Roissy Bus

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In my C D G (I did it again…) post I said “I’ve tried ’em all and I still can’t say definitively which one is the best” way to get from the airport into the the city of Paris.

Well no, I hadn’t tried ’em all.  I was reminded by my dearest friend during her most recent excursion to Paris that her French Parisian family told her to take the Roissy Bus.  Huh?  I thought Roissy was the old name of the airport before it became Charles de Gaulle.  But now I see that CDG also includes the word Roissy and if you want to know why you can read the wikipedia entry.

map image of the CDG-Roissy airport

CDG is also Roissy-CDG

Anyhow, I verified that she thought it was a perfectly reasonable way to get from the airport to the city, so I decided to give it try. Yep, it was perfectly reasonable and I believe a much better option than taking the RER. Unfortunately it isn’t really accessible.  There are steps into the bus and I didn’t see any alternative.

Image of Le Bus Direct

Voici Le Bus Direct!

The Roissy Bus is now called Le Bus Direct and it has taken over the older and fondly remembered Air France shuttle I took in the previous century.  You can get a bus ticket from a user-friendly kiosk a short distance from your final airline arrival exit.  The boarding location is an even shorter distance just outside.  The ticketing kiosk offers language options and even though I think my French is better than it’s ever been I selected “English”.  It reduced my stress level and nobody cares if I can’t pull off a French interaction after a day-plus of traveling and getting through customs and collecting my luggage and finding the nearest bathroom.

So I will give my personal “thumbs up” to taking Le Bus Direct from the airport to the city.  And I’ll write another post about how to get from where Le Bus Direct deposits you (Opèra in my case) to your hotel, or airB&B, or personal pied-à-terre or chateau in Paris proper.

I am validated!

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Ticket Validator

Ticket Validator

If you pay attention as you bus around Paris, you will see signs with the words <<Je monte, je valide>>.  It means that when you get on <<monte>> a bus (or train or metro), you validate your ticket.  It’s an admonition, not a suggestion.  It is actually possible to get on a bus and “forget” to validate your ticket.  The metro has gates that won’t open until you slip in a working ticket.  On the bus it’s more of an honor system.  There are two locations of validation machines; in the front next to the driver and in the middle entrance/exit.  The machine time stamps your ticket and returns it to you.  Hang on to it.

So why are people motivated to stamp their tickets if it’s fairly easy to “forget” to validate it? Are there any real consequences of forgetting?  Well, I had heard about ticket inspectors but I had never, ever, in many, many years ever seen an example of one–that is until my excursion out to Montmartre in July of this year.

I was enjoying the delights of above ground travel on bus line 30. The route is relatively far away from the river and therefore away from the hotbed of tourist destinations (until you get to Montmartre itself).  I was sharing the bus with more women and children than during my usual excursions.  Bus line 30 travels through the neighborhoods of the 8th and 9th arrondissements which look more ordinary than typical postcard images of Paris

From L'Étoile to Montmartre

From L’Étoile to Montmartre.

About two stops before my final destination I noticed a group of people with white shirts and black pants who boarded the bus at the back and started checking tickets.  Wow!  I was sort of thrilled because I absolutely had a valid ticket and I was a foreigner and could show off my ability to ride the bus.  My inspector wasn’t impressed with me.  He went about inspecting tickets of the many women with their children.  Children under 4 years old ride for free and I was wondering how the inspector might question a suspect child about his or her age.  It felt a bit like street theatre to me.  I was hoping for a flash mob to break out into “She’s Got a Ticket to Ride”.  I could hold up my validated ticket and sing along, n’est pas?

Getting to the Musée d’Orsay – Past, Present, and Future!

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I have the delightful task of providing my clients with bus routes and other “how to” information so they can get to the Musée d’Orsay during their Paris visits.  In addition to the many RATP bus lines the Batobus boat service also includes a stop at the Musée d’Orsay.  Well, ok, on the boat you’ll arrive at river level and will need to ascend the pathway or stairs in order to arrive at the actual entrance to the Musée d’Orsay.

The Batobus is truly my favorite “bus line” and I will recommend that my clients use it whenever feasible.  If that turns out not to be a good option for you then I will gladly find out which street level bus line gets you most conveniently from where you’ll be staying to the Musée d’Orsay.

