Paris in spring - what not to recommend. To cycle there makes it even sweeter. The French have created a lovely cycle route from Dieppe to Paris via old train tracks, rolling French fields and then into Paris via the parks. Best route to follow is one carved out by Donald Hirsch.
Best place to stay on first night is 23 Grand Rue where you will welcomed by Madeleine and Peter, and eat a wonderful meal loving cooked by Madeleine. Watch out though; Peter is a wine expert and if you share his knowledge too much, then there's a danger of not enjoying the next days cycling!
23 Grand Rue, Mesnières-en-Bray,Normandie 76270, France
+33 (0) 2 32 97 06 31
I used to live in Paris, so felt I knew it quite well until I joined a Bike About Tours group for one of the most uplifting and interesting tours I have ever done. Bike About Tours was set up by two charming Kiwi ex-pats (both complete francophiles) whose mission is to show English speakers the real Paris. Most bike tours focus on the big tourist attractions, but at Bike About it is all about the lesser known charms of the City of Lights - quaint little side streets, the guides' favourite local bakeries, unexpected history lessons (like pointing out the mini cannon ball still stuck in the side of a church wall from Revolution days!) to name but a few. We even had exclusive access to a beautiful 'secret' courtyard garden that extended behind a building on one of Paris' more well known streets - I would have biked straight past it! In a couple of hours on this tour, I found out more about the character, history and charm of this amazing city and its unique inhabitants than in any of my classes at the Sorbonne.
Daily tour meeting point (10am and 3pm): by the statue of Charlemagne in the square outside Notre Dame cathedral.
The Velib 'free' bicycle system in Paris is really a great idea. I went for a five day extended weekend with my partner and checked my credit card statement the next month to discover to my delight that I had been all over the city; to the Eiffel Tower, along the Champs Elysees, a scary whirl around Place de la Concorde at rush hour (not recommended for the faint-hearted!) and all over the Grand Boulevards and along the Seine and had spent a massive total of six euros.
The system is user friendly and self-explanatory, you can do it in a range of languages. You tap in your credit card details for a small flat hire rate (no more than five euros, as far as I recall), then hoik the rather clumsy, heavy bikes out of their stand. The bikes are a little uncomfortable and it's important to examine which number bike you'll take before you select at the controls, because some have flat tyres, wonky seats that won't budge, or rattling chains. The bikes have - ostensibly - three gears. These are 'slow', 'slower' and 'snail's cycle-rate' and it can get hairy attempting to belt across a junction will a line of irate Parisian drivers attempting to turn right and cut you up.
If you dock the bike back into another station before 30 mins are up, the ride is free. Interestingly, my partner's credit card statement showed one euro more expenditure so perhaps he had docked in a second or two after me.
However, it's an excellent way to see Paris and a lot of fun.
All over Central Paris
Once your kids can ride a bike there's no better way to see Paris than cycling about it. The high spot of our recent half-term break was a morning spent exploring the Marais, Bastille, Louvre, St. Germain de Pres, Les Halles and many back streets in between.
Our guide, Paul, founded Bike About Tours with a friend and gives a charming and personal view of a city he clearly loves. Some of his enthusiasm rubbed off on the kids who particularly relished spotting locations from Ratatouille, or finding out how many Parisians slip in dog poo each day. Paul takes only safe back streets and cycleways, stopping for lunch at a boulangerie on the way.
Every so often we would park the bikes and explore a secret garden or a hidden alleyway on foot, letting Paris work its magic on children and adults alike. By the end of four hours we felt like we belonged. Try it, you won't be disappointed.
Paris is perfect for those with kids, and especially the park at La Villette. On the Canal de l'Ourq there is the awesome dragon slide (almost two stories high), playgrounds designed for specific age groups, a submarine my five-year-old nephew wants to return to with his big brother and cat (!) (3€ each). Just by the park bikes can be hired that take the whole family along the traffic-free canalside to the forest of Sevran, where coffee and ice cream can be had in the old poudrerie, where Nobel of the Nobel prize worked - well worth a visit. And if it rains, back at La Villette there is always the Cite des Sciences - again with exhibits tailored to tots and to slightly older kids. Further afield, there's Paris Plage for sunbathing, sandcastles, misters, boules, rock-climbing (5 years old and upwards), the fountains and concerts at Parc Andre Citroen, the fireworks on July 14, or the swimming pool on a barge by the Francois Mitterand Bibliotheque, or the fantastic mini Paris Plage at Canal St Martin where another five-year-old loved her tot-sized pedalo and the tea dances and water fountains. Paris is perfect for families, especially in the summer, and since almost everything referred to above is free or cheap, it won't break the bank. Plus - no hours spent travelling to, or queueing at, airports.
Just get on Eurostar and you are within 15-20 minutes walk of most of the above.
Hire a bicycle from Vélo et Chocolate by Canal St Martin just around the corner from Rue Riquet Metro and peddle around Paris.
It is a lovely cycle to the Sacre Coeur where you can view the whole of Paris. The more adventurous might want to peddle out to St Germaine En Laye where you have more wonderful views, but this time you can park up in the park by the Chateau and sip chilled rose wine while seated in a hired deckchair. Take your own knotted hanky to feel at home.
Send your feedback or queries to email@example.com