People who know me, know that I don't go in for exercise apart from the occasional sprint from one shop to another. This didn't stop me from finally deciding to try something that I had always wanted to do - cycle in Paris. Thousands, millions do it and think nothing of it. My lack of fitness plus fear for my life had kept me off a bike in Paris until last Sunday. If you are going to cycle in Paris and are nervous about doing it, I can highly recommend doing it on Sunday in August. As Aussie in France points out in her post Paris in August – where have all the people gone? Paris is relatively devoid of people at the moment.
|Lack of people at Arc de Triomphe|
My friend, Olivia, who has just moved to Paris from the Vaucluse was to be my guide and provided my briefing on rules for cycling in Paris. Not owning a bike is not a problem in Paris. Vélib stations with their racks of bikes are to be found even more frequently than metro stops. These bikes are available for hire by residents and visitors alike. You can register online for a day, week or year. Short-term rentals can also be done at the automated kiosks located at the stations. The process is very quick and easy and the rates very cheap. A one day registration is 1,70 euro. If you during this 24 hr period you take a bike out each time for a period of less than 30 minutes there is no additional fee payable. The secret is to return the bike after 29 minutes to any of the 1800 Vélib stations. A short 2 minute wait and you can take it or another one out again. Even if you exceed the 30 minutes the fees are very low.
|Me and my Velib in the deserted Place de la Concorde|
Of course being in France no helmet is needed so no dreaded helmet hair. I am reliably informed that Parisiennes ride in high heals with short dresses in the middle of the road. Not me, inelegantly in my cropped pants and Birkenstock-like sandals no-one would confuse me with being a Parisienne. Even less so when I stopped to take a photo and fell off the bike. Oh the embarrassment!!! A young couple kindly helped pick me and the bike back up and even gave me a wet towelette to clean myself.
Olivia had worked out our route. Seeing I had always wanted to ride in Paris then it had to be the rue Saint-Honoré past l'Elysée; Place Vendome, Place de la Concorde and along the rue de Rivoli and of course the Champs Elysée. Olivia was a wonderful guide keeping an eye out for me and finding routes that I could manage. I thought I would be puffed and exhausted - instead I was exhilarated and felt rejuvenated. The wine and dinner we had partway through our tour may have contributed to these feelings. Monday morning, the bruises and aches and pains started to appear. French friends recommended a homeopathic remedy, arnica granules and gel. I cannot speak highly enough of these. The gel provided instant relief for my knee that smashed into the bitumen with my full weight plus that of my bike. Monday night, I collapsed into my bed not to wake until 9.00am. Unfortunately there are only a limited number of Sundays in August but I am determined to try it again.
For more information on hiring Vélib bikes: http://www.velib.paris.fr/ (French, English and Spanish)