The "bible" according to Michelin

The “bible” according to Michelin

I’ve been looking through my older versions of Michelin Paris Green Guides in order to see what transportation options they’ve suggested in the past.  The more familiar Michelin Red Guide covers all of France and recommends places to stay, sights to see, and more famously places to eat.  Michelin bestows its highest recommendation by giving something (place, hotel, restaurant) three stars. It comes as no surprise that the Musée d’Orsay receives Michelin’s highest rating for a sight to visit.

Paris according to Michelin

Paris according to Michelin

My 1996 Green Guide lists eight bus lines for getting to the Musée d’Orsay.  It only lists one metro station and one RER station.  Once again there are many more possibilities for getting somewhere using the bus system!

I consulted my oldest Green Guide published in 1985 to find out how many bus lines it suggested for getting to the Musée d’Orsay.  I wasn’t able to find the reference where I expected it.  I finally consulted the index which referred me to the section title “The Chaillot Quarter and Avenue Montaigne”.  Oddly this is an area located on the opposite side of the Seine from the Musée d’Orsay.  In the middle of the page, in relatively small type I finally found the heading titled “Preview of the Orsay Museum”.  It turns out that one of the most popular museums in Paris (and the world!) wasn’t opened until 1986.

I’ve pre-ordered my 2026 Green Guide and am looking forward to visiting this century’s **must visit** Paris sites.  I’m fairly certain the Musée d’Orsay will still be listed.

The Paris Bus Without Wheels

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I love busing around Paris using the above ground wheeled vehicles.  And I’m especially delighted when I’m on one of the Best Tourist Bus Lines.  However my absolutely favorite bus line uses a “bus” that doesn’t have wheels.  It’s the Batobus line, a hop-on-hop-off boat service that is both joyful and practical.  The Batobus boats cruise the river Seine in the absolute heart of Paris.  Here’s their route map.  You can’t get closer to the main tourist sites by any other method.

The Bus on/in the River Seine

The Bus on/in the River Seine

Here are the names of the eight Batobus stops you can hop-on-or-off.  See if any of these names ring tourist bells for you.

The Batobus service uses a different ticketing system from the RATP system and therefore costs “extra”.  Currently their posted price for a one day unlimited pass is 16€.  A two day unlimited pass is 18€.  Hopefully you’ll be able to take advantage of the additional day for a mere 2€.

Batobus turning pointThe Batobus route turns around at the Eiffel Tower.  You’ll have a nice long unobstructed view of this iconic edifice.  You can “hop off” and join the mob of visitors, or you can stay on your <<Bateau>> and disembark at one of the other “stations”.

The French word for boat is <<bateau>>.  The Batobus service cleverly used the sound of the French word converted to an English phonetic spelling to come up with “Bato”.  I honestly didn’t get the play-on-words until very recently partly because I was pronouncing it BATobus instead of baTObus.  The “bus” part of the name has the same letters but sounds like “bews” in French (apologies to real phoneticists).

I’m frequently asked about the double-decker tourists buses.  There are several competing services and I saw about half a dozen different companies during my July 2014 visit.  Each service has their own pricing/ticketing system and routes.  A quick survey of their prices suggests that a one day pass will run approximately 26€.  You can check out the various privately run double-decker buses for yourself, but my recommendation is to use the public bus system at the street level followed by a delightful cruise on a Batobus.  I’d be glad to provide you with the specific information you need to make that happen.  Contact me.

 

Seeing Rouge at the Cordon Bleu

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Meryl as Julia, Amy as Julie

Meryl as Julia, Amy as Julie

Caveat — if you’re a total fan of the Cordon Bleu you should probably skip this post.  I’m sure my expectations were too high, but the bottom line for me is that I was disappointed by both of the 1/2 day classes I took at the Cordon Bleu last month.  The first class was perhaps the more disappointing. I tried suspending my judgement until I took the second class.  Nope.  My conclusion is that the classes I took weren’t worth the expense or my time and effort. <<Dommage>> as Meryl Streep playing Julia Child says in “Julie & Julia”.

Things began problematically.  When I first saw our chef, he was bandaging his hand — having cut himself even before we started. That was followed by the unfortunate (for me) choice of having us prepare Bouillabaisse – “a traditional Provençal fish stew”.  I’m not a fan of this dish.  Notice the word “stew” and you might appreciate my disappointment.  Stews, even French ones are not pretty or refined dishes.  I tried to get over my initial disappointment and figured I’d learn something interesting. We began by making the soup base.  There wasn’t anything new for me except that saffron is much less expensive in France than here in Palo Alto.  Each student’s soup base got a really big pinch of beautiful saffron.

