Saturday, 30 July 2011

Cadiz - Getting away from it all

After spending the last few months exclusively in Paris I must admit that this particular trip to eeeeSpain has been somewhat of a count down in my life.
If I return to paris this will mark  roughly one year spent in the city that I love, but wait what do I love? the people? the place? the culture? yes. But to what ends? What have I achieved in this year? I've had fun, made many great new friends and left an ever widening gap on my CV  while procrastinating about starting a career.

How ever even Parisians will admitt their love for getting away from it all. For how long though? Well this blogger might be about to decamp to Switzerland. Whether this is a permanent decision depends on the job front.

However in the mean time I have certainly been enjoying my trip to Spain, after getting one of the worst sunburns of my life on the first day I have not returned to the beach since and have been sheltering in the shade and undertaking my workshop.
For those if you who do not know this is not strictly a holiday but a working holiday. Working in the sense that I only pay 300€ for two weeks of accommodation and breakfast lunch and dinner. But I am part of a team of 3 people who tutor a workshop called "Umbrella" this workshop releases a daily newspaper on the events of EASA Spain (european architectural students assembly). So as well as partying and sunbathing I am responsibe for a group of 8 people and have to deal with things like submission deadlines, layouts and faulty photocopiers.

For those of you interested in reading any of the results of this "holiday" all the newspaper issues are uploaded daily onto the website.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Cycling – not quite a bus, pedestrian, motorbike or car. Not going to let that stop me.

Every ones approach to cycling is different, some people are rigid rule followers, waiting patiently at the lights while wearing a florescent yellow vest and some are speed demons with a reckless opinion of life weaving in an out of oncoming traffic on a one way street. I usually try to find a happy medium.
My least favourite though are probably the ones who just don't know any better, this is usually the panicky tourist velib’ user who is wandering around like a priest in a lingerie department (feeling very uncomfortable and not sure what to do but still enjoying the view).

Sometimes the best approach to cycling through a city is just to go at it tooth and nails, and the best thing about being on bicycle is you get to cheat at a lot of the rules cars and pedestrians have to follow. 
Now I'm not saying that cyclists don’t have to follow the law- we do, but I’m just saying that it doesn't always happen that way.......

While cycling everyone bends or breaks the rules, following some research I found this website particularly helpful in realistically identifying common types of accidents, some named:
  • The Door Prize
  • The Right Cross
  • The Cross walk slam
and my favourite
  • The Red Light of Death!
and giving you practical advice on how to avoid them. With diagram's!

Don't be scared is one of the most important things to remember. You are also a road user and have the same rights as the cars, by this justification though you should also follow the same rules as the cars and this especially means stopping at traffic lights, signalling when turning and getting into the correct lanes. Cars can't avoid you if they don't know what your doing.

So here are some simple tips on how to stay safe for the realistic cyclist:

  • Don't be scared
  • Stop at lights
  • Signal with your hands
  • Get in lane
  • Don’t listen to music
  • Have and use your bell
  • Be visible at night
  • Try not to mount the footpath
  • Dismount your bicycle when on a busy footpath
  • Be patient
  • Feel free to take up the entire lane- lane control position
  • Pull right in front of cars at traffic lights- avoid their blind spots
  • Assert your rights as a road user, but
  • Don't be arrogant of your rights, bend the rules within the reason of safety and never expect a car to slow down for you.

Being patient is also a very important part of getting around Paris, and by this I don't mean just waiting at the lights, one thing to remember is that everyone is a road user including pedestrians, and Paris is a city with a population of over 2 million people and that's not even counting the tourists and suburban dwellers(9 million-ish). 
So showing these people the same respect that you hope they would show you if you were the one crossing the road is essential, and if you do decide to mount the footpath, try and looks sheepish and apologise to any pedestrians you might nearly bump into – remember you are in the wrong.

Maybe cars might find you a little annoying when you're first discovering the best way to cycle to work, but even if they do beep at you, apart from the shock factor a beep never injured anyone, and at least that means they see you.
By that same justification a signal such as giving the beeping car in question a certain hand gesture might be an appropriate way of indicating your acknowledgement of their dissatisfaction with you bicycle skills.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Critical Mass Paris - a cycling phenomenon

So after having witnessed an incredibly large gathering of roller bladers in Paris I asked myself could it be possible that cyclists do the same thing? 

After some research, which lets be honest is a little more difficult when your trying to transcend the language barrier, I found out the following.

