After yesterdays great promenade your legs are probably ready to say “adieu!” to the seemingly expansive Paris, why not switch up gears and hop on a bicycle for the day.
Morning: Breakfast, Bikes & Backstreets
Baguette-free Breakfast at Poilâne
Before you begin your bicycle escapade head to Le Marais for your morning pastry fill. To try something different, stop by one of Paris’ favourite bakeries, Poilâne.
You won’t find a baguette in sight but your stomach will surely be satisfied by the array of tasty treats.
Take a seat at the adjoining cafe and melt into oblivion as you feast on a woodfire, oven-baked apple tart alongside a hot cup of cafe au lait.
Once you have your behind comfortably cushioned on two-wheels, peddle over to Place de la Bastille.
Historically commemorated for its key role in the french revolution, today the area in which the famous state prison sat is home to the modern opera house. It is also fast becoming a trendy meeting place.
Whether sunbathing on the canal banks, perusing the boutiques or starting off a soirée at one of the bars on Rue de la Roquette, Bastille is brimming with young city dwellers.
Biking the Backstreets
Bastille is also home to a number of beautiful backstreets. Once you have visited the streets around the Bastille monument, get back on your bikes and follow the attached directions to Rue Crémieux.
On this quiet little street, tucked away in the grey hues of Paris you will find a paint palette of picturebook pastels and potplants greens. Each adjoining apartment block on this eye-catching, pedestrian-only, cobblestone dream has been artfully decorated with a quaint colour scheme, matching shutters and complementary plant life.
Although the bright, unblemished tones may have you thinking the street is a recent addition to Paris’ cityscape, Rue Crémieux was officially opened in 1865 as Millaud Avenue.
While the street has clearly been “touched up” over the years, evidence of its age can be found at number 8 where a plaque indicates the almost two meter level to which the Seine waters reached during the flood of 1910.
For those familiar with London, your first glimpse of Rue Crémieux may send you back in a deja-vu filled reminiscence to Notting Hill’s Portobello Road.
However, as one of Paris’ best kept secrets you won’t have to wait for a passing tourist throng to get your insta-worthy pic here. In fact, on a warm summers afternoon you will find the street a peaceful picture of open doors, dozing cats and sunbaked residents lounging in reading chairs.
Midday: Magnolias, Menageries & Mosques
Le Jardin des Plantes
After you have basked in the quaint colours of Rue Crémieux, hop back on your bicycle for a short peddle across Pont d’Austerlitz to another peaceful oasis, Paris’ botanical gardens, Jardin des Plantes.
Originally founded in 1626 as a private medicinal herb garden, today the grounds are freely accessible and a place of relaxation, meditation and artistry. Dismount on arrival and walk your bikes through the expansive, plant-filled grounds before exploring the hothouses.
If vegetation doesn’t set your heart in bloom, explore one of the site’s four natural history museums or get the blood racing with a visit to the Ménagerie.
A Spot of Tea
When you are sufficiently pollenated, pick up your bikes and exit the gardens to the left of the impressive Galérie de l’Evolution. After exiting the gardens, turn right and head across the road to the Grand Mosque.
Inaugurated in 1926 partially as a symbol of gratitude to the Muslims who fought for France during the first world war, this Moorish-style meeting place is housed in a striking green and white building.
If you are blessed in the art of French communication, take a free guided tour about the complex or simply explore the premises on your own.
Once you’ve finished exploring, relax with a traditional mint tea or Moroccan meal in the bird filled courtyard, reminiscent of Granada’s Alhambra.
Afternoon: Books & Boulevards
Riding the Seine
Now that you are relaxed and replenished, hop back on your two-wheeled vehicle and follow the bike route at the bottom of the article for a cruise beside the Seine.
This area of the right bank is dotted with a myriad of quaint cafes, churches, and the stunning city hall (L‘Hôtel de Ville). Home to the city’s Mayor and administrative departments, the Hôtel is a romantic building that you will want to pose in front of while standing next to your bicycle and looking wanderlustingly skywards.
The impressive City Hall is unlikely to steal all your attention however with the dreamy Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville standing in its shadows.
Think gold-lit Carousels, giant bubbles, lamplights, lovers, musicians, winter ice rink and buskers.
Late Afternoon “R & R”
When you have finished ogling the right banks dainty curves, follow the attached directions towards Notre Dame and a place where you can finally get some “R & R” (rest and reading action). Here nestled in the all-consuming shadow of the city’s cathedral is the increasingly popular and charmingly rustic book-lovers’ haven, “Shakespeare & Company.”
A former gathering place for literary greats Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, the original bookstore was opened in 1919 in much smaller premises on Rue Dupuytren. After closing for a decade during the German occupation, the store was reopened at the current location by a new owner in 1951.
Following in the original stores footsteps, the new premises became the centrepiece for the art and literary community in the coming decades, accomodating the Beat generations Allen Ginsberg and Gregory Corso during the fifties, and more recently Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” and Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunset.”
Today visitors can peruse the predominantly english written titles on the ground floor for a new addition to the bookshelf or head upstairs to relax in an armchair and engross themselves in an afternoon of fiction.
