Saturday, 22 June 2013

Memories of the Métro

Paris Métro - World Wandering Kiwi
Spring may have come and gone, and although the granite sky hanging heavily outside gives no hint that we are at the start of our Summer, I decide to do a last minute clear-out; an overdue Spring clean.

I am at work, which is admittedly some hinderance to my desire to sort and refresh, but it is a quiet day with little else to do so I pull my bag out from under the desk. I fish out my wallet and start pulling items from it, laying them out on the desk in front of me. I find bank cards, loyalty cards, coupons, and receipts. I also find my old library card, railcard, and a multitude of pieces of paper with shopping lists and notes scribbled on them. I honestly have no idea where this huge collection of rubbish comes from, or why it seems to be magnatised to my wallet of all places.

When I finally think I have removed everything and thrown away the junk I do not wish to keep, I give the wallet a final shake to dislodge the dust lurking in the pockets and folds. Something else falls onto the desk in front of me; a small rectangular card, which is  no longer than my thumb, with a black strip lengthways across the back. I turn it over and see the familiar markings; 'Optile', 'RATP', 'SNCF', 'Ticket'. It is an old métro ticket, much smaller than their orange and green British counterparts, and much more easily lost.

I hold it up between my thumb and forefinger and look it over, searching for some indication as to what journey it represented but I do not understand all the symbols printed on it. I think back to January when Emily and I took our Honeymoon in Paris. We travelled several times by Métro, no doubt our awestruck expressions were the tattooes of 'les Anglais'. Trains running on-time? Unheard of! Space enough to stand at the very least? Outrageous! It costs less than a two course lunch? I simply don't believe you!

We made the unconcious decision to walk as much as we could while we were there (between the monuments, in these back-stage areas, most cities have a tendancy to all look alike, but every inch of Paris could only be Paris), but sometimes we were just too exhausted or the trip was just too long. That is when we would hop on the métro.

The ticket I now hold in my hand, did it take us from Pigalle to Jaurès, on the day we decided to rent vélibs and cycle down Canal Saint-Martin and Boulevard Richard-Lenoir to the Place de la Bastille? The sky was grey also on that day, but a lighter shade, as if reflecting the soft pastel colours of the pavements and  buildings, and the faintly green water of the canal. The vélibs had been a failure as we struggled to find any that were rideable after the morning rush took the best. We stopped for crêpes to treat ourselves and sat on a bench on Quai de Valmy as we thought of all the wonderful possibilities that were still available to us in Paris that day.

Or perhaps it was the day we took the métro all the way to Porte de Vanves to attend a brocante market before walking north to Montparnasse and scaling the imposing Tour Montparnasse? It had been foggy and grey once again, and we could only make out the silhouette of the Eiffel Tower in the distance. 

We had lunch in Saint-Germain and later stopped for coffee at the tranquil Place Dauphine on the Île de la Cité, before walking back to our hotel in the 9th arrondissement via the Louvre. We walked into the evening and watched the city change as it does once the lights come on and the night revellers fill the streets.

Perhaps the ticket it is a momento of our trip to the Palace of Versaille where we sat in the cold and marvelled at the extreme grandeur of the palace as we ate our picnic beside the Bassin de la Pyramide? As the train sped through Paris that morning we kept an eye out for the Statue de la Liberté - Réplique when we passed the Île aux Cygnes and we listened as a busker played a lively melody on an accordian to the morning travellers.

I cannot remember which, if any of these occasions are linked to the ticket I have now, but I momentarily lose myself in these fond memories. The card no longer than my thumb helps me recall vividly the tastes, sounds, and sights of every trip we made on the métro and the wonderful places we found each time. The heavy sky outside the window has lifted a few shades with my mood. I see that I have a text from Emily, 'We should make a day trip to France soon," she proposes. I smile and agree.

I place the ticket  back in my wallet with my cards and start up the computer in front of me. I want to share this experience with everyone.

1 comment:

  1. So true. I keep two in my wallet; my first one and a blank one, so I'm always ready to go back whenever the mood takes me!