Paris - The City of Lights. A city with a comprehensive metro and bus system that can get you anywhere you want to go. You can also walk, take a boat or join the growing number of joggers that hit the streets every day. Or you can just ride a bike like we did.
Until about two years ago I never thought about riding a bike in Europe with my kids. I'd always envied those local families in Italy who passed through traffic with ease while I sat in a taxi trying to get from point A to point B. In 2012, I visited a friend in Italy and we biked all over her town with our kids. It was natural and fun, but more importantly, it was so easy. We could save energy by biking to the park instead of wearing the kids out before we even got there. It was magical. It also changed the way we traveled.
It was springtime during our first trip to Paris. The flowers were in bloom and there was so much to see above ground that it seemed a shame to always be stuck in the metro. To better see the sights, we booked a few Fat Tire Paris bike tours, which were probably the highlights of our trip.
The Fat Tire Paris Day Bike Tour gave us a quick overview of the city. Our guide knew his history and weaved us through traffic and down side streets to see many of the city's major sites. This gave us a sense of where things were, how far they were from each other and what made sense to walk to and when to bike or take the metro. The tour company had kid trailers, tandem bikes and toddler bike seats, making it easy to set up our rides to explore with the boys.
The highlight of our entire stay in Paris though was the Fat Tire Versailles Bike Tour. If you have never been to Versailles you need to know that the chateau grounds are massive. You could not hope to explore the entire property in a day on foot with your kids. Everyone would be worn out before you were even halfway through the property.
The bike tour takes you through the small town of Versailles and onto the Chateau grounds. You stop at the Petit Trianon to explore the interior and grounds, the Grand Trianon where diplomats are still hosted for special state events and you even get to picnic along the Grand Canal with your tour group. You see more than your counterparts who grabbed a day ticket at the Chateau to explore. Once you finish your bike tour of the grounds you drop your bikes off and are free to head into the Chateau to wander through the palace and the gardens on your own. The Hall of Mirrors is a highlight for most visitors, but pay attention to the rest of the property. It is filled with more history than most places could ever hope to contain.
Our boys, who were just 3 and 5 years old at the time of our visit, loved the bike tour. They loved when my husband and I raced each other down the path. They loved seeing sheep in the fields and being able to stretch their legs at every stop. They loved having a picnic in the grass as boats floated along the Grand Canal and birds snuck up to try to grab a little bite of our lunch. Most of all they just loved being with us though. They saw me, their mom, explore a place I'd been dying to see for as long as I can remember. They might not have taken in many of the historic tidbits our guide gave us, but they relished in the fact that they could ride down the lanes, pick wildflowers and even marvel at topiaries sculpted with expert precision.
Biking through Paris and Versailles just reminded my husband and I that this was a very viable option when traveling with our boys. Many European cities have bike rentals; the key when traveling with younger children is to find rentals with child bike seats, tandems and/or trailers. It isn't always easy, but with a little research you could be seeing the city in a whole new way that you would have never expected. Try it out the next time you head to Europe. You won't be sorry.
Have you ever gone on a bike tour while traveling?
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