I got back into Detroit last night after a long flight from Charles de Gaulle, after spending a week and a half traveling from Amsterdam to Antwerp to Paris. Hopefully you all enjoyed the chemistry-related blogging of Wired blogger Aaron Rowe in my absence, looks like he’s kept things busy here (thanks Aaron!).
There were a few things going on in Paris while I was there: one– the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy and his wife Cecilia have just divorced. In fact, his wife was on the cover of Elle magazine this month with the headline “Divorcee!” across it. An interesting fact that in France, Cecilia couldn’t have divorced *him* due to presidential immunity.
A second huge thing going on in Paris was a transportation strike that shut down all the trains and metros for a few days. The worst days were last Thursday and Friday, and things were pretty much back to normal by this Tuesday, but navigating the metro is tricky enough when things are working well. A friend I met in Paris, Laurent Penet, mentioned that these strikes are scheduled annually. When I asked what would happened if there wasn’t anything to complain about during a scheduled strike, he laughed and said, “We can usually find *something.*” The strike made French people more apt to drive rather than take the metro, and the resulting traffic jams would have made LA blush.
The third interesting thing was a new public biking system that was recently launched this summer, called Velib. These bikes can be checked out all over the city (about 1500 stations and 20,000 bikes) using a credit card, and returned to whatever station is close to your destination. The first 30 minutes are free and most short trips around Paris are shorter than that. The current mayor hopes the bikes will reduce traffic and promote green modes of transportation.
“It’s faster than the bus or metro, it’s good exercise, and it’s almost free,” said Vianney Paquet, 19, who is studying law in Lyon. Paquet said that he uses the rental bikes four or five times a day and pays 10 euros (about $13) a year, half for an annual membership fee and half for rental credit that he never actually spends because his rides typically last just a few minutes.
Anyway, good to be back. The talk I gave in Antwerp went great and I had some amazing food and wine in Europe (my parents are driving through the Loire valley as we speak…lucky.) Regular old science blogging to resume shortly, stay tuned!