Bikes and Baguettes

Tuesday, March 1, 2011  at 7:00 AM

Four days after I moved into my French apartment in 2007, I ambled downtown, looking for a thrift shop.  I had a focused mission--no perusing old dishware, no lingering over old silk scarves, non!  Today was a Bike Day.  The day merited the capital letters as it had been a solid five years since I had last been on a bike.  However, the metro was expensive and unreliable (it seemed that striking was more of a past-time than a political statement for the French) and walking at a brisk pace still took forty minutes to get to town.


I turned the corner from my University and there, on the cobblestone sidewalk, a row of battered old bikes beckoned.  If they had been sold in the United States they would have been advertised as vintage, but the French use and re-use their modes of transportation much like they move through the shells of buildings constructed five hundred years ago, so this was merely a not-so-new collection of bicyclettes.


Stumbling over my clumsy tongue I delivered a jumble of french words to the shop-owner, hoping that he understood that I needed a bike that was reliable and easy to use, one that would not need any repairs but one that also would not need to be quick.  He pulled out a dusty blue bike and gestured for me to try it.  This ended up being an embarrassing, wobbly experience as I clambered on a bike again, unfamiliar from years apart.

My 'reliable, easy-to-use' bike ended up lacking one out of two brake levers and had only one usable gear (the highest one, which led me to walking it up even the slightest of hills), but the bike rides twice a day bolstered both my confidence and my wind-power, and it was in fact easy to use.

I love the artwork of Nancy LaBerge Muran, especially this series of bike paintings.  All of her work can be found at WatercolorByMuran.
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