Last week, I discovered the joy of Vélib’, Paris’ public bicycle program. Instead of taking the Métro or walking from arrondisement to arrondisement, I headed to one of the city’s 750 automated rental stations, popped in my credit card and voilà…pulled out a bicycle with which I could tool around town. It was convenient (stations are scattered no more than 300 meters from one another), cheap (the first half hour is free) and eco-friendly.
And while bicycling through the city sometimes had its challenges, such as dodging buses in the dedicated dual bike/bus lanes, it was an overall exhilarating experience. From careening down narrow medieval ruelles to soaking in the city’s most famous monuments along the Seine at night, the City of Lights is as romantic on two wheels as it is au pied. Très chouette!
Velib - Paris' public bicycle system
France charmed me all over again, not that I’m surprised. A nation that takes 2-hour lunches and loves bread, wine and cheese would always have my heart, but she really outdid herself. Wandered medieval villages in Champagne, jogged through electric-green vineyards and soaked in magical Strasbourg. With its half-timbered houses and cobblestone streets and bridges, Strasbourg is Grimm’s fairy tale meets Paris chic with a splash of Amsterdam. I only wish I discovered the city sooner. The food intrigued me with its French, German and Alsatian influences, and there was that unmistakable French joie de vivre, best exemplified by last week’s Fete de la Musique, where the city (like all of France’s cities, towns and villages) shut down and celebrated
In the Petite France neighborhood of Strasbourg, France
the summer solstice with free music performances. A seriously rockin’ good time.
5) Guinness beer…tastes even better on chilly, overcast Irish days, of which there are many; 4) Exceedingly friendly locals, the stories they tell and their charming although at times incomprehensible accents; 3) Full Irish breakfasts; 2) Meat pies; and 1) Live traditional Irish music…makes me wish I had stuck with the violin back in 6th grade.
I would never want to live in medieval Europe. No indoor plumbing and no central heating made for a dirty, smelly, drafty and infested existence. However, medieval castles are pretty darn cool. Visited Trim Castle in Ireland, the site where Braveheart was filmed. Got my fill of arrow slits and murder holes and learned random facts like most tower staircases run clockwise (to give the advantage to right-handed defenders) and that the worst job in history is the gongfarmer.
I love meat pies. Few things make me happier than biting into the soft, gooey inside crust of a pie soaked in braised meat juices. Recently in Ireland, I ate chicken and mushroom pies, steak and Guinness pies and daily full Irish breakfasts with immaculate egg, fried tomato, potatoes, mushrooms, bacon, sausage, black & white pudding and brown bread. If I lived there permanently, I’d be very fat…but very happy.