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The Five-Point Weekend Escape Plan

Put Pedals to the Pavement in Paris


3. What to Do

Paris’s groundbreaking Vélib bike-sharing program has grown to 20,000 public-use bicycles since launching last summer. Take one for a spin by signing up with a credit card at any Vélib kiosk. (The first half-hour is free, each additional half-hour is €1 up to €4. Helmets aren’t provided.) Take the metro (bikes are allowed) to the Porte de la Villette, a giant outdoor complex of lawns, stages, and pavilions perfect for pedaling. Take a break at Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, Europe’s largest science museum, which also has a Vélib station nearby.

To pretend you’re in the Tour de France, follow the Quai de Valmy canal through leafy, café-strewn neighborhoods—after a few miles it crosses the Place de la République and the Bastille, ending at the Seine. When traffic subsides after eight, race toward the Arc de Triomphe.

Rando Velo, a loose organization of cyclists, organizes free two-and-a-half-hour rides on Friday nights along a tourist-site-heavy route that passes the Palais de Chaillot, Jardin des Tuileries, and briefly runs along the Champs-Elysees. Cyclists meet at city hall (Hotel del Ville) at 9:30 p.m.

Bike About Tours offers special family tours and private excursions (bikes provided; from $40), in addition to group tours of historical sites. The American company Fat Tire Bike Tours combines a night tour with a glittering boat cruise down the Seine (from $44), and also offers a bike tour of Versailles—the only way to see all the grounds in a day.

Put your pannier to use at the farmers' markets around the city. Check Chocolate and Zucchini for a listing of markets by location and time, and pick up rustic country-style baguettes—pain du campagne—and other picnic treats like fresh goat cheese, cherry tomatoes, and little custard tarts. Dine au plein air in the Luxembourg Gardens, closest to the Saint Germain (4, rue Lobineau, open daily) and Raspail (boulevard Raspail, between rue de Cherche and rue de Rennes) markets.

Published on Sep 10, 2008 as a web exclusive.

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