Gianmarco Agostinone: Paris 2019

Metro Line 1


In this project I go over some of the major stops on Paris Metro Line 1. Each stop is broken down into a different theme where I explore how the stop relates to it by reviewing its history and reflecting on my experiences there and how it relates to both me and France.

La Defénse

The Business Districts (Modern Architecture)

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  • La Défense is Europe’s largest purposely built business district
  • The Grande Arche is the central and defining building of the district and is the third arch on the Historical Axis of Paris, the first two being the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel
  • The district is named after the statue La Defense de Paris which celebrates the soldiers who had defended Paris in the France-Prussian War
  • The district consists of 1,500 businesses, 180,000 employees, and 20,000 residents.


In contrast with the majority of Paris, La Défense resembles a modern Utopia. Surrounded by glass skyscrapers, modern art, and hundreds of people walking and scootering to work. It was a complete shock witnessing this as you only associate Paris with its traditional architecture and historical streets so when walking up the steps of the metro and seeing a city more advanced than those back home was unbelievable. Although filled with modern architecture and technology, the district kept much of the traditional Parisian values on what is necessary for a city to have, pedestrian friendly and an abundance of parks. The layout was left me awestruck the most. As the city resembled a jungle with buildings growing on top of one another in an almost haphazardly manner. Constantly, I found myself going down or up stairs to realize I was previously on the roof of a building and there was a new built above that. Then there were parks around every corner, both small and large, both above and below buildings, both packed with people and secluded from the world. They truly perfected the modern city.

Charles de Gualle-Étoile

Arc de Triomphe (War)

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  • Built to honor those who died fighting in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars
  • Beneath it lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WW1 and the Eternal Flame
  • Commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his victories but was never finished under him due to his eventual defeat
  • Only completed during the reign of King Louis-Philippe in 1836
  • Used to celebrate the return of the victorious armies by having them march through the arch during the parade for their return to Paris
  • After World War 1 the tradition of walking through the arch ended and now they walk around the arch out of respect for the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and its symbolism (even Hitler respected this tradition after his invasion of Paris)


After having the unique experience of witnessing the original Roman victory arches in the Roman Forum, it was breathtaking seeing one from such a modern time. When I think of civilizations conquering each other simply for expansion my mind always goes back to ancient Roman times or further back, not a century or two ago, not present day. Where the world was not explored and unknown lands surrounded you. Where we knew little of our neighbors and saw them simply as enemies. So to think thats it’s construction started merely 200 years ago, and that war as stained its surroundings less than a hundred years ago is hard to understand. We live in such a globalized world, yet we still see each others as enemies. We know that we are just a small speck in this massive universe, yet we still fight for even smaller specks. This monument, although beautiful and symbolic of France’s freedom, just serves as a reminder to me that the world has a long way to go before we see ourselves as members of one unified society rather than many warring ones.

George V

Louis Vuitton (Fashion)

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  • Paris has been a center for fashion from the 15th century to today
  • The Champs-Élysées has become known for its designer shops and the place to be if you want to be successful in Paris Fashion
  • The street consists of over 15 fashion and accessory stores
  • Louis Vuitton opened its first store on the street in 1913 and reopened it with its current design in 2005
  • In 1854, Louis Vuitton designed one of the first high end and practical suitcase trunks


Paris has always been the center for fashion, in my life time and long before that, and the shops and people on Champs-Elysées perfectly represent that. Walking down the street you pass designer shop after designer shop, all trying to outdo the previous one. I find it interesting because all the shops seem to just be trying to show the luxuriousness of their brand rather than turn a profit. As my professor John Bailly said, “If you want your company to be known in France, you have to have a store on the Champs-Élysées”. The Louis Vuitton store really exemplifies this mindset as the store resembles a museum more than a place you buy clothes. There’s a line to get in with a bouncer at the door, vintage suitcases and clothes on display, and with the exorbitant prices it might as well be like your are looking at works of art and not something you will wear and risk damaging. There are many cities in the world that are known for great artworks, but Paris has managed to bring art into the day to day lives of the people through fashion.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tour de France (Sports)

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  • The Tour de France is an annual men’s multiple stage bicycle race held in France that lasts 21 days
  • It was first started 1903 by a newspaper company named L’Auto to increase there sales
  • The first winner of the race a Frenchman named Maurice Garin and the most recent winner for this year was Egan Bernal
  • This year marked the 100th race (as it has gone on every year since its start except during WW1 and WW2)


