Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Roller est parisien

Last weekend, I achieved a lifelong dream. Well five-years or so long, anyway. On Sunday afternoon, I glided for three hours through the streets of Paris on my rollerblades, surrounded by a police escort and unhindered by the capital's infamous traffic, pedestrians or even dog dirt. Me and several thousand other people, that is.

I first heard about the famous Pari-Roller several years ago when I was a member of Nancy's more diminutive Rollver association. While in Nancy around 30 people were wheeling their way along darkened cycle paths, dodging tramlines at every junction (it was actually a lot of fun and I would recommend it to anyone who lives in the region), in Paris, thousands take to the streets every Friday night and have the power to stop even Parisian drivers in their tracks.

While the idea of rollerblading in Paris had always appealed to me, however, the practicalities did not. For one thing, Pari-roller has a reputation for being very, very fast. For another, at ten o'clock on a Friday night, I am more likely to be relaxing with a glass of wine than heading out for three hours of extreme sporting endeavour.

So I was pleased to discover the association Rollers et Coquillages, which organises more sedate outings, accompanied by police and experienced staff on a Sunday afternoon. I was a little bit worried that the Parisians might roller blade the way they drive, but in fact everybody was very good about breaking carefully and not crashing into each other. The most hazardous part was definitely the cobblestones – most of Paris' streets are tarmac but the junctions tend to be paved with small square cobbles that tend to trip you up and give you a pounding headache and distorted vision if you stay on them too long. Luckily, for every shaky corner, there were long stretches of glorious smooth avenues, and I have now well and truly got over my fear of bumps in the road!

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