On Sundays, around 2:30 p.m., thousands of in-line skaters gather in Place de la Bastille for one of the best roller strolls in Paris. For a fraction of a second, a shrill whistle cuts through the buzz of talking and laughter, and it’s the signal to begin. Slowly the procession gains momentum, and you’re off on a 15 to 25 kilometer skate around Paris. A child’s laugh rings out through the crowd, and you are greeted by the generous sunshine. Spring has sprung in Paris, a city of in-line skaters. The long procession glides through the park, and snakes through the streets, avenues, and boulevards. One skater has a little white dog on a leash that seems to be enjoying the roller stroll as much as you are. Further on, a small group is dressed up—a girl in a green wig holds hands with her companion who sports a frock coat and top hat. When you think you’ve seen it all, you spot a man in a kilt laughing and skating backwards. It all contributes to the understated party atmosphere in the air.
In nice weather, this rendezvous can attract up to 20,000 in-line skaters. Organized by the Rollers et Coquillages association since 1997, it’s a fun way to see Paris as you’ve never seen it before. Kids love it, calling it the “Cockleshell Run,” which makes sense when you see the association’s logo. The stroll attracts all types of people and families, from beginners to expert skaters. At this measured pace, it’s the perfect introduction to in-line skating in Paris, easing you into the sport gently. And, it’s a great way place to meet up with friends and clear your head after a night on the town.
In Place Denfert-Rochereau the cobblestones slow the pace. Parents valiantly struggle with a stroller, its occupant grinning broadly from behind a pair of sunglasses. Young skaters slalom between the more calmly paced, dodging them at the last moment with a practiced nonchalance. Suddenly, a Latin rhythm fills the air. At the back of the crowd a man is playing the guitar and singing as he rolls along. A line of five skaters break off and accelerate past the procession in a conga line. Groups of seniors skate at a steady, even pace, their heads held high and smiles on their lips.
Paris by Day, or by Night?
The Sunday ride is certainly a big one, but it’s not the only roller stroll in Paris! An even larger gathering of skaters sets off from Montparnasse on Fridays, but this one is strictly for night owls. “Friday Night Fever” begins at 10 p.m., and is a three-hour fun and fast-paced frolic through the streets of the capital. Organized, these days, by Pari Roller, this stroll has been in operation since 1993. It’s the largest of the roller strolls in Paris, and it’s so well established that some tour operators even include it in their itinerary!
But be warned, unlike the Sunday stroll, this is a rapid, sustained ride with big descents, tunnels, and cobblestones. Beginners should earn their stripes elsewhere because this is for more serious in-line skaters. The stroll covers 27 to 30 kilometers through the streets, boulevards, and avenues of the capital. There are stops along the way to take in the city’s famous skating spots like Trocadéro, Palais Royal, and Invalides, where you can see the Roller’N’Fun dancers and watch expert skaters competing in slalom demos or a slide contest. There’s no question that excitement guaranteed!