Paris has never-ending amounts of secrets to discover, but one of my favorite things during my time in Paris was their public bicycle system called "Velîb." There are bike stations all around the city and you can check out a bike to ride to your destination then check it back in at a station nearby as opposed to riding the bus or metro- so easy! Well, it's easy, unless you're me! I had a major Velîb snafu and almost missed a flight because I was trying to fix it! I'll tell you all about it, but first: how cute are my peonies and baguette in my bike basket. I felt like a true Parisian riding my bike around town with my fresh flowers, dodging cars and buses, and surviving!
Below is a photo of one of the Velîb stations; they have made it much easier recently for tourists to check out bikes and you can simply purchase a day pass for $1.50 to check out bikes to and from your destinations all day long! Once you check out a bike, you have 30 minutes to check it back in at your next station. If you prefer to rent one bike all day and joy ride, you can also do that! Seeing the city by bike is the best because you can easily stop to check out a shop or boulanger while on a bike; you miss so much by riding the metro!
You get to select which number bike you want before checking it out, so make sure you choose a good one! Check your bike carefully to make sure the tires spin, the chain isn't stuck, and the seat is adjustable. On my very last day in Paris, I wanted to ride a bike through the city one last time; I went to a bike station and I thought I did a thorough examination of my bike but once I got on the bike, I found out the chain was stuck on the kickstand so I couldn't ride! It turned into a huge mess. HUGE. I checked my bike back into it's docking station (at least, I thought I did) and then tried to rent a different bike. I knew I had to wait a few minutes for the system to register that I had checked my first bike in, but it still wasn't allowing me to rent another bike! I thought I would outsmart Velîb (wrong) and walk to the next bike station and try there. I used a different credit card and was allowed to check out a bike from the station...I rode around for a few joyous hours, then decided it was time to go home. After finding an open station to check in my bike, I went back to my apartment to gather my luggage and head to the airport.
I had kind of a bad feeling about why Velîb wouldn't let me check out another bike, so I gave their customer service a call to make sure everything was in order before I left Paris. Well, it wasn't!! They told me that the reason I had trouble renting a second bike was that the first bike wasn't checked in properly and that I needed to go try to lock it into the station correctly or else it could be stolen and I would be charged for the bike. I did not have time for that, but they wouldn't be able to send a technician to the station for 1-3 days!! I knew I had to go back to the station, but it was about a 30 minute walk back. I was going to be late to the airport if I wasted any time! I ran outside and grabbed a taxi to the Velîb station and asked him to wait for me there while I called customer service and tried to resolve the issue. I called from the phone built into the Velîb stand and tried to troubleshoot over the phone, while a line formed behind me (oops!). After about 15 minutes, I finally got the bike locked in correctly and got the green light! It was fixed! I ran back to the taxi and to my apartment, where I frantically grabbed my luggage (why was it sooo heavy!) and took the metro to the airport. Note: carrying luggage up and down the metro stairs is not easy, but I was determined not to take a taxi to the airport. By the time I got to Charles de Gualle, I was a hot mess, didn't have time for lunch, and barely made my flight!! There went my relaxing last day in Paris (ha!). So that's my stressful Velîb story; moral of the story is to thoroughly check your bike before renting it. ;)