Day Forty Nine: Villeneuve St Georges to Paris: (Year 49: 2016) - Grampies Go 50 for 50 - CycleBlaze

November 8, 2017

Day Forty Nine: Villeneuve St Georges to Paris: (Year 49: 2016)

Flash Back to 2016:

Winter always poses a problem for finding a nice place to cycle. We are not so keen on most of the places nearer the equator, and so have ended up in Hawaii a lot. It remains an exciting place, but of course has limited size and being still in the US, little bicycle culture.

Dodie makes Portugese buns as we cycle to the west coast of Hawaii.
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We got caught up in farm renovations and skipped a major tour in this year, but of course we still set off with the Montreal grandkids. Avi and Violet were a little big for the WeeHoos and a little small to ride alone, so we took them instead around the sights of San Diego. There is even a blog for that .

Avi is on his way!
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Violet has become a much stronger rider. In one more year we will be able take her cycling her own bike on tour - no more WeeHoo!
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Grandma Dodie is transferring knitting skills to Violet. We hope to some extent the grandchildren will grow up treasuring at least some of the things we hold dear.
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We spent months working on farm buildings in 2016 and missed one touring season.
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Working on farm buildings was sort of fun, but cycling would have been better.
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We are ready to go with Amelia and Evee, up the Saanich peninsula, and to stay in a real hotel.
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Amelia now has a lot of experience in a WeeHoo.
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Evee's first time out in a WeeHoo - she was great!
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Joni arrived from Belize for a visit with Naijah. We brought warm clothes for her to put on right away. The climate difference is of course extreme.
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Fast Forward to 2017, France:

We felt quite battered from fighting traffic over the last couple of days and were rather dreading trying to ride into the heart of Paris. Out of our hotel, we briefly considered the train station across the street. Certainly the immediate environment could encourage us to flee. There were cars zooming this way and that and lots of people all around. But those very crowds of people told us we would not be able to squeeze onto a train for several hours. Oh well, just go for it!

As it happened, though it was not exactly easy, it was nowhere near what we had dreaded. After lurking along some back streets, we finally came to a bike lane, or something that was a good imitation anyway. It was a separated sidewalk or roadway facing into traffic along the National 6. This led us more or less to the D138 to Choisy, and on to Charenton le Pont, perhaps that was on the D152. The important point is that we found at first bicycle designated lanes, and ultimately lovely green signed real bike routing. One such thing that we got onto toward the end was actually called Bikeroute 14 of the Val du Marne region, from Villeneuve St Georges to Alfortville. Alfortville is almost at Charenton. At Charenton, believe it or not, we even found an EV3 sticker on a post!

This may not be pleasant, but at least it is a way toward Paris.
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This is in Choisy, I think. They claimed to be a "three flower" (out of four) flowered village. It seemed like all the flowers were in the graveyard.
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We are still finding a way to cycle into Paris - good work, Dodie
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The not so romantic Seine - upstream from Paris.
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Hey, bike signage!
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More of the Seine
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This riverside large hotel was called Chinagora. It looks fancy but rooms are only about 100 euros.
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The bike signage took us back across the Seine
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This interesting building on the other side of the river also had a green boat moored in front.
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From then on it was with a growing sense of euphoria that we cruised along the Seine, with the scenery transforming from "Paris the Ugly Outskirts" to Paris the Glorious, that we had experienced on earlier trips.

This is not to say that from that point forward it was all just smooth wonderful going. Far from it. In fact, very far from it. Even if you sort of know where you are going, Paris is still a frenetic city, with cars, people, motor scooters, and bikes flying in every direction, and at high speed.

We soon left any protected bike path we had found and were out there with the cars, heading to the Montmartre district where we had booked the "Perfect Hotel and Hostel". We travelled in lanes painted Bus and Bike on the pavement. But drivers did not respect that very much at all. You had to just stay always very much alert.

The rond point (roundabout) at the Bastille was a treat, with many roads entering and leaving. We crossed each one with the pedestrians, since there was no way to actually safely whip around with the cars on the road.

At last, we have made it to the Bastille. As we found out in the Spring, the Bastille in not a building - that was destroyed in the Revolution - rather it is an obelisk and mainly a roundabout.
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On the streets of Paris, in a bus/bike lane - yeah, sure.
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In Place de la Republique a statue of Marianne, I assume.
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Meanwhile Paris was unfolding all around. Since a live topic with me is cafés, given that we want to find a nice one for tomorrow, and since cafés are so typically Parisian, I set about photographing every one I saw. Oh no, you may be thinking, we had to look at most every bakery in the rest of France, now it will be every café in Paris! Well not quite, but here is a nice foursome:

Café one
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Café two
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Café three
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Café four
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Café five (I lied!)
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Dodie and the GPS brought us up to the hotel, and I did a little premature celebrating for having arrived alive. The celebration only lasted until Dodie re-emerged with the news that they had no place for our bikes. We had booked six days - no cancellations allowed. But we had also specified with booking.com secure bike storage. Back in Dodie went with our print out, brought all the way from Canada, showing this fact. Telephone calls happened to booking and the hotel did not relent on bike storage, but they did cancel our reservation without charge. Moreover, booking said they would find us another place and to stand by for an email about that.

Not so perfect hotel
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We fired up the computer, the one with sort of internet access, in the street and waited. When after a while nothing had been sent from Booking, we decided to go to Tourist Information to see what they might come up with. That is, we decided to go to Gare du Nord.

