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Bicycling to Paris


It was summer and I was bicycling to Paris. Maybe you think of summer in France and imagine nice sunny days, a little breeze, flowers in the fields are in bloom and people sitting on the cafe terraces. The weather was lousy. I knew I would not be able to get my cycling clothes dry in any hotel unless I would stay longer. In Paris I would stay with a friend I had met in India: Gwen.

Paris France
Paris

I cycled now already two days in the pouring rain and was wondering why I was doing this. In the previous years I had been cycling in bad weather, but then I was usually not too far from home.

It was different now. The plan was to cycle from Holland to China. I had no time limit so I could take my time. But I wanted to get out of Europe soon.

Glass pyramid at the Louvre Paris
The famous glass pyramid at the Louvre Paris

It was not my first time bicycling to Paris. In the mid and late 80's I had been regular cycling in north France and I always found it very pleasant.

And yes, I had been cycling around Paris, but never done the city center although I had cycled around the French capital in previous years.

Of course Paris is world famous. Who doesn't know the National symbol of France: the Eiffel Tower. But France is much more then Paris. North France is fascinating but not this time. It was mostly heavy raining and it was less then pleasant.

Gent Belgium Gent Belgium
The Belgian city Gent which I passed on the way to Paris

About 30 km north of Paris I took a road hotel. I called Gwen and told her where I was. She was angry. "Why spending that money while you have a room and a bath here", she asked. I explained I was too dirty to come there but I would come the next day.

The next morning I started cycling through the suburbs of Paris. Industrial zones, suburban areas and honestly, nothing was nice.

cycling in France Champs-Élysées in Paris

By the time I had reached the banks of the Seine, the famous river that crossed right through Paris, the traffic had increased. I had to pay more attention to the traffic then I could see some of the city.

Paris however, turned out to be an easier city to cycle then I had expected.

I found Gwens apartment quickly. It was located a 10 minute walk from the famous Champs-Élysées. Gwen lived in an apartment on the 4th floor but I could leave my bicycle downstairs.

When she opened the door she was laughing. "Are you sure you have been bicycling to Paris? You're not that dirty", she said and let me in. I had to spend a few days in Paris, exploring the city she said and besides, my clothes needed a washing machine. She told me bicycling in Paris was not a good idea and after my experience in Paris I can only say: she was right.

The river Seine in Paris

In the evening we had a small dinner in her apartment. The next few days I was going around in the city center, walking, visiting some of the famous sites like the Eiffel Tower Moulin Rouge, the Louvre and other famous places. I spend almost a whole day in Musee d'Orsee, a museum full of more modern art. My favorite section here was about the early 20th century painters and I was just sitting there for ages, it seemed.

Eiffel Tower Y2K Paris
Eiffel Tower at night in Paris

In the evening I met Gwens' fiancee. We had a dinner in the house, obviously with wine. Bad luck for me, as I don't drink alcohol anymore but we still had a lot of fun.

Leaving Paris

Later in my journey I would cycle in and out of big cities with more comfort. Paris however was the first of metropolises I cycled out.

I cycled around the Eiffel Tower, around the Arc de Triomphe and on the Champs-Élysées before I went to the south east part of the city. Suburb after suburb followed. It was really not much fun to be on a bicycle here.

But I knew sooner or later I would be out of Paris, back in the countryside where cycling would be more fun. As I said earlier, I had been cycling in many areas in northern France and when you use the D-roads, the white roads on the map, France is magic.

Passing small villages now in the warm sun, was what I wanted to experience on my way to China. Forgotten were the rain and the cold weather from a few days earlier. Forgotten were the busy roads in the suburbs. I was now on my way to Lyon and Grenoble before I would find my way to Italy, but that is another story.

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