It was getting to evening already, and having skipped lunch in the chaos following the acquisition of the SIM card, I’m pretty starved at that point. Kathleen and Erik, my Airbnb hosts did recommend Chartier, a place down in Montmarte. It’s about half an hour’s ride through the metro from my place, so I decided to give it a shot.
Getting to Chartier involved going through Lines 4 and 9. I used Saint-Placide as my main starting point, as I will in the following days. From Saint-Placide, it’s a ride to Strasbourg-Saint-Denis on Line 4, followed by a Line 9 train to Grands Boulevards.
Now, onto the Paris Metro. I’ve travelled on 3 mass transit systems this trip: the London Underground, Berlin’s U Bahn and finally, the Paris Metro. I skipped out on Amsterdam’s metro system, but other than that I pretty much used the metro in every city that I visited, provided that they had one to begin with.
Moving onto impressions: The London Underground looked like an awkward bash of new and old in places, but it’s streamlined, uniform and what I would have expected from a near ideal metro system. Berlin’s U Bahn gives off a very distinct air of antiquity, however it was also the only system to run on honour, without ticket barriers (though certainly with ticket inspectors). Now, about the Paris Metro, it does feel somewhat… neglected? Some stations had their white tiling hammered off without any construction or renovations going on, Saint-Placide in particular smells like piss every time I passed through the exits. There wasn’t any police presence that I could see, even though plenty of the pickpocketing that I mentioned in my previous post definitely happened on the metro. Homeless people are hanging about in the tunnels, and my god those tunnels between lines sometimes go about like roller coasters. I’m not quite sure how the Paris Metro was planned out, but from the map it looked like Paris was absolutely riddled with stations. Sometimes, it was actually faster to walk than take the metro between stations.
Enough about the metro. The Grands Boulevards’ exit took me straight up into quite the lively part of town, and from there it was just a couple minutes’ walk to Chartier. Contrary to what you might think, it was actually pretty easy to miss the entrance among all the other neon tube lights lining the streets. Yes, it was quite a popular restaurant, but with a rather unassuming entrance. I reached there around 6pm, and although there was no line outside, it was pretty packed inside.
I was promptly escorted to my table and the waitress inquired (in English) whether I needed an English menu, bringing it almost instantly when I replied in the affirmative. I’m no culinary expert, much less on French cuisine but I did try escargots and foie gras the last time I was in Saigon, and I didn’t like either of them. Escargots was one of the recommended dishes though.
I picked Spaghetti Bolognese as my main meal, with a bottle of beer and a plate of Bleu d’Auvergne. The cheese was a shot in the dark, based on the waitress’ recommendation. I had no idea what the cheese looked like, much less about the taste.
Having ordered my dinner, I sat back and relaxed a little, taking in the surroundings. For me, Chartier’s main attraction wasn’t the food, but the decor and ambience. An interesting bit was that the waitress jotted down the order on the tablecloth, which was actually made of paper. The bill was tallied up on that same tablecloth as well. Service was attentive and the staff obviously well trained and dressed, and I’m impressed at the speed that they clear and set the table, as well as how many dishes some of them could carry at once. The food however, was nothing remarkable, not in the least. But for a meal under 15 Euros, it wasn’t bad by any stretch. The atmosphere alone made up for it.
And I got absolutely stuffed on the bread that they keep replenishing once I finished my basket.
I spent about an hour in Chartier, and when I came out, I was astonished to see quite a long line outside. Since my table was one of the last empty ones when I entered, I reckoned that I must have arrived early enough to miss the buildup of the line by just a few minutes.
It was around half past seven in the evening, and I decided to have a walk down the streets lined with restaurants and souvenir shops on both sides. I popped into one and got a Paris patch for my collection, as well as dropping by the Carrefour for a look. It was positively compact, even with an underground floor it couldn’t have qualified as anything more than a grocery store.
For the return journey, I took Line 8 from Grands Boulevards to Strasbourg-Saint-Denis, then a switch to Line 4 for the trip back to Saint-Placide. I was beginning to get the hang of the Paris Metro, but you really have to get the travel direction right before getting onto the platforms because unlike the London Underground, in which majority of the stations have island platforms that you can switch directions simply by walking over to the other side, most if not all Paris Metro stations are arranged in side platforms. So if you get on the wrong platform, things can get a little sketchy.