The first time I took the métro, I didn’t pay attention to the entrance. I’m pretty sure I was holding my mother’s hand and she told me to watch my steps when we walked down into the bowels of the earth. As I related in one of the “moments” in my book, I mostly remember the poinçonneur punching a hole in our tickets and the pile of confetti at his feet. So, no; sorry to disappoint. This is not a story about my falling in love with Art Nouveau when I was six years old. I’m not even sure I appreciated the beauty of the métro when I was a student and used it every single day. At that time, it was just a transit option, a convenient way to get from Point A to Point B –unless there was une grève, of course. With a one hour commute and classes starting at 8 AM sharp, I didn’t have the luxury of spending an extra five minutes to decide whether I really liked Guimard’s “style nouille.”
The first métro line (Porte Maillot to Porte de Vincennes) opened in 1900 and Hector Guimard had been commissioned to design the entranceways. Their purpose was mainly to prevent people from falling down a large opening in the sidewalk! But Guimard also made them beautiful and uniquely recognizable. A century later, the large majority of the métro entrances still harbor that very familiar and inviting Art Nouveau look. But time didn’t stand still: as the métro network continued to develop, new stations were added, and sometimes it made sense to locate the entrance inside an existing structure. They may not show that classic Guimard style but I like to be surprised and some of them are actually quite beautiful. Here are a few examples I photographed as I walked in the city.
Please comment and let me know which other atypical métro entrances you’ve encountered: I’ll try to take photos of them on future trips and add them to this post.
Le poinçonneur: the ticket agent who punches a hole in your ticket before they had magnetic stripes or chips; he usually sat in front of the platform entrance.
La grève: a strike, aka the French national pastime… kidding, just kidding.
Le style nouille: noodle style, a somewhat pejorative way to describe Art Nouveau