le metro mouche

Thinking ahead to next year’s soldes, visitors by then might be able to navigate their way around the City of Light by cruising along the Seine. With the introduction of the cool, new Voguéo water shuttle, transportation publique is expanding to a more fluvial level. Expected to fully operational in the French capital by the summer of 2013, the catamarans, a part of the Paris metro system, will run every 15 to 20 minutes between the city center and the suburbs of Paris. Thirty different stops are planned along the banks of the Seine, from Suresnes, west of the Bois du Boulogne to Vitry-sur-Seine in the south. Each stop will be equipped with a schedule and route maps, including metro transfers. Better still, there’s the added benefit of multiple stops coinciding with key cultural (and shopping) attractions. Fares can be built into the price of a multi-day transit pass or expect to shell out about 7 euro for a one-way ticket.  If that sounds pricey consider the cost of a taxi stuck in traffic as you sail past all the tourists, waving from the prow of your very own bateau.

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funiculi, funicular

Lisbon is hilly. I mean really unexpectedly hilly. The central downtown valley of Baixa is relatively flat and plotted out along grid-lines. (Pretty much leveled by the great earthquake of 1755, the neighborhood was razed and subsequently planned.) Yet the surrounding neighborhoods of Barrio Alto, The Alfama, and Chiado – the areas that give this city so much of its vitality – spring up higgledy-piggledy on the surrounding hills.  Which means Lisbon, my friends, is not for the weak of leg. Fear not, however, the public transport is excellent:  a spacious and efficient subway is coupled with an extensive bus system.  As for navigating those pesky hills, you can take one of the vintage trolleys that slowly amble along crooked streets, ride one of the handful of turn of the century iron elevators that move people from plateau to plateau, or wait for the funicular, which will slowly ratchet you up a steep incline. Whatever you do, be sure to get the Lisboa Card, a magic wand that covers all your mass transit needs. Certainly you’ll want to be adventurous and do a little hill climbing at first but trust an inveterate hiker on this one: after a day lost in the labyrinth of The Alfama your bloody stumps will be begging you for mercy.

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