A Little Bus Ride

Line 80 - from Provincal 15th to Revolutionary 18th

Paris:- Wednesday, 12. June 1996:- You see the big glassy tour buses all over the town all the time; there are even some double-deckers imported from Britain or Berlin, but for some reason or other, I have never been on one. I don't know why not.

When I rode around Paris day and night all month long I used to get an 'Orange Card,' which can be bought in all zonal combinations: from just the city itself, to the furthest out-lying suburbs. If you use public transport a lot in Paris, these are a good deal. The downtown two-zone one costs 230 francs, but I used to get the five-zone variation and that costs about $100 a month. However, the Orange Card permits unlimited travel on anything that rolls, and the convenience of not buying tickets and punching them, the convenience of not getting caught-out by controllers - makes them a fair deal.

The other deal that is better than the single-ticket price of seven francs fifty, that can be used without formality, is the 'carnet' - a handful of ten tickets for 44 francs - and if you just make five round-trips a week, these are cheaper than a two-zone Orange Card. All of Paris' local transport prices will go up on the first of July, and then a 'carnet' will cost 46 francs.

Not long ago, if you traveled more than so far on a city bus, you had to use two tickets - which was difficult to calculate because you had to be able to read complicated route maps inside the bus in order to figure out whether you needed one or two tickets. No more; with one ticket you can ride from one end of the line to the other. So, if you have a 'carnet,' a cross-town ride will set you back four francs forty - less than the price of a café and less than half the price of a small beer.

bus80.jpg (13k) Today I went down south to the 'city hall' of the 15th arrondissement, to catch RATP bus number 80 that runs from there to the 'city hall' of the 18th arrondissement, on the north side of Montmartre.

If you are going to ride the bus it is good if it is not too hot. Cool is good, and I think rain is better because the city glistens and you have time to look at it. Today, it is cool.

RATP's fleet of buses are mostly new. They have hydraulic suspensions, quiet motors and smoothly-shifting automatic transmissions. The buses are clean and have clean color schemes on the outsides. Some buses are extra-long with a joint in the middle and on these, you can get on and off at the rear sets of doors - but if you need to buy a ticket, you have to get on at the front.

The city hall of the 15th arrondissement, the sub-'Hôtel de Ville,' is fairly ordinary and the square in front of it is devoid of animation. It does not take long to look at and there is not much to see surrounding it either. This is odd, because it is right beside rue Lecourbe - a long street with a variety of action - maybe the Hôtel de Ville is facing the wrong way?

Bus number 80 pulls out, crosses rue Lecourbe and heads up La Croix Nivert towards the livelier north end of the 15th, and pulls a left at Cambronne, where the métro is elevated on Grenelle, and then turns right at avenue de la Motte Piquet where is passes from the 15th to the 7th arrondissement, going past the Ecole Militaire on one side with the Champ de Mars - the Tour Eiffel at the end - on the other side. As the bus makes the slight shift into avenue Bosquet, I notice that most of the passengers seem to be over the age of retirement - they have the time to ride the bus, I guess.

At the end of Bosquet, at the Pont d'Alma, there is a lot of traffic and there is more on the other side of the Seine too. It is the area of ritz as the bus proceeds up the avenue Montaigne past the Chanel shop, the Dior shop and then a zig-zag through the Rond-Point at the Champs-Elysées and into the avenue Matignon, which is almost as ritzy. I am mentioning this case anybody is thinking of doing a little shopping.

plclichy.jpg (14k) After some twisting around the bus is in the boulevard Haussmann until St. Lazare where it turns left into the rue de Rome, goes up to the Europe turn into the rue de Saint-Pétersbourg, which until recently was the rue de Leningrad; and from 1914 to 1945 it was named Pétrograd. In 1900 a future president of the republic, Alexandre Millerand (president from 1920 to 1924) lived at number 23, rue de Saint-Pétersbourg. There is really a lot of traffic at the top on the place de Clichy, which becomes boulevard de Clichy and which the bus leaves to enter the rue Caulaincourt, which winds up the west side of Montmartre and runs around the back, or north side.
Toulouse-Lautrec had an atelier at number 21 and Renoir lived at number 73 around 1910. Besides the hippodrome at number one, which became a cinema in 1907, skating-rink in 1909, and was transformed into a cinema again by Léon Gaumont with 3,400 seats in 1911, and replaced by a 5,000-seater in 1931 - the largest in Europe - but finally demolished in 1973; the rue Caulaincourt has not much history but is an extremely pleasant street for strolling.

After winding around to the back, the bus drops down the north slope on the rue du Mont-Cenis and the city hall of the 18th arrondissement stands there on rue Ordener, which is the end of the line.

mairie18.jpg (18k) The Mairie is flying a banner that announces the 125th anniversary of the Paris Commune, which lasted for 68 days in 1871. This followed the France-Prussian War and the four-month siege of Paris by the Prussians. As the countryside longed for peace, the Parisians decided to fight with a citizen army, and formed the 'Central Republican Committee for the National Defense of the 20 Arrondissements.' The central government signed the armistice on 28. January 1871, and elections were held that gave provincial supporters of peace - and the onerous terms of surrender - the majority. The pay of the 'Garde Nationale,' formed for the defense of Paris by Parisians, was stopped and rent controls were relaxed.
On 18. March, the central government decided to take control of the cannons placed on Montmartre and the Buttes-Chaument - that had been paid for by popular subscriptions in Paris, launched by Victor Hugo. The soldiers were convinced by the defenders of Montmartre to change sides and they shot two of their own generals. The central government fled to Versailles and Parisians took control of the city, with the only casualties being the two generals.

The press was freed of censorship and elections were held in the city on 26. March. Many of the upper and middle classes had fled, and of the 85 elected to the 'Commune,' 19 moderates refused to take their seats. The rest formed the Council of the Commune, which was both the city government and the anti-national government. While characterized by the central government as insurrectionists, the Commune instituted many reforms and liberties that we take for granted today.

On Sunday, 21. May, troops from Versailles gained entry to Paris and recaptured the city, leaving an estimated 30,000 dead. Battles were fought and lost in the Père Lachaise cemetery on the 27th and the final barricade fell on the 28th in the rue Ramponneau. This was followed by hate, imprisonment and mass deportations to New Caledonia. Paradoxically, the monarchy soon fell and the first socialist party appeared on the scene in 1879 and a general amnesty was declared the following year.

This is more than I usually get on a 45-minute bus ride. In the town where I come from, the only battles fought in 1871 were between squirrels and birds - and today, after looking at the modest little exposition in the Mairie of the 18th, has made me think that there has been more violent history in the last 125 years than in all the years that came before.


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