University of Wisconsin–Madison

Ridin’ that metro

Thursday, February 27, 2014

So now that I’ve had my “I’m living in Paris” realization and my life is starting to feel somewhat normal I’ve started 1compiling a list (cause we all know how much I love making lists) of daily aspects, I guess you could call them, of living in Paris. I hope to blog about one each week so all my readers can get a good feel for what normal life is for Parisians…I can call myself a Parisian now, right?

With that being said, I’ll start with what is arguably the most essential part of living in Paris: the Metro. I remember our first orientation when they told us how much a monthly metro pass was going to cost and thinking it was outrageous; “oh, I’ll just walk everywhere”. Paris is not actually that big of a city, but it would be near impossible to walk everywhere I needed to go. That “outrageous” metro pass has turned into a vital part of living here. Not a day goes by that I don’t ride the metro at least once. It is actually extremely efficient and super easy to follow. I also have this WONDERFUL free app on my phone that doesn’t require internet that has a metro map on it and a router that you can put in your start and end destination stop and it will tell you how to get there. This has been beyond helpful when I go for my long wandering walks and I can just walk down into the closest metro, put that in and my home stop and it routes me without having to figure out the sometimes confusing map.

The stop near my apartment is barely a 5 minute walk. Walk down the stairs, past the individual “guichet” (ticket booth) and scan my “navigo” pass which is just what the monthly pass is called. Once onto the platform there are benches, usually one or two homeless people living there, and a sign hanging from the ceiling that tells when the next train is coming and the one after that (ex: 2 minutes and 5 minutes). They come very frequently so you never have to wait long. Each stop has one or more “sortie” which is the exit onto the street and then sometimes one or more correspondence lines. Signs with different colored arrows make it easy to find a connection or exit.

I must comment on the cleanliness. People told me that Paris was a dirty city, and I could not disagree more…aside from the metro. Mystery stains on the seats, indescribable smells…the stations themselves always smell like pee from the homeless people. You MUST hold on to a handle/railing during the ride if you don’t want to fall into someone’s lap but then there’s the mystery of how disgusting is this handle when you think of the thousands of people who have touched it in any given day.

I was worried about the safety of the metro and my first night out I asked my madame if I was okay coming home at 11:30 alone, she insisted it was perfectly fine…and she was right. Certain lines are more full than others and obviously you pick the car with more people but honestly, I rode the metro home after a night out at 5:30am and that felt less safe at that time than the 11:30pm one I ride home all the time. My madame said her last student was “the queen of the last metro”; they run from 5:30am to 12:30am during the week and later on weekends.

My most memorable ride so far was just this week. Riding line 4 home at 5pm is NOT fun; like I said, certain lines are more full than others and line 4(which is the one closest to home) is always extremely full. Monday afternoon on my way home every single cart was packed and I had to squish my way in. Wedged between another college aged girl with her dog(yes, people bring their dogs on the metro) and a middle aged man I was just trying to breathe and keep track of my bag. We pulled up to one stop and there was some shuffling of people trying to exit and enter when all of a sudden I’m being pushed backward towards the exit by an elderly woman I did not see. I literally got felt up on the metro as she pushed me out of her way. No “pardon” or “excusez-moi” which is customary when someone is in the way of exiting; just a full on push at chest level and I was so thrown off I almost missed jumping back into the car to proceed to my stop…I’m sure this is just one of many interesting metro stories I will have by the end of my stay here.