Paris Passions: Cycling

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Riding into infinity on a bike tour

Riding into infinity.

If you’ve followed my writing here on the Girls’ Guide, you’ll know that I love a good workout in Paris almost as much as the city itself. Running, yoga and the gym are my daily fare, but really I’d rather be biking. Of course, cycling in the city is not exactly exercise, so I find myself heading out beyond the city limits. At first, I was nervous about heading out alone; what if I ended up in a “bad” part of town, or missed a train heading back, or sent myself into some dangerous traffic or got a flat? Even after several rides, I am still nervous about heading out on my own, which is why now, whenever I need an adventurous workout in Paris, I solicit the services of the cycling guide and French village expert par excellence, Bruce McAleer and his company, French Mystique Bike Tours.

Bruce is an American who met and fell in love with a Parisian while living in Boston. They now live here in Mademoiselle’s (now Madame’s!) hometown. After a few years in the city, they started French Mystique Bike Tours, which specializes in cycling tours that take visitors off the beaten path, to the countryside just beyond Paris. The tours all begin and end in Paris, but once you move beyond the city limits, you’ll spend the day cycling past quaint villages, random châteaux and hidden museums.

Idyllic bike paths near Paris

Idyllic bike paths.

My first adventure was the French Mystique Bike Tours ride to Fountainebleau and Milly-la-Forêt. Even a jaded, self-proclaimed Parisienne like myself was impressed with the beauty and the diversity along the ride. Never mind over the river and through the dale; we rode through a forest, beyond pastures, over an autoroute and past fields of sugar beets. Bruce knows the area well, sharing insights into the history and traditions of the region, as well as little-known cultural jewels, like the Jean Cocteau museum or the chapel of Simple Saint-Blaise. A simple man Saint-Blaise was not; rather, he used medicinal plants, known as simples, to heal the local population, and his medicinal herb garden still perfumes the air around the 12th-century chapel that bears his name. It was a great day that had me exercising both body and mind.

A secret treasure in the Saint-Blaise chapel near Paris

A secret treasure in the Saint-Blaise chapel.

Our next ride was much shorter and much easier, but just as photogenic and infinitely more fun, as we were joined by Doni Belau, the founder of Girls’ Guide to Paris; Mary Kay Bosshart, who runs the blog Out and About in Paris; and Jane, a visitor from Ohio. This time, we headed northeast along the Marne River to Noisiel and the Menier chocolate factory that is listed to be a UNESCO World Heritage site, owned by Nestlé. It was an ideal day, as swans floated by and life on the barges unfolded, and we got just enough exercise to feel great about eating Bruce’s gourmet picnic along the river bank while dreaming about our next workout in Paris.

Related Links

French Mystique Bike Tours

Out and About in Paris

Editor’s note: Bruce at French Mystique Bike Tours can take you on a lovely daylong bike excursion outside Paris. A more wonderful day cannot be had! And he gives our Paris Travel Club members a special price!

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