Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Paris - on a Bicycle!

At last, the long weekend for my teacher host, Christopher, arrived and our much awaited trip to Paris was beckoning us to come visit. Quite honestly, I don't like Paris - too crowded, too noisy, too city. I know, I was born in New York City, even lived there for part of my childhood, but still can't tolerate the city. Give me trees, grass and water anytime. And mountains and ocean...But Paris is Paris. ooooh la la. There is something to be said for the "City of Lights" - and so we ventured forth.

Train to Paris was the TGV - a speedy train that gets you there in three hours. Every train and bus in Switzerland leaves ON TIME. They don't care if you have one foot on the train and the other on the platform, they ARE leaving. Train travel is quite unique also in that it is very quiet. Most people on the train do not use a cell phone and if it does ring, a very soft ring, they either answer it in a hushed tone or they tell the person they will call them later. You hardly heard any children but they were there. Seats are arranged forward and backward with a table in the middle. Also, when you travel by train you can bring anything you want for snacks or a full blown dinner. Including wine. And what better time than to kick off the weekend with a glass of wine as you are entering France! à votre santé mon ami

Finally arriving in Paris, we got off the train and take another subway to the hotel. The hotel is located on the edges of Paris. Getting up rather early the next day we decide to go to the Louvre. On the way we explored a place called "Fat Tire" - They offer tours of Paris ON A BIKE at night no less. I was skeptical, ready to "watch from the side." Not to young friend convinced me this was going to be FUN! We signed up for that evening's tour and would meet at the Eiffel Tower later on.
But now we're going to the Louvre! Very crowded but we did get in and also found...a Starbucks! Did a little shopping in the museum shop as well. Have been to the Louvre a few times before and I am still overwhelmed by the multitude of paintings and sculptures. The Victory of Samathrace still keeps me in awe.
Later on we did lots of walking through the Tuilieries, the gardens next to the Louvre. Little did I know but I would be riding a bike through this area and the Louvre courtyard later that evening!
Then a little dinner but nothing too exotic as we had to be back at the Eiffel Tower to meet for this bicycle tour. All in a group - about 12 of us, walked over to the bike place and chose our transportation. We were told that this was an easy ride, no hills, nothing too complicated. This is said by a 27 yr. old who is our bike leader. Not to mention that two of any of these bike riders combined would have equaled my age. We were told that there would be traffic and that we should stay together. They gave us glow type vests to wear. And off we went on our night tour of Paris on a bike! I managed to keep up at the beginning. Christopher waited whenever I lagged behind.

It was exhilarating at first. Biking was good and we all stayed together. That is, until the light changed red and half of the group kept going. But they did wait for us across the street. We headed toward Notre Dame and along the way crossed over a pedestrian bridge where little private parties were being held. People just bring their wine, their cheese, bread, etc. and find a spot on the bridge, spread out a blanket and voilà, instant party. Across the bridge was an ice cream place that our fearless young leader, Andrew, insisted we stop at. I was glad. Getting a little tired with all this pedaling and avoiding cars, buses, etc. Had an amaretti gelato that was outstanding! Good stuff. Then off to Notre Dame. Along the way Andrew would stop and explain some of the history of Paris and how it came to be, pointing out buildings and architecture that supported his lectures. He was quite knowledgeable. We biked along the Seine for some time and finally ended up at the Bateaux Mouches.
Now the Bateaux Mouches I have been on a number of times, but never in this context: bike riding and tired. The only motivation at this point was the fact that we were having wine when we got there! It was a time to talk with my fellow bike riders, most of whom were quite young but very interesting. One couple was from Australia, she a teacher and he still looking for his first job. The leader himself, Andrew, had come from the US and decided to stay in Paris a little longer than he anticipated. He loved bike riding. Obviously - he was like Peter Pan half the time, motioning in the front of the pack to "Followwww Meeeeee!" uh ok.
After the Bateaux Mouches we again alighted on our bikes - I was ready to just walk, forget the riding! I was pretty tired out by this time but the rest of the group was just getting their second wind. I already used up all my wind. As Mark Twain remarked, "Youth is wasted on the young!" So back on the bike and now we are going to ride through the courtyards of the Louvre!

And I must say, it was a lot different than what I had experienced just hours before when it was daylight. It was beautiful with all the lights and the cobblestone areas and very few pedestrians. Paris just glowed. I, however, was ready to call it a day/night!

It was a lot of fun but truly I was not physically prepared for this grandiose trip on a bike. Paris was a lot of fun to see this way and it was very different than most "tours" you could go on. I will go better prepared next trip!

I fell into bed back at the hotel. zzzzzzzz

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