On that note, I give you a guest post from MrM about our Segway experience - perfect for Valentine's or indeed any day of the year!
MrM and his wife found a day spare on their last visit to Paris and decided to explore the most romantic city in the world from a new perspective.
What could be better than a romantic walk arm-in-arm around the beautiful streets of Paris? Answer: Doing it on a Segway.
On a beautiful sunny Valentine’s Day afternoon we find ourselves at the south pillar of the Eiffel Tower waiting for our tour guide, Seth, to arrive watching people join the end of a queue for the tower. And although we’ve not met him before, we identify him immediately, coming quickly, but effortlessly towards us.
We’ve booked onto the Segway tour, organised by Fat Tire Bike Tours. Our guide is a twentysomething from Colorado who is making it look easy, chatting nonchalantly with his hand in his pocket. Marge and I look at each other with nervous trepidation.
We follow him back to the office, just around the corner, Seth gliding through the throng of visitors while we struggle to keep up on foot. Fat Tire Bike Tours’ office is piled high with mountain bikes with a handful of Segways in the corner charging.
The Segway is a two-wheeled, self-balancing electric vehicle invented by Dean Kamen which uses gyroscopes to stay upright.
Simply lean forward to go forward, lean back to slow down and go backward, and turn by leaning left and right with the handlebar. What could be simpler?
Gyroscopic sensors are used to detect forward and backwards motion and leaning left to right. Keeping relaxed, maintaining your balance and confidence are the three key elements to riding a Segway.
While we sign our lives away, Seth outlines some of the injuries he’s seen in the last couple of weeks on his tours: dislocated wrists, broken bones.
We suddenly get very nervous as our helmets are being fastened up. There are six in our group - another English couple and a frighteningly sporty looking American couple.
The American man gets on the Segway making it look as easy as riding an escalator, and his wife makes it look easier still, doing a loop around us.
Marge looks like a giraffe that’s just been born. I wobble backwards and forward and then realise I am making strange sounds like watching fireworks.
I gingerly attempt to make left turns as if I’m a five-year-old riding my bike for the first time with the stabilisers taken off. My precarious lurches are increasingly making me think about making my excuses and leaving. The thought of negotiating walkers, and parked cars fills me with dread. Everyone else in the group is getting cocky and rolling backwards and forwards with ease. I worry. I worry even more when we’re told to practise a kerb. Everybody does this with confidence and ease. I panic, slow down, narrowly miss a tree, and swerve violently back upon myself and hit the kerb without any momentum at all. This sends the Segway reeling and twisting my leg. I dust myself down and keep saying to myself ‘deposit’.
I’ve still got one leg on it when I realise that this is my lack of confidence which is getting in the way. Instead of giving up, I tell myself I can do it. This relaxes me and forces my stance to become more natural. We start the tour, me at the back. I smile at Margaret as we speed up and down the kerbs with the wind in our hair – this is great. Because you are about 12 inches off the ground you really do gain a different perspective of this magnificent city.
We pass the Eiffel Tower again and I discover that I am beaming. It’s possible to reach speeds of over 12mph, simply by leaning forward.
First stop on the tour is the Champ de Mars. Moving forward is easy, stopping and getting off takes a bit more practice. But we all successfully manage it. Seth reminds us about the Champ de Mars - the setting of the Fête de la Fédération – the setting for first anniversary celebration of the storming of the Bastille, on the 14 July 1790 and also the setting of a massacre the following year when a crowd collected to draft a petition seeking the removal of King Louis XVI.
On to the Ecole Militaire and armoury and around to Eglise du Dome, the resting place of Napoleon. Seth says there is enough gold on the Dome to make us all millionaires several times over.
‘I love the fact that Napoleon had his coffin placed so those coming to pay their respects to the emperor had to lean over as though they are bowing to see his tomb,’ he adds.
We race down the Seine to the Pont Alexandre III – the stunning arch bridge connecting the Champs-Élysées quarter and the Invalides and Eiffel Tower quarter - my favourite bridge in Paris.
The gold guild bridge, complete with Art Nouveau lamps, was built between 1896 and 1900 to commemorate the Franco-Russian Alliance.
As well as making many film and television appearances, Anastasia, Ronin and The Sopranos to name a few, the bridge is also a favourite spot for lovers to embrace. ‘Why don’t we carry on the tradition,’ says Seth.
By now, we’re feeling much more confident, and I realise that steering has become almost intuitive.
But disaster almost strikes as over confidence takes over and an emergency stop is required to avoid a pile up. Just a reminder that you have to concentrate all the time when you ride a Segway.
We move on to the opulent architectural splendour of the Lovre and learn more about Paris bloody and turbulent history. Then it is back along the breathtaking Place de la Concord before a last play at the Eiffel Tower racing the kids on rollerbades.
We can’t believe our two hour tour is over already. Excitement, thrills and thank goodness no spills. Segways are a great experience for all age groups and what better place to try it than Paris.
Telephone: 01-56-58-10-54 (calling from within France)
+33-1-56-58-10-54 (calling from outside of France)
Address: City Segway Tours
24, rue Edgar Faure