Paris by Jump bike

Wednesday, August 14

I got up today and decided to do the hop on, hop off tour. Last time I was here and took one there were three routes – this time, only two. They removed the yellow route. I walked over to where the bus would come and decided, no, I am not going to do it. Instead, I decided to go eat “brunch” and read in the Luxembourg gardens. It was a quick 10-minute walk over there. The garden was huge – there were many people reading, picnicking and running around. They had chairs everywhere, it was wonderful. I opted to walk over to the palace and sit where people were picnicking. I had my yogurt and sat there and ready and people watched for a while before heading out.

I decided to head to the Pantheon. It was only a 20-minute walk from the gardens. I decided to go inside because I do not recall doing it before. It was huge and there is some sort of clock in the middle of the junction – a big brass looking ball hung by a string that somehow tells time, I have no idea how it works but it was awesome. I walked to the crypt and checked out some of the crypts of people I have heard of. Most notably the man who invented Braille and Marie Currie – Noble prize recipient.

After the Pantheon I wanted to go to the Eiffel tower – but it was like a 1.5 hour walk – there were many scooters around – but without a helmet and the with the cobble stone road, I wasn’t very confident. I had Googled “bike rules in Paris” last night, so instead I found a Jump bike and decided to try it because I felt I understood the rules of the road and it was not busy in the area.

Getting the bike was easy, quick scan of the QR code and the bike was ready for me. Most of the Paris streets have a bike lane – or are labeled for bike access, even one way streets have bike lines in both directions.

I was confident I could make it over to the Eiffel Tower – a 30-minute ride is what it said. The main street it wanted me to take was actually under construction – so it proved to be a little bit more difficult than I had planned. They are redoing their bike lane to make it even safer, but in the meantime, it is a nightmare to actually ride. I just weaved my way around – over the river and bike. I finally saw a bike on the road and decided to follow that local rider.

The best part about Jump bikes is they are electric assist, so you can go 25-35 KMh to keep up with traffic when needed. I followed the guy until I got to where I would drop my bike. You can only park in certain areas or they fine you. It is smart – they are presumably paying a fine if they are caught in a “no-bike zone” so they charge the person who put it there before they are fined themselves.

I had made it to the Eiffel tower!! I rode the bike – confidently, safely and happily – I made it! I walked through the park and noticed since the last time I had been there how much had changed. The amount of terrorist attacks are clearly leading the French to protect their landmarks more securely now. You can no longer go under or near the tower without a ticket. They have this glass wall all the way around. Therefore, I saw people queuing for security, then queuing for the lift line. I have been up there a handful of times so I opted out of going up and instead I decided to read, people watch and eat a chocolate bar in the park.

I laid out my rain jacket as a blanket, took out my book and read for a little over an hour. I saw a couple get engaged – the most anti-climactic proposal ever – they even put the ring on the wrong hand!! And just like that, they were gone, it was over.

After sitting there for a while, I decided I am going to go do a bike tour of Paris – so I grabbed another Jump bike and headed to the Sacre Couer. This ride was about the same distance (30 minutes) but uphill – thankfully for the Jump bike it was easy. I made it to the side of the Sacre Coeur and immediately saw a tram to take you up – but I decided for the stairs. I eat so much good food in Europe – it is always best to burn as much as I can. I went to the steps and looked out over Paris. From my view, I couldn’t see the Eiffel Tower, but I could see Centre Pompidou and Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Museum D’orsy. I tried to imagine what it would be like to see Notre Dame on fire from here – and I just couldn’t even get a clear through about it.

After people watching for a while, I decided to head down to Centre Pompidou – something I had never seen before, but have wanted to since I saw it in my high school French book. I grabbed a Jump bike again and took off. The ride took me through parts of Paris I had never been before – through the district that sold traditional Indian and African apparel and finally Centre Pompidou.

CP is a library and museum. I did not want to go in, but to see the exoskeleton of the building. They consider it an “inside-out” building because structure, mechanical and plumbing are on the outside of the building. It’s an eye sore for sure – sticks out like a sore thumb – but it is pretty neat to see how it is all color coded, each mechanical pipe is green and water is blue.

After my quick pull off to stare at the building I decided to head back to the hotel. This was just a quick 10-minute bike ride back over the river. I locked the bike and headed upstairs to do some work. It also gave me time to have a snack (some cheese, duh) and drink some water. It was not hot – only about 73* but it was sunny and I was a bit sun burned and knew I needed more water than the 32oz I had today.

