Posts Tagged ‘ métro ’

Friday 6:30pm

Pack up
"Bon weekend"
"À lundi!"
Grab headphones
Pickup bag
Put on jacket
Colleagues, young, old
Beer, wine, peanuts
Terrace, smoking, gossip
Long night ahead
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-┼--┼- Going home, going out
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-┼--┼- Happy, bored, tired, relieved
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-┼--┼- Concentrating, playing, texting, reading
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-┼--┼- Friends, planning
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-┼--┼- Couples, chatting

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Activity, energy, bustling, almost home
Shopkeepers, shuffling, packing, impatient
Baker, greengrocer, cheese seller, butcher
Fresh bread, fresh meat, fresh fruit, dinner

Chinese New Year

Thursday was the start of Chinese New Year, so one of my colleagues Lisa, who’s Chinese-American, suggested that we got out and celebrate the year of the rabbit with dinner.  It sounded like a good idea, so after work on Friday 7 of us found ourselves in a traditional Chinese restaurant.  The tables and chairs made it look like a giant British greasy spoon, but it was full of Chinese people so it must have been a good place to eat.

The restaurant’s style was a kinda of “Cook it yourself buffet” which Lisa described to us as Chinese Fondue.  It was a lot like the scene in Lost In Translation when they’re given some boiling water and raw meat for lunch.  We were given 2 gas burners for the table and a pot for each one which was split in two to allow it to hold a spicy stock on one side and a non-spicy stock on the other.  Once the stocks were simmering away we went to investigate the buffet.  Most of the vegetables were easily recognisable, and they had some white fish, prawns and crab pieces, but the processed food was a little more difficult.  I tried a strawberry ice cream coloured ball that was about the size of a chestnut, but it tasted like fish and had a really weird rubbery texture.  After the rubber fish experience I decided to be a little less adventurous and stick to what I knew.

Chinese new year fondue

Chinese fondue

After we filled up our first set of plates we got cooking, which was a very social experience as there were 3 or 4 people around each pot trying to fish out something to eat.  I tried cooking some pak choi on the spicy side and had to drink a whole glass of beer afterwards.  Food in Paris is generally not spicy compared to in the UK, but this was a little too hot for me and much too hot for some of my French colleagues.  The food prepared on the non-spicy side was good though, simple and apparently healthy.  Preparing it was fun too, much more hands on than going to a regular restaurant.

Cooking our own food meant that we ate a lot slower than normal as the food wasn’t already prepared when it got to the table.  We also spent a lot of time wandering around the buffet trying to decide what to eat, and once we had chosen and started cooking some things were cooked much more quickly than others.  After a while it felt like we were slowly cooking too as all the gas burners in the restaurant were heating the place up, but for dessert there was a self service ice cream machine so that – along with the large bottles of Tsing Tao beer – helped cool us down again.

Chinese new year beer

Beer and ice cream

In total we spent around 3 hours at the restaurant which is a long time by normal restaurant standards, but Lisa was disappointed as there were supposed to be free karaoke rooms for the customers to use for Chinese New Year.  Luckily (or so I though), they weren’t working but (unfortunately) the owner told us that there was a bar on the next street over that had karaoke rooms.  And so began my Chinese karaoke night, and also my first ever karaoke night.

Most of the songs available were Chinese, but it was possible to select the language so that we could filter out anything that we didn’t understand.  We tried choosing the US flag a few times until we realised that it was actually Malaysian.  Oops!  The English section had quite a lot of songs, most of them bad, but there were a few gems in there like National Express by the Divine Comedy which I hadn’t heard in years and had forgotten how funny it was.  I particularly like the description of the hostess! I guess the person who transcribed the words didn’t know what Frisps were, so they were just crisps in the karaoke version.

