12 January 2019

I Ride My Rental Into History

So, here's where I went yesterday:

Take a closer look:

No, I didn't come home early from my trip.  This replica of the Statue of Liberty is on the Ile des Cygnes, a manmade island in the Seine under the Grenelle Bridge.  

(Now I'll make a confession:  I am one of those New Yorkers who's never been to the Statue of Liberty in my hometown's harbor.  When I have made that confession elsewhere, I have been called a disgrace to the human race, and worse.)

Another difference between this one and the one in New York is that you can ride to this one. Well, almost:  You have to walk down a couple of flights of stairs from the Grenelle Bridge. (When I had a mountain bike with a suspension front fork, I probably would have ridden down those stairs!)  And I rode to it--well, actually, I didn't intend to visit the statue. But it happened to be along my ride.

Yes, I rode a bicycle--but not one from Velibre.  One of the hotel staff told me about a site called Bim Bim Bikes, which can locate a bike rental for you anywhere in France.  When you reserve it, you can pay directly with your credit card or with PayPal or other services.  (I used PayPal since my card is linked to it, which makes things easier.)  The shop--Paris Velo, C'est Sympa (which lives up to its name) --is in a neighborhood I know well, near the Canal St. Martin. A six-day rental cost me 65 Euros (about 75 dollars at current exchange rates).

For that price, I got this bike:

a basic "city" bike from a company called "Arcade".  It's slow and handles like a truck, but  I'm not going for speed or even distance on my rides here.  I could have paid more for a "name brand" bike like Giant, but I figured that even if I got a lighter, sprightlier bike, it still wouldn't be my own.  Perhaps this sounds counter-intuitive, but a more performance-oriented bike might make me wish for my own more than a basic bike like the one I'm riding--which, of course, can in no way resemble my Mercians.

But it rolls over cobblestones--and grips to ones slicked by the light rain this city has experienced for most of the day--nicely.  Plus, it includes, in addition to the lock, this interesting bag

that fits onto a Klick-Fix attachment used with some other bags and baskets.  It loos rather like a purse and includes a shoulder strap for carrying it when I park the bike--which, of course, I did at two cafes and a store.  

(I have to admit that I cried at the store.  A young woman was cradling a kitten who looked like Marlee when she first came into my life!  When I stroked that cat and rubbed its nose, that young woman said, "'s't v'avezoon chat, vrai?" (You have a cat, don't you?) in that Parisian equivalent of New York speech that seems, at times, to have more contractions than actual words.

The drizzle I that colored most of the day was interrupted by bouts of rain and overcast sky. But there wasn't any wind, and it wasn't terribly cold (8C high temperature).  Best of all, the low clouds made for an interesting view:

Since I've lived in, have visited and have friends in, this city, I don't think of myself as a tourist.  So I always promise I myself I won't take another picture of the Eiffel Tower.  But I figure the one with the low clouds is justified.  Heck, I can even rationalize another photo of the Arc de Triomphe.  At least I'm approaching it, just like the riders at the end of the Tour de France.

Hey, I even rode around the rond--twice!  I have to wonder, though, what it would be like if they made those Tour riders pedal through the cobblestoned bike lane. Hmm...Maybe they could think of it as training for the following Paris-Roubaix race.

Finally, I'm going to do something I often do when I travel: subject you to a history lessson.  Two, actually.  The first I encountered on the Metro, on the way to pick up my rental:

I had to transfer from la ligne 2 to ligne 5 at Stalingrad.  That's what everybody calls it, but the official name is la Place de la Bataille Stalingrad.  The city was known by that name at the time it staged one of the major conflicts of World War II.  For centuries, it was known as Tsaritsyn; today we call it Volgograd.  I find it interesting and ironic that the name "Stalingrad" cannot be found in Russia, but it remains part of the appelation of the intersection of Paris' two main canals (St. Martin and Ourcq).  

The sign is also interesting because it's in a style that's disappearing. When I first came to Paris in 1980, most signs inside the city's Metro stations were in that style.  Now most of them look more like this:

Now for more history:  Along the way, I stopped at this square:

named for the French officer falsely accused and imprisoned for passing military secrets to the Germans.  He just happened (yeah, right) to be Jewish.  So was the writer who fought for his release, and the reversal of his guilty plea:

The avenue on which Dreyfus park is located bears Emile Zola's name.  He is right that the truth wins out.  Sometimes it takes time--and it comes too late for some people, including the  victims of the terrible incident this statue commemorates.

I have mentioned Jews who were rounded up and detained in the Velodrome d'Hiver (known to locals as Vel-Deev) before they were deported.  That is, if they survived the head and unsanitary conditions inside the velodrome.  

As Zola said, the truth marches on.  And this is its color:

Or so I like to believe.  That sign is found on one of the streets that form one of the Dreyfus Park's boundaries.

1 comment:

  1. I never found the Liberty in my wanderings though I knew it was round there somewhere... I loved the old ceramic hand made metro signs but the modern age loves to replace everything with something less elegant in the name of progress...