Thursday, July 13, 2006


Trip dist: 100 kms. Trip time: 6 hrs, 45 min. Tot dist: 3,613 kms.

So, here in France, the 14th of July is Bastille Day. Celebrations are equivalent in importance to the U.S.'s 4th of July, pretty much, and they start from several days before, including, in particular, the decorating of city building façades in the traditional red, white, and blue of the French flag, the cleaning up of the Champs Elysees, and the organizing of spectacular fireworks shows in picturesque cities such as the medieval old town of Carcassonne.

But one of the neatest things associated with this National holiday, as Dorothee pointed out to me the other day, is the yearly Firemen's ball. Every year on the night of the 13th, each local firehouse (and its multitude of handsome, available, single firemen gentlemen) organizes a ball to which pretty much anyone is invited.

I really wish they had had something like that in Mexico or the U.S. Imagine that. This would be the closest thing to simple "comparison-shopping for a boyfriend at the boyfriend specialty store". Any girl's dream. :)

The ride from Paris to Château-Thierry was very pretty, especially the section from La Fertè-Sous-Jouarre to Château-Thierry on the N3, but it was rather strenuous and with lots of tough hills. I actually wanted to arrive to Reims today, but

1. I had to wait for the silly credit card, which luckily arrived as promised but it means that I did not leave the hostel before 10 a.m. and

2. I wanted to take a last-minute picture of the Eiffel tower for posterity (the picture you see in the post from the 4th of July was actually taken today. Yeah, my pictures time-travelled for this one. So sue me), since I hadn't bothered to take one during my several days' stay here before.

So that (and the multitude of hills) rather made arriving into Reims a bit difficult.

Speaking of hills, that reminds me, during the ride, shortly before arriving into Chateau-Thierry, as I was climbing one of them (tough and strenuous time requiring all of my concentration and which tends to create, due to the effort, a not very benevolent nor patient mood in the typical rider, myself included), a car honked at me just as it passed rather close to me. I tend to find such things rather annoying, because a loud unexpected honk tends to rattle you a bit, makes you wobble the bike, and can be rather dangerous in non-flat terrain (on downhills, because you're going so fast that a wobble can mean a dangerous high-speed skid and fall, and on uphills, because a wobble may make you lose your balance on a slow bike such that you need to step off it, possibly into the main road or unto the uneven shoulder, both options not apetizing if there are other oncoming cars in the first case or if the shoulder is at a lower level relative to the main road). In fact I once met someone who ended up in the hospital with serious burns and scrapes after a truck had honked in passing, not touching the rider, of course, but simply throwing her off balance, with very nasty results (not finishing the race was the most benevolent one of them, as a quick glance to her badly scraped arms and legs had shown). So, not a good thing, and the reaction at this, of course, had immediately started to be one of great annoyance, especially when not more than a second or two later I saw someone from the passanger's seat of the car in question throw something round and bright pink and that looked very much like a used balled-up napkin towards the side of the road just missing me and landing about 10 meters in front of where I was riding. Yes, I had even heard stories of other riders being greeted with rocks pelted at them from people on the streets in some countries, and the anger at the supposition that something looking very much like garbage had just been thrown at me overwhelmed the incredulity that these kinds of things could happen anywhere in Europe, let alone France.

But as I neared the spot where the thing landed, the anger dissolved quickly from my face, and I couldn't help grinning as I delicately picked up the object that had been at me so purposefully directed:

It was a rose.

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