Bouillabaisse obviously contains fish.  Our bouillabaisse was made with lots and lots of small and really hard to clean fish.  The class was presented with two large pans of assorted small fish.  Each fish needed to be cleaned.  In addition to the Chef having cut his hand one of my fellow participants also required minor medical attention due to an encounter with one of the rather dull knives provided for us to use.  I was beginning to see “rouge” everywhere.  Cleaning lots and lots of little fish produces a fair amount of rouge, along with gris, noir and even some bleu.

Still America's Favorite cooking teacher

Still America’s Favorite cooking teacher

I was hoping I could recover my composure by watching Julia Child make this dish.  The French word for composure is <<sangfroid>> which translates literally to “cold blood” (“blood cold” actually, but that’s because the French like their adjectives after their nouns).  I have her on the French Chef DVD seriesmaking a Bourride which is also a fish stew but in which she uses much larger fish.  I can’t imagine cleaning any of the formidable creatures she had in front of her, but then Julia was the epitome of someone with <<sangfroid>>.  Plus this was an older episode of her series and was filmed in black and white.  There wasn’t any color at all, including any <<rouge>>.

6th to 7th

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Five people in my Cordon Bleu Saturday class last month were staying at the Hotel d’Aubusson on Rue Dauphine in the 6ème arrondissement.  There was a family of 3 and a family of 2 and each family had won their Paris vacation at a charity auction: different home cities, different charities, same Paris package up for auction.  And I was informed that when family #1 “lost” the final bid, the auctioneer offered to sell them the Paris vacation at the same price as the winning bid.  What a deal and what a great way to earn money for a good cause.  I have no idea how much (more?) they paid for their Paris vacation than the street price, but a charity auction is much more fun than playing price roulette on the internet, and perhaps some of the cost is tax deductible.

Edibles from the sea

Edibles from the sea

Our Cordon Bleu class spent the morning walking to a street market, poking around the several blocks of vendors of many sorts, and then walking back with edibles for a “light lunch”.  There was ample time for chit-chat, all in American English.  As usual I was extolling the superiority of getting around Paris by bus and offered to make a custom route from the Aubusson to La Tour Eiffel located in the 7ème (hence the post title).

I’ve taken this bus trip many times, but I realized that for a newbie (can I say bus virgin and not offend anyone?) they would need to have faith.  The word “faith” in French is <<foi>>.  If you add a final e (which is silent) you get <<foie>> which is the French word for “liver” as in <<pâté de Foie Gras>>; honestly.  So when I’m mixing my French with my English (which I refer to as Franglish), what I come up with is that someone needs to have both faith and a liver.

From the 6th to the Eiffel Tower in the 7th

From the 6th to the Eiffel Tower in the 7th

When you take a bus from the 6ème to the Eiffel Tower, you will arrive at the back, not the front.  You won’t get confused or lost because the Eiffel Tower dominates everything.  You truly “can’t miss it”.  The RATP recommended bus line for my Cordon Bleu friends is line 87.  RATP estimates that the walk from Hotel d’Aubusson to the Rue de l’Ecole bus stop will take about 5 minutes.  That might be true if you don’t get distracted by lots of shopping possibilities.  And you also need to have “faith” that your walking instructions will get you to the correct bus stop.  The bus trip itself runs about 20 minutes, traveling through non-recognizable (but incredibly charming!) Paris.  Once again, have faith and a liver.  The terminal stop for bus line 87 is Champ de Mars.  If you wait for the final destination, you won’t take a wrong stop.  When you arrive you’ll have an unobstructed view the Eiffel Tower.

Lafayette — We are here to shop!

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Apologies to serious historians, French and American for this blog title. I understand that nobody actually/literally ever said <<Lafayette, nous sommes ici>> (“Lafayette, we are here”).  The Marquis de Lafayette (September 6, 1757 – May 20, 1834) was a military officer and statesman, highly esteemed during his lifetime by both the French and Americans.

outside

Department Store – Galeries Lafayette

Nowadays the name Lafayette brings to my mind Galeries Lafayette even though they have nothing to do with one another.   Some of my blog followers say they *always* make time for a visit to Galeries Lafayette when visiting Paris.  The Galeries Lafayette is a Parisian department store located in the 9th arrondissement on Boulevard Haussmann. The term “department store” doesn’t do justice to this establishment. Galeries Lafayette is more like a World Heritage site. The building both inside and outside is Belle Epoque which puts us in the previous-previous century.

