When I arrive in a new city, the first thing I like to do is get a basic overview of the cities layout and areas and then determine the best way to get around.
Not only does this help with planning your day so you don’t miss anything on your list (efficiency is key if you want to leave time to people watch at the local brasserie), but it also helps shape your first impression of the city.
During our trip to Paris we found the perfect way to get a speedy overview of the city and its sights without stepping foot in a stuffy tour bus! Our prayers had been answered with Fat Tire Bike Tours. It’s no secret that we love cycling and what’s more appropriate than a riding tour in the city that holds the final stage of the world’s most famous bike race, le Tour de France!
Getting lost on our way to the starting point of the tour and sprinting through the streets was not the ideal start to the day but that quickly changed when we found a friendly Englishman waiting for us, who would be our guide for the day. He fell in love with the city 2 years ago and never left. We were quickly sized up for our bikes (definitely comfortable and easy to maneuver) and given a festive NYE party hat to wear sans helmet.
While riding through the different arrondissements of Paris, we stopped at various monuments and points of historical interest. Our tour did include pedalling past the mesmerising Eiffel Tower and a number of the famous Parisian bridges (there were a variety of tours on offer and that also change with the seasons).
Our witty guide told us by far the best educational stories I have heard on any guided tour. An anecdote about King Louis and the importance of ‘toned calves’ leading to the invention of high heels was definitely my favourite. Who would have thought!
After a quick stop at Napoleon's tomb and l'École Militaire we continued on down the beautiful streets of the exclusive 7th arrondissement.
As we rode through different areas it was a delightful experience for the senses being able to take in the sounds and smells unique to each area.
While riding through streets famous for their boulangeries or fromageries, we were lucky enough to get the inside tips about the best shops to get perfect supplies for a Parisian picnic. We came across one street that was lined with a number of beautiful looking restaurants, one smelling so tantilising that we made a note to return another night for dinner.
We stopped for a lunch break at le Jardin de Tuileries and it was surprisingly busy for the chilly winters day it was.
Most of the group sat inside a stuffy cafeteria (not very typically French!) but we decided to grab a baguette at one of the many stalls inside the gardens and make the most of the recently cleared blue skies.
After this we continued to the Place de la Concorde where we had possibly the best fun of the tour.
Riding as a group of 15 tourists we obviously needed strict guidance on the crazy Parisian roads. Along with this came a certain sense of impending danger, which only increased when one elderly Frenchman started screaming at our guide as we rode past on the footpath. This fear hit an all time high when we realized our guide was preparing us to cross 8 lanes of traffic to enter the square.
On the count of 3, we (all 15 of us in two neat lines) were to ‘storm the bastille’, and as our guide eloquently put it, it was time to ‘get all those drivers back’ for almost running us over as we walked through the amazing city of lights (Paris is not the most pedestrian aware city).
You will be glad to hear, we all survived and had the best fun doing so!
Reluctantly we rolled back to the Fat Tire headquarters but were happily welcomed by glasses of bubbling champagne. It was the perfect way to finish off the perfect introduction to Paris on the last day of 2015.