At around 9pm I went for dinner – I had pizza. I cannot help it, it is just so good. I met a woman and her two teenage kids from Boston. She had traveled in her younger years – doing Asia for a year on her own – but when it came to now she and her daughters were a bit embarrassing.

They wanted things lickety split and nothing is fast around here when it comes to food. They want you to relax and enjoy the food, and these women just would not settle down. We chatted a bit – I finished my food, paid and wished them luck.

After dinner, I decided to find a crepe. It was late, which means the crepe stands are out. I found one, one block from the hotel and got myself a Nutella crepe. I only like the sweet ones. I headed back to the hotel because tomorrow I was off to Switzerland to bus into Lichtenstein.

PARIS! And France….no underpants

Well I don’t actually know when I left off, so I’ll start with my train trip. Since I was able to change my ticket, I was a little nervous I would be with hoodlums, since I was leaving that night, but instead I was with 2 Koreans, a mom and daughter, the extent of their English was ‘ok’ and ‘thank you’. The mom was so funny, she wanted to be on the top bunk, but that wasn’t her bed number, but she really didn’t care, so she slept on the other top bunk, but at some point she left and went down to the bottom bunk, but in the morning woke up across from me again!! She was funny.

I found my hostel ok, Tara found this one for me, and she did good. Its a 5 minute walk from Notre Dame and the metro is one street over. This hostel has a 2am cuefew and no outside alcohol is allowed. I dropped my stuff off, but check in wasn’t until 4 so I headed out to site see. I walked to Notre Dame, went to the top and had a nice view. The church itself was free, the climb was like 4€. I like Paris because if you are under 25 you get a discount. After Notre Dame I got another bus tour, this one is the most expensive, but you get 4 different routes and it is actually pretty good. I rode one tour, then the classic tour. I got off at the Eiffel Tower and took a nap in the surrounding park. I really enjoyed my nap, and felt like a local!!

I headed back to the hostel to check in and get settled. I got settled, met my roomie from London who is going to school here, and was too early to check into student housing so she was staying at the hostel until Sunday. I went down to the street to get some food, and there are like 500 restaurants within walking distance. I picked one with a ‘full meal menu.’. I got french onion soup (it was so hot, it took 15 minutes before I could even eat it!! But it was very good!! I got salmon for my main course and thought it would be a tiny piece–but NO! This was a beautiful piece of salmon, potatoes, green beans and a tiny bit of pasta!! It was the best salmon I’ve ever had!! For dessert I got black currant sorbet–yummy!! What a great dinner–after my baguette and brie lunch, this was stupendous!!

After dinner I headed to l’tour Eiffel to take night pictures (non of which are very good). The tower sparkles every hour on the hour, and when I got off the metro it was already sparkling, so I only got about 3 minutes of shooting time. But it was a beautiful blue, and on one side has the EU stars, it looks cool!! I decided I wanted to climb the steps. (Apparently 700 some, but that must be all the way to the top, because I didn’t climb that many). I made the climb to the 2nd level, the farthest they let you walk, and wanted to go all the way to the top–but the top was closed. Apparently the top closed 2 hours before the rest of the tower. It was a cool site and worth the climb. I’m going back tonight to take more pictures!!

I got a tour of the D-day beachs for Monday–it goes from 7am to 9pm!! Goodness I’m going to be tired, I have to get up at 615!!

I got back around midnight and took a much needed shower. I had set all my stuff out so I wouldn’t make too much noise for my roomie, and she had left the bathroom light on for me! I passed out hard and slept until 930.

Today I slept through breakfast, so I was going to go to the supermarket right next to the hostel, but its sunday, and they are closed. So I went to a cafe across the steet and got a nutella panini instead 🙂 healthy, I know, but it wa so perfect!!

I grabbed my stuff and headed out for the day. So far I have been to the Louvre (I didn’t go in, because its way expensive and I only wanted to see the Mona Lisa and my roomie said if that’s all I wanted to see its not worth it) and climbed the Arc d’triumph and now I’m going to the Sacre Coeur (sacred heart church) for Heidi.

Haven’t had lunch yet, its 230 and I’m starving! Just can’t figure out what I want!! 

Next day….

