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Cool Rides: An American In Paris
In another installment of our mission to bring the fascination of European cycling to you Homies, today we introduce Breckenridge Cartwright – an Amercain living in Paris. Cycling in the City of Light takes some getting used to, but the rewards are well worth it…

When I first told my friends in the USA that I was indeed moving to France, the jokes were non-stop for days. Now that I am officially living in La Belle France, I’ve discovered that like most big life changes, there are things which frustrate me, and things that I adore.

Another block, another chateau… just your typical Parisian ride.

In Paris there are apparently no traffic lanes. I thought there were when I moved here, as there are quite obviously white lines painted on the roads. But I have discovered that these are indeed only suggestions, kind of like the speed limits. I think the French drivers manual says, “When the light turns red, we suggest that no more than two more cars pass through the intersection.” Frustrating, truly! It’s sort of like the beauracracy, from the “Service” for foreigners to the incredible state-owned power company EDF, these offices are case studies in inefficiency and they have never seen a definition of customer service.

Like most of Europe, you’ll pass lots of monuments on your ride, like the grave of A. Seguin.

However, it must be said that there are things here that I am now completely enamored with. For example, the Parisian Metro. Once you understand it, there is no reason to confuse yourself trying to make sense of the white lines on the road while driving in the city. The five weeks of paid vacation sure is nice too! And the culinary delights are unending as well. I never knew that you could have different varieties of salt, nor did I realize that butter could actually be delicious. The cheese and the bread are world famous, not to mention the wine, but I had no idea there could be so many wonderful varieties of mustard! The thing that tops it all of for me however, is the culture of cycling in France.

Another block, another chateau… just your typical Parisian ride.

The Local Ride
Leaving the house yesterday for a ride into the countryside, I headed out of the apartements to the nearby Piste Cyclable and entered it at the same time as another rider. I rode up to him and asked if I could snap a photo for PezCycling News, to which he responded, “Sure, but let’s go meet my buddies” (or something like that in French). As we met up with the rest of the group, he quickly explained my intentions, and I got my group shot. Then the
conversation started, and within moments I was riding along with them on their group ride.

Parisian hammerheads.

I mentioned I’d like to get a shot of a couple of monuments which might be close to the route they were taking. This inspired a flurry of debate as to the route, which side of the road the monuments were on, and which order would be best to pass them in, with everybody chipping in. We rode up moments later to the first, a small roadside memorial to 17 year old A. Seguin who “fell under German bullets” at that spot during the occupation of France in the second world war. It was located at the bottom of our first hill of the day, Vauhallan.

As we crested this small hill, a few drops of rain began to fall, and we began to enter the countryside. Incredible, not more than 15 kilometers from the Eiffel Tower and there are cornfields and horses.

Foreign Policy At The Bus Stop
A few minutes later we came to the Center for Nuclear studies at Saclay, and the sky opened up. We grabbed the only available shelter, a bus stop, and all huddled in. The conversation started with Armstrong and they made jokes about doping, to which I quickly countered with a remark about Virenque. Roars of laughter responded to this one, and within moments we had opened the can of worms known as politics. All of a sudden I had six animated Frenchmen expressing their opinions passionately.

As the passion rose, the speed of the conversation increased and so did the use of liasons and native expressions. This combined with my concentration being spread amongst them all greatly reduced my comprehension, and I was unable to answer them all. Luckily, about this time it stopped raining and we headed back out onto the road leaving me to explain American foreign policy to one set of ears at a time.

Meeting The Lantern Rouge
As the roads began to dry out, and finally the sunshine came peeking through, we dropped down into the valley Chevreuse which is a large national park dotted with little villages. In the first one we came to, we stopped at the local bike shop, Espace Bellouis. Apparently Mr. Bellouis had the unique honor of being the Lanterne Rouge in the 1972 Tour de France, finishing just over four hours after the great Eddy Merckx while riding for team Gitane, and now he has his bike shop in one of the best riding areas in the Ile De France.

La shoppe de la lanterne rouge.

Soon after our stop, this little ride turned into a “Tour de Chateau”. We visited Chateaus Madline, Dampierres, and Breteuil before returning back to the Parisian suburbs. But there was one last stop to make. The holy shrine of the local cyclists, on the former course of the GP Nations, it was the memorial to Jacques Anquetil. I haven’t got the words to describe the strangely cool feeling seeing this gave me. What a great way to be indoctrinated into a bit of the local cycling culture!

Until next time,
Keep spinning those cranks!
– Breck

Breckenridge Cartwright is a 30 year old American actually living in Paris. He recently married his French girlfriend, and will be working as a consultant – as soon as the French government processes his paperwork. For now he’s enjoying the riding around the City of Light.

And yes, that’s his real name, but you can call him “Breck” for short.


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