Photos: Perfectly Paris

loading photos...
  1. Mood lighting

    The Eiffel Tower and the Hotel des Invalides are illuminated at dusk with in Paris. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Heart of the Louvre

    The intricate ceiling of the Appolo Gallery at Paris' Louvre Museum is reflected in a display case in the foreground. Built in 1661, the gallery was not fully completed until 1851. In all, over twenty artists worked on the decoration. The Appolo Gallery gallery contains more than two centuries of French art, and houses such wonders as the French Crown Jewels, including the famous Régent (140 carats) and Sancy (53 carats) diamonds, as well as the 105-carat Côte de Bretagne ruby. (Joel Robine / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. To the heavens

    The Sacred Heart Catholic church (Basilique Sacré-Coeur) is seen on Paris' highest point, in Montmartre. The view at the top of the dome is excellent -- 271 feet above Montmartre Hill -- and is the second-highest viewpoint after the Eiffel Tower. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Looking glass

    This elaborate stained-glass cupola (dome) inside Magasins du Printemps department store is located above the main restaurant in the store. Installed in 1923, it is composed of 3,185 individual pieces of stained glass. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Keeping cool

    Tourists soak their feet in a reflecting pool at Place du Trocadero, an area of museums and gardens. (Gabriel Bouys / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Sights from the Seine

    A "Bateau Mouche" tourist boat travels near the Paris Justice court. These boat tours are a popular, but relaxing way to view the sights of Paris along the Seine River. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. Museum of masterpieces

    Originally a royal fortress for kings, and open to all since 1793, the Louvre is one the world's greatest art museums, housing 35,000 works of ancient and Western art, displayed in over 60,000 square meters of exhibition space. More than 6 million visitors see the Louvre per year. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Shopper's haven

    Local art, food and other goods are sold in passage Jouffroy, across Boulevard Montmartre. Originally designed to protect pedestrians from mud and horse-drawn vehicles, the passages (shopping arcades), arre located between the Grands Boulevards and the Louvre. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Modern art

    A view of the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Its 1977 factory style architecture contrasts with the surrounding buildings of Paris' oldest district near Notre-Dame cathedral. It has a public library, and the French National Museum of Modern Art. (Loic Venance / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Holy architecture

    One of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture is the Notre Dame Cathedral, attracting 13 million visitors each year. The name Notre Dame means "Our Lady" in French. (Stéphane Querbes / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Practical protectors

    The famous stone statues of Notre Dame. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Tranquil gardens

    The Jardin des Tuileries is Paris's most central garden. Its fountains, sculptures, cafes, formal gardens, and central location, make it a popular destination for visitors and locals. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Offi) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Tuileries Palace

    Tuileries Palace encloses the western end of the Louvre and the formal gardens that make up Jardin des Tuileries park, stretching from the Louvre to the Place de Concorde, and bordered by the Seine. (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Moulin Rouge

    The cabaret Moulin Rouge was built in 1889, in Paris' red-light district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy. The Moulin Rouge is best known as the birthplace of the can-can dance. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. Flowing with history

    The Fontaine des Mers at one of the main public square, Place de la Concorde. At 20 acres, it is the largest square in Paris. (Henri Garat / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Honoring warriors

    The Arc de Triomphe stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. The arch honors soldiers who fought for France. The names of generals and wars fought can be found on the inside and top of the arc. Underneath, is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I . (Bruce Bennett / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Coffee break

    People walk past a boulangerie (bakery) in the Montmartre district in Paris. (Michel Euler / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Paris blues

    A piece of renowned French Roquefort blue cheese is displayed in a shop in Paris. (Philippe Wojazer / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Pricey real estate

    The Place Vendome is an octagonal square located to the north of the Tuileries Gardens and east of the Eglise de la Madeleine. The bronze spiral column at the center of the square was constructed in 1810 by Napoleon to celebrate the French army’s victory at Austerlitz. Within the square are apartments, and posh hotels and high-end retailers, including Cartier, Chanel, and Bulgari. (Benoit Tessier / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. French connection

    The high-speed rail network in France goes to several Parisian train stations, including Gare Du Nord shown here. The name was derived by the idea that travelers would be able to travel to Belgium, Netherlands, Northern Germany and the Scandinavian countries. It is the busiest railway station in Europe, and the third -busiest in the world. (Cate Gillon / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. The grandest address in Paris

    The Pere Lachaise cemetary (Father Lachaise Cemetery) on the eastern edge of the city, is named after the Jesuit Father Lachaise, King Louis XIV's confessor. Many famous people are buried here, including Musset, Chopin, Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Delacroix, Balzac, Jim Morrison. (Amélie Dupont / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Impressive collection

    The Musée d'Orsay is one of Paris' most popular museums, housed in the former railway station, the Gare d'Orsay. The museum houses an extensive collection of sculptures and impressionist masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Cezanne. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Grand design

    The Grand Palais (Big Palace) was built for the World Fair of 1900. The building is best known for its enormous glass-domed roof, making it one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks. The Grand Palais was the work of three different architects, and is currently the largest existing ironwork and glass structure in the world. (Marc Bertrand / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Prestigious avenue

    The Louis Vuitton department store is located on the stunning Champs-Elysees, one of the world's most famous and beautiful streets. (Mike Hewitt / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Le Pantheon

    Le Pantheon was originally intended to be a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve to fulfil a vow made by Louis XV while he'd fallen ill. It was used for religious and civil purposes until 1885 and now functions as a famous burial place. (David Lefranc / Paris Tourist Office) Back to slideshow navigation
  1. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  2. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  3. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

  4. Editor's note:
    This image contains graphic content that some viewers may find disturbing.

    Click to view the image, or use the buttons above to navigate away.

