Monthly Archives: July 2008

‘Gare Montparnasse’ Train Station

By | July 31, 2008 | in Trains - Intercity stations

Paris Gare Montparnasse front entrance

Photo of the front of Gare Montparnasse in the 6th Arrondissement of Paris, opposite Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse).

Gare Montparnasse to Metro

The following section will explain how to get to the Metro station at Gare Montparnasse if you’ve recently arrived via bus or on foot.

Gare Montparnasse escalators

Upon entering Gare Montparnasse from street level (Niveau 0), you’ll have stairs and escalators leading up to the main train lines (TGV, Ter, Transilien, two floors up on Niveau 2) on Level 2 or you can continue forward towards to the Metro area.

Gare Montparnasse Metro entrance signs

From the entrance of Gare Montparnasse, walking straight ahead and down, you’ll enter Sublevel 1 (Niveau -1) where you’ll find the entrance for Metro lines 4, 6, 12 and 13.

Gare Montparnasse Metro entrance

Here we see the entrance for Montparnasse’s Metro station just after the arrival of a Grandes Lignes train from the upper levels, hence the crowd.  As you can see from the overhead signs in the photo above, Montparnasse’s Metro station connects to Paris Metro lines 4, 6, 12 and 13 (see Metro map). Just past the overhead signs are two ticket windows on either side of the hall and several blue Billetterie Ile-de-France ticket vending machines scattered throughout.

Gare Montparnasse moving sidewalk

After purchasing your tickets or passes and passing through the turnstiles you’ll need to traverse a long tunnel to where the Metro lines are actually located, which is quite far north Gare Montparnasse (the train station).  Due to the length of this walkway, the transit authority is experimenting with a high speed moving sidewalk, shuttling pedestians along at 9km/h rather than the normal 3km/h.

Gare Montparnasse moving sidewalk entrance

After the tunnel you’ll be at Montparnasse’s Metro station called Montparnasse Bienvenue.  Here you’ll have access to lines 4, 6, 12 and 13. For more information on taking the Metro, see the Paris Metro photo tour.

Arriving at Montparnasse from Metro

If you’re arriving at Gare Montparnasse from the Montparnasse Bienvenue Metro station, the photo below is the view you would have of the entrance of Gare Montparnasse (and the exit of the Metro area). At the top left of the photo is an overhead sign (in white) for Trains Grandes Lignes and Trains Ile-de-France. If you’re making a connection to a TGV, Transilien, Ter or Corail train departing from Gare Montparnasse, these are the signs and directions you’ll want to follow.

Gare Montparnasse metro exit turnstiles

(Link to this photo: Metro turnstiles with luggage).

Just past the exit barriers from the Montparnasse Metro (red doors on the left), past the Metro ticket sales hall and ticket vending machines, up the few short steps, you’ll enter an area with shops, escalators and four sets of stairs leading up, two in front, two to either side (see below photo). Near the center of the photo is a small blue sign reading Grandes Lignes with an arrow pointing up. Take those stairs (or the escalators) and climb up 3 levels to Niveau 2 to get to the TGV, Ter and other intecity trains. After this point you may only see signs that read: “Access Aux Trains”. That refers to the Grandes Lignes Trains at Hall Maine so you may follow these signs as well.

Gare Montparnasse Main Train lines sign

If you’re traveling to Paris suburbs rather than far away cities in France, you’ll want to climb only one level to the Transilien Ile-de-France train level (street level, also known as Niveau 0 or Rez-de-Chaussée).  The photo below shows the Transilien train ticket purchase area and entrance:

Gare Montparnasse Transilien trains entrance

Tickets for Transilien trains can be purchased from Billetterie Ile-de-France train ticket vending machines and from the ticket window just off to the right in the above photo.

