Biking Around Paris and Heading to Brussles

Some thought this day would never come. Others wondered if we’d both make it to this day. All I can say, is that as we woke up to our final morning in Paris, the last day abroad before we returned, we couldn’t believe that our trip was soon nearing its end.

We’ll save the sappy stuff for tomorrow’s trip home- but the realization that Saturday would result in sleeping in Chicago wasn’t lost on any of us. We packed our bags and got out of the hotel and made our way back to the Marais district to meet our bike tour group for the day.

We’d seen this company online before arriving to Paris and had accidentally stumbled upon their storefront a few days earlier and this is how we’d decided to spend our final day. Today’s crowd was so large that they had to split the group into 2- we got the B team guide which we’d find out later.

After the first group made their way out of the store, we went outside to do introductions. As with most of our other European paid activities, the crowd was all American- a family of 4 from Detroit and a mother/daughter from PA. We walked to the garage and gathered our bikes and we’re off shortly later.

Unlike the other biking we’ve done, this tour was really a city tour with a little bit of biking instead of a bike tour with a little bit of knowledge. We ended up stopping quite frequently to see various sights around the city and while informative, we actually wanted a little more biking (it was the pastry capital of the world after the pasta capital of the world, some of us may he feeling the effects of these last 2+ weeks).

Paris is organized into 20 districts and if you look at a map and try to follow the numbering system, you’ll notice it looks like a snail that starts in the center and builds its way to higher numbers the further and further out you get. I think our tour took us to 5+ districts but I’m not exactly sure as I should’ve made a google maps destination every time we stopped.

Unlike other tours, my note taking wasn’t as diligent as the tour guide was hard to hear but did get a few comments on our stops.

  • The starting point of our tour – the Marais district- is home to both the old Jewish quarter and the gay neighborhood (can see many rainbow crosswalks) – the Jewish community has since relocated further out of the city but there are still some living in the heart of the quarter – only real place with significant commercial activity on Sunday’s
  • Our first stop was outside of the Holocaust Museum- their outer wall is lined with stories of how French citizens helped Jews escape Nazi persecution during the 1940s
  • Our second stop was outside of a old building, now library, where the French Revolution of 1830 occurred. There is a cannon ball lodged in the side of the building for all to see
  • We went to the oldest planned square of the city (no clue what an unplanned square is) that was built for a celebration for a wedding of Henry IVs daughter. Highlight of this trip was there was a school there on recess- I think the kids must have been in high school but they were throwing and dunking each other in public fountains and a guard had to come out to stop them
  • We stopped in various hidden interior gardens and nooks- including one right under Victor Hugo’s house (wrote Le Mis and Notre Dame) and one hosting the oldest cafe in the city
  • And we stopped on the canal separating the two sides of Paris- Napoleon had built this not only to help get fresh water but also to separate the wealthy from the poor in historical Paris

So while it wasn’t the best tour we’d done it was nice to get around the city and see somethings we wouldn’t have seen on our own. We made our way around the Marais district for our final food tasting of Paris- a croque madam and monsieur, one more trip to Popelini for a cream puff, and for Europe’s sake, one more gelato from our favorite place Amorino.

With our stomachs still full and the clock approaching 4pm, we made our way to the train station to begin our adventure- local train to North Paris, Thalys train to Brussels, and local train to airport. We decided to stay at an airport hotel since we didn’t really want to lug our stuff around the city and have to get up early to head to the airport.

It was now about 7 by the time we arrived and we checked in to our room and found that Tim had sent us a final night gift to our room after all the Marriott action from the trip. We made our way up to the lounge for some snacks and drinks before I actually went back into the airport to find dinner since there wasn’t much happening here.

We passed the final evening watching a movie and knew that we’d wake up for the final time outside of the US for a little while…..

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