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.

Luxembourg….er; France

Monday, August 12

I arrived in Luxembourg after a nice relaxing train ride. This is one I had to buy because they didnt have any more Eurail spots. I got off the train and found the left luggage place – $5 a piece – but better than lugging around my backpack and duffel all day.

I didnt have a list of things to see so when I was done at the station I opened Google Maps and clicked the “attractions” button. It is very handy when you are lazy – just pops up and tells you the things to do near where you are at.

The first thing to pop up was the Notre Dame Cathedral (no not the one in Paris). It looked to be a pretty central location to start so I walked the 10 minutes over there. The church location had a lot of history – dating back to 800AD. It had some pretty stained glass so I hung out in the cathedral for a bit and took it in. My step dad is Catholic and every time I enter a church I take a moment for him, taking in the peace of the place.

They also had a crypt so I went to check it out – just another chapel really, with a very modern looking crypt for someone who I did not know.

It was raining pretty hard after my visit so I put on my handy rain coat and headed to find food. I opted for some “fast food” Chinese. It didnt have much flavor leading me to believe it didnt actually have a lot of salt.

The rain stopped while I was eating, but stayed pretty cloudy. I got out the handy Google maps app again and found they have a really old bridge with a rand new pedestrian walkway underneath – I decided to head there.

The Adolphe Bridge is over 100 years old. It rises 140′ above the ravine and is about 500 feet long. Recently, in the last 5 years, they have added a pedestrian bridge underneath it. It was semi disappointing to see they had cut in and removed some original structure so they could put this bridge in, but its safer for all involved being below the traffic. From the bridge you could see the beautiful ravine below and the garden area near the church.

While I was on the bridge I noticed there was a carnival type ride that takes you up in a compartment and slowly turns around the city providing an aerial 360 view. I decided to walk over and check it out.

It started to rain again just as we got in the ride but was just sprinkling. The views were really neat, on a clear day you can see really far away into the country side. There is a huge ravine that runs through the city and you could see the gardens and houses below. It provided a different view of the area than the bridge did. It was about a four minute even then we slowly went back down.

I wanted to explore more of the city but I just wasnt enjoying myself and when I would walk from place to place I saw how dirty and grimmy the city really is. Luxembourg is supposed to be like the wealthiest country in Europe (they did have really nice cars) but they had trash in the streets and lots of loitering groups – mainly men – but some women. There were also lots of people begging – especially near the train station. So, instaed of exploring more I took my own internal advise and headed back to the train station over an hour early to do some work in the safety of the station.

In all my travels I think this may be the first time an uneasy feeling has washed over me. So, Im glad I followed my gut.

I did a bit of work and then it was time to head to my platform to catch the train to Paris. It was an almost empty car – except for the family with two very loud kids – SO LOUD!! I was seated next to someone – but realized after the second (and last) stop that the whoel four person seating in front of me was open so I grabbed my stuff and moved up. It was about a three hour train ride to Paris; a beautiful ride out of Luxembourg into the French countryside.

I got to Paris at around 915pm and needed to make my way to my hotel for the next few nights. I hopped on the metro line – after I was finally able to communicate (what little French I can remember and my mom did the trick!) and got a metro pass to my stop. The machine would not give me a ticket to my stop – for some dumb reason! I was able to find the hotel no problem!

I had picked this place because it looked close to metro lines and the river – and it has a washer and dryer!! Ill need to do laundry while I am in Paris. I took the worlds smallest triangle shaped lift to the 5th floor where my room was located (Rm 69).

The description said it was nothing fancy, but it was exactly what I needed. A small room with a fridge, fan and large window to open. They also have super fast internet which is great for having to set some work done.

It was past 10 when I got to my room but I was so amped to be in Paris I struggled to sleep. I just wanted to go explore the city – but forced myself to stay in and relax. I decided to book a walking tour for the morning, it ended up meeting just a few blocks from the hotel.