Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cycling Pictures from afar: Part Quatre - Velib

In a recent post, I mentioned that I had the pleasure of riding a Velib rental bicycle in Paris, France. Velib bicycles are a great way to get around Paris. Velib bicycles are practical, commuter bicycles.
Renting a Velib is not hard, especially if you have the right type of credit card. You will need a credit card with a RFID chip, such as the one pictured below. Chase is not the only bank which offers these cards. {Photo of credit card below courtesy of Chase Bank}. You can also rent a Velib with your Navigo pass (a special kind of Paris Metro Pass), but you will need a subscription, nevertheless.
There are several rental subscription options available for renting a Velib. The cheapest, the one day option costs 1,70 €. However, if you return the bike to a Velib station within the first 30 minutes of renting one, there is no charge. Sometimes, this is where it can get tricky. You may not find a station, closest to your destination, for returning your Velib and you may have to go another block or so and return your Velib at the next station. I didn't run into this problem, but I did run into a couple of people who could not return their bicycles at a Velib station and had to go find another station with an empty spot. But, given there are so many stations in Paris, it really is not that big a deal.

At the Velib stations, the instructions for renting a Velib are in French and one or two other languages. There is an English option. A typical Velib station looks as shown in the very first picture in this post. Obviously, you (may) see a bunch of bicycles parked there.

The renting platform/machine is self-serve and is as shown below.
Here is a close-up of the Velib renting machine. The system is self-explanatory, but the one I used once  switched from English to French, throwing me a curve ball. Even though there is a Paris, Texas, we don't speak much French here. I have promised myself that I will get better at French, just in case there is another trip in the future.
After you pay for the bike, a bike is released by the electronic system. A green light on the docking station (the structure to which the Velib is attached prior to renting) blinks telling you that your Velib is ready for you to take out. 
At this point, you just pull out the bike from of the docking station and ride. When done, you return your Velib to a docking station at a Velib station. 

It is a good idea to check that after you return your Velib, the renting machine does not say that you have a Velib on rental! If it does, ascertain that the Velib you returned in secured docked into the docking station. There is a phone number to call in case of problems, but I did not use my Mobile service when in Paris. 

Note: All Velib bicycles are equipped with a cable lock for the renter's convenience. This cable lock is NOT what you use to secure your bike when you return it to a Velib station!
I was very impressed with the practical aspects of the Velib bicycles. They had some desirable features:

1. All Velib bicycles are equipped front and rear mudguards. 2. Velib bicycles use a Shimano Nexus 3-speed IGH (internally geared hub) and they were outfitted with Schwalbe Marathon tires.
3) All Velib bicycles have a Shimano hub dynamo in the front wheel, which power the front and rear lights on the Velib bicycles.
 4) Velib bicycles have a front basket, so one can carry her/his handbag/other valuables or shopping bags.
5) All Velib bicycles have a kickstand.

6) Each Velib bicycle comes with diagrams on its handlebars that give some common sense directions on how to drive a Velib safely. Paris has bicycle lanes all through the city (at least all the places I saw in Paris had a bicycle lane and I went to quite a few places in the City of Paris).
 More directions on how to operate the Velib bicycle!
There is a click shifter for the IGH.

To ride a Velib bicycle, a helmet is not mandatory, but I believe Velib boutique sells helmets. I didn't see a lot of Velib riders with helmets on. Most Velib riders were in street clothes.
Velib bicycles are maintained very well. However, you may find an odd one that is not in top notch shape. So, before you roll out, do you an ABC quick check. In fact, I recommend you do that with all bicycles, Velib or otherwise.

In all, I was very happy with the Velib system. I only wish I had more time to ride one. Who knows that future holds? :)

Have a Happy Memorial Day/weekend!

Paz :)

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The first class I taught as an LCI

Last Saturday, I led the League of American Bicyclists' Cycling Skills 123 aka Children's Bike Rodeo class at the Irving Bike Fest. I was contacted about this class when I was in Paris. I immediately accepted the opportunity to teach, especially given it was a wonderful opportunity to teach young children how to ride a bicycle.

My buddy Francesca was instrumental in getting all the necessary gear and organizing all the vendors for the event from BikeDFW. We had DART, Bike Shop from Grapevine, etc, participate in the Irving Bike Fest. In addition, Francesca was kind enough to accompany me to the venue, the day before and help me plan a rough idea of the bike stations for the class.

Last year, we had my friend and League Director, Gail Spann present at the fest with her awesome High-wheels. Gail couldn't make it this year due to some urgent family matters. Other important attendees, last year, included my cycling buddy Steve of DFWPTP and Paul Hakes of DORBA. Below is a picture of Gail, from last year!
This year, Irving ISD (Independent School District) were notified of the Bike Fest and Bike Rodeo and we were expecting a reasonable turnout. I desperately need a few extra hands at the Bike Rodeo and I was fortunate to have Steve, my friend Arjun - a budding cycling enthusiast and Francis (a new Traffic Skills 101 graduate), who helped me make the class a success.

