Velib’ cycles and autumn leaves
23 November 2009, outside my window
It is a cool, damp autumn Parisian morning as I begin to type.
It’s the fourth week of November; in one week it will be November’s final day and I will come to account with the number of words I have written for this blog for NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. Twenty-two days ago, I decided that I would bend the rules a little for NaNo and not write a novel, per se, but write a kind of fictionalized memoir of my life in Paris. I decided, too, that I was not really writing a fiction of commission (an entirely made up narrative), but a fiction of omission (a true narrative, but one where I leave stuff out at will). Fifteen posts and 42,884 words later, I am here, at post 16 trying to think how in the heck I am going to organize all the thoughts which I have this morning, and also how to coherently describe some of the wonderful things that have happened in the past week!
In the previous post, I wrote a little about the weekend of November 14 & 15, but I had a little more that I wanted to say about Tess’ and my trip to the 17th and 8th arrondissements.
I think I shall begin there, and then see what happens.
In the last post, I described where my friend Tess and I went:
Last Saturday, I met up with my friend Tess and we walked around the Etoile area nearPlace des Ternes where the 17th arrondissement meets up with the 8th.
I hoped to show more specifically with maps and so on where we went.
This Métro map is from Hot-Map.com. We were at the stop called Ternes, which is one stop before Charles de Gaulle/Etoile, going in the direction of Porte Dauphine.
That may mean nothing to those of you who have never traveled to Paris.
Because I am an idiot (lol, okay, that is a bit harsh. I can be a mite bit “short bus girl,” however), it took me forever to feel comfortable taking the Métro in Paris.
Maybe some of you feel the same.
Here is, then, a short tutorial on Métro riding, from ParisKarin, for those of you who wanted to know, but were too nervous to ask.
Métro for Dummies (like me)
First, it is helpful when traveling in Paris to have a map like this one:
This is the official RATP map, which can also be found online here: RATP Paris.
Most tour guides of Paris have a copy of the Métro map in it, but what I have found to be most helpful is to have a Plan de Paris with me at all times. Little books containing maps of the 20 arrondissements (districts) of Paris can be purchased for just a few euros at bookshops and tourist shops in the city. Amazon.fr has an example here at this link. You’ll find having one is indispensable for getting around the city. Also, you can get just the RATP Métro map at the window(s) where they sell tickets in each station.
Next, what you want to do is figure out where it is you want to go. For example, I wanted to go to Ternes on Line 2 (which is the dark blue line) from the 19th arr. I am closest to Jaurés, but it is closed for repairs until the end of December. So, I have been taking Colonel Fabien on Line 2 where I can then connect to other stops.
The trick is to know in which direction you want to go on the line. Porte Dauphine is the direction in which I wanted to go from Colonel Fabien. Porte Dauphine is the last stop on Line 2 in the west. The direction the line is going is named by the points of origin for that line. Line 2 is Porte Dauphine/Nation. When I take the stairs down at a station to get into the Métro, I look for the signs telling me the direction via the name of the endpoints of the lines. Also, there is a listing of the stops made along the way, so you can look for your destination on the list of stops on the sign.
Here is an example of a sign in the Métro Ternes, with the direction going towards Nation, in the east. You can see that Colonel Fabien is on this list. If I were going back home from Ternes, I would go down the hallway to where the arrow points to catch the train going in the direction of Nation.
Notice that with Villiers, for example, there is an M with a 3 in a green circle next to it. This means that Villiers is also on Line 3. If you wanted to get to another stop on Line 3, then you could go to Villiers, get off, and find Line 3 going in your desired direction.
I knowwwwwww! It seems kind of simple to even me now, but I remember PJ telling me all of this at the beginning when I first came here and kind of going, “Hunh???” and then I worried about things like, “What if I start going the wrong direction?” Things like that used to freak me out pretty badly.
Anyways, the basics are this: know in which direction you want to go on which line. This is key. Then you can start mapping your route with changes on the Métro, too.
I will give you another example you can follow along and play with on the RATP interactive map.
I want to go to Forum Les Halles shopping mall, where they also have movie theaters, from my part of town, close to M° Jaurés. Forum Les Halles is on Line 4 (you can click to go to the Flickr page to see a larger version of the map below, or better yet, go play with the interactive map for yourself at the RATP site!).
How shall I proceed?
I would do this:
Take Line 5 (orange) from Jaurés in the direction of Place d’Italie to either Gare du Nord or Gare de l’Est. You can see in the map below that both Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est connect the orange (Line 5) and purple (Line 4) lines.
Gare du Nord is not the best of stations in terms of safety, especially at night. I’ve gotten a little used to being aware and vigilant in the daytime. It is not *horrible* (just very crowded and busy, and more crime tends to happen there) and while 9 times out of 10 you will be fine, if you can, it is probably safer to avoid it, especially if you are a lone female. There is a big police presence there, but PJ and I have seen some rough stuff going down at that station late at night. Still, it is a MAJOR station, and I am in no way saying that you should not use it. In fact, for a lot of transportation in and out of Paris (like to the CDG airport and back by RER), you *have* to go there. Just be a little careful if you do. Mind yourself. That kind of thing.
