Official Summer in Paris Starts

Cafe de Cluny - the bar
The bar in the Café de Cluny is a serious one.

Summer Sales, Warm Clothes, and the Bike Scene

by Ric Erickson

Issue 2.26:- Metropole Paris - Monday, 30. June 1997:- Here we are, running around like rats in somebody's dubious societal experiment and all of a sudden - poof! - school is finished, the car pool is dissolved and time hangs heavily on the freewheeling minds of our smaller citizens.

Smart people left town on Friday night, only hours after the schools locked up their doors for slightly more than the next two months. By 'smart' people I mean those who have some scheme for keeping the midgets out of town for the whole time - with their grandparents, for example.

The rest of us - more than two! - have no grandparents, aunts, uncles, even vague acquaintances - out in the 'country' - ready and willing to take on these charges - so we did not leave town on Friday night. We are counting the days until August.

While we do this, and, at the moment, watch the rain fall more or less steadily - we should be thinking that there are really a lot of things to do right here, find out what they are and do them.

Although the heating is off for the 'summer,' we still have dry places to come back to, and if we put on enough of our winter clothes, we can even be warm at home in Paris. Aren't we clever?

Cold and Wet? You Can Do Something About It

In the past, I have lovingly packed all my 'Miami' shirts and headed off to some place where I imagined 'summer' was happening, only to find out it wasn't. When this happens, there are only three thing to do: freeze to death, immediately return home and try to get a refund, or go out and buy some warm clothes on the spot.

Doing the last in Paris may seem like a way to bust your budget, but it doesn't have to be. Parisians who live here all year around aren't all rich, although you may think we have to be. Oh no, we have places to get inexpensive clothes; and there Mareil-Marly is no reason why visitors can't shop at these places too.

This is what it was like long before 'summer' started.

There was a really pleasant spell of weather in the spring of 1996 and I had been happily putting all these sunshine photos in Metropole for weeks, when, bam! It turned glacial. Since I was cold it occurred to me that visitors I might have mis-lead into believing that Paris is a mild if not tropical paradise would be cold too - so I went looking for emergency clothes.

What I found is described in the feature, 'As Damart Used to Say: Me Cold? Never! - Pull, Mac and Brolly to Go' which appeared in Issue 1.13 on 20. May 1996.

The advice given then is still good. If you are an optimist and believe the sun will be shining brightly when you arrive - or you just do not feel like bringing a raincoat - then this will tell you about getting an inexpensive one here.

Paris 'On Sale'

Paris' official summer sales started last Friday, and continue through to the first week of August. Clever Parisians were in the shops at opening time on Friday and they were back again at the Saturday openings to buy their 'finds.'

Domestic consumption has not picked up one whit in the last six months, so some articles are up to 60 percent off their regular ticket prices. The 'sales' are regulated, so these are real discounts; and not just cheapo junk brought in for the occasion.

But it's strictly 'first come, first served' and the usual 'no refunds' rule applies. The 'sales' have been featured in Metropole before and here are the hyperlinks to the articles:

Last year's summer sales were headlined 'Half-Price Wooden 'Garage' Shirt - Paris On Sale' - Bring Money or Plastic. This appeared a year ago in Issue 1.19 on 1. July 1996.

For the most recent winter sales, Metropole featured 'On Sale' in Paris May Be Better than 'Wholesale' Elsewhere in this year's first issue, numbered 2.01/2.02, which went online on 6. January 1997.

High-end threads can be found year-round in Paris, at sizeable discounts. 'Deluxe Cheapo Shopping: Less than Wholesale, Less Than On Sale' was featured in Metropole Issue 1.29 on 9. September 1996. What sort of things are available and what you can expect to pay, plus a couple of locations, were treated in the feature.

While I write this I am wearing my usual 'at home' winter costume, and I see I have a hole in the elbow of the sweater. This week I think I'll try to get a replacement, but I will remember that the current sales are for - summer goods - and yet another 'Miami' shirt will be redundant. I can't resist them though.

Paris Bike Days Last All Summer

It is only two short years since Paris started to become 'bike friendly.' Since Paris is only intermittently 'friendly' to pedestrians, the 50-odd kilometres of existing bike lanes on city streets are an amazing feat.

We have our traffic jams and they can be lulus, so it is hard to imagine taking a major thoroughfare and 'stealing' half a traffic lane from it and reserving it exclusively for cyclists. Yet this is what Paris has done.

The new lanes are clearly marked, and in many if not most places they are set off from the traffic lanes by pylons - which prevent chronic swifty-parkers from jamming them up. Where, for technical reasons, a bike-lane has to give up its right-of-way, cyclists are warned by signs.

One word of warning however: pedestrians are not too bike-lane-aware and may overlook the fact of their existence and step into them at any time.

The summer weekly pro-bike and pro-pedestrian demonstrations on Sundays are now officially sanctioned by the Hôtel de Ville. Anybody can take part in these, and they take place on the Seine quais in the centre of the city.

The existing bike-lanes, grosso-modo, are in place on an east-west axis and a north-south axis, and run from the city boundaries through the centre. There are also lanes reserved for cyclists in the Bois de Boulogne and the Bois de Vincennes.

