Sunday, 1 June 2008

Velib' mania

Oh my goodness. Today was a two Velib' excursion day. Life doesn't get much better than this! First of all, I was near Luxembourg gardens, which is a little tricky to get back from on a Sunday without the 84 bus running, and part of line 3 was out of commission. Despite loving the Velib' every time I hop aboard, I still need a reason to take it sometimes. I'm a little nervous about the route to take, or I think, "what if I start to exceed my free half hour and need to check in and out again? Where is the next station?" I was smart enough to pack my Velib' map today which can be found at most Monoprix stores and some of the kiosques. Actually, now that it has been super awesome weather, I try to carry the map with me always. It shows all the Velib' stations, of which there are hundreds. It's pretty impressive to see all the stops on a map.

Thus decided on taking a Velib', I locate the nearest station on a map. There are Velib's available and I choose my ride. Next, consulting the map, I try to plan my route. The map also indicates the bike paths, and I notice that part of my route is not designated as a bike path, but I give it a go anyhow.

I can't describe how awesome it is to ride down the quais of Paris on a (practically) free bike. I travelled on the Left Bank along the Quai Voltaire, Anatole France, and d'Orsay, passing the bouquinistes selling their wares along the Seine as well as viewing the Louvre across the river and rolling past the Musee d'Orsay. It is truly a beautiful ride traveling under the Horse Chestnut trees and seeing the Bateaux Mouches along the river. After taking Pont d'Alma across the Seine, I headed up Avenue Marceau where I did a bit of huffing and puffing, I hate to admit. It's not a huge hill, but a hill nonetheless, but was able to continue in the lowest of the Velib's three gears. Circling the Arc de Triomphe via rue de Tilsit, I then continued down Avenue MacMahon to Niel into my neighborhood. I tell you, at the end of my ride, I was exhilirated. It was like I had taken a happy pill, I was totally pleased.

Sunday is a great day to ride because there are much fewer cars and buses circulating. There are almost always fellow riders on the street as well which makes for a more enjoyable ride.

After having a delicious Lebanese dinner with my family, I ask my brother-in-law if he would like to try the Velib'. He has been wanting to give the Velib' a go, and he has the little "chip" in his card that allows you to rent a Velib' on the spot. Thus begins my second Velib' excursion which is with a buddy and at night. I'm stoked. Uncle D and I figure out how to get the Velib' and luckily there are two available and functioning bikes at the station.

We head South on rue de Courcelles and decide to ride to Parc Monceau. Thinking we might sneak into the Parc on our bikes, we are almost instantly stopped by a guard who told us to walk our bikes. No problem. We appreciate the beauty of the park a pied and then I am antsy to "refuel" at the Velib' station. There is no time limit on the bikes, but after a half an hour, the bikes begin to cost a minimal amount of money. I enjoy the sense of freedom from riding the Velib' as well as its being free of charge. So outside the park near Alfred de Vigny, I check my bike in, and seconds later, I check it back out again. It remains free as long as it is checked in every half an hour. And with stations everywhere it is not hard to do.

The Arc de Triomphe was our next destination, so we headed down Avenue Hoche to the Arc and then came back via rue Carnot and then back to our neighborhood. It was fun riding the cool streets at night while having a chat with my brother-in-law.

Whether trying to get from one end of town to the other, or just soaking in the sights of Paris while getting some exercise, the Velib' is a great option. The rental fee for 24 hours is one Euro, plus the hourly fee which is nominal. (Uncle D's total cost was 2 Euros for just under an hour, quite the bargain.) It's one of the best activities in Paris while spending the least amount of money. Give it a go!

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