15 May 2009

May showers

It rained today in Paris. And yesterday. And the day before. And the day before that. And the forecast calls for rain through Tuesday. It's getting tiresome, but we've had such a great Spring here, it's hard to get too put out by it.

The shower in the bathroom, on the other hand, is another matter. Forgive me if we've already written about this, but the shower's been on my mind. In our (limited) experience, the quintessential French shower is a normal sized bathtub with a handheld shower head on a short leash (think kitchen sink sprayer) and with a 2.5-foot glass partition that serves as a feeble spray barrier. This was the set-up in our hotel when we came looking for apartments, in our hotel in Strasbourg, and in 14 of the 17 apartments we saw.

The alternative showers in the other 3 apartments were almost enough overcome the apartments' other faults, but we chose one of the 14. And even though we've pimped it out with a real shower curtain, I'm not a big fan. As someone who stands 6" taller than the average French male (and, perplexingly, seemingly only 7" taller than the average French female), the mount for our handheld shower just about reaches my belly button. And since the shower head tilts downward when in its cradle, hands-free hair washing requires contortion more commonly associated with prayer rugs or Twister. I can hardly reach into the rear pockets of my jerseys on the bike-- I'm just not flexible enough to bend that way first thing in the morning. Combined with unimpressive water pressure and an especially knuckleheaded ledge that slopes away from the tub toward the walls, so that water collects there like a moat and festers if you don't remove it all with sponge every morning, it's an underwhelming cleansing experience.

But just as I'd gotten used to its peculiarities, we spent most of a week in Vienna. Though the shower at the hotel used a similar head, it had a longer tether and a pole mount that allowed changing height and angle and even extended beyond the top of my head. Ability to stand upright, no fetid water pooling on the ledge? Sweet. Not to mention pressure enough to power-clean an elephant-- I ran it at about half-throttle to avoid injury. Coming back to Paris on Sunday was nice, and felt surprisingly like returning home, but that first shower was a real bummer.

For all of its failings as a shower, however, it turns out that our shower makes a darned good bike wash.

Literally 20 seconds into my ride, it started pouring and rained for the rest of the ride. At one point, when the wind kicked up, it was raining sideways and what was left of the blossom clusters on the trees at Longchamp were bouncing off my face. While I don't necessarily seek out that kind of weather, I like a good rainstorm if I'm already on the bike, especially if, like today, I have intervals to do-- if you're going to suffer, why not go all the way?

Anyway, the bike and I were filthy on returning to the apartment, so I rinsed what I could with the unused water bottle I'd brought with me (with all the dog poo on every paved surface in Paris, drinking from a bottle on a rainy day is too disgusting to contemplate), tried to get in the building and up the elevator without anybody else seeing and objecting, and then pulled the wheels off and cleaned everything in the shower. The handheld nozzle made cleaning the frame and wheels a breeze, and the low water pressure didn't threaten the seals or bearings. And now that the rain has stopped, for a while at least, the windy balcony is the perfect place to dry everything off.

So maybe it's not so bad, after all. Now if only I could find a use for that moat.


  1. When it started to rain, what proportion of the riders at Longchamps continued riding?

  2. On a completely different topic, these addresses may occasionally come in handy:

  3. A particularly funny post. Thanks for the needed laugh on a nasty Monday.

  4. Very few out there in the hard rain by the time I got there, so I'm guessing it's pretty low. Most of the people there in the middle of the day aren't "training," though, so no real reason to suffer through it.

    A couple of the places in your are already on my to-visit list, so that's nice confirmation. I've been intrigued by the candied violets since I had a violet caramel from one of the chocolatiers awhile ago...

  5. I've been out there when a few drops starting falling and the peloton melted away like the Wicked Witch of the West. I thought it was kinda funny.

    Violet caramel sounds like gilding the violet.