Maya Rylke-Friedman: Paris 2022

Over-Under Paris

Ligne 4: Porte de Clignancourt ↔ Porte d’Orléans

  1. Porte d’Orleans

I got to know this stop quite well during the duration of our trip because I had the privilege of living a few minutes away from this metro stop. Our group used the Porte d’Orleans metro station for almost every educational and recreational outing. Porte d’Orleans is near Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris, where our group stayed. It was interesting living in an actual urban university, with easy access to shops, restaurants, and public transportation. FIU on the other hand, while considered urban, does not have easy walking or biking access to shops and restaurants. You need a car for that. It is interesting coming back to America as well because the large amount of driving hits you instantly, a stark contrast from our stay in Paris. I would love it if FIU had easier access to Miami Beach and Brickell without needing to use a car.

I have also noticed that the university students we have encountered in the area are not usually French. Porte d’Orleans has great ethnic diversity amongst a college town section of Paris. The population outside the university, nearby the metro station, seems to be made up of non-white individuals. The pizza place we have frequented, Pizza 30, seems to have middle eastern owners, as well as the nearby cafe, Le Soleil. I have also noticed an African population here.

 I have seen a few people living in poverty and asking for money in this area, which breaks my heart. Most of the homeless individuals I have seen here were non-white. In a country that has robust social safety nets, it is surprising to see as many homeless individuals as I have seen; however, there is a total of 3,440 homeless persons in Miami and 2,600 in Paris (Rosman, 2022) (CBS Miami, 2022). It is surprising to see how close the number of homeless populations is in these respective cities.

  1. Denfert-Rochereau
Photo of the entrance to the Catacombs taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

This metro stop on line 4 takes the rider to the Catacombs. The Catacombs were used as a quarry initially, but the mining led to the collapse of Rue Denfert-Rochereau in 1774 (Les Catacombes De Paris, 2017). In 1786, the quarries become designated as Catacombs, which began the process of transferring bones from above-ground cemeteries to the Catacombs (Les Catacombes De Paris, 2017).

I did not go into the Catacombs; however, I walked through the various green spaces in the area, and I realized that I was walking above millions of deceased Parisians. It made me think of how well preserved historical artifacts are in Paris. There is just so much well-preserved history there and across France. From Notre Dame to Saint Chapelle to the Latin Quarter to the Hotel des Invalides to Versailles to the Catacombs and to most everything there, so much of it has been kept. America on the other hand has demolished old cities to build modern ones. According to Not Just Bikes, towns like London, Canada, and Houston, Texas had walkable historic downtowns that were bulldozed to accommodate cars (Not Just Bikes, 2021). And now, Euclidean zoning laws make walkable towns illegal to build in America. In other words, old downtowns like in Houston or even boroughs of small towns like my hometown of Downingtown, are illegal to build (Not Just Bikes, 2021). 

Photo of gardens adjacent to the Catacombs taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

When I arrived at Denfert-Rochereau, I noticed also that while the Catacombs are touristy like the above-mentioned locations, the atmosphere was calmer. There were many green spaces and gardens mixed in with the urban fabric of this part of the city as well, which I have noticed that Paris has a lot of. It is great to have as many parks and green spaces as they do because it offers an escape from city life and a return to nature. 

  1. Raspail
Photo of the Montparnasse Cemetery taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Walking from Denfert-Rochereau to Raspail, I stumbled upon the Montparnasse Cemetery. At first, I thought it was a general Christian cemetery; however, when I walked in, I saw mausoleums and tombs that belonged to Christians and Jews. My understanding of religious graves has been that people of certain religions are separated at burial. For instance, my grandmother grew up Protestant and never converted to Judaism, so she cannot be buried alongside my grandfather who was Jewish. But, I know that the conditions depend on the cemetery.

Photo of a gravestone taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Instead of flowers, the Jewish tradition is to put stones on the graves of our dead, as a more permanent marker of mourning. Many of the Jewish graves had .ת.נ.צ.ב.ה written on them, and I noticed many of these graves were victims of the Holocaust. Those Hebrew letters on the gravestones stand as an acronym for “May his/her soul be bound up in the bond of life”, which to me is beautiful (Chabad.org, 2007). Though I was surrounded by tombs, I strangely felt tranquil at Montparnasse. The tree-lined cemetery allowed me a place of spirituality and reflection. After so much heartache in Lyon and Izieu, I saw victims of the Holocaust again, and it made me feel sorrow and respect for the dead. I truly want their souls to find peace, and I want the souls of the living to have peace so that hate and genocide cease.

