Before the Paris metro, there was “La Petite Ceinture” or little belt. Its tracks encircle what was the 19th century Paris, and have been shut down since the mid 80’s. Having been built in between the city’s forts, it has been kept isolated, allowing nature to slowly reclaim the space to make it, what is now, a beautiful green inner city railway.
This is one of those “known” secrets of Paris. Given that the rails mostly run within an open space, tourists and locals walk past it constantly, but the question always remains on how to get down. Now there are a few areas open to the public (15th, 17th and 19th Arr.), but what interests all the explorers out there is getting down to the “untouched” areas.
My favourite spot is down on the 14th Arrondisement. Between Porte d’Orleans and Alesia you’ll find several bridges that look down into the rails, but don’t worry, just a little walk next to the fence and you’ll find a little DIY door from which you’ll be able to go down.
Ideal for urban explorers and graffiti artist, you’ll find yourself in a whole different world at the heart of Paris, forgetting that right above you a hectic big city lifestyle is still going on.
I spent countless hours during my first year here looking for the entrance to this one spot, figuring out whether there was a way to go down and if I was courageous enough to do so. Until finally a few months ago I decided to go explore with one of my roommates. Turned out getting down was not that hard, leaving “La Petite Ceinture” as one of my favourite places to go, especially for photoshoots.
There is a pretty cool atmosphere being down there. You bump into all sorts of people: photographers, models, musicians, tag artists, tourists etc., that are all really friendly and at ease with each other. I guess knowing that we’re all in on this “secret” makes you part of this really interesting thing, which I had never came across in Paris. There’s a bit of a community that is built as more and more people bump into each other. And although we are all essentially there to do our own thing, chatting with others or just hanging out doesn’t feel awkward at all.
If you’re ever in Paris for any given reason or you live here, don’t hesitate on trying this little adventure out!
Usually Sundays are really calm for most of us, but the way in which people spend said day obviously changes from country to country.
In Mexico, Sundays are probably one of the busiest days if you go to a mall, a restaurant, or the supermarket. People take advantage of it to do the things they don’t get a chance to during the week. They treat themselves to a nice meal, or a movie, a little bit of shopping or simply a day out in the countryside. Thus, you have to be really strategic about what you do, and the times you choose to do so.
In my family, Sundays usually meant visiting family outside of the city, and to be honest I loved it, because as I said if you stayed in the city, it would’ve probably been super busy. I knew what to expect on Sundays, and there was always something to do. We had options, and not just for entertainment. If I ever happened to forget something for my homework or buying whatever it was I needed for a project on Monday, I knew there would be something opened. However, the whole concept changed as soon as I moved to France.
Here, Sunday is the most relaxed day of the week. So much so that nothing’s open. If you walk around Paris, the only things you’ll find open will be cafes and a few restaurants and clothing stores. Other than that, it pretty much feels like a deserted city.
To me, this was the weirdest and most confusing thing ever, and it meant I had to be really organized with my food shopping and other activities.
Normally back in Mexico, we bought food for the house on Sundays, which I cannot longer do here, and don’t even get me started on emergencies. If you ever forget to do anything important on Saturdays, you are pretty much screwed. Even the most random and unpredictable things like getting sick are a struggle on Sundays, pharmacies are closed and hospitals have a limited number of staff working that day.
Now don’t get me wrong, it is nice to have a peaceful and quiet city for a day, especially in the mornings. It always amazes me how much silence there is as I wake up on a Sunday, compared to the rest of the week where you can start hearing people walking, children talking and cars as early as six in the morning.
It is a nice contrast though, and a good change from time to time. I definitely miss not having to worry about whether things would be open or not when I needed them to be, but aside from that, Sundays are still just a day to relax.
How often do you just stop and look around you? Are you are a part of those who are constantly analysing? Wondering what the guy in the front is listening to, or why the lady across the street is trying to avoid any human contact at all costs?
Now don’t get me wrong, I am fully aware that there are some places where doing this might not be ideal. A restaurant for example, because let’s be honest here, no one likes to be watched eating. But nonetheless, me, being a part of this group of people, I can’t help but feel amazed by those surrounding me whether I’m at the mall, the park, a store or the metro. Living in Paris though, this isn’t necessarily the best trait of personality one can have.
See the thing is Paris, as most big cities, comes with a set of unspoken rules. Rules no one tells you about before coming, but that you acknowledge the more time you spend here. And probably the biggest one out of them all is: DON’T STARE. I’m serious, for some reason, Parisians feel really uncomfortable when they make eye contact with somebody. So needless to say, because of this the metro ends up being quite an interesting experience.
Out of all the places in Paris, the metro is probably the one with the most unspoken rules:
Among all of these, you should always keep in mind the whole not staring thing. Looking at the others in the metro it’s a particularly awkward situation. But allow me let you in on a little secret: if you do it for long enough, something changes.
People are just afraid of what others are thinking of them, which is completely normal. But at the end of the day, metro journeys can be quite boring. Which is why, I gave up on such rule pretty early on after moving here. There’s also the fact that back home, people don’t really care if you look at them and might actually smile back most of the time, so I find it really amusing now, watching the different stages people go through after they realize I won’t look away.
It usually starts with a really awkward/angry stare, that then goes into a confusing glare, ending on them realising nothing actually happens if you maintain eye contact with an other human being. Now there are obviously different reactions depending on the person, time of the day, etc. But at the end of the day, who doesn’t like to be noticed? Imagining the story behind the mask it’s all part of the fun isn’t it?
So, if you’re planning on coming to Paris, but feel intimidated by the stories of how everyone’s in their own world, keep in mind that we are all curious to look around, but most Parisians don’t dare.