diamond geezer

 Sunday, July 15, 2018

À PARIS: les moments de regret

After six consecutive posts about my day out in Paris, I'd hate for you to think that everything went entirely to plan. So here's a rundown on some of my less successful moments, in case they're ever of use.

One day ticket: I bought the wrong one. I knew I'd be travelling extensively on public transport in central Paris, going no further out than the area covered by the Metro, so a ticket covering zones 1 and 2 would do. But I bought a Paris Visite (1-3) for €12, whereas I should have bought a Mobilis (1-2) for €7.50. I didn't need the extra zone, and I didn't use any of the attraction discounts a Paris Visite affords. Had I travelled less, a set of ordinary €1.90 single-use t+ tickets would have been sufficient, but a carnet of ten still costs €14.90, and because I ended up making ten journeys I was still well ahead. [more info] [more info]
On the bright side... I remembered to bring a pen to write my name and the date on my one day ticket, without which it would have been invalid. Next time I'll remember to bring one that doesn't smudge.

Musée des égouts: London ought to have a sewer museum. Paris does, on the banks of the Seine near the pont de l'Alma. I was looking forward to discovering the history of the famous sewers, as well as following a 500m underground path, for a ridiculously decent entrance fee. Unfortunately when I turned up I discovered the museum had closed for major renovation works ten days earlier, and that these were planned to last until early 2020. I'm sure it'll be excellent when it finally reopens but, damn, just missed.
On the bright side... Because I skipped the sewer museum I got to le Corbusier's house an hour earlier than I would have done otherwise, and so avoided arriving just as it was closing for lunch.

Gold Ring Scam: While I was looking lost and particularly touristy outside on the pont de l'Alma, a middle-aged man attracted my attention by flashing a gold ring at me. I understood from his broken English that he'd just found it on the ground, or he said he had, and he seemed to be asking me whether I'd dropped it. I said not, and made to walk away, when he suddenly rebrandished the ring and invited me to take it from his hand. I was having none of that, not wishing to get involved in anything that might turn very murky, and gruffly dismissed him. Only when I got home and Googled did I discover quite how uncomplicated his scam was, and that all the bloke wanted to do was sell it to me 'on the cheap', knocking down the price until I said yes. Obviously it's not gold, and obviously nobody's just dropped it, but apparently several tourists do chip in and pay a bargain €50, €20, even €10, and the only person who ever gains is the con artist.
On the bright side... I felt a tiny bit streetwise at being suspicious enough not to get involved.

Le Marais: My guidebook told me that Le Marais was the gentrified corner of central Paris, a once downbeat area turned chic, and included one of the most beautiful squares on Earth. I wandered through its narrow streets and found it charming but commercialised, a bit like an upmarket version of Soho, crossed with Spitalfields, crossed with Chelsea. And Place des Vosges was indeed lovely, but a bit gravelly, and too large to absorb in one go thanks to the topiary screen all the way around, and I didn't linger.
On the bright side... I now know where the gelateria are.

Le football: I turned up on World Cup semifinal day, and shouldn't have headed to the city centre just before the match kicked off. An extra-big screen had been erected in front of the Hôtel de Ville, towards which hordes of fans draped in le bleu, blanc et rouge were amiably flocking. Several riverside roads and bridges had been blocked off by the gendarmerie, making getting around much harder than it should have been. The crowds'll no doubt be back, and considerably more excitable, for this afternoon's final.
On the bright side... I was on my Eurostar home before the match finished.

L'heure de pointe: To dodge the football I decided to escape l'Ile de la Cité via its single Metro station. It's one of my favourites, Cité, its curving platforms lit by clusters of arty globes, and accessed down a huge deep shaft via a semi-spiral staircase. Alas the Parisian rush hour seemed to be running somewhat later than ours. Even though it was after half past six every train arrived packed, and when the doors opened we could only stare at the sardines before they slammed shut again. By the time the sixth train had done this I gave up, relieved I'd bought a day pass rather than wasting a ticket, then cursed that all the lifts were out of order and schlepped up more than 100 steps back to the surface.
On the bright side... I did get that cracking photograph.

Le Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie: Paris's science museum is a huge modern box close to the Peripherique, gifted to the city by President Giscard d'Estaing, built into the shell of a former abbatoir and surrounded by an over-fountained moat. It also closes at 6pm, and I arrived at seven, so was entirely unable to explore the interior. I did get a look inside the small shopping centre, which was pretty much dead because there was a football match on, even the tills at M&S Simply Food. Instead I wandered round the perimeter, passing an adventure playground, a Lego exhibition and a giant submarine, and was particularly taken by the IMAX cinema - La Géode - masquerading as a massive silver globe. The whole place reminded me of Milton Keynes, i.e. what futuristic used to look like, but there is considerably more recreational engineering to track down across the Parc de la Villette if I ever come back.
On the bright side... I think that means the 17th is now the only arrondissement I haven't been to.

Finally, here's a link to my Flickr set of 27 photos from this visit, starting with the ones you haven't seen yet.

And here's a recap of my posts about previous trips to Paris, in case for some reason you haven't had enough.
May 2017: les Catacombes
March 2016: Palace de Versailles
March 2013: Eurostar, la tour Eiffel, le métro, Père-Lachaise, Musee d'Orsay, le flâneur
April 2005: la Défense, Jardin des Tuileries, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur

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