happy thing: paris

Happy Things in Paris: Vélib’

I am a huge fan of Vélib’, Paris’ public bicycle system. I think its one of Paris’ best kept secrets. If you are going to be in Paris more than a few days I highly recommend getting yourself a pass. If I could choose anyway to get around Paris I would almost always choose by bike. There is nothing like feeling the wind through your hair riding along the Seine, it automatically puts me in a good mood. It is especially easy to bike with the Vélib’ system. There are stations every few blocks through out the entire city so you can pick up the bike and drop it off wherever you go. If you are planning on biking a lot I would recommend getting a Navigo pass. This allows you to just swipe your card at a station and in about ten seconds you’re off (versus having to type in a million numbers at the Vélib’ station.) To get a Navigo you first have to buy a pass from a Metro station (just ask for the pass itself, without buying the Metro pass.) It costs about 5 Euros. Then buy a Vélib’ pass off the internet (8 Euros for the week) and then go to a Vélib’ bike station to activate your card and your membership.

Here are some tips for using the Vélib’.

-Buy the Vélib’ pass on the internet. American credit cards only work on the consoles about half the time.
-Have a good idea where you are going, and be aware of one way roads. There are great bike lanes all over the city but carry a map handy in case you need to change your route.
-Look at the tires and gears to make sure you are picking one that works.
-Bikes should stop at traffic lights and obey traffic laws.
-Buy a Navigo Pass at a Metro station for 5 Euros so checking a bike out is easy.
-I’ve only seen one Vélib’ user ever use a bike helmet. I’m not saying you shouldn’t I’m just telling you how it is.
-It can sometimes be tricky getting rid of all your bikes at one station if you are with a big group. Biking isn’t ideal if you are with a huge group.
-There are no child seats that work on the Vélib’. (I wish!)
-If you get to a station and it is full, you just swipe your card and it will give you 15 more minutes to get to the next station.

I realized this summer when I was taking friends around Paris that when my blood sugar got low and I wasn’t in the mood to go anywhere, that as soon as we got on a bike I would get all this energy. It is a great way to get around. It is a bit of a pain to get set up but once . It is one of my favorite things to do in Paris.

I was riding home with these giant dinner plate dahlias and they were so ridiculously giant and awesome so I called Paul outside to come take a few photos.

Happy Things in Paris: Champ de Mars

When people come visit from out of town (to either San Francisco or Paris) besides the list of things I suggest to do I always include happy little experiences. So I thought it would be nice to document all the “happy” things we like to do in Paris. I’m starting with the Champ de Mars. (Not all of them will be kid friendly but this one is.) In front of the Eiffel Tower there is a giant park called the Champ de Mars. Besides being a nice place to picnic the park has hidden gems all over it. Some of the things we like to do there:

See the Marionette Show. There is an very old Marionette House where they put on live shows. It is so adorable you’ll want to die. It’s usually open on the weekends and once during the week. Our kids love this and beg to go every time we walk by.

Ride on the Carousel. There are carousels all over Paris but this one is particularly  charming because it is cranked by hand by a sweet old French man. There is a game where all the kids hold sticks and try to “catch” the metal rings as they go by on their horses.

Ride the Go Carts. On the weekends there is a little track with go karts set up for kids to race. I didn’t take pictures of this but its just as cute as you might imagine.

Lay on the Grass. Grab a crepe or a cotton candy and hang out in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower and watch people taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower.

Just a tip: I usually avoid going under the tower itself. It’s really crowded and will kill the vibe of your pretty day at the park.

ps: A sad little thing happened this morning. Moses fell off a stool and broke his clavicle. He is doing ok now but it was a little scary going to the emergency room at 7am. So far strong pain meds and newly downloaded videos have been the best cure.