Call it whatever you like. Tube, metro, subway, or as they call it in Paris, le métro. I could write pages and pages about the interesting experience that is using this urban transportation. It’s true, in Paris there are 14 lines that can make you feel a little crazy at first. In Prague, there are just three lines and you get as lost. In Santiago (Chile), there are four lines (plus one “auxiliary line”)…but le métro of Paris is a photographic experience in itself.
Once I was told that the subway service in Paris was not really clean. Well, this is true, but up to a certain point: it depends on the lines you’re moving within, the time of the day and your mood. For instance, the line 8 (the purple one) was launched on 1913, but it is still one of the cleanest.
The Parisian metro works until past midnight, so you can pretty much party for a while and then go back to your place like a Cinderella – or wait until dawn and take the first one by 5 am. The thing is that Paris is not a city as big as London (Paris intramuros, not the Ile-de-France), so you can walk anywhere if you don’t want to wait that long. And if you have to go outside the walls of the city, you have the RER, an urban train.
Among my favourite stations there is the Louvre-Rivoli, line 1, that has a permanent exhibiton of art (no wonder – it’s the station to get to the Louvre Museum). Or Bastille, on the same line, where you can see the Sena river through the large windows of the tube platform. And also, the “phantom metro stations”, that were built but never used or closed after a while – such as Saint Martin station.
When you just arrive in Paris, it is quite easy to get lost when trying to change from one line to another. Gare de Lyon, Nation, Gare de l’Est, Gare du Nord and Montparnasse are big elephants filled with three, four or five other lines. And if you try to change to the RER lines, bonne chance!
Travelling by metro it’s a sociological experience…or better, a zoological one. All you get to see in the underground Paris it’s impressive – from the tramps sleeping on the platforms to the musicians that range from very good to please-stop-playing. One does not simply goes out in Paris, one always gets surprised. Sometimes, when riding the metro, you will have a guy talking on his own sitting next to you. Then you have people reading in every language you can imagine. The colours, the smells, the looks and the horizons get mixed in the wagons…