Michelle Puentes: Paris 2022

Over under Paris Project

Exploring every area of Paris was a life changing journey, viewing new worlds and being exposed to different topics. With a Navigo card and nearby metro station, the world is your oyster. Being able to travel to over 300 stations, with 205 km of lines and 16 different lines, any place of Paris is within your reach. With short travel time between stations, every Miami resident’s dream of avoiding dreadful traffic is real. Truly, I fell in love with public transportation, and as much as the cons are real, it doesn’t compare to the costly maintenance and hassle of owning a car. With this fun new experience, I was able to discover so many more hidden jewels of Paris, and learned how to adapt to the real world with leaving my bubble of comfort inside a car.  

Exploring Metro Line 7, there is more in depth of what each station has to offer, and in each lies rich history that connects all of them as a result. 

The Ligne 7 is one of the longest lines in Paris’s metro network. Having opened in 1910, it is the third most used line and is one of the only two lines that has a branch. It runs for 12 miles and has 38 stations, starting at Maison Blanche and terminating at Villejuif – Louis Aragon or Mairie d’Ivry. It passes through several essential spots, including the Opera Garnier, the Parc de la Vilette, the Latin Quarter, and the Place d’Italie. Choosing this metro line, I was very impacted by the astonishing art Paris has, and will describe the unique feeling and ambience each one gave me

1. Chatelet

Ascending towards the top from the escalators, I was presented a busy, interactive shopping center where people from different cultures and backgrounds all rushed with their weekend activities. A very live ambience, I walked towards the nearest architectural piece and discovered this. 

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Known as the Fontaine des Innocents, it was constructed by Pierre Lescot and Jean Goujon in 1547 to 1550. Commissioned by King Henry II, it was created for his royal entry into Paris in 1549. It served as a fountain and grand standing platform for the local famous, and had a stairway to the upper level where officials stood to greet the king. After the Second French Empire of Louis Napoleon, the fountain became a modest pedestal in the square, pouring water from six basins. Once being a royal gateway for one of France’s King, it now is the pretty view for pedestrians resting and sitting around the sculpture, some street musicians preparing nearby and others enjoying their time.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Approaching the Westfield Forum des Halles, an immense gold wave surrounds you as you walk through the mall. It is a huge underground shopping center and also connects RER A and RER B. In 2004, the major of Paris launched a competition between 4 architectural agencies to redesign the popular shopping mall. Patrick Mangin won, proposing a canopy shaped roof that would border a garden. The architects Patrick Berger and Jacques Anziutti were chosen to design it and developed a horizontal visual continuity between Bourse du Commerce and the Pompidou Center. Viewing it, your eyes travel everywhere around the roof, and the sunlight shimmers down on you, making you feel as if you are under a golden wave. 

2. Pont Neuf

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Arriving at Pont Neuf metro station, a display of the Monnaie de Paris is seen immediately getting off the metro, where it commemorates the French Mint. The wall collects large scale reproductions of several coins over the centuries, some even going on the roof. Behind it’s history, the Paris Mint was founded in 864 A.C by King Charles the Bald, and is the oldest official institution in France. Being more than 1,150 years old, it is also the oldest operating mint institution in the world. 

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Exiting the station, the oldest standing bridge in Paris greets you at the metro station of Pont Neuf. The blue sky tints the Senine River green, and the beige bridge contrasts beautifully against the waters. Nearby, there are many luxury stores and cafes, being a highly commercialized area styled in Paris’s classic Haussmannian architecture. 

Nearby Pont Neuf stands Saint Germain des Pres church, and entering inside was a different experience than any other church in Paris. Welcomed by a melancholic organ, the stained glasses shone deep purple and pink colors with gold adornments surrounding it. But truly, the music brought the ambience to the church, giving a feeling of guilt and sadness, as if one must immediately repent of everything.  

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

3. Palais du Royal

The entrance of the metro station is in style of Art Noveau, similar to other metro stations of Line 7. 

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

First entering, it is a busy commercialized street filled with tourists, all heading towards the Louvre museum. But near the streets of the museum that holds the most prestigious art in the world, there are also art pieces nearby that are just as dazzling. Nearby the Conseil D’Etat lies a contemporary art piece named Le Kiosque des noctambules. With beaming bubbles of bursting colors, it lights up the metro entrance in a exotic way with it’s contemporary art touch. The dome overhanging from the staircase is made of pearls in warm tones of yellow, white and red, representing day. The other half has cool tones, with shades of blue, white, yellow and purple, representing night. Just as Paris bursts in the day time with heavy movement of tourists visiting the museums and Parisians going to work, the nightlife is equally intense with tourists going to bars and Parisians socializing outside the streets. Viewing the artwork made me feel as if in a contemporary art museum in Miami, with the aluminum metal in form of balloons seeming inspired by Jeff Koons Balloon Dog. Reflecting the growing contemporary art movement in Paris, it predicts the growing art movement of inspiration from everyday objects such as beads and balloons becoming the new Mona Lisa

