Travel Tip #1…
…Ask questions, ask again for clarity and sometimes for fun, ask again (except I never do and always make Caroline do it. Guy = can’t ask for directions).
It’s not you acting like a dumb tourist, although they might think so. It’s just reassurance that everything goes the way it is supposed to go…if that even exists.
So the story goes like this. Arriving in Paris from Venice by plane, we found our luggage and decided the best way into the city center would be the train of course. It seems to be the quickest and most financially reasonable way of doing things in most big cities in Europe. So with luggage in hand, Caroline and I make our way to the ticket window. Knowing we must get from the airport to the city center, we tell the ticket agent what we need, grab our tickets and excitedly jump on the train.
We get to the train station where we must change trains and get onto the city center subway system. The ticket goes into the gate, the gate swings open and off we go for train number 2. We travel the 20 minutes or so until we get to Châtelet station, the big hub in the middle of the city. From there, we were to switch trains again on another line to get to our destination. Tickets go in the gate and a red light appears in front of us. Try our other ticket and the same red light appears. We then decide we could just exit and walk the 3 blocks or so and just bypass the train all together. Little did we know, these same tickets would be used to exit the station and lead us to freedom. We find the gate to exit with the same result. Tickets go in and the familiar red light shines brightly in our face. We then learned that our tickets were only good from the airport to our first stop where we switched trains to the city. Little did we know you had to purchase another ticket to get us into the sometimes confusing zones that the Paris subway system is split up into.
So what was the easy solution? Buy a ticket at a ticket kiosk or customer service center and be on our way. Well, that’s the easy solution. All the ticket machines are on the other side of the gate, where we needed to get to and after wandering the station like mice trying to get through the maze to the cheese, we discovered the customer service center was closed due to construction like most of the station at this time. If you would have been able to roll back the surveillance video of us in this 30 minute span that felt like 2 hours, it would have been a hysterical site to see. At some point Caroline and I were just staring at each other, in silence, utterly dumbfounded… So what was the answer to our welcome to Paris situation? Ask a military guard, who looked at us like we were some kind of travelling mutants. Seasoned travelers brought to our knees by the system, we thought we knew. With confidence shattered, tired from a 3:00 am wake-up call, running to a flight from the water transit system in Venice and now being caged like the non-paying criminals we were…we found our hero. A cleaner, who just pointed to a gate and said follow the lady with the stroller. We were free. Our criminal activity in Paris had come to end.
Travel Tip #1…Ask questions, ask again for clarity and sometimes for fun…ask again.