Friday, September 23, 2011

Paris Trip Recap -- Bike Tour

The last time I remember riding a bike (before November 2009) was sometime around 1992.  In 2009 I was visiting family in Orlando and while the elderly (my mother who was 58 and her aunt who was 81) stayed home, while the kids (me, 30 and my second cousin who was 59) went out on a bike ride.  I think made EAD/JFB rent bikes while in PSP -- I had such a great time on both of these rides.  So now, renting bikes has become a pretty standard part of a Tim Vacation.  You can read about our South African Wine & Bike Tour here.

We did a bit of research online and found Bike About Tours - whose tours seemed to fit with not only what we wanted to see, but also into our restrictive timeline. We decided to sign up for the tour at 10h00 on Saturday. I coordinated this event, so we agreed to meet at the Charlemagne Statue (outside Notre Dame) -- unfortunately I thought (and told everyone) the tour started at 10h30.  I didn't realize this until 09h30 -- nearly impossible for us all to get there.  MS and I made it without a problem, but JB/RK were staying quite a distance from us -- no way they could make it.  Luckily Bike About was flexible and allowed us to change from the 10h00 to the 15h00 tour with no issues.

We met at 14h45 and joined a group of about 12-15 other people, mostly Americans and headed out on the bike ride.  We had to walk 5 minutes to a subterranean parking garage to collect our rides, which were pretty cool multi-speed tiny wheeled, gel seated little work horses.

Our tour guide was born in the Soviet Union, moved to New York and has been in Paris for several years.  She spoke excellent English and the French I heard was top notch too.  Unlike many other tours I've been on, these folks just told us to stick close together, ride on the right unless told otherwise.  Then she was off.  She didn't stop every few feet to make sure the group was all together, we are adults and need to follow directions and keep up with the crowd. It was refreshing.  If I were traveling with my mother or someone else of that ilk, I would have been driven crazy -- it would have been like herding cats (meow).

Everyone on the trip was in pretty good shape and didn't really have any bike issues (Paris is pretty flat, we rode slowly and took frequent stops).  One lady on the tour had ridden her bike, with her husband, in from Versailles. Interestingly enough, she was a pretty big woman.  Upon closer inspection we found that she had a motor on her bike.  There was no way she peddled her big ass in from Versailles and remained that size.

Our bike ride was supposed to be 3 hours, but it turned into four (it was announced as 4 at the start of the tour). The website now says 3.5 hours -- who knows what's going on with that.  We saw some great views of Notre Dame, the Louvre, the Obelisk, the Seine and the new Opera House.  The tour guide was well informed (her comments matched what I had read before).  She did add a bit of color commentary from time to time -- you could hear a bit of her socialist ideology from time to time, which I found charming and not too revolutionary.

Please ignore the bellies on us...
If I have one recommendation regarding this tour would be that you do it early in your trip.  We saw many things that we had already viewed on self guided tours and learned things that we already knew.  For example we rode to the Place de Vosges, Victor Hugo's home, the Hotel's English Gardens, etc.  We were also told about the history of the Revolution and Napoleon's reign.  While it is interesting, I don't want to hear the same thing about these topics repeatedly.

The tour was well organized and well executed.  They treated us like adults, but gave us directions when needed.  My favorite direction from our little Soviet came early on in the tour -- we were coming to a busy intersection and we needed to cross 4 lanes of traffic without a stop light. Our guide said "Get together and pretend we are a big car", we then headed out in the road and pushed our way through traffic until we made it across. I was surprised at how well this worked.  Perhaps we should try that while in Chicago, eh?


All in all, this was a really nice tour.  I would suggest this tour for anyone -- it's a great way to see this beautiful City from a new perspective and it's a great way to get a bit of exercise before you head off to the creperie again.

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