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Aujourd'hui nous sommes le jeudi 20 janvier 2022. C'est la fête de Saint Sebastien


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Scooter Tour de Paris

Story & Photos By Liz French

 

Paris Left Bank Scooters Tour

“You ride like a true Parisian,” yelled Pablo our guide as we gunned out again into the city traffic careering between cars, sliding past side mirrors.

I felt my partner’s chest expand as I clung on, fighting the rise of mild hysteria and wondering if it was wise for Mark to have told Pablo that he rode a 650 Suzuki at home.

We were on a 125cc Vespa, on a Left Bank Scooters Paris Highlights Tour. The tour is rated number three of 339 activities in Paris by Trip Advisor. Spanish born Pablo was raised and educated in Oxford in England but chooses to live in Paris because he is irretrievably in love with what he describes as “the most beautiful city in the world”. He was out to prove it to us in three hours.

The tour involved fearlessly flying through the traffic, stopping every 10 minutes or so at a Parisian landmark where Pablo fed his addiction to nicotine and fed us with information. This Francophile probably knows more about the city’s history than most French. If I hadn’t just read Edward Rutherford’s doorstop sized novel based on the history of Paris a lot of it would have been news to me.

First stop was the Place du Concorde, a huge square at one end of the Tuileries Gardens (the Louvre is at the other) now attracting lots of tourists where it once attracted locals to watch executions. Death was inflicted slowly and tortuously until a more humane way of killing people was invented by Monsieur Guillotine.

We zoomed up busy boulevards to the centre of Paris stopping outside the Opera House where the tiny scooters were dwarfed by the scale of the architecture. A quick history lesson with shades of Phantom of the Opera and we were back on the bikes and heading through leafy avenues towards Montmartre. We bounced over a curb to pause outside the windmill topped Moulin Rouge where risqué cabaret has been entertaining audiences since 1900; which may explain why it looked a little jaded. After coffee at Café Amelie (as in the movie) we zipped up a cobbled side street to spot a tiny plaque on the Paris home of van Gogh. More cobbles slowed us down enough for me to take in the narrow winding streets leading up to Montmartre.

We parked the scooters and took a walk around Sacre Coeur during which the boys had a deep discussion…. about motorbikes. Pablo digressed to tell us the construction of the celebrated Basilica was long and contentious and one ‘architect’ hated the style so much he crafted a pig which sticks its snout out from behind one of the domes. Pablo also showed us less obvious attractions of Montmartre like the original vineyard where French vines are still tested for toughness, and you can buy the wine after signing agreement you won’t return it if (when) you find it undrinkable. Right across the road was the nightclub (Au Lapin Agile) where a penniless Picasso drew on napkins to pay for his dinner, the sale of which later made the owner a millionaire.

Pablo reminded us that riding around the Arc de Triomphe was optional but by then Mark was suffering from a very French sense of superiority where his abilities were concerned. He circled jubilantly round the arch through which Napoleon’s troops marched triumphantly home from battle. I was just relieved to survive what seemed to be the free for all French version of a roundabout.

Pablo photographed us on the Trocadero terrace with the Eiffel Tower in the background then led us across the Seine right past the base of this edifice built by Gustave Eiffel as entrance to the World’s Fair in 1889; saved from demolition by its usefulness as a communications tower. The name of every man who helped build it is etched into the tower but we were moving too rapidly for me to read them. Next stop Les Invalides, the very beautiful hospital Napolean built to ensure his injured troops received the best possible treatment so he could send them back out sooner for another go at getting destroyed.

Time was running out. We shot back to the Right Bank via the Archeveche Bridge otherwise known as the ‘love lock bridge’ where so many lovers lock padlocks that unless they were all removed annually the bridge would drop into the Seine. Last stop, Place Vendome, under the column built by Napoleon to commemorate one of his greatest victories and made from cannons appropriated from the defeated armies. The Place Vendome is maybe better known for the Paris Ritz but we missed a drink in Hemingway’s Bar because the hotel has closed for massive renovations.

So ended an exhilarating entertaining morning which packed a lot of sights into a short time. Ideal for us with only three days in Paris en route to Greece but equally effective as an introduction to places you could return to if staying longer. Mark is still regaling friends with his exploits and near misses on the streets of Paris; and how he could pick my fear level by the pitch of my laugh!

Notes:

ACCOMMODATION

We stayed at Hotel Londres Saint-Honore a two star hotel in the ritzy area on Right Bank, within easy walking distance of the Louvre, Seine, and Left Bank.

www.hotellondressthonore-paris.com

LEFT BANK SCOOTERS

Scooter 150 Euros for driver, 50 Euros for passenger

www.leftbankscooters.com

TIPS

Take the Roissybus from the airport to Place de l’Opera, runs every 15 minutes, only 10 Euros. 

Enter the Louvre via the Port des Lions – no queues.