There is an international movement called “critical mass” this movement is basically a big get together of 100 to 60,000 cyclists going for a group cycle. These events are generally loose in their organisation and lack the kind of leadership that would make it an official organisation or protest. The benefit of the event is a car free cycle through your respective city with many of your fellow cyclists, while making a clear statement about the importance and benefits of cycling. The cars aren't formally blocked but muscled out of the way by the sheer numbers of bicycles. The lack of clear and formal organisation is mainly due to people avoiding legal issues and responsibilities.

rahhh - photo not actually in Paris
The difficult thing for English speaking people researching this movement in Paris though is that its not called critical mass, its called “Velorution and the website seems to currently be under construction because I am currently having problems accessing any specific information from it. Again though this could be due to the fact that it tries to keep a low profile on its events for legal reasons.

However I have managed to ascertain the following information from another website which has the most comprehensive list of meetings I have managed to find to date, and the good news is that YES Paris does have a monthly meeting!

Rides are held on the first Saturday of every month at Place de la Bastille at 2pm.

Being on holidays for the next month means that I wont be able to attend the meeting for August, but to be honest I’d expect that meeting to be pretty calm seeing as most Parisians will be on holidays. 

However if you are interesting a great first hand account there is a great article about it here from another girl who seems to be quite like me.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The history of the banks of the Seine - Paris sur Seine

The seine was once again an occasion for an outing, but this time not actually visiting the river itself but an exhibition about the history of the use of the seine, more notably its use for leisure activities. Having previously expressed my enjoyment of the Paris Plage phenomenon, I’m still going to stand my ground even though many of my friends have repeatedly argued to the counterpoint. 

To be honest the recent poor weather has not helped my enthusiasm either.

What ever about peoples reservations about being attired in swimwear in central Paris, the exhibition about the history of the seine, highlighted it’s rich history full of diverse uses. From fireworks to boat jousting, down to its origins as the central port of Paris before the canals came into operation and even interesting images from the era when Paris's bridges were actually housing.
Q: where do you live? A:Pont Neuf
Also check out this photo of a cyclist launching him self into the Seine, and that was before the redbull flugtag was ever invented!

As the exhibition was free I would definitely recommend attending as it has just the right amount of posters and maps as well as some videos from the later 1900s. Its central location in the Hotel de Ville is also very convenient. The entrance for this exhibition is along the Rue de Rivoli.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

The Tour De France 2011

Okay lets be honest here, I in previous years have always thought the Tour de France was about as interesting as a trip to the Post Museum, I was once again proved wrong and had my interest re sparked when I saw the tour going over the Pont St Nazarre. I became interested, mainly due to the fact that I also have cycled over this huge bridge, which happened to be one of the most amazing, but scary experiences of my cycle holiday in 2009. Following this stage I have been catching up with the Tour de France nearly everyday.

Now don’t think that I’m a hard core cyclist or fan of this sport, as far as I'm concerned the Tour is a thinly veiled international advertisement for the tourism industry of France, with the overhead helicopter hovering for minutes over every slightly significant town church, modern building of note, waterfall, cliff, mountain or even a pack of vultures. These important parts of the cycling competition are even sometimes accompanied by music. To be honest I actually enjoy these little Architectural detours into the sights of provincial French life and it does entice me to perhaps visit these regions. The one thing however that might be a big negative factor to the appeal to these regions are the people, once again the only thing letting the French down are the French themselves. 

Stepping right out onto the road, waving flags in the cyclists faces, taking their shirts off to swing them around,  and even on some of the uphill climbs running along the cyclists while shouting “encouragements” at them. Or even all of the above. All this is the typical behaviour of the average French cycling fan hungry for their 2 seconds of fame. Seriously the competition seems physically hard enough with out having to over come the mental challenge of resisting  the temptation of swinging your fist at a couple of these idiots.

While there have been many an annoying spectator nothing has been more dangerous this year than the media cars that are supposed to be reporting on the tour, who have twice crashed into the cyclists. Resulting in severe physical injury's.

This is unfortunately the second time this level of un-professionalism has been on display from the Media in this years Tour. With over 170 vehicles allowed to drive with the cyclists a greater level of caution and maybe a reduction in the amount of cars should be considered.

Unfortunately this year my impending holidays mean I wont be able to watch the competition finishing up on the Champs Elysée in Paris on the 24th of July and get my own 2 seconds of fame.

Friday, 15 July 2011

"Paris Respire" taking a break from traffic

Working weekend nights has its disadvantages, one of which is not being able to get up early, many is the day where I have viewed and enjoyed the sunshine from the comfort of my bed. However it is not impossible, so following a series of missed weekend days I decided to get out of bed earlier than planned and do something with my day.

