Bienvenue en France!

Hallo und danke to all of you pupils and teachers who’ve been following my blog for the 5 months I spent in Austria. Now it’s time for a bienvenue to all the new experiences & lessons awaiting me in Paris! I moved to the city of love just over a week ago, so there’s plenty I’ve yet to do and see and discover and eat, but I thought now would be a good time to update you guys on some of my first impressions of Paris, and particularly on travel & transport!

I landed in Charles de Gaulle airport and could immediately tell that I was in a capital city…the airport was GINORMOUS! After walking from what felt like one end of Paris to the other, we were transported by airport tram to another terminal to collect our suitcases. Here are some of the pics I took of the tram en route!

The sign that greeted me when I landed in Paris
The train that transported us to collect our luggage!

After a bit of Googling, I discovered that you can fly to almost anywhere in the world from Charles de Gaulle, and for pretty cheap. Interrailing through Paris is a simple and popular option too!

Getting around France is pretty similar to getting around the UK…they have cars, buses, motorbikes, trains and taxis, although some of them look a bit different to the ones we have!

A french taxi…note which side of the car the driver sits on…

Taxis are particularly common in Paris, although they’re also very much in demand, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for one, particularly during rush hours!

The main station in France is Gare du Nord, and is the busiest station in Europe, with 214 million travellers passing through it each year! It’s the central station for the trains, buses and metro in France. I made the mistake of being in the Gare du Nord at rush hour yesterday…it got very hot and very busy very quickly! If you’ve ever been in any of the main London stations during rush hour, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about! Here’s a map of the various train and metro lines there are running through the city centre:

A map of the train and metro lines in and around Paris
The main station in France
An inside peek at Gare du Nord

So what’s the metro, I hear you ask? The metro is Paris’ version of the London Underground. Rapid underground trains that transport people around the city of Paris.

The metro (Paris’ underground transportation system)

As well as the metro, France also has trams (these look a bit like the metro but drive along the road and are connected to an electricity cable overhead.) to aid transport around the city.

A tram

So using all these modes of transport must get expensive, right? Well…probably, compared to what we’d pay in the UK! But the French also seem to use public transport a lot more than we do, so they do tend to get the value out of them! I bought a “vianavigo” card when I arrived, a travel card costing 73 Euros a month which allows me to travel anywhere in and around Paris for free for the month. It sounds like a lot, but I’d definitely spend more buying a ticket each day!

Un Pass Navigo – a monthly travel ticket

Probably one of the biggest downsides to using public transport in France is the frequent protests and manifestations, which mean the transport either doesn’t run reliably, or doesn’t run at all! Mostly travellers are made aware of these protests beforehand, so can plan an alternative way to work, but every now and then you’ll run into a strike that you didn’t know about! The vianavigo app can help with this! Similar to Traveline Cymru, the vianavigo app allows users to plan their routes and see any disruptions or changes in timings or routes ahead of time.

The handy vianavigo app!

To cover shorter distances, travelling by bike or scooter (yes, I’m talking about adults!) is also a popular option in France. The majority of Parisian people own their own bike, but those who don’t have the option to hire a Velib for a small fee at one of 18,000 stations in and around Paris. Simply hire the bike like you’d hire a car and drop it off at a station when you’re done with it.

The velib bikes…don’t forget to return them when you’re done!

 

An alternative method of transport…

The eagle-eyed ones among you will have noticed something interesting about the taxi picture earlier in the blog. Which side of the car does the driver sit on in France? Drivers seats are always on the left of the vehicle here, and drivers always drive on the right hand side of the road. This has taken a bit of getting used to, particularly in remember which way to look first when I’m about to cross a road! There are several theories and speculations as to why this is… http://www.worldstandards.eu/cars/driving-on-the-left/ offers one…

“In the late 1700s, however, teamsters in France and the United States began hauling farm products in big wagons pulled by several pairs of horses. These wagons had no driver’s seat; instead the driver sat on the left rear horse, so he could keep his right arm free to lash the team. Since he was sitting on the left, he naturally wanted everybody to pass on the left so he could look down and make sure he kept clear of the oncoming wagon’s wheels. Therefore he kept to the right side of the road.” Who knows if this is true, but it’s a fun guess!

Well, I’m off to boire du vin et mange un croissant, but in the meantime, why don’t you pick 3 or 4 monuments or sites in Paris from the list below. Can you work out how you could get to each of the monuments from the Gare du Nord? Give one another directions to your chosen sites (in French if you can!)

 

A bientôt !

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