by Laura Bauerlein
Does it matter how central you are in Paris? Of course it does. But perhaps less so than in many other cites, thanks to such an amazing metro system. Having just returned from a recent trip, I’m able to compare what it’s like staying in the center vs. staying farther afield.
Paris has an Amazing metro system, with a capital A. You can literally get from one end of the city to the other in 40 minutes, and that is, from ANY end of the city to any other end. In Rome, for example, a similar endeavor would take you between 1.5 to 5 hours, at least (with a possibility of never rather than 5 hours). In Paris, it’s: hop on the metro (and not one place that I have visited was farther than 10 minutes – absolute maximum – by foot from a metro stop), switch trains, maybe switch again (a switch-switch can easily be done in less than 5 minutes) and get out.
The best thing about metro-hopping is that you won’t miss out on some of Paris’ biggest and maybe most neglected attractions: metro musicians! There are also all kinds of buses, tramways, etc that I didn’t even really consider as I could never get enough of the metro (a great place to study people, too, of course!). If you want to stop and smell the roses, the metro at Châtelet, with the Symphonie Metropolitain, is a great way to experience something of beauty in stark contrast to the hordes of people busily rushing by.
The best thing to do is to buy a 10 ticket carnet at any one of the automatic vending machines – 10 tickets are 12.70 Euro as opposed to 1.70 Euro for a single ticket (hint: the machines are operated by a ‘rolling’ thing to move change your selection). The tickets are still good when you change trains as long as you don’t EXIT the metro system. The same kind of ticket is good for the tram, too.
Check this to see how greatly organized it all is.
On top of that, there’s the Vélib bike-sharing stations throughout the city, even in the most remote areas.
During my recent stay of more than 2 weeks, I changed neighborhood three times: I stayed in one very central apartment in the 5th arrondissement, and two less central ones – one in the 18th and one in the 20th. Naturally there are advantages of staying in the center. Being able to walk to many sights and feel the center’s vibe, stumbling upon the Eiffel tower or the Arch du Triomphe when you least expect it – are all pretty cool.
But to be honest, I almost liked it better to ‘come home’ to a more remote, residential area – just like thousands of Parisians coming home from work or school every day. Living in a neighborhood somewhat removed from the center, you get to live more closely with the local masses, cue in the less known but just as amazing boulangeries, sit in a park in the evenings, away from tourists and the busy center. And just because you live in a more remote ‘quarter’ doesn’t mean you won’t get Haussman buildings, rooftop views or other sorts of Parisian-ness! Living in neighborhoods where the majority of Parisian everyday life takes place (as opposed to the areas where everyday Parisian tourism takes place) just made me feel more at home, and knowing that everything is really just a metro ride away should put that part of you that wants to see the famous sights at ease.