Witnessing the last stage of the Tour de France was something I never thought I would do in my life. Not because I didn’t have any interest to but because I never thought of it being a possibility, the thought never even crossed my mind when I would glimpse at the race from my TV at home. But when I saw those cyclists zoom by I was awestruck. Thousands of people from all over the world like me were all lined up to witness history in the making. All of the cyclists hard work and determination throughout the race were all culminating at this last moment and it showed through the ferocity at which they pedaled pedaled for that victory. What really made it unique and special to me though was how many Colombian’s there were cheering for their rider Egan Bernal. Although I am not Colombian, many of my closest friends are and I felt proud for them for this victory. It was a beautiful sight and it felt like I was already back home celebrating with them.


Jardins de Champs-Elysées (Parks)

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  • The Jardins de Champs-Elysées was one of the first official public parks made in Paris in 1667
  • It occupies 13.7 hectares of land and is on both sides of the Champs-Elysées
  • As of today the city of Paris has 421 public and museum owned parks and gardens
  • Starting in the late 20th century, French Presidents have had a tradition of creating new museums and parks to mark their period on office
  • 166 parks have been created since 1977


One part of French culture I have not seen anywhere else is there love for parks. All around Paris, locals gather in these parks to relax, eat, spend time with friends and family. Nothing back home compares to this. No one really just goes outside to relax and enjoy the surroundings and people. They rather stay inside in their AC and play video games or watch TV. In our defense it is much hotter on average and the humidity is unbearable, but that shouldn’t confine that to our homes. It is not the way to live. This especially hits me at home because as software engineer, I spend all day looking at a computer screen to the point of exhaustion, and then have to come home only to do more of that. It gets to the point that I don’t want to look at another screen for the rest of the day but in our culture that is nearly impossible and my friends are never in the same mindset. So my time here has been liberating and every second I have spent just enjoying life in the parks of Paris has been priceless and I hope that this lifestyle I have been living here can transfer over for when I get back home.


Luxor Obelisk (Imperialism)

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  • The obelisk was originally located at the Luxor Temple entrance in Egypt
  • The obelisk was given as gift by Muhammad Ali Pasha, the ruler of Ottoman Egypt
  • Napoleon invaded and occupied France around 1978 in order to set up a trade route to the East
  • The French had two colonial empires, the 1st in the Americas starting in the 1500s, and the second in Africa starting in the 1800s


When I look at this obelisk I think about all of the imperialization and colonization that occurred during European history. Western civilizations had consistently used their advanced technology and ideologies to plow through Africa, Asia, and the Americas. They went where they wanted, took what they wanted, and imposed whatever ideologies they deemed necessary on the local inhabitants. When looking back on history it is easy to see the acts of these western cultures as horrific. They came into foreign lands and planted their flags claiming it for themselves. Then murdering anyone who stood in their paths. Unlike regular war and conquest that they attempted on each other, which was usually more fair and civilized, imperialism was everything but that. They took advantage of their lack of technology and would needlessly shed blood, take their resources, and destabilize their governments to the point that most of those countries have not recovered to this day.


Louvre (Art)

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  • The Louvre was created in 1190 as a fort to protect Paris
  • It was converted to the king’s palace in 1546 by Francis I until 1682 when Louis XIV moved it to Versailles
  • It was then converted to a museum by the National Assembly during the French Revolution in 1793
  • It is currently the worlds largest museum
  • There are over 38,000 objects on display from Ancient times to modern day


If I could describe the Louvre with one word, it would be intimidating. The size of the palace itself is intimidating, the amount of works is intimidating, and just the overall feeling that you are around some of the worlds greatest works is intimidating. Seeing works from all ages, all places, all in one place was a marvel. One second you are looking at the intact remains of the original fort built on the location, the next you are starring at authentic Greek and Roman statues that inspired many of the greatest Renaissance artists before us. France prides themselves in their art skills and art appreciation, something that I believe the US doesn’t do enough of. The fact that going to the Louvre is cheaper than visiting PAMM is unbelievable yet that is the mindset of the country we will in. No one back home values art because they don’t see the immediate monetary reward for it and to be honest I was one of those people prior to completing Italy and France Study Abroad. But I’ve come to realize that art can be rewarding in more intellectual and spiritual ways that are necessary in making humanity more human.


