The Scribbler

4 July 2010

Part 2 – The Eiffel Tower and Segway tour

Filed under: travel — The Scribbler @ 16:13
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Riding Segways at the Eiffel tower

Riding Segways at the Eiffel tower

A leisurely awakening, then pain au chocolat, orange juice and hot chocolate in the local boulangerie on the corner set us up nicely for a day exploring the city.

We walk through the elegant streets, with their cafes and boutiques, wooden shutters and wrought iron balconies, towards the river, looking for the symbol of this city. You wouldn’t think it was easy to miss a 300ft tall tower would you? But she hides coyly behind the tree line until we’re close by.

We join the international crowds in line to ascend this famous landmark, and are approached endlessly by men hawking trinkets and key rings on large loops or floating Paris scarves out like flags.

Instantly recognisable, a symbol of la belle France. Yet the Eiffel tower does not look like you imagine it. Up close, she shows her age. In this age of steel and glass, her brown painted ironwork appears old fashioned . So many pieces of metal, such complex cross bracing, it’s like getting a glimpse of your great grandmother’s corsetry. The beauty of la tour is best glimpsed from a distance or under the soft light of an evening, not the harsh glare of the July sunshine.

And once in the tower, the structure is almost forgotten as all eyes turn outwards to drink in the view. The city spreads out in miniature, the river and key buildings provide landmarks and bearings. Cameras click and whirr, but the landscape’s too vast to capture the detail.

Time to try and make sense of this city, to break it down into bite size pieces and steal some glimpses into its history. Back at ground level, we snack on ham and cheese crepes from a stall by the river, then return to the tower’s south leg ready for our next adventure.

In researching our trip, we made good use of the recommendations on trip advisor, and one of the most popular was a city Segway tour. And as Gary has always wanted to give this two wheeled electric machine a go, it seemed like a great opportunity to try something new.

Our guides zoomed over the zebra crossing, giving us our first real life view of a Segway, and soon a small crowd of would-be riders gathered round. A short walk back to their base and we got kitted up with safety helmets before our first lesson in safe Segwaying.

It’s hard to describe how this two wheeled vehicles work. They look like they should fall over and until you turn them on, they feel as bulky and cumbersome as a push lawnmower. But once powered up, the handlebars stand upright and you’re ready to roll.

Getting your balance is the first challenge as you control the forward motion and speed through adjusting your balance from your toes to your heels. So climbing on board for the first time can be a bit unsettling as Gary found out as the Segway bucked beneath him. But once settled, and with a bit of coaching from our guide Brian, they were incredibly easy and intuitive to ride. My main problem was learning to stop quickly and being a little too tentative on my first attempts to bounce up and down a small kerb.

But training over, we were all off on our tour, whizzing along the cycle lanes and pavements of Paris to the amusement of passers by. We stopped at several key sights including the Eiffel Tower, L’Ecole Militaire, the Louvre and Place du Concorde and got snippets of the city’s history. But most of the fun was to be had riding the Segways, getting bolder with our speed and turns at every cross roads.

In all the tour took around 4 hours, with a stop in the Tuileries gardens for a bite to eat. I’d fired up my Garmin to track the route and ignoring most of the stops, we covered just over 10km in an hour on the Segways and clocked up an 8 min mile at one point. They are a great fun way to get around.

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