Monday, 11 April 2016

Liberté, Bicycletté, Café - Day 20

Today i'll be combining the details of my bike tour with the coffee report, as it turns out the bike ride became a bit of a coffee tour anyway so it made sense to join them. By the end of the ride I'd had three coffees!

I'd done an electric bike tour in Florence, and it was the best thing I'd done there, so the first thing I did when I came to Paris was look for another and found this one. With the crazy Paris weather of fantastic mornings and crappy afternoons, I decided to book a morning ride, and picked Sunday as thats the quietest day as far as traffic goes. The tour started at 8.30 am

I'm ready to leave the apartment by 7.30am, and its a chilly 4c outside and first thing to mind is Coffee, and I'm worried as nothing much is open at this time of day here in Paris. I'm might not get one till after the tour. 

My daily Sacre-Coeur pic. Brrrr!

Living proof that the streets are cleaned in Paris. Its actually cleaner than what I'd expected based on what people had told me to expect, and way cleaner than Venice.

The coffee chain in closed. I normally wouldn't go here, but they do have proper espresso maker, and I've had so many coffee machine made coffees here, if its made by hand using an espresso machine I'll cut them some slack and try it out. But its closed anyways, so I move on.

I decide the best chance is down near where the tour starts so go to Anvers station and get the metro to Opera station. Interesting that I expected it to be empty this time of morning, but it was quite packed. The Parisians love their metro, and there were heaps of families with very young kids. One little kid even had a bubble wand and was making bubbles on the platform. Also witnessed some rather dodgy looking guys jump the ticket gates.

I wonder if I can get decent coffee here at this station? 

This is where the tour starts. I find out where to meet the tour, I have 20 min spare, so look for coffee. Apparently this column is made from the melted canons of the defeated Austrian and Russian armies after Napoleon won the battle of Austerlitz. Its located in Palace Vendome 

I find an open cafe, looks nice, full of local Parisians, so I go in and place my order. Oh Paris, non, non, non. The "barista" walks over to the machine and pushes the cappuccino button. For this effort with a simple pastry I'm charged €9. France, what have you done to your coffee culture ?

The end result. Its OK, but for 40 euro cents you could do the same with a Nespresso machine.

At precisely 8.30 our tour guide shows up, introduces himself and gives us a little history on the square we are in, and shows us the bikes. Similar setup to the bike I had in Florence, but with normal spaced tyres. Plus some ideas on the road rules relating to bikes in Paris :-

1. Helmets are not mandatory (I've not seen anyone wearing them)
2. Bikes on the road are considered pedestrians, so any accident between a car and a bike, the car driver is considered at fault in most instances, and as such cars will be careful around you and give you plenty of space
3. Bikes can use the bus lanes
4. On red lights that are only pedestrian lights (ie, not on an intersection) bikes can ignore them and go through them (avoiding the other pedestrians of course).

Other comparison on the differences in the bikes in Florence and Paris, like Australia, the European legal limit for electric motors is 250watt. The bike in Florence was way more powerful, I suspect it actually had a 500 or 750watt motor. This one is still enough for what we are doing though.

We rode through the grounds of the Louvre.

We also stopped and had a look in this church that is not normally open to the public, on 30 Rue Lhomond. The story is that during the revolution one remaining nun that didn't flee Paris stayed behind (the revolutionaries had it in for both the crown and the church) and when the revolutionaries came by to loot the church she directed them to the wine cellar for a party and they then forgot to take all the art work when they left. Amazing windows and the sun was beaming in at exactly the right time when we were there.

We stop at one of the best pastry stops in Paris, there is quite a queue inside, and we have time to grab a pastry and a coffee, this is turing out to be a very civilised, my kind of tour. I'm somewhat tempted to buy a baguette and stick it in my bike basket for the stereotypical French look

In we go and the pastries look delicious. I settle on a cappuccino muffin as it looks the most interesting, and order a cafe au lait. Oh France, you did it again !!, fantastic looking pastries but an automated coffee machine!.

I'm currently having a bit of a chuckle that the French get so uptight about another American fast food store opening somewhere, yet the coffee machines have taken over without anyone seeming to care. Anyone travelling to Europe for great coffee, get thee to Italy. After a few days of this, I've comfortable saying Australia far better coffee than Paris does. In Italy you can get fantastic hand made coffee for less than €2 almost everywhere, and here machine made is €4 and up.

If you look closely you can see the coffee cups under the automated machine.

The coffee and the muffin. The coffee was average, the muffin was excellent.

After finishing our coffee we cycle down past Cafe Procope the oldest cafe and first cafe to serve coffee in Paris. I didn't have coffee here, but are very tempted to go there for coffee tomorrow. Apparently Ben Franklin was a frequent patron and drafted part of the American declaration of independence there. They also have one of Napoleon's hats (A recent one sold for almost €2 million)

The stairs. This cafe featured in the revolution, and they put the royal symbol (Fleur-de-lis) on the carpet, which was never done before, as essentially you would be walking on the royal symbol. A symbolic way of "sticking it to the man" during the revolution.

The hat

Very delicious looking pastries

The street.

We stopped in this little complex where Johnny Depp once owned an apartment. Very expensive area and looks like the square for 'a'llo 'allo.

In the same street they also have the foundations of a small guillotine, it was never used on humans, but they practiced on sheep. I guess you could call it user acceptance testing...

After 4 hours, the tour ended, and it was Fantastic. Best thing I've done in Paris, and would recommend it to anyone. I learnt more about the history of Paris in the four hours than I have the entire week. Guide was excellent, and the tour was a great price. Don't be concerned about riding in Paris, the tour sticks mainly to the back streets and bike paths, plus the traffic is very cautious around the riders. To be honest I felt more comfortable riding here where I don't know the roads, speak the language, and ride on the wrong side of the road than I would be cycling around in the middle of Sydney. Here in Paris they even close some roads here on weekends along the Seine to be used by cyclists only. Paris may have regressed on their coffee culture, but they are light years ahead of Australia on cycling.

Here is the link to the tour!electric-bike/czpg  I gave them a high rating on trip advisor, its a great tour, and here is the link on Strava.

Glorious day here in paris

This bridge is covered in padlocks

After the tour, I decide to get one more coffee, this time I have it at this cafe.

Success, a proper coffee machine !!

The coffee looks as great as its tastes. (A$10, it should !!)

After a huge day, we all decided to just have an evening in, and we haven't had any Mexican for over three weeks now, so when we saw the ingredients and kits in the supermarket, we couldn't resist. More expensive than home, but worth it. :-)