidating but also extremely impressive. Every brand that is known to be anything is located on this one street, even if they don’t make a lot of money at that location, it’s a status symbol. The Louis Vuitton was extraordinarily remarkable, with the ferraris and other expensive cars parked in the front. Walking down that street gives a feeling of luxury, even if only for a little bit. I found it interesting that people of all socio-economic status were socially encouraged to walk in and look around whereas at any other locations of these luxury brand stores, they run the risk of being looked down upon by the employees working on commission. It was a welcoming atmosphere to show off what the brand can produce, and for people (like myself) that can’t afford these things on a regular basis, it was a unique experience.
This station is located under Rue de Rivoli on the east- west axis of metro line 1. The Jardin des Tuileries are near, which is what the stop is named after. The gardens were constructed and shaped under the reign of Louis XIV and under the direction of his royal landscaper. The gardens are known for mixing the traditional Italian garden structure with the shaped bushes and trees belonging to French culture. Being that this was the same landscaper who oversaw the Versailles gardens, nothing but the best is to be expected and he certainly delivered. Artwork decorated the gardens in structural components such as fountains but it also holds two world famous art museums: the Galerie Nationals du Jeu de Paume and the Musée de l’Orangerie, which holds Monet’s Water Lillies.
The second I stepped out of this station, I saw a fair that was being held. Children were yelling on rides and begging their parents for cotton candy and it reminded me of the Miami Dade County fair but on a smaller level. I also liked that I was just able to walk in for free, which is a testament to Parisian culture and its accessibility. Outside of the fair, I ran into the gardens. I was awestruck by the beauty of a particular statue, one of Theseus defeating the Minotaur. Having just seen a section of Minotaur paintings and sketches by Picasso in the Picasso museum earlier, it was interesting to see the differences in how the monster was depicted in the art pieces. I was able to enter the Musée de l’Orangerie during class and I appreciated the water lillies and how the subject of the painting paralleled the nature dominated area just outdoors. The park was very busy with tourists exploring the gardens and heading to the museums.
The Châtelet station is the ninth busiest metro station in the Paris metro system. It has connections from the 1 to the 4, 7, 11, and 14 and multiple connections to RERs and is the largest underground station in the entire world. It is named after the Place du Châtelet, a public square on the right bank of the river Seine. The square holds two theaters, designed by Gabriel Davioud and a fountain designed by Francois Jean Bralle. This fountain shows four figures, allegorically known as Prudence, Justice, Temperance and Strength and the fountain also pays tribute to many battles won. Along the streets outside of the station are also many shopping areas and restaurants within walking distance. Tune Chatelet area is known for its liveliness.
Busy. The area surrounding Châtelet is busy with residents, workers, tourists and everyone else you could think of exiting from one of the five metro lines that merge at this location. This area definitely markets to tourist, which to be fair, most of Paris does. There are plenty of souvenir shops scattered around and some stores that may not sell legitimate items but are packed all the same. The les Halles shopping mall was a little further down from the entrance to Chatelet but still in the same area and it had a lot of the stores from the U.S such as Foot Locker or places to eat such as Starbucks. This area was sort of hidden behind a lot of construction but with that you could tell that this area is constantly developing.
Concorde is the only metro station I know of to have a world famous poem based on it: “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound. The station is named after the Place de la Concorde, one of the most popular public squares in the city. For a short time, this plaza was actually named the Place de la Revolution and a statue of King Louis XV was torn down followed by the beheading of King Louis XVI. Marie Antoinette was also beheaded here. The name of the square was eventually changed after the revolution as a gesture of reconciliation. It is located between the Champs-Élysées and the gardens of Tuileries. Directly in the middle of the plaza stands the Obelisk of Luxor, which praises Pharaoh Ramesses II and was given to the French from Egypt. The fountains are another tourist attraction and important monument, the North fountain representing rivers and the South fountain representing the seas.
Knowing that Marie Antoinette and many other important political figures of the time were guillotined here was unsettling. As beautiful as the area was, I couldn’t help but imagine their final ride to their deaths. However, it helped that it has obviously been remodeled since then, since the function of the square became entirely different. The obelisk was absolutely stunning, with the gold capped top, it offered a break from French and Western European culture in a monumental way. To one side of the monument, I could see the gardens of Tuileries and on the other marked the beginning of the Champs Élysées. Both of these classic tourist designations on each side seemed to juxtapose each other but in a way that I found to be very complimentary to both sides.
