Bikes, Johnny’s Place, Paris Plages and a Hot Shower

The big news this week in Paris was the launch of the mayor’s new public bicycle program, called Velib (‘ve’lo = bicycle, ‘lib’erte = freedom). It’s intended to help fundamentally change the city by putting 200,000 cyclists and over 20,000 bicycles on the streets of Paris by the end of the year.

The system allows people to grab a bike at one of what will eventually be 1,450 automatic stations throughout the city and drop it off at any other station. The first 30 minutes of use are free of charge and then each subsequent half-hour gets increasingly more expensive; the system is designed to keep the bikes in frequent circulation. Judging from the first few days it seems that people here are quite excited by the program. I, however, failed in my first attempt to use a bike; the 4, 5 & 6 keys on the first automatic station I went to weren’t functioning (after just 3 days of use!) and when I went to a second station, the system told me that they had a temporary technical problem. Let’s hope it’s just growing pains but I’m not sure.

Had lunch this week at a restaurant called Rue Balzac which is owned by legendary French rocker Johnny Hallyday, not far from the Champs-Elysees. The food was tasty and the place was quite stylish … although I did note quite a few people speaking English. You can check out the restaurant and the menu (although it’s in French) here.

This week also brought the start of the 6th annual Paris Plage (Paris Beach), which this year is actually called Paris Plages (plural) since it’s taking place at 3 different locations around the city. Each year, the city brings in sand, lays out lounge chairs and sets up beach-related activities along the Seine river so that Parisians not able to go to the real beach can still experience something like a beach close to home. It’s pretty packed with locals and tourists but can be a nice place to sit and people-watch.

And finally, victory is mine. The gas in my apartment is back on. After 3 weeks, hours on the phone and a visit to the Gaz de France boutique, a man arrived at my door exactly on time (Miracle #1) on Friday. However, although he had my name and address on his work order, the apartment number was incorrect (Expected Event #1) so he told me that he couldn’t turn my gas on (Expected Event #2) without risking a fine of $15,000 euros. He said that he had to leave (Expected Event #3) and suggested I call the emergency service to get them to come out and turn on the gas. I refused to let him leave and forced him to wait with me while I called the emergency service. The emergency service representative asked me to hand the phone to the service guy so that he could scold him for suggesting I call the emergency service (Miracle #2). This prompted the service guy to make a couple of phone calls and suddenly he announced that everything was fine, opened a panel in the hallway and used a simple tool to open the spigot and turn my gas back on (Miracle #3). It’s been a long time since a hot shower felt so good …

Why wasn’t this group around when I was in university?!? Read more about them here.

A couple photos of the week …

When pigeons attack …

Small street on Ile de la Cite


One response to this post.

  1. Posted by Lynelle on November 11, 2008 at 12:05 pm

    Good words.


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