Since we moved from the 14th arrondissement in Paris my journey into work has changed significantly. No longer a 10 minute walk down past the nice boulangerie, the selection of cafes (including the one opposite the market where they do a nice cous-cous on Sunday), the market itself on Wednesday, the chemists, two supermarkets and the butcher before descending into the depths of the metro at Plaisance. After that I had to commit myself to the less than perfect metro line 13. All of the lines have a reputation – need I say that 13 has the worst? And with some justification too. After 4 stops I would arrive at the penultimate stop with 150m to reach the front door of the office.
To many readers (sorry, THE reader), this must sound like an idyllic trip. However in the dead of winter, dodging the dog poo, trudging through a few inches of soggy snow and being blown by the icy wind running along rue d’Alesia, it sometimes lacked charm!
So what now, now that we are living in Maisons Laffitte? Now my morning starts 30 minutes earlier and kicks off with a brisk 5 minute bike ride to the local station. My most elderly Dutch bike (another expat but an enforced one) looks very tatty and undesirable but is equipped with a solid Dutch lock and chain to ensure it is still waiting for me in the evening. The bike racks are like most other things in Maisons Laffitte – well made and well looked after with a decent and efficient roof too. My ride is mostly alongside the railway so I can see the trains that I have no hope in catching as well as those that I can make a valiant effort to miss.
Shackling a bike takes a finite time and always longer if the train is waiting. Once I get onto the station I have a multiple choice worthy of any mathematical conundrum and one that really needs a computer program developed to solve it:
The TER (a part of the regional rail system attached to the national service or SNCF – Sociètes Nationale de Chemins de Fer Francais, known to us as kids as the SnerKuff) comes every 10 minutes at :03, :13, etc and takes me to Gare St Lazare in about 30 minutes. This is followed by a single trip on the line 13 to work (yes, the unreliable one) for a 55 minute trip on average – if it all works.
The RER comes every 10 minutes too but on the 10, 20 etc minutes past the hour and then I have to catch line 6 and a final bit of line 13 to get there. Total time is about 45 to 50 minutes. And then there are yet further criteria – the TER almost always guarantees me a seat whereas the RER varies from an occasional seat through to a serious crush. However my choice is usually simple – the train in hand is worth more than many that are about to come!
Once aboard, the trips vary too. Both share the same route until Nanterre where the lines diverge. This part is partly pretty and gentrified suburbs, part modern industrial landscape, part big city outskirts. After Nanterre the RER descends underground past the major termini of la Defence and Charles de Gaulle-Etoile where I get off. From there it is an underground existence on metro line 6 until we exit from Passy, back to the overground to cross the Seine and my morning view of the Eifel tower.
This is my second change to catch ine 13 and the final underground bit until re-emerging just before my stop.
The TER that we left at Nanterre continues along normal tracks in a typical railway landscape until St Lazare where there is a brisk 5 minute walk along the platform and down into the depths to find the line 13, not to re-emerge until my destination.
Coming home in the evening is another story altogether and usually involves a brief stop at Sartrouville to switch trains.
So which do I prefer? Each has its own merits – the RER has tourist views and daylight but the TER allows me to read or look at the overnight emails.
See what you think from the pictures all taken from my camera phone at various points over several days.