Getting Around Paris
Reposting a previous publication…
While moving around the core of the city is easily done on foot, the easiest way (with a couple of caveats) to get around rapidly to the core and more is by the Metropolitan, or Metro as it is better known. While I know some disagree, I was rather taken with this eclectic system.
While Tokyo still remains my favorite in terms of efficiency and design with non-native in mind, the Metro has a charm and uniqueness that makes it entertaining as well as effective. Unlike most systems with standardized and homogenized sameness to all stations and trains, the Metro seems to revel in being the rebel of the underground world.
Many of the stations still have their unique and original designs, with tile predominating, while others showcase the industrial age ironwork epitomized by the Eiffel tower.
Some are in the process of being upgraded and/or expanded
I failed to get photos of some of the larger and more modern stations, but I’m not convinced that such was a loss. The newer stations tend to be depressingly similar, and full of extra safety features wonderfully lacking in the older and smaller stations. Also, there are a variety of car/train types in use. Some new, some older, and each unique. You will find the older, more interesting cars/trains off the main routes, but they are well worth seeking out just to see them.
One important caveat that has to go with keeping so much original: The Metro is not handicap friendly, or even mobility impaired friendly. While efforts have been made to accommodate, by adding elevators and such, those do not always work nor do all stations have them. There are a multitude of stairs and other delights that will impact the mobility impaired, those with lots of bags or suitcases (nor, as stated earlier, are the entry/exit systems really designed for anyone to have anything other than themselves going through). While one can get through the metro with bags and packages, it can also be quite an adventure.
The system can get you almost anywhere in the city fairly quickly. In addition to the different lines (roughly 19 according to my I-phone Subway Supreme app, which I recommend), the city is divided into eight zones. Most tourist destinations, and many business, are contained within zones 1-2.
This is important as you have a variety of options for using the Metro. You can buy single trips; get discounts buying multiple trips at once; or, make use of cards and the new Navigo system. At the urging of my friends, I brought several 1-inch by 1-inch photos with me and purchased a Navigo Découverte (plain Navigo being reserved for locals only). For a fairly reasonable price (app. €16,80 per week, with a €5 cost for initial purchase of the card ), this rechargeable card contains a chip that allows it to be passed close to a sensor on the entry points, negating the need to stop and feed in and retrieve a pass/ticket or swipe a magnetic swipe card. It comes in two parts, a paper part with the chip, and a plastic case that you put the paper part into once you’ve attached the photo, put your name on it, etc.
One important word of warning: the Navigo pass starts on Monday morning and ends on Sunday. If you buy a week on a Saturday and use it that Saturday, it will expire Sunday night and unless you’ve done a lot of travel, you’re out some money.
The cost of the pass will depend on how many zones you want to include. The cost given above is for zones 1-2, if you want all zones, it will be €37,20. Note that these prices are only good for 2009 and subject to change. While there are other options, if you are going to be using the Metro a good bit, this is what I tried and really liked. Recommended.
One final note, no matter what form of ticket you get, keep it with you and ready to produce. The transit police will set up at the exits to stations at random to catch jumpers/cheats, and to get out you have to produce your ticket, pass, etc. If you don’t have it, well, you deal with the police. If you have it, you are given a fairly friendly wave and sent on your way.
If your friends are given to odd bouts of humor, you may find yourself at the Abbesses Metro station. If you are out of shape, have cardiac problems, or such, do not let anyone talk you into taking the spiral staircase up. According to reports, that is the deepest station in the system, and a walk up is fun. I did it, and that’s all I’m going to say about that. It is also one of the few, if not the only, stations with all the original fixtures up above. For this alone, it is well worth a visit.
One of the things I enjoyed the most were the looks of the different stations. Some samples include:
Just because you go in an entrance like this
Don’t think that it is all going to be old. Almost every station has good signage that shows when the next train is coming and other important information
Maps not only of the system, but the local area around the station abound and are extremely helpful in navigating. Knowing where you are and where you want to go can help you choose the right exit. There is also a lot of advertising, which can be quite entertaining on its own. A future post will focus on some of the ads, but for now, a fairly typical view of a station.
Yet even the newest advertisement may be bordered by the old
One final thing that will help you get around easily: Many of the lines have a feature that I love, and would have the safety nuts screaming in hissy fits here in the U.S. Look at the door as you get in. Many will have a button or lever that you MUST push/raise in order for the door to open at the next station. As the train approaches the station where you want to exit, if no one else has done so, push/raise the button/lever. In the U.S., that would probably cause alarms to sound, guards to come, and safety freaks to faint. In Paris, it is just the way things are done and the doors will NOT open until the train has come to a complete stop. If you wait until the train has stopped, it can sometimes take a bit more effort to raise the lever.
Keep in mind that the Metro lines connect with RER and other train stations, and you can reach almost any rail option quickly and easily via the Metro. Between the two, travel to and from the airports and other destinations on the outskirts of Paris, as well as the rest of France and Europe (more on ICE trains later) is relatively quick and easy.
All in all, for the traveller on the go, the Metro is a great way to get around especially given what can happen to road traffic there. For the business traveller, it is essential, and well worth exploring.