Saturday, June 13, 2009

Nth Circle of Hell


There's an old saw for domestic air travelers in the U.S that if you're going to hell, you'll have to change planes in Atlanta. The corollary in Paris? If you're going to hell, you're likely to have to change trains at Châtelet. Châtelet and Châtelet Les Halles are theoretically two different stations but they connect through a maze of grubby, poorly lit tunnels, some long enough that moving sidewalks make sense. All in all, three RER lines (A, B, and D) and five métro lines (1, 4, 7, 11, and 14) go through there. Some of the connections are a piece of cake (just walk across the platform to switch from RER A to B); others will leave you swearing that you'll do any to reroute around it in the future. One cause for optimism? The RATP has a terrific boutique in the station with demitasse sets, t-shirts, umbrellas, and other unforgettable Paris souvenirs. But danged if I can tell you how to find it in that subterranean netherworld.

11 comments:

Starman said...

The problem with the people mover is that most Parisians don't understand the concept and think they have to walk or run. I always wondered why they don't just use the walkway on either side of the people mover. Likewise with escalators.

Tanya said...

Ugh I remember this one! And I think I've been to that boutique (but can't explain how to get there either)

Another nightmare was the Opera station for some reason. I was there last March and it was under repairs and we wondered around there and got lost. Wearing high heels that evening was a mistake.

Carolyn said...

Great post.

The boutique sounds good but I have somehow managed to avoid Chatelet for several years now and have no desire to change there ever again. I'd rather go one or two stops out of my way and walk outside.

Chatelet = shudder shudder.

expat said...

At least the long, long, subterranean walk at Châtelet is enlivened by musicians -- some of them professional grade.

BJ Lantz said...

That station is so large I have always felt that I could walk to my destination top-side just as quickly as it took to change trains!!!

hannahinmotion said...

Second only to Châtelet is Montparnasse Bienvenüe. The moment you (inevitably) encounter three moving sidewalks and only one or two are working always makes me wish I didn't live on Line 6.

In response to Tanya- I pass thru Opéra every day and often change from the 3 to the RER A, but the first time I had to do it I walked around lost for - I'm certain - 15 minutes before finally just giving up and taking a different train. I sympathize.

Harriet said...

My friend and I encountered the Châtelet Metro on our first trip to Paris. On my 5 subsequent trips to Paris, I made sure I didn't need to make a change at this metro stop.

amélie said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for agreeing with me about Chatelet. If I can avoid it, I will, even if it means adding time to my trajet.

Also, Chatelet is one of those stations where the ticket checkers are always lurking. Even though I always have my NaviGo, I get REALLY nervous whenever I see them...

Louis said...

So true! It's been a few years since I've been there - do you know whether RATP is moving to install a trottoir roulante de grande vitesse (or whatever they call it) at Chatelet like they have at Montparnasse? I sure hope so!

Completely unrelated - regarding your "books for francophiles" list, have you read Stephen Clarke's "A Year in the Merde"? Parts are funny enough, but it's also a little ridiculous.

Anne said...

Louis: Yes, I have read A Year in the Merde and I agree with your assessment. It's funny but a little harsh in its assessment of cross cultural differences.

Anonymous said...

I actually love Chatelet. I enjoy trying to figure out where the "above ground" equivalent is of wherever I am underground. I enjoy speculating about the fruitstand and the musicians. I enjoy walking past that tsigane group which plays in the late mornings by the newstand. Does anyone buy the fruit there? It all looks really good but...it is being bathed in such hot-breathed air!

I change trains daily from Line 11 to 14. It is my daily dose of people madness before i drop into my quiet office or return to my quiet(ish) apartment. I love it.

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