It takes us two visits to Paris before we feel the draw to wander beyond the city.
Our initial trips are packed full of the must do and see things all first time Paris visitors feel obligated to accomplish. We walk across all of the bridges, or a fair representation. We wander through the markets, even the marvelous Sunday bird market on Île de la Cité. We view the Tour Eiffel from the ground only (the lines were too long to take a trip up) but that is impressive enough. We scoot through the Louvre hitting the highlights. We dine at Procope. We take the funicular to the base of Sacré-Coeur. We climb to the loft of St Sulpice to hear the massive pipe organ played, up close and personal. We shop at green grocers to stock our apartment kitchen with the freshest of foods. We gaze lovingly at the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry in the Cluny. We witness breath-taking services full of pageantry at Notre Dame. We hang out at the Shakespeare Book Company, finding it just a bit like home. We shop, we make friends, and we fall in love over and over again.
But as wonderful as Paris is, there is so much more to France, we reason. On our next trip we decide to branch out. I, being an artist, want to visit Monet's Giverny. We are sure that Versailles is a must see. Thousands and thousands of people cannot be wrong. But how to accomplish these visits in our comfort zone? We do not want to rent a car and deal with pick up, drop off, parking. Taking the train is a plan but then we face a lot of walking. And so upon the recommendation of a couple we met on a prior trip, we opt for a bike tour. Ideal for us. A good option almost year around (most shut down during the winter months) a bike tour is particularly perfect for anyone traveling to Paris in the fall when the weather is almost always accommodating.
We book our two selected tours a few days apart with a company based near the Eiffel Tower. The Giverny tour sees us meet at the office (after a harrowing metro ride in the wrong direction which we discover in barely enough time to recover and get where we need to be), ride our bikes through the city to the Gare and board the train with bikes in tow. Not so hard but a new skill indeed. In Giverny we get to line jump for the garden tour which is a huge plus and gives us much more time to take some bike tours around the immediate countryside.
For our Versailles trip, we meet at the office and take the train to the town of Versailles where we pick up our bikes and proceed to the market, where we buy food for our lunch. We then cycle to the estate of Marie Antoinette which is adjacent to the palace proper. Both the estate and the palace are enormous with huge grounds and our bikes save us an immense amount of time. After touring everything extensively and leisurely we picnic by the lake, garage our bikes and hop the train back to Paris.
Paris, and beyond. Horizons expanded. C'est bon.
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