Paris: Summertime! - Grampies Go On Their Knees - CycleBlaze

March 26, 2017

Paris: Summertime!

Flying in over France in the sunny late morning we looked down on a green and pleasant farm patchwork. That was quite a difference from flying over the winter white of Quebec last week. And on the ground at Charles de Gaulle airport there were a number of palm trees about, and they were looking fairly happy.

The Winter had been abnormally cold on Vancouver Island, and getting thrust back in the snow in Montreal was a cruel turn. So we are ready for some good cycling conditions. So ready!

Our luggage came off the belt at the airport in good shape and we found the train into Paris' Chatelets Les Halles station quite easily. We each had two giant rolling luggage pieces in tow, so not so easy was negotiating the many escalators and lifts into the train cars. On the other hand we counted at least 10 local people who gave us a hand, either by helping to lift the bags or giving advice about finding our way. It was a nice introduction to a land where we have known only a kind welcome in past years as well.

We could not help but notice the large proportion of black people in the mix of those around us. But black and white treated us to an equal welcome. Many of the black people were wearing African type costume touches, lending a bit of a carnival air, from our point of view.

Goodbye Montreal family!
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Our friendly looking plane on the tarmac in Paris.
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We found the welcome from the local people to be universally friendly. Also, immigration barely looked at us, and customs was non-existant.
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The idea of dragging our bikes and gear in cases with those little wheels worked fairly well. That is, of course, until we set off from the station for about a 2 km walk (drag) to our friend Didier's house. One thing we love about France is the number of compact, livable small towns and the number of small, cyclable roads. Though it is a major suburb of Paris, Maisons-Laffitte retains some of that small town feel. That includes narrow roads, and narrower sidewalks. So narrow were the walks that we often could not drag both cases behind. So one got pushed in front while the other got dragged, by each of us. Rough cobbles, and drains in places made it a bit of a slog. But it was a slog past cute little houses and streets with only a few sporadic cars.

Dodie makes her way through a luggage specific turnstyle on the RER train system.
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Our pile of luggage on the RER. It would have been easier with the bikes out of their cases and the gear loaded in the panniers. The train cars all had sufficient room for bikes.
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Didier was off in Nantes today, so when we got to his place we enjoyed a game reminiscent of the Da Vinci Code, as we found a lock box containing a magnetic gizmo to open the door to the apartment building, and keys to the several locks on the apartment door proper. Even something like a door can operate enough differently in a new country to give you pause.

Didier's place backs on the Seine. Because the Seine loops so much around Paris, it is sort of everywhere, in people's lives. But to us it is still a romantic name, and we could not help recalling our favourite, melancholy and longing song about it - My Father, by Judy Collins: "My father always promised us, that we would live in France. We'd go boating on the Seine, and I would learn to dance..."

Paris is blooming and warm.
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A typical street in Maisons-Laffitte - pleasant and low key.
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The bikes take their first peek at the Seine.
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Our first task, with Didier not home, was to spread our panniers and clothes all over his house. Next we unpacked the Bike Fridays and in a total jet lag induced stupor set about assembling them. Did you ever assemble a bike seat to a seat post, threading a bolt up from below into that bobbly nut like thing on top? It's a bug when you are fresh. It's a bear when you can barely keep your eyes open!

At one point in the proceedings we sent me out to the boulangerie to bring back some sustenance. Didier had provided for us, leaving out a large can of duck's legs. This was typically French and reminiscent of the Thanksgiving we had had in Nantes one year. But in jet lag land, a baguette sandwich was way simpler than preparing duck!

As I write this, with eyes barely open, the bikes are 95% set to go, and Didier's house is returning a bit to normal. Tomorrow, though, we hope to kick off our pilgrimage at Tour St. Jacques, Notre Dame de Paris, and St. Sulpice - but without the bikes. Only the next day will we cycle off, straight through Versailles. It looks like exciting times coming!

A typical French snack.
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A mug on Didier's shelf seems to fuel the recent e-bike controversy here on crazyguyonabike. One side shows a lady pedalling for all she is worth, and in quite a flap.
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While the other side shows a serene (but fatter?) lady using a motor.
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