Paris - Day 1.5

The reason we couldn’t find the Apple store at the Louvre was because it was in a mall underground. The steps didn’t look like they would lead you to anything significant. On the directory at the entrance of the mall, Apple is listed as the first entry under Leisure/Culture/Gifts.

Apple’s listing at the LouvreApple’s listing at the Louvre

[To my French-ignorant eyes, loisirs looks like losers misspelt.]

We spent another hour or two roaming in the gardens outside the Louvre (Jardin de Tuileries). The fountains and their usual inhabitants: the ducks, the pigeons and the sea-gulls, never bore me.

At Jardin des TuileriesAt Jardin des Tuileries

A curious duckA curious duck

Then there were statues all around us, many of which wore such dramatic, pained expressions that I almost started feeling bad for them.

A statue wears a pained expressionA statue wears a pained expression

While some trees were showing signs of the impending autumn, it was by and large very green.


We emerged near Place de la Concorde…

Near ConcordeNear Concorde

Near ConcordeNear Concorde

…and began our search for the nearest metro station to get to Montmarte.

With 14 lines, the map of Paris looks complex and intimidating at first.

The lines of Paris MetroThe lines of Paris Metro

Paris MetroParis Metro

(You can find the original PDF on the RATP website)

It is however surprisingly easy to navigate.

Metros of big cities are a world of their own. My first impression of the Paris Metro from outside was this entrance to Les Gobelins:

Les GobelinsLes Gobelins

Goblins? An old man holding a gun? It takes very little imagination to start worrying about exactly what you’ll below.

And the entrance to Place d’Italie looks like an entrance to a seat of witchcraft:

Place d’ItaliePlace d’Italie

The reality of course is a lot more mundane. It’s an underground world of weary morning commuters nodding in sleep to the rhythm of the train. It’s a world of fluorescent lights and of massive metallic monsters pushing dank columns of wind through the tunnels.

It gets a little spooky when your train stops inside a tunnel for no apparent reason. The one time it happened to us, a very talented street (train?) performer kept our minds from working themselves into anxiety:

Each station of the Paris metro is a little different from the other. Of the stations we boarded a train from, the Concorde station still stands out in our memory for its walls covered in tiles of letters like a giant word search puzzle.

Concorde metro stationConcorde metro station

The overground stations are less interesting, but the views from the train you board from there compensate for it:

Somewhere on the way to the Bir Hakim stationSomewhere on the way to the Bir Hakim station

The trains of the Paris metro are a mix of the old and the new. A lot of older ones have latches that you turn clockwise to trigger the doors to open. The seasoned commuters work them 4-5 seconds before the train comes to a complete halt, and dart off in a hurry.

Most trains have folding seats near the entrance. We saw an episode which we are sure is repeated everyday. A tourist would sit on one of these folding seats, momentarily get up to help someone with their luggage, in the meanwhile the seat would fold back, the tourist would try to sit on a now non-existent seat, much hilarity would ensue.

The friendly rabbit of the Paris MetroThe friendly rabbit of the Paris Metro

We used the metro a lot to get around in Paris. You can buy individual tickets for €1.75 or a lot of 10 for €12.50. On our last day, we bought a spare lot just to make sure that we have an excuse to come to Paris again.

Update: Added more pictures of the Paris Metro on Oct 24, 2011.

September 15, 2011