With a window overlooking Notre Dame you will feel like you’ve hit the jackpot as you relax your bicycle butt on a cushion in the reading room.
If you’re there on a Sunday between 4pm and 6pm head up to Panmely’s “Live Poet’s Circle” and “Mad Hatter’s Tea Party”. This is an open poetry circle hosted by Welsh poet Panmely.
Despite not coming poetry-ready, I had the privilege of sitting in on one of Pamely’s tea parties, a surprisingly inviting and personable experience in the background of one of the world’s most visited Tourist sites.
If you are feeling a little peckish after your literary lusting, head over to one of Paris’ prettiest cafes, Odette’s. Just behind the bookstore, at the end of Rue Saint-Julien le Pauvre you will find the most literal depiction conceivable of a “quaint cafe”.
Dedicated entirely to Choux à la Crème or the macaroon’s dreamy rival, the creme puff and housed in a three story, potplant-laden, cottage-style apartment, cafes do not get much quainter than Odette’s.
Chain your bicycles to a lampost before ordering an array of cream-filled goodness.
Evening: Crêpe out of Paris
You can’t make a trip to Paris without consuming everyone’s much-loved French delicacy, the crêpe. Often confused as a national treasure and consumed hurriedly by distracted tourists gazing at towers as they traipse about the capital, the humble crêpe is in fact a regional dish from Bretagne, best consumed at a sit down meal in pairs of savoury and sweet with a bowl of cider. The perfect place to delve into this seaside delight is on the street I not-so creatively call “Crêpe Road.”
Located almost directly opposite the Edgar Quinet métro stop, on Rue du Montparnasse, this lively street is straight out of a Bretagne postcard. With brimming crêperies as far as the eye can see you won’t be short for choice.
Peruse the window menus before using your last pennies to crêpe out of Paris in culinary decadence.
To cafe Poilâne
The establishment is located at 38 Rue Debelleyme. Exit métro line 8 at Filles du Calvaire. Almost directly opposite the métro station is Rue des Filles du Calvaire, cross the road and continue walking until you reach Rue de Turenne. Turn right onto this street. Rue Debelleyme will be your next left.
Poilâne to Paris à vélo
The shop is located at 22 Rue Alphonse Baudin. Turn left onto Rue de Bretagne and then another left onto Rue Commines. Continue onto Place Pasdeloup and then turn right onto Boulevard Voltaire. Continue onto Boulevard Richard Lenoir and then take a right onto Rue Pelée. Turn right onto Rue Alphonse Baudin.
Paris à vélo to Bastille
If you have rented from Paris à vélo simply head north on Rue Alphonse Baudin, left onto Rue Saint-Sébastien, another left onto Boulevard Beaumarchais and follow this street for a few minutes until you reach the major roundabout surrounding the Bastille monument.
Place de la Bastille to Rue Crémieux
Exit the bastille roundabout at Rue de Lyon. Continue down Rue de Lyon for a couple of minutes before taking the 6th right onto Rue Crémieux.
Rue Crémieux to Jardin des Plantes
Head southwest on Rue Crémieux towards Rue de Bercy. Turn right onto Rue de Bercy, left onto Avenue Ledru-Rollin and continue across the bridge, Pont d’Austerlitz.At the roundabout take the third exit onto Boulevard de l‘Hôpital and then turn right onto Rue Buffon where you will find the gates to the gardens located immediately on your right.
Paris’ Grand Mosque to Seine bike ride
Head north on Rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire toward Rue Lacépède.Continue onto Rue Linné and then Rue Jussieu. Turn right onto Rue des Fossés Saint-Bernard. Turn right onto Boulevard Saint-Germain. Slight left onto Boulevard Henri IV/Pont de Sully (bridge). Turn left onto Quai des Célestins.
Bike Ride along The Seine
When you reach Quai des Célestins cross the street and go down the first ramp on the left to arrive on the banks of the river. Being a favourite spot for sun-dazed lovers, you are bound to be in company. Engage in the Parisian art of people watching while cruising by.
Continue along the river until the pathway ends and then reascend back onto Quai des Célestins. Continue along the main boulevard until you reach the bridge, Pont Louis Philippe. At this intersection, instead of crossing the bridge turn right onto the street directly opposite and then take the first left onto Rue de l’Hôtel de Ville. Dismount and explore the quaint cafes and unusual church in this little cluster of shops.
Hop back onto the main boulevard which has now become Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville and continue in the same direction, heading up river towards the Louvre. Stop to explore any of the interesting buildings along the right bank, including the Hôtel de Ville.
Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville to Shakespeare & Co Bookstore
Exit Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville back onto Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville. Continue peddling up Quai de l’Hôtel de Ville until you reach the second bridge on your left, Pont Notre Dame. Head across Pont Notre Dame arriving on the city’s most famous river island, Île de la Cité. Continue down Rue de la Cité, glimpsing Paris‘ gothic masterpiece and Quasimodo’s former stomping ground on your left before crossing back onto the mainland via the Petit Pont Cardinal Lustiger. Turn left onto Rue de la Bûcherie. “Shakespeare and co.” should be immediately obvious.