Pompidou (Modern Art)

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  • It is where the Bibliothèque publique d’information, the Musée National d’Art Moderne, and the IRCAM are located
  • The Musée National d’Art Moderne is the largest modern art museum in Europe
  • The Museum contains over 100,000 works of art made by over 6,400 artists
  • The museum contains art from styles such as Fauvism, Expressionism, Cubism, Dada, Abstract Art, Surrealism for modern art and Pop Art, Nouveau Réalisme, Conceptual art for contemporary art


Prior to coming onto this trip. I had no understanding of modern art, no appreciation for it, and wondered what all the fuss was about. After visiting Pompidou and attending John Bailly’s lecture on modern art my eyes were opened. I’ve learned the reason behind it all and the intricacies and techniques backing their work and have found a new appreciation for this art. But I still hate it. I appreciate the attempt most modern artists make to be unique and creative but being unique and creative doesn’t always mean what you turn over is good. I do enjoy some of the ideas some artists bring to the table but after that it just becomes a bunch of artists trying to mimic those who succeeded before them hoping to get their time in the spotlight. When I see paintings that consist of multiple blank canvases or canvases painted all one color I don’t think of it as art but instead as just lazy and uninspiring attempts for fame and fortune. Yet somehow they still end up in some of the most prestigious museums in the world, which will forever baffle me.


Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis (Religion)

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  • Constructed between 1627 to 1641 on orders of Louis XIII
  • Design implements a mixture of Italian, French Gothic, and Dutch styles
  • Created for the Jesuits in the area until they were persecuted in 1762
  • In 1792, 5 priests were killed in the church during the September Massacres
  • It was then converted to the Cult of Reason and Supreme Being during the French revolution, only being restored to the Catholic Church in 1802 due to the Concordat of 1801


Religion has always been a controversial topic in French history. Especially during revolutionary France. This church perfectly displays this controversy with how many times its control has changed hands. Starting with the Jesuits, then Catholics, then French Revolutionaries, then back to the Catholics. With every change of hands causing more tension. The main reason for such backlash comes from how closely the church was tied to the monarchy and its feudal ways, which in a time of rising republican ideals, created conflict between the citizens and the catholic and noble elite. After the revolution, the separation of church and state has remained to this day but unlike revolutionary times, religion is not as hated. Instead the French have a mutual respect for the church and its history and try to preserve it even if they don’t believe in it.


Bastille (Revolution)


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  • The Bastille was built between 1370 and 1383 during the reign of king Charles V to defend Paris
  • It was turned into a prison in the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIII
  • Housed primarily political prisoners as well as some religious ones
  • On July 14th 1789, the citizens of France stormed off the Bastille in search of weapons to fight the monarchy
  • By 1792, the Bastille was completely destroyed by revolutionaries and turned into a square celebrating liberty
  • In 1833, a column representing liberty was built in honor of the storming of the Bastille


The storming of the Bastille symbolized the start of the French Revolution. It was both a political prison for the enemies of the monarchy and a weapons storage that the people could use against their oppressors. The tearing down of the prison and erection of a column signifying liberty stress the ideals of both the revolution and modern day France. This is a country that celebrates its freedom and will not hesitate to fight and shed blood for it. A recurring theme in the country’s history.


“Arc De Triomphe.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 18 July 2019,

Bureau, Paris Convention and Visitors. “All You Need to Know about the Champs-Élysées Paris – Paris Tourist Office – Paris Tourist Office.”,

“Champs-Élysées.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 27 July 2019,

“The Church of Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis in Paris Marais Neighborhood.”,

“French Colonial Empire.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 July 2019,

“French Fashion.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 31 May 2019,

“History – All Rankings, Starters, Stages, Jersey Wearers, Stage Winner on the Tour De France.” History – All Rankings, Starters, Stages, Jersey Wearers, Stage Winner on the Tour De France,

“History of Parks and Gardens of Paris.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 7 June 2019,

“Jardin Des Champs-Élysées.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 6 May 2019,

“La Défense.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 July 2019,

“List of Parks and Gardens in Paris.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 July 2019,

“Louis Vuitton.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 July 2019,

“Luxor Obelisk.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 July 2019,

Murray, Lorraine. “Arc De Triomphe.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.,

“Paris La Défense.” History of the Place | Paris La Défense,

Tanner, Jakob. “Louis Vuitton and Luggage: History of the Trunk.” Londnr, 13 Feb. 2019,

“Tour De France.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 29 July 2019,

“Tour Egypt.” Egypt,

Walsh, Liz, et al. “The Crimes of French Imperialism.” Truthout, Truthout,

“Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 12 July 2019,

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