May 07, 2010
Oh, my, God. Taking that Paris night tour was one of the most worthwhile things I have done so far. I am going to be singing praises of Fat Tire Bike Tours for weeks now. Their staff was really nice and I liked our tour guide, BC. He was not hard on the eyes at all when I first saw him holding the sign for the meet up spot. I got into the first group of folks and so we took our walk over to the place to get our bikes.
AS was quick to help us out and get us set up. You go out and choose a bike and make sure you feel comfy on it, and they adjust seats and handlebars as needed. I was testing a bike and I had left my reflective vest inside the shop, but that would turn out to be an advantage later.
I had already started a rapport with BC on the way to the shop, so when he saw that I had gotten a bike, but I didn't have my vest on yet, he asked if I would be the ass man. Basically, the ass man wears an orange jersey instead of a yellow jersey and they bring up the rear (or ass) of the group. The tour guide looks to see that the ass man is there before moving on at street lights or to the next destination and such. So it is important that the ass man stay with the group and help keep them together as much as possible. I agreed since there might have been some other incentives to being the ass man, including a free bottle of wine. Of course, people laughed when they heard about the ass man. After BC had gone over the rules and then did a quick review of what to do, someone said "and Mangi is the ass man."
The tour started off with biking through the streets of Paris to head to the Latin Quarter. As we rode through the Champ de Mars, some folks who were gathered there were cheering on the "ass man" so clearly they know about this tour. Our group kept up pretty well and we had no major problems with getting separated, which was good because it meant traffic left us alone. Also, Paris has some areas that have dedicated bike lanes, so we could be left in peace. We got to our first destination, which was Notre Dame and then got ice cream at Bertillion. I had been told about this place by TT and it was highly recommended by BC as well. They make some of the best ice cream in Paris and it is made fresh every morning. The place itself is a small stand attached to a restaurant so you have to pay attention, and I get the feeling this is a place the locals know about better than the tourists anyway. Anyway, so the flavors offered that night were rum raisin, pear, vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, and strawberry. I got a double of raspberry and chocolate. Wow it was good. The raspberry was tart but it complemented the chocolate, which was a bittersweet chocolate, and I could taste the cocoa.
After getting our cones, BC told us about Notre Dame and the Parthenon before we set off to our next destination, which was toward the Louvre. WE rode on the bike lanes until we got to the "bridge of the arts" which is a pedestrian bridge. It was filled with folks along the sides having picnics (at 8 at night) by candlelight and enjoying themselves. BC explained that this bridge is an older bridge and it has always been pedestrian only. It is also one of the best parts of Paris in his opinion because it is where you drop your attitude and go hang out with some friends and make new ones over a bottle of wine and homemade pasta. Can I just be sent to Paris for work, or just move there and telecommute? Nah, there's way too much I like about the states.
So we rode on to the Louvre, past the fountain and by the glass pyramid where we stopped for a photo op because by now it was dark and the pyramid was lit up. After waiting for a few folks who got hung up with taking pictures of themselves, we got caught up with the rest of the group to head to the boat. Our route took us under the Alexander III bridge, which was built during Franco Russian rule. There is a nightclub down there now which has no cover, then it zooms up to a 20 Euro cover after midnight.
We got onto the boat, got our wine and then went on the river cruise part of the tour. Lots to see there as well, learned about some bridges and the history of the Musee d'Orsay, along with how the Concorde bridge was built. Lots and lots of free wine going around. It was a good Rouge, probably very cheap by French standards, but I wasn't going to bitch. I got to chat with a few tour companions, including a number of them from Keller, TX, which was funny because apparently BC went to University of North TX, so he was familiar with the area.
Eventually we returned to the dock and rode our bikes back to the shop. One of the women had a struggle getting up the hill because of crowds and then a tour bus started coming down the road towards us and got in our way. Like a good ass man, I stayed with her until we could get caught up.
Our last stop was the Eiffel Tower, and we managed to arrive just as it started it's hourly sparkling. Besides learning the history of the tower, we also learned about the sparkles cycle. Originally the sparkles were put in for the millenium celebrations around the world, and the Eiffel Tower would sparkle on the 1/2 hour. However, as Paris is trying to go green, it only sparkles on the hour. Also, there is a secret to the sparkles that most tourists aren't made aware of, except by a local.
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We pedaled back to the shop, dropped off our bikes, and got ourselves together. A few of us exchanged info with BC and I got a free hat and bottle of wine from the folks for being such a good ass man. A few of us expressed the idea of redacted for this blog
As an aside, on the boat we learned that when BC was hired by Fat Tire Bike Tours and got his rules packet, among the fireable offenses were not having a bike pump with him in case someone got a flat tire, and not having his bottle opener to open the wine on the boat tour. He said he knew he had signed up for the right job.
So we were told where to get good crepes and got a list of good restaurants to visit in the area. A group of six of us headed out and got said crepes. I went with putting apple compote, cinnamon, and sugar in mine, which made it taste like an apple pie. Others went with Nutella and banana, or banana with sugar. I still need to have a Nutella crepe.
We went to a recommended bar and it was packed but the beer was cheap. Even for buying a round of six beers, it was only 18 Euro, which surprised us. Then I happened to notice a price board and it turns out it was cheaper to order at the bar than to be sitting at a table and order from the waitstaff. We worked our way from the back of the bar to the front where a rowdy table told two of the women in our group that they were talking about them. At another table, the guys were playing a game over an open jar of toothpicks, where one guy put his hand down on top of them, and his friends piled on their hands until the guy pulled his hand away. After that game was over it was apparently one of the guy's birthdays so we got to hear the happy birthday song in French.
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Hopped on Metro and rode back with most of the group to Madeline before we split off. Myself and two of the women were staying at the same hostel so we rode on in and walked to the hostel. I headed upstairs to my room and went in to find a new roommate, his name is AB. We ended up chatting for a while; he is from CT and works for a drug company, and is in Paris on vacation. Later on the other guys staying in our room arrive and since it is now after 3 AM, I am ready to pass out. I slept pretty well that night.