Lisa gave us a rendition of one of her favourite Chinese songs before she went home, leaving 3 Frenchmen and me to drink more beer and try to find some songs that we actually liked and knew.  A lot of the English songs were actually covers by Chinese bands, and this meant that they also didn’t have the the original videos.  Many of them were videos featuring boy or girl bands covering classic songs, some of them with a different tune but the lyrics were generally the same.  The video that really surprised me was a cover of Eric Clapton’s Tears In Heaven whose video had a scantily clad Chinese woman posing for the camera for the whole video.  Not exactly respecting the theme of the song…

Eventually we ran out of songs that we recognised and called it a day, or night, at 1:30am.  I took the Métro home after midnight for the first time, and it was fine.  No very drunk people, no aggressive people, just people going home after a good night out which was nice to see.  On the way home I tried to find anything on my iPod that would wipe the karaoke tunes from my mind.  I didn’t succeed, but I came pretty close, however I still woke up with Love Is All Around in my head on Saturday morning.

Chinese new year colleagues 1


Chinese new year colleagues 2


Another week, another strike

Well 2 weeks after the first strike to be honest, but it doesn’t feel like so long ago.

I recovered from the cold that I had during the first strike (which made me decide not to take the métro that day), so this time I decided to go to work as normally as possible. This time the lines that I take weren’t so badly affected as the first strike, which also made me decide to take the métro. I prepared myself for squeezing into a carriage, left my huge messenger bag at home and took a smaller one and packed some reading material just in case it took a long time to get there.

I got to the nearest station at the normal time, around 8am, and it looked pretty empty. Maybe even quieter than normal, which was strange. I looked at the electronic sign with the train times, and it said that there was one every 4 minutes or so. Also normal. Maybe the strike wasn’t today. I was a bit confused, but I got to work in about the same time as normal.

An English woman in my French class told me that the previous time she had got to work OK but it was a nightmare getting home, so just before I left work I got myself mentally ready for public transport hell again. Once again, I had no problems. It’s clearly not the métro drivers on lines 4 and 12 that are on strike, I think it’s those good for nothing teachers 😉

So the whole day had passed without encountering any strike related problems, or so I thought. As I was leaving my métro station there were some RATP employees telling us that the exit was closed and that we had to use a different one. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but I followed the crowd through tunnels, up stairs, down stairs, and through more tunnels, passing 20 or 30 police officers on the way. I was getting a little worried as the threat level for a terrorist attack has been raised recently, and although I didn’t think that anything bad would happen, I was worried that other people might be worried about it.

I shouldn’t have been so nervous though. The reason the police were around was because there was a protest by striking workers in the square outside the métro station. It was technically a protest, but people were having fun, and you could’ve easily called it a street party too if it wasn’t for all the political placards. Lots of music and dancing, and people lounging around on statues.

Twas actually quite fun. They turned a quiet area of Paris into a lively hive of scum and villany! Just kidding. But they did liven the place up a bit, which was nice.

Musical bikes

Prisoners of work


Pink nurses want to retire at 60

This was going to be a quiet day

I didn’t really have anything planned for today until I found out last night that it was the Journées Europeennes du Patrimoine which is the equivalent of an ‘open doors day.’  So I had a search through the website last night and made a shortlist of things to do.

Most of the events didn’t open until 1pm or 2pm, so I left the apartment at 10:30 and spent the morning at the Porte de Versailles métro station on line 12, where there was an exhibit on the history of the “Nord-Sud” line, which is what it was called before it became line 12.  The reason it didn’t have a number is that it was a privately owned métro line, created to compete with line 4 of the CMP (which still co-exists with line 12). The CMP was owned by the city and is now the RATP.

From 1910 to 1930 the Nord Sud Company created its own stations and ran its own trains through the city, both on line 12 which was then called Nord Sud Ligne A, and also on Ligne B which became line 13.  To compete against the city they had to differentiate themselves and they decided to give their customers a more upmarket feel. They even had an old train, like the one I took pictures of, working on the line. I didn’t get to ride on it unfortunately. 😦

The first difference was that the métro carriages had fewer seats and so gave more space for people to move around, which gave people the impressions that the service was more luxurious.  There were also first and second class carriages which seems odd now when people pile in to any space they can find.

