Thursday the 4th we arrived at Nancy after a ride under a deep blue sky and a nearly mediteranean sun that made us sweat. We took many rests and enjoyed the good weather nevertheless. The last kilometers we went on the cycling path along a channel in the shade of trees and the first people that were not telling us bonjour announced the transition from country to city. We were then greeted by some other cyclists that had also arrived for Velorution – the annual France wide meeting of critical masses of all cities. Spontaneously we formed a critical mass to circle the city centre and say hello to Nancy, before all arriving at the camping site. The critical mass already introduced Nancy to be what it later only the more turned out to be, a charming city with an ancient city center and calm and mostly enjoyable people with a default mode of friendlyness and art de vivre.
During the three night stay we met many cyclists and activist from across Europe and France and mostly spoke English and sometimes French. We enjoyed the cool showers during very hot days and the excellent “las vegan” kitchen that served us lovely vegan meals three times a day at “les brasseries de Maxéville”, a huge former factory turned into a big alternative space thanks to a wise decision by Nancy´s mayor.
Friday we all set out for the city for a great critical mass. We assembled in front of “Dynamo” bike kitchen that opened its doors specially for us and we repaired our bikes and learned some new English and French words. Some of us that joined Ecotopia without a bicycle found one here and set it all up. Then a Velotopist set up her stand adjacent to just under Nancys cathedral with lots of colours, glitter and cloth for us to dress up. We all turned our bikes into moving fashion shows and most of us also took some glitter in their face and cloth, put up hats, ties and glasses. So we now all looked like a carnival parade on bikes. That was the spirit of the whole Friday critical mass and we enjoyed it so much. In the historic court yard of the palace we became a crowd of maybe 300 cyclists and then set out for the city for mor than two hours. People were astonished about our apearance, Nancy is quite country city, but mostly very welcoming. Some even shouted bravo and applauded, something very unusual outside France! Others were getting on their balconies and waved to us, and we felt very welcome. The local cycling activists had taken good care of the route and blocked cars from interfering. Nevertheless we were a bit astounished when we entered the city´s highway going on three lanes, but that too went well. Cars slowed down and respected us, the police did not even show up as we proceeded without any accidents to our finaly destination, the park were we sat down for a beer or water.
Many of the French people actually arrived cycling with crazy custom bikes from all corners of France and we could try all of them for a ride: tall bikes, a chopper bike, a zickzack bike, bull-its, an excentre bike and many others. As one of ours broke down we discovered that the Velorution hat seemingly thought of everything and the hurt velo was taken up by a first aid bike with a trailer and first aid flag. Consequtively the owner enjoyed a lift, balancing on the rack of another Ecotopist which suited perfectly in the artistic spirit of the Velorution.
The weekend was so full of impressions that it is hard to cover them all. Mostly we spend the Saturday with another critical mass in the city, one that was even greater in size with hundreds of participants and Sunday there was yet a fourth one. We had two important circle meetings and worked on our perfomance in conflict resolution, active listening and voicing concerns in the circle. That was sometims demanding but we get better and better.
Sunday we left Nancy with a critical mass into the countryside that just by chance headed in our direction towards a lake. A good way to say farewell to the city that hosted us so well. We went again along a channel in comfortable shadows of trees and most of us took a swim in the lake when where we arrived in the afternoon.
In a circle meeting we learned about 15 principles of beeing aware of gender, class and privileges in general and how to improve permanently an atomsphere of equality and balanced speaking and listening. We agreed to reflect in the upcoming days on our values and how to put them even better in practice.
A woman from the village offered to supply us with drinking water and we spent a relaxed evening at another lakesite.