Finding myself with a few hours to spare in Paris in the middle of August on a sunny day I decided to join a bike tour.
I had considered the implications of confronting mad Parisian motorists from the saddle of a bicycle. My faith was never tested though, their manners were perfect and I was completely safe. French drivers have a particular consideration for people on bicycles. Cycling really is part of the French national culture.
I was given a bike, a basket for all my stuff and a cycling helmet if I wanted it. There were about 10 of us joining the excursion and for me it was a totally new way of viewing the city. I and my fellow riders rode our bikes cautiously around a quiet square. They were very sturdy but quite light weight. The gears were very low and enabled us all to nip up and down with no difficulty. Like me, a few of us were no spring chickens but we were raring to give it a go.
Before we set off we met the tour guide who was articulate in a few languages including English. She was evidently very passionate about her home town of Paris and plainly enjoyed her summer job. We were quite a cosmopolitan bunch of people from all over the world but she made us feel as though she was a friend.
Discovering Paris on two wheels
The cycle tour embraced a number of the real jewels of Paris City life. There were frequent stops from where, Helene our guide, told us about the places we looked at. None of us got fatigued and the sunshine was wonderful. We all felt fitter and more confident as the time went by and in all we covered about 12 kilometres at a leisurely pace.
As we 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 like children again, having fun on our bikes.
Paris from a bike saddle
There were 16 break points along the tour route where we could catch our breath if we wanted and listen to Helene’s informed information about the local landmarks. 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 Cité with Notre-Dame Cathedral.
It was a really 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. We 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.
I recommend you book in advance if you want to join a bike tour of Paris – they’re very popular, and I shall definitely be doing it again.
Bob Lyons is an ex pilot turned travel writer with a passion for France and all things French…
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