About a month ago I signed up for a Vélib membership, granting me easy access to Paris' vast public bike-sharing system. Biking, along with having a private chef to prepare all my meals, is probably one of the things that I miss most about Stanford. I like that it's quicker than walking, less hassle for going short distances than descending into the subway, and physically stimulating enough to make me feel like I'm working out even though I rarely break a sweat. (Paris is relatively flat, but the weather is consistently chilly now that it's November).
Despite how frighteningly aggressive Parisian drivers are, the city is quite bike-friendly. On the main roads cyclists share the center lane with buses and taxis, and most other streets - even the small ones - have designated bike lanes. The biggest challenge is not getting lost, something I struggle with enough even just pounding the pavement on my own two feet.
Recently, however, I discovered the real use for Vélib bikes; the one that its founders probably did not intend but that which I shall probably use my membership for the most in my remaining time here.
You see, the Metro closes relatively early (about 1am on weekdays and 2am on weekends)* and taxis are much more trouble than they're worth. (Not only are they expensive but you can only catch them at designated stretches of the sidewalk. So on a Friday night in say, Bastille, you could be waiting a very long time for a ride).
But now, after a night out, I can simply bike home. I will admit from personal experience that biking in heels
after a few drinks is not the easiest feat, but it can be done. There's also something quite refreshing about cruising down Boulevard du Montparnasse at 3am when it's practically devoid of cars with the cold early morning air whipping through my hair - a welcome respite from the sweaty, suffocating atmosphere of the dancefloor.
Many Parisians are game to simply stay out long enough for the Metro to reopen at 5am. In fact, I'm told that's the reason why they tend to go out later. But even after living here for almost 5 months I still haven't fully adjusted to their downshifted schedule. Whereas at home I'm used to eating dinner at 6, pre-gaming by 10 and going out by 11, everything in France happens a good 2 or 3 hours later.
Maybe it's a sign that I've already exceeded my partying prime, but I'm lucky if I can make it to 4am without falling asleep.
*I once read somewhere that this is for cleaning purposes, but quite honestly I don't know who they're kidding. NYC's subway system managed to operate 24-hours a day and still feel safer and cleaner than the Metro.