Bicycling in Paris: Profiles in Courage and Brioche

But things weren’t as glum as I’d feared they’d be thanks to the thoughtful people at the RATP, Paris’s metro and bus system.  While the RATP gives no quarter to handicapped people on their subways (the many staircases and long distances you have to walk to change lines makes them a nightmare for anyone not fit enough to be on an Olympic team), they make it easy for hearty city-dwellers to skip public transportation by renting bicycles.

Yes, I had to take the metro to Les Halles and walk a tad to get to the RATP bike shop, but once I was there, patient Malik set me up with wheels tout de suite.


Here are the basics:  you can reserve a bicycle online, but you’ve got to do it one day in advance.  Bicycles are rented by the hour, day, weekend or week and the rental includes a lock, front basket, babyseat (if you want it) and helmet.  I rented mine for eight days for 39 Euros and I’ll be sad to give it back – it’s a fun little ride.

What’s not fun is cycling in traffic if you’re as much of a scaredy-cat as I am.  Happily, most of the major streets in Paris have bicycle lanes; unhappily, cyclists have to share these with buses and taxis.  Still, it’s not as difficult as it is in New York. 

Today, I pulled off my biggest triumph:  I crossed la Place de la Concorde, a circle that defeats me even as a pedestrian. 


I would have tried for a better picture, but when the light changed there was no hesitating.

The only reason I attempted the Concorde – I still can’t believe I did it (actually, I did it twice: it was a round-trip) – was to see the newly redecorated and reorganized Fauchon.  I mean, would I risk my life for anything less important than pastry?


Christian Beicher, the architect who made Pierre Herme’s rue Vaugirard shop a study in gaiety, did the new Fauchon and it’s got his trademark many colors.  Whatever snootiness may have surrounded Fauchon is gone and the grand old specialty shop is now as friendly as Disney World and very picnicable – there are lots of ready-to-go salads and main courses and lots of stools and counters for on-the-spot eating.


These days, Fauchon is playing with color in their pastries as well.  They’ve gone crazy with their eclairs


and here’s their new take on brioche


They now have lemon, raspberry and coffee brioche – you can tell which one’s which by their cute little color-coded tops.  I brought a cafe brioche home and was surprised to discover that it was filled with a jellyish coffee cream – think Krispy Kreme with finesse. 

Given that I had to face the Place de la Concorde again, I wished I’d liked the brioche more, so the prize would have been “worth the journey,” as the Michelin people say. 

What was worth the journey – even if it was just down the street – was my regular lunch in my regular cafe: a tartine viande de Grisons, Swiss air-dried beef on toasted, buttered Poilane bread, at Au Chai de l’Abbaye, my own little Cheers.



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