Saina Ysaac: Paris 2022

Over under Paris

Line 7 by Saina Ysaac of FIU at Paris, France on July 1st- July 31st, 2022

Ligne 7: La Courneuve ↔ 8 Mai 1945 to Mairie d’Ivry or Villejuif — Louis Aragon


For one month I  reduced my carbon footprint on the world by using my Navi-Go card to travel around the second busiest city in Europe. The Paris Metro station was inaugurated in 1900 and is over 214 kilometers long, spanning over 303 stations. Nearly every day 7 million people ride the metro. Line 7 is about 22.4 kilometers long, with 38 stations. This metro line starts with La Courneuve – 8 Mai 1945 in the north to Mairie d’ivry or Villejuif – Louis Aragon in the south. These stations brought me to both extremes of the social pool, from the supplement areas to the low-income slums.

The Metro 7 . Photo by Saina Ysaac / CC BY 4.0

Porte de Choisy

Historical insight/Personal Observation

This stop is named after a nineteenth-century gate in the Thierrs wall of Paris that led to the Choisy-le-Roi. Opened on March 7th,1930 when it was still connected to another stop on line 7, and formerly on line 10, Place d’italie. Located in the 13th arrondissement of Paris, this is one of the most densely populated areas of Chinese descent. Just like America, France has an increasingly diverse population due to immigration. Immigration has allowed for a mixing pot to occur in these areas, rebranding the culture from their homes and implementing them in Parisian lifestyles. I was shocked to see a pause in bourgeois Parisian culture as seen in the 5th and 7th arrondissements. This instantly became one of my favorite stops, as it reminded me of Chinatown, later found out that it is indeed a Chinatown in Paris. The entire area is saturated with oriental culture, reintroducing an emergence of Asian immigration. Here you may find any food that your heart desires from Chinese to Thai cuisines, with all the amazing spices right here under your tongue. The Asian culture is reinforced with monuments and statues of oriental nature. The Park of Choisy (Parc de Choisy) contains a historical tree called the Liberty Tree (l’arbe de la liberté) which signifies the 1789 revolution, the plaque was replaced in 1945 after the occupation of France and liberation of Paris, on the other side of the tree locates a memorial of the Cambodian genocide led by Khamer Rouge from 1975 – 1979. I found this very impactful as the city tries its best to keep history alive, by reflecting on past mistakes and actions that continue to occur in modern times. Also within this Park is the George-Eastman Foundation which provides dental care to the children in the district. Porte de Choisy also has a connection to T3a which brings you right to Cite Universite, making it an excellent choice for food and travel for upcoming study abroad students. Porte de Choisy taught me about the ethnic diversity located in the 13th arrondissement, with this I found inexpensive eateries and a culture-rich district with supermarkets and paintings promoting Asian culture.

Maison Blanche

Historical insight/Personal Observation

This stop is named after an inn called “Maison Blanche” (White House), which was located on an old main road that led to Fontainebleau. A small village bore this name, formed a chapel dedicated to Saint-Marcel, which was rebuilt in 1853, in memory of a fallen general during the French Revolution of 1853. Located in the 13th arrondissement, this station was opened on March 7th,1930, as an extension of line 10. Transformed into an air raid refugee during World War II. I became a prototype anti-aircraft shelter that had been designed to block against gases. This station was chosen to become a refugee due to its location, it was saturated with working-class inhabitants in a densely populated area. Its protection lay within the doors of the metro station that was filled with airtight doors. During the time of erection, French newspaper articles claimed that it was the safest “shelter station” in the world. Some remaining doors are still in Maison Blanche, and since then, has adopted an Art Deco style with monogram “M”’s, blue ceramic metal plates, and geometric motifs since the 1940s.

This station was also a location of a terrorist attack that occurred on October 6th,1995, an Algerian Islamist Group (GIA) caused injuries to 18 people. This act of violence could have been linked to a protest regarding the arrest of Khaled Kelkal, a perpetrator of an RER B attack in Saint-Michel. Known for its historic past, sadly was tainted by a volient future. Feeling the effects of Porte de Choisy, Maison Blanche is also concerned to be the Asian Quater, right between Tolbiac and Porte d’italie, its oriental eateries are off the charts. 

