Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Riding the Métro | Paris Travel

From the top of l'Arc de Triomphe, looking toward modern Paris

Our Silver Paris

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where I share our experiences on our special journey to Paris.
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Street map, used Métro tickets, and some euros.

On our first full day in Paris, we decided to brave the Métro and visit the St-Germain area in the 7th arrondissement (district--Paris is divided into 18 arrondissements).  Since our appartement was located in the 4th arrondissement, we knew our Métro ride would involve a train change.  We figured we would just jump right in, figure it out, and be set for the rest of the week.  Which did happen, after much of the aforesaid bravery.  :)

Waiting for the Métro train.

The Métro is fairly simple to use, and we were hopping on and off like pros after just a few days' practice.  Métro stations are identified at street level by a large circled "M" or a sign indicating that it is a Métro station.  Once you enter a station (usually underground), follow the signs for the line you want (there are maybe a dozen different lines; some stations service only one line and some stations are "exchanges" that serve multiple lines).  Put your billet (ticket) into the slot at the barrier and grab it when it comes out.

Side NoteHang on to your ticket until you exit the station; you may need it to exit in some places, or you may need to show it to the ticket checkers if they are present.  (Ticket checkers = officials who have the authority to check to make sure you've used a ticket for that particular ride; if you can't show proof with your ticket, you must pay a fine.)  If you're not sure, take your cue from the local residents--on our Friday night Métro ride, we encountered ticket checkers upon exiting.  We saw everyone stopped, showing their tickets (or Métro passes), so we got ours out and showed them to them.  I'm so glad I read about it first so I knew what was going on!

Once you're through the turnstile, there are maps that show the stations along that train line's path.  You find the station you want on the map, and you follow the arrows to the train.  Once the train comes, hop on and wait for your station.  Then hop off.  Easy peasy.

Métro sign and entrance.

Side notePurchase a carnet (packet of 10) tickets at the airport so you're set to go once you're in the city.  Or, you can purchase tickets at the machines once you enter the station.  American credit cards won't work, so plan to use Euros--both paper and coins work in the machines.  There are usually attendants on duty to help if you get stuck; we had a very helpful attendant the first time we tried it.

One thing I missed in my reading about using the Métro is the fact that various musicians and performers may enliven our ride as they hop on, play a classical (or contemporary) piece, accept tips, and leave the train car.  We were pleasantly surprised the first time this happened, and we were "serenaded" by a violinist playing traditional French music.  I wish I had snapped a picture!  We were "serenaded" on all but one ride.

Our most memorable musical Métro ride occurred when we went to an American Express office to exchange dollars for euros.  We sat right at the entrance to the train car; there is an open space with a pole in the center for standers when the train is full.  There are seats on either side of the pole, facing each other.  Fernando sat in one seat and I sat facing him, and the train took off.  At the next stop, three men got on--one older gentleman with an accordion, and two young guys, one carrying what amounted to a boombox.  They flipped on the recorded music, the man started playing his accordion, and the two young guys started singing.  Rap.  In French.  It was rather funny.  Then one of the young men (pink-shirted guy, below) started dancing and swaying as he sang.

Okay; still rather amusing.  Then the pink-shirt guy (above; he also wore bright, tight lime green pants!) started dancing around, and ended up in front of me.  At which point he started a bump and grind dance.  (It's good if you don't know what that is.)  I was laughing, hiding my eyes, and peeking around him toward Fernando as I mouthed, "Help!"

Of course he offered me his "tip cup" afterward.  Handy phrase:  "Je n'ai pas d'argent."  (I have no money!)  Which was true--Fernando had everything in my camera bag in his lap.

What an experience!  We laughed about it, for there was nothing else we could do, and continued on our journey.

Coming up from the Métro; our last ride.

Treasuring life's moments,

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