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  • Writer's pictureDebra Bokur

Metro confusion in Paris

I’ve always been comfortable using the metro, tram, bus and subway systems in whatever city I’ve found myself in.

My mother didn’t learn to drive until she was well into her thirties, and when my father wasn’t behind the wheel of our family station wagon, we regularly used the bus system in the suburb outside of Providence, R.I. where I grew up. When visiting family in Boston and New York, taking the metro and subway was a familiar part of our visits.

While past trips to France were hurried business excursions that usually required having a hotel doorman hail a taxi for me, a recent, more leisurely trip to Paris with my husband allowed ample time to explore and experience the city’s very extensive — and somewhat convoluted — metro system.

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Our metro adventure actually began at Gare du Nord train station following our arrival from London on the Eurostar. Though we’d confidently looked up the address of our hotel and noted both the nearest metro station and the correct line to board from the train station, we absolutely could not locate the correct line connection at Gare du Nord. We bought our tickets easily from an automated machine, but then tramped back and forth through the halls for a half hour, avoiding the long lines at the information booths we passed. We were stumped, as the line we needed — and which the hotel website recommended taking directly from Gare du Nord — didn’t actually connect at the station at all, but at Gare de L’est station, about a ten-minute walk away.

Over the following week, we also discovered that many of the stations we used to navigate the city were sorely lacking in directional markers indicating where turns in the tunnel system led. The lines don’t offer cardinal directions on signs, and we quickly learned that knowing the terminus point for each line was essential for boarding the train heading in the direction we needed.

While at our hotel, we politely pointed out to the desk manager that the website did not give accurate information on how to reach the property from Gare du Nord station. He admitted that he was fully aware of the shortcoming, and had been meaning to see that the website was updated. It’s been several months since our trip, and it’s become something of a family joke to occasionally check to see if the change has been made. So far, it has not; and our sympathies go out to hotel guests attempting to plot a logical metro route in advance.

All content copyright Debra Bokur 2020

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