A Practical Solution
THE PARIS METRO HAS an endless fascination for me. It makes up part of the superb public transport system that threads its way into the remotest corners of this city – but more than that, most of the Paris Metro system has character.
Take the Metro station Passy in the XVI arrondissement that I visited on Saturday.
Sounds at Passy Metro Station:
Whilst most of the Paris Metro system is underground, a good part of it is actually above ground – and in some cases, a considerable way above ground.
The Metro station Passy, on Line 6, stands two-thirds of the way up the hill that sweeps up from La Seine at the bottom to the Place de Costa Rica at the top. Whichever way you approach the Metro station you either have to walk down the hill or, much more disconcertingly, walk up it.
Passy of course sits alongside Auteil and Neuilly as the three richest neighbourhoods in and around Paris. To live in Neuilly, Auteil or Passy qualifies one to be known as a NAP – not always a badge of distinction!
But living in a rich neighbourhood does have its advantages – like the escalator that runs alongside the steps up to the Metro station.
Building a Metro station two-thirds of the way up a hill is, it has to be said, a touch inconvenient when the next stop on the line is on the other side of La Seine!
This was only a minor inconvenience though for Fulgence Bienvenûe, the one-armed railway engineer and Father of the Métropolitan. He simply decided to take his Metro Line 6 not only over La Seine – but over the bridge, known today as the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, as well.
A walk across the Pont de Bir-Hakeim above La Seine and under ironwork of Line 6 provides a splendid view of the river.
But the view from riding high in the sky in a Metro train over La Seine has to qualify this part of Line 6 as one of the most spectacular Metro rides in the world.
Looking back towards Passy from the Pont de Bir-Hakeim, the structure that carries Line 6 seems to pierce the very heart of one of the richest neighbourhoods of Paris. There is a real juxtaposition between the elegant belle-époque architecture of the buildings and the functionality of the Metro line – Fulgence Bienvenûe’s practical solution to an engineering problem – which has it’s own elegance. Somehow, it seems to work.
One wonders what Benjamin Franklin, Claude Debussy, Honoré de Balzac, Georges Clemenceau or James Joyce – all one-time inhabitants of Passy – would have to say about it.