Traspin’ Round by Lynne Cunningham

Traveling to Paris is a little like going to Pigeon Forge. You pack your bags for climate changes and unforeseen emergency needs, like band aids and aspirin. Of course, getting to Paris, France involves buying an airline ticket or booking a berth on a luxury liner and crossing an ocean including jet lag if you fly.

The preferred mode of transfer from Charles-de-Gaulle airport to the city of Paris is hired car/shuttle with a cost of about $95.00. For a cheaper rate one might choose to take a train which runs regularly from Charles-de-Gaulle to Gare du Nord (railway terminal) in the city center, then take a taxi to your hotel or arranged accommodations. Taxis in Paris are notoriously high and cabdrivers have the reputation of bulldogs. On one trip to Paris a cabdriver and moi were engaged in a shouting match at the end of a short ride which ran the meter up to an enormous fare of which I complained – to no avail – and no tip.

So if your party numbers 2, 3, or 4, you probably will do better to hire a car and avoid the train and cab. But a lone traveler could come out cheaper, probably around $40.00, using train and cab, depending upon how far your hotel is located from the train station.

Once you’ve made your way to your lodgings you are free to use recyclable energy (let your feet do the walking) or the Metro. For 12 Euros you can buy a bundle of tickets – 12 with no expiration date, to ride the rails of the subway (or on wheels of buses) which networks all over the city. In April of this year the exchange rate was $1.30 US to 1 E. I tried to convert dollars to Es (in my mind) as time and a half, $1.50, in order to get a better grip on how much I was spending. When you see a price tag of 20 E your first reaction is $20 US, but in reality it is nearer $35 US. A Chanel parfum purchase for 88 E translated into $144.00 US on my Visa statement when “I got the bill”.

Back to the Metro, there is a good bit of walking involved if your desired route requires you to change trains/tracks going in opposite or varying directions.

Then you may need to walk a lot underground from one tunnel to another, up and down stairs, sometimes moving electrically. But even that “tunnel vision” is interesting in Paris cause along the passageways can be flower shops, souvenir shops, food, pastries and tee shirts for sale. Also free musical presentations unfolded spontaneously it seems from a lone guitar player or groups of 4 or 5 stringed instrument artists – the upturned hat on the floor. And there are beggars in the tunnels and on the streets. Nowadays they have babes in arm or sometimes inert pet dogs laying along side them.

Paris is so design and color conscious that even the Metro platforms and station stops have distinctive decorations. With romantic, sometimes eponymous historical names there is colored paint to match or signify. The Concorde (Place de la Concorde) stop associated with Kings, Revolution and Empire (under Napoleon) sports purple paint on the steel beams over the tracks and plastic seat forms mounted on the benches along the wall of the tunnel platform. The Tuileries stop associated with the long green space of garden and playground for children (formerly for kings and queens) Jardin des Tuileries, is appropriately appointed with green beams and benches. Some stops have no color accents but nearly all are paneled with the large white ceramic tiles, reflecting a clean sparkling light in the dark underground tunnels. The names of the stops evoke exotic images of mind and history; Felix Faure (composer of music) Franklin D Roosevelt (US President), Brigette Bardot (French film star), Clemenceau (statesman), Andre Citroen (auto designer engineer), Emile Zola (French writer who penned a famous letter J’Accuse, in defense of Captain Dreyfus, falsely accused), Voltaire and Alexandre Dumas (men of letters).

Furthermore there are buses and boats in Paris. The Bateaux Mouches, floating boats along the banks of the Seine River are comfortable and romantic on a pretty day. You can buy a special ticket to get on and off at will as the boat plys its route around Isle de la Cite, the boat shaped island in the middle of the river.

The island was no more than a primitive village when the conquering Julius Caesar arrived in 52 B.C. Today two sparkling stars of the island are Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle, a jewel of Gothic architecture noted for its panels of stained glass windows in riotous colors. Otherwise buses on the streets of Paris lend a very comfortable mode of transportation to a weary traveler tired of walking. The same packet of tickets purchased for 12 E can be used on bus, boat or Metro.

Next time Food; glorious Food France, the Epicurean Center of the World, Cardon Bleu, Michelin Stars and the rest.