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

4. Pyramides

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Continuing along the streets of Palais du Royal, one encounters more shops and restaurants along the beautiful Haussmannian architecture, seeing open streets that spread out to famous landmarks. Right in the center of Place des Pyramides, a glorious gold painted sculpture of Joan of Arc on a elegant horse is seen. Sculpted by Emmanuel Fremiet, the statue was commissioned by the French government after a defeat in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War, and chose a symbol of pride and hope in a national heroine. However, the sculpture itself has an unknown history, not being the original inaugurated statue of 1874. Fremiet had sculpted a second version for the city of Nancy, but had modified the horse during the replication. Having an opportunity to replace it in 1898 during the construction of the metro, he removed it and remade it, covering it in golden patina to conceal the new change. 

France’s most famous heroine stands tall and proud, being recognized for her true courage and devotion to France during the Hundred Years War. She is seen raising a flag high, and stands in a bold position, with her chest puffing out and her stance taking a firm position. The horse lifts it’s hooves as it walks, showing lively movement as if it were real. The 13 foot statue leaves a marking impression, as it lights up the center of Place des Pyramides with it’s glimmering gold color and alive movement in motion. Standing upon a pink and sand colored marble, one’s eyes dances all over the sculpture, admiring France’s heroine. 

5. Opera

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Walking along Rue (search up), the grandeur sea green dome adorned with golden statues greets you as one approaches. The magnificent building known as the Opera Garnier, it’s detailed neoclassical architecture and styled statues at every corner leaves you wondering what could be inside. Built during the rule of Emperor Napolean III, it was commissioned as part of his plan to reconstruct Paris, creating a competition to who could design it best. Charles Garnier, a young, unknown architect, took the prize and created a Neo-Baroque masterpiece that is now highly praised across the world. 

Standing at 184 feet from the ground, Opera Garnier is a spectacular sight with its eclectic style of mixed elements from Baroque, Rennaissance, and (classism). The corner of the entrances portray two glided sculptures, L’Harmonie and La Poesie. and the middle portrays a group of sculptures, called Apollo, Poetry and Music. The words “Academie Nationale de Musique” are displayed across, showing Paris’s love for the arts and rich culture and history. One can only feel immensely overwhelmed by the grandeur beauty of the palace, with the interior being more beautiful than one can ever imagine. 

6. Cadet

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

This metro stop hosts nearby Paris’s Freemasonry museum, showing it’s symbols, grades, documents and objects over time from France. Although closed at the time I arrived, I was interested in adding this museum to visit next time because of Masonry’s role in supporting the American Revolution. Benjamin Franklin being a member of the Loge des Neuf Soeurs, the lodge founded in 1776 was devoted to spreading the Enlightment ideas and developing revolutionary ideals. The name Neuf Soeurs refers to the classic nine goddesses that rule over arts and sciences. Benjamin Franklin was the second Worshipful Master, and inherited the Masonic apron belonging to Helvetius and then Voltaire. The museum hosts this important historical item, along with Lafayette’s masonic sword and James Anderson’s first edition of Constitutions of the Free Masons. 

7.Le Peletier

Another busy intersecting street, a lot of road work is seen as one attempts to cross the streets. However nearby, an interesting church is seen across, and hosts a peculiar interior that was a stun to many when it first opened. As one enters, you feel immediately as if in a Greek temple, overwhelmed by the striking neoclassical ceiling. The gold geometric outlines striking against the black background, the flawless symmetry of the neoclassical art piece immediately makes one feel under stringent rule and law. The four conrners of each church has magnificent domes, letting light in from a small circle, creating a heavenly appeal. 

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

However there was a stark contrast between two domes, which were right across from each other. Entering the first dome, it was an entire square painted over in black, with only one painting slightly emerging. The only vivid painting among the walls was one of Mary laying Jesus down after he was crucified, giving a deep, melancholic sorrow.

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

The rest of the wall seemed to be painted over in black, with a slightly visible painting under. It is not known why this particular corner resides so dark, but it could be interpreted as first walking through one’s dark sins, where we can only see Mary weeping for her child amongst the black walls. Walking straight towards the next dome however, an astonishing sight is seen. Bright shades of pink, green, blue and yellow burst through the walls, as the light illuminating from above enhances its beauty even more. Paintings exemplifying the life of Mary are seen, as she radiates warmth and kindness amongst the golden background. Viewing this sight from a distance, it seems like the light at the end of a dark tunnel. Hope arises as one gets closer to the magnificent, intense colored dome. 

