There are many transportation options in Paris and I think we’ve taken them all. This is my Transit 101: what we’ve managed to learn, sometimes the easy way, and where necessary, the hard way. The RER trains run both above and below ground and go many of the same places as the Metro. The cars are mostly double-deckers and you’re less likely to lose your arm because the doors stay open for 20 seconds rather than the 10 seconds the Metro car doors remain open. HOWEVER, right now the RER is somewhat on strike so your line may not be running at all today or the trains may simply be running less frequently and the next train may not come for another 2 hours. Metro, on the other hand, is frequent and dependable. However, it can take an engineering degree to figure out how many Metro lines you’ll need to get to your destination, as well as what direction you should take each line, since each line goes 2 directions and is thus named for the street at the end of the line and not an actual direction. Taking the right Metro line in the wrong direction can make your life, temporarily at least, very miserable. And then locating and then reaching the appropriate connecting line in the same Metro station can prove to be very daunting, with long tunnels and multiple flights of both up and down stairs. It can feel like you’re walking more than you’re riding. But the Metro is entertaining. There is often entertainment on board, like an accordionist or a guitar player. And the other riders can be very entertaining too. The Bus, on the other hand, can be a lot of fun. It’s great to be able to see where you are now and enjoy the sights along the way to where you’re going. The only problem with the bus is that some lines and/or at some times of the day they can be breathtakingly crowded. And of course walking, when at all possible, is the very best option. That’s the way you get to see the most.
We mostly took the Metro with a few buses and RER’s thrown in where necessary. We only took a taxi a couple of times. And of course we walked A LOT!
We were in an RER station one day and having problems because our train had been cancelled and the next one wasn’t coming for another hour. This gal from Cuba, named Dai (sp?), was so sweet and tried hard to help us find an alternate, faster route. First she enlisted the aid of 2 transit information officers who went over the maps with her and pointed us in the right direction. Then we switched to the Metro and she actually got on 2 different Metro lines with us to make sure we got to the correct stop. At one point when we needed our bus passes to get into another station, she couldn’t find hers and just emptied the contents of her purse onto the floor in the Metro station and dug around until she found it. Chuck tried to pay her for helping us but she wouldn’t take anything. She was amazing!