The past 3 days have been gloomy and rainy.  Guess we’re finally getting the real London weather I’ve always heard about.  I stayed in Monday and Tuesday, fully intending to write, but instead ended up spending all of that time organizing little trips.  It always surprises me how much time it takes to plan a trip, even the smallest ones!  And most of that time is taken up with directions.  Getting the right directions.  How far is the hotel from the station?  Can I walk or will I need a taxi?  How far from the hotel to the places I want to see?  What are the bus routes, how much fare?  Do they take cash or do I need to buy a ticket?  Especially if you’re traveling sans car, directions become the holy grail of the journey, and finding the right ones can be just as hard.  I spend a lot of time peering at train timetables, plotting my every step through Google maps.  But the upside to all this planning is, once I finally arrive at my destination, I can relax and enjoy it, knowing that I’ve covered all my bases.  I still end up getting lost sometimes, but then I can always rely on the kindness of a stranger for guidance.  It’s a lot like producing a film – it’s all about the PRE-production.  The more of that you do, the smoother the production will be.

Anyway, I’ve planned a lovely journey to the tiny village of Haworth, out on the English moors, to see the home of the Bronte sisters.  And a smaller jaunt to Oxford to see the university and the home of Mr. C.S. Lewis, my very favorite author.  I just cannot tell you how much joy his writing brings me.  Not just his more famous works, like the Narnia tales, but some lesser known stories and especially his writings on Christianity.  No one else has ever been able to put into words so clearly and beautifully, what faith is, who God is, for me.  And you should check out his science fiction trilogy, starting with OUT OF THE SILENT PLANET.  So good!

So today, finally, I am able to dedicate to writing.  Lovely, isn’t it, to have the blessing of a day doing nothing but putting words to paper – break for a yummy lunch – and then write some more?  All day….  Sigh…  :)

Since I’m not out and about today, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of my room, the view from my window, and talk a little about the METRO – the subway, the tube, the underground – that wonderful thing that gets so many people all over the world around.

The amazing thing about the New York City subway is that you can pay just $2.50 and ride it all day, all over the city, from the heights of Harlem to the borough of Brooklyn, and all over Manhattan, wherever your heart desires.  As long as you never leave the subway system itself, that is.  Now I know not many people would want to be stuck on the subway all day, but it’s just the principle of the thing, you know?  That you could if you wanted to!  Not so in the London underground.  You can buy an Oyster card here, just put a bunch of money on it if you know you’re going to be traveling around a lot.  Every time you enter the tube, you have to swipe your card over these yellow readers to get in.  And THEN - here’s the sly genius of the system - you swipe AGAIN as you’re leaving the tube, and big brother figures out how far you travelled, deducts the amount from your Oyster card accordingly.  Oh, ho ho.  This I thought was just so mean when I first got here!  Now I’m used to it and it seems perfectly reasonable.  But I really, really hope New York never gets wind of it.

In Paris Callie and I could never figure out the logic behind their Metro.  There you can purchase a batch of tickets, tiny little cards, easily lost if you’re not careful.  You insert them into a slot at the gate to the train and they pop back out at you through another slot at the top.  Then the gates either open or they don’t.  If they don’t open, your ticket is no longer valid and you have to buy another to get in.  Callie and I just started keeping every ticket and trying them until they didn’t work anymore!  But we never did figure out the logic of it all.  There were times when one ticket would get me into the Metro up to 4 times, and others when I only got through once.  And it didn’t seem to be based on any kind of a zone system.  Sometimes I’d enter the same station twice in the day, within hours, and still have to buy 2 tickets.

But the beauty of the Paris Metro for me was the announcements.  Just hearing those lovely Parisian voices announce the stations was like having a seductive Frenchwoman purr in your ear.  Oo…  And the station names!  Wonderful!  Rome (pronounced HOM with a purr at the beginning).  Chateau Rouge.  Cité.  Maison Blanche.  Ópera.  Madeleine.  Names that let you know you really are in Paris.  In New York the announcements squawk through the train in nervous bursts of static that make you jump and are completely incomprehensible, like the teacher in Charlie Brown.  And it’s the same in London!  Everyone looks around at each other in complete confusion – “What did they just say?”  lol…  What’s strange is that the stations in London are air-conditioned, not the cars, whereas in New York it’s just the opposite.

I think if I had to choose, Paris’s Metro would be my favorite.  Stations and cars that are still nostalgic, very easy to get around the city, and not once was there a line down.  In New York there is always track work going on somewhere, disrupting your journey, which is reasonable to expect, I suppose.  In London it’s the same – you have to check before you leave to make sure the line you need is operating on the day.  But the London underground wins the prize for cheerfulness - their stations and cars so bright and clean.

There’s just one wonderful thing that connects each of these cities for me.  When I entered Paris and London, and even New York back in the day, I felt like a foreigner – awkward and unsure - an imposter among the many who lived there.  But as soon as I stepped down into the subway – the metro, the underground – all my uncertainty melted away and I finally felt like I belonged.  Just another someone trying to get somewhere.


07/31/2013 5:56pm

Love the "comparative analysis" of the subway systems! Poor NY. We don't fare very well, do we? lol

08/01/2013 1:15am

lol... only on price, I guess.

08/01/2013 4:58am

I find it interesting how in NYC, the subway stations that tourist frequent are invariably dolled up...but places, like, say, Brownsville, Brooklyn, they're god-awful. I think the same is somewhat true in London, though I've not seen ANY, anywhere that look as dirty and dilapidated as in NYC. (But then, I haven't explored many of the poverty-stricken areas of outer London; some, yes, but not many.) And I've explored the outer/poorer areas of Paris even less.

Leave a Reply.