Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know what a huge fan of Paris walking tours I am. I’ve covered a lot of ground with a lot of different companies and I always learn something new, no matter what tour I go on. Over the years, though, I can’t tell you how many people have recommended that I take a bike tour of Paris, specifically, through Fat Tire Tours. Up until recently, I just hadn’t got my act together to schedule in a bike tour…. oh, wait…. Did I forget to mention something? That – sssh – I’m a little afraid of riding a bike in a big city…. I KNOW, I KNOW….
I DO know how to ride a bike, having learned when I was little. I used to ride a bike a bit when I was younger. But as I grew up, then got a driver’s licence, I just didn’t need a bike anymore. Then I moved to Paris where I didn’t have space to keep a bike and, well, I walked everywhere. Years later when I moved to Toronto, I found it intimidating riding on the road (I did try!) and realised that it was still a challenge “driving” on the “wrong” side of the road for me. I’ve stuck to public transit for the past decade or so in Toronto. And when I am in Paris, I still have a tendency to walk everywhere.
But every now and then, a group of bike tourists catches my eye and I wonder what it would be like, flying through the streets of Paris (which are, admittedly, much more bike-friendly than they used to be and so much more bike accessible than most of Toronto) on a cute bike, wine, cheese and baguette in basket….. but wait, I digress…
On my recent trip to Paris, with my mum, I took the leap and signed us up for the “Paris Day Tour“.
Operating since 1999, this tour is a different way to see Paris. Described as ” a relaxing and fun pedal” this sounded perfect for two people who haven’t been on bikes in years (60+ years in my mum’s case!). Offering “famous sites, a great orientation, all the educational information, heaps of unique and fascinating stories, fantastic photo opportunities, a comfortable bike and superb personal service from your guide” the Paris Day Tour lasts 3-4 hours and is a great way to get your bearings and get comfortable on a bike while getting some great photos at the same time!
I would say that if you are hesitant about riding (as we both were), this tour will put your mind at ease. There is a short safety talk at the beginning of the tour where they explain the different formations you will be riding in (with a group of around 20, that’s important!) and the bikes are super comfortable (they make sure you are comfortable before you ride off – adjusting the seat height etc… so you don’t need to worry about that during the tour). There are no baskets on the bikes (you can strap a small bag to the back of the bike) , though you can leave your things back in the Fat Tire office and just carry the essentials with you. You’ll want your camera close at hand as some of those photo opportunities go by fast!
I would recommend staying close to the front of the group if you are nervous about getting left behind (we got stuck at a set of lights and had a few moments of “uh oh” as our group cycled past some construction meaning we couldn’t see which way they turned but our guide, Malcolm, came riding back to rescue us and we were back with the group in no time (apologising profusely for holding people up!).
Once we’d gotten accustomed to being on the bikes (and riding on the road some of the time – a lot of the time you are in designated bike lanes which the Parisians seem to respect), it was a really interesting way to see the city. I’d walked most of the route at some point in my previous time in Paris but it’s a whole new perspective seeing it from the road.
The tour takes in a lot of “must see” monuments and sites and every now and then the group gathers for some information about what you’re seeing/ about to see/ just seen. On the road/ bike path it’s nearly impossible for the guide to pass on any information but the tour is well planned in that there are numerous stops along the way for you to ask questions, learn something (a lot!) about history, architecture, culture etc… Oh, and take photos…
There is a 45-ish minute stop towards the end of the tour where you have a chance to eat some lunch – on nice days, in the Tuileries Gardens, on cold days (like we had), inside a restaurant, just off the Gardens (lunch not included but the options are very reasonably priced).
Our guide, Malcolm, was engaging, super-knowledgeable and funny and dealt very well with a group of people with such a wide age (and bike-riding ability) range – from my mum who, at 73, must have been amongst one of the oldest on the tour that day, to a set of twins who must have been 10 or 11, Malcolm made it interesting and accessible for everyone. A wealth of knowledge, he was able to answer everyone’s questions and it seemed there was nothing he didn’t know!
I’d definitely recommend Fat Tire to anyone who wants a new perspective on Paris – it seems many people on our tour were there to experience Paris differently – it certainly offers you the chance to cover a fairly large amount of ground in a relatively short space of time (much quicker than walking) and it’s a wonderful way to get a feel for the city, make notes about places you want to check out in more detail and learn about the city from a local. My only “negative” (if you could call it that) was that I found I wanted to take WAY more photos and while there are a lot of stops along the way, it’s not always possible to stop when you see something you want to take a photo of (because you’re holding up the group or traffic – or both!). For me, this was a nice way to see some of the sites from a different perspective and mentally map out a (walking) visit of the area for later on which would be at a much slower pace (with more stops for photos). Fat Tire also offer walking tours, so I’d say they have everyone’s interests and pace covered!
Fat Tire Tours does, indeed offer a wide range of options – from segways to bikes, from walking tours to “skip the line” tickets, not to mention trips further afield (Versailles, Monet’s Garden in Giverny), there really is something for everyone!
Disclosure: My mum and I were guests of Fat Tire Paris on this tour. I was not asked to write about the tour and am not being compensated for doing so. All opinions 100% our own.
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