You only really know Paris when you know the Métro. When you recognise the Roma rapping on La Ligne 13, when you know without needing to look which stations let the sleeping bags in at night, when you get that instinctive feel for the hour the homeless beggars do their rounds up and down the carriages — “Mesdames, Messieurs.”
You only really know Paris when you know the spots where women look behind themselves at night. Get out quickly from the tunnels at Stalingrad — watch out for your bag, they say, that’s where the Eritreans are sleeping. Don’t get yourself a commute on La Ligne 13, they joke, it may be light blue but it goes from Romania to the banlieue end of hell. And with this ticket this is where I am going. I have to see the new France for myself to ask: is this country in danger? This is not just any old question to me.