I finally mustered up the courage to call my contact at my school in which I will be teaching, instead of simply emailing her a response. She was extremely nice on the phone, and I’m glad that I called her. She explained to me in more detail how to get to the school from the train station. That sounded a little complicated, but not overly so – it helped a lot that she gave landmarks, things to look for to know I was going in the right direction. That always wins.
Since the validity of my passe NaviGO began yesterday, I decided to do a practice run of my commute. That way, come Thursday, I will know exactly where to go and what to do, and the only thing I’ll have to worry about is catching my train on time.
So I walked to the Gare Saint-Lazare, trying to figure out what the best route would be en vélo. I plan to use my new bike to commute from here to the train station, to cut down on my commute time. That didn’t work too well, as I ended up taking a longer route that was out of the way and led me back toward my former host parents’ apartment. (At least I knew the neighborhood.)
When I got to the station, I passed by the grandes lignes, knowing that those were the ones that went to farther away cities than the suburbs of Paris. I quickly found the right quay…but where was the place to validate my ticket? Not wanting to miss my train, I decided to risk it and just board the train anyway. My ride wouldn’t be entirely illegal, since my passe NaviGO does pay for all zones, but the chances of having a contrôle de billet, where transportation police check everyone’s tickets to make sure they paid for the trip, were very slim.
So I caught a “free” ride to Mantes Station. It wasn’t too difficult to find the school. In fact, it was super-easy. You pretty much just turn right out of the train station (to make sure you’re actually going to Mantes La Ville and not Mantes La Jolie, a different town) and take the first big street you come across. From there, it’s a few minutes’ walk straight down that street until you come to la Mairie, or town hall. The school is right there. In fact, could it really be possible that the school is in the same building as the Mairie?? It sure seemed like it.
Well, I turned around and walked back to the train station, taking a few pictures on my cell phone of the surroundings. I almost took the wrong train on the way back, but I noticed it just in time. More accurately, it would have been the right train to go back to Gare Saint-Lazare in Paris, but it was a more local train that made twice as many stops. Anyway, I am pretty proud of myself that I figured this out, and I’m also glad that I did a practice run when there was no pressure. I will be far less stressed on Thursday morning when I go for my first day of work.
People & Places
The Transilien is interesting. That’s the name of the train service that takes me to and from Mantes La Ville. It passes through all 6 zones of Paris, and through many different suburban towns. Coming back toward Paris, I noticed that the demographics of the train changed quite suddenly. One moment I looked behind me to see about 8 African women beautifully clothed in colorful traditional garb. The next moment, I looked back again, this time to a sea of muted colors of plainer yet fashionable Parisians.
The landscape also changes quite suddenly. On the way out, I noticed old country houses, a plot of land dedicated to about 20 separate vegetable gardens with their own tool sheds. The route even shows some foothills, which is nice to see when you’re used to living in the city.
Getting back to Paris was nice, though. I asked one of the friendly messieurs at the welcome kiosk where I am supposed to validate my passe NaviGO when I leave. He smiled and said that they don’t actually have a way to validate the passes NaviGO at the station yet. That means…you can pretty much ride that train for free, without a ticket, if you are willing to risk the chance of getting caught by a contrôle. You don’t even have to jump over any barriers to get out of the train station, as you would if you had taken the RER.
It was also a nice feeling to get back home to Paris. Yes, Paris feels quite a bit like home to me. It certainly helps that I’ve lived here before and have some basic knowledge of how things work here, and how to go where I want to go. But I also feel so at home in the city. I’m definitely a city girl at heart. I love the hustle and bustle, the abundance of public transportation, everything you need just a few blocks away. Paris is also special. I love Paris in the springtime…I love Paris in the fall….
I leave you with a few more pictures of Mantes La Ville: