|Subject: Re: Paris metro|
1. The part I'm a little puzzled by at this point is Step #8. How do you tell which way they are going?
2. Also, when you are actually on the subway, how can you tell which stop it is at while you are in the cars?
I fretted endlessly on all of this before I made my first trip to Paris a few years ago. One of the adventures of traveling it is trying to figure out what everyond else knows and takes for granted in the country you are visiting. I know that may seem odd but I actually like the flutter of the heart and the adrenoline rush when such opportunities arise. This is always followed by, after you get through it, the releaf that I did it and it wasn't that bad - it is the sence of accomplishment you feel that makes it worth while. Think of it, these kind of opportunities don't come to us very often in our own country but can happen to you every day when you travel abroad. Consider this one of the benefits of traveling abroad.
Anyway, here is the information you need. Since you have a metro map, just follow along on this example, which I used on the last trip. Note, I always have to use (and carry) two maps when I plan Paris trips. One is the Metro map showing all the lines and stations and the other is the map of the city which does not show the metro lines but does show the stations as little round circles with an 'M' in the center. This is the way I match up where I want to go with the station that is closest.
Back to the example...
When you step into a metro station, let's say the metro station at Porte de Versaille on line #12 (located in the lower part of the map (Southern edge of Paris). From there I wanted to go to the Arc de'Triomph. I was in Paris last November on a business trip and stayed in an apartment paid by my company (Perrier). I thought that being so far from the center of Paris that this would be a problem but found that the use of the Metro made this no problem at all.
Anyway, find the station called Porte de Versaille on line #12. Now find the station called Ch. de Gaulle Etolie which is a station within view of the Arc.
Note that Line 12 ends at Maire d'issy in the South and Porte de la Chapelle in the North. When you enter the station at Porte de Versailles you will see two key things. You will see 12-Maire d'issy signs and 12-Porte de la Chapelle signs (on walls). Believe it or not it is that simple. So, you are heading north on 12 so you must be heading toward the end station in the north so you simply follow the directions (12-Porte de la Chapelle signs) until you come to the track that is going in that direction.
Now, line 12 does not take you all the way to where you want to go so look at the Metro map and see what line does get you there. There are actually several converging here and you could take any one of them depending on where you are. Since we are heading north on 12 we would want to choose (for the most direct root) the station just across the river at Concorde. There, Line 1 heads East and West and goes right to the station where we want to go. So, since you want to go West - look at the end station for line #1 at the Western end station. It is LaDefense Grande Arche. When you get to the Concorde station you exit the metro and follow the signs for 1-LaDefense Grande Arche (which will take you West). Since there are many lines passing through the station you will see all the line numbers and the end stations designated on the walls in various places. Just follow all the people leaving as they are heading to an exit. Heading toward exits will take you past signs that point the way to other tracks. Just keep looking on the walls untill you see 1-LaDefense Grande Arche.
When you get to the track, wait for Line 1 to arrive. Enter (quickly) when it stops and then exit at Ch. de Gaulle Etolie. Exit the station - just follow everyone that seems to be leaving. Trust me on this, once you have done this just once, it all falls into place and you will be traveling like an expert within the day. As you leave the station, you will see the Arch and of course many major streets including the Champs de Elysees (a great destination).
Now you are wondering how do I know what each stop is and how do I know when I reach the stop I want. This is very easy. Look above each exit door on the inside of the train as you sit or stand. You will see the entire line displayed with each stop (named). Now just find the name of the stop you currently are at, look for the end station name which is the direction you are going and and look at the names of the stations in between. These station names are prominantly displayed in big letters on the walls of the station and you will see them as soon as your train enters the station itself (just look out the windows). Just be prepared to scan the walls as you slow down and enter into the station area. Again, once you have done this a few times you never worry about this again. It's fool proof and that is why everyone raves about the Paris Metro. I live in the Dallas area and have never riden the metros or tubes in the U.S. like New Yorkers. I was an expert after the first trip and was soon making multiple changes to get to my destinations with no problems.
Here are some things to note:
1. Tickets are sold at any station. I always buy 10 of them 'en carnet' and that is all you have to say at the Window. 2. Remember if you are leaving the station, just follow the people leaving. 3. Enjoy the musicians that enter occasionally enter the trains at stations. They play violins, accordians etc.. Have pocket change ready to give them for the few minutes of pleasure they give you on the ride. 4. I did not see or experiance any pick-pocket activity but I am always causios. Cities always warn you of this and you just have to be careful. 5. I saw a note on getting from the airport to city center. I actually, am not sure that the metro goes there but RER does I think. RER travels along metro lines and takes people outside the city. I just did not want to start my trip trying to figure out this system at the airport. I may at some point in the future (to save a lot of money) but a cab is so convenient. You will have to ask others about shuttles as I am sure that they exist. 6. Trains run every few minutes so the wait is never long. 7. Quickly enter the train as the exiting and entering of people can take a total of only 20 seconds! 8. Train doors do not always open automatically. Watch people use the little door handle on how they use it to open the door. They usually just move it in the up position (just before the train stops) so that when the train stops the door pops open. If you wait until the train stops it is a little harder to move up but it should not be a problem.
Please go to Paris any time you can. It is a beautiful and exciting city. I have never wanted to live in a big city before and actively avoided them. All that changed when I visited San Francisco. There was at last a city I could easily live in. Paris became my second city after I visited it.
I have been to Paris three times now in the last three years. Twice on business and once on a vacation. I always schedule extra time when I am there and it will probably always be my final destination as I complete a European vacation since flights to home are easy from there.
Also, don't believe what people say about the French people. They are just basically a very reserved people. This is not the case for the French in Belgium or other locations. I have found rude people every where I have ever gone and to single out the French is just wrong. Plus, I don't let rude people ruin my day and give them no thought.
Let me know if this has been any help.
Oh, one more thing. Do get yourself some French tapes and listen in the car at every opportunity. Learn the basics and it will get you far. My wife and I just signed up for French lessons at our local college. Travel opens up so much more in your life.
I wish you well.
(If I haved made any errors in all of this I am sure that others who are more versed in this will assist you)