Of course, the best way to take a trip of Paris is by walking. Only by foot can you really appreciate the pageantry of the display windows at Printemps; only by strolling can you slide coy glances at beaux brokers on their lunch hour. The problem with Paris, though, is that there’s just so much to see, and if you’re too short on time (or too high of heel), the most stylish solution is to hop on a Vespa.
You can rent a scooter at most car rental agencies or opt for a trip of Paris with Left Bank Scooters. The owners, Adam and Adele, will meet you wherever you stay in Paris, and if you wish, they’ll accompany you around the city, introducing you to places of historical and aesthetic interest. Otherwise, they’ll suggest where to go and what to see and leave you on your merry way.
Feeling rather adventurous, we chose to go on a solo exploration of the scenic town of Chavenay (as suggested by Adele), on a classic Granturismo model with GPS to help us negotiate the city’s many one-way streets. After strapping on our helmets and tossing my handbag in the boot, we were off.
Although driving in a foreign city can be a drag, scootering is a breeze: should you go the wrong way, just pop onto the sidewalk and turn around. There’s almost nowhere you can’t park, and traffic jams are easy to bypass.
Assisted by a preset GPS, we found Chavenay without a single argument. Filled with wildflowers, haystacks drying in sunbeams and flat-capped elders drinking wine in the local bistro, Chavenay is picture perfect, almost a stereotype of the quaint French village. We climbed the stairs around the old stone church and triped around for hours, dreaming of living in one of the rustic stone cottages, surrounded by cats, dogs and a garden full of roses.
A rural town, Chavenay has a dearth of restaurants, so we made a slight detrip to the busier town of Versailles and were drawn in by one unusually named restaurant: Au Chien Qui Fume (The Dog That Smokes). The fixed menu was cheap and tasty and French, and refueled us enough to allow for more walking around the commercial heart of Versailles.
In the center of Versailles, under the harsh fluorescent lights of the changing rooms at the Zara store, I noticed that my husband’s face was turning a nasty shade of tomato red: remember that scootering means you’ll be in the sun all day, so sunscreen with a high SPF is a must!
We bought some sunblock and headed for the Sacré Cœur Basilica, arriving just in time to catch the city ablaze in electric pinks and oranges. The west-facing church commands impressive views of the city at this hour, and after the spectacle of the setting sun, there are always plenty of street artists below competing for attention. Off the scooter once again, we strolled hand in hand past the many styles of paintings, sketches and prints on offer, and to our delight, found a watercolor scene of Chavenay that we recognized immediately. We’d found the perfect souvenir for a perfect day.
Left Bank Scooters
Château de Versailles