Montparnasse TGV Trains & Tickets

Gare Montparnasse multi-level photo

Back to Gare Montparnasse’s main train station section. Above is a photo of multiple levels of Gare Montparnasse, taken from Level 2 (“Niveau 2″), two floors up from ground level. Looking down at Level 1 we see the Mezzanine, which has baggage storage (“Consignes”), Lost and Found (“Objets trouvés”) and some food services.  Further down, near the middle of the photo, we see the subterranean access to the lanes (“voie”) for Transilien/Ter commuter trains which are parked up on Level 2 between lanes 18 to 28.  This below ground level entrance allows you to pop up onto the train lanes halfway down the platform, useful for long trains, giving travelers on the latter half of the parked train quicker access to the Metro.

At the center upper part of the above picture is a black departures board, showing trains that are schedule to depart soon from Gare Montparnasse.  The yellow boxes scattered through the middle of the photo are Grandes Lignes train ticket (TGV, Corail, etc.) change, collection and vending machines which take credit/debit cards.

Gare Montparnasse TGV Ticket vending machines

Above is another photo of the departures board from head-on.  Just below the board is a sign reading Access to Trains (“Access aux Trains”).  The short hall past the ticket machines leads into Hall Maine, where all the TGV, Ter and Transilien trains are parked at lanes (“voie”) 1 to 28, starting from the left (east).

Train Tickets

Looking left from above position, still on Level 2, we see signs directing travelers to the TGV ticket office as seen in the photo below:

Gare Montparnasse Train Ticket office sign

Moving closer to the ticket office we see that there are different types of ticket counters available to us (three in total). The first set of ticket counters to the extreme left sell TGV tickets and other non-high speed train tickets for immediate departures, i.e. train tickets for travel leaving in the next hour.  Here is a photo of that area:

Gare Montparnasse Train ticket office

Further to the right are ticket counters for Grandes Lignes train tickets which includes TGV, Ter, Téoz, Corail, Lunéa brand French trains which travel to other cities across France.  If you’re not in a rush to buy a ticket and hop on the next train, this is where you should buying your train tickets.

The final ticket office area is enclosed in glass and is marked Espace de Vente. This ticket office sells train tickets for international destinations such as Italy, Belgium, Netherlands and Germany.  Below is a photo of the International train ticketing office at Montparnasse:

Gare Montparnasse TGV Train ticket office

Below is a map of Montparnasse Level 2 showing the layout of the train ticket office on the bottom left and its three counter areas: Réservations Internationales (International Train Reservations), Réservations Grandes Lignes (TGV, TER & other intercity trains within France), and Billets Départs Immédiats (Tickets for Immediate Depatures).

This Montparnasse map is courtesy of Gares en Mouvement.  Visit their site for a full version.

Montparnasse Train Departures & Arrivals Area

Let’s look at the train platforms (arrivals & departures) for TGV, Ter and other trains.  Here is an overhead map of the train lanes at Hall Maine which are can be seen in the pictures further below:

The picture below taken from the left end of Hall Maine, Level 2, where the lane numbers are low and climb as one moves further down the hall.  At the top center of the photo below is a large black departures board showing when trains are departing, their destinations and from which lanes.  The trains are parked on the left, starting with Lane 1 (Voie 1) and climb as you move further down the hall. The ticket counters described in the previous section are off to the right of this position (not visible in the photo).

Gare Montparnasse Train Departures Arrivals board

Each of the lanes terminates with a column showing a lane number on the side. TGV lanes 1 – 9 are marked with a TGV insignia near the tops of the columns.

Gare Montparnasse Train platforms

Ter, Transilien commuter trains and finally more TGV trains are parked between lanes 18 to 28.  On the front of each column marking the lane you’ll find the lane number (“Voie”) and train information including direction and stops along the way.

Gare Montparnasse Train platform destination stops sign

In the photo below, at the far end of Hall Maine you’ll notice that the train lanes stop at 24, yet there are 28 lanes in total at Gare Montparnasse.  On the far wall is a sign pointing to lanes 25 to 28, located diagonally to the left past lane 24. This area is also referred to as Montparnasse 3 or Gare Vaugirard.

