I’m haven’t figured out exactly what the equivalent of stoke is in French, but I will soon. Things are going super well and I could hardly be more excited. Here’s why:
After finishing my language course on Friday, I moved into my new home in Neuilly-Sur-Seine on Saturday morning. Neuilly is a commune just outside of Paris near the Arc d’Triomphe that is known for being bourgeoisie. It is no shocker to me after my Bay Area upbringing, and it means I live in a beautiful apartment with lots of art, that is near the Seine, a huge park, and many great restaurants and food shops.
Saturday was a bit chaotic, I woke up early and took the metro out here with my big suitcase and big backpack. I unpacked all my clothes then took my first adventure of the day. I walked across the river to the Arc d’Triomphe, in the process seeing an awesome high-end bike shop and running store. I then meandered through the marvelous 17th arrondissement, through the nicer residential areas with many cafes and cool houses, through to the much poorer area. I then reached my destination, the Marche aux Puces. I unfortunately didn’t have my camera, because it was stunning. The transition from Neuilly to the Marche really accented the extremity. The marche starts under the overpass of the Boulevard Periphique, with countless people sitting with huge blankets sprawled with stuff. Some people have hundreds of chargers, others have old watches, wallets, shoes, jeans, even computers. Moving on past the overpass, is a narrow street with vendors on either side. Some of them have what seem like lifelong collections of art, shoes, furniture and other junk. One seller had 6 or 7 washing machines. As I walked along the alleyway, the junk turned from old stolen stuff to fake designer jeans and Armani t-shirts. It is an interesting facet of poor culture, that is the way they survive, yet at the same time they strive to look cool with Armani and Polo.
After that I took the most packed Metro ever back to my first home and packed the rest of my stuff in my daypack. I left more stuff that I should have, so it was a little heavier than I would have liked. C’est la vie. I looked up the best biking route to get between the two houses and it looked to be an easy 15km. No problem. After about 2km, I took a wrong turn and went under the Periphique. I figured it wasn’t a huge problem, as long as I went NW. The sun was low in the sky, so it was easy to orient. Unfortunately, due to the abundance of one way streets and dead ends, I ended up going way too far North and wound up in Saint-Denis, a pretty poor neighborhood. I didn’t have an accessible map and felt asking for help getting to the richest suburb could be frowned upon, so I kept on trucking, following the occasional sign to Paris. After over an hour of riding, I found a Metro stop with a map, and saw I was still much too far North. But then I knew where to go, and headed out again. I found up on a long street along the river, which was hopeful, but I had no idea when to turn off. I saw a sign for Paris to the left, so I took the turn and voila, there was a city sign that said Neiully-Sur-Seine. What luck. I came in easily to my home for a great home-cooked meal.
The next day was my first day of a real petit-dejeuner, and let me tell you, there is a reason small is in their word for breakfast. The small breakfast is one of my biggest challenges in Paris so far, especially in its lack of protein. I then took the Metro to Gare Lyon where I met Mike and Bjorn and we headed out to Fontainebleu for a day of bouldering. I had bought new shoes recently, and they were great, but difficult. I usually wear a 45, but the proper climbing shoe was a 42. Ooof. They were great for the climbing, but my toes were killing me. I hope I get used to them soon. After some successful “summits” and relaxation we went back into the city, bought a few beers and drank and chilled at the Seine. It was dreamlike. I came back for my first dinner with the full family. My host father, Michel, had taken the weekend to do a +400km cycling event. He’s got a ton of bikes and we will ride together soon. I can’t wait. He also works at the Louvre. The mom is a chocolatier and a brilliant cook. It is going to be a good stay here. They have a daughter who likes film and music and will introduce me to many great French films.
Today I woke up and after another small breakfast, went out riding in the Bois de Bologne, a great parc just next to my neighborhood. It is a well-traveled training area for cyclists, with a circuit that goes around a hippodrome. There I saw hundreds of cyclists, from old guys on their ancient but awesome steel bikes, to your race ready slim carbon boys. I hopped on with some of the latter group and cranked so hard for an hour and a half. It was a great start to my training. It is maybe a 3km lap, and one side had a massive headwind. All the Frenchies constantly attacked into the headwind, and we were doing 25mph+ for much of the time. I talked to them later and they only do cyclo-sportive, which dos not include racing. So that’s impressive. But they suggested some local clubs and told me I was riding strong. Yes. After pulling for almost a whole lap, they attacked into the headwind and I couldn’t respond, so I cooled down and headed home, excited nonetheless. For very little riding in the past 3 weeks, it was a great day. It was really comforting to find I am living in a place where I can easily go on a hour or two ride, or a full day ride without problem.
Now off the lunch, a much bigger meal.