full of marvelous things to see and do. Treasures and history are on
every corner. I’m with a group of people and a man turns to me and
says, with his eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas, “This is the
coolest thing I have ever done!” What was he talking about? Walking
down the Champ-Elysées? Looking at Paris spread out at his feet from
the highest level of the Eiffel Tower? Maybe a meal at Tour d’Argent?
He probably had done all of those, but none of the above was what he
was talking about. So what was it?
It was a ride on a Segway, a
new-fangled mode of transportation that had people stopping and
staring, pointing and smiling. It is a human transporter allowing
people to go up to speeds of 12 miles an hour in any pedestrian
environment. I suspect it was first invented to help people with
limited mobility, but it is so much fun that everyone wants to hop on
and try it.
The only place in Paris that you can rent a Segway
is at Mike’s Bike Tours, an American owned and run operation, owned not
by Mike, but David Mebane. He has the exclusive contract with Segway as
the only tour operator to have these machines.
I joined a group
one day for a trial run. A quick orientation is needed before you set
off. There are three3 keys for starting a Segway, each producing a
different speed. The red key, being the fastest, is no longer available
to tourists after two couples left a guide in the dust speeding for the
fun of it, not as tourists getting a look at Paris. Our great guide,
Brittany, had to hold on to our Segway when we first stepped on because
at first you wobble back and forth, then suddenly you are balancing–
some sort of gyroscope system underneath the machine keeps you
balanced. Then you just lean forward and pull back on the handles to
stop or to reverse if already stopped. The turning device is on the
left handle. This is the part I enjoyed most, as you turn very quickly
and easily and maneuver like something out of Star Wars. The Segway was
easy to ride and great fun.
Then we were off on our tour, seeing
the Eiffel Tower, Invalides, the Louvre, Ecole Militaire, Alexander III
bridge, Place de la Concorde and more. We were covering ground 2 to 3
times faster than the pedestrians we whizzed by on the sidewalks. We
could go up or down small curbs easily and quickly come to a stop. I
imagine that those who have a little trouble with mobility would love
the Segway. All that is necessary physically is being able to step up
and down. Plus, you must weigh at least 70 pounds.
Part of the
fun of the tour on the Segway is the attention we attracted. As we
drove by, people stared either with a smile, because they could see how
much fun it was, or with a frown, wondering what in the heck this
new-fangled contraption was (however you say that in French). Bikes
aren’t allowed in parks, and we saw security men and policemen trying
to decide if we should be made to dismount and walk our Segways. We
found that as long as we didn’t go right up to the Pyramid at the
Louvre they would let us continue to ride.
we stopped there to take a look at the Pyramid from a distance, people
surrounded us and asked, “Where can you rent these?,” “How do these
work?,” “What are these?,” “Can you buy them here in Paris?,” and on
and on. I have a feeling that Madonna gets this kind of attention when
she goes out for a walk. For just a few hours on one day, it was a
rather heady feeling. We saw a bike tour go by us and I saw the riders
look at us with envy.
David, the owner of Mike’s, told me that
after a Prince of Saudi Arabia tried the latest Segway, he immediately
went and ordered 30 of them for his use back home, as well as for his
family and employees. Plaza Athenée has struck a deal with David to put
carrying bags with their name on them for groups coming from this
prestigious hotel to do the Segway Tour.
I asked David why this
tour has become so wildly popular and he said he thought it was because
it was so new–the latest rage. Maybe in a year or so the fad will
pass, but it sure is a draw at the present time.
potentially dangerous? I guess it could be. The Segway stops so quickly
and easily that I don’t think it would be easy to run into a
pedestrian. It is possible to fall off, and I’m sure a few people will
run into a wall or get a wheel caught in some gravel. No one in my
group had any problems once we became familiar with our Segways. All I
know is that it was a really fun thing to do and, possibly, “the
coolest thing I have ever done.”
These tours are very quickly booked. Call or email ahead of time to book.
Mike’s Bike Tours-Paris
Dates : Every day March 1st-October 15th
Times: Day tour at 10:30am, night tour at 6:30pm
Prices: Day tour 70 Euro, night tour 70 Euro, both tours 125 Euros
Meeting Point: Both tours meet in the area under the Eiffel Tower
Phone : 01 56 58 10 54
Web site : www.MikesBikeToursParis.com
Linda Mathieu, formerly from Austin, Texas, is a professional journalist and photographer. Owner of Paris Photo Tours,
she delights in taking tourists around Paris, showing them her favorite
views and photo ops. She is currently at work on a book of her
photography with a light-hearted look at Paris.