As I write this, it is minus 23 Celsius outside, even worse with the wind chill. Earlier this week, when I took a walk beside Lake Ontario, the wind roared across the treacherously slippery boardwalk and cut through my coat; today when I go for a walk, I will wear two coats.
The homeless have wisely abandoned the streets for emergency shelters. Snow blocks the garage door and my bicycle is imprisoned. I daydream of Paris: bicycles, colour, and warmth.
Paris is the place to see unusual bicycles, like the one below. Yes, it might look a bit peculiar, but only because the wheel has been turned around; the forks and the modest handlebar should be facing forward.
It seems forever since we lingered at a café and let the sunshine revive us as we idly commented on an unusual bicycle or whatever else caught our attention.
Not all art has to be mechanically sound. But an attached rear brake cable might be advisable here if the bicycle is to be used for travelling, that is.
As with cars, some neighbourhoods are better than others for spotting upscale machines. Is it the aggressive riding stance? The flat black paint? The carbon fibre forks? Do the gold-plated hubs really make it go faster? This is not everyday Paris.
Nor is this colourful bicycle typical; I smiled when I saw it a few days before Christmas several years ago .
If one seeks the everyday, nothing says it better or more often than the famous rental bikes, the Vélibs.
Neatly parked, they frame everyday activities.
You don’t have to go anywhere to make use of the Vélibs. Sit down, make yourself comfortable, catch up on your e-mail, have a smoke, take it easy.
Vélibs are also fun to ride. A couple of years ago, during a June visit, we noticed a charity bike ride on the Champs Elysées on a Sunday afternoon. Of course, we decided to join in. We were given a choice of three charities and decided to do our ten laps each for La Fondation du Patrimoine en Ile-de-France.
It was a glorious event. Afterwards we stopped to listen to a band that was there to motivate the cyclists. What better way to transport a keyboard and sound equipment? There was also a drum on wheels.
The Bassin de l’Arsenal is one of my favourite hangouts. One goes there for the boats and barges, but there are also bicycles. As this English canal barge proceeded through the locks towards the Seine, I chatted with the owner.
We’ve seen many boats with bicycles aboard. Bikes and boats go together as do bikes and Paris: neither has a lot of space to spare.
I never weary of the range of bicycle forms, colour schemes, and accessories. Consider the great variety in panniers or saddlebags.
When you start to look for bicycles, you see them everywhere. Yes, some stick out, but others blend into the landscape as if waiting for someone to discover them. They lure us in.
Some invite into intriguing places we want to explore.
Step off the street and into a courtyard and you are sure to find more bicycles.
Two very common sights: a painted sign invoking the law of 1881 forbidding people from posting signs and a bicycle idly standing by.
On the day we celebrated Philippa’s birthday, we walked through a formal garden where a bicycle waited quietly for someone to return.
One day, we wandered into the Observatoire to see an exhibit. It was stunning and the building itself is an exhibit of another sort; we walked through impressive spaces, up and down time-worn stone stairs. And as I peered through a window, I spotted a bicycle, probably belonging to an employee.
These bicycles probably belong to staff members at the 1728 restaurant on the rue d’Anjou.
Sometimes one finds the whimsical.
Or secret messages.
But even in Paris, time takes its toll.
Sometimes it snows on the bicycles of Paris, but not very often.
Sometimes Paris is where we are lucky enough to go. Other times, Paris is what we dream about. Today is for dreaming.
One day, when it warms up, I will buy some flowers to carry home on my bicycle.
Text and photographs by Norman Ball.