Paris may be a chic and sophisticated city of ties, high heels and expensive wine, but it also gets down to exercise and adventure in my favorite ways. My exploration today turned out to be a bit of a drool fest as I found two great bike shops, a climbing shop, a backpacking shop and a store that only carried top notch winter clothing.
At the bike shop with the Trek Speed Concept above (fully spec'ed out Radioshack Nissan Trek Edition) I came at the perfect time to watch the end of today's Veulta stage and discuss it with the 6 guys there. It was a very fast conversation but they understood me and I took in some of what they said.
The other bike shop was even better, and I practiced my French there. Cycles Laurent (no picture, sorry) is a shop on Avenue Voltaire that has been around for over 30 years. Despite its tiny space, it was packed with so much stuff. I'll definitely be going back for service and cool Euro jersey's (maillots) there. There I talked to the owner about racing, and he gave me the number of hopefully my future club's president, Jean-Paul, of Paris Cycliste Olympique. More to come on that. I've also done some research on riding around here and have come to the conclusion that the beginning and ends of my rides are going to suck always because it is hard to get out of the city on a bike. But I can find the less traveled roads at least.
After a week of intensive language class and various interactions, I am feeling much better about my French. I had a good conversation on the street today with a guy selling old bike jerseys (another place worth a return visit). We spend a good five minutes haggling on price. I finally told him I wasn't a tourist, I live here and it isn't possible to pay what he wanted and slowly walked away, thinking he would call to me and say OK, like they do in America. He didn't, but it was ok, it was the conversation that counted.
Other than that, I wandered around a lot, I saw the Seine, Pont Neuf (the park in the middle of the Seine), the Sorbonne (where I will study) and of course a lot of cool neighborhoods and buildings today. I also ate some great cheap food, per usual. The Sorbonne is huge and I got super scared of studying there. But you don't know until you try.
I've come to the intermediate conclusion that if you want to eat cheap, you don't get to sit down in an establishment. Everywhere costs less to order takeaway, "cheap" restaurants are not cheap, and grocery stores and little markets are incredibly good deals with great food. My food cost for today: 1 euro for an espresso, 85 cents for a baguette, 90 cents for a pain chocolate, 2 euro for a banana, pear and a peach and about 50 cents worth of the cheap (and delicious) camembert cheese I bought last week. In total, tonight's dinner groceries cost about 3 euro, and I'll be feasting. Adds up to somewhere between 8 and 9 euro for a days worth of great food. That is less than an entree at a restaurant for one meal. Go figure.
Obviously, I'm not going to be stingy all day every day. I went to a great crepe restaurant last night. Since I'm sort of straddling the line between a really long vacation and living a starving student's life, I've got to choose which days are which. Today was a budget day.
One last thought on food. The baguettes are nearly tear-inducing they are so good. For 85 cents I bought a baguette that was fresh out of the oven. The tradition of fresh bread here is one of my favorites. Also, there is a place on every block that can make a great espresso for a euro in about 30 seconds. Bread and coffee, what more do you need? How about some pictures?