It always feels good when you start to get the hang of a new city. In any place that I have ever traveled this has always started with figuring out how to get from place to place. Any time I ever go into Toronto I find it very simple. The subway system is extremely basic, 2 lines going north and south and one line going east and west. It is pitiful but simple to master. Beyond that I always can figure out where Lake Ontario is by looking for the CN Tower. For the most part if you can see that it usually means that you are looking South towards the Union Station area which helps to orient yourself as to where to go. In most other cities things are not so simple.
The Paris underground takes some getting used to. There are an amazing amount of different lines crisscrossing around the city taking you to any number of destinations. The map of how to get around really does take some trial and error but within a very short period of time it is manageable, and a little time after that you may even feel like you have it mastered. Yesterday after picking up my Paris Pass we were given directions to get to Versailles but in true fashion it seems like no one had told the company that looks after this that a section of track had been shut down. A quick lesson in the Paris underground and how to read the map on the station wall allowed us to create our own detour and arrive back where we wanted to go. After that, moving about is easy!
The past two days have been full of a lot of history as only Europe can throw at you. Yesterday, Sarah and I headed out of the city proper to go and see the Chateaux De Versailles. The (main?) palace of the French Monarchy is an amazing sight but it is also so far the most congested of all the locations we have been so far. The security line up to get in was incredible. Once inside it wasn’t much better as people jostled for position to see any of the artifacts that were there to be seen.
Today seemed a little more relaxed even though there was a lot going on in the city. The Louvre was the first stop of the day and of course before the crowds got there we headed up to the Mona Lisa. Being one of the first group into the Museum is great for seeing the most famous paintings but I found that the way the building is laid out it does allow for a lot of people to go through without feeling rushed.
The rest of the day has been spent watching a little of the last day of the Tour de France and then walking around Notre-Dame (there was no interest in waiting in line again).
Paris is an interesting city. It tends to incite people to get outdoors. There are places for people to hang out along the river with activities from picnic areas to dancing platforms. The willingness to eat on the side of a road with traffic going by is also an interesting twist of a busy city life but if you look hard enough there are some much quieter cafes within parks which are wonderful and quieter. These open areas have been around for much longer than where I have grown up and it is sad that we have not looked around to copy things such as these. I might be more interested in living in the city if we copied this form of city design.