Friday, June 14, 2013

Riding the Metropolitan

Photos of the day on my Facebook: rick.adams.39589
Taxis are expensive in Paris, and street traffic is a huge hassle, so while I'm here this week I'll go underground ... on the Metropolitan.

I am staying on the west side of the city in Puteaux with Donna-Lane's friend M, who is a psychologist. Basically crashing on the couch since I will be leaving early mornings and back late at night each day.

My first event, the EASA-FAA aviation safety conference, was in the southeast part of the city, and it would be a bit of a walk to the nearest Metro station at La Defence. I left plenty early, figuring I'd find the Marriott Rive Gauche where the conference was being held, then have maybe an hour for a leisurely breakfast at some little cafe nearby.

The trip I expect to take 45 minutes took an hour and 45.

No problem finding the La Defence station. Had been there before when D-L and I were here in February. Purchased a 5-day all-zones pass. Got a map of the Metro; I have a good basic sense of direction, and I'm generally especially okay if I have a map available. First leg - the Yellow M-1 line. The Metro lines are sometimes lettered, sometimes numbered, sometimes both, and sometimes colored. The map looks like multi-colored spaghetti. Looked around the station for the signs.

Okay, found the sign for the Yellow M-1. Then found another sign - pointing in the opposite direction. (Did not realize the La Defence Metro station straddles two stops.) Okay, executive decision, pick one. Found my train. No problem.

Needed to change at Chatelet to the Brown 11 line (no letter). Or thought so. When I got off the Yellow M-1, I thought I saw a sign for the 11 and headed for the sortie (exit). No, don't want to go out to the street. Backtrack through pretty much the entire station - and since Chatelet is a convergence for several Metro lines, it wasn't always easy to navigate. Down stairs. Up stairs. Flat moving sidewalks. Inclined moving sidewalks, including one that wasn't working, which was rather awkward to walk on. Escalators. Through a turnstile that required my pass. After several minutes, found the Brown 11 line - except that the line's terminus was not a stop I recognized. (The lines are marked by the last stop, so it's not enough to know just your interim destination.) Get out the map, look more closely, use the old man reading glasses this time. Try not to look like a tourist. Aha! I didn't want the Brown 11; I wanted the Blue B, which ran parallel (at least on the map) to the Brown. Now, find the Blue M signs, which took me back through much of the station. So I wasted at least 15-20 minutes there simply by not having examined the map well enough. Will try not to make that mistake again, but no promises.

Got off at Denfert-Rochereau, from where I originally planned to switch to the Green 6 for the final leg. But it looked like I was already reasonably close to the Marriott, and this was an above-ground station so I could see the weather was decent. Chose to walk the rest of the way. Still had a good 20 minutes or so to spare, maybe time to grab a chocolate eclair and eat it before I arrived at registration.

Couldn't locate Rue Jean Jacques, the street for the Marriott. Crossed the street from the station exit and walked a block. Not there. Went down the stairs, through one of the tunnels which are the pedestrian "crosswalks" for many of the busier streets in Paris, and up the other side. Now I was at Avenue General LeClerc (wonder if my Montreal friend Robert LeClerc is related to him?) There was a poster with a street map of the immediate area, so checked that out. I had gone in the wrong direction when I exited the station, opposite from what I needed. So back across the street, back to the station. Turned down the side street. Noticed a sign - Rene Coty - wrong side street. Finally went to the other side of the station, found Jean Jacques, and walked (briskly now) down through a lovely tree-lined canopy to the Marriott.

Arrived at the registration desk just as the morning sessions were about to start. I am, if nothing else, a just-in-time guy. Never late, rarely early (except when going to the airport with D-L.)

Looked around to see if there were any pastries for the conference delegates. Yes, there were tables with set ups ... but no food, not even coffee or hot water for tea. They were just starting to arrange the mid-morning break to follow.

Conference was very interesting. Some good contacts made. Worth the trip.

Getting back to M's would be easy now, right? I was a Metro veteran.

It was nearly 7pm before I left the Marriott (talking, then catching up emails via the free WiFi in the lobby until the battery on my tablet died).

