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I swear Line 11 is the fastest of all the Paris Métro lines.
When I make this claim aloud, I am met with expressions of disbelief on the one hand and silent knowing nods on the other. I make eye contact with the nodders. We know.
I’ve spent a lot of time riding the Paris Métro and I stand by my statement that riding Line 11 is an experience unto itself.
Taking the Paris Métro offers up a multitude of experiences some pleasant, such as discovering designer métro stations, enjoying the efforts of an unexpected busker, and gaining a sense of navigating Paris. Other experiences such as the intense crowds, the ever-increasing number of homeless people taking refuge, and climbing endless stairs with a suitcase in hand are not so enjoyable.
I know more than one Parisian that refuses to ever use the Métro.
My preferred way to get around Paris is on foot. This might entail a brisk (not really part of the Parisian culture) walk to meet a friend but more often than not I choose to flâner, a very French way of being. A Velib, one of the bicycle rental systems, is another efficient way to get from Point A to Point B and, of course, the Paris Métro.
Since moving to Belleville, I’ve become a regular on Line 11. It pulls into my station with its great black rubber wheels and grinds to a halt. The door stays firmly shut until I flip the old-fashioned handle, enter the ancient, ragtag car and sit back. Line 11 takes off. It squeaks, creaks and rolls. The racket makes me smile. It’s the underground soundscape of Paris.
When the conductor accelerates to full speed ahead we are literally flying through subterranean Paris. The 13 stations on Line 11 are further apart than on other Métro lines and halfway to the next stop, with a noticeable whir, Line 11 goes from a rapid and rattly ride to breakneck speed.
My eyebrows arch. I grin. I’m riding the rogue line in Paris.
Unfortunately, the next station appears and the braking system activates.
But, we’re on repeat and speed off to the next stop, Arts et Métiers. Its copper-plated walls, portholes, and hanging gears are reminiscent of a submarine making it one of the most unique métro stations in Paris.
Perhaps I am imagining these unmistakable accelerations. I’m told this isn’t possible. That all Paris Métro lines run at the same speed. That the maximum speed is 70 km/h.
But I know what I feel.
Line 11 is noticeably faster. I find myself comparing metro speeds as I travel the city. Automated Line 1 careens along at a good clip. So does line 4. And line 6. I’m still convinced that Line 11 is the leading thoroughbred of the Paris Métro system.
Perhaps it’s those huge rubber tires. Paris was the first metro system in the world to use rubber-tire technology and converted Line 11 in 1956. No wonder I feel like I’m time travelling.
I question myself. It must be the air streaming through the open windows, or the sharp movements from side to side.
I sit back.
I sit up straight.
I stand, ensuring I am holding on.
Line 11 flies.
Line 11 Facts:
- The Paris Métro first opened in 1900 with Line 11 opening in 1935.
- Line 11 links Châtelet with Mairie des Lilas in the northeastern suburbs.
- With only thirteen stations it’s the shortest line and one of the least used.
- Line 11 is being extended by six new stations which are set to open in 2023.
- Take Line 11 to get to several Paris highlights: Hôtel de Ville, Place de la République, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Belleville, and the Musée des Arts et Métiers.
- The Abbesses station is the deepest Paris Métro station but when you exit Pyrénées on Line 11, the escalator is the steepest I’ve seen in Paris. Londoners will feel at home.
- Apparently, the advantages of those rubber wheels are faster acceleration (I knew it!), shorter braking distances, and excellent climbing on steep grades. Belleville is on a hill, after all.
Take a ride on Line 11. Let me know what you think!
Until next time,