Over Under Project: Line 12
By Jacob Meyer of FIU on July 1, 2022
Paris Metro Line 12 is a very diverse line that encapsulates culture, art, politics, and history. From the national parliament of France to the artistic sector of Montmartre, it was a very eye-opening experience to explore this line. Originally, I picked the line because of the beautiful Luxembourg Gardens but found more love in other stops as they showed me the melting pot culture that is held within Paris.
- Asemblée Nationale
Assemblée Nationale contains the parliament of France in which debates are held and laws are created. My major has given me the opportunity to learn more about France’s political system before I was able to travel to the country itself. It allowed me to receive a realistic perspective on how the country operates and treats its citizens. As citizens of the United States, we are able to criticize our government for the mistakes and unjust decisions that it makes. Unfortunately, due to a lack of international education in the United States, it becomes very difficult to understand the international political sphere in a realistic perspective.
Upon seeing the Assemblée Nationale, I was filled with mixed emotions. A part of myself was very excited to see the building and even more so because I am aspiring to eventually get my French citizenship, so I am able to work in the governmental sphere later in life. However, there was another part of myself that felt a bit of rage due to some recent policies and actions by the French government. One policy that has changed my perspective on the French government is the policy that is still being debated. The policy discusses the terms on if minors are allowed to wear hijabs in public. This causes a sense of xenophobia in France as Islamic religious wear is only being discussed rather than other religions.
One stop from Assemblee Nationale contains the metro stop of Concorde. The station itself was very interesting as along the walls was the Declaration of Rights of Man and of the Citizen. After walking around the station we stumbled upon the Petit Palais. Built for the 1900 Exhibition, the Petit Palais is used as a fine arts museum. ‘The architect, Charles Girault, created a programme that allowed for the museum to glorify Paris and celebrate the fine arts.’
The sculpture of Artemis (pictured) really captivated me. Artemis is depicted as the goddess of the hunt, wild animals, and vegetation as well as being associated with the moon. Artemis has always been a favorite Greek deity to me as I associate her with my love of nature and the beauty of spending time outside. This piece made me think about my connection to nature and how it can be a very healing experience to just spend some time outside in order to gain a deeper understanding of myself. Even something as simple as looking at the moon is enough to bring that childlike joy and curiosity into light as it makes me think existentially and ask questions regarding to our smallness not only on Earth but also throughout the entire universe.
Just a couple blocks from the station Solférino there is the Musée d’Orsay. A museum filled with many verities of art such as Impressionism, Academism, and Neo-Classism. Upon first entering the Musée d’Orsay early, just you and the art, gave a stronger sense of connection to many of the pieces that were contained in the museum.
The strongest connection that I felt was to the impressionist paintings. Impressionism was a movement that started in the 19th Century and was controversial as most art before that time was commissioned from the Church and nobles. The impressionist painter, Monet, is an artist that has had a place in my heart for a long time. Seeing his paintings alone was an experience like no other. Monet has painted subjects such as lilypads, nature scenes, and even turkeys. His painting Dindons has one of my favorite stories. Monet was commissioned to do a painting of this women’s house at different times of the year and in turn, it comes out later that the woman came out with a child that resembled Monet greatly, but it was never confirmed to be his.
In addition to the Musée d’Orsay, there was l’Orangerie. This contained some of Monet’s greatest works and it is very clear how he was the artist to end the Impressionist movement. His work Cycle des Nymphéas spanned across the entire wall of the gallery showing scenes from his house in Giverny, an impressive feat that captivated the world.
4. Porte de Versailles
Porte de Versailles was an extremely interesting stop on Line 12. This stop featured an exposition park filled with things such as a dinosaur expo. Our group stumbled upon a Japan expo that featured a surrounding experience that dives you into the local and indigenous cultures of Japan. We were able to see various parts of Japanese culture by engaging in subjects like martial arts, cooking, and old traditions. This was a very enriching experience that showed the different layers of Paris.
Although Paris has a large sense of French culture, it has become a mixing pot that has brought cultures from the East and West to clash and integrate with each other. As this is happening each culture needs to educate themselves in order to understand the other. Things like this are great as learning the bigger picture of a culture can be very beneficial as you do not learn a single aspect that does not make sense without the angle of other aspects. Not only did this exposition inspire me to travel to Japan, but also to delve more into Japanese culture and history to have a greater appreciation for the country when visiting.
