For Versailles, Go via Saint-Lazare

Cafe-Bar Le Bougnat, near Temple
Most ordinary bars used to sell firewood as well as beer.

Plus Funny Money, Big Numbers and a Birthday

Paris:- Saturday, 19. July 1997:- In mentioning Versailles' desire last week for two billion francs to fix itself up, I also mentioned in passing that I hadn't heard any complaints about the SNCF's line 'C' lately. This is the train line which takes so many visitors out there. I shouldn't have said that.

On Thursday, Le Parisien reported that the SNCF is making a real effort to provide living human beings to aid passengers. But they start their story with a hypothetical account of visitors in the Gare Montparnasse, looking at the departure signs, trying to figure out which trains go to Versailles.

As the line 'C' is a commuter line like all others, it makes about a dozen stops before reaching Versailles-Chantiers. All of these intermediate stops are listed by name, and if local commuters know them off by heart, visitors don't. With the ticket-selling automats, it is difficult for visitors to buy tickets and there is no one to give directions. Luckily, other passengers on the train are usually helpful.

As far as the ticket-automats are concerned, nobody uses them with ease, even if they are working. Smaller stations along the route are not always manned full-time, and although many of these have outside ticket-automats - they do not give directions.

Actually, Le Parisien's piece only mentions the problems of visitors to Versailles in the first paragraph. The other six paragraphs are about the problems all local passengers face, not just visitors.

My solution for those intending to visit Versailles is simple. Go by way of the Gare Saint-Lazare instead. As you face the tracks, the trains leaving for Versailles are at the far left. They go to Versailles-Rive-Droit and no further. I figure this station is about exactly as far a walk from the château as the RER's line 'C' station.

Depending on the time of day, the ride from Saint-Lazare may take longer because the train may stop at more stations along the way, but it can also be boarded at La Défense. There is a better view of all Paris 14 July parade, A2 TV-news from this line and it runs through the park of Saint-Cloud as a bonus.

In addition to the military, the police now march on Bastille Day too.

The ticket-vending automats at Saint-Lazare are identical to the ones at Montparnasse, so I have no good advice about this - except that I think there are more manned ticket windows if you can't get satisfaction from the machine.

Both machines and ticket windows are on the same level as the tracks, but in the big hall behind. In general, Saint-Lazare is laid-out more simply than Montparnasse has become since the TGV's were added to it.

You Like France and France Likes You

The numbers are in and you did it again; all 62.4 million of you who paid a visit to France in 1996. Germany sent 13 million and Great Britain 10 million and the fastest growing groups were visitors from the United States and from eastern Europe.

But instead of staying eight days as was the case three years ago, it was only seven last year. Visitors blitz Paris by taking in the Tour Eiffel, the Arc de Triomphe and a ride on a bateau-mouche, because the three are physically close together.

Despite the world's record for visitors, France ranks only third for income from visitors, following the United States and Spain.

Visitors are handling their money with caution and looking for bargains - and in September the Paris Tourist Office intends to propose visits to couture houses - as so-called 'Journées à la Française.' But being realistic, the PTO also plans to show visitors where to find the shops with marked-down quality goods - some of which have been mentioned already in Metropole.

The Disney-DM Gang is Back in Town

Some clever fellows have got some suitcases full of 1000 DM notes which have Uncle Scrooge's portrait on one side. These guys go to a jeweler - for example - and ask to exchange - for example - 30,000 real DMs for Francs, at a very favorable exchange-rate.

When they think they have the fish hooked, then they come back with a suitcase full of phoney 1000 DM notes to do another exchange, or purchase something really valuable.

If the fish bites, he ends up with a lot of funny money. These guys have been around with the same dodge a couple of times this year already, and one gang of them were snapped up on 8. July in the rue Copernic, along with 478 samples of 1000 DM notes issued by Scrooge's Bank.

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