First class with upholstered seats

Second class with wooden seats

The second difference was to give customers a better experience in the stations, which they did by making the stations more colourful and with more interesting designs.  Other métro stations (even to this day) are decorated using plain white tiles and name plaques, while those on line 12 have white tiles, but the station names are also tiled and the borders of the advertising posters are tiled too as you can see on the pic of Porte de Versailles below.  I always wondered why some of the stations looked different but didn’t think about it too much, so now I know.

The ‘people’ are just stickers, but the station name and the frame around it, and the advertisement frame and station name are in the original style.

Apparently at the start the advertising posters were created using tiles too, but it turned out to be too difficult and expensive to create them in a reasonable amount of time.

It was all pretty interesting.  My French just about managed to keep up both on the written material and with the guides who were describing things.

At the end, I took a normal métro back into the city.  It was nice to see the old carriages – nostalgic – but sometimes time and progress does make things better.  I’m glad that I don’t have to sit on wooden seats on the way to and from work every day!

First strike

So now I’ve been here for the annual September tradition, according to my colleagues, of a strike or grève.  I’m not sure why it always happens in September, maybe they introduce controversial laws while everyone’s on holiday.

A lot of public services were shut down.  I heard that the post offices were closed, and maybe the banks too.  The only place I would have noticed it though was on public transport.  The night before, posters went up all over the métro network to indicate how many trains were running on which lines.  If you were lucky 2 out of 3 trains were running, but if you weren’t then it’s only 1 in 3 which is a slight problem at rush hour.  The situation on buses and suburban trains was apparently worse.

I was told that these days it’s just an inconvenience as the RATP, the public transport company, is required to put on a certain percentage of services when a strike happens so the country doesn’t grind to a halt.  Apparently 15 years ago there was a strike so bad that it lasted around 6 weeks, with no public transport at all.  Traffic was terrible and people abandoned their cars on the roads and walked home, either because they were fed up or ran out of petrol.  At least things aren’t that bad anymore…

Normally I’d take 2 métro lines to get to work, a “1 in 3” followed by “1 in 2”.  I decided that it might be an interesting experience to take the métro and be packed like sardines, but my socially responsible side got the better of me and I decided not to spread my cold with everyone else in the carriage.

I ended up cycling (again), and if I didn’t already know then I’d have no idea that there was a strike on.  So I had a pretty good strike, apart from having the cold.

Everyone turned up at work eventually, although it took one guy until 11 o’clock.

As I mentioned, my colleagues said that September is always the month of strikes, but they also said that December is the month of burning cars so I’ll wait and see if that happens.

Cycled to work

I finally go around to cycling to work in the morning, and it was actually OK.

The traffic wasn’t too bad either. I guess most Parisiens start work later than I do, so at 8am the streets are relatively quiet. I also made it without getting lost, though I did have a quick look at the map at one point.

Got here in 30 minutes door-to-door, which is just as fast as the Métro, and it wasn’t too hot so I’m not melting.  Was good to do some exercise too as restaurant lunches are taking their toll!

Getting home will be a challenge, since most streets are one way and they’re not all parallel. I’ll put faith in my map and hope for the best.

Ghost town

I’m quite enjoying Paris the way it is. Very quiet and calm.

I realised yesterday that it’s a bit like a ghost town when I got on the métro to come home and the carriage was half empty at 18:15.  I don’t mean that there were fewer people than normal standing, I mean that half of the seats were empty.

The reason it’s quiet is that employees accumulate leave days through the year which they need to use before the end of August, so during this month a big chunk of Paris traditionally heads to their holiday homes.  The result of this is a really quiet city, and businesses shut down during this time to the point where the official Paris website publishes a list of boulangeries that are open during the period so everyone can get their daily bread fix.

In 2 weeks everything will be back to normal, for better or worse.

For the time being I’ll go back to listening to the Specials.