...Continued from page 1

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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