As large cities go, Paris is not that spread out. Still, if we had to walk everywhere we want to go, our poor legs and feet just wouldn’t be able to take it. Fortunately for us, and the other ten and a half million inhabitants, a terrific public transportation system exists which allows us to get just about anywhere in the metropolitan area in a short amount of time.
My favorite way to travel in Paris is by bus. Not only does it save you from having to climb down and back up the stairs while using the subway, but you also get to see the city en route. Another plus is that many big streets contain a dedicated bus lane allowing buses to avoid most major traffic tie-ups. With these lanes, they can even go “the wrong way” down one-way streets, which can definitely pose a hazard to some unsuspecting tourist! Local lines for us all end with the number 8: 28, 38, 58, and 68, making them easy to remember. We catch two of them just across the street from our apartment building. Number 38 goes north on boulevard Saint-Michel, which is good if we’re heading into the heart of the city: like the Luxembourg Garden, place de la Sorbonne, bookstores near the place Saint-Michel, or Notre-Dame. It’s usually the most crowded bus as well. Lately our preferred line seems to be the 68 which takes us to many important tourist attractions, such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Opéra Garnier, going all the way up to the Place de Clichy on Montmartre. If we take a short walk over to avenue du Maine, we have buses 28 and 58 at our disposal. The first heads toward les Invalides and les Champs-Élysées, while the second takes us to the Musée du Luxembourg, Odéon, and Chatelet. Handy charts showing the route are inside each bus shelter in case we forget.
The métro is generally faster than the bus, although there have been times when passengers in the cars we were on were asked to patienter. Like when the police were searching the tunnels for a criminal or when there have been problems with the signaling system or a brief power outage. Just a two-minute walk from our front door is the Mouton-Duvernet subway stop. Here we catch the M4 which kind of parallels the route of bus 38. If we walk or take the M4 up to place Denfert-Rochereau, we have access to the M6. This line heads east-west from Nation to the Arc de Triomphe. At Denfert we can also take the Orlybus to Paris’s second airport or the RER, a kind of super-subway which makes fewer stops and goes longer distances. Line B of the RER is how we got in from the airport Charles de Gaulle at Roissy last January.
The RATP, the agency which runs public transport in Paris, has very convenient websites which show us the various lines; it even has apps which calculate when the next bus will arrive at our starting point. Of course, some things are impossible to predict: like how crowded the vehicle will be or how many characters talking to themselves will be on board! Still, it’s a good way to travel. Just about every week we purchase two carnets of ten for only 1,30 € each ticket. Money well spent, I’d say.