After two months in Paris, I finally got to check out the latest and greatest way to get around the City of Lights: Vélib'. Vélib' is a system of public bikes that the mayor had installed all over the city. You can sign up online or rent right from the machine at the docking stations, and away you go! It's inexpensive, the stations are numerous and easy to find, and everyone is doing it. We picked up bikes in the 17ème and decided to make our way across town to the Luxembourg Gardens. After a bit of wrangling with the unfortunately uncooperative rental machine, I adjusted my seat, checked the brakes, prayed it wouldn't started raining, and pushed off into the streets.
Since driving in Paris is a bit of an extreme sport, I was a little worried about entering the game with only two wheels and my sense of balance to protect me. But, other than a few run-ins with unruly roundabouts and unfriendly buses, the 30 minute ride went like a charm. As it turns out, biking is a great way to experience Paris. The challenge of being out there in traffic with all the cars makes you feel like you're really a part of the city. With the wind in your face you zoom down Boulevard St. Michel, cross the Seine, catch a glimpse of Notre Dame, cruise up the Rue de Rivoli, bike the length of the Louvre, navigate past the Concorde and finally pedal slowly through quiet neighborhoods of cobblestone streets. I started to wonder what I had been doing down in the metro all this time. Above ground travel is so much more fun!
Vélib' is clearly Paris' newest must-see attraction. The bikes allow newcomers a chance to orient themselves and quickly and gives residents a chance to view the city from a different angle. Bonus: your two-wheeled tour guide comes outfitted with a front-end basket; perfect for transporting that Parisian picnic you bought at the market. Pedal your way to a flowering park and enjoy.