A metro-ode to Paris transport history

IMG_2203So I’m a woman and therefore allowed to change my mind as often as I want. Now before you menfolk start rolling your eyes, I’m sure you’ll thank me for this happy affliction. This post was originally intended to be about where to find the most delicious seasonal tucker in the cutest streets of Paris, but that can sit for another day. This is France after all, and if you can’t find decent food around the place then you probably don’t deserve to have taste buds.

IMG_2207Instead I found a hidden gem, completely unrelated to Christmas (which let’s face it, begins to grate like nails down a chalkboard after a while). It came about as I was snaking my way through the city on the metro, forced underground by the chilly drizzle. As the train ambled into my home station, a flash of vintage colour caught my eye – unusual given that the platform is currently under construction and therefore a bloody mess. But underneath the layers of grime twinkled forgotten memories of the past, that practically begged for further investigation.

IMG_2217See, my station Marcadet-Poissonniers actually used to be separated in two, with unconnected stops at Marcadet on line 4 and Poissonniers on line 12 (christened after the above-ground roads which bear their names), that were eventually connected to form the twin station in 1931. As a result, in a bit of a bodge job, the old single-titled platforms had to be renovated and the old signage hastily covered up to make room for the new, swanky double-barrelled name. Forget removing the old and replacing with new, the out-of-date tiles and hoardings were simply boarded up.

IMG_2211Recently though, as renovations have started (and we’re just talking on the platform of line 12 here for the time being), all of that framework has been taken down and the old (albeit crusted with years of dust) glory revealed once again. And not just the old ‘Poissonniers’ tiling either, there are old advertising posters and official information notices that have remained hidden for all these years. There’s even a list of ghost metro stations that didn’t quite stand the test of time.

IMG_2213It’s at this time of year we all have a tendency to scratch back through the year’s calendar and reflect on the past, and it was an awesome vintage treat to see Paris revealing its bygone layers in a similar way. There were old holiday posters, flyers for concerts past, adverts for cars once modern, now classic, and official literature produced by RATP typists of yore, sadly all ripped and half-fallen, but still bathed in the vibrant colours and archaic print of the era.

IMG_2216It’s hard to know exactly when they were pasted for the eyes of commuters gone by, but the tiling certainly dates back from the 30s and the advertising has a distinctive 50s artistic flair. Some of the stations on the closed list met their end as early as 1939, and those that reopened didn’t feel commuter footsteps again until the late 60s.

IMG_2208I’m harbouring a wish that a bit of spit and polish will bring the old decor back to its original splendour, but it’s likely that given the presence of the antiquated station title signage, it’ll be a case of tear it down and start afresh. For the moment, I get to hop off the metro and into a glorious time warp, reminding me that this transport system that is so easy to take for granted has a colourful, event-filled past just like the rest of us. If you happen to be in the ‘hood in the next few weeks yourself, I hope you’ll take this rare trip down metro memory lane too.


The art of the underground

Kimwinnogrand1Last week was a busy one in Granny Flat HQ, so apologies for the delayed post. But there are two very good reasons for this. Last week’s major time-sucker was a stunning two-for-one bonus showing of ‘My First Migraine‘, enjoyed in complete surround sound with a team of hammer-and-drill-wielding builders who went to town renovating the façade of my building as if their lives depended on it. Secondly I’ve been distracted by a new cream-topped yoghurt dessert with a salted caramel butter centre that’s just appeared in my supermarket, akin to liquid gold on a spoon. It’s been a roller coaster week.

Kimwinoogrand4So I’ve been depending on the metro more than usual to save time, rather than tackling the hour long walk from work to home that I like to indulge in to keep me ol’ buns in check. Regular travellers through the bowels of the city know you’ve got a few socially acceptable options available to you whilst you pass the time holed up in your carriage. Read, snooze, listen to thumping tunes and to hell with the other passengers, examine your fingernails… i.e. any activity that promotes avoiding the ultimate public transport sin – making eye contact with your fellow commuters.

Kimwinnogrand2But hurrah! Rather than depending on staring at inane adverts for stuff you don’t want or need as you wait patiently at various stations along your route, RATP (those public transport dudes who like striking) have brought the culture underground and provided us with a magnificent black and white photo exhibition to look at, which started in mid-October and lasts all the way until February 8, 2015.


The art is on display in the following stations

A retrospective of the American photographer Garry Winogrand (1928-1984) and put together in association with the Jeu de Paume, 16 stations around the city display huge billboards of his famous photographs on their platforms, depicting life on the street of 1960s America (check out the map to see exactly where). It’s the 4th time Paris’ major transport organisation have exhibited throughout their transport network since 2013.

You’ll come across curly-haired, pointy glasses-wearing dames gossiping in the street, a smiling President Kennedy unaware of what the near future would hold, trilby-sporting commuters on their way to a Mad Men style day at work, and a monkey in a Cadillac (probably) cruising down the strip, amongst other vintage delights. It might be a world away from Paris, but it sure beats staring at the used chewing gum on the metro floor.

For more info, direct your mouse here.