Another 50 kilometres are to be added in the course of this year; adding a loop around Etoile, a bit on the east fringe, an extension from the Canal Saint-Martin to the left bank through Bastille, and a huge southern loop from Bercy through the 13th and 14th arrondissements, to the quai d'Orsay.

The SNCF Gets Into the Bike Act

Acting in concert with the city of Paris, the Ile-de-France section of the SNCF has put out a brochure outlining its 20 bike-rental locations at its stations in and around Paris.

At the stations, the bikes on offer are either the VTT or VTC types - all-terrain or all-comfort. The rates seem to vary from 50 to 75 francs for a half-day, with 80 or 90 francs for a whole day. The bikes belong to regular bike-rental firms, so you don't have to worry about them being kept in condition village houses by locomotive engineers. Also at the stations, the SNCF has made maps available for the locality, and these have been prepared by the IGN - the map people.

It also looked like this, long before 'summer' started.

You should also note that taking a bike on a train is free; if say, you rent one in Paris and want to ride around Fountainbleau for example. There are some rush-hour and other restrictions for taking bikes on RER trains, but otherwise it looks very handy. For long-distance trains, look for the 'bike' symbol in the timetable.

One thing I always forget is that a security-deposit is usually required, plus a piece of paper with a name on it. For the Ile-de-France SNCF rental service there is no figure, and this may be something which is handled by their bike-rental partners.

The SNCF also has about 30 stations around France which rent bikes. Their daily rates are either 44 or 55 francs, with discounts for multiple-day rentals, starting from the third day. For these, a security-deposit of 1000 francs is required plus an identity paper. For the rental itself, you pay when you return the bike, and the SNCF accepts Visa, Master and Access cards.

Finally, you can reserve rental bikes. If you are in Paris, get the SNCF brochure 'Vélo Eté 1997 Location + Circuits.' It contains all the phone numbers of the SNCF's bike-rental partners for the Ile-de-France.

For their bike rental service throughout the rest of France, the SNCF's brochures contain only Minitel numbers. In fact, for any service I can find only one phone number and it is a toll-number costing 2.23 francs a minute.

This is so user-unfriendly I am not including these numbers here. If this burns you up as much as it does me, send me an email about it and I will get it to where it needs to go.

I have three brochures about trains and bikes and the general SNCF 'Guide du Voyageur' for this summer. Between the toll-number and the Minitel numbers, I can't see the SNCF beating the airlines in the reservation business.

Some Events

Festival des Chansons Francophones

The 3rd festival devoted to French songs is again presented by the Café-Concert 'Ailleurs,' from Tuesday, 1. July to Thursday, 31. July.

At the Café-Concert 'Ailleurs:' 13. Rue Jean-Beausire, Paris 4. Métro Bastille, just off the rue de la Bastille. Call 01 44 59 82 82 for the full program of the singers and groups who will be performing during this festival.

Des Européens

As seen by Henri Cartier-Bresson; a portrait of Europe from the '30's through to the '70's, in 200 photographs. On show until 31. August.

Maison Européen de la Photographie, 5-7. Rue de Fourcy, Paris 4. Métro Saint-Paul. Daily from 11:00 to 20:00, except Mondays and Tuesdays. For info, phone 01 44 78 75 00.

Fêtes des Loges

Take the RER line 'A' out to Saint-Germain-en-Laye and then take a bus out to the forest where you'll find more than 200 rides, stands and restaurants amid the trees. About three million did it last year, and people have been doing it in the summer for the past 345 years.

Seen as expensive for a family visit, this year there are reduced-price combo tickets - but they have to be bought in advance, off-site. Call 01 41 27 25 51 for details. Some of the new attractions are called 'Crazy Mousse,' 'Boule Infernale' and 'L'Extrême, and I hate to think of what this might be.

Normal opening hours are from 14:00 to 01:30 daily, with an extension to 02:30 on weekends and the eve of holidays. The 14 restaurants at the site open at noon daily. The Fête des Loges lasts until 17. August.

Fête des Tuileries

If you are worn out from being dragged through endless métro tunnels to see a lot of 'art' and 'culture,' get your credit charged up and take yourself and statue of Danton a friend to the annual 'fête forain' in the Tuileries Gardens; It runs until Sunday, 24. August.

Citizen Danton looks for rays of light, in the wrong direction.

It features rides, ferris wheel with good view of the Louvre and Rivoli, plus the usual ikky cotton candy junk. Open daily from 11:00 to midnight, and to 01:00 on Fridays, Saturdays and the eve of public holidays. Métro Tuileries will get you there, and if it gets too much for you, just slip over to one of the buvettes under the trees in the gardens, and have a long cool one.

L'Eté Multimédia

Starting tomorrow, 100 computers are free to the public at the Carrousel du Louvre, which is located at Les Halles, near the porte Lescot, down on the second level. Here 1200 square metres are devoted to multmedia - CD-ROMs and the Internet - and 120,000 visited this space last year. If you want to try out French CD-ROM titles or maybe sneak off an email or two, pay this place a visit, from 12:30 to 19:00 daily, except on Sundays.

Metropole One Year Ago
count-down eiffel

Last week I noticed that I had somehow gotten a week ahead of 'One Year Ago,' so it is suspended for this issue. Watch for it next week, when it will be approximately in synchro with this time of year again.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 2000:
Only 915 days left to go.

Regards, Ric


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contents to: Ric Erickson, Editor.
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