|Segway Tour, Hôtel des Invalides
Bright and early, Lydia takes in the Eiffel Tower as we wait for our Segway rendezvous.
Michelle holds her Segway still (with no hands, the show-off) as she reviews important safety points.
The word for “peace” is repeated in 37 or so languages on the glass and pillars at the “Peace Monument.”
Lydia and Grant strike a pose with Segways nearby and Hôtel des Invalides in the background.
The far end of our Segway tour is the Louvre Museum.
Segwayers with Musée d’Orsay in the background.
Monday, October 17
We were up at dawn and out into a cool Monday morning. First item today: petit déjeuner (breakfast, literally “small lunch.”) Though at first I had sticker shock at the price of the continental breakfast (€12.50,) it was excellent. It consisted of café crème (coffee with steamed milk,) two croissants, yogurt, orange juice, ham and eggs, and bread (which came with an assortment of spreads.) Our small table had trouble holding all the plates and I had trouble eating everything. Lydia helped, since she had had the much more Parisian (and smaller) “Express Breakfast.” Over our meal we made some plans for the afternoon, but first it was time for our Segway Tour.
This was a total blast. Getting the hang of the critter was fairly easy. There were four in our group plus our guide, a San Diego native, Michelle. The four of us were all first timers and all of us picked up the forward, stop, backward, and turn fundamentals without much difficulty. After some additional training negotiating curbs and obstacles, we set off at slow speed. The maximum speed of a Segway is determined by the color of the key used to start it, black in this case.
Our first stop was the Ecole Militaire (Military School,) which sits at the opposite end of Parc du Champs de Mars from the Eiffel Tower. Napoleon Bonaparte, famous general and emperor, was a notable graduate of the school. It still operates, training high officers, and is used by NATO.
Also nearby was the Peace Monument, which has the word “peace” written in 37 or so languages. Being a modern artifact, Parisians hate it being here. Then again, they hated the Eiffel Tower when it was built, too. One fellow hated it so much he had lunch there every day just so he wouldn’t have to look at it.
Continuing a bit of a Napoleon theme, we cruised our Segways over to Hôtel des Invalides where the dead emperor in interned in a Russian doll-style series of caskets in public view. The outer-most casket is polished, dark red wood that looks like marble. (We didn’t visit inside as part of the Segway tour, but Lydia and I returned afterwards.)
Next, we Segwayed around Invalides, which is actually three museums and a working military hospital. After a break in front (or was it the back?) we continued over Pont Alexandre III (Alexander III Bridge) to the Rive Droit (Right Bank.) Since the Seine River wanders its way through Paris, up, down and sideways, using compass directions for the river banks (as we do in Pittsburgh with North Side and South Side,) would not work. So, they name the banks with right (droit) and left (gauche) from the perspective of someone drifting downstream with the river’s current.
Across the river, we headed upstream to Place de la Concorde, where Louis XVI (the sixteenth) and Marie-Antoinette lost their heads. Michelle seemed to have a good time relating the super-gross version of Louis’s gruesome decapitation. Let’s just say she used the words “front row splash zone” and leave it at that. The graphic execution story came at the perfect time, too, since our next stop was lunch.
We had to dismount our Segways and guide them in “power assist” mode through the Jardin de Tuileries (Garden of Tile Manufacturers, which had none that I could see.) Even bikes must be dismounted and walked in here, which is fine. We stopped at a little lunch stand and Michelle plugged in the Segways to charge as we ordered our food. I had a crepe with fried egg and sausage (which, I later mused, would have made a terrific breakfast.) As we sat, ate and chatted I reflected on the perfect weather, the changing trees, and the relaxing meal. I could see why Parisians are proud of their city.
Following lunch, we continued through the Jardin de Tuileries, leading our Segways in power assist mode until we exited the gate. Right in front of us was the Louvre. The original structure was built in the 1100’s. (Man, is stuff old here! For example, the oldest standing bridge in Paris is called Pont Neuf, “New Bridge.”) Over the centuries, additions were made to the structure and then it was stuffed with priceless art. Later in the week we plan to visit the Louvre. We have a commando-style guidebook to help us take the huge museum with sanity intact.
This was the far end of our tour. As we stood on our Segways in front of the Louvre and listened to Michelle, we attracted a lot of attention. I imagine we are in a lot of home videos and pictures. On our return trip, we stopped on a pedestrian bridge, Pont Solferino, to take in the view and some pictures. Farther on, as we navigated down a one-way street, the five of us formed a ten-wheel rolling blockade to prevent the frisky Parisian drivers from colliding with us in the tight confines. “A honk means, ‘Bonjour,'” our guide, Michelle, told us. Yes, it was a joke.
Far too soon, we arrived back at the Fat Tire bike shop, bringing our way cool Segway tour to an end. I highly recommend this tour. Here’s the web site <http://www.citysegwaytours.com>, if you are ever in one of the tour cities.
We picked up some directions from the bike shop manager and then struck out—oh, the horror—on foot to Hôtel des Invalides. You remember that this is where Napoleon Bonaparte is laid, along with some of his generals, marshals and family. There are three military-oriented museums here, too, but by this point, we were losing steam and my feet were barking. We decided to nap it off and headed back to the hotel.
After a really good nap, we headed out for our dinner at Oniwa, a Japanese restaurant on Rue Cler. This was the best meal of the trip so far. A leisurely stroll in the cool, fall air took us back to the hotel for journal updates and sleep. I could get used to this.
Read more about day 3 on Lydia’s blog.
Paris Vacation, Day 3 5 comments