13 November 2009

Mid-week weekend

Nov 11 is Armistice Day. Unlike the United States, where the remembrance has grown to encompass all veterans, here in France it is still a day of remembrance for those who lost their lives in WWI, which is a heckuvalot of people. The armistice treaty ending the war on the western front was signed in a railway car in the forest of Compiègne, a little north of Paris, where a replica of the car can be visited today (never one to pass on symbolism, Hitler chose the original car as the site for French surrender in WWII, then had it hauled off and blown up by the SS). The last of the French WWI veterans died last year, a rather amazing 90 years after the armistice signing, and so the nature of the celebrations for this holiday may change, but for now it's still a major holiday. A parade down the Champs is standard, and this year German chancellor Angela Merkel was in Paris for the observation, the first Armistice Day visit by a German leader.

We didn't see the parade, though. Since it was a holiday, Karen had the day off from work. And since it wasn't raining for a change, we took the opportunity to get in a mid-week bike ride. We considered exotic destinations, riding a bunch of hours to someplace new and taking a train back, or heading up north of the city by train to ride in the rolling hills and fall colors of the Oise valley. But in the end, it was more of the same, ie, destination: Chevreuse. Even so, there were still some vivid colors on the cold, damp ride.

In the end, the safe/known path turned out to be a good one, since it took less than 90 minutes for the stabbing pain from my Blois trip to make a reappearance. As we pulled over to discuss our options, we saw we were fittingly at rue de 11 Novembre. And though the train back into town took as long as the ride out of town, we were lucky to have gotten to the station moments before it departed, because between the holiday and the ongoing regional rail mini-strike, the next train wasn't for a long while. Even luckier, we escaped a right-on-red (not allowed in France) directly in front of a police van with just a long and patronizing scolding instead of 90-euro tickets.

But best of all, after hot showers, some lunch, and basking in the afternoon sun that poured through our big front windows (where was that during the ride?), we were invited to dinner at friends', where we shared good company, food, and wine. A treat on any day, and especially luxurious on a Wednesday.

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