Playing Tourist in your own City

Written by admin on August 13, 2008 – 4:29 pm -

After living in Paris for twenty years, you develop a shell and refuse to play tour guide. Why can’t houseguests and visitors get it into their heads that people who reside in Paris actually work? And if they don’t go to an office or cyber-commute, they have done the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame—and will never again stand in line to see them.

After long experience and painful experience, I have learned to hand visitors a subway and bus map, a carnet de Métro (ten subway tickets, with my compliments), and say à plus tard (see you later).  And yes, there will be a glass of wine awaiting you when you return after 5 p.m.  Does this make me a bitch?

No, but then it hits you that tourists are more knowledgeable about your city than you—because we did all those things years and years ago and now we’re sitting behind a desk or staring at a computer. Very few people who come to Paris on business see half of what I’ve been seeing since they would need to pack sports attire.

I mean, have you rented a Velib’ and taken your chances biking from here to there?  Do you know that on holidays and weekends some streets are closed for bike, pedestrian and skating traffic?  Maybe it’s time to try.  I did.

I did Paris by Segway (a motorized scooter) when the tours were first introduced. Don’t be deceived by how easy it looks. Developing a sense of balance isn’t a slam-dunk and do wear a helmet and knee and elbow pads.  Better be safe than sorry.

The Open Bus is also a kick. If the weather is nice, be sure to head to the top of this double Decker brightly painted coach and see Paris from on high.  Even though the Métro is faster, visitors don’t get a bird’s eye view of the city plus an English language description of what you’re actually seeing. Passengers will get the grand tour of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, (of course) Montparnasse, Saint-Germain, the Bastille, Bercy, Montmartre and the Grands-Boulevards.  Purchase a one or two day pass and climb on and off the bus when the whim strikes you. Make sure you don’t lose your headphones or you’ll be out of luck.  La vie est dure.

Suffering a bit from claustrophobia, the idea of being cooped up on a boat even though it’s cruising up and down the Seine is not my cup of tea. I’m good for an hour and hopped on a barge moored at the Pont Neuf (Paris’s oldest bridge in spite of the name) and get my water tour fix in an hour. There are numerous boats cruising the Seine and seeing it by night is romantic.  Many people opt to take dinner cruises but mass feeding is mass feeding. I’d rather eat in a restaurant and cruise either at sundown or after dark.

I’ve spotted some pedicabs, but have yet to gleaned very little information. There are so few in Paris that finding them is a challenge. Ah, there’s a reason. There are currently only a few Urban-Cabs.   They’re powered not only by pedal power but also a battery and an electric motor that assists on steep grades. Urban-Cab claims that these are a completely carbon-free means of transport and they expect to have more than 100 units around Paris by the end of this year.

But the newest phenomenon is renting a tiny Mercedes for 9 Euros an hour. Check out Mobizen and see where you can rent these cars – in the event you want to take a fast tour of the city and aren’t terrified of driving.

Now that I’m in my tourist mode, I’d love to take a 30-minute helicopter ride over Paris. They can be booked for approximately 150 Euros and leave from the “old” airport, Le Bourget.  I’m even up for an excursion in a hot air balloon.  The problem is that no one will go with me.  Finding a partner will be my next challenge.

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