Monday was big, because it meant the used bicycle store was open. I browsed a bit, then decided to check the competition. After much walking, I discovered there was no competition in the used market, and so I went back and bought a Union bicycle for 250€, plus a 52€ chain to keep it from getting stolen. I also had them upgrade the bell, which they did for free. I practiced my French, the store employee practiced his English, and eventually everything was settled. (I did return later to have him adjust the seat height, re-upgrade to bell to one that didn’t jingle with every bump in the pavement, and confirm that the steering was screwed up but not easy to fix.)

Au Réparateur de Bicyclettes

My first destination was the Grand Palais, site of the 1900 Universal Exposition. It’s one of the last such buildings in the world, built to bring thousands of people together, indoors, prior to incandescent lighting (hence the glass roof). The Gaylord Opryland hotel’s gigantic, glass-covered atriums pale in comparison. Built for the arts, its current task was to hold a triennial exhibit of French artists and artists working in France. Being a fan of modern art and especially sculpture and large installations, I couldn’t possibly have been in a better place than the Grand Palais this particular week (the last week of the show). One work included many thousands of photographs, a four-story scaffold tower, an equally tall, rotating stack of large-format photos, and a dozen kitchen knives inviting you to slice off a piece of said photo stack. I hope to experience more of Wang Du’s art in the future. (Photos, ironically, do it no justice.)

Grand Palais interior

Next up was the Champs-Elysées and Plaza d’Étoile. That’s the famous road with all the fancy stores and heavy traffic, followed by the gigantic plaza that circles l’Arc de Triomphe. In theory it’s crazy to ride a lap of that plaza on a bicycle, but really it was the only proper thing to do. (I have since met other cyclists who did the same — something about the plaza calls to us, perhaps.)

French boating seems to involve getting a rather large, old river barge and turning it into what must be 1000 square feet of living space with a low ceiling. We later saw a few of them with cars aboard, so apparently a lot of the docks have hefty ramps to help you load up your cozy river home. One of them took this a step further by sticking an Amphicar on the stern deck. I guess if the river boat sank, they’d have a handy way to power down the river to the nearest ramp and just keep on going.

Amphicar on river barge

Peg arrived today, having spent a week and a half in Prague, just in time for dinner with another old friend. This time the reservation was for 8:00pm — still a bit early, but that was okay because it let us change a two-person reservation into a three-person table with no particular trouble. A night of amazing food and wine commenced.

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