Bois de Vincennes

During my first few weeks in Paris, I was overwhelmed by the city and all of it’s attractions. Of course I wanted to visit the Moulin Rouge, Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe-all the post card destinations. But, by living in Paris with a host family, I’ve been able to experience an everyday Paris.

I wasn’t acknowledge about Paris before moving here, other than the romanticized idea I kept from books and films. One day, the mother suggested I visit Bois de Vincennes. I looked on Google Maps and found a large green section associated with the name-I had no idea such an area existed in the center of Paris.

Bois de Vincennes, 12th arrondissement. The forest is very big, offering several monuments and attractions therefore I did not add a metro stop pin for this site.

The next day I filled up my CamelBak and set out on an adventure. The forest is absolutely beautiful. I followed various paths around a lake with gorgeous swans and got lost walking the soft paths of the forestry. The feel of dirt became a novelty my feet deeply appreciated after tramping the concrete and brick-way streets of Paris. I was astounded by the raw nature I found. There were times I forgot I was in a large city until I stumbled upon a road that cut through or an attraction. Embedded in the forest are restaurants, monuments, and even a horse stable which offers rides.

Navigating the Métro of Paris

The Métro de Paris (RATP) is one of the quickest and most efficient ways to travel across the center of Paris and Ile-de-France. The mostly underground transit system has been a feature of the city for over 100 years and is one of the densest networks in the world. According to ratp.fr, it is “a network denser than any other in the world: nowhere in Paris is more than 500m from a metro station.” The metro stations are denoted by similar architectural structures, influenced by Art Nouveau. Each station is a little different. Some historically significant stations have their stories recounted in the station and others have unique décor and architecture. The system is convenient and transports massive amounts of passenger traffic each day, but plan ahead because it closes at night!

Stats about the Paris Metro:

  • 16 lines (1-14, 3bis, & 7bis)
  • 303 stations
  • 205 km of tracks
  • Over 1.5 billion passengers per year
  • First train leaves terminal station: 5:30 a.m.
  • Last train reaches terminal station (Sunday to Thursday): 1:15 a.m.
  • Last train reaches terminal station (Fridays, Saturdays and days before public holidays): 2:15 a.m.

Buying tickets:

To use the RATP system, you need a t+ ticket or Navigo pass. You can buy your tickets in advance online, from an automatic ticketing machine inside the metro station, or, on the bus if you are taking the bus (2€). There are several travel passes for varying lengths of time, ranging from a weekend to a year. It is best to look at the options then decide which is best for you (http://www.ratp.fr/en/ratp/c_20585/travel-passes-and-fares/). Tickets for children are at a reduced price and the Navigos are reduced for students and others. Also, buying a booklet of tickets is less expensive than individual tickets.

 

20161111_003242_hdr

Automatic ticket machine in the mètro

 

t+ Ticket options:

  • One ticket: 1,90€
  • Booklet of ten tickets: 14,90€
  • Reduced fare

Your ticket should look like this:   tt_ticket_t_plus_gf

The t+ tickets or Navigo passes can be used for all transportation within the city (zone 1): RATP, SNCF, OPTILE. The following types of connections are possible, for 90 minutes between the first and last validation, with this ticket:

  • metro/metro metro-m-svg
  • metro/RER
  • RER/RER within Paris rer-svg
  • bus/bus 105px-paris_logo_bus_jms-svg (including between the RATP and OPTILE networks)
  • bus/tram
  • tram/tram 106px-paris_logo_tram_jms-svg
  • IMPORTANT: Metro/bus, metro/tram, RER/bus and RER/tram connections are not possible using the same t+ ticket.

 

Reading the map

You have GoogleMaps. So, why should you learn how to read a map to navigate the metro system?

International service in a foreign country can be very unreliable, not to mention expensive and drain your battery. What if your phone dies, gets stolen or breaks? There’s no app for that.

Each station has a map near the entrance with a “you are here” point, which you can use to navigate your course. The stations also have maps of the neighborhood highlighting nearby attractions. You can find a variety of maps at each station: maps with just the metro, RER and tram lines, maps with the metro lines and roads, maps with buses routes and night bus routes, etc. If you insist on being dependent on technology, there are various navigating apps available, including the RATP app. I recommend always having a map with you, even if it is the downloaded PDF on your phone, just in case.

