Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Paris à Velo, C'est Sympa

That's the mouthful of a name of one of the bike tour companies in Paris.

We didn't take that one, but it's true - Paris by bike truly is nice.

As I'd had a good experience with them in Barcelona in the past, I opted for Fat Tire Bike Tours. The meeting point was at the south pillar of the Eiffel Tower at 11:00 this morning. Thanks to a bit of a delay in the hotel lobby, we missed it.

Oh well. The whole point of Paris is to just take your time and stroll around and take things in, right?

So we walked around the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars, photographing Gustav Eiffel's massive creation from every possible angle, and avoiding con artists who prey upon the tourist hordes. It's really easy, actually - they come up to you and ask if you speak English, then have you read some card with their plea for help, often pickpocketing you in the process. To avoid this, you either deck them squarely in the nose, or do what I do to avoid being deported: Say "No!" in a foreign accent. Yelling at them in Farsi also seems to work, by the way. You could also try, "Bitch, I just missed the bike tour I had my heart set on ever since I planned this trip, and I could give two shits about your amateur grifter designs on my cash." But "no!" is really easiest.

We continued our walk along various parts of southwestern Paris, taking in much of the 7e arrondissement, grabbing a pain au chocolat here, a café creme there, and defacing a brand new Toyota.

Ok, so it was a Rugby World Cup promotion at a fancy Toyota showroom on the Champs Elysees. In fact, you can't go anywhere without a reminder that the RWC is going on here, whether it's banners, flags of the participating countries in front of hotels and bars, or the sundry no-necked rugby hooligans in just about every tourist venue. It's awesome.

All this walking around worked up an appetite - especially after a typically light French breakfast - so we stepped into l'Entrecôte for the classic lunch they've been serving for over 30 years: Salad, ribeye steak, and all the fries and poivre sauce you want for a ridiculously reasonable price. Add to that a half bottle of decent red wine for a song, and you've got one of the better deals in this otherwise outrageously priced quarter. I have a feeling this is the first of many instances of me having my mouth full for hours at a time on this trip...

A bit more strolling and we were ready to catch the afternoon Fat Tire tour. With a bit of an orientation, some beer, and getting set up with some bouncy cruisers, we were well on our way on a tour stretching from the Eiffel Tower, along many of the sites of the Left Bank, through the Jardin des Tuileries, to the Louvre, and back. A great dose of entertaining history lessons were doled out as well. Best of all? Seeing what kind of haven Paris has become for cyclists in the last couple of years, after having been one of the craziest places to bike - let alone walk.

The only annoying part was this little Australian bitch who was loud, annoying, and couldn't ride a bike for shit, nor with any regard for others. Now don't get me wrong - I love you Aussies, even when you're on your package bus tours by ConTiki or Top Deck or whatever. Hell, I recommend the Oz Bus (aka the Big Green Fuck Truck) for people who want to do the same thing on your home turf. But you've always got that one slapper you should've left somewhere in the middle of the Outback before going on your overseas adventure. Yeah, loud bitch in pink, I'm talking to you. I wish it had rained so you'd at least have something valid to whinge about on the bus ride to your next destination.

Okay, rant over. Again, I love my Aussie friends, but there's always one. And sadly, I can say this because as an American, there's always one of us, too...

Speaking of which, our hotel, being a Marriott, is full of Americans. Like, all American. As in I walk down to the lobby to get something from the Concierge and I feel like I'm in Cleveland. The only thing about this hotel that reminds me that I'm in Paris is that it's pissing rain outside right now.

But I'm no ingrate - I'm sitting in one of those Herman Miller-style chairs, Alannah's propped up in a king-size bed watching a plasma TV, and I'm munching on a Petit Écolier cookie with double chocolate and candied hazelnuts. Yeah, life is good.

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