Two centuries at the same time

Two centuries at the same time

Visitors can experience two centuries at the same time — shopping for 21st century things in a 19th century setting.

I ran an RATP query for my personal bus route to Galeries Lafayette (contact me if you’d like your own personal bus route).  Initially I found that I had a delightful choice of either Bus line 21 or 81. Bus line 21 was recommended when I added “least amount of walking” to my query. RATP recommended bus line 81 when I switch my query to “the quickest” but it’s not that much quicker. For either bus line I’d start by walking to the Île de la Cité, crossing at the Rue de Petit Pont and turning left at Place Louis Lépine which is a pedestrian walkway. No cars, just me and my fellow pedestrians st/rolling on the Île de la Cité.

If for some reason the wait for line 21 seems too long, I can continue to walk for another 4 minutes to the Châtelet bus stop 81.  I have previously warned everyone about the underground Châtelet metro station.  But the above ground bus station at Châtelet is <<pas de problem>>.

A subsequent RATP query gave me an even better suggestion.  I can catch bus line 27 from Saint Michel which is a very big transportation hub (Bus, RER, Metro can all be found there).  This reminded me that RATP route suggestions are not always the best route choice for us tourists.  I’ll be researching bus routes “from the trenches” – above ground, in Paris in July.  Would you like to join me?

La chaise vs. Lachaise

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The difference in the two words in this blog title is the space between La and chaise.  With the space included, the two words can be translated as “the chair”*.  Without the space, the single word is probably a reference to Père Lachaise, the Parisian cemetery located in the 11th arrondissement that is “inhabited” by many famous formerly living celebrities.

Jim Morrison gravesite at Père Lachaise

Jim Morrison gravesite at Père Lachaise

Edith Piaf gravesite at Père Lachaise

Edith Piaf gravesite at Père Lachaise

It never occurred to me to include a visit to Père Lachaise in my list of sights every visitor simply **must see** on their first few visits.  I’ve now had two blog visitors ask me about getting to Père Lachaise.  As I mentioned in a previous post, Jim Morrison’s gravesite is a popular American pilgrimage destination for those of us who grew up (sort of) in the 60s.  My personal preference in musicians/singers is Edith Piaf who is also installed at Père Lachaise.

Bus line #69 is one of the “Best Tourist Bus Lines” in Paris and will get you to Père Lachaise cemetery after a lovely ride next to the Seine river much of the time.  Looking closely at the #69 RATP map I noticed several <<arrêt non accessible>> stops.  I want to remind everyone that while **all** buses are wheelchair accessible, some bus stops are not.  I’d be glad to help you figure out the nearest UFR accessible stop on line 69 or any bus line while you’re in Paris.  Please contact me.

St/roll across a bridge or two.

St/roll across a bridge or two.

I will personally be heading out to Père Lachaise when I’m back in Paris this summer.   I’ll need to walk from my studio across La Seine (Left Bank to Right Bank) in order to catch the #69 bus at the (UFR accessible) Hôtel de Ville stop.  My RATP recommended walking route indicates that it will take about 6 minutes, but they have a weird route with an unnecessary back and forth thing.  I’m pretty sure I can simply cross La Seine directly at Pont Notre-Dame instead of using Pont d’Aricole.  Then again, looking at the Google map I might change my mind and my walking route depending on the traffic, time of day, weather, and my mood.

Crossing at the Pont au Double will put me directly in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral and I remember that “The Bird Man” does a charming show for tourists in the garden on the corner.  No matter which bridges I cross, it will take me just a few minutes to walk to my bus stop.  And I will undoubtedly be feeling glad to be alive before I take the bus to the cemetery.

*(My UFR post deals with some more words about chairs.)

Stars, Étoiles and Macarons

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My most recent post (L’Étoile to Le Louvre) put “stars” and such in my mind.  Once again I’m playing around with the intersection of some associated French and English words (associated to me anyway).  This Franglish post was also inspired by an invitation to dine at a “Michelin starred” restaurant.  The French and English equivalent words are <<étoile>> and “star”.  I started with these two words and then threw a Guide Michelin “star” into the mix.