Photo of poetic marking on a mausoleum in Montparnasse cemetery taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

I found an impactful marking on a Jewish grave that read “Bleus ou noirs, tous aimes, tous beaux, ouverts a quelque immense aurore, de l’autre cote de tombeaux les yeux qu’on ferme voient encore” which translates to “blue or black, all loved, all beautiful, open to some immense dawn, on the other side of the tombs the eyes that we close still see”. It is almost as if those that were taken from this world still guide over the living, and we must honor their lives and protect the lives of others. Montparnasse Cemetery was another emotionally raw experience, but simultaneously beautiful.

  1. Saint-Germain-de-Pres
Photo of L’Eglise de Saint-Germain-des-Prés taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

L’Église de Saint-Germain-des-Prés is right off the Saint-Germain-de-Prés metro stop. Across the street are cafes and luxury shops like Louis Vitton and Georgio Armani. However, not too long ago, poor artists and writers like Ernest Hemingway would frequent this area and work on projects in nearby cafes like Le Deux Magots. But, Hemingway would use such a route that would avoid many restaurants as he did not have enough money to feed himself. But now, this area is heavily gentrified.

Photo of Les Deux Magots taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

I went for brunch here one of the days, and I could see how gentrified the area is based on what Professor Bailly told us about impoverished artists frequenting this area back then compared to what it is now. But, when we went to brunch, it felt almost pretentious because though the food was cutely presented, the portion was small and pricy.

There is an additional element of significance at this train stop as we kicked off our Americans in Paris lecture here. The Hotel de York is extremely significant in American history because the Treaty of Paris ended the revolutionary war, officially separating America from Great Britain on September 3, 1783. Though France is an entirely separate country from the United States, their struggles for liberty are intertwined. Benjamin Franklin would come to France and negotiate with King Louis XVI to gain military support against the British. This alliance, however, diminished the credibility of the French monarchy and gave the French people more leverage to overthrow the King. The Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man has similar verbiage to the Bill of Rights and many other Enlightenment documents that inspired human rights revolutions.

Photo of the plaque on Hotel de York marking the birth of the United States taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

Looking at the state of the world today, however, I hope that we cease regressing and keep moving towards a haven of human rights. Truthfully, I am frightened for my future and the future of the next generation. We must be open about the past like oppression, genocide, and colonization, among other atrocities as to prevent history from repeating itself.

  1. Odeon

The Odeon metro stop opens out to a statute of Georges Danton. Danton was a wealthy man during the French Revolution, but he was on the side of the people. He was inevitably sentenced to death because of his vocal opposition to the terror (“Georges Danton – Danton’s Committee of Public Safety | Britannica,” 2022). He knew that once he was guillotined that the revolution would completely lose sight of itself. 

I find it ironic that Danton has a statue in his honor as the government had him executed, but I know that does not mean that the people wanted that. Nonetheless, I think it is a good thing to honor Danton and his legacy because France is recognizing the ugliness of terror.

Photo of Danton’s statue taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Fast forwarding to the modern day, there are people who are homeless near the area around Danton’s statue. The French Revolution focused on human rights and a fair government, though it became a force of terror; I think that though France has progressed and has social safety nets, it is still telling to see homeless individuals next to a statue of a man who fought for the people. More can always be done.

6. Saint-Michel

I have many memories at this stop. Most nights when I was free I found myself in the Latin quarter. We went to the piano bar, jazz club, and Latin club. Despite it being so touristy, it was so fun. It was liberating that at 19, I could have a drink, party, and have a good night out. There were creepy men, and I never went out alone at night as a female. But I challenged this trip by doing some of this project alone during the day.

I mention these excursions because at, 19, I could not do this in America. France and most of Europe have more relaxed views on alcohol than the United States, and I feel that this law exposes an idiocy in American legislation.

The Latin Quarter is from the medieval era and is called the Latin Quarter because students would speak Latin here. However, today the area does not feel authentic. It is pretty touristy. Most places there speak English and have a large English-speaking/non-French crowd.  This area was fun, but it lost a lot of its authenticity.  Shakespeare and Company was also located near Saint-Michel, which is a historic English-speaking bookstore. It is very cozy and literary, but also pretentious and touristy.

7. Cité

Photo of Notre Dame taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Cité being at the center of Paris is special because the buildings and landmarks near this stop are medieval and historic. Most notably, Notre Dame is the most famous church in Paris I would say. But, there is also Saint-Chappelle in the Conciergerie, a church built under Louis IX’s reign who was the only French King to be made a Saint because of his “heroism” during the crusades. There are also countless more churches sprinkled throughout the city. Our class focused on religion a great amount, and I would say that Catholicism was an extremely influential mold on not just the French, but Europe. Though France is a secular country now, the existence of all these churches shows its thick roots in Christianity. I also would like to add that I am curious about the Jewish roots in Paris and France in general. I am not sure if there are synagogues near Notre Dame, but there are definitely some in Paris that I think would have been beneficial to visit as though Christianity is extremely integral in European history, there is more to the story.

