Parisians 'Find' Issy for Visitors

hoyel de ville - issy
Issy's Hôtel de Ville is on the old Roman road to Dreux.

Finding Their Hotel is Not So Easy

eMail from Margaret Gilsenberg, via the Internet
Dear Ric -

Massachusetts:- Monday, 6. April 1998:- I just returned from a 10-day trip to France, two of which were spent in Paris. We had dinner at La Procope - the Frères Blanc seem to be the only restaurateurs in Paris who have a website and take reservations via email. As 'Internet customers,' we were treated to a complimentary glass of champagne with some lovely marinated cherries floating in the bubbles.

My real reason for writing is not to bore you with details of our trip, but to exclaim upon the beauty of Paris - more so even than expected - and the friendliness of the French.

We got lost several times during our first day in Paris, the first time when we were circling La Défense on the boulevard Circulaire trying to get to our hotel, the Renaissance. We could see it, but could not get there. We ended up in a parking garage from which a kindly attendant released us, on the pedestrian part of the plaza, in front of the delivery door of the hotel - ah, that is what 'livraisons' means - until finally we found the right parking garage and left the car.

With a meeting set up for 13:00 we had to race to the métro and into Paris to reach the address on rue Rouget de Lisle. When we got there, however we found only shops and hotels, no businesses. A shopkeeper on the corner of the rue de Rivoli let us use his telephone; dialed the number for us and put up with our presence while we determined that the rue Rouget de Lisle that we wanted was not in Paris at all, but just outside at Pont d'Issy.

We found a taxi and got our first look at the Seine and la Tour Eiffel, the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs-Elysées on the drive there. After the meeting we opted to take the métro back only to find that our métro tickets wouldn't work since they were only good within the city limits.

We had no change, the machine would not accept our credit cards. Some métro employees let us through the gates with their passes and guided us to the place where we could buy tickets.

In short, we were prepared for rudeness and disdain as that is the reputation the French have in the States; instead, we found kindness and warmth. Even the taxi driver was pleasant. It was a great first experience in France.

Sincerely, Margaret

PS: my husband is holding out for the return of the two-button sport coat as well; it looks like a long wait...

Getting Around Paris and Out to Issy
Bonjour Margaret -

Paris:- Wednesday, 8.April 1998:- Being able to see your hotel at La Défense and not being able to drive there, is not uncommon for La Défense. Having a street name you assume is in Paris and finding it in someplace you've never heard of is not uncommon either.

Another exercise in futility, is looking up somebody's phone number without knowing exactly where they live in thetram to issy Paris region. Luckily you had a good phone number and some help. This leaves the problem of Paris public transport and its fare system.

The 'Val de Seine' tram at La Défense.

For residents, there is the monthly Orange Card. For visitors there are several varieties of short-term cards - such as 'Paris Visite' - which allow one to choose the number of 'zones' desired, and the number of days of use. If you don't know where you will be going, get a five-zone card. This allows unlimited travel on any alphabet service - RATP, SNCF, RER, etc.

If, on the other hand, you expect to be moving about mainly on foot and mainly within Paris' city limits, a 10-ticket 'carnet' of RATP métro tickets will do the job for 48 francs. These tickets are good for buses and will also take you out to the ends of métro lines, which are beyond Paris - like La Défense.

I have been thinking of paying Issy-les-Moulineaux a visit since the tram line from La Défense began regular operation last September. This is an old SNCF line brought back to life, but now run by the RATP with brand-new equipment and a frequency useful to users.

This line's route is not complete, but as it is, it is a time-saving shortcut from La Défense to near the south end of Paris' 15th arrondissement. With a short bus ride, one can get to the métro line 12 at Issy's city hall, and be two stops from the exhibition park, Paris-Expo.

Two métro tickets are required for this 'Val de Seine' route; which is a throwback to when Paris buses required two tickets if you were riding more than a couple of 'sections.'

Who is Issy-les-Moulineaux?

None of my various guides have any mention of Issy. Yet I know, from doing a feature about the rue de Vaugirard some time ago, that Vaugirard was placed on a Roman road to Dreux, and this ran through Issy.

Eric Legale, director of Issy Media at the city hall, does not entirely believe this, so he looks it up and sure enough, the rue du Général Leclerc right outside his office window is the same road.

Issy Media is in the Hôtel de Ville, and if it keeps up its rate of production, the whole world will know what there is to know about Issy before too long. Rodin was in Issy, and Matisse from 1909 to 1917, and Jean Dubuffet has left a 'Tour aux Figures' in the park on the Ile Saint-Germain in the Seine. It takes up 12 square metres of ground space and is 24 metres high and full of staircases.

The Paris suburb is also proud of its national museum of playing cards, lodged in a new museum, attached to a pavilion of the Princes of Conti, which contains the city's historic collection. This is not inconsiderable, as Issy is another centre of pioneer aviation.

Issy used to be known for its light industry, located as it is, about equidistant from the old Renault factory on the Ilebrochure for tram line Seguin and the Citroën works just upriver on the quai André Citroën. The latter has been turned into a park and residences; and the Ile Seguin is waiting for Issy, Meudon, Sèvres and Boulogne to decide its future.

What sets relatively mundane Issy apart, are two factors. It is served by a métro line, an RER line, a SNCF line and now the tram line. The second element is that Issy decided to go online, using its own resources, and with determination and imagination, has made Issy perhaps the most 'wired' town in France.

Multinational companies such as Johnson and Johnson, Compacq Computer, a host of software firms, and newcomer Coca-Cola, all take advantage of the infrastructure. Meanwhile, Issy's citizens follow city council meetings on cable-TV, and send messages to the councilors via email from the 'Cyber Tearoom,' just one of many public access points to the internet.

By the tramway stop, Issy seems like a cement-truck boomtown. A few blocks away, the city hall is partly surrounded by a daily marché, and typical bistros and cafés. Once just a nameless place to pass through, Issy may become a destination.

Regards, Ric

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