Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Frustration on the Northern Line

As part of our recent travels, Understanding Frenchman and I had the unfortunate experience of using the metro system in an unfamiliar city and it was without a doubt the most frustrating part of our whole trip.

First there was the queueing system to buy tickets. A huge line of people were coralled off into one single line in front of a long bank of ticket machines. It would have been a fair and efficient system except that the queue was positioned so that the people at the front of it couldn't see which machines were free and which ones weren't, and the person who was trying to tell them was standing at the other end and shouting at them, but they couldn't hear her. Some of the machines took cash, some took only cards and some looked as if they were just for topping up travel cards, but in fact you could also buy normal tickets, except nobody knew that, so nobody was using those machines.

Eventually we got to the front and Understanding Frenchman bought two city-centre tickets for the extortionate price of about 14 euros. Each journey is cheaper if you buy a travel card, but it isn't worth it if you're only doing two trips.

Then we went to the ticket barriers, only to discover that the travel card I bought last time I visited this city didn't have enough credit on it, so we had to go through the whole stupid queueing system again. (This is another reason why you don't buy a travel card for a city you don't live in.)

Then we had to figure out which way to go, but the metro maps weren't displayed until after you had to make the decision about which line to take.

And finally, when we were coming back three days later, Understanding Frenchman discovered that the "return" ticket he had bought was only valid on the day of purchase, despite costing exactly the same as two single tickets, so he had to pay again.

If we had been in France, I would have been having a "Why is this such a stupid country?" momens. If we had been in Italy, it would have been a, "Why can't this country be more organised and stop ripping off the tourists?" moment. If we had been in Germany, we would have been cursing stupid German rules that nobody else can follow.

But we weren't. We were in London, in my home country (albeit the part that makes me feel less at home than I do in Paris) and things were supposed to make sense to me.

We were relieved to get on the Eurostar and be whisked back to Paris.

This will be an experience to remember next time "France" is driving me nuts!


  1. There. Now I have the "MIND THE GAP MIND THE GAP" playing in my head!

  2. We went to London twice in September and everything worked well for the most part except when we arrived we were in a big rush to get apartment keys at a specific time so I didn't charge my Oyster card and the buses apparently don't take cash any more. Not helpful for tourists! A helpful Londoner (wow, they exist) told me that I could swipe the Oyster anyway and it would debit me when I next topped up the card, so turned out okay in the end, but I'm not sure what you're meant to do if you have no card or contactless payment card.