20 August 2015

Rue Rennes In The Rain: A Ride For A Romantic?

Rain pattered against asphalt and cobblestones when I woke.  Later in the morning, the stream of water turned to a scrim of drizzle.  I started to ride.  The drizzle turned back into rain.

There are certainly worse things than riding the Rue de Rennes in the rain.  For one thing, as you can see, it looks like everybody's idea of a major Left Bank street--almost a boulevard, really.  For another, it's about two blocks from my hotel room and can take me to just about anyplace I want to go.

I must admit, too that riding Rue de Rennes in the rain triggers more than a few sense memories, as well as emotional ones, from the first time I came to this city and the time I lived here.

I followed it to the Boulevard Raspail, and from there to Saint Germain des Pres, the 'hood of more than a few writers you've read and others you've heard of.  One of them, an American, used to climb this street to get to his place on 74, rue Cardinal Lemoine.

The writer is, of course, Ernest Hemingway, and the street is la rue Mouffetard, which seems to have as many twists and turns as the road on l'Alpe d'Huez or Lombard Street.  Mouffetard, and some other streets in the Latin Quarter, escaped Baron Hassmann's city planning which, although it didn't impose a grid pattern, actually made most of the streets run in more or less straight lines before converging with others in plazas and parks. 

It's still confusing if you're accustomed to a grid pattern of the kind found in many American cities.  At least it means that you can follow any given street only so far. However, the real reason why Napoleon III chose him to re-shape Paris as he did--at least, according to some historians--was to make it more difficult for rabble-rousers to run away from cops and soldiers after starting or participating in insurrections, which seemed to happen at least once in every generation in Paris.

Most of the streets that were spared from Haussmann's plan are in the part of town I was riding.  Some of them date from Roman times or even earlier; others were built during the Middle Ages.  One such street lies at the end of Mouffetard:

"Bievre" is "beaver".  Apparently, that street was a stream that fed into the Seine and, in ancient times, people trapped the beavers that lived there.  (By the way, that is how the Astors first made their fortune in New York.)  Other streets twist and wind because they, like Mouffetard and Bievre, were constructed around or over features of the landscape that existed at the time.

From Bievre, I rode across the Pont de l'Archeveche --also known as "le Pont d'Amour":

Hmm...Does the kind of lock you leave say anything about your relationship? 

Anyeay, from there, I pedaled along Right Bank roads past the Places de la Bastille and de la Republique to the Pere Lachaise, where famous people like Moliere and, of course, Jim Morrison are buried.  So are some less famous, like my friend Janine.

I didn't leave flowers for her.  I did, however, leave a short letter I wrote, thanking her for her warmth and kindness, and, of course, wishing I could see her on this trip.

After that, I was glad to zig and zag along the crowded lanes of the Goutte d'Or and up the hill to Belleville and, of course, Montmartre.  The ride kept me from wallowing in sadness and I think Janine would have been happy that I was riding to the stairs we had climbed together to the Basilica. 

From there, the rest of my ride was literally downhill to Paris Bike Tour, where I returned my rental bike.  It served me well, but I'll certainly be happy to ride my Mercians again.

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