GETTING AROUND (Le Metro)

Paris (pair-ree) is a truly great city.  You're going to want to be a part of it ... instead of an outsider ... so here are a few tips.  This is written primarily for first time Americans but is applicable to other visitors as well. 

You'll need just a tiny bit of French to really get into Paris, so read on.  First, you need to know how to get around.  That will be by walking (a pied, ah pee-Ed) and you've got to use the subway, le Metro (le May-tro).  "Oh no, I'll get lost.  I don't speak French.  I have no idea how it works."  Listen, get a metro (sorry, May-tro) map at the front desk of your hotel. You can get anywhere in Paris using Le Metro (remember, Le May-tro).

Open the map to the picture of the metro lines, point to it, and say to the person at the desk, La Tour Eiffel, careful, you have to say La Tour FL, not Eiffel ... FL ... just the two letters, F, L.  If you do this, and don't say anything in English, the person at the desk should point to a stop on one of the lines, probably a yellow line, the C train.  The name of the stop is Tour Eiffel, that's, TourFL!  Now, point to the stop the person has shown you, and ask, E-C?  Use a very crisp pronunciation of these two letters, EC?  English pronunciation is sloppy ... sorry, Brits, American English pronunciation is sloppy. French is crisp.)  E-C (ici) in French means here.  The person at the front desk will say, "Oui" (wee).  If this happens, you are well on your way to a big, big, memorable stay dans Paris (daln Pair-ree).

Now you can switch to English and find out where you get on the train and we'll switch to describing Le Metro.  Oh, but first, yes is not actually pronounced "wee", but rather, oo-ee.  If you say oo as in boot and then the letter E and you string them together, you can see how it sounds like "wee".  If you can get the oo and the E down to one syllable, you're there.  So work on your oui.

If you're not the adventurous type, when you walk into Le Metro (and by now you should be reading this in your head as Le May-tro ... very good), when you walk into Le Metro you're going to be thinking "What the ... Everything is in French.  I have no idea what to do or where to go!"  Chill ... chill.  You'll be okay.  Look, this is your first time doing this.  Don't worry.  Three days from now it'll be second nature.  Now, you need a ticket.  There are ticket machines with a bunch of writing you don't understand.  There may be a small booth with someone in it where tickets are also sold.  Let's tackle that first.

You need a ticket, in French, a billet (Bee-yay), but you're going to need at least one more to get back to your hotel. So, I'll make it easy. Travelling on Le Metro is cheap, so just take the ten-ticket option.  Walk up to the booth.  Look at person, there.  You should say, "Bonjour" and then "Dix billets", pronounced deece beeyay.  Don't say that "s".  "Deece bee-yay." And better yet, "Deece bee-yay, see vou play.  Ten tickets, please.  Slide your Euro cash (about 12 euros) into the tray, you'll get ten tickets and HERE YOU GO.  NICE!!  Wheeling and dealing in French.  Yes! ... rather, "Oui!"

If you have to use the ticket machine, there will be a button for 10 billets. Your American credit card will likely not work in the machine, so make sure you bring some cash with you.

Now you're going to have to check your Metro map.  Make sure you take it with you!  You'll have to get to the platform for the train you're taking.  Check the map and note the number or letter of the train you need to get on.  The number or letter will be shown at the two ends of the line.  Also, check the names of the two stops at the two ends of the line.  Now, from where you're getting on, to the stop at La Tour Eiffel (F-L), that is the direction in which you need to go.  So follow the line on the map from the station where you start, past your stop, to the last stop shown on the map.  This last stop name is the direction in which you need to travel.  Sometimes, the line on which you are travelling will split apart after your stop.  In that case note the name of the end stops for both ends after the split.  You can head in either of these directions.

OK.  Let's say you've got the name or names of the last stop shown.  For example, you need to get on the C train and head toward either, Versailles-Rive Gauche (Wait, you wanted to go to Versailles later on.  Well, lucky you.  Now, you're already planning your next trip on Le Metro) or Saint-Quentin-en-Yvellnes.  You can think in English now.  "I need a train heading to Versailles or San Quentin.  Start looking at all the signs and you'll find one with the C and Verailles-Rive Gauche or C and Saint-Quentin-en-Yvellnes.  Follow the signs to the platform.  At some point you'll have to run your ticket through a machine so you pass into the area where you get the trains.  Just watch how everyone else does it and you'll see how it works.  It's easy.  Remember to retieve your billet where it comes out of the machine.

When the train comes into the station, it will have a sign in front near the top. This sign tells you where the train is going (ultimately). You need to get on the train that says "Versailles-Rive Gauche" or "San Quentin".  If you see this, get on, and pat yourself on the back.  Now, all you need to do is to get off at La Tour Eiffel. Inside the train will be a sign that will show all the stops along the way.  Check it out and one of them should be your destination.  At each stop, the name of the stop will be in big letters on the walls of the station.  Just click off the stops on the way to yours and get off.

To get out of the subway up to the street, you need to exit.  In French the word is "Sortie" (sore-tee).  Follow the Sortie signs.  Don't worry yet about which Sortie you use.  There is usually more than one because you can usually get out at more than one place.  You'll be close enough now matter which one you pick.  And, by the end of your stay, you'll now the best Sortie for each of your destinations because you're going to end up taking Le Metro to the same stops more than once.

If you've made it this far, you'll be able to figure out how to get back to your hotel.  And if you get completely confused and you think you're going to die ---- ahhhhhhhh --- just ask someone.  In general, younger people are friendly and more prone to speaking English.  The American snub that was present in Paris in the 70s and 80s is gone.  Paris is an international city, a lot like New York City.  There are people from many different places and English is the common language.

Use the Metro as often as you can.  Don't be afraid to walk.  You can go anywhere you want without making any special arrangements to get on a bus, etc.  Depending on the time of day and traffic, it may be faster for you to take the Metro than any other means of transport!

Good luck!  You can do this ... yes, you!  And you're going to see three or four times more Paris using Le Metro.  And, you will be a part of it, not an outside observer.