We had a total of four stations in the Bike Rodeo. The first one, which I manned was the helmet check and the bike check report validation station. Pictured below is the Bike Check station (red and blue pop-up tent) (pictured below).
At Station 1, I simply made sure that the helmet was worn properly and also validated the bike check report: bikes were checked prior to coming to my station, Station 1. At least 5 kids came through to my station, without a helmet. I had to make them wait, until a loaner helmet was available. Almost all of the kids who showed up without a helmet got to ride with a loaner helmet. A couple didn't want to wait and hence they could not ride in the Bike Rodeo. 

Mr. Bob Chaplin (pictured below in the professional LCI jersey, fitting a helmet on a kid), another LCI, brought half-a-dozen helmets to give away. There were enough takers for them alright. Thanks, Bob!
After the checks and validations at Station 1, children were instructed to ride in a straight line, between some cones, to Station 2.

Station 2 was manned by my dear friend Arjun. At Station 2 was a STOP sign. 
At Station 2, the children came to a full stop, put their feet on the ground, got the instructions on how to proceed to Station 3 from Arjun and then proceeded as directed to Station 3.

Station 3 was manned by none other than Steve! Steve showed the kids how to scan, signal and ride through a curvy path, onto Station 4.
Station 4 was manned by the very patient Francis (pictured below), who was great with kids. Francis showed the children how to do a Figure Eight on their bikes. In the picture below, Francis is enjoying a smoothie he created using the Bike Blender!
After Station 4, the children had the option to do a Slow Cycle Race or to leave the Bike Rodeo. In the picture above, you can see the tennis balls used in the Slow Cycle Race, behind Steve. The Slow Cycle Race was manned by Mr. Yoshi (not pictured!).

The infamous Bike Blender. This thing actually worked and quite a few created and relished their own smoothie!
Last, but not the least, Francesca, the coordinator-extraordinaire of the Irving Bike Fest. Thank you, Francesca.
Thank you Steve, Arjun and Frances. I could not have done it without you guys! Your help is much appreciated.

Thank you, City of Irving, for the Irving Bike Fest. This is the third year I have participated in the Irving Bike Fest and I absolutely love it. This year was the first year I participated as a League Cycling Instructor, who led the Bike Rodeo. I had a blast and I look forward to many more Irving Bike Festivals!

Did y'all notice it is almost Friday? :)

Paz :)

LCI # 3059

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Cycling Pictures from afar: Part Trois

View 1.0: Where there is the willingness to accept others, there is a great place to co-exist!
Seen at the Arch de Triomphe in Paris, France!
See the cyclist amidst all those cars? The cyclist is driving his bicycle in a vehicular fashion: predictably, moving with traffic, in the direction of the traffic, obeying the rules of the road.

Yes, it is possible for automobiles and bicycles to co-exists. Heck, there is plenty of room in this world for every creature, animate or inanimate, to co-exist; live alongside.

Bicycles are no exception!

View 1.1: Street scene from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France
Notice the pedicab adjacent to the bus? It is not in a bike lane. While it may be one equipped with electric-assist, it still can not fly as fast as an automobile or a scooter. Yet, it has a respectable place in traffic. Why? It is because the French have accepted bicycles as vehicles and hence they too have a place in traffic. Something some American cities should learn. Hopefully soon!
View 1.2: Street scene from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France
Velo = Transport! Damn skippy! I wanted to ride one of these, but I felt guilty that the driver will have to work hard carrying my fat American body :) Perhaps, next time, after I lose a bunch of weight :)
View 1.3Street scene from Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris, France
This pedicab guy was so busy. He seemed to be always working. We were on Street scene from Avenue des Champs-Élysées for several hours and saw several pedicabs. They were busy, carrying tourists and the locals, from point to point, polluting the least amount. It was very heartening to see alternate modes of transportation. No, I don't mean a hybrid car, although I have not anything against them.

Hope your week is going by fine!

Take care. I hope to see you here soon.

Paz :)

A Brompton in Paris

I am back from my R&R and feeling very good. My knee pain has subsided and I am able to ride. Yay!

Last month, I was away on vacation in France. I spent a lot of time in Paris. What a lovely place!
I took a boat load of pictures in Paris. I am posting a majority of them on my other blogs.

Here is one that's appropriate for this blog.
I did not see a lot of Bromptons in Paris. I may have seen 3-4 during the time I stayed there. Part of me wished I had taken my Brompton to Paris. But, I walked a lot and that made me burn enough calories, so I can whatever I wanted.

I cycled a bit in Paris. There will be a post about that sometime soon, on one of my blogs.

Oh, by the way, did you know my other blogs? Click on the photos below and they will take you right to my blogs.

How is cycling in your neck of the woods? Will you care to tell me about it through a comment of through a post on your blog? :)

Paz :)

Monday, May 21, 2012

Great Vegetarian Food in Paris!

