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SPECIAL TRAVEL ISSUE | Side Trips: TRAVEL TIPS, TRENDS
AND TOOLS : STARLIGHT EXPRESS

paris Is rolling

March 19, 2000|David Tracey

It is one thing to see the City of Light after dark: the gleam of cobblestones, the architecture in spotlight, the candle glow on lovers' faces in sidewalk cafes. It is another to whiz through the streets on skates with a police escort, thrilled by the rush of etching out an urban course, terrorized by the looming prospect of a compound fracture.

I first heard of Pari-Roller late one summer Friday night in a busy square in the Latin Quarter. Motorcycle police announced its arrival by blocking all traffic. The distant chant of "On n'est pas fatigue! " ("We are not tired!") grew louder as a rolling block party appeared en masse. We bystanders stared in awe as thousands of skaters crammed Boulevard St. Michel from curb to curb, taking 10 minutes to pass.

Pari-Roller began casually in the early '90s, when a few friends on roller-blades assembled for a late-night spin in light traffic; now thousands of skaters regularly pack the streets each week. The route, planned with input from police, always begins at the Place d'Italie but regularly changes course from there. The trek lasts about three hours (with a few pauses for traffic and a break in the middle), inevitably passing famous Paris landmarks--down Montparnasse one week, around the Place de la Concorde the next.

Anyone can join, and skaters of all ages and skill levels show up. But wear protective gear: It's crowded out there, and you never know what you'll come across on Paris streets. *

Pari-Roller, 10 p.m. every Friday, free. Take Metro lines 5, 6 or 7 to the Place d'Italie, 13th arrondissement. Bring your own skates or rent them from one of many shops around Paris, such as Ilios Roller Shop near Dausmenil Station in the 12th arrondissement, telephone 011-33-1-4474-7576. Information and a map of the week's route can be found at http://www.pari-roller.com, which is in French.

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