One thing I have been meaning to do on a Sunday afternoon is go for a cycle along the Seine, of course you can cycle at any time along the seine, but on a Sunday Paris implements a scheme called “paris respire” this scheme is actually very success full and popular and allows many family's to go out and enjoy a car free Paris. of course the scheme is not in operation in all of Paris, but it is in operation in some of the nicest areas.
I don't know all the locations but here are a few that I am familiar with
  • The Seine
  • Montmartre
  • Canal St Martin
  • The Marais.
The officialwebsite is difficult to navigate but it has an interactive map with the zones indicated as well as options on the left for close up maps of the individual areas such as Montmartre. However I personally find that the best thing to do is have a look at the signs posted in the areas, but since I'm nice ill post a few maps of my favourite cycling areas that I managed to track down.
the Canal

The Seine

Having arranged to meet any friends that were interested, I headed down to the Quai de la Rapée. At the achievable hour of 3pm,  Being somewhat early had its benefits and while waiting a group of about 2000 roller bladers passed by, and left me wondering if there are any similar events for bicycles?
The Weather was fantastic and while it was great to be out enjoying it, we were not the only ones who had a similar idea, and the quays along the seine were chocker block with families walking, roller blading and lounging around.

We enjoyed cruising up and down the seine several times, worth a special mention is the segment of the scheme that runs through the tunnel, the experience of visiting the tunnel with out being in a car is quite surreal, also the best thing about the tunnel is that since its dark most of the pedestrians seem to stay out, which allows you to speed up and stretch your legs while cycling. 
This was a great experience for my friends who had not done much cycling in Paris and especially around main traffic, however a close brush with a zig zagging 5 year old left me thinking maybe traffic is not that bad.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Playing Petanque at the Bassin de la Villette

Why is it when Irish people go anywhere on holiday it rains? 
This stereotype has never been more clearly demonstrated than by my friends recent visit to Paris. one month earlier we had been basking in glorious sunshine and 30 degree heat and next thing you know Irish people arrive and we get rain, clouds and a temperature maximum of 18 degrees.

Anyway after the lamented departure of my Irish compatriots a mandatory heatwave ensued. what to do during the hot weather in Paris is always a difficult question, considering Paris has a complete lack of coast line (a la Dublin) or complete lack of swimmable rivers and lakes (a la Zurich).

Of course the city's way of compensating for this is with the “Paris Plage” this phenomenon is when they shut down some of the streets around the Seine and turn them into “beaches”. A lot of people are quick to criticise these spaces and while they are far from the real thing they do allow people such as myself to don a bikini and douse myself with ice cold water every 20 minutes right in the centre of Paris. 
Nothing seems stranger than sunbathing in said bikini while 200 tourist walk past on the bridge above you on the way to Notre Dame, but having frequented Paris Plage previously in 2008, trust me the break from the heat is a welcome relief.
the grass and deck beaches mean no sand in your swimsuit

However seeing as this year Paris Plage only starts on the 20th of July an alternative has to found, and considering the only thing your likly to enjoy along the seine at the moment is a mouth full of car and tour boat exhaust fumes, the Bassin de la Villette in the 19th seemed like a suitable waterside solution. Cycling along one of my favourite routes by the Canal I once again enjoyed seeing people out enjoying the hot weather, even if it was a little quieter seeing as it was an ordinary working day and the extreme heat was forcing people to stay out of the direct heat.

Having so few people about though was a bonus and upon arriving to the canal I managed to find a perfect spot by the waterside, but with lovely tree casting a shadow onto the ground nearby.

After spreading out my picnic blanket and pillow people slowly started arriving. While the aim of the day had been to play petanque (see my version of rules below), chilling out and chatting seemed higher on the agenda. While we did have one or two games we only ever played to first to 5 instead of the traditional 13. We even managed to get our photo taken for the local website (bottom right), in an article about the heat wave.
our picture from the article

With the sun still beating down and shadows on the south side of the canal becoming more and more scarce we switched sides before hunger finally drove us home. Seeing as it was now quite late in the evening, the canal had completely changed from a meagre scattering of sunbathers earlier in the day, to crowded and busy, with brasseries and cafés in full swing.

Over all a good day and some nice cycling. Also I was very grateful to have my saddlebag with me so I could put the game of boules on my bike, because an 8 ball set is quite heavy.

For those of you not familiar with petanque here is a quick summary the rules I know.

1.    Each person gets 2 balls or “boules”
2.    Someone throws the small ball called the “le cochonnet” or jack
3.    Everyone takes turns to throw 1 of their balls closest to the jack
4.    The furthest person away goes first in the second round of ball throwing , followed by the next furthest ect.
5.    The person with their ball closest gets one point
6.    If the same person owns the 2 closest balls they get 2 points
7.    This traditionally continues until someone reaches 13, or what ever number everyone agrees on, as people get bored easily
Apparently you can play in teams ect, but not too sure about that. I do know that if you are only 2 people you can split the balls evenly getting 3-4 balls each, which means the points go up faster and the game is shorter.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...