Gare Montparnasse Train platforms west side

If you’re arriving at, rather than departing, Gare Montparnasse by TGV, Ter, or Transilien train and are looking to make a connection to the local transit options, follow the large blue overhead signs pointing towards buses and Metro lines located ahead and below at Street Level (Niveau 0) and Sublevel 1 (Niveau -1) (overhead signs in blue can be seen at center left of the above photo).

Gare Montparnasse Metro Bus signs exit

To help get your bearings after you’ve arrived and are still on Level 2, walking straight out from the main train lines will give you a view of Tower Montparnasse (Tour Montparnasse), which is very visible out the front window of Gare Montparnasse.  You are facing north east from this position.

Gare Montparnasse view Montparnasse Tower

Useful Links

Gares360.com has produced a virtual photo tour of Gare Montparnasse.  Select the level and vantage point you’d like to see using the map at the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.  Click and drag the image to change the angle of view.

Online map of Gare Montparnasse

Resources

Paris Transport Security & Safety Tips

Carte Orange

By | July 30, 2008 | in Passes

**The Carte Orange is now known as Passe Navigo

What is Carte Orange?

  • A weekly or monthly public transportation “pass” for Paris and the Ile-de-France region.
  • Exists in the form of a contactless smartcard known as a Pass Navigo (for residents) or a Pass Navigo Découverte (for non-residents). Formerly, Carte Orange was an actual paper

    card, orange in colour, with personal identification, paired with a coupon like ticket for use in turnstiles for access into fare-paid zones.

  • Price varies on zones (1 to 6) and duration purchased. (See a Paris Fare Zone map).
  • Valid for RER (regional express trains), Metro (subway), buses, trams, cable cars, and commuter trains.

    Weekly passes are valid from Monday start of services (approx. 5:30am) till Sunday evening last service (approx. 1:30am).

  • Monthly passes are valid from first till last day of the month.
  • No limit to quantity of voyages on public transportation system while the pass is valid.

Restrictions

  • Pass is non-transferable.
  • Pass requires bearer’s facial photo and name.
  • Carte Orange is not valid on Orlyval shuttle train to Orly Airport.

Buying Carte Orange

  • Before Carte Orange can be purchased, one must hold a physical pass card: either a Pass Navigo or a Pass Navigo Découverte.
  • Pass Navigo cards are available to individuals with a mailing address within the Ile-de-France. Applications can be made online via Navigo.fr or through letter mail paper application. Cards are delivered to the applicant’s mailing address.
  • Pass Navigo Découverte cards are available instantly to anyone for a €5 fee plus a 3cm x 2.5cm facial photograph to be used with the card. Available for purchase at all RATP / SNCF ticket windows at Metro stations and train stations.
  • With smart card in hand, Carte Orange can be purchased at most RATP (Paris Transit Authority) ticket windows within Metro, RER, bus stations, or at SNCF (French National Railway Company) “Billet Ile-de-France” ticket windows.
  • Carte Orange can also be purchased through automated vending machines (Billetterie Ile-de-France) within train stations and Metro/RER stations, which take coins and smart-chip based credit card/debit cards.
  • Weekly Carte Orange (hebdomodaire) is available for purchase from Sunday to Wednesday (close of service). Afterward, only next week’s Carte Orange is available for purchase from Friday (start of service) onward.
  • Monthly Carte Orange (mensuel) can be purchased for the current month up until the 19th day of the current month. From the 20th onwards, only next month’s Carte Orange is available for purchase.

How to use Carte Orange

On the Paris Metro & RER

Paris Navigo Pass reader(photo courtesy of navigo.fr)

  • After entering the confines of a metro station, approach turnstiles (reserved turnstiles may be used)
  • Hold the pass next to the purple circular card reader.
  • Wait for a chime sound.
  • Pass through the unlocked turnstiles.
  • The Pass Navigo card can only be used once every 5 minutes for the same turnstile or direction (prevents multi-person use).

