Thursday, June 9, 2011

In Paris, use the Metro, but ride your folding bike in Versailles

Monument of French King Louis XIV (1638 - 1715) who had the castle of Versailles built

Would you take your folding bike along on a weekend trip to Paris? 

Google this question and you may find the advice that cycling for tourists in Paris is not so highly recommended if you are on a short trip wishing to get around fast in order to see a lot.  

Tourists staying somewhat longer, however, can rent a bike with the public bike rental system - their bikes  being available at major sites in the city.  There are also some good guided tours on bikes for rent.

And it goes without saying that commuters in Paris should try hard to find alternative ways to using private motor cars.  Ever more people will find it attractive to use their bikes because there has been a steady increase of bicycle lanes in Paris.

But to me, a relatively uninformed foreigner in Paris for a couple of days only, the bicycle lanes that I saw were not so inviting. I left my Brompton in the car and walked. At that, using the Metro, the city`s underground, is a good way of getting you to places fast and inexpensively if you buy a 24 hours pass. And as far as taking the folding bike into the Metro is concerned, I cannot imagine that it is much fun to carry ít through  large Metro stations where you often have to descend and climb long stair ways.

This may sound discouraging to everybody who is a bicycle activist fighting for a healthier city environment and for the expansion of  the biking system in cities. Hopefully, no political controversy  will arise between us as to the question of ecological correctness.

Here  is  a sketch of my tour that ought to prove that I have not defected. Indeed, when we were in Versailles, just about to visit the famous castle of Louis XIV, and when we perceived the long queues of people waiting on the huge square in front of the castle to be let in, we were so much discouraged that we decided to take the folding bikes instead and go on a tour through the famous and enormously large gardens behind the castle. 
Bernar Venet, the world famous artist who has stirred up a lot of controversy with his rusty steel arcs around the Versaille castle (In my photo above, one end of his sculpture is lurking into the picture from behind old Louis Quatorze), has written:  "Versailles, as I see it, is all about wide open spaces and perspectives that stretch as far as the eye can see."  In other words, ideal hunting grounds for folding bike friends .
So it happened that we had a very pleasant ride and we went to see the small castle that the King had built for his influential Maitresse, Madame de Pompadour.  We also enjoyed the numerous sculpures lining the walkways and alleys.

According to a legend, 
Saint Herve, patron of Brittany,
reigned in the wolf
 that had devoured his donkey

And finally, we got some beautiful views of the rear of the castle and across the gardens.

View of the Grand Canal in the palace garden of Versailles

The weather being so fine and the park landscape so pleasant, the author started to enjoy this beautiful Sunday tour to the utmost:  He sat down on a park bench, listened to the twittering birds and read the newspaper, Le Monde, wondering what he should blog or twitter about:  
There was one noteworthy article on modern life style which a true Brompton folding bike fan might want to take to heart.  Today`s trend is to disconnect in order to find oneself.  Based on the assumption that we are becoming totally dependent on our cell phones and online gadgets with e-mails and facebook and twitter messages, the new trendy advice is to leave the electronic equipment at home for some time, to disconnet and to free the head while enjoying nature or sharing one`s  private time with a friend or two who are of a similar disposition of mind. 

Consequently, my slightly altered message is now coined in the slogan:  "Use your bike and disconnect occasionally!" It may help to reach the poise and ease expressed in this sculpture of lead entitled "Air", which stands in front of the Louvre in Paris:

Air (1932)  by Aristide Maillol 

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