Place Monge

Historical insight/Personal Observation

This stop is named after the great French mathematician, Gaspard Monge, who invented descriptive geometry. A geometry that is used in architecture and engineering. Opened on February 15th, 1930, formerly operated in line 10. Located in the 5th arrondissement, this stop internalizes the art and architecture of the Muslim culture. Muslims can be defined as followers of the Islamic faith and/or of Islamic ancestry. Similar to Porte de Choisy, Place Monge has been a place of immigration of followers of the Islamic faith, implementing their culture in the middle of the Parisian city, with a Mosque and a tiny cafe. The Great Mosque of Paris is one of the largest places in France that serves as a place of worship. The Great Mosque was built from 1922 -1926, right after World War I. Its architecture style which is  Spanish-Moorish embodies the beauty of the culture through its green rooftop and tall white walls. Covered with mosaics and hand-carved designs (the star) the mosque quickly became an eye-soar. Sitting on three acres of land, this mosque had a welcoming presence, that allowed a tour, so I could indulge in more about my knowledge surrounding the Islamic faith. Also located in Place Monge is a Moroccan Halal cafe called La Mosquée (The Mosque) which emphasizes the culture with amazing cuisine and a spectacular mint tea. Just like the Great Mosque the architecture and design transport you to an Arabian foreign city and submerges you into the culture. Place Monge is well known for its Jardin des Plantes ( Garden of Plants), 68 acres of undoubting knowledge of our world, dedicated to science. This green space has the Grand Gallery of Evolution, 23,500 species of plants, and 6 million dried references of species. It also contains a library, labyrinth, and a small zoo. Perfect place for a scientist like me to learn more clues about our natural world. 

Place Monge upon arriving is the heart of where the Islamic faith resides introducing their cuisine and culture here. Before this stop, I had little to no knowledge about this culture, only stigmatism surrounding it. I feel ashamed that the world gave an ugly name to such a beautiful culture. Especially one that created modern mathematics, even the stop was named after a French man, instead of one pertaining to Arabian origins, the father of algebra and trigonometry. Going to the Garden of Plants, made me fall in love more with my educational background and reinforced why I study so hard so that I can learn more about how the world goes round. Place Monge is the perfect place to enrich yourself with cultural diversity and scientific backgrounds.


Historical insight/Personal Observation

This stop is named after Place du Chatelet, a place named after the Grand Châtelet, a castle that was demolished by Napoleon in 1802. The castle was a northern approach to the Pont au Change between the Seine to Île de la Cité. The medieval term, ‘Châtelet’ meant a small castle that overlooks a bridge. This explains why this stop is facing the Seine. Opened on August 6th,1900, originally part of line 1 between Porte de Vincennes and Porte Maillot. It is ranked as the 9th busiest stop on the Metro line. Located in the center of medieval Paris, this station in the 1st arrondissement is one of the most affluent stops on metro line 7. Upon entering, lies a statue for Napoleon to commemorate his victories, displacing himself touching the sky. The Place du Chatelet contains a fountain, Fontaine du Palmier built in 1806. Napoleon built this fountain to provide free public water and recognize his victories within the Battles of; Ulm, Marengo, Lodi, and the Pyramids. There are also stone Sphinx statues to display his victory in Egypt. A couple of meters away lies the Tour de Saint Jacques, which is a green space that contains a gothic building. Built between 1509 – 1523, the building is the only remains of the Eglise Saint Jacques de la Boucherie ( Church of Saint James of the Butchery church) that was destroyed in 1797, (during the French Revolution of course). This church served as a refuge for pilgrims to the route of Spain, Santiago de Compostela. Standing at 52 meters high, located on Rue de Rivoli, a street named after the victory of Napoleon against the Austrians in the Battle of Rivoli.

Châtelet is a district that keeps the French culture alive by remembering the historical past, leaving behind Napoleon’s footprint. Restaurants and famous Bouquinistes facing the Seine, the Parisian lifestyle is savored in this district. I found myself instantly entranced by the calamity of the city as it starkly contrasts with the city life back in America. In this district, the past remains part of the present, the dead living among the living with pride and prestige as they should.