First, you must decide where you want to go and where you are currently. If you know where you are, take a look at the map to see which is the closest station to you.

The basic metro map:

metro-map

Each metro line is numbered and colored. Stations are marked by a named dot, either the color of their line or white. Whites dots or ovals denoted stations that have connections with other lines.

Getting where you want to go:

You’ve arrived in Paris, checked in to your room and you are ready to explore! For our example, let’s say you are near Nation and you would like to go to the Louvre. The best option would be to take line 1: minimetro mini1 

This is how the individual line looks by itself:
paris_metro_ligne_1-svg
Each line has two directions, the two terminals (starting/ending points in bold). For line 1 the directions are La Defense and Chateau de Vincennes. If you are going towards the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre station from the Nation station, you’d be going in the direction of La Defense. If you were returning to Nation from the Louvre, you’d be going in the direction of Chateau de Vincennes.
Following our example you’d enter the metro at the station Nation. After purchasing your tickets and go through the gates. You can either feed in your t+ ticket or scan your card. You can only use gates with a green arrow in your direction.
Follow the yellow signs for line 1 La Defense. The metro has clear signage, making it easily navigated.
20161111_164509_hdr

The Line 1 sign in Nation leading you to the platform.

Guide yourself onto the platform where you wait. Most platforms have signs above them which tell you the line, direction, and time until the next two trains.
Once aboard the train, this is how the sign for the line will look. It will be placed above each doors. It shows each stop and which connections are available at that stop.
metro_paris_m1-plan-svg

 

On most trains, each stop has a small light. The next stop blinks until you have reached it, the past stops are not lite and the stops on the way are lit until they are the next, then they start blinking. If the train doesn’t have a light system, just pay attention to the station names as you go by. Each station has it’s name clearly posted, several times, on each side of the platform.

Once you arrive to the Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre station, just follow the brown signs for the Louvre. Each station near a main attraction will have brown signes leading you to the closest sortie (exit). The Palais Royal-Musee du Louvre station brings you right next to the Louvre so you should be able to exit the station and make your way easily to the Pyramids entrance of the magnificent museum.

 

Tips:

  • Keep your ticket until you leave the station. Random checks are done by RATP staff and without a ticket you may be fined.
  • Keep slower traffic to the right. It is common for people in a rush to pass on the left, even on escalators.
  • A tone will sound when the doors of the train are about to close, so don’t be standing in between them when it rings!
  • Be aware of beggars and pick pockets, often people will ask for money on the metro.
  • Don’t forget anything on the train! Unidentified baggage will be taken as a safety risk and may halt traffic for over an hour.

 

Other forms of transportation:

The RATP denotes specific metro lines, buses (other option is OPTILE), and tramways. Paris offers other types of public transportation including the trains to the suburbs or banlieue (SNCF), autobus, Vélib’ et Autolib'(Paris’s self bicycling services). Taxis are available at specific stops across the city and are usually around popular areas. Paris also has known car services such as Uber.

 

For more information about using the metro, check out the RATP Transport Guide:

http://www.ratp.fr/en/upload/docs/application/pdf/2014-10/mode_emploi_t.pdf

Continue reading

New Year’s in Paris

If you expected the New Year’s celebrations in Paris to be at the Eiffel Tower, you’d be wrong.

Paris hosts it’s New Year’s firework show at the Arc de Triomphe. A great light display is projected onto the wider faces of the Arc. It was impressive quality-very beautiful and detailed.

The firework show itself, on the other hand, was not. We got sucked into the huge crowd and could barely see anything. The roads were blocked off in a manner which pushed people behind buildings, not offering very good vantage points. The crowd wouldn’t have been so bad except the fireworks only lasted about three minutes.

We were so disappointed. Then, when trying to leave, the metro was over capacity. We decide to duck into a cafe and have a bottle of wine. About two o’clock we tried to leave, having an after party to attend, but the metro was blocked off by police. We were very confused and got stuck in yet, another crowd. The public transport was free all night, which was fortunate because by the time we walked all the way to a station near the Eiffel Tower, I realized my wallet had been stolen!

To say the least it was a frustrating night but the company was good. The pain of getting down there, in the masses, was not even worth it! I would not recommend going to the Arc for any future New Year’s events. Rather, find a party with some friends and enjoy yourselves!