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

8. Poissonniere

Walking off this metro station, one can encounter a perfectly small green space a few minutes from walking distance. Square Motholon is at one’s sight, as the small square along the 9th arrondissement contains two terraces surrounded by a Louis-Phillippe style fence. Within it’s past history, a fountain with a bronze sculpture once existed in the center, but was taken down and melted during Nazi occupation in 1941. A upsetting fate, there now resides another artpiece that commemorates womens’ efforts. A marble statue group created by Lorueix in 1925,  La Sainte-Catherine serves as a tribute to female workers near the quarter. 

There are four women and one girl seen in the sculpture, as the artist shows live movement and energy through the women’s drastic positions. A group of strong women marching forward, the stepping stone towards recognizing women’s labor and capabilities in the 20th century is through this wonderful art piece in Square Motholon. 

9. Gare del Est

Getting off Gare del Est, I discovered a special map that I had not noticed in detail. Nearby the metro stops, maps showing everything within 5 min walking distances were present. A hidden hack discovered too late, I was glad to at least know essential maps like these exist. Helping me discover new gems while visiting my stops, I found myself stumbling upon a usual Gothic entrance at the feet of Eglise Saint Laurent.

 

However, this one had a particular twist. The front façade of the entrance to the church contained Egyptian influence, depicting the humans  in a flat dimension. Different from the typical emerging three dimensional movement of Gothic and Baroque art, the emperors, priests and common people were depicted as if in an Egyptian wall. Another unique feature was the bright, pastel colors, which is quite different to the traditional muted colors of Catholic paintings. Contrasted to the popping sculptures around the edges of the entrance, the eclectic painting of flat dimensioned subjects gave life to the front entrance with it’s bright colors and lively style. 

10. Stalingrad

A circular architecture is seen above the 19th arrondissement of Paris.  A bursting, multicultural place in Paris, one can find many low cost shops and restaurants in this area. The square was named Place de la Bataille de Stalingrad after one of the major battles of World War II. It was named as such in 1945 and was a bus terminal. Later on, it was renovated in 2006 and became a pedestrian square with a fountain and restaurants. The interesting building is now a restaurant, but is quite interesting to be welcomed by a Greek influenced entrance with columns and pillars making one seem as if entering a Greek temple. 

Photographed by Michelle Puentes CC by 4.0

Citations:

BEAUMONT, Franck. “Canopée Architectes Patrick Berger Jacques Anziutti.” Paris Promeneurs – Decouvrir L’architecture Et L’histoire De Paris, 9 Jan. 2022, paris-promeneurs.com/le-forum-des-halles-la-canopee/. 

EUtouring.com. “Square Montholon in Paris.” Square Montholon in Paris France, http://www.eutouring.com/square_montholon.html. 

“Fontaine Des Innocents.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Mar. 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fontaine_des_Innocents. 

Gjertson, Stephen. “The Paris Opéra: Charles Garnier’s Opulent Architectural Masterpiece.” Stephen Gjertson Galleries, 24 May 2019, stephengjertsongalleries.com/the-paris-opera-charles-garnier%e2%80%99s-opulent-architectural-masterpiece/. 

“History of the Paris Metro:  Hotel Des Mines.” Hotel Des Mines, http://www.hotel-desmines-paris.com/news/articles/history-of-the-paris-metro-25818. 

“Jeanne D’Arc (Frémiet).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 28 Apr. 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeanne_d%27Arc_(Fr%C3%A9miet). 

Kevin MercierMy dream is to become a full-time travel blogger; I’ve been building this dream for the past 5 years now. But for now. “Notre-Dame De Lorette – Paris Hidden Gems.” Kevmrc.com, 25 Feb. 2022, http://www.kevmrc.com/notre-dame-de-lorette-paris. 

“Le Kiosque Des Noctambules.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 15 Dec. 2021, fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Le_Kiosque_des_noctambules. 

“Lodge of the Nine Sisters.” FREEMASONRY.network, freemasonry.network/masonry-in-the-world/famous-lodge/lodge-of-the-nine-sisters/. 

“Monnaie De Paris.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 20 July 2022, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Monnaie_de_Paris#cite_note-Monnaie-1150-1. 

“Pont-Neuf Metro Station, a Decor Dedicated to the Paris Mint.” Travel France Online, 18 June 2021, http://www.travelfranceonline.com/pont-neuf-metro-station-a-decor-dedicated-to-the-paris-mint/. 

“Visit the Palais Garnier.” Opéra National De Paris, http://www.operadeparis.fr/en/visits/palais-garnier. 

Author: mpuen017

Michelle Puentes is a sophomore student pursing a double degree in Art and Psychology with a Certification in Italian Language at Florida International University. She loves to explore and travel, learn new languages, draw and paint, play guitar and serve in her church. She aspires to become an art therapist for children with emotional or physical struggles, and wants to travel around the world to immerse in different lifestyles and appreciate the art and cuisine.

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