myself in the alternate universe known as the Paris Metro.
The pulse of Paris can always be found right here.
As much as I adore vast open spaces, green trees and colorful gardens, monumental architecture and world-class art, I have come to appreciate
the underground gold mine of the Paris Metro.
Best known for their gorgeous Art Nouveau entrances and efficient service,
the Metro is sometimes avoided by travelers who equate it with drab, unseemly,
even a bit scrubby -- not what you're looking for in très chic Paris.
The Metro is one of the best places to discover the personality of Paris and Parisians.
From fashion chic to fashion faux pas, the entertainment is endless.
Hair trends, body decoration of all manner and curious faces await you.
And the SHOES!
There's probably no better stage to get your fill of fabulous footwear.
Imelda Marcos would have found solace here.
Then there are the publicity posters. You can find the next big thing in theater tickets, language and business schools, concerts, plumbing or underwear by studying these graphic billboards.
Have you ever seen so many sexy images? Don Draper would approve.
Old Guard conservative right next to scrappy bohemian. Ho ho, what fun!
France unfolds before your eyes. The world, in fact, is here in all its glorious shades,
every nation seemingly represented.
It's also fun to try to figure out what everyone is reading, whether in the form of studious schoolbooks, lurid novels, graphic magazines or smart-phone messaging.
It pays to snoop in the Metro.
Nancy Drew would feel at home here.
But what about those ugly orange Metro chairs. Yuck!
I guess it's good to know one facet of Paris that isn't "just so". I'd love to know what they were thinking....
Where is Philippe Starck when you need him?
Did you know that the Metro's legal musicians (not the ones that jump from train to train,
hands out hoping for tips) compete in try-outs for an official license to perform?
The RATP organizes auditions for real performers, rewarding those with the best musical chops. They award only 300 permits a year. Playing the Metro is akin to playing to a stadium crowd. With 4.5 million riders a day at over 300 stations, the enhanced acoustics and monetary opportunities offer new musicians something to sing about.
Bluesy American artist Ben Harper was once one of these "unknown" performers.
Not a bad place to jump-start your career.
Plenty of buskers perform, too. Some are talented; others are not -- but it certainly keeps things interesting. Will American programmers one day "discover" the reality tv possibilities
that exist here? Think of the potential -- you'd get singing, dancing, dating, making out, arguing, lecturing, sleeping and eating all in one show. It's America's (France's) Got Talent mixed with Cops and a little Project Runway... oh what a horrible idea....
I didn't care for them at first, preferring the old fashioned open window operated by a real person who could never understand my request for "deux carnets s'il vous plait".
Once you get the hang of the automated thingamabobs, you'll find them very helpful.
And it's always fun to offer a helping hand to someone else who is struggling to figure it out.
And for those who don't buy the tickets, preferring to jam themselves through the same turnstile you go through, well, that's another story for "back home."
Sometimes you'll even witness a jackrabbit jumping the revolving turnstile,
enjoying their little act of thievery.
in effect a prettified version of the real thing.
The stations looked almost misty, bathed in an attractive hue.
Remember the gorgeous double staircase featured outside the Lamarck-Caulaincourt station? Just after seeing the movie, I went in search of it and wasn't disappointed.
I didn't find as many diversions as Amélie, but definitely found it
worth the effort and discovered new streets all around.
That's the thing about Paris, often when you look for one thing, you find another.
I'll admit, the real deal is sometimes a pain, too many stairs, too many pickpockets, too many people and too much noise. But there is charm here too, if you look for it.
With over 133 miles of track, the opportunity for exciting new venues have creative types buzzing about new ideas to enhance the Paris mystique.
Proposals for subterranean swimming pools and nightclubs are being bandied about in an effort to use old abandoned stations for more noteworthy, très distingué operations.
What fun that would be, just one more reason to cultivate a taste for all things Paris.
So the next time you want to go from, say, the 1st arrondissement to the 12th, take the Metro.
It will put a smile on your face.