My Paris fantasy? Riding around the city on a sunny day in a cute sundress on a bike with a basket holding a baguette. Not specific at all.
Fortunately, that was one fantasy we were well able to oblige! We ended up doing three Fat Tire Bike Tours while we were there and loved each one more than the last.
Our first tour was the Paris Night Bike Tour. We booked this as a combo package with the Paris Day Bike Tour for €48 (saving €16 per person for two tours) and were very happy we did. While you see some similar sites on both tours, they are very different and you learn different facts about Paris on each (the night tour is a bit more about the views and scenery, while the day tour focuses a lot more on the city’s rich history).
Our adventure started as we navigated the Paris subway system to get to the Dupleix Metro station (on line 6 for those of you familiar with it). We started by attempting to buy a couple of tickets from the computerized kiosk, but our rough understanding of French and complete lack of knowledge about the metro forced us to seek assistance from the ticket counter. Though we were a bit embarrassed, it turned out being a good thing as she recommended we buy a package of ten tickets–which was actually cheaper and we used them all in the long run.
Tickets in hand, we strolled through the turnstiles and into the hallway where we were faced with a decision about which train to grab. We found a map on the wall and stared at it confusedly. None of the stations we were looking for were on it! Luckily, I had a handy dandy little pocket map that my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday and it had a subway map on the back. After consulting it for a minute, I found the stations we were looking for. It was then that we realized the map on the wall we were looking at was for the bus routes. Whoops!
Unlike metros in some other cities (ahem, Atlanta, ahem), the Paris metro is very efficient and punctual. You can get to pretty much anywhere in the city on the metro and know the trains will be on time). Once we figured out the system, we were riding the Paris subway like pros. That brought us to our next challenge: riding bikes through the busy city.
Now, I love riding bikes, but admittedly I’m more of a back road, low traffic kind of biker. My Paris bike fantasy was, of course, without crazy traffic. But I figured these guys aren’t going to take a bunch of tourists out if it’s not safe…right?
When we got off the train, we looked at our phones and had just about a minute to spare to get to our meeting location. Luckily, our guides were easily recognizable by their big “Fat Tire Bike Tours” sign across the street as we exited the station. As worried as we were about being on time, we weren’t the last to show up (in fact, we were first). High-fives to us for not getting lost!
Once everyone was there, our guides took us about a block away to their headquarters where we grabbed reflective vests, took a last trip to the bathroom and selected our bikes.
Quick side note: Paris ended up being much cooler than I was expecting and I didn’t pack pants (other than a couple pairs of shorts), so I ended up doing all three bike tours wearing a dress. Now, as adorable as I know I looked, I was also very chilly. It wasn’t until I realized the grocery store right around the corner from our apartment sold leggings that I got some relief. So my tip to you when you visit Paris is to bring pants. You’ll save yourself from the misery of being cold and wisecracks from your husband who did pack pants.
One of our first stops on the tour was outside of Notre Dame. Our guide, Jordan, did a great job giving us some history about the church, including the interesting fact that many of the heads of the statues were cut off during the revolution because rioters thought they were representations of kings of France (when, in fact, they represented the kings of Judah). He also told of one of the architects for the cathedral who added a gargoyle in the likeness of his mother-in-law on the side of the building. I don’t think he meant it as flattery.
After Notre Dame, we headed across the island and over one of the many bridges to Berthillon ice cream (the cold cream did nothing to help with my feeling cold from my lack of pants, but it sure did taste good.
We then made our way back towards the Louvre. Unfortunately we couldn’t take the usual route because the bridge we needed to cross (Pont Neuf) was closed for repairs. In case you haven’t heard, Paris authorities are struggling with the popular trend of lovers attaching lockets to several of the bridges across the Seine and throwing the keys into the river. As romantic as the notion might sound (admittedly Matt and I considered doing it before doing some research and understanding the environmental impact), the locks are causing the railings on these bridges to give out and the keys are polluting the river.
So we simply rode in front of the building and then headed down to the docks to catch our river cruise boat. It wasn’t quite the romantic float down the river that I imagined thanks to a particularly rowdy bunch of high schoolers (shakes fist), but Jordan fortunately kept the wine included in our excursion flowing. Between that and the beautiful views from the river, it ended up being a great cruise. Here are a few shots from our cruise.
Our final stop was in front of the Eiffel Tower. We pedaled hard to get there in time to see the sparkles (it lights up for about five minutes each hour after sunset), but only got to see them from the road. Still, the Eiffel Tower is an impressive site–especially all lit up at night.
We were very happy (and probably a little buzzed from the wine) after we returned our bikes, so we decided we needed midnight crêpes. After getting quick directions and saying our farewells, we stumbled the streets until we found the recommended vendor and ordered up a couple of the French pancakes with chicken, cheese and egg. Perfect end to a perfect night!