Monday morning was Memorial Day here in the States and in France it was Whit Monday (the day after Pentecost Sunday). Last Memorial Day I was spending the day with friends, laying out by the pool, eating those summer sticky popsicles in the plastic sleeves, napping, and eating. It was a very American Memorial Day. This year I spent a holiday in Paris biking around the city.
Running in Paris
We woke up early and laced up for a little run around Montmartre. In typical Paris fashion, it was drizzling while we were out – so far it hadn’t rained at all so I was happy to see some sprinkles while I was still in town.
We started our run up these lovely stairs. In the words of my trainer, C, “Don’t think about it – just do it!” So – we did.
We ran back over to Sacré-Cœur to see it during the day and peek inside. It’s as beautiful as you might imagine – I always love these types of churches. They are so reverent and Holy. It was a completely different scene from the evening before – no one else was around and it was very quiet.
Paris is full of parks and we stopped at a small one to see the I Love You wall – a huge tile wall of the phrase in over 300 languages. I told ya’ll Paris is romantic. And, not in a sappy way but in a way that reminds you what love can be – passionate and crazy and carefree and uncomplicated.
We ran through the cobblestone streets, the mist of an early morning mist showering us, the smell of bread being baked in the boulangeries – it was a perfect Paris morning. And, in true Parisian fashion – I stopped for a croissant after our run.
I could have run around all morning looking at the cute shops and streets we passed.
After our run, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for a full day of biking in Paris!
Mind Your Hand Signals
Paris has a bike system called Velib which for less than $2 you can rent a bike all day! Pretty sweet deal, right? To secure this nifty price the only catch is you have to dock your bike every 30 minutes. This really isn’t a big inconvenience because the Velib bike stations are everywhere around the city. As long as there is a slot open, you can dock the bike for 2 mins, get it back out and be on your way. If you miss the allotted re-dock time, you’re charged 1 Euro.
So, biking – I LOVE to bike. However, I bike on a little cruiser bike that doesn’t have gears, hand brakes, a bell, etc. In typical “me” fashion, it’s a very classic, basic bike. The Velib bikes are not basic – first of all, they are the equivalent of lugging around the dead weight of a grown man (that might be an exaggeration but that’s what it seemed like), they have gears and hand brakes and bells, etc. And, a basket – which I found to be perfect for a baguette and a bottle of wine.
It took me a good five minutes just to get my seat situated (which, by the way – was not conducive to my backside but that’s another story).
It was at this point (yes, at the beginning) we started having bike problems. NOT MINE THIS TIME! Ha!
A’s first bike had a flat tire – which she didn’t realize until we had already headed away from the station we got our bikes. So, we stopped to redock and she got another one – this one had a faulty bell. We waited until it was time to redock our bikes to get another one and she enlisted me as the official “bike checker”, which included checking the brakes, handles, bells, and tires.
“All looks good!” I shouted while she was at the kiosk checking out the bike I had just “OKed”
She comes over to get it out of the slot and sees this:
That’s right – it had a missing pedal.
“Patty! You failed me.”
We hadn’t experienced pedal problems yet! Anyway, after this time we checked absolutely everything on the bike. So, if you find yourself in a similar situation – save yourself some wasted time and frustration and give your rent-a-bike a good once over. Although, I can see how pedals would fall off as heavy as those things were.
After our late-night encounter with the red light district we decided to head back in the daylight to see the famous Moulin Rouge. Of course, in the stark contrast of daylight the area was completely different. Well, not completely – a myriad of shops lined both sides of the streets. Ya’ll can use your imagination. 🙂
It was cool to see such a famous site – all I could think of was the movie with Nicole Kidman. Seemed much more glamorous.
Monday was my shopping day so we stopped at several boutiques and stores for souvenirs. I don’t shop for myself when I travel – I usually pick up a momento from a restaurant or a site or keep ticket stubs and those are my souvenirs. If I do get myself anything, it’s usually a small piece of jewelry that’s locally made.
By the middle of our day, both my and A’s bike baskets were full of all matter of purchases… which, would have been fine if I hadn’t decided to fall off my bike. In the street. Let me back up a little bit – so there are lots of bike lanes in Paris (and even little red lights, too), which is great, but there are also plenty of streets that don’t have bike lanes. And, there don’t seem to be a lot of rules for cars or bikers. Which means you are navigating extremely busy roads relying on hand signals and eye contact to make sure you don’t get run over. I was having a legitimately difficult time with that bike and it being so heavy – couple that with trying to ride in the road and a basket full of glass and you get this scene:
A slowed down ahead of me so I did the same. The slow pace was just enough time for my top heavy bike to lean over to one side and crash completely into the sidewalk. My purse and souvenirs went splattering and rolling down the sidewalk. And, if that wasn’t enough I fell on top off the bike and then off of it.
What do you do? You just gotta laugh. It was funny. Tragic, but funny. It’s so typical of my life! Of course I brought a few extra souvenirs back in the way of bruises all over my lower body.
We parked our bikes and headed to Angelina – a famous café that is said to be Audrey Hepburn’s favorite. I was (still love her) a huge fan of Audrey Hepburn growing up – Love in the Afternoon, Funny Face and my favorite, Sabrina (“Oh, but Paris isn’t for changing planes, it’s… it’s for changing your outlook, for… for throwing open the windows and letting in… letting in la vie en rose.”) – they all had elements of Paris in them and I guess that’s why I always thought it would be magical.
I was hoping to have a little respite at Angelina but since I only wanted a couple macaroons and their famous hot chocolate it was a little “frowned upon” to have a seat in the main area. Definitely very Parisian and not very Southern. While the South is very accommodating, Paris proved to be very non-accommodating in many ways. Take it or leave it. But, the next best thing was to take the sweets across the street and sit in the park.
Their macaroons were good – I had better ones in New York City. The famous hot chocolate was out of this world – it was like drinking brownie batter. I couldn’t even finish that little cup!! Good for sharing 🙂
After a little rest in the park, we biked back over to the area of the Louvre and walked around for a little while. Have I mentioned how much walking we did?
As it started getting later into the evening we went in search of something to bring for the final viewing of the Eiffel Tower. The day was coming to a close – I was going to miss the simplicity of the past few days.
We were walking by the building below and A asked me if I thought people that lived in Paris really appreciated where they lived or realized how amazing it was to look out the window and see the Eiffel Tower everyday. I couldn’t answer the question because I don’t know – I would imagine they are “used” to their life so it’s not like us thinking about living there. The magic wears off after a while, I suppose.
The other night I was driving to a friend’s house out far away from the city and there was the most beautiful sunset starting. The mountains far off in the distance were clear and the sky was bright – flecked with pale tones of pink and purple and yellow. It wasn’t Paris, but Paris isn’t my home. And, I want to appreciate the beauty that’s around me and never take it for granted.
We made our way over to the Eiffel Tower and found a good spot in the grass to relax. It was much less crowded than the last night we were there.
The warm weather was abandoning us as the night crept on so we got ready to leave. Thankful for the opportunity to meet up with my sweet friend and make so many awesome, once-in-a-lifetime memories.
So ends the story of A Southern Girl in Paris…
until next time… bisous, patty lauren