Pont Neuf 

Historical insight/Personal Observation

This stop is named after the Port that is located nearby, Pont Neuf, the oldest existing bridge in Paris. Opened on April 16th,1926, on the right bank of old Paris, it reverend the memory of the old minting factory. The station holds a surname ( La Monnaie) and is decorated with oversized old coins from the past to modern age monetary currencies. There is even an old coining press at the station. The Paris Mint is one of the oldest French institutions, created in the year 864 by King Charles the Bald. Located in the 6th arrondissement, La Monnaie is named because of its vicinity to Rue de la Monnaie, where the Paris mint was located, Hotel de la Monnaie, which was reconstructed in 1776, so this station pays tribute to the old mint. Now the Musée de la Monnaie de Paris can be found in Pont Neuf, keeping the memory of all mint press and is the location of the Établissment monétaire de Passac in Gironde, which opened in 1973. Focuses on repurposing metals, and art objects and forming collector currencies that can all be seen at the museum. Also facing the Seine, Pont Neuf is best known for its history, architecture, and bouquinistes, street vendors under green setups that sell antique books and magazines. Best known for making forbidden books accessible to the public. These green setups are all around the left bank and overlook the river, ensuring the French culture stays alive. Buying the original story of Romeo & Juliet from a bouquinist made my experience in France complete. Learning every day, something new is embedded in the streets of Paris. 

The Orginal Romeo & Juliet Copy Book . Photo by Saina Ysaac / CC BY 4.0

Porte de La Villette 

Historical insight/Personal Observation

This station is named after the Gallo-Roman village, Villette. In 1426 the village was remanded Villette-Saint-Miser-Lez-Paris, and in 1860 it became a part of Paris. 19th-century stone walls known as “century walls”, were called the Porte de la Villette. Opened on November 5th, 1910, located in the 19th arrondissement. In my opinion one of the poorest station on line 7. Even though it bears the presence of Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, the biggest science museum in Europe, located in the Parc de la Villette, opened in 1986. Originally the green space was used for cattle and abattoirs but was transformed into a Grande Halle, under the provisions of President Valery Giscard d’Estaing. This museum became the 5th most popular museum in Paris, with over 70 million people visiting since its opening. My experience with this line was the most impactful of them all, opening my eyes to homelessness. My experience was partly influenced by the time of day I visited the area, during the evening at around 6 pm. Walking down from Corentin Cariou, it instantly reminded me of Figueroa Street, notoriously known as “Skid Row” in Los Angeles, California. Long over the Atlantic Ocean, homelessness continues to follow even in the famous city in the world. The area should be labeled as a Red-Light district, as it is a very poverty-stricken area, walking along the streets there were mainly men. I presume they were in search of sex work, prostitution is not a surprise. What shocked me the most was the form of architecture, it was vastly different from the Haussmann Parisian style of the 1st and 4th arrondissements. The buildings seem to be fairly modern, built from the latest decade at least. I assume the reason for the new and modern buildings is to compensate for the overflowing majority of immigrants traveling to Paris, in hope of a new life. With an influx of people in the area, jobs become harder to find, which causes unemployment. This in return creates homelessness, I found small areas of slums filled with tents during my walk. I was absolutely surprised that not far from the biggest museum in Europe, is a group of people crying for change. This drastic change of opulence just by a cross of a street demonstrated to me that with great riches comes great debt.


Historical insight/Personal Observation

This stop is named after the Opéra Garnier/ Palais Garnier, which was built by Charles Garnier in 1875. This area is the heart of the district, Boulevard Haussmann. The station started in Line 3 on October 19th, 1904, lines 7 and 8 were later integrated by February of 1904. Line 7 officially opened on November 5th, 1910, the walls in the metro were initially Andreu-Motte style to be reincarnated as a Mouton-Duvernet style with a blue ceiling. But in 2007, this entire layout was removed when RATP – Renouveau du métro programme created a new standard. Located at the end of the Avenue de l’Opera, this area absolutely captures the Parisian culture. This stop is exactly how I imagined Paris to be. Near the Eiffel Tower is nice, but near the Palais is a MUST for all tourists to go. Fancy, opulence stores from Prada to Zara flooded the street front. Located near Pyramides and the Lovure, Opera carries a reputation that many cannot emulate, here the academy of music lies. Palais Garnier is an “Italian style” auditorium with a museum library, rehearsal studios, and public workshops. This historical monument can hold about 2054 observers, and bring half a million visitors each year. This is the prettiest stop on line 7 and is a complete contrast to Porte de la Villette. Opera is what I expected Paris to be, but Porte de la Villette is what Paris actually is in the background. Even in the midst of great beauty, I was reminded of the reality in the adjacent arrondissement.