Michelin "star" - "rosette" - "étoile" -or- "macaron"

A Michelin “star” – “rosette” – “étoile” -or- “macaron”

Most everyone is familiar with the Michelin restaurant “star” rating system.  Lots of my friends mixup the number of possible stars, thinking the ultimate Michelin rating is 5 (perhaps due to our own AAA rating system?).  The maximum and highest rating in the Michelin system is 3 stars; <<trois étoiles>>.  Or as the French also call them <<trois macarons>>.  Pourquoi?  Why do the French call Michelin stars “macarons”?  Because the graphic symbol that Michelin uses as a “star” doesn’t look like a star.  I’ve also heard the Michelin stars referred to as <<rosettes>> which I think is a much prettier sounding word than <<macarons>> (and easier to pronounce too). For more fun and confusion there is a current craze in France and here too for the baked treat called a <<macaron>> which looks like the English word “macaroon”.  Are you still with me?

Two "oo"s = Macaroon

Two “oo”s = Macaroon

One "o" = Macaron

One “o” = Macaron

Here in the US of A a macaroon is the name of a cookie made with coconut dough.  Nowadays we seem to be more than willing to drop one of the “o”s and replace macaroons with <<macarons>>.  The extra “o” makes a huge difference in the thing you get to eat.

If you prefer the one “o” goodie over the one with two “o”s, you can satisfy your snack attack with imported and sometimes even local versions.  Just yesterday I passed by a franchised Macaron shop with an appropriately sounding French name here in Palo Alto.  These sorts of specialty shops come and go over time.  I suspect that the recent explosion of cupcake shops will soon be replace by an explosion of more macaron shops.  Culinary evolution continues;  crispy-creme doughnuts –> cupcakes –> macarons.  I wonder what’s next.

I ask any recent visitors to Paris if they have a preferred macaron purveyor.  Everyone does, but they don’t agree on which shop.  I guess I’ll have to make my own reconnaissance mission.  Do you have a preferred Parisian macaron shop I should add to my list?

L’Étoile to Le Louvre

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Above the Arc

Above the Arc

I truly love researching bus routes.  My First Visit to Paris! visitors are in Paris right now.  I provided them with two detailed travel plans but I wanted to add a third possibility here.  Their hotel is located west of the Arc de Triomphe which is also referred to as <<L’Étoile>> and translates in English to “The Star”.  Here’s a google satellite photo that helps explain why it’s called L’Étoile.  The famous Avenue des Champs Élysées starts in front of the Arc and heads up to the left in this image.

The RATP recommended route from L’Étoile to Le Louvre involves changing bus lines.  Now that I realize you don’t need an additional ticket (see Copper cookware quest) I hope I can convince these visitors it’s worth transferring to the second bus.  In addition to staying above ground and enjoying the view, this route also puts them at my favorite Louvre access point, the Porte des Lions.  In addition to avoiding the typical crowds queued up in front of the Pyramid Entrance, this Louvre access point is much closer to the Mona Lisa gallery.

2 bus lines and 2 river crossings

2 bus lines and 2 river crossings

This shorthand graphic route isn’t “to scale”.  Both of the walking portions are estimated at one minute each.  Bus 92 takes about 8 minutes to get to Bus 69, which is about a 12 minute ride to the Louvre’s side entrance.  Bus 92 crosses the Seine (Right Bank to Left Bank) and bus 69 crosses it back again.  When these visitors reach their destination bus stop, they can use either the Porte des Lions or the Pyramid entrance (a 2 minute walk around the corner, taking a peek at the queue first).

While I prefer the Porte des Lions entrance for practical reasons, I actually like the Pryamid entrance and the fabulous “lobby” that greets you <<sous-sol>>.  I just don’t like the sometimes horrendously long lines preceding that entrance.  I’ve never experienced any queue in front of the Porte des Lions.  Then again, maybe I shouldn’t advertise it so much.

p.s. I thought it was very smart of my first RATP query to place the Louvre destination at the Porte des Lions entrance.  I ran an additional RATP query with the Pyramid entrance as the final destination.  It also requires a bus transfer, but it doesn’t cross the Seine – which I consider truly a bonus when traveling above ground in Paris.