May Day in Paris - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

May 1, 2022

May Day in Paris

Today is Sunday, May 1 - a day Paris celebrates as Labour Day, as La Fête du Muguet, and, as the first Sunday of the month, car-free Sunday in the 1st-4th Arrondissements.

 When the day started, I was thinking only of car-free Sunday and I had decided it would a perfect day to take Vivien George on a tour of Paris (sadly, I inadvertently left Vincent and Ace in the apartment). It was a fine day for our city tour, mostly sunny with temperatures in the 60’s.  I mapped a route that would take me to the Champs Elysées, thinking it would also be car free, and along car-free roads through parts of the right bank that were less familiar to me. Along the way I hoped to pass by many of the iconic sites in Paris.

Much of the first five miles was familiar – north to the Arc de Triomphe then down the Champs Elysées to Place de la Concorde, and along the Quai de Mitterand to the Louvre. The Champs Elysées wasn’t exactly car-free, but there are nice, separated cycle lanes that run down either side of the avenue. In fact, almost all of the roads I cycled today had designated, well-marked cycle lanes, many of which were separated from normal city traffic.

I can't go very far in my neighborhood without seeing the Eifel Tower
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Vivien George on the Champs Elysées
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The Champs Elysées was not exactly car free, but there is a nice bike lane
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Heading down the Champs Elysées to Place de la Concorde
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Macron wins - France is divided. And a Susan selfie
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Place de la Concorde and the Egyptian obelisk
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The Louvre (recycled photo from the other day as I didn't stop today to take a photo today)
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After cutting through the Louvre, I headed up Avenue de l’Opera toward the Palais Garnier, built in 1861 for the Paris Opera. I then made my way over to Blvd de Bonne Nouvelle to the Place de la Republic, where I was reminded that May 1 is International Worker’s Day, referred to as Labour Day in France.

Although May 1 is a a day of celebration for workers around the globe, it is not given much attention in the United States insofar as we celebrate Labor Day in September. I find this a bit ironic, as the designation of May 1 as a day to celebrate workers had its origins in the American labor movement. On May 1, 1886, over 300,000 American workers went on strike, demanding an 8 hr work day. Three days later, a bomb was thrown into a crowd of striking workers in Haymarket Square in Chicago and several people were killed in the ensuing riot that broke out between police and workers. In 1889, international groups of socialists and labor unions meeting in Paris called for May 1 to be designated a day in support of workers, in commemoration of the Haymarket Riots in Chicago. On this day, the close ties between socialism and Labor Day were clearly evident in the Place de la Republic.

Statue of Marianne, the national personification of the French Republic, at the Place de la Republic. The three statues that surround Marianne (two seen here) personify three values of the French Republic: Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity
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Vivien George with Marianne
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Labor Day at the Place de la Republic
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Circles of dancing men and women, holding hands and waving flags
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Live musicians kept the dance beat going
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Tables promoting different groups or causes lined the square
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Red flags, symbolic of socialism, were prominent
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And of course there were books to buy
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Leaving Place de la Republic, I made my way along the car-free streets of the 3rd and 4th Arrondissements to the Bastille before crossing the Seine over to Île Saint-Louis. I sat on a bench overlooking the Seine and enjoyed my traditional ice cream cone. 

Tour Saint-Jacques
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Hôtel de Ville
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Vivien George at Hôtel de Ville
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The July Column at Place de la Bastille commemorating the Revolution of 1830 and fall of King Charles X
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Augustin Dumont's Génie de la Liberté sits atop the July Column
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Tradition
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Rich FrasierI vote for more gelato pictures!
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3 months ago
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 Throughout the day, I’d noticed tables placed along streets or on corners where individuals or small groups were selling flowers. I didn’t give it much thought until I got home and received a message from my friend Christiane containing a photo of a small bouquet of flowers, similar to those I’d seen for sale. And this takes us to the last of the Paris celebrations of today, the Fête de Muguet, or Lily of the Valley Day. It is a tradition dating back to 1561 where people give small bouquets of Lily of the Valley to friends and loved ones. 

While Parisians may debate Lilies vs Laborers, one this day I embraced both - and throw in the modern celebration of car-free Sundays. All three converged to make today a very wonderful and memorable way to welcome another month in Europe. 

A virtual bouquet of Muguets for all my CycleBlaze readers. Happy May Day
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Today's ride: 15 miles (24 km)
Total: 545 miles (877 km)

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Suzanne GibsonWhat a day! Happy May Day to you, too!
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3 months ago
Scott AndersonWell, this gets us excited - we’ll be in Paris in just a month! I can’t believe it’s over 25 years since we’ve been there.
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Scott AndersonI'm excited as well!
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3 months ago
Rachael AndersonWhat a wonderful day with beautiful photos! This reminds me of a trip long ago when we were in Paris on Summer solstice. We were wandering around in the evening and kept running into music in the streets. Here is a link to our journal from that day. Have you experienced this?
https://www.cycleblaze.com/journals/prague1996/in-paris/
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3 months ago
Susan CarpenterTo Rachael AndersonThanks for the link Rachael - it sounds as if you experienced much of what I think is best about Paris - walking the streets, exuberant public celebrations, and random encounters with eccentric people. My first trip here in the early 90's coincided with "Bastille Day" and there were formal and informal celebrations all over the city that went on past the wee hours of the morning. My friends and I danced at the Gay Ball on the Left Bank, the Communist Ball on the bridge between Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis, and The Fireman's Ball at some firehouse whose location escapes me. It was a memorable introduction to what has almost become a second home. I'm looking forward to your visit here at the end of the month, but I can't promise anything that beats the Solstice or Bastille celebrations
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3 months ago
Rachael AndersonTo Susan CarpenterI’m looking forward to visiting you in Paris, also! Everything you’ve posted about makes me want to see it again!
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3 months ago