Monday, 29 June 2015

I have returned

after 1159 kms cycled
and there are posts for 11 days in bare to half-baked to almost-complete form waiting to be completed and published. 

Too many new impressions and views to just slap them into quick posts, but they will appear in chronological order in the coming week(s).

stay tuned ...

First Impressions of Vancouver

Border guard "So did you do anything else over there?"  "Like what?  Brush my teeth?"

The bike arrives, but only one pedal remains on the rat-trap in the back.  The other one must be somewhere en-route.

HUGE lineup at the customs corral. I tell a pale rotund white person "This is ridicilously slow" to which he replies "Actually it's flows smoothly today".  He stays quiet when I say "THIS is a JOKE" pointing at the line-ups.

Angry voices when people come out of the skytrain and on the roads.  And all just one-syllables like HEY, MAAAN, etc.

I take the skytrain from the airport, get off at 25th Avenue, and push the bike to 17th Ave.  Cambie Cycles sells me 2 matching pedals for $12.60 and lets me use their compressor hose to bring my tires up to the proper inflation pressure.  I'm good to go again!

I remember the motorcyclist who cut me off going around the traffic circle of Place de la Bastille, who then apologized profusely (with a big smile) and explained the whole modus operandi how he had not seen me.  So much more humane!

At the Vietnamese Restaurant traffic on Marine Drive and Capilano Road again is stop-and-go in BOTH directions.  And there isn't even a parade going on!

A police cruiser is pulling over people with cell phones or without seat belts. I'm reminded about French cop cars unable to move through traffic or just being cut off by other drivers.

On y va! (Return to Mordor)

Alarm clock was set for 6 am.  I'm uploading all of yesterday's pictures, because Citizen M has fabulously fast WiFi.
That, showering, and packing the 2 panniers and my backpack specifically for today's journey takes all the time before I have to find my way to the airport. No time for breakfast. Which is probably a good thing, because Citizen M, while providing cheapish accommodation, charges fancy restaurant prices for their not that exciting food (exception was a big glass of excellent Sauvignon Blanc for 4 Euro 50.

The hotel entrance is probably less than 1000 meters from Terminal 3, but again CDG is has developed in such a cancer-growth fashion that I wouldn't have found T3 without the blue line in Google Maps.

Checking in the bicycle is comparatively easy here. No waiting for the baggage handlers but quite some waiting for the counter staff to bring themselves up to regulations.  But every single one of the people behind the counters are SOOO NICE ! 

 Finally I have my boarding pass and get to catch up on breakfast. Hey, it's after 9 am so I can have my mini-bottle. Too bad it doesn't taste very good.

Yes, that's a Concorde in this illegally taken picture

 The lovely Air Transat employee in the picture below is doing her best to let me know that taking pictures is INTERDIT !
Not just in China ! NO taking pictures of planes !  The RETARDED thing is: there is a fence RIGHT behind the Concorde, from which a person with a telephoto lens could get much better pictures of the Air Transat plane, AND perfectly legally !

The flight is pretty much eventless (the usual cheapo routine of not getting enough food) but there is one scary thing that happens in Calgary.

This flight is scheduled to stop in Calgary to dump half its passengers (It is surprising how many people are willing to travel from Paris to Calgary !!).  We're in the final approach, wheels are down, etc etc and there is so little space between the tires and the runway that I expect that touch-down-shake in my butt any millisecond now.  But what I get is a giant shove in my back with a simultaneous increase in noise level and distance between my window and the runway.

I've only ever seen that in video clips (HERE is a good example) and didn't think that I'd ever be on one of those planes.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A long day in, and out of, the City of Lights

The bike gets to spend the night in the tiny foyer of the hotel, a concession only granted after I explained to the receptionist what an e-bike is and what it costs.

I sleep until 5:30 and at 7:15 go for a bike ride since a school group is occupying the breakfast room until 8.

And as I will find out later in the day, Paris on the weekend is best experienced between 7 am and 8 am.
morning  view from my hotel room

The phone provides directions where my geography memory of my last 3 mini stints in Paris fails me. But everything is different now.  I am no longer limited to walking or taking the Metro and Paris has shrunk. In what seems like no time at all I have circled around the Place de la Bastille, taken the Rue de St Antoine, wiggled my way through the Marais to Notre Dame, passed Pont Neuf, and arrived at the Palais Royale with its famous glass pyramid museum. Having a bicycle along makes tourist life so much easier.

the Royal Palace in the early morning

I surprise myself by uttering to the receptionista ‘Je voudrais prendrer le petit dejeuner’. Another month in France and I’d me much less limited in my language.

Then it's time for breakfast and careful packing. I'm checking out at 11 am and will sleep very close to Charles de Gaulle Airport tonight, but I'm not leaving until after early dinner with my Friend Joanna at the Place de la Bastille.  So it's mandatory to only take the essential stuff in my backpack and leave all the heavy stuff in the saddle bags in the hotel.

Notre Dame from the other side

There are people up there!!!   It's climbable !

