By Fernanda Hinke
It was on a Tuesday night in the spring of 2012. The city air was filled with the smell of flowers, life was resurfacing the bare trees after months enduring a harsh winter.
I was invited for an elegant party in a boat just in front of the Eiffel Tower. A group of architects was celebrating the renovation of Museum d’Orsay they had finished recently at that time. I didn’t hesitate to go to the party by bike. I wore my best clothes, put on some flat shoes and brought my classic stilettos on the basket of my bike. My hair was flying in the wind, but I got there, as well as the party, thin and elegant.
It was time to go home. Biking in that area wasn’t something new for me, but after the great party and some glasses of good champagne, it was different. The clock was beating 1 am, the streets were completely empty, the city was asleep and silent. However, the lights of the monuments were still lighted and the moon, ahh the moon, it was a full moon, bright and mysterious, unforgettable.
At that moment, I had an insight: what kind of Paris is that? A strong emotion for been biking in the city of lights at that time, a feeling that everyone was missing something while sleeping instead of absorbing the magic Paris at dawn.
A nostalgic sensation exploded in my heart. I felt like in Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” film, reviving moments of the past century, also captured inside the pictures of the photographer Brassai, who immortalized the Parisian night in the 30s. It was a singular beauty, Paris was calm, sepia… a sensation that Paris was just mine…..
During many days, I couldn’t stop thinking about that fantastic spectacle. The yellow lights reflecting on the water of the Seine River and illuminating my impeccable path, full of “street art” in each corner. Days after, I decided to repeat the route, biking from my home (at that time in the neighbourhood of Le Marais) until the Eiffel Tower and then I came back, with the conclusion: it had to be late, very late at night.
To my surprise, the emotion repeated, even if it was not an unprecedented path, the sensation was exactly the same. Then I discovered that the alchemy was in the recipe: Paris + Bike + Midnight. Spontaneously, I had created a tour: Midnight in Paris by Bike.
To do this tour became a weekly habit. All friends, friends of friends and family who passed by in the city were a great excuse to have new company for this bike ride, always with a bottle of champagne in my basket.
I started to realize the importance of this tour for those who were just passing by for a few days in town. Besides the new perspective by bike it was about how to see things during the night, when the city is empty. But also how it is possible to optimize the time. I mean, in 3 hours, it is possible to capture almost all the monuments of Paris.
Perceiving the emotion of people who lived this experienced with me encouraged me to start this project. In 2013 I began to offer this tour in partnership with the website Conexao Paris, always attentive to give tips and advices for the Brazilian public that came to visit Paris, escaping from the traditional and touristic context. We started to offer the readers this bike tour with the idea of being a group of friends in Paris, experiencing and dazzling our eyes and soul with the Parisian “street art” at midnight. Since then, more than 3.500 Brazilian enjoyed this tour with me and my bike team.
Today, I have the pleasure to announce the launch of Go Bike Paris – opening this bike tour also for the English Speakers in partnership with Montebelo – a creative studio of bike activists based between Barcelona, Paris, Porto, Stuttgart and Rio de Janeiro.
The tour lasts 3 hours, includes approximately 16km and the main objective is to arrive at the Eiffel Tower minutes before midnight and celebrate it with champagne!
We start by exploring the natural and charming Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, where it is possible to see just a tiny part of the Eiffel Tower, plus the skylight that comes from the top of it and spins 360 degrees, illuminating the whole Paris. Around this area, we appreciate an astonishing view from the back of the Notre Dame Cathedral, with its gothic and impressive architecture. With all this grandiosity, the side and front view are unmissable as well. Bordering the river on the island, home of the La Conciergerie (the court) and the church Sainte Chapelle, here, you will also be provoked by the lights of the city hall of Paris, the Hôtel de Ville.
Crossing the Pont Neuf, we pass in front of the giant and oldest public library in town, Mazarine, while on the other side of the river, the back of Louvre will follow us biking for almost 1km. The old train station, which was transformed in a museum for modern art, Museum D’Orsay is also embellishing our way.
After this point, we start to see a bigger part of the most famous and bright monument in the world, the Eiffel Tower. Our goal is to be there before midnight, to watch the precise 5 minutes of flash lights. But on the way, it is not possible to ignore the oasis of beauty when we arrive at the Pont Alexandre III, with the golden sculptures that look like they want to fly. Suddenly, you look left and your mind is blown away by the view of Les Invalides… the beauty of Paris seems to never end….
On the way, we see only a few people, walking or biking, most of them bohemians and couples in love… We keep going, at this time biking on a path under a “tunnel” of trees, which sometimes allows you to see the tower and sometimes hides it as a little treasure that needs to be pursued. A cyclable path that once was a private road commanded by a french queen : Paris never stops to break paradigms!
We are close now – we cross a little catwalk, which allows us to have a perfect angle of the whole Eiffel Tower. Little boats are anchored on the river and we stop for some minutes to contemplate it. When you realize, you are just a few meters of your main destiny. We come closer, not from the front, but from the secret gardens, that slowly revel the most prominent symbol of France.
It’s just a few minutes before midnight and we are facing the elegant tower. It’s time to celebrate. We blow the champagne and celebrate life and Paris! But the tour doesn’t finish here, on the contrary, midnight has just passed, there are much more adventures to live, to see and to feel.
At this time there aren’t people in the streets anymore, if we are lucky, we can cross some dwellers of Paris, some little mice. The Grand and Petit Palais are waiting for our watchful eyes to appreciate and impress us with their beauty facades. From here, we are just a few meters from one of the most famous streets in the world: the Champs-Élysées. We feel attracted to bike in this luxury place without having the desire to consume anything, after all, everything is closed. We are just interested on contemplating the masterful and most important symbol of pride and patriotism for the French people, the Arc du Triumphe.
It’s time to go to the center of the Place de la Concorde, that will be absolutely empty, which is for some bikers the highlight of the tour. It’s the biggest square in Paris, where we can sight at the same time the whole Champs-Élysées avenue, with the Arc de Triumph at the end, and at the same time the Eiffel Tower, in perfect symmetry.
We keep going by bike beside the beautiful Tuileries Garden, now with the goal of reaching the last “street art” monument in our tour: The Louvre Museum. We come slowly, exploring the garden, the Carrousel, the Pyramid and every detail of this huge castle, which briefly belongs to us. After all, at this time, it is just you in front of this majestic place and disputed monument…
Three hours passed by, you did a long bike ride. You realize you do not feel the tiredness, hunger or thirst. Actually, you are anesthetized in exploring Paris by bike after midnight!
A new perception of Paris is waiting for you! Prepare yourself for a great adventure!
Go Bike Paris: We’ll show you the Parisian way of Life!
Book your tour by clicking here!