Sunday Strolling in Paris

photo: cafe la corona

If not before, then after a Sunday stroll, tank up here.

Biking, Rollering, Jogging and Plain Walking

by Ric Erickson

Paris:- Sunday, 25. April 1999:- For the first time in more than a week, surprise sunshine is pouring in my kitchen window this morning. There have been fifteen minute periods of good weather during my week-long 'holiday,' but none of them were when I was outside.

I quit watching the TV-weather news, so I don't know if what I first see today will last a half-hour, or more, or less. When I next look, it is still there. So maybe I've got a Sunday to do what other people do.

For a while two or three years ago, I used to end the 'Au Bistro' column with the announced weekend demonstrations in Paris. Gradually, this list came to include a regular item, called something like "Pedestrians, Bicycles, Relax."

This initially involved the closing of the right bank Georges Pompidou expressway along the edge of the Seine in the centre of Paris, as well as part of the quaiside roads on thephoto: seine quai du louvre left bank; for a period of hours on Sundays. This gradually extended to other areas - up on the Canal Saint-Martin, Mouffetard - and from the beginning, bikes were in the act too.

The quai at first seems nearly deserted, but this turned out not to be so.

With the passing of time, 'bike lanes' of all sorts have been extended to 108.3 kilometres and I think another 22-odd are planned to be added this year. A few years from now, the bike lanes will cross Paris on both sides of the Seine, plus will loop entirely around the city, just inside the Perifreak.

While many 'bike lanes' are no more than a dotted white line with a silhouette of a bicycle stenciled in them, another good number have a protective curb as well. At many intersections, the 'stop'-line for cars is well behind the pedestrian crosswalk, and the space made available is to allow cyclists to move to the left, to turn. Some bike lanes are completely divided from other traffic, and some of these are two-way.

The Friday night roller derby that starts at the Place d'Italie has more participants than ever. It goes west through Montparnasse and over to Trocadéro, up and across the Champs-Elysées and east through the right bank before looping back to the 13th and the Place d'Italie.

The police have a rolling road-block set up for this - as in, 'Get back everybody - here comes the cattle stampede!' Because Paris is a bit more complex than Dodge City, this is quite an affair.

Today then, outside I am looking at the sky and trying to judge the chances of it being more, but not a lot less, clear by the time I can get to the city - to see this great, free, walkabout in the fresh air. I almost turn back because it looks chancy.

A hour later, coming out of the métro Louvre-Rivoli, it looks like luck is with me. I do not see hordes of bicyclists heading west on Rivoli, but there are a lot of people heading into the east end of the Louvre complex.

At the Quai du Louvre, most bouquinistes open and there are a lot of people going pastphoto: voie georges pompidou them. The street traffic is normal though; I had kind of thought it would be shut down. And when I look down on the riverside quai, there are not too many people.

These two refreshment vendors are just setting up, after letting three-hours' worth of rollers glide by.

Ah, it is the expressway that is closed. Walkers, hardly any joggers - going the way of the dinosaur? - bicyclists and roller people - some pushing baby strollers - are on the speedway. In one of the tunnels, it stinks - old stone, or concrete, oozing pollution?

Still it is not so many as I thought. But this might be a misperception as I am foot-slogging, as usual. The cyclists are not racing; many of the roller-derby people are going faster. There are not many in one spot, and they do not come by like an endless stream of tin cars - so there is room between all types.

Being on the expressway, on foot, is something new. Normally in a car here, it can be white-knuckle time. There certainly is no time for any sightseeing.

On foot, there is nothing but time for looking around. It is close to the river's water, which is brown and moving fast. Under bridge arches, it makes noise - almost like a waterfall in places.

The perspective to the Ile de la Cité is different and unobstructed. There are some grass bits between the pavement and the quai wall, and a lot of people are resting along here, because they are getting a full blast of sun. It is warm too; for the first time in many days.

Since the Sunday-drive traffic is up above, the expressway is relatively quiet - except for the roller people who don't quite know how their brakes work. A little kid falls off skates too with a yelp and has to be picked up. The noisiest things of all are the sightseeing boats, and I can smell their diesel stink.

The walking is okay. No crosswalks or lights to watch for and I don't pay attention to the riders and rollers because none come close - everybody had elbow-room.

I go up at the Pont Marie and cross to the Ile Saint-Louis, because there is a bike lane marked on its south side. Thephoto: bouquiniste quai st michel island is teaming as I guess it does every sunny Sunday, but the Quai d'Orléans has its usual line of parked cars and even has a Sunday jam. Some old guys are fishing off the quai below.

The bouquinistes on the quais must be having one of their better days.

Near the Pont Saint-Louis, there is a huge crowd lined up for the ice cream shop there and the terrace of the Brasserie en l'Ile is entirely full. Across the short bridge, there is a big crowd - bigger than usual - all around Notre Dame; at the park in back, and in all the cafés and shops along the side, and in front it looks like some sort of world convention.

On the other side of the Pont au Double, all of the bouquinistes along the quais seem to be open and the crowds oblige me to step into the street - which is not closed to traffic.

There is a huge number of people here, on fairly narrow sidewalks, all the way along the Quai des Grands Augustins and the Quai de Conti. These are streets I was sure would be for pedestrians only, on Sundays.

Near the Pont des Arts, the crowd begins to look like the one outside Tati before the doors are opened for the 70 percent-off sales. The bridge itself is black, with tiny color flashes, with all the people shuffling across it - past Ousamane Sow's 'Little Big Horn' sculpture exhibition.

Every time I've been near it - even when it was raining - it has always looked like an army - Indian army? - trooping across. The art-show right bank-left bank shortcut. I don't think there's a counter, so we'll never know how popular it is.

But I'm certain it's giving the Hôtel de Ville somephoto: pont des arts ideas. For the two new footbridges, I'm sure they are planning their exhibitions now - maybe even bridges with shops on them will be brought back.

Hard to see the army of 'art lovers' on the Pont des Arts in the photo, but they are there.

The embankment below the Quai du Louvre is a popular spot for some bongo players and they are doing their drumming for a fair audience - which includes everybody on the bridge - as the sun continues to bathe the quais in light.

People are on all the bridges today - for these are sure places for being under the sky and being able to see a lot of it. In fact, wherever I look I see a lot of people.

It is Sunday in Paris and the weather is just right. Most of the trees are well-greened and it is nether cold nor hot. There is less traffic than usual and there are more people with time to spend, just being people.

Today is April in Paris.

If you're thinking of biking around Paris, get yourself a copy of The Best Biking Guide to Paris by Rose Burke, who writes about it from personal experience. It's wheelie time!


This Was Metropole One Year Ago:

count down Eiffel TowerIssue 3.17 - 27. April 1998 - This issue featured - Café Metropole - 'This Strike Won't Affect You' and the 'Au Bistro' column had '20 Million Wrong Numbers.' The issue had three features , entitled 'Flower-Gazing in the Parc Bagatelle,' 'Camping in Paris' Bois de Boulogne' and 'Where All Lanes are Fast: the Perifreak!' There were four 'Posters of the Week' and Ric's Cartoon of the Week was captioned, 'Train Driver Dream.' And as usual, there were the usual couple of wrong dates.

The Tour Eiffel Countdown to 31. December 1999:

Only 250 more semi-beautiful days to go - some of them Sundays.

Regards, Ric
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