Let’s say I am being cautious today, and I get off at Gare de l’Est.
Once I get off the train, I am going to look up for the signs pointing me to Line 4. I want to go in the direction of Porte d’Orleans, so I look for the signs and arrows pointing towards that name. I can double-check the signs listing all the stops after Gare de l’Est to be sure that Les Halles is one of them. It is! I get on the Line 4 train, and then travel five stops to Les Halles.
Another cool trick/tip. I have timed the Métro on a couple of different lines. By doing so, I learned there are approximately 60 seconds between stops. Some stops are closer to 54 seconds and others as much as 70 or so, but all in all, there is just about a minute between stops. What this means is that once you are on the Métro going from Gare de l’Est to Les Halles (which is pronounced lay-all, just so you know), as in the example above, it will only take about five minutes to get there.
So, you can estimate how long it is going to take to ride from place to place, more or less. I also account for walking time in labyrinthine Métro stations where to connect to other lines you have to pass through a lot of hallways. Then there is time walking to stops, and so on. For me, living in the 19th, I would say it takes about 40 minutes to get anywhere in Paris.
I thought while I have you here on the topic of the Métro, I would point out a few Do’s and Don’ts for the Métro. Of interest: if you Google “Paris Métro Etiquette” the very first article to pop up is by the boyfriend of moi. It is from 2000, nine years ago, back when he was still hitched to the Expresso, and so the info describing him at the end while accurate, is no longer current. The article is one of my favorite pieces of writing by PJ about Paris (oh that witty boyfriend of mine), so do check it out.
There is another excellent primer on Métro riding here, Metro Made Easy.
I wanted to write about one DON’T which I experienced on the Métro on the way to meet Tess.
An American woman and her friend, both of whom appeared to be in their 50s, got on the Métro at Barbés-Rochechouart on Line 2. I knew they were American because they were yakking at one another as they got on. It was true yakking, too – the uncomfortable kind of annoying talk that some tourists can do when on the Métro. The Métro really is a fairly quiet place in terms of people having conversations – like elevators in the States. If someone got on an elevator and started saying in a loud, grating, nasal kind of voice: “I think they got on the other elevator” (only in this case it was “car” as it was the Métro) and so on and so on, I bet you would take note and cringe a little in the process, right?
I was standing in the area of the car where there is SRO, just in front of one of the strapontins, which has nothing to do with a strap-on, but which are the folding chairs in this SRO area. When the Métro is especially crowded, people are not supposed to sit in the folding chairs. The first woman crowded into the area in front of me when getting on the car and then decided to reach across and grab at the bar above my head to steady herself. Problem was, by her doing this, I had to duck under her arm in the most uncomfortable fashion! I think when she first got on, I had my head bowed over the book I was reading, Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay, and so she felt reaching over my head as an acceptable thing since it was bent. Problem was, I could no longer raise my head once her arm was there — her arm was literally just on top of my head, and in my face if I did try to raise it. I tried to let her know passively that she needed to move her stupid arm (the adjective in my internal dialogue was more expletive, lol) by raising my head and then bobbing and weaving from one side of her arm to another, but she did not budge, and seemed to be unconscious of the fact that she was really infringing on my personal space and comfort. Thank goodness, she and the friend got off one stop (and about 60 seconds!) later, at Anvers. If it had been any longer, I would have had to say something. Grouchy that she had not been more considerate, it was a good thing she left when she did. I kept fantasizing about bursting into annoying and grating English with something like, “Would you please move your effing arm?” and wondered how startled she would have been.
Long story short, be mindful of others’ personal space as much as you can while riding on the Métro.
A Couple of Points of Interest (more) in the 8th
Back to the story of Tess’ and my journey.
Another screen capture from the map of Paris at Hot-Map.com
Tess and I met up at the Place des Ternes, in the upper center portion of the map (the full size Flickr map is easier to see). I have been down the Avenue des Ternes many times as PJ place of employment is not far from M° Ternes in the 17th off a side street of Avenue des Ternes. I had never been down the other side on the Rue du Fabourgh Saint-Honoré, though. Tess and I thought we might have a cup of coffee and chat for a while, I said I never had been down the other side of Ternes and so we walked.
First was La Maison du Chocolat, a premier chocolatier in Paris.
It is located at 225 Rue Fbg St Honoré, 75008 Paris. It is just across the street from Thé Mariage Frères. Their website is La Maison du Chocolat. Neither Tess nor I are eating much (okay, any) chocolate right now, but I snapped these photos so, for those of you who want to explore this area, you will know what it looks like.
I knowwwww. It’s chocogasmic, huh. *sigh* Maybe one day I will eat such things again! 🙂
We also saw the music hall called the Salle Pleyel.
