Sunday, October 5, 2008

Free-wheeling through Paris

We already did a brief post on the Paris portion of our 3-week trip in August, but we now have captions on the pictures in the photo album if anyone wants to look. As our previous post noted, it was a slightly odd week in the sense that we both worked quite hard--I think I edited more pages that week than any other this year. But that didn't prevent us from enjoying Paris. A few highlights:

--We became big fans of Velibs, the ubiquitous bikes spread across the city that are free for the first 30 minutes of riding (The next 30 minutes cost $1.50 and prices keep rising--keeps trips short.) There was a Velib station just outside the apartment door (right) and while the bikes are heavy and clunky they're just fine for city commuting--they come with lights and a basket. We each bought a week pass for 5 euros (around $8) and amazingly never used the Paris subway system the whole week--and we like the subway system. But we found that we could get almost anyway on a Velib in 30 minutes and if we needed longer, we just parked our bikes after 29 minutes and checked out a new one. It added a sense of adventue to Paris as we zoomed along famous avenues and buildings. By the end of the week we were Velib-pros--we had learned to check that a bike had all its parts before checking it out, for example!

--We tested our parenting skills with the resident bunny, Kiwi. Our friend MB, whose apartment we were staying in, left detailed instructions on how to care for the rabbit but that didn't make us any more confident. I think KT stopped worrying when she finally got Kiwi to play "stick"--he would carry a stick in his mouth and hop in circles around her arms. An amusing video of it is in the photo album. We also got to watch a mother pigeon feed and take care of two babies on a nest just outside the bedroom--not nearly as cute as Kiwi. The babies basically stuck their whole heads in the mother's mouse to get the food she had eaten for them--disgusting!

--A day at the beach. There's a new summer tradition in Paris where they shut down the streets along the Seine on certain Sundays and try to recreate a beach atmosphere. It somehow works. Folks stroll along the river eating ice cream, sun themselves on beach chairs, play volleyball on sand trucked in for the event. We even came across a spot where people were swing dancing on the street next to the river!

--The food (hence the new gym membership and diet). We stuck close to the neighborhood and visited all the bakeries, cheese shops, and patisseries that we could. We also had several delightful multi-course dinners at local restaurants. I think the hightlight must be our visit to Astier, which is has long been famous for its amazing all you can eat 15-plus cheese course. Another highlight (well, for KT anyway) was smoked herring in olive oil. Those dishes would send germophobes reeling, I'm sure: They bring you a big bowl (herring) or platter (cheese), you take what you want, then the waiter whisks it away to the next table. The best meal, though, was the one a colleague cooked (we rode Velibs to his house - too cool!), where we were joined by another colleague and his family who were in their first days of a year-long sabbatical in Paris. We enjoy our travels and our culinary adventures, but the best meals by far are the ones shared with friends.

--JT

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