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ON A BUS IN PARIS

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You can pay to take a bus tour of Paris, a touristy experience that makes you feel like the outsider you are, or you can be brave, pick a bus route which traverses the city from North to South or from East to West, and hop on a city bus.

Forget about taking the Metro for a day. Of course, it’s really easy to read the Metro map and navigate your way at breakneck speed from one heavenly spot to another. And, the breakneck speed factor makes this form of transport seductively efficient.

However, what if it is a stifling day in July and it just feels wrong, going below ground, where that hot, stinky subway air immediately drowns you in sweat and makes your hair feel dirty? Or maybe it’s the day after you have engaged in a marathon walk down one street and up another, in search of whatever it is you search for in Paris. There isn’t quite enough fuel in the tank for an intense museum experience, but it would be a waste of several good hours, not to explore at all.

The solution is a slow, comprehensive public bus ride. Be anonymous. Sit down next to a student going to class, or the head of the household on her way to the open-air market. Blend into the landscape of daily life and be a tourist at the same time. How novel!

The bus is not the most efficient way to get from A to B, especially at rush hour. It’s a scenic tour of the city at a leisurely pace. Keep a device handy (pencil or Blackberry) for noting places of interest to visit later . And keep your camera discreetly ready.

Sit back , enjoy, soak in the ever-changing landscape as the vehicle passes from one arrondisement (neighborhood) into another. Rest your weary feet, traveler. You earned it.

NECESSARY BUS INFORMATION

1. The RATP, which runs the Metro system, also manages the public bus system. Go to www.RATP.com to familiarize yourself with how it works, to use the interactive route finder, or print out a bus map to keep with you while exploring Paris. At most bus stops there are route maps and timetables, and buses run throughout the day from around 6:30 am until 8:30 pm. Then there are special schedules for late night, called the Noctilien bus service.

2. Buses do not automatically stop. Be sure to signal to the driver with a wave once you have confirmed ( by checking the route number and destination on the front of the vehicle) that this is the bus you want. Once on board, if you have a special pass, such as the Paris Visites card, just show it to the driver , without taking it out of its plastic sleeve. If you are paying for your ride with a ticket, it is best to have purchased a “carnet” of 10 tickets, the ones used for the Metro system. Depending on how far you are going, your ride might cost 2 tickets. Tickets can also be purchased on the bus. Once you have your ticket, you must validate it in the machine next to the driver, and as in the Metro, hang on to it, in case an inspector asks to see it. There is usually a button to push, for requesting a stop.

3. It’s a good idea, when using a form of public transportation for the first time, to watch how others do it, as regular riders tend to get frustrated by the neophyte who slows up the works accidentally.

4. There are several killer routes for sightseeing. Line #38 is a great North-South route, which goes past Notre Dame Cathedral and crosses the Seine. Line #28 from Porte d’Orleans in the South, also provides a beautiful ride through Paris. From East to West try Line #29 or settle in for a breathtaking route all the way from Pere Lachaise Cemetary in the East, to the Champs de Mars and the Eiffel Tower, on Line #69.

Riding the bus might be an unexciting pedestrian journey in your hometown, but in Paris, it’s a visual feast.



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