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.
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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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.).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Paris’ body is made up of the metro. Each line darts back and forth, crosses over each other, and connects Parisians much like the blood vessels and neurons of the body. The sound of the train provides Paris’ heartbeat. With the loud rhythmic thuds of each train cart passing over the tracks, it seems that is the very sound that keeps Paris alive. But Paris is an old city, and her body is a recent invention. The Parisii named her and the Romans conquered her. The Bourbon kings abandoned her for Versailles and the Revolutionaries took her back. American founding fathers used her as a political playing field and American artists made her their muse. But where have all these people who have shaped Paris gone? Much like Paris’ structural body, the people of Paris’ history have gone underground. As a lover of history, I have always been interested with the stories and events of the dead. It is the dead who shaped the world and societies that modern day people live in. With the rich history that Paris has, I decided I wanted to explore this buried history and pay homage to the dead that have outline Paris’ history and made her what she is today.
Mairie de Montrouge
With the Mairie de Montrouge metro stop being one of the newest in Paris’ metro system, with its official opening on March 23, 2013, I was worried about what history I would find. But, luckily for me, Paris has yet to disappoint me in its historical abundance.
A 20-minute walk from the Mairie de Montrouge stop brought me to the Parisian Cemetery of Bagneux. This cemetery was opened on November 15, 1886 and is one of the smallest cemeteries in Paris yet one of the most active with an average of 10 burials a day. It is estimated that the Parisian Cemetery of Bagneux is home to 83,000 graves and was the original resting place of Oscar Wilde before he was moved to the famous Père Lachaise cemetery.
The cemetery is commonly referred to as the Jewish Cemetery of Paris due to several of its divisions having exclusively Jewish graves. As such, there are several memorials in the cemetery dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust as well as Jewish soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the good of France in WWII.
One memorial that caught my eye in particular was a headstone dedicated to the victims of the Holocaust who were not given a proper burial and/or final resting place. Many of the victims of the Holocaust were dumped into mass graves to rot away or the bodies were set on fire by the Nazis to dispose of them. As a result of this, many of the millions of Holocaust victims could not be brought back home after their deaths and their bodies became forgotten. This memorial headstone reads “To the memory of the victims of the Shoah who were not buried neither here nor anywhere else.” When I first read it, I had no clue what “Shoah” meant. I knew it definitely was not the French word for the Holocaust so what could it be? In my research I have found that the Jewish community refers to the Holocaust as “Shoah”, the Hebrew word for catastrophe. As I read the word “catastrophe” my heart sank. That is exactly what the Holocaust was. A catastrophic event that lead to the extermination of 6 million Jews and 11 million people in total. The weight of this catastrophe became heavier on me when I found out that the Jewish population in Europe today still hasn’t matched the population of Jews before the Holocaust according to the Pew Research Center. Close to 80 years later and the Jewish population still has not bounced back from the great Shoah.
As the closest metro stop to our university, I became quite
familiar with Porte d’Orleans and yet knew nothing about it. It was one of the
first metro lines to open in Paris with its grand opening on October 30, 1909.
The metro stop was given the name Porte d’Orleans after one of the gates in in
the Thiers wall, the last defensive wall made around Paris in 1844. As Porte d’Orleans
has been around for 110 years, I knew that it would be able to provide me with
the history I craved.
A 6-minute walk from the station led me to the Montrouge cemetery. Walking through the large stone arch and its rusted green metal doors, the cemetery is packed with headstones and gives the appearance of a small town. As I walked around a tall thin structure caught my attention. It appeared as if several thin smokestacks sprouted from the ground. I approached to read the headstone and found out it belonged to Etienne Beöthy. Born on September 2, 1897 in Heves, Hungary as Istvan Beöthy. Beöthy first studied to be an architect at the request of his father in Hungary but was later given a grant to study art in Europe. As a result, many of his works are very structural and are rooted in mathematics as he himself explains in his book “Golden Series” published in 1939. At the same time that he is creating art and sculptures, Beöthy is also the head of one of the several cells of resistance fighters. In between making art and sculpting, he uses his time fighting for France by designing resistance flyers to be distributed throughout Paris. Around the same time, 1940 to 1945, Beöthy joins the Hungarian Independence Movement and later becomes the movement’s vice president. His works are stills exhibited throughout the world and several of his pieces are held in the Museum of Modern Art in New York City.