An area filled with designer brands and people creates divides between classes. When walking through the streets of the eighth arrondissement it was clear that it was filled with members of wealthier classes. Our group went inside the Gucci store in where we had to wait for an attendant to go through the store with us. Our attendant was very kind and treated us with great respect, however, the shopping experience of having somebody follow you around felt so different from the normal experience of going to a store such as H&M. The difference on how various classes shop really hit upon asking the attendant how much a piece of clothing was, we were told that it was, ‘only fourteen thousand, it is very cheap.’ This was a very shocking thing to hear as normally that is not a cheap price.
Overall, people can spend their money on whatever, but a few questions stand with this experience. Does this experience aim to make people with more money feel better than others? If so, does this cause more of those who can afford this to feel on a pedestal and bring upon more selfishness as it can seep into everyday life? This separation can cause a lot of conflicts especially as it can cause a culture of looking down upon people for being in a different financial situation. As learned from the French Revolution it is the physical separation and social hierarchy that comes at a problem, not the money itself (unless the entire country is starving for a palace).
Originally outside the city walls of Paris, a hill containing Montmartre was a surreal experience to see. The church itself was filled with amazing neo-classical architecture and ceilings that appeared to be reaching out to heaven. Outside the church is a view of the city that cannot be beaten.
One culture in the area that was really appealing was the art scene. There were many artists with various styles representing impressionism, portraits, or their own take on well-known pieces. It is an area that was occupied by great artists such as Monet, Picasso, and Van Gough. Not only is there a large presence of painters on the street but there is also a history of singers being prominent in this area. Edith Piaf was found singing on the streets of Montmartre and Joesphine Baker was performing in the area when she was in Paris. One regret I had while in Paris was not spending enough time in this area or even buying a painting from one of the street vendors.
Containing Moulin Rouge and many other stores that are obscene considered by the United States sits the stop of Pigalle. This was a large culture shock to walk through the streets of this metro stop. In the United States, the conversation of sex has always been a taboo topic and to see all these stores with sexual content right in the windows with no shame was very shocking yet relieving. The culture of openness in this area extends into the rest of the city as going through the metro there will be advertisements for these types of stores.
Moulin Rouge, located on Rue Blanche, is the most notable cabaret show in the area. Starting in 1889, the elegant decoration along with the wild atmosphere brought in mainly those from the upper classes. It soon became a renowned hit across the world. Due to its popularization, Moulin Rouge brought more open-mindedness throughout the western world to the conversation of sex. I aspire to have a more open culture in the United States with that content as it increases the safety of sex workers as well normalizes things such as getting tested regularly for any STDS.
Montparnasse-Bienvenue was a very different stop from all the others that we experienced. It is not filled with many cultural activities or cool architecture. However, it contains a modern-like building that is the third tallest structure in Paris. A very urbanized area with a train station sitting right next to the Montparnasse Tower. The tower sits at an impressive height of 689ft and is said to have one of the best panoramic views of the city of Paris. The tower is mainly occupied with offices but also holds a restaurant named Le Ciel de Paris as well as an observation deck on its top floor.
Although we did not get to go into the tower due to ticket prices, it was very interesting to see a more city-looking area of Paris. A break from the typical french architecture reminded me of Miami, but with better public transportation. An area I wish I explored more in the area of Montparnasse was the train station. It appeared to have a mall and it would have been very interesting to see the types of shops that were set up inside.
The Luxembourg Gardens was the most beautiful park that was contained within the city. It holds the names of scientists as well as a reference to many pop culture things. One example of this is in Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and another being the album cover of music artist, Tamp Impala. The park also contains green grass areas for picnicking, talking, or sunbathing. In the middle sits a body of water where you can find people sailing tiny sailboats built for a mouse.
This park had to be one of my favorite places I went to in Paris as I spent my days there studying or eating with friends. An escape from the busy atmosphere of the city, this park shows the more slower culture of France and living life in smaller moments. Paris is an urbanized city, bringing people rushing to where they need to be. Being in this park I was able to understand and see first hand the importance of sitting down and just enjoying the outdoors as well as the company of others. It was a very difficult thing to see outside of cafés and restaurants however I believe the Luxembourg Gardens really encapsulates the culture perfectly.
10. Notre-Dame des Champs
The café culture of Notre-Dame des Champs was one like no other. There was a great deal of pedestrian traffic through the area with large amounts of cafés. This was really cool to see and there were an overwhelming amount of options to choose from. We chose a place that served different types of craft beers. Getting our fruit-flavored ales, we sat and watched the people walk by.
For myself, it was something that made me wish Miami was more of a walking city because the people-watching at a cafe was such a fun experience to see everyone living their lives and having their small moments as we reflected on many of the memories that were made during our program.
Monet « un oeil … mais bon Dieu, quel oeil » by Sylvie Patin