On Buses and Trams

  • Enter at either the front or back doors.
  • Once on board, find the card reader placed on a pole near the entrance.  Validate the pass by holding the card close to the purple swirl design on its face. Wait till a “chime” sounds and a green light appears at top.

On Transilien/Ter commuter trains

  • Validate the pass using standalone card readers throughout station or platform. (Not strictly necessary, but requested by SNCF).
  • Show pass to controllers as requested for verification by portable card reading machines.

Ten Tips for the Paris Metro

By | July 30, 2008 | in Metro

Here are ten ways to ride the Paris Metro like a local (or better).

  1. Plan your route. Before making a trip, use a Metro map and the official RATP Paris Metro route planner to find the shortest route with the least number of line changes.  Station to station a Metro train will take just over a minute. Making connections will cost you about 3 minutes at small interchanges with few intersecting lines and up to fifteen minutes at mega stations Chatelet Les Halles, Gare du Nord, Gare Montparnasse, Saint-Lazare.  These stations are enormous, sprawling, multi-level, and likely confusing (especially Chatelet Les Halles). You could be walking up to a kilometer to reach the next train platform. If you’re changing trains more than twice, search for a more direct route.
  2. Don’t wait till Monday morning or the first day of the month to buy your Metro ticket t+ or  Navigo Semaine for the week.  The lineups for both vending machines and ticket windows are extremely long on these particular days, since Navigo Semaine expires on Sunday evening / last day of the month.  Thus, an unusually large number of people will be renewing their pass.
  3. Take the RER if you can, even if it means back tracking on the Metro.  With far fewer stops and higher speed, the RER is almost always faster than the Metro.  Use it as much as possible.
  4. At rush hour on the station platform, walk to the far end, furthest away from the entrance stairwell.  People tend to bunch up just next to the platform entrance, reducing your chance of getting on the train.  You’ll also get last second “jumpers” who push themselves onto the last metro car as the doors are about to close, squishing everyone else already on the over-packed car.
  5. Time flies: Most platforms have overhead signs showing minutes till the next train.  These are hardly atomic clocks.  2 minutes can mean immediate arrival or actually 6 minutes.  Don’t wander off in the meantime.
  6. Choose the best train car.  Many people stand at the edge of the platform near the rails to be closer to a car door when the train arrives thinking this will guarantee they get on. This is untrue.  Trains often arrive with cars which are full and no one is descending. If you happen to be waiting at the doorstep of such a train car, you’re not getting on. Furthermore, when you turn around to go to the next train door, you’re no longer at the head of the line, you’re at the rear, as everyone else behind you has turned toward the next train car as well, and you’re behind them.  By standing back, you can survey the train cars as they pass, allowing you to quickly move to the one that is not overly full and where there are people descending.  Stand back as the train arrives to watch multiple doors. Some train cars will have many people descending, some none at all.  Your best chance of getting on a busy Metro train is with a car somewhere in between these two extremes.  Standing back from the fray allows you to see the action from afar and choose the best train car.
  7. Take off your backpack & keep it near your feet/between your legs. You’ll take the personal space (at a premium on the Metro) of two people with it on your back.  It’s bad form, screams “ignorant tourist” and is more prone to having uninvited “inspections” for wallets and other valuables (not common, but possible).
  8. During rush hour, stand, don’t use the folding seats near the train doors, which allows more people to be crammed into the train car, a national past time in Paris.
  9. Prepare for takeoff: Make your way to the door (carefully) before the train arrives at your station. If this is not possible at least make motions that you’re getting off at the next stop.  Everyone reads that body language and will prepare to get out of your way when it’s time.  This allows you to alight quickly so that others have time to enter the train before it departs.
  10. Wash your hands after your journey. The amount of other people’s lives on handles and poles on a Metro train would make the monkey in Outbreak shudder.