The reason I know about the Salle Pleyel and the Maison du Chocolat is because nearly a couple of weeks ago, I got an email alert that Sting is going to be in Paris December 15. I think it was a message I got through iLike. Anyway, I remember going to Google Maps and looking up the Salle Pleyel and seeing the Maison du Chocolat marked on the Google Map, too.
Sure enough, here it shows his concert date:
Sooooo NOT going. Check out the ticket prices on Sting’s MySpace Blog about the concert. That’s in EUROS there, kids. Times the numbers by 1.5 to get the dollah amount.
There is a piano shop attached, Pianos Pleyel.
On our way back to M° Ternes, we saw this beautiful piano, which may have been in a showroom extension of Pianos Pleyel, or another shop altogether. It was across the street from the shop in the above photo.
I wished I thought to set my bag with tea I bought aside so it would not be reflected in the window. This piano was so very lovely!
Last, but not least, we stopped to have coffees in the Le Do Re Mi café. Almost a year ago, in December 2008, I had to get some paperwork notarized. The law firm notarizing my documents was on Avenue Hoche. This is back in my ‘fraidy cat days when I could barely get out the door of our apartment to take out the trash, much less manage appointments! But I had to “man up” in this case, and get this task done on my own.
I had just said good-bye to my friend Michelle Mabelle who had stayed with PJ and me for a week, and went off to my appointment. I had a little time to spare, so before the appointment, I stopped in this café, which was not far from the law offices, to have a cappuccino (back when I was still drinking milk). I was so proud of myself doing this on my own at that time! I’d forgotten to note the name of the place, though, back then. Imagine my surprise when Tess and I happened upon the Do Re Mi and I realized it was the same café where I independently purchased my very first coffee in Paris.
The interior is very nice, with a vintage 1960s feel to it. Check out the groovy light fixture! There were several just like it in the café.
The Lovely Tess
The Squinty-Eyed Me
Kind of like this actress HERE and HERE. LOL. She’s one of those actresses that I can’t decide whether I like her or not. Squinchy facial expressions (which make her acting annoying to watch at times) and squinty eyes aside, she seems like she is either a real sweetheart (à la Bridget Jones) or a total bitch. I lean towards “bitch.” I mean, who goes to the hair salon in shoes like these? Oh, in all fairness there are some of her shopping and in running shoes, too.
A friend of a friend who used to live in Katy, Texas, where Renée is from has said she is a real piece of work. Not in the good way…
I still cannot decide what I really think of Renée. But, I think I will stay squinty eyed! Hahaha!! See this *great* blog about squinty-eyed people! Droll Girl dot blogspot dot com.
After coffees, it was almost time for Tess to meet up with her beau for a late lunch. First, though, we stopped off at the Fnac.
Fnac is like a supersized Barnes and Noble bookstore that also sells videos and video games as well as tickets to museums and events. I usually buy Louvre tickets here because then you can go into entrances besides the main one, for example. Anyways, it is four floors of books, DVDs, video games, and computers.
While I was there, there was a promotion on certain DVDs — buy two for 20€. I purchased Cédric Klapisch’s movie “Paris” (check out this blog about it here, and another well-written review here) and what is called «La môme» in French, but “La Vie en Rose” in English, with the actress who won an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role, Marion Cotillard.
I am excited about seeing these two movies as there are several scenes of Paris in them. I’m starting to make a hobby out of trying to recognize places I see in movies taking place in Paris.
More on this later as I have some other information to share about these films and others.
What Happened Today
I am going to bring this blog to a close, soon. I’m checking, and it looks like I have just over 3,000 words for today. I need to do this about two to three more times to have comfortably made it to the 50k word count by next Monday! Here’s to hoping I can do it. I definitely have some more topics about which to write.
In closing, though, I snapped a couple of photos of the leaves outside today (one of them is the photo at the top of the blog). Check this out, though:
Lots of autumn leaves. November is coming to a close, and soon it will be winter.
The leaves are coming off the trees!!
The above are the same trees, just three weeks ago at the beginning of the month.
Another photo like its sister up at the top of the post, just a closer/tighter shot of the bikes.
And…… HEY! What the heck?!?
Notice anything different in this photo compared to the first one?
THE LE RELAIS BINS ARE GONE!!!
Ohhh nooooooo! My free source of clothing is missing!
I do not know if they are permanently gone or not, but the bins were hauled off between the time I took the first photos and the one there with no bins. I noticed a truck had come to pick up the donations, but then I saw them taking pallet movers and moving the bins into the truck, too. Either they are permanently gone (I have noticed city workers who come to clean often have to deal with an excess of clothing that has been dumped outside of the full bins — how I got my free clothes), or they are being replaced by more functioning bins. These ones had pull-down doors that did not function very well.
So. Something new. I guess now I am going to have to go to H&M to get stuff instead of the bins, ha.
In closing, I hope in the next couple of days to write more completely about Karen’s and my adventure through two parks and a cemetery, and also about the things I learned from the book Sarah’s Key. I hope to tell more about the movies I bought and let you know how to roast butternut squash!
Until later, then, I am over & out.