Oh, Champs-Elysees…

July 26, 2009 at 7:05 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reason #2241 to learn a tiny bit of French before you come here.  This morning I went to get a baguette and the guy in front of me got what appeared to be the last baguette tradition.  As he was counting out his change ever-so-slowly, the woman behind the counter took my order.  When I told her that I wanted a baguette tradition if they had any left, she said, Ils arrivent (they’re coming).  The guy, who was still counting out his centimes, perked up, and asked if he could have a hot one, instead of the one he’d been given.  And when the women behind me in line ordered a tradition in English, the woman behind the counter, without skipping a beat, handed them the cold one she had bagged for the slow-change-counter, gave both me and the change-counter each a hot baguette that had arrived in the meantime, and moved on to the next customer.  And with no words with which to argue with her, the women had to accept the cold one and move on.

Before today, I had never been to a marche au puces (flea market) in Paris.  I had heard that the one at Porte Clignancourt was overrated and overpriced, so instead I metro’d out all the way to the edge of the 14th, near the Periphique (ring road around Paris).  Turns out that the most exciting part of the expedition happened before I got on the Metro–this great band performing in the middle of Chatelet station.

The marche–Vanves–was okay.  If you’re a big fan of tarnished silver and bricolage (the rough translation of which , in my opinion, is “crap”), you’re in luck.  I wandered around for an hour or so, then decided to walk back towards central Paris because I’d never been down that way before.  It was actually really great.  The neighborhood was really alive, and things were actually open even though it was Sunday (I counted nine or ten bakeries open just on the main road where I was walking.  Of course, I had to stop at one and get a petit sac of chouquettes–apparently my pastry of the week).  I ran smack into the Montparnasse cemetery, and spent awhile in there.  On through the Luxembourg gardens to an Anglophone used bookstore that lets you exchange books.  And then…the moment that cycling fans the world over (hi, Dad) have been waiting for…the final stage of the Tour de France, also known as the Champs-Elysees.

I went last year, and we stood at the top of the Tuileries near the Place Concorde, outside the Orangerie museum, which was much less crowded but also a bit more out of the action (this is both good and bad).  This year, I stood right by the Joan of Arc statue outside the Louvre on Rue de Rivoli, at the start of the Tuileries.  It was a madhouse.  Between the lateness of the riders and the crowd’s subsequent impatience (they guy next to me was tracking them on his iphone), the beating sun, and the copious amounts of beer and ice cream being consumed, it was quite the scene.  I managed to wiggle my way in and, after waiting 45 minutes (I had foolishly assumed that, by arriving an hour after they were due to arrive, I would miss the crowd and catch the riders on their third or fourth lap.  Nope), they came in a total blur.

After seeing them in person once, I headed to a nearby bar to watch the end of the tour from the comfort of a salon climatisee (air-conditioned room) with a cold beer in hand.  The bar, which was Irish, was tons of fun.  We were still so close to the route that you could hear the ten-second delay between when the people outside cheered and when the riders went by on the screen.  And we got a perfect bar-stool view of this photo finish by the overall winner.  The people in the bar, most of whom were British, were pretty jazzed about Cavendish’s finish as well (I say this like I know who he is.  I didn’t, until this afternoon. But he did great!).


It must be such a thrill for the riders to come through Paris at the end of the Tour.  The loop that they take gives them a perfect view of the city’s most iconic sights, and after all those mountain stages, the legions of roaring fans can’t be too bad either.


1 Comment »

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  1. This is so awesome!! The whole thing! One of these days I’m gonna read it cover to cover. You have definitely been making the most of the experience – thanks so much for sharing it! 🙂

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