The station of Denfert Rochereau was built in 1906
originally as part of line 6. The station was named after French colonel Pierre
Philippe Denfert- Rochereau who fought victoriously during the Franco- Prussian
War in the 1870s. Its entrance is crowned by the famous art nouveau metro signs
that Paris is known for.
I came to this stop on a mission to fulfill my pilgrimage for this trip. But, as I emerged from the underground, right across the street was the site of the famous Paris catacombs. The catacombs were the result of public health concerns related to Parisian cemeteries in the late 18th century. The bones from the catacombs come from the Holy Innocents Cemetery where the Place Joachim du Bellay currently stands. Due to overcrowding and dead bodies’ natural decomposition process, it no longer became ideal for cemeteries to be located within Paris’ city walls. Parisian authorities felt that the best place to put the remains of the Holy Innocents cemetery was deep underground in the quarries of Montrouge. The bodies were then organized into patterns and religious shapes to mimic the catacombs in Rome.
As I looked upon the intricate patterns of bones on display, I couldn’t help but feel bad for the separated remains of those who have been long forgotten. Skulls separated from spinal vertebrae and femurs separated from pelvises. There is no way for these bodies to be reunited with themselves. But there is very little chance that these remains have any family to remember them and visit them. So, much like the famous quote, these remains have experienced their final death: being forgotten. In being ultimately and truly dead, these remains become less human and more fossil-like. They have become part of an ancient history but are still surrounded with mysticism and fascination.
The station of Odéon was opened on January 9, 1910 in order to connect Châtelet and Raspail under the Seine river. The station is named after the Odéon theatre which opened its doors in 1779. What excited me most about this stop was being just a 15- minute walk from visiting my favorite author, Alexandre Dumas.
Alexandre Dumas is currently laid to rest in the Panthéon.
The building of the Panthéon fuses Napoleon’s wish to portray himself as a
Roman Emperor with elements and traces of Gothic influences. The Panthéon is
currently used as a mausoleum for France’s most notable citizens. Among these
are Napoleon himself, Marie Curie, Emile Zola, and Alexandre Dumas. Although I
had already visited during class time, I wanted to go back to pay further
respects to the author who changed my whole perspective of literature. I was
first introduced to Dumas in my freshman year English class in high school.
That year had been focused on Shakespeare and other classic artists that I
frankly wasn’t interested, and their works didn’t move me in the least. This
changed when we had to read the Count of Monte Cristo which, to this day, is still
my favorite book.
Alexandre Dumas, while being a successful and notable
author, went through several hardships in his life. Outside of personal
relationships, it seemed the constant trait writing critics would point out was
his race. Dumas was the grandson of a slave from Haiti and while his father serve
valiantly under Napoleon I, it never seemed like it was enough. No matter what
he would accomplish, the people of France still referred to him as “the negro”
as if that had more weight than his talents as a writer. Several newspapers would
draw caricatures of him with exaggerated African features and I was fortunate
enough to see these and experience their severity in person in the Musée d’Orsay.
While I am not of African descent, the realities of racism
have only become clearer to me within recent years. Coming from a majority
Hispanic city like Miami, it never felt like I was the “other.” The only
differences between me and the kids in school was what country in Latin America
we were from. But, since the presidential races of 2016, the hatred towards
Hispanics has only become louder and more toxic. With Trump’s infamous speech
stating that Mexicans are rapists and murderers as well as the zero tolerance
policies at the southern border, it feels as though white America is looking at
us with daggers in their eyes. While they claim to hate us, they still go to
restaurants to eat our food and they still vacation in our home countries. The
same contradiction Dumas faced is what is still happening now. The only
question that remains is do we turn a blind eye to it or do we rise up and
Raspail was opened on April 24, 1906 as part of line 2. As
the Paris metro continued to develop in the years soon after, it also became a
stop on lines 5, 6, and ultimately, line 4. The station of Raspail was named
after Francois- Vincent Raspail, a French scientist and statesman who was one
of the early proponents in the use of the microscope as well as the head of the
French Human Rights Society. But I didn’t come to Raspail for science or
politics. I stopped at Raspail to visit someone in particular: Alfred Dreyfus.
