Sep 27, 2015

Car-free and Care-free: Pavé Corrézien


Touted as the first car-free day (journée sans voiture) in Paris, it's neither completely car-free, nor completely covering Paris. But it's a glorious Indian summer day with sunny blue skies, less air pollution than usual, huge line-ups for Velib' (city rental bikes), and everybody and their mother with the same idea: to ride up the Champs-Elysées. I'm one of those mothers.

Anthony, Gigi, and I (Pippa is at a gymnastics training session all day) rent bikes and ride into the Marais -- which is always car-free on Sundays. We ride by the quai, but not on it, because that is also car-free on most Sundays. What's most fun for us is to ride out onto some of the big roads and just toodle through Paris with less-than-usual regard for safety. Yes, I know we're not even wearing helmets. Somehow, when you're riding in the middle of the road (and in the middle of Place de la Concorde!), it seems like a futile nod to safety. I think the thing most likely to injure us as we ride along Paris streets is the vibration over the old cobblestone sections.


There are some cars on the car-free roads -- especially taxis and buses. The car-free zone is mostly a circle in the center, with a few tentacles reaching out, like up the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe. We ride up it most of the way, till the crowds deter us.

My favorite part of the ride is coming back along the quai on the Right Bank, where we bikers have the grand boulevard largely to ourselves. I'm rather taken with the scenery as we bike by the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvres. It's a fun perspective to see it from here, by bike, and for once, I can actually stop in the middle of the road and take photos to my heart's content.

People are out in droves, enjoying the sunny Sunday: long ice cream lines on the island, performers out in full force and earning decent tips. And bikes, bikes -- everywhere you look, bikes.

People seem to be in a good mood today -- even those who can't rent bikes. I think the Velib' machines are overloaded; just after we return our bikes into the last three empty slots, we notice the machine won't allow anybody else to rent one (and since that means no spaces liberated, nobody can return one either). It's a bit of a mess, but frankly even the people affected don't seem so frustrated. They might just have to walk their way through car-free Paris instead of bike it, but either way, it's a lovely, almost car-free, very care-free, largely pollution-free day.

THE CHEESE: Pavé Corrézien

Pavé Corrézien is a raw cows' milk from south-central France, in the department of Corrèze, in the region of Limousin (feminine, adjectival version: Limousine). The region of Auvergne, famous for such cow cheeses as Cantal, is right next to both the department and the region.

Unlike a fruity, nutty Cantal, the Pavé Corrézien is mild. I might even call it dull. In fact, I just did. It's aged three months or more (but not much more, clearly) into an absolutely average-tasting, fine, unexceptional cow cheese, and I'm glad I get just a sample slice, because I would be disappointed to buy a huge hunk and then dig in at home.


Riding over the pavement today, and bouncing over the cobblestone pavers, I can't help but pair our afternoon with a cheese that's Pavé, too. However, while the day is exceptional -- in both the meanings of "unusual" and "lovely" -- the cheese is not.

In a nice coincidence, the Pavé I sample at the market a few days ago but haven't found a story for (until now) comes from Corrèze, which makes this a tomme Limousine (from Limousin, that is). A limousine is also one of the few kinds of cars (along with buses, taxis, emergency vehicles, delivery vehicles, and moving trucks) that would have been allowed on today's closed roads, if it could have found space between all the bikers.  


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