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 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


Paris Transport Security & Safety Tips

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 Paris Metro tickets 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)

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 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.