Not to be confused with SOS Fantômes, the 1984 film starring Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd (and remade in 2016), stations fantômes are the 16 Parisian metro stations which were never completed, were opened only to be closed some years later, or were just plain abandoned before ever being used by a single passenger !
If you read in French, you can find out more about all of Paris’ ghost metro stations on a web site that explores Paris’ insolite (strange) and secret side, Paris ZigZag. But the ghost station that interests me here is Martin Nadaud, opened in 1905 and "reabsorbed" into Gambetta’s station in 1969. What happened ?
The original Line 3 ended at Porte des Lilas. But in 1969, it was rerouted towards Porte de Bagnolet instead, and an extra "mini-line" was created, from Gambetta to Porte des Lilas (called Line 3bis, or 3b). Incidentally, if you’ve ever seen the Paris metro featured in films like Julie and Julia, the station you’ll see is Porte des Lilas, the only one equipped to accommodate film crews !
Art Nouveau Noodles
But back to Gambetta : during the reorganization of Line 3, the Martin Nadaud station got swallowed, which explains why the platform (or quai) at Gambetta is so long on one end. But if you take the time to walk further, and get out at Place Martin Nadaud, a lovely little slice of the 20th awaits you !
First of all, the metro exit here is on the Historic Monuments register, since it’s the classic design by Hector Guimard – all whiplash lines and Art Nouveau "noodles" (people who made fun of Art Nouveau in the day called it le style nouille).
The plaza itself is a bit of a mish-mash of styles, but is surrounded by the Père Lachaise cemetery wall on one side, and a line-up of welcoming cafés on the other. They’re made even more welcoming since the road along the plaza was closed to traffic : before, cars whizzed by just in front of the cafés – plutôt désagréable, as the French would say.
Now, in between the metro entrance and the cafés, the portion of closed-off road is more agreeable, and decorated by playful rainbow stripes, designed by artists Sabina Lang and Daniel Baumann (known simply as L/B). Their visual trademarks – because most artists have one or two (think Daniel Buren’s stripes in the Palais Royal’s gardens in Paris) – are stairs that lead nowhere, outgrowths bubbling from buildings, and their ubiquitous Street Paintings.
What about the establishments around the plaza ? You can bet I’ve tested them : for a glass of wine, try Les Foudres at one end (where you won’t get struck by a lightning bolt, a foudre, but you might catch the last ray of sun if you position yourself strategically at the very end of the plaza – the sun sets behind the beautiful little hill made by the rue Gasnier Guy).
For a bite to eat, head over to Café Martin, where Chef Nicolas Fromain turns out basic but "cared-for" (soigné) bistrot bites. He has both an à la carte menu, geared towards what chefs here call produits travaillés – the kind of unusual or high-end ingredients you won’t probably make at home, like foie gras.
Sublimed and Refined
The other part of the menu, as in many French restaurants, is the ardoise or chalkboard, of daily specials. Here, Chef Nicolas features the freshest products from the market, which he says he sublimes : he transforms or refines a humble product into something excellent. (French chefs love to use this word to describe their work !)
One question remains : who was Martin Nadaud, for whom the plaza was named ? Born in 1815, Nadaud was a stonemason and, like Léon Gambetta, for whom the "new" metro station is named, a politician. His claim to fame is an expression we use often in French : "Quand le bâtiment va, tout va" or "when the construction industry is going well, the economy is going well."
Recently the mairie, or town hall of the 20th district, voted (after a locals-only referendum) for the renovation of Martin Nadaud plaza. So like Chef Nicolas’ products, the plaza will soon be sublimed and refined, giving even more weight to Nadaud’s famous phrase.
Map of stations fantômes © Paris Zigzag
Diagram of 1969 metro modification © Paris Unplugged
Film crew in metro © RATP
Sabrina Lang and Daniel Baumann, courtesy of Virginie Pringuet/Atlasmuseum
Map of Place Martin Nadaud and photo of the Crèche Associative © Google maps
Photo of Martin Nadaud Par Les Amis de Martin Nadaud — Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Another noteworthy thing to see around the plaza is the gorgeous day-care center, or crèche, at the western end of the plaza. It was built in 1899 and is still used with its original purpose in mind : to care for children while their parents work, in a "house" that looks straight out of a fairy tale !