Progress and a Plan - Skipping About the Continent - CycleBlaze

March 23, 2022 to March 27, 2022

Progress and a Plan

The past few days have been quite eventful – as least as compared to laying about all day with an elevated ankle. There were a couple of send-off celebrations (not for me, alas), longer walks about town, and a trip to a physical therapist.

 Christiane and Betty returned to Bologna on Thursday and I took them to dinner Wednesday night as a small gesture of gratitude for all they have done whilst I lolled about. There was a lot of discussion as to the choice of restaurant, with the only requirement that it be fairly close by – within Susan walking distance. Christiane was leaning toward a comfortable place with more traditional French cuisine while Betty favored a smaller establishment featuring French bistronomy, a style that tries to make classical Haute Cuisine more accessible by adding fresh ingredients and creativity. Alice Waters meets Julia Child. I was the deciding vote, and we had a wonderful dinner at La Vérasion, a very small bistronomy establishment a 5 minute walk from the apartment. The atmosphere was casual, the staff friendly and energetic, and the food excellent. Christiane was wholly won over.

 The next farewell party was for Brigitte, who was retiring as an admin assistant at the Institut Pasteur. She had been of enormous help to me before and during my sabbatical, helping with visas, bank accounts, learning French. We’d had lunch together the previous week, before I canceled my trip to Spain and I was delighted to now be in town for her retirement celebration.

The festivities began with a lunch among the three lab groups with whom Brigitte worked and was followed by a larger celebration open to all Pasteur as well as Brigitte’s family and friends. I attended the lunch, which took place in one of the formal dining rooms at the Insitut. It was very French - with cloth tablecloths and napkins, classical French food, and wine, of course. At the end of the meal everyone gathered round facing Brigitte and in unison broke out into a farewell song to the tune of Yellow Submarine. What made it even more memorable was that many of the singers were sporting Brigitte masks. It a was brilliant sendoff, celebratory and moving and there were several teary eyes mixed in among the smiles and laughter.

Betty and Christiane on the eve of their departure to Bologna
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The group preparing to sing their ode to Brigitte
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Brigitte, in the flesh, enjoying the moment
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My ankle continues to improve and each day I've tried to add a little more distance to my walks about town. As per doctor's orders, I still wear the brace while out walking. It keeps my ankle stabilized and pain free, but it does rub against my foot and threatens to give me a blister. 

I don't always have a destination when I set out walking, which is the best way to explore Paris. The exception was my trip to Parc George Brassens, a 21 acre park located at the southeast corner of the 15th arrondissement named to honor the poet-songwriter-composer who lived in the area. I meandered through a quite nice herb and flower garden before making my way to the play area, among whose features includes pony rides, playhouses, a giant sandbox and an expansive tiered rock play area where children scampered gleefully about. The park sits at the site of a former slaughterhouse that continued in operation until 1975. Remaining features of the slaughterhouse include the former horse stall that now hosts an old and second hand book market each weekend.

Parc George Brassens sits at the southeast corner of the 15th arrondissement. The old belfry remains from days when the park was a slaughterhouse.
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Walkway through the herb and flower gardens at Parc George Brassens
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It's a wonderful day for a pony ride
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At play in Parc George Brassens
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These two would rather enjoy an afternoon nap
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Statue of meat carrier by Albert Bouquillon
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Most days I just wandered about, snapping an occasional photo but mostly just enjoying sunshine and early spring days in Paris. Yesterday found me at the Alexander III bridge - named for the Russian Tsar Alexander III and meant to symbolize Franco-Russian friendship as established by the alliance signed in 1891. Geopolitics have changed, but the bridge endures.

On the Esplanade des Invalides looking toward Alexander III bridge and, across the Seine, the Grand Palais
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A somewhat menacing decoration of the Alexander III bridge
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I've spotted a few interesting signs around Paris. The first round of French presidential elections are coming up in April yet unlike the US political signage is rare in Paris.  An exception are the signs for Eric Zemour, a far right candidate and former journalist/TV news personality. It seems that he is not so popular in Paris. 

A small sampling of Eric Zemmour posters. Maybe this explains why there are so few political posters of any candidates
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Trying to keep the city clean
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Today’s walk was my longest yet, 4.9 miles. I left home heading west on another beautiful Sunday, stopping for a short visit at Square Saint Lambert. I stayed west until Av Emile Zola then angled north to check out the large market held each Wednesday and Sunday under the Metro 6 line as it passes over Grenelle Blvd. I was late to the market, only a witness to an incredible variety of unsold fresh foods and flowers being wrapped up and packed away.

 Soon I was at the Seine, just a few steps from the Eiffel Tower. Shunning the crowds, I started across the Bir-Hakeim bridge towards the right bank but turned instead onto the Île aux Cygnes, an 800 meter long artificial island in the Seine River. A tree-lined walkway extends the length of the narrow island and leads to a lower platform with a fitness park and a replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was given to France in 1889 by French citizens living in the US. Luckily, the Franco-US friendship has endured.

In Square Saint-Lambert
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Looking across Bir-Hakeim bridge to Île-aux-Cygnes
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On Île-aux-Cygnes
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Bir-Hakeim Bridge and the right bank of the Seine, from Île-aux-Cygnes
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Bir-Hakeim Bridge support
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Bicycles and other debris retrieved from the Seine
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The replica of the Statue of Liberty sits at the west end of Île-aux-Cygnes
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Well I’ve saved the best news for last. The first is that my 4.9 mile walk today was brace free. It’s been 10 days after my first doctor visit and, adhering to her orders, it was time to remove the brace. There was some soreness but overall the foot done good!

The second bit of good news was my visit physical therapist. He worked on my ankle, gave me some strengthening exercises, and saw no problem with me starting to cycle. So today I took my first bike ride – a 1.4 mile ride around the neighborhood on a Velib bike share. I wore the brace and everything went swell. I had no trouble pedaling and my ankle did not buckle when it hit the ground as I came to a sudden stop. A modest start, but a ride nonetheless.

 And the best news of all, the physical therapist cleared me to tour! I see him twice more this coming week and then I’m off to southern Italy. I’ve booked a flight to Naples, a train to Taranto and will begin cycling down the heel of Italy in 10 days. Starting slow, easy, and flat – but getting stronger each day.

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Which one to choose
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Celebrating my Velib ride with coffee and pain au chocolat
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I'm off to cycle in Italy - Wahoo
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Today's ride: 1 mile (2 km)
Total: 1 mile (2 km)

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Kathleen JonesWahoo indeed!
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4 months ago
Rachael AndersonFabulous news! You will love Southern Italy. By the way, I love your photos from your walks. It’s nice to see more than just the main sites in France!
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4 months ago
Suzanne GibsonSo much good news! You did the rehab right and now the reward. Puglia in the spring will be lovely.
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4 months ago
Rich FrasierWoohoo! Off you go!
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4 months ago
Laura ChiharaLooking forward to reading about your next cycling adventure!
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4 months ago