Paris from a cycle saddle

I went to Paris on another of my little trips in the middle of August. The weather was sunny, warm and perfect and I had arranged to join a cycling tour to view parts of the city. I had considered the implications of confronting the mad Parisian motorists from the saddle of a bicycle. My faith in the cunning and respect of local road bound drivers would not be strained however. Their manners were perfect and I was going to be completely safe. French drivers have a particular consideration for people on bicycles. Cycling really is part of the French national culture.

Paris Bike Tour premisesI had contacted a company called ‘Paris Bike Tour’. They operated from their premises pretty well in the middle of the city, just by the Pompidou Centre. They were expecting me. I had arranged to join the trip that they called ‘Eternal Paris’. It cost me 34 Euros, (29 for young people up to the age of 18 years), and would last most of the afternoon taking roughly three hours. A bicycle, a basket for all my stuff and a cycling helmet if I wanted it, were all there to collect. There were about 10 of us joining the excursion and we all met up together just before two thirty.

It was all going to be a solid Parisian adventure for us and I was anticipating all of the new ways of viewing the city, people and places.

StartI and my fellow riders collected our cycles from the rack and tried them out cautiously around the square. They were very sturdy yet quite light weight. The gears were very low and allowed us all to nip up and down amongst all of the slopes with no difficulty. A number of the others were much like me. They were not spring chickens but it was going to be fun.

Before we set off we met the tour guide who had her own bike. She was young, pretty and very articulate in a few languages that included English and French of course. She was evidently very passionate about her home town of Paris and plainly enjoyed so much her summer job. She was really so lovely and instantly befriended us all. We were quite a cosmopolitan bunch of people from all over the world. We almost behaved like children with our new bikes and our eagerness to discover our new world.

Helene leadingThe cycle tour was going to embrace a number of the real ‘crown jewels’ of Paris city life. There would be frequent stops from where, Helene our guide, would present to us much verbal information about the places we looked at. None of us were going to get tired or fatigued and the sunshine was wonderful. We all felt fitter and fitter as the time went by I reckon. All of Paris was at our feet and all of the city could be touched. The trip was to last most of the afternoon and would cover about 12 kilometres at a fairly leisurely pace.

As we all nipped around the stopping off points, we just had to follow Helene with her red flag flowing at the back of her bicycle. She knew all of the road junctions and the safe routes to take and understood the traffic system. When Helene put her arm out to signal a turn, we all did just the same. We were children again having fun on our new bikes.

We all enjoyed some 16 break points along the tour route where we could catch our breath if we wanted and to listen to Helene’s informed information about all that we could see. Stopping pointThe descriptions were conducted in both languages and Helene was able to speak in others too if they were required.

Among other places, we visited the Fontaine Stravinsky, the Marais District and the Jewish Quarter. We stopped off at the Place des Vosges and the Picasso Museum. We dropped by the Royal Palaces and the enigmatic Pyramids at the Louvre Museum. Towards the end came the Pont – Neuf and the Ile de la Cite with Notre – Dame Cathedral. There were many other inspiring places as well to visit as our trip proceeded.

It was a truly special Parisian afternoon on a midsummer day. I, with my fellow trippers, developed friendships at a rapid pace as we enjoyed our joint experience of Paris city life. EndWe learnt a little of each other as well and swapped email addresses as we parted at the end. We had become a part, almost, of a sort of club.

Helene was exquisitely informed and articulate. She made sure that we had all the water bottles that we needed and sent us all packing off at the end of it with great courtesy. I think I shall do it again sometime.

The Paris Bike Tour company is located at Rue Brantome in the centre of Paris. I found that a cycle trip should be booked in advance. Call them if you want on +33(0)142742214 or email [email protected]

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Bob Lyons

Retired airline pilot and European explorer

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