As our tour this far has not included much time for sight-seeing, we took the opportunity on Tuesday night after the concert, in the form of cycling around Paris. In Paris they have a brilliant city bike network system; the city is sprinkled with racks of bikes, for people to hire at any time of day for any amount of time. Our nocturnal cycling team consisted of three flute players; myself, Katy Bircher and Brinley Yare, countered by organist James Johnstone, who possibly has more notes to play in the Matthew Passion than all us flutes put together.
As our concert in Poissy did not finish until close to midnight, and it took another hour to get back to our hotel in Paris, it was already past 1am when we started our bike ride. First I was a bit sceptical about this cycling idea, not least because I felt the strong pull of gravity towards my bed after a very long day and concert. Fortunately it is impossible to feel sleepy in the fresh night air. We rented bikes right opposite our hotel for one euro each! It took us a while to figure out how the ticket machine worked, but after that, using the bikes was very straight-forward, though they were not exactly fancy racing bikes. It was magical whizzing through Paris at night time, and it felt almost unreal passing the big sights in hardly any traffic. We all were feeling quite euphoric; it was like time had stopped and we had the whole of Paris to ourselves! First we wanted to cycle on the Champs Elysées to experience a little patch of the Tour de France route – this was a bit of a pilgrimage for passionate bike racers Katy and James. (Brinley and I cycle in London too, but only as a way to get from one place to another.) I was a little terrified at the Place de la Concorde, as the traffic there seems always so fast and chaotic at day time, but now I can say I have cycled there and I am still alive. From there we cycled along the river and stopped to admire the buildings and water works at the Louvre – there was not a single person at that time of night! Then we carried on to Notre Dame, not a single tourist there either. Paris is the city of thousands of sculptures, which seemed to come to life in the night, living their own lives and guarding the city. Night time cycling makes one realise how close things really are to each other, and how much the day-time traffic slows one down. We arrived back to the hotel past 3am; not surprisingly I had no trouble falling asleep!
Soile Pylkkönen, flute