Alfred Dreyfus, the person I selected for my Declaration
Project back in the Spring semester, was someone I deeply sympathized with. As
a young man, his aspirations of serving under the French Army and rising up the
ranks were cut short when he was targeted, due to his Jewish background, and
falsely accused of treason. He was then stripped of his military titles and sentenced
to solitary confinement of Devil’s Island and stayed there for about 5 years.
His case split Paris in two with one group siding with the French government
and army and the other siding with Dreyfus. It wasn’t until much later that
Dreyfus was freed from prison and was reinstated in the military under the orders
of the French President and Parliament. This is one of the most documented
cases of antisemitism rearing its ugly head in France.
I felt it necessary to visit him. After all, I had spent
months researching his life to ensure I gave him justice in my project. But
aside from that, Alfred Dreyfus had spent so long in solitary confinement that it
only made sense for me to visit him and give him some company.
I headed to the Montparnasse Cemetery in order to do so. It is a large cemetery lined with trees and plants growing over several tombs. I wandered around trying to find Dreyfus and, along the way, found a large windmill looking structure. I would later find out that before the cemeteries opening in 1824, the land was full of farms and fields and as a result, some windmills stayed behind. I continued wandering until I finally found him. I instantly knew it was his grave in the distance when I saw stones on it. These stones are a Jewish tradition in which, rather than leaving flowers at a grave, you place a stone on the tomb to indicate you have visited. I walked up to his tomb stone in hand and not only did I find Alfred Dreyfus, but I found his whole family with the most recent member passing away in 1996. It felt like a strange homecoming to me. I never knew Alfred or his family and yet I felt such a strong connection to him. I spent some time at the grave just reflecting on everything I knew about Alfred and all the things I barely knew about the whole Dreyfus family. As I walked away, it felt like my whole trip had come full circle, and no matter what happened this month, good or bad, there couldn’t be anything to top how I felt visiting Alfred Dreyfus.
The Saint- Michel metro stop is one of the most visited due
to its proximity to both the Latin Quarter and Notre Dame. It was opened on January
9, 1910 as one of the original stops on line 4. The station gets its
name after the square that rests above it with a large statue of Michael the
Archangel. As one of the first stops used in class this month, this was another
stop I had become familiar with, but I took particular interest in a nearby
The Church of Saint Severin is a gothic church in the Latin quarter known for one famous feature: the column behind the church’s altar. This column, rather than the grooves on the column being up right, has its grooves twisting around the column much like a vine growing up a tree. The grooves continue toward the ceiling and, once they reach the top of the column, shoot out like palm fronds. But I needed to find out more about this church. There needed to be something more than a twisting column given how old the church is. I walked around the Church and came upon an open garden in its center. It seemed as though I was alone until I heard someone say hello. I turned to see a priest taking a cigarette break. He began to ask me where I was from and what I was doing in Paris (I guess my huge purse and constant photo taking gave it away). As we continued talking, he told me that the garden we were sitting in used to be a cemetery. Before I could ask any further questions, the priest disposed of his finished cigarette and went back inside the church. Was he trying to scare me? I’m sure that fooling tourists is fun but something about his claim also seemed serious. I began to look it up on the way back to the university and sure enough it was true. During the 15th century, the garden of the Church of St. Severin was used as a cemetery for important people in Paris. In addition to this, in 1474, the first ever successful stone removal surgery was performed. King Louis XI had ordered a prisoner sentenced to death be the trial run of the surgery and, if the prisoner were to survive, he would be released. The surgery went so well that Louis XI himself began to encourage people to get the procedure done.
Les Halles was originally opened on April 21, 1908. However,
its present location was opened is 1977 as it was shifted east to accommodate
the construction of the RER. The station gets its name after the markets that
resided above it for many years. Today, this is still the case as there is a
large mall that engulfs the station. But, despite the modern shopping center,
Les Halles holds much more history that its patrons aren’t aware of.
Across the street from Les Halles is Place Joachim du Bellay. The place’s namesake was one of the first people to promote French as an artistic language. In the 9th century, the location on which the place now stands used to be home to the Holy Innocents Cemetery as well as a church by the same name. Place Joachim du Bellay’s main feature is the Fontaine des Innocents, a tall structure that seems like a missing part of a building, which was originally located on the edge of the Holy Innocents Cemetery. The fountain was commissioned in 1549 as one of the royal markers of King Henry II’s entry path into Paris. Later, towards the end of the 18th century, having cemeteries in the center of Paris was deemed unsanitary and the entire cemetery was dug up and removed. The bodies that were laid to rest there were then moved to what is presently known as the catacombs of Paris where they have remained since.
