Saturday, September 28, 2013

Paris Sights by Bike

On y va!

Noel B. recommended I take the kids on a bike tour when we got to Paris.  Last May, with a whole bunch of his friends and their families (35 people in all!), they booked Fat Tire Bike Tours on the recommendation of a local friend. It was fun, he said, and something different to do in Paris.

I don't think B and I would do this on our own, but having kids has a way of getting us or do things we normally wouldn't (ie. of the active kind). 

The meeting place of Fat Tire tours is at the foot of the Eiffel tower. You just show up, and they divide the people into groups of 20, then we all walk, in our smaller groups, to their office about 10 minutes away. This is where we get our bikes and listen to a briefing.

Although the whole tour takes about 4 hours, it's not as tiring as it sounds because we stop at every major site and get a little history lesson.

It's similar to a walking tour but it covers much more ground.

I was a bit nervous about the kids riding in a busy city, but Paris is very bike-friendly; it's flat, and the major streets have designated bike lanes.

We went through the Tuileries Garden, where we were told to walk our bikes.  I think riding bikes in parks is not allowed. I found this comment on a message board online:

"the parks thing is serious -- I have seen tourists ticketed for riding those silly little folding tiny wheeled bikes in the Luxembourg Gardens -- locals on fast racers whizzed through -- the cops didn't bother to try to catch them but the tourists on their doodly little bikey things were easy pickings and were ticketed and fined."

We didn't have to worry about any biking rules because we just followed everything our guide did.

I better learn the biking rules though because I'm planning on using those VELIB bikes which are all over Paris. I just haven't figured out how to use my credit card to release the bikes, but Gigi P said it was easy-- she and her daughters love them!

Our stop in the Tuileries was a snack break. Everyone parked their bikes and sat in tables to order.  Unfortunately we left our bags at the Fat Tire office, so we had no money!

Fortunately, another biker overheard me telling the kids I had no money, took pity on sad-faced kids and offered to lend  us money.

Being the savvy cheapskates that we are, we ordered directly from the kiosk and ate at a park bench across the the waiter-serviced tables. Prices at the table menus are almost double. With our self-serve strategy, our 15 euro went a long way and we didn't even have to wait a long time to be served.

While the rest were still waiting to be served, we have lots of time to lounge in the park chairs just like everyone enjoying the gardens.

Then it was time to walk to the other end of the Tuileries, until we were facing the Louvre.

Our guide gave us tips on how to avoid the long lines at street level. He pointed at staircases on either side of us and said "go through those to the underground mall, buy tickets at the tabac store, and have dad fall in line while everyone else shops!"

I mentioned this to a friend recently and he confessed that he and his wife were indeed surprised to see a mall right under the Louvre. They never made it inside the museum.

This is the exact route of the day tour. They also have a night tour which has a different route, as well as one for Versailles and for Giverny I think.

And now we're heading back...

Riding along the Seine river, but not right beside it.

Rue de Grenelle

We were a group of 22, which I found I found too big for a bike group. One advantage is that the bikers can easily dominate a road keeping smaller bikers safe in the middle. However, it's a bit impersonal because the last person is so far from the leader.

Why are these trees square, mom?

The kids were pumped up with this experience though and it made them eye the Velib stations with more interest.

Definitely a fun way to see Paris!

Fat Tire Bike Tours
Address: 24, rue Edgar Faure
Metro: Dupleix (Line 6)
Tel: +33 (0) 1 56 58 10 54

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