So now it was back into traffic. Some people may enjoy having hazards whizzing left and right - hence the popularity of games like Alien Invaders. But for us it is pretty tiring. Still, we rolled quite handily into the huge building of Gare du Nord. I don't know why, but I was surprised to see that they had all the trains right there in the building. After all, it's a train station! Still in other stations you go through turnstiles or something, and down a corridor, and then they have the trains - waiting sort of outside. Anyway, it's a small distinction I guess - still it illustrates what a big building this was.

Gare du Nord
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Before harassing Tourist Information we checked email again. Booking had sent a message, recommending a hotel not on the other side of town, but a fair jaunt away. We booked it, no refund, without really knowing if now this one would store our bikes. So we phoned, and yes, they had a spot for them.

Result - back on the streets, zigging and zagging to hit that pin we had placed in the GPS map. Our way took us through the Montmartre district, which has even more fascinating aspects than we had noted that one time long ago when the Hop On Hop Off tour whipped us through. For example, there were three blocks of side by side wedding dress sales and wedding attire rental stores - on both sides of the boulevard! Then there were sleazy clothing stores with goods piled up by the street. Finally we hit the blocks of sex shops adjacent to the Moulin Rouge, and the Moulin Rouge itself. Next came tourist souvenir shops.

Streets of paris
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One of zillions of wedding shops
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Wedding gear
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Jumbled clothing stores
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Sex shop section
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The Moulin Rouge
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Six story buildings, very ornamental, often in wedge shapes, and shops - bakeries, restaurants, cafés, phone and electronics, tailors, clothes, just shops and shops, and people and cars everywhere - these are impressions of Paris from today. Tomorrow I know it will be all of this plus the palaces and monuments along the Seine - the romantic Paris of the Seine. This city really is something!

Paris has hundreds of streets of shops
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We made it to the new hotel and were warmly welcomed by the desk clerk, Michael. He speaks six languages, so we used a mix of French and English. He says his name is not Michel, which is for old folks. Sorry, Michel in Nantes!
So now, our bikes are happy and we have a room with heat and light, wifi, and at least two electrical outlets!

The first order of business was to see what food there might be in our neighbourhood. Since this is Paris, that would involve checking out maybe twenty restaurants, cafes, and caterers (traiteurs), three to five bakeries, five to six cheese stores, four or five fruit stores, and two or three Doner/Shawarma shops, at least. I am always up for shawarma, but Dodie has had a hankering for French onion soup while riding in the cold the last few days. The first Doner shop was 30 seconds away, and I got a nice take out to walk with. But we dropped in and talked to a restaurant or two, and no French onion soup. What are these guys thinking! Dodie was forced to eat half my fries.

We wandered just a bit and soon came across a street market - the one on Rue Levis. We followed the shawarma eaten a little earlier with a pistachio éclair for Dodie and a chocolate millefeuille for me. We went into kids' clothes shops, cheese shops, wool shops, even a bike shop.

Look Josh - flashy shoes.
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Shawarma
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In the Shawarma shop, three flavours of chicken
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In the market, three types of chicken : black, yellow, and Bresse. we once tried raising yellow chicken and had little success.
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Chocolate millefeuille - is an unconventional flavour, we think.
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Interesting bread types in a bakery
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We stopped into a bike shop too
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At last it was getting dark and chilly and we turned toward home. A café called Le Canon, on a random corner, had onion soup on its chalk board. I thought this could be great for tomorrow, but Dodie really wanted onion soup - now!

So as to not seem like a party pooper, despite the shawarma and millefeuille, I thought to order a small salad. I asked the waiter for that, and he had several ideas about what it could entail, not all of which we understood. But we picked up on the chevre (which having owned bily goats, I hate), and we picked up on "jambon cru", which we had had to feed to dogs or pilgrims or something in Spain. I did agree to salmon, though, - what could go wrong with salmon?

Dodie liked her soup fine, and my salad was nice though with three pieces of cheese on toast included, lots more than I could eat. And then the salmon. Five juicy slabs of mostly raw salmon. The waiter was looking on fondly, but when his back was turned Dodie picked up the salmon (in her fingers!) and discretely deposited it into a plastic garbage bag we happened to have. The toast too.

We were thinking maybe this could be our anniversary dinner - it certainly was bloggable enough. And Dodie really liked the soup. We even got the waiter to take our picture. But no, tomorrow we will think of something else.

And yes - we love Paris:

Maurice Chevalier was a French singer and actor, most active in the 1920's and 30's. He has dozens of famous songs, but somehow I Love Paris the one we know, and the one that has affected our view of Paris. The song was actually written by Cole Porter in 1953 and performed by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald. By the way, Chevalier also sang the lead song in the 1970 Disney Film the Aristocats! (who lived at the finest addresses in Paris.)

Special note - it's not over 'till it's over

Even though it looks like we arrived in Paris, and even though we said that was our destination, and even though tomorrow will be Day 50 and Year 50 - don't give up on this blog! We still have to experience Paris for several days, and we have to bicycle out to Charles de Gaulle airport and find a hotel there. We have to find our plane and get the bikes on it, and we have to find the grandchildren back in Montreal. You still have days of reading still to do!

Dodie at the Canon cafe
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Do you think I am yellow enough for elegant Paris dining?
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"Salmon salad"
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Dodie's French onion soup.
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Today's ride: 29 km (18 miles)
Total: 2,064 km (1,282 miles)

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