I found these two subway stations very confusing. It felt like a maze with too many commuters rushing in different directions. I read that the Paris Metro, the rapid transit system of Paris, France, is the second busiest metro system in Europe next to Moscow. It has 16 lines, mostly underground. Vancouver’s Skytrain only has two at the moment.
Chatelet-Les Halles is the world's biggest underground station carrying 4.5 million passengers a day. If you are getting off there, you don't even have to move an inch. A throng of people will push you out or into the train.
The Gare de Lyon station is where you take a train to Southern France. After arriving at this station, I closely followed Gino--to make sure I didn't get lost--to a ticketing window where he conversed in French with a man behind the glass. I was impressed. I have a French-speaking son! Their conversation sounded to me like a series of shwa ngwo dzjwa wersh wersh wersh interspersed with oui, or ouai, finally ending with merci.
Gino was able to book three train connections: Paris to Lyon in Southern France, Lyon to Chambery, still in Southern France, then Chambery to Milan, Italy. Total travel time would be about 8 hours. From Milan, we still needed to get a train to Venice.
“Mom, there’s no direct day train to Venice,” he explained. "We have to change trains quickly in Lyon because we have only 15 minutes in between."
Since we had time before our 1 pm departure, Gino suggested that we go see the Notre Dame church on the Île de la Cité, an island in the Seine River. We took another train then walked several blocks passing by the Palais de Justice and La Conciergerie, a prison where many, incuuding Marie Antoinette were held before being guillotined.
Gates of the Palais de Justice
I was very excited to see Notre Dame just because I had seen it in the Hunchback of Notre Dame, the animated movie! I wondered if there was really a hunchback who used to live there... By the way, there are still many gypies like La Esmeralda in the story walking on the streets of Paris today, asking for money from passersby.
Honestly, I don’t know much about this landmark except a few things I had read from Wikipedia, that it was one of the first Gothic cathedrals, is still used as a Roman Catholic cathedral, and is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris.
Here’s an interesting piece of information: Did you know that in the early 19th century the cathedral was in state of disrepair and city planners were contemplating on tearing it down? Victor Hugo, an admirer of the cathedral, wrote the novel Hunchback of Notre Dame, to raise people’s awareness of the cathdral's heritage which led to fundraising campaigns for its restoration.
Here are some pictures I took outside and inside the church. (Click photos to enlarge):
Part of the cathedral's facade. The pointed arch is typical of Gothic architect- ure.
Gino standing outside the cathedral.
I was so fascinated by the interior of the church, I took a while going around and taking pictures inside while Gino waited with our luggage outside.
Then I realized we had to go to the train station. Gino and I hurriedly walked back a number of blocks, going up and down many steps to the subway. I got a little bit nervous. I was only relieved when we reached Gare de Lyon 30 minutes early. By this time, I was beginning to feel woozy due to jet lag. I slept through the early part of the train ride to Lyon and woke up just in time to enjoy the scenic countryside.
We rode a train like this to Lyon.
Next - Buongiorno, Milano!
Friday, November 23, 2007
Paris, day 1
Our first order of the day, after hugging and greeting and unloading some of the foodstuff in my luggage onto Gino’s backpack, was to book a train to Venice and get back to our itinerary. Gino and I took the RER train from Charles de Gaulle Airport to Chatelet metro station then to Gare de Lyon, which I had seen in the Mr. Bean movie.