We spent most of the 3 days in Paris, just wandering, on foot for two days, and then on bicycle yesterday. The bike rental system here is brilliant. They have 20,000 bikes located in hundreds of locations (rental stations) around the city. Each bike is locked into a frame, and can only be removed using an approved ID and password. Providing the bike is returned (and locked in) to another station within 30 minutes there is no hire fee, and you can immediately take another one. Locals can register as approved users for a year at a time, while visitors can register as daily or weekly users. The registration fee is only 1 euro. So yesterday we covered a significant part of the city, both left and right bank for the grand sum of 2 euros.
After some initial reluctance to use a bike, Gaye ended the day by cycling down the Champs Elysees in (almost) peak hour traffic. For those readers who have been to this magnificent city you will understand what an achievement this is. We imagined what it must be like for Cadel Evans to ride down this stunning boulevard at the end of the Tour de France. My personal achievement was to ride the bike around the Arc de Triomphe so I did it. I had previously driven around it a few times, always challenging and exciting, and have wanted to cycle it since. This stunning Paris landmark is in the middle of a large roundabout with about 10-12 lanes of traffic, but none of the lanes are marked, so cars, scooters, buses and trucks (sometimes bicycles!) are all jostling for position so they can exit where planned. The impressive thing is it works and you hardly ever hear a car horn sounded in anger or frustration, very different from other parts of the city.
We did originally have plans to revisit the Musee D’Orsay which we haven’t seen since 1994, and to climb the Eiffel Tower which we have never done, despite always visiting it when here. Neither eventuated unfortunately, both because of the volumes of tourists wanting to do the same. At the Musee we reluctantly joined a fairly long queue and had negotiated about half of it when we heard an announcement of a technical problem requiring immediate evacuation of the building. That was it, we were off to the Eiffel Tower. Well that was much worse (people wise) with what we estimated as a couple of thousand people in various queues waiting to get in lifts or onto staircases. It will have to wait until next time. We were very surprised to see the number of tourists here as we expected it to be relatively quiet given the time of the year. We later found out that we were caught up in mid term school holidays so the place was busier than we have experienced before, but not to an unpleasant level as it must be in July-August.
As usual the whole Paris experience was memorable (especially for Gaye), just being there rubbing shoulders with the locals is enough. We had some good food experiences, and as usual no good coffee experiences . We also met some interesting people including an American couple who we shared a table with at dinner last night. He is a “yachty” from a long way back, and now they manage five huge houses in the Bahamas for several multi millionaires, some billionaires including one who is no. 65 of the Forbes Rich List, and their various yachts and launches. Interesting life for some! They were really good company. A significant part of the travelling experience for us has always been the many interesting people you meet along the way, some locals and some fellow travellers. We have met many Aussies this time, mostly from Melbourne it seems.
12 hours later……….We are now at Zurich airport waiting to check in. We arrived in Zurich about 1pm after a very fast and comfortable journey on the TGV, although the overcast and at times foggy weather spoilt the views out the window somewhat. We spent the afternoon having lunch and then wandering around the main parts of the city in cold and overcast conditions. Zurich is a very attractive and stylish city (I guess as to be expected of the Swiss), and would be quite stunning to look at if we had a day like yesterday in Paris.
So our journey is almost at an end. We have had a superb time, full of great experiences and very very few negative ones. We finally clocked up 9000 kms in our Peugeot (in 41 days) so we obviously covered a significant part of southern France.
Now we can look forward to our family, particularly Anika who has become 50% older since we left, and is apparently close to walking. We missed the start of the rolling and crawling stages so are determined not to miss seeing her walk for the first time. We will also be celebrating Nic and Tims announcement last week that they are getting married next May – very exciting for us.
We hope you may have gained some entertainment from our blog – we know that some have read it. If nothing else it will be a great memory jogger for us in years to come.
Au Revoir friends all!
Ron & Gaye