Metros are fine for speed and getting to know the locals intimately during rush hours. They also provide shelter from the elements with miles of underground corridors in which to test your labyrinth-navigating skills. In case winter ever ends (3 summer days have been recorded since May. Spring has been dropped as an austerity measure) the notion of bicycling or riding in a surrey with a fringe on top might be a delightful alternative.
Pedal-powered rickshaws started arriving in Paris in 2009 and have proliferated ever since. A branch has even mutated into tuk-tuks , of both the larger 4-6-seater Thai persuasion http://www.aniltuktuk.fr/en/) and the small and zippy Indian type (http://www.hanif-tuktuk-paris.com/en/). They congregate at the Place de la Concorde, Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower and Opera, offering tour circuits, nuptial processions or just an alternative to taxis. (http://www.cyclobulle.com/location-velo-taxi-paris-Eng.htm)
Most rickshaws post their rates on the doors. Usually starting at about 10€/$13 for half an hour and more for longer tours of various tourist sites. Some also offer “off the beaten track” tours, romantic or kids’ birthday circuits.
If you’d rather do the legwork yourself, there are 1,751 Vélib bike-ranks all around the city. Here’s a basic idea of how they work.
You buy a 1-day ticket (€1.70/$2.25) or a one-week ticket (8 days in France, €8/$10.50) (or one month or longer) from any of the Vélib electronic payment stations by inserting your credit or debit card and following the onscreen instructions. It will spit out your ticket, which has a numeric code printed on it. If your card does not have a chip, you can buy a code online at www.velib.paris.fr. The code will be on your confirmation email. Punch in the code and take a bike from one of the terminals they are attached to. You can use the ticket/ confirmation number anywhere in Paris for 24 hours or the whole week. The idea behind the bike programme was to provide free transportation for errands and short trips, so they don’t start clocking up the minutes until half an hour has elapsed. After that, your card will be billed €1/$1.30 for the second half-hour, €2/$.260 for the third half-hour and €4/$5.20 per consecutive half hour thereafter. So you could keep switching bikes to avoid the more expensive rate. When you’re finished using the bike, be sure to take it to a terminal and lock it in, because any time the bike spends out of a terminal is billed to the last person who checked it out.
Paris is so enamoured of the Vélib (unlike those cranky New Yorkers, who find a row of bikes “an eyesore”) that the Mayor’s office commissioned artists from the ARTCRANK international artist collective to create pieces on the theme of Vélib’. Paraphernalia –watches, silkscreen (euphamism for T-shirts?) notebooks, stickers—you get the picture—will be sold in the Grand Palais during an exhibition of those very pieces, until 26 June, when the show moves to The Docks – Cité de la Mode et du Design 34 quai d’Austerlitz 75013 Paris
PS: Keep the ticket or the confirmation email until Vélib’ has got their money. IMPORTANT: There is a security deposit. When you buy a Vélib’ ticket, a €150/$200 pre-authorisation is requested, like when you book a hotel online. This amount is not debited from your account but it is blocked for 10 to 15 days depending on your bank. It becomes re-available after final payment goes through and all bikes you’ve used are safe and sound in their terminals. Think of it as money you’ll be glad you have when you get home. So, even for a measly $2.25 one-day ticket, your daily limit must be at least €150/$200, or your payment may be declined. Some or all of the security deposit may be debited from your account if you don’t return a bike within 24 hours or if the bike is damaged or stolen (they are equipped with chain locks).
Private Bike Rentals
Another solution is private bike rental companies like ParisVéloSympa www.parisvelosympa.com. (Site available in English) which charge a flat 12€/$16 a day and also rent tandems (40€/$55 a day). They require a 250€/$332 check or your passport as hostage.
Gepetto Vélos has a huge selection and offers all sorts of tours as well. Rates are quoted on the site in euros and dollars and a good portion of the site is in English. http://www.gepetto-velos.com/location
Velo Electro for the less die-hard among us. As the name implies, Vélo Electro offers electrically assisted bikes. www.velo-electro.com
Paris Vélo in the Latin Quarter, sells and rents all kinds of bikes : trail bikes, racing bikes, mopeds and motor scooters. www.paris-velo-rent-a-bike.com
If you can navigate all-French sites, there are many others. Google ‘location vélo’ (vélo = bicycle) Click on the link to ‘locations’ (location = rental)
Paris has a respectable network of bike lanes, but most often bikes share lanes with taxis and buses. Guess who wins if there’s a fight. There are also separate narrow lanes for bicycles only, usually alongside the car lanes, but sometimes set off by a six-inch high barrier.
Beauty and the Benz
The one-woman haute couture outfit, whose shop in the rue d’Orsel in Montmartre actually resembles a fairy Godmother’s sewing room and who really does make dresses for princesses, presents eight dresses inspired by eight Mercedes cars new and vintage, including a beautiful a white, mint condition 190 SL, a mat grey SLK, SL and a black SLS. Each of Zélia’s dresses is handmade to measure to create an aura of fairytale. In June, pumpkins will be replaced by Mercedes Benz horseless carriages. Even the showroom has been transformed into a star-sparkled night-sky in Once Upon a Time land. Mercedes-Benz Gallery 118 avenue des Champs Élysées (métro Georges V, line 1) Monday through Saturday 10:30 am to 9:15pm and Sunday from 10:30 am to 7:45pm.
Gepetto has a huge selection and offers tours as well.