Palais Garnier. Photo by Saina Ysaac / CC BY 4.0

La Courneuve – 8 Mai 1945

Historical insight/Personal Observation

La Cournerve is an old commune in Saint-Denis, that became the industrial capital of France in 1863. The date is symbolic of Victory in Europe Day (VE Day). This marked the end of World War II in Europe, after Hitler/ Germany’s surrender to the Allied Powers on Tuesday, May 8th, 1945. This station is the northernest stop and is marked on the north end on line 7. This station located in the arrondissement called Saint-Denis is an area that reminded me of Miami, with the beautiful colors on the buildings that surround it. Upon arriving I found a very large supermarket nearly 3 stories tall and modern buildings. I was instantly brought back to America with this stop. The area contains the least-known cemetery but is the largest in Paris at 1.07 square kilometers. There are nearly 100 World War I British veterans, and 68 German veterans. This station is also one of the lower-income areas on line 7, with an influx of immigrants but a beautiful diversity in ethnic backgrounds. I found plenty of oriental food options from Viatamesie to Indian cuisine here.


Historical insight/Personal Observation

Named after the Battle of Stalingrad, a battle that took place from 1942 – 1943, was the U.S.S.R (Russia) defense against the invading Nazis. This turned the tide against the Axis powers and a win for the Allied Powers, beginning the efforts for D-Day. This station first opened under the name of Rue d’Aubervilliers, as an extension of line 2. A separate station was opened under the name of Boulevard de la Villette, eventually merging creating Place de Stalingrad, it’s opening on October 12th,1942. Eventually being renamed Stalingrad in 1946. This station was built to celebrate the Soviet Union’s victory and is located near Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad ( the Battle Square of Stalingrad). This was formerly part of Boulevard de la Villette but was inaugurated on July 7th, 1945 for then “Place de Stalingrad”. This green space contains a monument in commemoration of the vicious bloody battle. Upon entering this district I was reminded of America, with its modern buildings and tattoo parlors that seemed to be at every corner. Along with frequent smoke shops, the area reminded me of small areas in Miami, where a fast culture is appreciated. Tattoos and drugs are the basis of any fast city, not a surprise to find them here in the 19th arrondissement of Paris. The essence of the area can be described with one word, “risqué”, even the graffiti that flooded the streets seemed to be part of a progressive moment, the art style differing from the others I have seen. Seemed to be a counterculture as a tidal effect of the political climate of the country. Nonetheless, it seemed to be a lower class area but captured the typical American new generation culture.

Villejuif- Paul Valliant-Couturier

Historical insight/Personal Observation

Named after a commune called “Villejuif” (Jewish Village), and the former mayor, Paul Vaillant-Couturier. Opened on February 28th, 1985, located in the 13th arrondissement, the station is decorated with white and orange ceramic titles, orange titles covering the tunnel exit stairs. This style is regarded as Motte, one of the most appealing architectural styles in line 7. Upon entering the station, it felt like I was in a rural part of America, somewhere out in the Northern Middle East states, especially with the soft cottages that surrounded the area. Villejuif is a slower suburban area outside the hectic city and reminded me of home, with a club, honing the name of my street name, “Forest Hill”. Most of the advertisements that surrounded the area were in English, describing that most of the inhabitants were either educated in speaking English or is known for a strong English presence. I even found a restaurant that was in all English, selling Parisian cuisine. Villejuif means Jewish Village, but just down the street was a Mosquée de Villejuif, how ironic! Within the district also lies a hospital, l’hopital Paul- Brousse, named after the socialist Paul Brousse. Finding a Pizza Hut plus an English-speaking restaurant made me feel right at home in this former Jewish commune village.

Forest Hill Club in Villejuif. Photo by Saina Ysaac / CC BY 4.0


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