Napoleon was 'ere

I cycle along the Seine, generally in the direction of the Arc de Triomphe, when it happens:

I'm stopped at some light and I see another cyclist with a baseball cap pulled low into his face, with blond hair escaping from underneath the cap.  “He looks like Hansel”, I think to myself.

 George and I LOVED the movie Zoolander and Hansel was Owen Wilson’s character in that movie. 

The guy looks in my direction, I give him a second look, and I see his NOSE.
OH MY F*ING GOD !!!      It’s really him !!!

No mistaking that nose

I'm not the type that shouts at a celebrity "HEY YOU!", so after giving each other another look, we cycle off into different directions.

A fountain.  the jets are executed as water plants/thingies.  The jets in Horseshoe Bay were cheap Rona hose-ends ;-)

When the French build something, they build it well enough to fly the French flag on top of it.  Hopefully no one would consider flying the Canadian flag on the engagement-ring 'art piece' in English Bay!
Charles de Gaulle was a  tap dancer?  

After cruising by the Grand Palais, I find my way on the Champes Elysee half-way between the obelisk on Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe. The temperature is 26 degrees but feels much fresher than 20 degrees in Vancouver, which might be due to the fact that the air seems cleaner in Paris (Think about that for a second!). I'm getting peckish and thirsty, so I head into a side street, since I've heard that food & drink ON the Champes Elysee can be quite expensive. N

Not that it's cheap on my side-street, but I get to sit in the shade in a Pub/Brasserie that sports Wifi access. And the Rose is still good ;-)  I overhear tourists complain that the prices are like those in downtown San Francisco. Nothing against SanFran, and not defending high prices, but who in their right mind would prices here to be lower than in downtown SF?

After lunch I follow the Champs Elysee to lead me to the Arc.  I was here last December, but at the hour of my visit the place had not been open for visitors yet.

OH NO,Unlike these people I don't have a picture of myself in front of it !!!!
I pay my 8 or 9 Euros and start the climb. I'm not sure whether there is a hole in the ground or whether they attached a video camera, but in the centre of the top you can see the ant-like people below.

The MUST-TAKE panorama shots from the top:

A photo exhibit of WWI uniforms: What Great-uncle Leopold would have been wearing

Before climbing the Arc, I had locked my bike to a bike rack contraption in front of one of the buildings around the square.  It didn't take 10 seconds for a security person to emerge from a wall that had cameras on top to point out the no-bike-parking sign and shoo me away! when I return,I realize who the bike-phobic people are.  The Embassy of Quatar, ruled by one single family since the 1850s AND PER CAPITA the world's RICHEST country.  I'm not sure what Sharia law prescribes for illegal bicycle parking (lose one pedal?) but I'm glad I didn't have to find out.

My excursion is taking more time than I had anticipated.  Tourists and traffic are converting Paris into a viscous quagmire that is hard to travel through.

As if that wasn't bad enough, there are these people.. And they are not moving at the leisurely pace of a Pride Parade. Oh NO. These guys are speed walking.  To get a picture, I have pedal all out to get some distance, quickly take a picture, and then pedal like hell so they don't over-run me.

They are FAST. And since there are various groups of similarly clad people along the 'parade route', I find myself caught between two of these groups!!

I have no idea what it is all about.  If this would be happening in North America, it would probably would have a Caribbean theme. But in France the root could be different.

Even googling their banner doesn't provide any clues !

But it takes some guts to run around waving a black flag in a Western city these days.
not my pic and I have NO IDEA what the writing means!

The 2 hour get-together with Joanna is Fabulous as usual.  I have to remind myself that it is only the 3rd time since 2013 I see her and that I hadn't seen her for a long time before, namely not since 2000, when she lived in the same house as I for 3 months.  

You'll meet lots of people every day. With most of them it's no loss to never see them again, but with some it's definitely worth the effort to stay in touch with ;-)

At 6 pm it is time to leave Paris to get to my hotel at CDG. It will be a ride from hell.  3 hours for 36 kms.

The reason is that there is only 1 (one) bike path that goes all the way. If one takes a wrong turn at some point, one has to pedal back miles and miles to the fork to get on the right path.
Ending up on the wrong side means having to pedal back miles !

The closer I get to the airport, the more confusing the roads become.  Until at some point I refuse to back-pedal again.

At first I have to get over a pipeline of some sort to get to the road I should be on.  I ignore all signs telling me how dangerous access to these grounds is and heave the bike, the saddle bags, and myself over a concrete pump housing connecting the pipeline segments, after which I have to reattach the panniers and keep going

Then I have to get back on the road. Repeat heaving procedure here:

Repeat heaving procedure over the guardrail again 50 meters down the road when I realize that I have to get on the road that just passed under me (NO other way to get there)
I just slid down this hill. 1 pannier fell off half way down.
I get to my hotel at about 9:30 pm, eat the horribly overpriced food, consume 2 glasses of wine (decent price) and crash into my bed.