Paris Recap Number Two

10 May

The Paris METRO always scare the crap out of me. By no means am I a Metro virgin, but on the previous occasions that I visited Paris… I avoided the metro like the plague, it was confusing, had way too many levels, lines, tunnels and crazies… and you may as well forget about the Parisians giving you any type of help – you were going to fail no matter what. And nothing is worse than getting lost in the metro system – nothing, trust me. (Yes, it has happen, and yes it will scare the crap out of you).

So on Saturday after a 2 hour brunch at the corner café from the hotel, we venture out to the metro station down the street. Before you walk down the stairs you encounter this bit of help to find your way around:

Yep, try to figure that shit out. The Paris metro, unlike the NYC subway system, which goes Uptown and Downtown, goes everywhere in city… And I mean EVERYWHERE – North, South, East, West, NE, NW, NEW, SWE… (You get it, right?). It has over 300 stations and 16 difference lines. No wonder the map intimidates even the most adventurous traveler. So after a couple of attempts and a bit of a 101 lesson by my friend “H”… this is what you need to do (its quite simple, once you know the “inside” tricks)

a) Find where you want to go first in the map (the big one which is located at the outside or inside of the station: In our case we wanted to get our asses over to the Champs-Elysées and see the Arc de Triomphe. And meet up with another friend of mine that was meeting us somewhere on the way to the Arch. The good thing is that the metro map clearly shows all of the HOT spots around Paris, mainly the tourist places. So we found the arch on the map. – Points for us!

b) Then you have to look for the lines that goes there (color coded and numbered) then you check the end stations on that particular line and you take the train which has that station closest to your destination and voila you are there!

c) Then walk down into the bowels of the metro and buy a ticket. I highly recommend that you spend the 17 Euros and get yourself a week long ticket, it’s so worth it and convenient and you have to deal with the ticket agent only once. And if you DO NOT SPEAK French… believe me once is enough.

d) Then start walking down the tunnels to the ramp and pay attention to the line that you want to take, it can be confusing at first, but for the most part the Europeans know how to make a city very tourist friendly and Paris is no exception. The only thing to remember is that each line has two directions, indicated by the terminus station at each end (for example: Balard/Créteil). The different directions and connections are clearly displayed on blue and white signs on the platforms and in the tunnels. To be sure you’re heading in the right direction, check that your destination is on the list of stations just before you go down onto the platform. Inside the trains, you’ll find network maps and the detail of the line you’re on along with all available connections to other parts of the network. If you find yourself in the wrong train… your fault totally!

Observations on the metro:

Most stations are decorated with cool themes… the station that stops right under the Louvre Museum for example is all decorated like the inside of a museum, with artifacts and paintings… way cool. My favorite was the “Concorde” station, which was decorated in white tiles (all of it) with blue letters and numbers in a pattern like maze… We never did find out what it meant or made sense of the pattern… but it was the ultimate.

Don’t freak out when the train has not stopped and the local commuters are already opening the doors of the train while is still moving into the station… (We did wonder how many people have fallen on their ass doing that little stunt??)

The women in Paris are “pushers and shovers”… They will push and/or shove their way out, around and over you to get out or inside the train, the station, over the stairs… and they are very rude about it too. The man too, but the women were more guilty of this immature behavior.

The metro does not run 24 hours at night… so if you take your ass dancing in the city of lights… and find yourself out on the street after 1:00am, take a taxi…Because there ain’t a train running.

Like any metropolitan city, just because you are on vacation does not mean the rest of the city is… early AM and PM trains are packed with locals going or coming from work, so you may have to wait a bit for the next train. But you have no excuse to be up and about in the early AM to begin with… I mean you are on Vacation for Christ sake!

Unless, of course you are leaving a bar after a whole lot of dancing.

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