no matter where you go, there you are

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

forget all your woes, the city of light....

By the end of my first day in Paris I had seen a LOT but there was still plenty left to see. I was never going to be able to see all of the city in the next day, so I decided to go on a night bike tour. Run by "Fat Bike Tours" ( this 4 hours excursion takes you to many of the major sites, stops for ice cream and includes a free ticket on a boat ride up and down the Seine. In my opinion, it was well worth the 26Euro (student price).

The meeting point and time is the south leg of the Eiffel Tower at 6PM. Thankfully I knew where I was going since I'd been in that area for most of the morning and it wasn't hard to find the person holding up the big sign reading "Fat Bike Tours." I get there right at 6 and am the 4th to join the group. However, we don't begin the walk to the bike office until about 6:20 and by then a large group of about 20 or so has formed. By the time we get to the office, purchase tickets, put on reflector vests and hop on our bikes, it's close to 7.

The first place we stop is the southern end of the Champs de Mars where we get an excellent view of the lit up Eiffel Tower. Glowing yellow-orange at this moment, the tower lights up the entire area surrounding it. It's very beautiful against the pitch black sky. We then make our way east riding through St. Germain and the Latin Quarter. I had not planned to visit this area at all while in the city so I'm glad I got to see what it was like, especially since both areas are well known for having an active nightlife.

We arrive at a bridge at the back side of the Notre Dame and even though it's the back side, I still find it absolutely stunning. Except for the glimpse through the clouds while up in the Eiffel Tower this is my first view of the huge cathedral. Our guide gives us a quick but thorough history of the Cathedral as well as the history of Ile de la Cite and Ile. St. Louis (the 2 islands in the middle of the Seine; Notre Dame is on Ile de la Cite). Ile de la Cite was the first settlement site of Paris so the area is rich with history. It is on Ile St. Louis that we stop at an excellent ice cream shop. The guide claims it to be the best ice cream in Paris and it was really really delicious. They didn't have an abundance of flavors, but the chocolate I got was very rich and satisfying.

After finishing the ice cream we ride across the Ile de la Cite by the Palais de Justice, then over to Place St. Michel where we turn right and ride along the river. We cross at a footbridge across from the back end of the Lourve that is known for being overpopulated with picnicers in the summer. We then ride through the back courtyard of the Lourve and into the front area where the famous glass pyramid is. Ever since reading the first 30 pages of The DaVinci Code I knew that if I ever went to Paris the glass pyramids at the Louvre would be at the top on my sightseeing list. Needless to say, I was very excited to finally see them. Lit from below, the pyramids were as pretty as I imagined and with the fountains providing wonderful reflections, the whole place was magical. The illuminated Arc du Carousel also added to the wonderful scenery.

After gazing for a few minutes we continue along the river and arrive at the boat dock. We hop on board and join the many other tourists on the top deck. It's a little cold but I manage to survive. As we make our way up the river the boat narrates to us about what buildings are on either side of the river. It's very informative and spoken in 4 or 5 languages. We pass Notre Dame and I finally get to see it from the front. It's absolutely spectacular and I cannot wait to return tomorrow. We reach the Canal St. Martin and turn around. After this point the prolonged sitting mixes with my lack of sleep and creates a deadly cocktail of unconsciousness. I doze off and wake as we are passing the Eiffel Tower. This time the it is illuminated with a multiude of colors. Then, as the clock strikes 10, the tower sparkles. Every hour after dusk for five minutes the Eiffel Tower sparkles and it is a sight to see.

The boat ride concludes and we make our way back to the bike office. It's been an excellent night and an excellent day, but I am EXHAUSTED. I ride the train back to the hostel, take a hot shower, check my email and crawl into bed. Goodnight, Paris!

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