Check out my write-up about Cafe Ginger, Paris, France! Click on the photo below!
Paz :)

Cafe Ginger: A Must for a Vegetarian in Paris!

As mentioned in the last post, we went on vacation to Paris, France. While a few of my colleagues tried to convince me that there would be no good vegetarian food in Paris, I didn't believe it. In fact, I ate only vegetarian food while in Paris.

Another incorrect belief: The French don't like Americans. This is so not true! We were treated so nicely by every place in France. We found some French citizens that went out of their way to help us. Mind you:  we don't speak a lot of French! There are nice people all over the world. And, did I mention that I believe in paying' it forward?s

The best place we ate at in Paris was Cafe Ginger. The food was phenomenal and the ambience was nothing short of casual yet elegant.

For those who may want to get the address right away, without having to read the rest of this post, Cafe Ginger is located at:
9 Rue Jacques Coeur
Paris, France 75004

Cafe Ginger is owned and operated by Edward and Daniela, two fantastic people. Over and above the really great vegetarian/vegan food, the owners are yet another reason to frequent Cafe Ginger. They are really pleasant and they make you feel at home.

In fact, it was at Cafe Ginger that I first came across Gosmaio, which I posted about recently. Of course, Cafe Ginger's version was tastier than mine, but I am working on perfecting mine as well.

Cafe Ginger serves a formula for lunch and dinner. You can also order items ala carte. The prices are very reasonable and the portions are very filling.

 Most dishes, if not all, are made from scratch at Cafe Ginger. Here you can see Edward preparing one such a delicious dish!
We ate three times at Cafe Ginger during our stay in Paris. We wish we could have done it more than three times, really.

The first meal we had consisted of a really tasty Moroccan Red Lentil soup. The bread served with it is made by Cafe Ginger and it was crispy and very tasty as well. Gosmaio made a great accompaniment to the Red Lentil soup.
 Here is a close-up of the Red Lentil soup.

The next course consisted of steamed buckwheat, curried leeks - zucchini, Célérité, a beet salad, a greens and sprouts salad, and a wonderful tasting corn pie with mushrooms and caramelized onions. Did I mention the house ketchup was tangy, spicy and made my mouth water?

Pictured below is our second meal. One major change was the Zucchini pie. The fennel served with the meal added a very nice fragrant dimension which made the meal super special.
Meal # 3: Exquisite Carrot and red cabbage salad, served with Quinoa with kasha, Célérité, green olives, curried veggies, bread and salad with sprouts. The first course was the ever tasty Sour de jour - Lentils, Moroccan!
 My wife ordered the Potato pie with her meal. While it is not pictured here, the Shepherd's Pie at Cafe Ginger is also very tasty.
The pies at Cafe Ginger were made with a crust that had the same consistency of a Chapati. The crust was not greasy and oily. The pies were perfect!

We were very comfortable there. The owners spoke excellent French, but they were also accommodating of those who didn't speak any French. All our conversations, perhaps with the exception of pleasantries, were in English.

The ambience at Cafe Ginger reminded me of my own home. The restaurant was not stuffy, like some other ones we went to, while in Paris.
 Clean, functional and nicely equipped kitchen!
For a Boisson, you had quite a few choices at Cafe Ginger. My wife got the Macha Tea.
This was real tea: none of that unidentifiable stuff!
A close-up of the tea leaves!
 I am not a big fan of tea, all the time. I ordered un cafe! Precise!!

If you look closely, you will see the coffee is served in good quality China!

Cafe Ginger satisfied your sweet tooth as well. We did not have any desserts at Cafe Ginger, but I would bet they are awesome, just like the rest of the stuff there.
For those who wanted Chocolat, there was plenty!

Decoration or real? I am actually not certain. But looks great either way!
 An extensive collection of exotic teas awaits you at Cafe Ginger.
Who's that pretty woman? :)
Edward was kind enough to let us check out the latest edition of Paris Vegetarien. While the magazine listed other vegetarian restaurants, we really didn't need to go any place else. Cafe Ginger was it for us!
 Cafe Ginger was a very clean restaurant. This was extremely important for us. The place was tastefully decorated.
 Even the bathroom sink was unique and pretty!
 Quaker: Whoda thunked?
Another nice decoration! By the way, for those who are allergic to gluten, there are gluten-free options available.
 we found some interesting books on display at Cafe Ginger. Might check these out at the library.
 More books!
 Nice paintings on the wall!

Another view of the dining area.

If you are a sensitive vegetarian like me, please note that Cafe Ginger respects the vegetarian way of life and supports it.
 Bio = Organic, I think!
 Outside Cafe Ginger: One of the few places where there wasn't cigarette smoke :)
If your travels takes you to Paris and you are a vegetarian like me, I would strongly recommend Cafe Ginger to you.

It is a lovely place. Hope you get to enjoy it as much as we did!

Bon appétit :)