Metro Talk


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In the Metro
Photo by Chris Card Fuller ©2008

For a mode of transportation that began in 1900, one has to admit that the Paris Metro system is amazing. Seven days a week it shuttles thousands of passengers thoughout Paris. If you haven’t yet used the Paris Metro system, it should be one of your priorities for getting around Paris easily.

The current cost of a single ticket is 1.50 Euros (Feb ’08) and a ten-ticket ‘carnet’ costs 11.10 Euros. You can also use these tickets for the bus, the tram, or for certain segments of the RER (regional transit service) within the designated zones.

There are fourteen Metro lines indicated by different colors and different numbers. Each Metro line also is indicated by its two terminals. For example: Porte de Clignancourt and Port d’Orleans are the two terminals for the N. 4 (pink) line that runs from Paris’s Left Bank, starting at Porte d’Orleans, passing through St. Germain des Pres, the student quarter, St. Michel, Odeon, Note Dame de Paris at Cite, Chatelet, where you can pick up the La Defense-Porte de Vincennes line for the Marais or the Champs Elysees, or continue northward toward Porte de Clignancourt terminus for the Paris flea market.

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Follow the signs indicating the terminal direction which includes a stop at your destination. Before you walk onto the quai, you’ll see a sign posting all the stops included before reaching the terminal. This way you know whether you’re going the right direction. If you discover you’ve taken the wrong direction, it’s usually pretty easy to get off, climb up the steps and head over to the opposite quai. Just don’t exit from the Metro station (Sortie) or you will have lost your Metro ticket. You can continue to take as many trains as you want as long as you don’t exit. You can spend the whole day in underground Paris, but eventually you’ll probably want to come up to enjoy the sun.

One thing you need to know before taking the Metro – there are tons of steps. You cannot avoid steps when you take the Metro – especially when connections are involved. This is particularly important if you plan on using the Metro to get to the train stations which are all connected to the Metro system. If you do not have easily carried luggage, I would recommend taking taxi or bus rather than using the Metro. This will be particularly apparent if you’re catching a train at Gare St. Lazare. Even though the Metro offers escalators in some locations, it’s hit or miss whether the escalators will be functioning. Sooner or later you’ll be required to carry your luggage up stairs.

You can buy your Metro tickets from agents or from the automatic machines which are the only option at some stops such as Edgar Quinet. Your Metro ticket is good ‘almost forever’ but once you run it through the scanner, it can no longer be used (except in some cases to connect from a local line to an RER line if you remain in the same zone).

You should always keep your Metro ticket handy in case there is a ‘control’. In this case, agents normally stand near the exit to the Metro stop. They will be wearing uniforms and ask to see your ticket. They will verify the time stamp on your ticket. If you don’t have your ticket, you may be required to pay a fine.

The RATP site offers more information about Day Passes although I’ve found that the ten ticket carnet has always been the most versatile package, not to mention that you can save any leftover tickets and use them for your next visit to Paris. One word about the RATP site, you’ll note that much more information is available on the French version of the site. You can click on the Engliish flag for a translation of the basics. However, if you want to see, for example, the results of the February soup contest, you’ll need to check out the French version.

Yes. A soup contest. You read correctly. I will be happy to do translations for Parislogue readers if you want the recipe in English. Magenta soup is – naturally made with beets. The Pyrenees soup is an onion soup made with melted cheese from the Pyrennees and I will be making a a Porte de Choisy soup today made with fresh greens from the Chinatown market.