(Photo by jmanners)

Cheap Eurostar Tickets – £69 Return

By | July 26, 2008 | in Eurostar Tickets

To purchase £69 round trip Eurostar train tickets from London to Paris (or Paris to London):

1. Go to Eurostar.com and click on the “Eurostar Deals” tab, top right highlighted below. (image updated March 28, 2013). If you end up on the French site, you can switch languages at the top right:

Next, on the Arc de Triomphe photo and text, click on the “Paris is Calling” text, which will bring the photo to centre and show a Book Now button.  Click “Book Now”.

Clicking on the text “Paris is Calling” will reveal a “Book Now” button.  Click that.

2. Next you’ll see a colour-coded calendar.  Any dates shaded in blue are low cost fares. The darker the blue, the more tickets that are available.  I’ve highlighted April 17 below as an example.  Most dates are white and will not have the £69 return fare available.  Select both departure/return dates with blue colours. (Note that currently the site has an error and has listed both outbound and inbound calendars as “London St. Pancras Intl. to Paris Gare du Nord”, but the bottom calendar is for the return leg.  Keep in mind the calendar shows next week by default.   There are up & down arrows on the left top & bottom of the calendar to go back and forth 4 weeks time.

When you’re travel dates are selected click on “Continue“.

Remember any Low, Medium or High Availability days will feature the £69 return ticket price.

In general the first High Availability day will be at least 14 days from now.  Thus, if you can book your Eurostar at least 2 weeks in advance and you’ll get the cheapest Eurostar fare available.

How to Read an RER Train Schedule / Timetable

By | July 18, 2008 | in RER Schedules

This is a guide on how to read Paris RER train schedules, which can appear complex at first glance.

We’ll learn how to read an RER timetable through an example trip: Paris-Gare de Lyon to Disneyland Paris by RER A Train.

Things you’ll need to know before you start:

  1. Your Destination RER train station (Marne La Vallée-Chessy)
  2. Your Departure RER train station (example: Gare de Lyon)
  3. The terminus (last) station along the RER train line, in the direction you’re traveling.

To see all RER train lines use a RER train map. To get detailed information on a single RER line, view its corresponding RER line map, which can help you find a departure station in Paris (Zone 1), the destination station, and the line branch/direction you need.  RER Schedules can be found on the RER Schedules category page.

Step 1 - Find Destination Station: On the left hand side of schedule / timetable will be stations along the RER train line. Start by finding the station that you wish to arrive at, your destination station. In this example, we want to go to Marne la Vallee, the station for Disneyland Paris along the RER A train line.

Step 2 – Find Desired Time of Arrival: On the row for your destination station, trace your finger along the row until you find the time you want to arrive at. Subsequent pages will have later times, so flip through the schedule book to find later arrival times.  If the time you’re looking for isn’t shown on the current page, view subsequent pages, keeping your focus on the row of your destination station, in this example, it’s Marne la Vallee, which is easy since it’s the last row/station along the RER A line.  Once you’ve found the time you wish to arrive at we can now find when the train leaves and from which stations.  Note that all times are listed in 24 hour clock. Thus 1731 would be 5:31pm in the afternoon.  Morning times are shown without a leading zero, so 6:55am would be shown as 655.

Step 3 – Find Departure Station & Time: Having found your desired arrival time, we can now check when the train departs and from which Paris stations.  Each column on a RER timetable represents a train running along the line, albeit at different times.  Moving to the right across columns shows trains that depart later in the day.  Not all trains stop at all stations along the line, thus you’ll see large gaps in the schedule, which indicates a branch or stations of the RER line that is skipped by the train.

From your chosen arrival time, trace your finger up the column till it crosses the station row that you want to depart from.  Paris stations are near the middle of the sheet. The major RER A stations in central Paris are: Charles de Gaulle-Etoile, Auber, Chatelet Les Halles, Gare de Lyon, and Nation. Here we move up the column till we reach a 6:54am departure which coincides with station Gare de Lyon.  Thus we can take an RER A train, in direction Marne La Vallée, leaving from Gare de Lyon at 6:54am, arriving at 7:30am at station Marne La Vallée-Chessy, the closest station to Disneyland Paris.

