Day 2 – Segway!
My wife addiction to Segways began following our first Segway tour of Washington DC whilst on our honeymoon. Ever since then she’s wanted to buy ‘his and hers’ so that we can take the dogs for walks around our estate and/or pack them in the back of the Navara should we go somewhere where we ‘might’ need them. I had visions of us cruising around the Kruger Park being stalked by hungry predators who weren’t in the least bit interested in testing out our toys. At a maximum speed of 20km/h, there is no way that we’d be able to outrun anything!
Out of interest, I logged onto Segway’s South African website and found out that you can lease the units for R2500 per month (£190 in real money), with inclusive maintenance plan and insurance. This isn’t at all bad considering that petrol prices are increasing and SANRAL is trying to push forward with open-road tolling in Gauteng. With a claimed 38km range I could actually make it to work (21kms using back roads) in approximately 1 hour, ensuring that top speed is maintained throughout. Whether or not I’d be able to make the return journey alive is another question – there are potholes, taxis and other oblivious road users to contend with, as well as prospective thieves who might attempt to jump me (no anti-hijacking accessory is listed under the optional extras); and finally my wife’s non-supportive ‘NO’ when it came to actioning my idea (such a party pooper).
Anyway, on with the story! I booked a Segway tour of Paris as part of my wife’s engagement present, which incidentally coincided with a public holiday in France (the streets were much quieter than usual). It is an awesome way to get around a city without expending too much energy and you can map out any sights you’d like to visit again on foot. Stefanie our Canadian guide, who works as a part time Segway tour guide and art teacher was excellent and made the 3 hour tour informative and fun. In our small group we whizzed around Paris, stopped to listen to the history behind many of the main sights, statues etc. take photos and perform ‘extreme traffic manoeuvres’, whilst Stefanie controlled that traffic with her ‘palm of power’.
Regardless of whether or not you take the Segway tour, stop at the Pont des Arts (aka the lover’s bridge), where couples attach padlocks inscribed with their names to the bridge’s railings and then throw the keys into the river below to signify ‘unbreakable love’. It’s quirky, but these heartfelt sentiments are cleared away every few years to prevent the rusty love locks from becoming an eyesore.
Following our morning’s adrenalin rush, a quick bite to eat at a café on Rue Cler (don’t miss!), a quick stop by the Arc de Triomphe and an hour (or two) of window shopping on the Champs Elysée, we headed back to our hotel for a power nap before taking metro line 4 north to Montmartre to view the Basilique du Sacré Coeur. I thought I was fit until it came to walking up the ‘small’ number of steps to the summit of Montmartre. The sense of achievement once you’ve reached the heady heights of the hilltop must be on par with scaling Everest. The views of Paris and the Basilique are awesome enough to both soothe aching feet and relieve the burning sensation in your chest. If you fancy a sundowner, there are random guys trawling through the masses who will sell you a beer directly from the cardboard case – strange considering the setting. Needless to say, we didn’t buy any (one can trust a Frenchman about as far as you can throw him). Je suis désolé. C’est une mauvaise blague!
We admired the inside of the church (no photos allowed) before hiking down into central Montmartre to find somewhere to eat. We stopped at Pizza Florenza (7 rue Tardieu), which as the name suggests is a pizzeria/Italian joint. It served up some nice food, which you can enjoy whilst sat at tables on the street pavement watching the world go by….or in the very least, the Domino’s pizza guy attempting to make it up the steep hill on his scooter without falling off.
Some final late evening stops included the Moulin Rouge, where we took some snaps in front of the infamous windmill and illuminated façade; and a return visit to the Arc de Triomphe to photograph this in lights. If you can, take metro line 6 back to your hotel, as this runs for a length aboveground, offering a great view of the illuminated Eiffel Tower and view down the Seine as you cross Pont de Bir-Hakeim. We also found that there are quite a number of buskers riding this metro line in the evenings, some are actually quite good. Even listening to the bad ones helps pass the time.
Both of us were tired little teddy bears when we’d made it back to our hotel and crawled into bed at minutes to 1am, although I would have given anything for a foot massage.
Day 3 – A Late Start
Being the rebellious, stay-out-late couple that we are, Day 3 started decidedly later than planned. We’d pre-booked tickets via the Segway office to scale Tour Montparnasse, an eyesore of a skyscraper within walking distance of our hotel offering great views over central Paris. On the way to the tower, we wandered through Raspail Marché (market). All I can say is, knickknack lovers beware!
Walking through the doorway with an ‘entrée’ sign above it, we were confronted by a row of glass turnstiles which, with our combined Mensa intellect, we couldn’t figure out how to open. I could see the queue of tourists lined up for the lifts on the other side, so knew we’d come to the right place. The main visitor’s entrance however was hidden around the side of the building and unlike the orderly queue which we’d seen at the first entrance, the scene before us was verging on organised chaos. Fortunately we didn’t have to queue for tickets and then re-queue for the lifts (clearly the guy who invented this ‘system’ must have received one too many hits to head by his wife armed with a stale baguette). We attempted to skirt around two tour parties who were waiting to enter the lift queue, however something was announced by Ms Konichiwa and Helga (the German shot-putter) leading to the advancement of both Chinese and German armies. We were swept up in the rush and sandwiched between the two like a hideous concept of Bratwurst dim sum. We were then squeezed through a pinch point and into the more orderly lift queue which I’d spied early.
Again, don’t miss this treat. The views of Paris are fantastic..
Our hotel’s front desk staff had organised tickets for us to attend the Moulin Rouge in the evening and so for the remainder of the day we took a leisurely stroll around the Les Halles area of the city.