My first impressions of the transport system in Paris left me pining for the familiarity and reliability of London’s famous Tube. The Paris Métro and RER trains have more graffiti and less room to sit. Many of the entrances and walkways smell of urine. Quite often one must use the stairs, with no lift or elevator option. Even the buskers aren’t as good, I opined to my wife when we walked past some.
The very next day, we were treated to some cheery and heartening music from what sounded like a small orchestra and choir. This was much better than most of the music I have heard on the London Underground!
The same day, someone got onto the train with us and provided a stereotypically French-sounding accordion accompaniment to our entire journey.
We bought 7 days’ unlimited travel through the whole Métro system, the buses, and much of the RER for around €16 each (starting on a Monday, mind!). The trains are fast and smooth, and they link a lot of Paris very well. The major tourist attractions are helpfully labelled on Métro maps. Twice, someone gave up their seat just so I could sit next to my wife. One person stopped to help me when I had trouble with a machine. Another just shrugged when I unwittingly pushed in front of him in a queue. A member of staff shared my frustration when I spoiled my ticket, and helpfully provided me enough passes to get me through the day.
So I take it all back. I prefer Le Métro, even with its occasional whiff of wee.
After spending longer in Paris, I realized that it isn’t the Métro that smells bad. In fact, they keep it much cleaner than any underground passages in London. The problem with pee is above ground, and all over Paris. If London is The Great Wen (open sewer), then Paris should be Le Grand Pissoir.