I couldn’t help but gasp. Silence immediately overtook the street noise, above us the night sky twinkled with a thousand stars and all around us we were enveloped by the walls of the Louvre Palace. We had entered the Cour Carree, an interior courtyard of the ‘Old Louvre.’ Quietly we pedalled; I was in awe. There was something about the sudden silence and the way we were surrounded. It felt as if we had discovered our own secret space. A place frozen in time but waiting to share its secrets. Secrets like the passageway that would lead us to the dazzling Pyramid just beyond the archway.
Dating back some 2,000 years, Paris is without a doubt a city of secrets. Whether it be courtyards or passageways, a traveller could visit a hundred times and still find something new to explore. This time we had the pleasure of experiencing an evening bicycle ride through the Parisian streets. Initially I was skeptical. If you have ever watched people cycling in Paris, it is truly a skill for the brave and courageous. The streets are at all times bustling with vehicles, vespas and pedestrians, traffic lights change quickly, and large squares quickly transform into narrow alleys. However, I am typing this post so I must have survived. Or should I say we, Kevin too is still alive and we must admit our adventure by bike was most certainly worth it!
On the advice of a friend we made a last minute booking with FatTire bike tours. The company comes highly recommended and offers tours across a number of major cities in Europe. After meeting our guide we donned our very stylish yellow safety vests and selected our cruiser for the evening. Before departing, we reviewed basic street safety including appropriate formations to use in the bus lanes. Single file would serve us for narrow streets while a domination tactic allowed us to overtake the side lanes and ensure that taxis could not run us over. Nervous but excited we took off in the direction of the Seine.
As we made our way through the streets, navigating what at first glance looks like an unbeatable obstacle course, turned out to be much more enjoyable then we imagined. Would I attempt it without a guide, probably not, but with the help of a skilled cyclist we moved with ease through major intersections and down hidden alleys. Often times we found ourselves scooching over for an impatient vespa or strategically keeping pace with the other users of the road. It didn’t take long before we fit within the flow of traffic.
Our first stop on the tour was Notre Dame. Here we talked about the history of the cathedral and the area’s surrounding buildings. Did you know the building opposite Notre Dame is where Inspector Javert from Les Miserable sings ‘Stars.’ For those who love musicals, you’ll recognize the scene from the most recent film.
From here we continued our trip across Pont Neuf to Ile Saint Louis, one of the only areas in Paris where the metro does not run. This quaint island has some of the most sought after real estate in the city. Not long ago it was even home to Johnny Depp. Spying a neighbourhood ice cream shop we made our second stop of the journey. By this time dusk hovered on the horizon and the lights of Paris began to illuminate in the distance.
Satisfied by the flavourful combinations of gelato we returned to the streets. With the Seine by our side, we travelled across Ponts des Arts until we arrived at the entrance to the Cour Carree. It was here that I realized I was not prepared for how truly surprising Paris can be. It was here, in this dreamlike alternate reality, that we made our fourth stop. I could have stayed forever. Enveloped in silence and admiring the shimmering light bouncing off palace walls. When we exited the courtyard we entered the famous Louvre square. Before us the Pyramid glowed from within.
Regretfully our adventure did not finish here and before long we were on our way again. We returned to the Seine one final time. Amidst an open field we parked our cruisers and made our way to the river’s edge. Waiting here was our open excursion boat by Bateaux Mouches. For the next hour we enjoyed a scenic cruise on the same river that we had spent the evening ride up, across and down.
When we returned to the dock we located our bicycles and with the Eiffel tower sparkling in the distance made our way back to the FatTire offices. With sweaty palms, big smiles and happily sore bums we left the tour and closed the curtain on a very successful first night in Paris.
Have you rented a bicycle in another city? Have you tried FatTire? We would love to hear your story!