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May 24, 2013. How to avoid lines in Paris, and other observations

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May 24th, 2013, 09:20 AM
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May 24, 2013. How to avoid lines in Paris, and other observations

We avoided lines yesterday by taking a combination of RER B and bus 48 to the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. Lots of school kids on outings, but no lines. We walked from the top of the park to the Canal St Martin via the Hopital St Louis to see a street in the Tenth where we are thinking about renting another time. We continued to walk down the Canal to the east of Republique, where we caught the 96, our favorite bus, to the Gare Montparnesse. No lines, though there were lines at Monoprix when I bought food for dinner.

Today, we took the 88 bus to the end of the line to explore the Cite Universitaire, a place I had wanted to visit for years. About halfway through the walk, it began to get windy, then to sleet, then to pour. We took shelter for a while under an entry, then in an old telephone kiosk. Finally, it settled down to simple rain showers, and we walked to Place de Rungis to catch a 67 bus to lunch all the way over in the First. There were crowds in the Place d'Itallie, along with the wisteria trees, but we weren't among them. There didn't seem to be any lines in the Butte aux Cailles, but this wasn't our destination.

The 67 runs the gantlet from the Hotel de Ville to Rivoli Louvre. Who were all these grim-faced people? We had to get out and hustle down the rue Ste Honore to get to the restaurant before all the tables filled and they ran out of food. Here were the crowds, here were people from every nation and race jammed together in groups to block the sidewalk. Some of them probably had been standing in lines. It was the first place we had been where the forum fear of pickpockets seemed a possibility. We're they all converging on the Palais Royal or on the Louvre or just converging?

After a nice lunch -- rillettes, brandade, tarte aux poires, a pichet of Brouilly, and coffee -- we decided to be real tourists and took the uncrowded number 72 bus to Pont d'Iena, the stop for Trocadero. We admired an older man in a raincoat negotiating the Place de la Concorde on a bicycle, like an older Jacques Tati. At Trocadero, we walked up to the palace, taking pictures of a wisteria allege that gladdened the heart of my gardener wife. We took silly pictures of each other in front of the Eiffel Tower. Plenty of others were doing likewise, but there were no crowds, yet you could see the crowds at the Tower itself, churning away, toing and froing to their buses, checking off another site. No lines for the museums at Trocadero, only modest crowds at the Metro station, and we got seats all the way to Denfert Rochereau. We got soaked for the third or fourth time walking the block from the station to the Monoprix on General Leclerc. I learned there that you can avoid lines at the supermarket if you go at 4 rather than 5!

So the secret of avoiding lines is to go to interesting places where others aren't at -- at off times in the rain! The only crowds were in the major tourist centers, and we were only passing through!

Other issues: the change shortage continues. They love me in the bakery because I always have my 90 cents in correct change, and I have counted it out in advance. I learned the first day when they had no 5 or 10 cent coins and charged me a full euro! Besides, carrying around all those one and two euro coins is enough of a burden without all that minor coinage. I hope the US sticks with paper

The buses and Metro are much less crowded than I remember them, but then we aren't riding the No. 1 line. Is it the economy? Fewer tourists? Any suggestions?
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May 24th, 2013, 09:43 AM
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I would happily pay a full euro to avoid collecting those tiny five and ten cent coins.
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May 24th, 2013, 09:46 AM
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Although now that I think of it, those five cent coins are oddly large. It's the one cent coins that are the tiniest. I have not yet mastered counting coins in euros, and it would be very easy to take advantage of me.
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May 24th, 2013, 10:01 AM
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Just to help out with some of the touristless wonders that Ackislander saw, I do have two little photo reports for illustration.

Hôpital Saint Louis: http://tinyurl.com/olkmoop

Cité Universitaire: http://tinyurl.com/qg26dlc
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May 24th, 2013, 10:28 AM
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Well done, Kerouac! As always. Terrific photos & love your commentary as well.
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May 24th, 2013, 10:57 AM
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I well remember your photos of the Cite Universitaire, but we found the hopital on our own two years ago during that now seemingly impossible March when all of Paris was in the streets and gardens and along the canals enjoying the warmth! No sleet then!

But I will look forward to viewing your photos. I know how good they are because mine are so bad!
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May 24th, 2013, 03:35 PM
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Fascinating parts of Paris - so thanks Kerouac! But Ack, I understand the bad weather (dommage)! But what are those crowds all about?
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May 24th, 2013, 10:32 PM
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Good question, Tac!

Basically, our previous trips, while they took in other parts of Paris thematically ("gardens", "the Tenth") were based in and focused on the usual spots in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th, all of which were great.

This trip, we are generally staying away from those places, though we ventured into the center to eat lunch at a favorite place yesterday. We were shocked at the number of tourist buses, shocked at the crowds of people packing the streets, bemused by tour groups following their guides' umbrellas into mediocre restaurants. Most amazing was the intersection of St Honore and the Avenue de l'Opera, completely blocked by traffic as far as one could see.

Why were we shocked? Isn't this Paris? Well, we had spent two days in a Paris of quiet and frequently empty streets. We had spent time in parks and squares watching mothers and grandmothers with toddlers and teachers with gaggles of early teens. We rode with people going to work on the RER B. We rode buses with Indian ladies in saris and Pakistani ladies in shalwar kameez and West Africans in colorful clothing, along with people dressed just like us in dark, warm, and waterproof clothes. I loved watching the Chinese students coming home from the Carrefour, laden with orange juice, when we were in the Cite Universitaire. It was just like being back in Cambridge, MA again, including being wet as hell!

We are staying just off a street that has an infinitely better market than the Rue Cler or even Rue Mouffetard, and there are no tourists. Does this make it more "authentic" and us somehow better, cooler travelers? No, of course not. But is a very different experience of Paris for us. It is busy with people going about their business and living their lives. We are not part of their lives because we are just passing through, observing. We are flaneurs, but not of the boulevards.

There are plenty of things we still want to do in the center of the city. There are lots of things we can't do here in the 14th because of the weather -- currently 44, windy and raining. But we are enjoying staying away from the normal places and the madness, at least for now.
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