Volume II – No. 1 – May 2005
In the second of our members’ essay series, Jeff Schramm goes inter-modal on his first trip to Paris.
After being elected to the T2M executive committee in November of last year, I headed to Paris for my first Executive Committee meeting in late April. I was quite excited about the
trip, not only to review bylaws and budgets but also because it would be my first visit to the fabled “city of light.” My wife accompanied me and we made the trip into a short vacation.
April in Paris is not to be missed.
We left St. Louis on a short hop to Chicago where we boarded an American Airlines 767 bound for Charles De Gaulle Airport. About eight hours later we disembarked. After a short shuttle bus ride from the air terminal to the rail station we managed to purchase our tickets into Paris on the RER. This intermodality is one of the aspects of traveling that I really enjoyed. While on the train we passed the approaches to Gare du Nord and I saw Eurostar, TGV and Thalys trains entering and leaving the terminal. I was quite excited by this but my jet-lagged wife was less amused. I was unable to convince her that the station was a tourist attraction and instead we spent our time at the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and the
Musee d’Orsay rather than hanging around railway stations, although the Orsay sort of qualifies.
After our RER trip into town it was time to navigate the Paris Metro. I had a map with me but it looked like a bowl of multi-colored spaghetti. After some study we were able to figure out how to purchase tickets from an automatic machine and navigate the system. I was surprised by the use of rubber tires and steel wheels on the metro cars, an intriguing combination. One word of advice however, when going through the exit gates with a backpack, move quickly or you could become trapped when the gates close on said backpack.
Out on the roads, Parisian drivers seemed a bit more animated than those in my small
Missouri town but traffic in general didn’t look noticeably better or worse than in Atlanta or
Chicago. One difference that I noticed right away were the types of vehicles used. Most were small cars of European manufacture. Some were very small. I saw a few Japanese makes and only a couple US made Jeeps. With the exception of the Jeeps and an equally low number of Range Rovers, there were few large SUV’s careening around the narrow streets of
Paris. The biggest difference between traffic in Paris and an American city was the complete absence of pick-up trucks. Their place was taken by innumerable scooters and motorcycles.
While most of the traffic scared me I did have an urge to hop on a scooter and join the fray a couple times.
The thing that most felt different about Paris as opposed to most (but not all) American cities was walking. People walked everywhere. While the metro was fast and convenient, walking was our transport method of choice. Walking felt natural and walking was also the best way to experience Paris. It also helped to burn off some calories from the fantastic French food.