Wednesday, August 14, 2013

DBS Euro Trip 2013 - Paris, Gettin' Around

Typically, my posts are arranged chronologically; it's just the easiest way for me to work through my thoughts about a subject.  But as I was laying out these potential Paris posts, I thought it might be a better idea to group them by subject instead.

We got to Paris via the Eurostar high speed rail.  Our trip from Brussels to Paris was a brisk 1 hour and 5 minutes.  It's clean, efficient, hassle-free, and there's even a bar/restaurant car in the middle of the train.  We worked on our travel journal on the trip and I looked over my shoulder in amazement at the two young Asians sitting one row behind me and to the left.  They were boyfriend/girlfriend and identically dressed in striped red and black tops with yellow shorts (festooned with a Paul Frank monkey).  I mean....there's about no way I would ever consider wearing the same outfit as DB~.

DB~ had read so much about street crime and pickpockets in Paris that she had me wired for sound to the brim with tension.  When we pulled into Gare du Nord, I put my game face on and made sure our bags were secure, money in a safe spot, and we were ready to do this.  We opted against the Metro into town (too many bags to oversee on a crowded train) and waited in the taxi line instead.  When we got out of the station, it was hemorrhaging rain outside; luckily, we were under cover.

The standard trope is that the French are snooty and dislike Americans.  Our first impression of Paris was our cabbie and he couldn't be nicer or a better guide.  He was a young guy (around 28) from the Ivory Coast, but he spoke French primarily, although his English was workable.  He was energetic and quite a traveler.  He's been to parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe already, with plans to visit the States one day (he has a friend in Miami).  Whenever we didn't understand each other, I resorted to charades and/or sound effects -- my attempt to give the definition of "mean" made DB~ laugh/cringe at the same time.

After we checked into our hotel, the ridiculously hard squall ended and we hoofed it around town quite a bit.  It's a walkable city, but you can't walk from key landmark to landmark.  They're all pretty much evenly distributed throughout the reaches of the city.  We were lucky enough to be just a 10 minute walk to the Eiffel Tower, which is a sight to behold.

Once we got comfortable enough to warrant venturing into the "scary" world of the Paris Metro system, we took to it swimmingly.  In the course of our three days in Paris, we were in 19 different Metro stations and used probably 5 different colored lines.  Our hotel was right across the street from the Bir Hakeim station, which was a convenient stop for what we needed to do as it went directly to the Arc de Triomphe and the hub station of Charles de Gaulle, which gave access to many other lines.

We used the Metro at all times of day.  Morning, afternoon, late night and every time it was packed.  I think we both had seats only a handful of times.  We were very vigilant; at times we stood back to back to protect ourselves, but we never felt threatened.  The stations were massive.  It felt like we were walking underground forever at some stations when we had to transfer.  You were able to take the Metro to a station directly under the Louvre.  You just came right up and into the main lobby (with a high end mall, as well).

We saw plenty as we were walking.  It's definitely a city that you want to see all the architecture and landmarks you can, but we saved ourselves and our energy by using the Metro to the fullest extent possible.  When we got there I thought people were going to come out of the walls to steal our money, but we left feeling quite content with our Paris transportation experience.

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