By Associated Press Writer
updated 7/18/2007 7:13:30 PM ET 2007-07-18T23:13:30

It was a perfect Paris moment: The rain cleared, the sky filled with blue, and I was flying across town on a bicycle, past the Louvre, along the Seine River, through a public garden and up a cobblestone market street.

As a tourist in Paris, it's easy to spend at least an hour every day in the Metro, but sometimes you need to come up for air. After taking a test run of Paris City Hall's inexpensive, easy-to-use new bike service, I pledged to spend less time this summer in Paris' underworld and more time out joyriding.

The service started on July 15, when more than 10,600 bikes were posted all over town at 750 stations, and the numbers of both will nearly double by the year's end. The great news for tourists is that City Hall has made sure the service is convenient for tourists, not just Parisians, by offering short-term passes and access in eight languages.

Velib', as the service is called, is a word made up by blending together "velo" (bike) and "liberte" (liberty). The idea is flexibility: You grab a bike from any station around town — they pop up every 330 yards or so — and park it at any other station. That means you don't have to haul the bike back to your hotel if your feet hurt or it starts raining.

Velib' is Socialist Mayor Bertrand Delanoe's latest effort to make Paris more green and bike-friendly, after ripping up car lanes to install bike paths — much to the angst of some drivers, who complain there are more bottlenecks now.

Today, there are 230 miles of bike lanes in Paris, and Paris City Hall says the amount of bike traffic has increased nearly 50 percent since 2001. Paris isn't a paradise for bikers yet _ there's still a lot of car traffic and confusing one-way streets — but a ride is no longer the obstacle course it once was.

By launching the bike program, Paris is following in the footsteps of European cities including Stockholm, Vienna, Barcelona, Brussels and Copenhagen. The German railway system has a bicycle rental program, where you unlock rental bikes at rail stations using your cell phone. In New York's trendy Soho neighborhood, a five-day experiment began July 7 offering free use of bikes for 30 minutes; cyclists provide credit card information to make sure they bring the bikes back. A service in Lyon, France, has also been a hit, inspiring Paris to try it too. In Lyon, every bike is used seven to 15 times a day, and the average number of rides a day is upward of 15,000.

The Paris plan already has more than 6,000 annual subscribers, though it hasn't started yet. A yearlong pass is $39.50, while a one-day pass costs a euro — about $1.36 — and a seven-day ticket goes for five euros — about $6.80.

Still, you'll wind up paying slightly more than that, if ever you keep the bike for more than half an hour at a time.

The first half-hour after you pick up a bike is always free, with an extra euro tacked on for the first additional half-hour, two euros for the second and four euros for every extra half-hour from then on.

The sliding price scale, conceived to keep the bikes in rotation, means that if you want to spend a leisurely day riding through the gardens of the Bois de Boulogne, it would be cheaper to rent a bike from a shop.

  1. Don't miss these Travel stories
    1. Lords of the gourd compete for Punkin Chunkin honors

      With teams using more than 100 unique apparatuses to launch globular projectiles a half-mile or more, the 27th annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin event is our pick as November’s Weird Festival of the Month.

    2. Airports, airlines work hard to return your lost items
    3. Expert: Tourist hordes threaten Sistine Chapel's art
    4. MGM Grand wants Las Vegas guests to Stay Well
    5. Report: Airlines collecting $36.1B in fees this year

But if you want to stop at the Louvre, then head to the boutiques of the Saint Germain neighborhood for some shopping, then crash at your hotel in eastern Paris — with the flexibility to take a bus or the Metro instead if you're tired — then Velib' is your best bet.

The bikes, themselves, however, are rather utilitarian -three-speed touring bikes, weighing nearly 50 pounds each.

Here's how the program works:

Stop in at any station around town with your credit card. They accept American Express, Visa and MasterCard, among others.

Each station comes with an electronic vending machine with instructions in eight languages. Select "English," and the machine will walk you through the instructions. Along the way, you must authorize Velib' to deduct $205 from your card if the bike is not returned within 24 hours. (For a one-year subscription, you have to sign up online or by mail to use the service, but for a one- or seven-day pass, you can do it at the machine.)

Once you've picked a bike, you have 60 seconds to push a button on the stand and pull the bike free. Adjust the seat, and you're ready to go. The bike has a basket and a built-in lock, so you can secure it if you need to run into a shop or make a quick stop. For longer stops, you'll save money if you return the bike to a station.

To put the bike back, you slide it into the stand, and you'll hear a beep and see a blinking light if it's attached right. Be sure to push it in firmly.

One drawback for the tourist: Since the stations are not manned, there's no one to ask for help with directions, so bring a map and be prepared to stop a passer-by if you get lost.

On my test ride, I did a reconnaissance mission for what I would consider the perfect summer afternoon-into-evening, when the sun stays out until after 10 p.m.

The itinerary: Pick up a bike near your hotel and head to the Palais Royal gardens, a quiet rose-filled square in the middle of town, for a coffee or a stroll. From there, head by foot to nearby rue Montorgueil, a market street where you can buy cheese, baguettes and a bottle of wine. Grab a bike at the rue des Petits Carreaux station and park it at the Pont Saint Louis station near the Seine, and look for a spot on the quays for your picnic blanket.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments