25 July 2016

The Promenades

Here's what I had for breakfast today:

Now, you might have a difficult time finding this product in your local store.  However, it might be worth finding, as it promises really good things:

The nutritional value goes like this:  Joie de vivre, 19 9 grams  Soleil (sunshine), 33 grams.  Synergie, 12 grams.  Energy, 13 grams.  Poesie (poetry), 21 grams. Addictif, 2 grams.  The "sacoche de banane" is what the French call a "fanny pack", "waist bag" or "bum bag."  Sometimes they're simply called "banane".

"Menil Monkey" is the name of a collaboration between the office of the 20th Arrondissement--which includes the neighborhood of Menilmontant, or "Menil" for short--and DJ Joachim Touitou, or Joachim.T.

Menilmontant is a neighbor of Belleville, the neighborhood that gave the world none other than Edith Piaf.  Both neighborhoods are in the hilly northernmost area of Paris that includes Montmartre and the cemetery of Pere Lachaise, where none other than Chopin, Oscar Wilde and, yes, Jim Morrison are buried.

On Menil Monkey's "cereal box", there's a warning that consumption of the contents can cause addiction to the 20th Arrondissement, among other things.

Well, I was there the other day...and the last time I was in Paris...and the one before that.  The 20th is indeed interesting because it's Parisian and cosmopolitan at the same time.  It's an area where you can eat and drink at old-school Parisian cafes or in West African, Middle Eastern, Asian or  Kosher (mainly Sephardic Jewish) establishments.

And I saw a lot of bike riders--of all kinds.  Some were on Velib (the Paris bike share program) machines; others rode bikes older than themselves; still others pedaled classic touring and racing bikes.  It was, in short, an interesting procession of un-self-conscious utility cyclists, cognoscenti  and folks on trendy bikes.

That procession seemed to spill down the Avenue de la Republique toward the bike lanes of the Canal St. Martin. There were some hipsters and wannabes on fixed-gear bikes.  (These days, most fixed-gear bikes in New York are being ridden with single-speed freewheels.) And there were a few riders on the kinds of bikes that seem to be sold, under different labels, but with the same cartoonish graphics, everywhere in the world.  But I got a kick out of seeing young people on bikes that would be considered "vintage" but to their riders are simply bikes that are getting them from wherever to wherever--and, possibly, did the same for an older sibling, parent, aunt, uncle or someone else before them.

The canal, like most others that are no longer used for shipping, offers a calming time for those who ride along its paths or sit on its banks.  I've been told that some of those romantic or painterly photos that look like they were shot on the Seine were actually taken along the canal.

Its calm surface, though, belies a tragedy that took place just steps away last November:

The Bataclan bar and concert hall, a site of the November 2015 terrorist attacks

But that didn't stop people from enjoying their afternoon there, whether they were dangling their feet into the water or spinning pedals.  

One equally-pleasant place where you're not allowed to ride, though, is the Promenade des Plantes.  You can bring your bike up there, but you're not allowed to ride it.  Still, it's worth climbing the stairs from the Avenue Daumesnil, near the Bastille and the Gare de Lyon  (where the Orient Express originated), to see what became of a former railway.

At the Grand Train exhibit I saw the other day, sections of old railroad tracks in a disused rail yard were turned into patches.  The Viaduc des Arts is, in contrast, a botanical garden about two kilometers long in the former track beds.  At street level, cafes, restaurants, shops and art galleries are in the vaults that hold up the railroad by way.  

This project is said to be the inspiration for New York's High Line, which was also a disused railway.  The difference, though, is that while the High Line does indeed have gardens, it's lined with all of the kinds of touristy shops and restaurants you can find at the South Street Seaport.  With the Viaduc des Arts, you can choose to go to the galleries and shops on the street level, or go up to the Promenade des Plantes for the flora and fauna--which, interestingly, do more than anything on the High Line to evoke (at least in my imagination) the tracks that once lined, and the trains that ran along, them.

After descending from the Promenade des Plantes, I rode by the Gare de Lyon--faster than any of the trains ;-)--to the Seine and the bridge back to my hotel.

Ah, yes, another fine day!

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