The station of Réaumur- Sébastopol was first opened on October 19, 1904 under the name of Rue Saint- Denis. It was part of line 3 and connected Parisians to the famous Père Lachaise Cemetery and Villiers. Then, in 1907, the station was renamed to its current name and, in 1908, was made into a stop on line 4. The dual name of the station is after French entomologist Rene- Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur and the port of Sevastopol in Crimea in which an important battle took place during the Crimean War.
Initially this area made little to no impression on me. It
seemed to be just like the rest of Paris’ streets full of shops and stores. But,
as I walked around, I passed by a very large Monoprix that seemed to be closed
in the middle of the afternoon. I found this to be strange as it is a popular
grocery chain and it was the middle of the day. When I looked up the Monoprix’s
location, I found several articles explaining that in 2015, there had been and
archaeological discovery below the Monoprix.
Due to France’s rich abundance of archaeological discoveries, the French government issued a law that would require the Ministry of Culture to survey any land to be constructed on and developed for any archaeological finds. In the case of the Monoprix, this is exactly what led to the find. Monoprix wished to expand that specific location by adding an additional floor underground. As workers began to dig, they found that several feet underground were the remains of over 200 bodies from the 12th century cemetery of Trinity Hospital. Since then, archaeologists have been able to discover more about medical practices from the Middle Ages as well as the common causes of death from the time such as small pox and famine. Many of the bodies were even wrapped in hospital sheets dating back from the 14th century.
The Barbes- Rochechouart station was opened January 31st, 1903 as part of line 2 but later became part of line 4 in 1908. The station is named after Armand Barbes, a famous revolutionary who was sentenced to life for trying to overthrow the King, and Marguerite de Rochechouart, a scholarly nun from the 17th century who also served as Mother Superior at the Abbey of Montmartre.
Above the station matched what Montmartre is known for: hilly
and narrow streets full of people painting or performing music. I had come to
this station to visit the Cimetiere du Calvaire. However, I was unaware that
the cemetery was opened to the public twice a year: on All Saints Day and
Heritage Day. This cemetery is one of the smallest and oldest in Paris. It was
opened in 1688 as part of the Abbey of Montmartre and was all that remained of
it after the Revolution. One of the most notable people who remains there is
Louis Antoine Bougainville. While his body rests in the Panthéon, his heart is
kept in an urn in his family’s burial plot.
Louis Antoine Bougainville was a famous French Navigator who
sailed from France to South America, the South Pacific, and even Australia.
What drew me to him was what he brought back to France: a thorny shrub with bright
pink paper-like flowers. This plant is what is commonly known as the bougainvillea.
Its bright pink flowers are a staple in Miami gardens and homes.
This was the first connection I felt to colonialism in my month in Paris. All of my life I have been surrounded by these flowers in the gardens of Tias and Tios and its colors have painted my memories of walking to my neighbor’s house for Tupperware’s full of sopa de carne. I had always taken its name for granted. To me, the plant was always Cuban for as long as I could remember. But, learning about Louis Antoine Bougainville, it seems like not even the world knows exactly where it first came from. The plant has taken over South America, Australia, China, the United States, and even the Alhambra is Spain. The bougainvillea’s home has been forgotten and its name is that of its “discoverer.” Much like the bougainvillea, colonialism’s thorny branches have wrapped around native history and strangled them until they have become nothing and all that remains is Bougainville.
The station on Simplon was opened on April 21, 1908. Its name
is after Simplon street which is named after the Simplon pass in the Alps. As
the second to last stop on line 4, the population of people on the train
drastically changes. Not only is there a smaller concentration of people on the
trains, most of the people appear to be of Middle Eastern and African origin.
As I walked the streets above, the languages around me we neither English nor
French. Instead, people were speaking their native tongues: Arabic, Persian, Urdu,
Creole, and many more that I couldn’t even recognize. Yet with all of the
African and Middle Eastern residences and homes that filled Simplon, I still
came upon a large gothic church.