Paris – Versailles Bike Tour
Versailles, you’re a stunner. Opulent and grandiose – to be sure – in your gilded gold and grandeur, but beautiful nevertheless.
R and I recently traveled together to Paris for the first time. It was also our first Europe trip. I was looking forward to experiencing Parisian culture and trying out my meager French! (I ended up not actually using a whole lot of French, as most people spoke enough English to make conversation.) One of our favorite things to do in a new place is to bike around town and check out the local grocery stores and markets for fresh edibles.
For most of our time in Paris, we got around by walking, Vélib (public bicycle sharing system, like Citi Bike), subway (metro) and, conveniently enough, Uber. We did the usual touristy things: Pont de Arts (AKA Lovers’ Lock Bridge), Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Pierre Hermes for macarons, Notre Dame Cathedral, Montmarte, black coffee and baguettes at any local boulangerie, crepes and croissants galore.
But for Versailles, we wanted to switch things up by taking in the splendor of this historical area via an all-day bike excursion with Fat Tire Bike Tours. Versailles is about a 45-minute train ride from Paris proper. We hitched the RER (for New Yorkers: similar to MetroNorth or Long Island Rail Road). One thing I noticed about both the subway and train systems in Paris is the lack of air conditioning. On warmer days, sufficient airflow becomes necessary for sanitary reasons. B.O., be gone!
The bike tour gave me a renewed appreciation of nature, teamwork and living in the present. It was a great way to get exercise! Our tour guide, Claudia, was knowledgeable and quick-witted, giving us the scoop on the myths and facts regarding Louis XIV, Marie Antoinette, and the Parisian way of life. We learned how to “dominate” the roads with our cluster of 20 bicyclists, wield our “palms of power” (palms open, as in “STOP!”) to ward off oncoming cars, and ride sloped dirt roads.
We headed toward the Palace of Versailles. Along the way, we picked up provisions at the Versailles outdoor farmers market. I couldn’t believe how plentiful and inexpensive it was to get fresh cheese, fruit, charcuterie and baguettes!
Claudia gave us about 35 minutes to use the restroom, roam the market and food shops, and pick our picnic lunch. For efficiency, R and I split up and regrouped. He selected classic baguettes and thick slabs of prosciutto and salami.
I got creamy Normandy cheese, juicy green grapes and white wine.
For dessert, my eyes were drawn to the nutella éclair and almandine (moist blueberry-filled tart crusted with almonds on top). I had no idea what almandine was before I chose it; I picked based on looks alone. In this case, my hunch turned out to be a good one!
I quite enjoyed Marie Antoinette’s Petit Hameau (Little Hamlet), with its serene lake, rustic architecture and the ‘fake’ countryside vibe. This is where she retreated to pretend to live the peasant life. Lots of farm animals, too! (Their purpose is merely cosmetic; none of the animals are available for supper.)
The entire tour lasted from 9am to 5pm, stopping at the Palace of Versailles, where we were free to look around the vast rooms, artwork and gardens at our own pace. It was super crowded within the Palace. I found myself inching by people just to get to the next room and quickly take my picture, then crawl to the next room to do the same! I noticed many tour groups as well.
I will let the photos do the rest of the talking. Please see the below, for your viewing pleasure. 🙂
Fat Tire Bike Tours
24 Rue Edgar Faure, 75015 Paris, France
+33 1 56 58 10 54
Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet
Chateau de Versailles, Versailles, France
30 83 78 88
Palace of Versailles
Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
+33 1 30 83 78 00