Today I got up extra early, 615, to head to Normandy on a tour. We boarded the bus and headed out around 715. The bus ride was about 3 hours long, and our tour guide talked for 10 minutes and then said ‘now go back to bed!’. We were about 30 minutes from Caen and the Peace Museum, and she started talking again, filling us in on the history of the war and what the day was going to be like.We had about an hour in the museum, then a 40 minute video, and then lunch. The museum was neat, lots of artifacts and a tank and a few Jeeps. The videos were cool. One was a split screen, one side was the Allies one side was German. And it was just the video footage of the same things, happening from both sides. The other video wasn’t as good, it was computer graphics and then photos of how the Ally forces took over France.There was a September 11th exhibition in the museum and I wanted to see it, so I ate my lunch (chicken, potato and salad) quickly then headed to the exhibit. It was very neat, they had pieces of the planes, the buildings, personal items, etc. They put it together very well, but unfortunately I ran out of time, so I didn’t get to read everything, so I took pictures of stuff, and their descriptions and booked it to the bus!! I made it there just in time!!We then headed to Omaha beach. That was weird. They left it just like it was, so there are huge bomb craters and huge pieces of cement everywhere (from the German bunkers and stuff). You could tell where a huge piece of cement was thrown like 10 feet!! Crazy!! After Omaha, we went to the American cemetery. Its white crosses and stars of David and green grass forever! The upkeep is stupendous, and its very well respected!! I saw people’s stones from all over the US, North Dakota to Hawaii.We headed to Gold beach next. Gold beach is where the artificial port was set up in the bay. They had tons of cement blocks made to float, then anchored them into the sea bed and were able to drive on them, store oil, and supplies on there as well. Not many left, but it is clear from what’s left, this was a big port!!

We went to the Juno beach, this is where the Canadians landed. Sadly there is like nothing there, Canadian flags is it. Otherwise, it just looks like every other beach!!Now we are heading back to Paris, currently sitting in LOTS of traffic!! Ekkk!! Stopping in 2 hours to get food!! But I’m hungry now :(So I slept a bit on the bus and woke up to freezing air, and my vents were off. Apparently it was time to wake up. We stopped at a little shop off the road and I got a baguette and cheese for dinner! I’m going to have french onion soup when I get back by the hostel, cuz its just soooo yummy!!We are getting close to Paris, and its getting dark which is good. I want to get pictures of the Louvre, Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower tonight before I leave tomorrow!!I head to Brussels tomorrow!! New country! Yeah!! That’s country number 4!

So today I visited the Louvre (not inside, just out), Notre Dame (outside), Moulin Rouge (defiantly outside, its like €150 for the show!!), Sacre Cuoer (all the millions of steps to get the the church, then the 300 to get to the top of the church, Heidi!), Arc de Triumph (all the way to the top) and the laundromat!!

I had a great day, lots of sights and lots of nice people. Moulin Rouge area is scary, well weird. Its like 4 blocks of sex shops and caberneit (sp?) Shows and by 5 pm the tourists start leaving cuz its like the red light district at night. But I had to see it, and its a main street, I didn’t think it was, I thought it was like in a back street the way people talked about it, but its right there in the middle of many buildings.

I climbed to get to the Sacre Cuoer. It was worth it. I couldn’t take pictures inside, as there was service, but its very well kept and lots of fun people outside. The climb to the top was fun, only like 300 steps (I’m going to have to find out how many steps I climbed in all of my towers by the time I’m done with this trip) and worth it. Nice view of the city.

I climbed the Arc de Triumph, cool view and I was going to go back at night, but they don’t all tripods, so it would be difficult to get a good picture. I walked the Champs-Elysses after that and discover ‘Nike Paris!’. Today is ‘The Human Race’ by nike. Cities all over the world are doing big races, but if you just ran or walked today you could register your KM and they will have a grand total soon of how far people ran. Well, they had a shirt that had all the cities and a race number (every shirt is different, up to 1,000,000) so I had to get one, because A) I walked a lot today and B) because I’ve been to 1/3 of the cities!!

I road the tour bus around to get everywhere, its nice, drops you right off in front of everything you need to see, and you get information on the stuff. I got off at the Notre Dame and walked back to my hostel around 7. I needed to do some laundry and there is a laundromat right down the way. So I got back (I have 2 new roomies) grabbed my clothes put them in the wash and went to dinner.

I had again, for the 2nd night in a row, great food. Again, onion soup (sooo good last night, ok tonight), salmon with potatoes and green beans, and a fresh fruit salad!! It was so good. And now I’m in the laundromat waiting for my stuff to dry!

Tomorrow I’m up early and off to the D-day beaches in Normandy, then taking night pictures in the evening!!

Paris has lots to see! I like being busy!!