Paris on Two Wheels (Day Nine)

Trip Start Aug 16, 2012
Trip End Oct 01, 2012

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Flag of France  , Ile-de-France,
Saturday, August 25, 2012

This morning, I got up relatively late and missed the hostel's free breakfast so I went decided to the nearby McCafe. Inside, there is a separate counter where they had different kinds of coffee and baked goods. I ordered a "cafe au lait" and a "pain au chocolat" and ate by the Canal St. Martin, which is located only steps away. The canal is very pretty and a nice place to sit and relax.

Afterwards, I took the metro to the Champs Elysees and walked around the famous shopping avenue. This is one of the many streets that leads to a huge roundabout with the monumental Arc de Triomphe in the middle. To get to the centre, you have to go through an underground walkway, but I saw one family who crossed at street level. I was worried for them - but they somehow made it without getting run over! They found it very amusing after making it safely, but I don't recommend trying it.

I decided to fork over 10 euros to go to the top of the arch. You have to climb up almost 300 stairs, but the view you get from the top makes it all worth it! You get a 360 degree view of Paris and can see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Couer, and the towers of La Defense. While up there, a couple with a stroller asked me to take a picture of them and their little kid. I did so, and in return, they helped me take a photo as well.

I walked back down the Champs Elysees, grabbed a ham baguette for lunch, and then rented a bike at a nearby rental station. The bike system in Paris is called Velib and you can pick up a bike and return it to one of the dozens of bike stations around the city. You do need to pay a large deposit, but it allows you to rent a bike for a couple of hours for under 10 euros.

Biking around was actually really fun! Paris is a very big city and walking to places can quickly get tiring. I rode from the Champs Elysees to the Seine, crossed a bridge, and then around the base of the Eiffel Tower. I was lucky I found it because you can't always see it, even when you're close. I circled around and then down to Les Invalides where Napoleon is buried. Then, I rode up to Montparnasse and back to the Seine.

Paris does not have great bike lanes. Sometimes, the path would suddenly end, leaving you with nowhere to go but the sidewalk. The right side of the Seine did have a separate bike lane, so I rode all the way to Ile de la Cite, Ile St. Louis , and finally parked near City Hall. I must have biked for around four hours, but I enjoyed it!

Right now, I'm sitting at the base of the hill facing the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. It's evening and getting dark and cold. It has been very blustery in Paris during my time here. The view from the top of the hill was amazing and reminded me of the view from St. Joseph's Oratory in Montreal. The atmosphere is not peaceful though - there is lots of activity and people around.

The bike ride around Paris today, as well as the walk along the Seine last night, were incredible and changed my thoughts on the city. My first impressions of Paris weren't the greatest. You see things that you don't expect to and the city doesn't feel as welcoming as London did. I think it takes a bit more time and effort, but eventually, you come to experience the side of Paris that you always hear about. I have a feeling I'm going to like the city more and more each day.
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