I had been advised that a bike tour of Paris should definitely go on the “must do” list but to be honest, once I saw the traffic and the way bikes worked in the city, I chickened out. Everything seemed to flow smoothly but I didn’t have the confidence that I would need to navigate that zoo. Avia wanted to tour Versailles – which is acres and acres and acres huge so on a very late night whim I booked a bike tour for us there. It was perfect!!! There is no way you can see everything by foot and biking along the long, long pathways through the grounds was an absolute delight!
We met the tour at the train station in Paris, which is an adventure in and of itself. I wish I had a photo of my confident daughter – striding purposefully through the maze of underground tunnels that twist and turn in every direction. Once you get the hang of the system it’s actually not bad to navigate but this station was huge! It covers several blocks of real estate underground and I think we walked most of it to finally arrive at the platforms. We traveled to Versailles and stopped in the town to pick up the bikes.
Good old comfy beach cruisers (no gears) are new to me. It took a few minutes to get used to but I find I like them. There are very few hills in the area so it was no problem at all. I had to include this picture just because it was cute. I was glad that we had panniers to carry our stuff in rather than baskets. I like my center of gravity to be down low on wheels.
The tour started off at the market to purchase picnic supplies. Check out the size of those pans – almost a meter in diameter! I forgot to check back to see what they would be making in them. My wish was for paella.I started craving seafood too – which wasn’t practical for a picnic. We ended up with some sparkling pear juice, cherries, and of course a baguette sandwich. Oh – and a bar of white chocolate with lemon and something else yummy in it. I didn’t mean to get white chocolate – what sacrilege! But (shhhh – don’t tell) it was delicious!
I think I could travel and just look out train windows for ages. There are, of course less beautiful and more industrial areas. But I never saw boring suburbs with rows of nearly identical houses. The architecture in city and suburb was always interesting to me. I suppose that happens when the structural environment has existed for generations before cars were around. I truly love environments built for people rather than cars. What I wouldn’t give for great plaza/pedestrian/market/traffic-free public spaces in the US. Shopping malls (ick) are about as close as we come.
Back to Versailles. Big place. Fancy buildings (scroll down to see the previous post for pictures of the Grande Chateau.) We had some fun history lessons from our entertaining guide.
Do you see those crazy rectangular trees in the background? The entire estate is almost all planted with Linden trees and they are all trimmed into giant rectangular tree-sized hedgerows on sticks.
Ronan said they do it with a laser – I’m not sure if I believe him or not. It felt like the majority of trees we saw in Paris were also rectangular Linden trees. Kind of an interesting thing for the Parisians to hold over from the last century.
This is the Grande Canal – our first stop on the grounds. We bike along the paths behind the trees but it isn’t a straight shot. The canal has a cross section to go around before we landed on the hill at the very back of the canal for our picnic. Another interesting thing was the inclusion of installation art by Anish Kapoor in parts of the Chateau and grounds. This piece was a giant sucking whirlpool that we didn’t realize wasn’t part of the original estate at first. I took a video that you might enjoy – I’m working on trying to get it uploaded for you. Try out this link and see if you can view it.
Next up I’ll share my impressions of Marie Antoinette’s Petit Trianon, gardens and hamlet.