TRAVEL with pat and lew

* Paris June 2008 #3

Posted by Lew Weinstein on June 22, 2008

a blue linen blazer; solstice music; another Velib experience; Breakfast in America



a blue linen blazer

Since retiring three years ago, I have worn a suit and tie two times, a blazer twice more. But in Paris there are opportunities for dressing up a little, and my blazer is two homes removed in Key West. So we shop. Designer blazers at Galeries and Printempts are not what I need for very occasional wear; besides which, nothing fits and I do not relish the idea of alterations. A department store across from Printempts has a wide selection, and a size that fits my current (10 pounds over objective) shape; even the sleeves are ok. Look for photos.



solstice music

June 21, solstice, the longest daylight in the year, is celebrated throughout France with music. Every group which wishes to is allowed (this night only without permit) to perform on the streets. We have participated in music night in Collioure (2006) and Bayeux (2007); both were experiences we will cherish, with local groups performing everywhere.

We began with an excellent dinner at the Italian restaurant l’Enoteca, a few blocks away from our apartment at 25 rue Charles (01-4278-9144, ).  We arrived at 8:15 without reservations; although the small restaurant was only half full, we were advised that every table was taken. But, if we promised to be finished before 9:30, we could be seated. Our table on the charming second floor was adjacent to a photo of Bogey and Bergman in a Paris scene from Casablanca. My risotto, which we were told is the restaurant’s signature meal, was wonderful, as was Pat’s shrimp (with fish and artichokes) tempura.

Our first plan was to stay in Place Catherine where we knew there would be music. Instead, we walked to Hotel de Ville (photo above) and across to the Latin Quarter. What we found on our walk were huge crowds, bands in every plaza and cafe that we couldn’t get close too. It was difficult to walk and for us, a little overwhelming.

Our first idea was probably better. We received confirmation of this the next day when Pat’s June 23 Parler Paris newsletter (by Adrian Leeds) proclaimed that the best spot, or at least the one chosen by Adrian, was indeed Place Catherine. By the way, the Parler Paris newsletter is an outstanding source of all sorts of Paris information, especially about purchasing or renting property. Check it out at








another Velib experience

We have described Paris’ Velib before – a magnificent concept poorly implemented. But, we thought optimistically, we solved it last year, we can do it again. No problem. Wrong!

Velib is a system of bike rentals, with stations all over Paris. You rent the bike, take it wherever you want, leave it at another station. The system is designed for repeat use by Paris residents, who purchase an annual membership and for whom, we suspect, the procedure is quite efficient.

Not so for the occasional user.

There are 17 steps in the process of renting a bike. Make a mistake in any of them and you immediately return to GO. You can almost hear the French bureaucrat chortling in the background.

There are 3 distinct phases, with many sub-steps in each.

First you must register; the cost is 1 euro; it must be paid with a card with a chip (we use our French bank card, our credit cards will not work). When you register, you agree to a 150 euro hold against your bank account in case you don’t return your bike. The bikes are worth more than 150 euros, but be assured the French legal process will find you if they need to.

Step 2 is to obtain a ticket for this particular bike rental. This involves creating a personal 4 digit code which is stored in the system. The ticket comes with its own 7 digit code. All entries must be made on a keypad located below the screen, not on the screen itself; this is not immediately apparent. After each entry, you must enter ‘V’ for validate, although this instruction, if given at all, is less than prominent on the screen. Any mistakes are punished immediately; return to GO.

Imagine doing this with a long and growing line of people behind you. Fortunately the French are patient, and someone will probably help you.

After you get the ticket, the screen says take your bike. This is a trick. If you go to the rack of bikes, choose one, and push the button to release the bike from its lock, nothing happens. Shake the bike, kick it, nothing happens. French people laugh. Take more than a few seconds, and you are blown off the system. Return to GO.

What you should have done is press ‘1’ which is the number next to the words ‘take your bike.’ There is no instruction, however, to push anything. When you finally figure it out, or more likely someone else shows you, if you push ‘1’ the screen will chug along for awhile and then display a list of the available bikes, by the number in the rack. You now enter your chosen number, followed by your personal code (did you forget? return to GO!), after which the chosen bike may be removed from the rack. But not easily. It still takes some yanking and pulling and shoving.

When Pat finally mounts her bike, she is sent on her way by a crescendo of clapping from the outdoor café across the street. My enthusiasm for bike riding having waned, I join the clappers for a cup of coffee.


Breakfast in America

Most visitors to Paris come at least in part for the wonderful French food. We enjoy that as well, but living for 6 months in France, we occasionally yearn for things American.

We have reported before on Breakfast in America, a great American diner in Paris. There are two locations, one in the Marais two minutes from our apartment, the other across the Seine in the 5th arrondissement. On this morning, we have eggs and bacon, perfectly prepared; I have a bagel. And I purchase a BIA travel coffee mug, something I’ve been looking for all week. The waitress was from Princeton Junction, a Barnard student in Paris for the summer.



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