The following PDF file, How to Read Paris RER Train Schedules, is the same guide on how to read RER train schedules, with Paris to Disneyland Paris as the example trip along the RER A line.

RER Train Line Maps

By | July 9, 2008 | in Maps RER

RER Train Line MapsRER Train Line Map

The following RER Train Line maps are specific to a single RER Train line, A, B, C, D, or E.

Each RER Line map shows:

  • Stations along the RER line
  • Branches & Terminus (last) stations for each branch, used to specify direction of travel for RER trains along their platforms within stations
  • Interchanges or Connections to Paris Metro lines
  • Connections to other RER train lines
  • Transfers to TGV Trains, Transilien/Ter commuter train lines at large Paris train stations (known as “Gare” in French). This includes Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Gare de Lyon, Gare de Austerlitz, Gare de Montparnasse, Gare St. Lazare.
  • Zones for Pass Navigo / Paris Visite / Mobilis tickets and passes
  • Handicap accessibility at stations
  • Famous attractions near stations

These maps can be found on all RER train cars just above their doors.

RER A Train Line Map

RER B Train Line Map

RER C Train Line Map

RER D Train Line Map

RER E Train Line Map

Paris Transportation Zone Map

By | July 9, 2008 | in Maps

Paris and the surrounding area is divided into 5 circular zones for use in pricing public transportation passes.  Travel into the 5th and farthest zone is the most expensive, while zones 1-2, central Paris, are the least expensive.  Examples of popular destinations and their zones:

This Paris Transportation Zone Map (200KB PDF) displays Fare Zones 1 to 5 which apply to:

Paris Metro (urban city subway) is entirely contained in Zones 1-2 as shown on this more detailed zone map including Paris Metro, RER and Transilien (intercity) trains (900KB PDF, opens a new window).  Paris Metro tickets are valid for travel anywhere within zones 1-2.  (Be careful at La Défense when exiting the Metro.  Be sure to use the Metro exit and not the RER exit, both of which will generally be available to you.  An RER ticket is required to pass through RER exit turnstiles, while the Metro exit will not require a ticket.)

What’s visible on the Zones map:

  • Fare Zones (“Zones Tarifaires”) 1 through 5
  • RER A, RER B, RER C, D, E train lines
  • RER & Transilien train network in Ile-de-France (administrative region around Paris)
  • Station names along all RER/Translien train lines
  • Connections (“Correspondances”) and transfer possible between different RER, Transilien, and RER to Transilien trains
  • Shuttle bus (“navettes bus”) from RER C station: Pont de Rungis and Orly Airport
  • Orlyval train to Paris-Orly Airport between RER B station: Antony and Orly West / Orly South airport terminals, which requires a special fare (“tarification spéciale”)
  • Major tourist sites (“Sites touristiques”) accessible from certain stations

(Zone map courtesy of RATP)

RER C Train Map

By | July 6, 2008 | in Maps RER RER C

This RER C Train Map shows:

  • All stations along each RER C branch (C1 – C7)
  • Interchanges with Metro Lines / RER Lines
  • Famous Sites and Attractions at stations on RER C
  • Zone regions (Zone 1 to Zone 5)

Downloadable RER C Line Map (PDF)

Popular Destinations

Along RER C (with station names in brackets) in and around Paris:

More Information

RER Train Map (RER A, B, C, D, E) (PDF)

Maps on Paris by Train

Paris by Train Horaires, Plans et Guides disponible en Français

By | July 6, 2008 | in Attractions

Grace à Google Translate.  Il y a un widget disponible sur la rubrique gauche où vous pouvez changer le langue de la page instantement en plusiers langues, français par exemple.  Et, le traduction ce n’est pas mal du tout. Loin de parfait (comme mon français, evidemment), mais, pour la plupart, il marche.

Google.. vous ne cessez jamais de me surprendre.