Photo of the inside of Saint-Chapelle taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

8. Les Halles

Photo of L’Eglise Saint-Eustache taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0

While blindly exploring metro line 4 stops, my group and I stumbled upon this large open-air mall at Les Halles. L’Eglise Saint-Eustache is a historic church there and is also where Louis XIV had his first communion (Saint-Eustache, 2022). When we went there later as a class, Professor Bailly mentioned how Saint-Eustaches’ community commissioned Keith Haring, an artist, and his piece represents those dying from the aids crisis, which surprised me (Saint-Eustache, 2022). I thought that the congregants of these old churches would be more conservative despite France being secular. Perhaps my view of Christianity is tainted by American Christianity, however, I do not want to generalize as there are many loving and peaceful Christians. It is great that this community did not get blinded by bigotry and stood in solidarity with those afflicted with aids, despite the traditional Christian view on homosexuality. 

One of the contemporary art pieces in the Pompidou. Photo taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman. CC by 4.0.

The Pompidou was the museum we went to for contemporary art. Though I am not a fan of contemporary art, I understand its revolutionary change against tradition.

9. Strasbourg-Saint Denis

I first came to this metro stop by myself, and I saw Porte Saint-Denis, another famous arch in Paris. The arch used to be a part of the old city gates of Paris during the medieval period (Pierre, 2016). The gates of the city were dismantled and Louis XIV had them replaced with triumphant arches. Porte Saint-Danis honors Louis XIV’s victory in the Rhine and ​​Franche-Comté. Royalty would also pass through Porte Saint-Denis after attending religious services in the Saint-Denis Basilica to enter Paris (Pierre, 2016). 

Photo of Porte Saint-Denis taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Modern-day Paris used to be smaller than what it is now, as the city had a wall around it that did not incorporate many of the neighborhoods there today. I understand that medieval cities would do this for safety, but it is so fascinating that Porte Saint-Denis was a part of it. Louis XIV’s connection to Porte Saint-Denis is also fascinating to me. Louis XIV had such a large mark on France, way larger than just Versailles. 

10. Barbes Rochechouart

Sacre Coeur is located near this metro stop. At the top of the hill is Sacre Coeur a church named after the sacred heart of Jesus. It was built in the 1800s as a reaction to the secularism of the French revolutionaries. Some of the French revolutionaries were not just secular though; I saw many statues of Jesus with his head cut off throughout my trip. Though I am not Christian, I do feel like beheading Jesus statues is wrong. 

Photo of Sacre Coeur taken by Maya Rylke-Friedman CC by 4.0

Surrounding this church atop a hill is an alternative art scene. Moulin Rouge and a bunch of sex shops are not too far either. I find the stark contrast astonishing. At the same time, when I visited, it seemed that they were able to peacefully coexist with each other.  

Concluding Reflection

Through the over-under project, I was able to see and experience Paris. I saw the close relationship France had with the United States of America and Christianity’s influence on Paris. We discussed the struggle for liberty, equality, and fraternity in France. I learned a lot about myself and became more independent throughout the trip. Art, war, and human rights are not just a part of this class, they are a part of Paris itself.

References

CBS Miami. (2022, April 22). Miami Rescue Mission: Many Families A Paycheck Away From Being Homeless. Cbsnews.com; CBS Miami. https://www.cbsnews.com/miami/news/homelessness-miami-rescue-mission/

Chabad.org. (2 007, October 17). What are the Hebrew letters on a Jewish headstone? @Chabad. https://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/581489/jewish/What-are-the-Hebrew-letters-on-a-Jewish-headstone.htm

Georges Danton – Danton’s Committee of Public Safety | Britannica. (2022). In Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Georges-Danton/Dantons-Committee-of-Public-Safety

Les Catacombes De Paris. (2017). Site history. Catacombes. https://www.catacombes.paris.fr/en/history/site-history#

Not Just Bikes. (2021). Why City Design is Important (and Why I Hate Houston) [YouTube Video]. In YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uxykI30fS54

Pierre. (2016, October 8). The triumphal arch of Porte Saint-Denis in Paris – French Moments. French Moments. https://frenchmoments.eu/porte-saint-denis/

Saint-Eustache. (2022, June 27). Paroisse Saint-Eustache – Au cœur des Halles à Paris. Eglise Saint Eustache. https://www.saint-eustache.org/

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