Got on the Blue B toward Chatelet, but noticed the stop before was Notre Dame-Saint Michel. I remembered that D-L had shown me the area she used as the plot setting for her novel, Murder in Paris, which comes out July 10th. I thought I could find the area - once I've been somewhere, I can usually navigate pretty well. I came out of the station, walked toward Notre Dame, took a few photos, then crossed the street past a cafe I thought I recognized. But when I turned the corner, I knew it wasn't the place. So back to Notre Dame, past the front of the building, a few more photos, past the souvenir shops and little restaurants (even had the willpower to pass the Haagen-Das ice cream vendor). Came to a parallel river. Definitely not in the right place. Worked my way back to Notre Dame and the Metro exit where I had surfaced to the street. Checked a posted map, looking for a Hugo reference, because I thought D-L had mentioned a Hugo street when we were there. Nada.

So I drifted up along the Seine, glancing in more souvenir shops to see if there was an English street map of Paris I could purchase. Came to the Pont Saint-Michel, and voila, I recognized the V-shaped intersection, the cathedral, the sidewalk cafes, then the cobblestone lanes filled with shops and eateries. Now I had my bearings.

I walked the few blocks to where Donna-Lane had showed me the little park which was the setting for the three murders in the book, one in the 1300s and two more recently. I circled the park taking photos of everything from every angle. It's one thing to be in a special city such as Paris; it's another level to be in a place that reminds you of a special person. If she couldn't be here with me this week, this was the next best thing.

Decided to eat at the restaurant right at the corner by the bridge, which was next to one of the Metro entrances, so plenty of opportunity to people-watch as I enjoyed my spaghetti bolognaise and Zero.

My belly full, I hopped back on the Blue M, changed at Chatelet to the Yellow M-1, and back to La Defence.

It was finally getting dark, around 10, and I had exited at the first La Defence stop (Esplanade), so a pleasant stroll toward the Grande Arche (photo below). It was still a hike to M's, and I could have taken the 144 bus (if I knew where to get the 144 bus), but I figured I knew the walking directions ... through the shopping mall, then down the hill. 

While I was at the conference during the day, they apparently rearranged the buildings around the plaza of the Grande Arche de la Defence. I circumnavigated the Arche, and now nothing looked like what I had seen in February ... nor that morning.

(I can now stop chortling about D-L, L and B getting lost for hours in Barcelona earlier this week - http://theexpatwriter.blogspot.fr/2013/06/barcelona-never-again.html).

I postponed the panic with a McDonald's McFlurry, then entered the mall, thinking I would recognize the route D-L and I had taken a couple of times. I walked the entire length. Except when I got to the door where we had previously exited the mall, it was closed by a solid metal barrier. Perhaps construction on the other side (maybe they were moving more buildings around to confuse me the next day). Back through the entire mall, ask a security guard for directions to Puteaux, then down the length of the outside of the mall. Oh, now I see the odd sculpture that I noticed this morning.

I found my way, I thought, through the office buildings, looking for the elevator down to the street level. Noticed some Puteaux signs - this is good. Construction area. Didn't recognize. Not good. Group of teens in a dark area. Detour around them just in case. Another "Puteaux - centre" sign. Good. Down several flights of stairs. Not familiar. Almost to ground level. Oh, there's the pedestrian bridge crossing the road by the elevator I had used in the morning. Home free. Only a mile or so down more stairs, down Republique, past the triangular park and the pizza delivery store, then a couple blocks to the final turn. Only about 1130 pm when I squeezed myself and my backpack into the one-person elevator in M's building. Just in time to collapse on the couch.

Today, a different conference in a different part of the city. Two or three different Metro lines. You might want to start a "pool" on what time you think I'll get there ... and back.


La Grande Arche de la Defence

1 comment:

  1. Okay, I get the airport timing remark... To find the 144 it is all the way to the end of La Defense Arche and you go up an escalator. It is either at the SNCF end or the opposite. There are signs. I know I don't have a lot of creds when it comes to directions...especially if I tell you the hours I've spent lost in that mall and we all know how much I love spending time in a mall--NOT--even in Paris.

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