Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Paris (Day 1)

We took a mid-morning train from Amsterdam to Paris, arriving in Paris around 1330. We both had a bit of a snooze on the train, but were ready to head on out once we got to Paris Nord station.

This station is absolutely huge. This is where many of the long-distance trains go, and is also a major hub on the metro (subway) system. However.....Paris is hands down the best mass transit system I have ever seen. I have heard that it may in fact be the best worldwide, and I wouldn't doubt it.

Let me back up a bit...

We headed from the train area of Paris Nord (above ground) to the metro area (below ground). We quickly found a ticket purchasing area, and bought 2 carnettes of tickets (a carnette is a pack of 10 tickets). Each metro ride within the city takes 1 ticket, and that same ticket is good for 75 minutes of riding. After this, I used my oh-so awesome travel bible to figure out where to go. I had written down which metro line number, which direction on that line, and which actual station I needed to get off at. I had everything we needed. We followed the excellent signage to our metro line, then hopped on. Each car has a map showing all the stops it makes, in order. Some cars even have a little light lit up that shows exactly where you are at any given moment. And while you wait for the next train to show up, they have overhead lit signs saying how many minutes until the train comes....and how many until the one after that comes. So you don't feel like you have to rush to get on a train. It seems that a new train comes every 3-4 minutes for each line, each direction. Fabulous system. We had to make 2 (I think) line changes, then ended up at our 'home' station, La Motte-Picquet Grenelle. Our hotel was literally steps from the metro entrance. The one thing we did NOT know about metro stations, is that they have multiple, multiple entrances for each station.

We exited the metro station, then tried to find our bearings. After several consultations of our awesome National Geographic map (really--we loved our Paris and Rome maps. Not too detailed and overloaded with every little allley, but not too vague and hard to figure out where you are. And all the monuments/touristy buildings are drawn in 3D and stand out and are easy to find on the map. And it is some sort of plasticy coated paper that does just fine in rain. Wonderful, wonderful maps)....we figured out where our hotel was, and where we thought we were. For some reason, this one-block area confounded us for our entire trip. We eventually figured out that we had walked past our well-marked hotel several times. Feeling a little idiotic, and sweating from our heavy backpacks, we entered the hotel, Hotel Tourisme.

I had received an email from the hotel a few weeks earlier, letting me know that they were doing some construction and their elevator was out of order. So, of course, we were on the 4th floor--92 stairs up. It was fine, though. The net result of this European vacation in the butter/oil/copious food eating vs stairs/walking ratio was that I came home 8 pounds lighter than I was in early April. Some of that may have been from before the trip, but all those stairs and long walks certainly helped!! But, I digress....

We climbed all those stairs to our very nice room with a private bathroom. After a few minutes to catch our breath and unpack/rearrange things a bit, we were off.

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