The Bikes and Walkers of Paris — Les vélos et les promeneurs à Paris

jardin du luxembourg paris

Jardin du Luxembourg

Let’s start by the end, shall we? Even if, I am sure, I do not need to narrate beautiful Paris to anyone. Because what else is there actually to say that has not yet been written about this city full of surprises?

I was looking forward to spending time in the French capital before heading back home to Boston, even if I knew well that I would not stay long enough. I never have enough days in Paris to see and do it all. Yet this time, I discovered something that I had not seen there before: Paris and its old and newly born bikes.

Oh, I want to use one of these,” I told myself when I saw silver-grey Vélib’ bikes for the first time.

Why did a city like Paris wait for so long to have its own bike transit system?” I asked my friend A when he and I decided to take a stroll by the quays of Paris on île St Louis.

We have to wonder.

velib paris bike

Vélib’ in Paris

On July 15th of this year, the city of Paris launched the Vélib’ program — which stands for Vélo (Bike) and Liberté (freedom) — a self-service bike transit system offering the ability to anyone, Parisians and tourists, to pick up and drop off bicycles at numerous docking stations scattered throughout the city. By the end of the year, the plan is to have about 20,000 bikes available from at least 1,400 stations.

The effort is geared towards reducing the number of cars in the city with an eco-friendly way of transportation. Already, I love the idea. Its principle is easy: you can take a bike at any location and drop it at another any time of the day, seven days of the week. The bonus? The first thirty minutes are always free. The rest is a question of how often you need a bike. Perhaps you will decide to use a one-day card for one euro, a weekly card for five or an annual card for twenty-nine euros. After the first 30 minutes however, there is an extra cost, to ensure that bikes remain available to everyone at all times.

Are you sure that Parisians will use them?” I asked A.

Haven’t you noticed? Le vol de vélos, c’est bien commun ici,” he responded (stealing bikes is common here), pointing at a lonely wheel hanging at a railing. “So perhaps people will prefer to rent than own a bike.

I promised to try a Vélib’ bike when I would return to Paris next year. Because this time, I actually preferred to walk.

jardin du luxembourg paris

It was sunny and mild in Paris when I arrived, making me feel that Spring was only starting, possibly catching up with a summer that seemed to not have happened.

Tu as de la chance,” my brother told me as soon as I arrived. “On a vraiment eu un été pourri.” (You are lucky, we really had shitty weather this summer).


I had a hard time to believe him when all I saw in France during my stay was sun.

So this time, my plan was loose, with the exception of wishing to stay outside as much as I could, to enjoy the air and sun, fill my eyes and senses with the beauty of the place, just happy to walk without a purpose.

I did not feel curious to visit famous Parisian pastry stores, restaurants and cafés, or look for the latest coolest cup to bring home with me — well, I did stop at Habitat and BHV all the same to grab a few new food props and pieces of cloth, but that is passage obligé ! Instead, I walked and walked, until my legs and feet felt sore.

quay paris

It started with a stroll in the Jardin du Luxembourg where I could not help but catch a glimpse of many passers-by leisurely sitting on benches, happy to soak in the warmth of a generous October sun. Later, when I reached the quais de la Seine, I managed to observe a few fishermen and walkers taking a break in the middle of the day.

What do you think that they catch here?” I still had to ask my friend A. We could not tell.

La vie est riche quand elle est pleine de belles rencontres” (Life is rich when you meet a lot of interesting people)

One morning, I was delighted to meet Akiko for a cup of tea. We had an inspiring time chatting away about life, France, Japan and photography. If you have not yet seen the work of this amazingly talented and accomplished food photographer, you simply have to — I am a true admirer of her photography. With her work published in numerous top magazines and cookbooks, she is a constant source of inspiration, not forgetting to mention that she was just as I had imagined: natural and warm.

Another afternoon, I had yet another restful stroll on l’île St Louis where I decided to stop for lunch and indulge in a simple soupe du jour — a vegetable soup — and a salade niçoise .

One evening, I had dinner with Pascale at a wonderful restaurant tucked away on rue Malar in the seventh arrondissement. Chez l’Ami Jean is a great place serving southwestern French food. The full thirty-two euro menu we both chose offered creative, tasty dishes which yet remained extremely down-to-earth; it was a fantastic cuisine du terroir revisitée. Imagine a plate of succulent coquilles St Jacques (scallops) served in tiny shells with other goodies I fail to remember, followed then by a cooked-to-perfection bar entier cuit à la plancha au thym (a whole sea bar cooked à la plancha, grilled on a metal plate, with thyme), served with a delicious homemade purée (mashed potatoes). And for dessert? Une verrine de crème de mascarpone légère avec sa compotée d’ananas au citron vert (a light mascarpone cream and its stewed pineapple cooked with lime). Like many restaurants and bistros in Paris, Chez l’Ami Jean is a small place where tables are arranged closely the ones to the others, making it impossible not to overhear what is happening at the table next to yours — all right, I can admit that I personally like this. And so, this is how you end up with stories like this one. I will spare you with the many details of how it happened, but will you believe me if I tell you that, after they overheard Pascale and I talk about food blogging, amongst other things, the friendly couple of Belgians sitting to our left told us the following:

Je suis l’ex-mari de Sophie qui a le blog culinaire Les Bonheurs de Sophie” ( I am Sophie’s ex-husband, from the food blog Les Bonheurs de Sophie).

Non ! Ce n’est pas possible,” I responded to the man whose smiling face showed that, like us, he seemed quite amused and surprised by the whole situation. “Mais je lis le blog de Sophie !” (I read Sophie’s blog!)

Now, Paris is a big city! What would be the odds of something like this happening, I will ask you?

The conversation became livelier, even more so when the couple sitting to our right joined in. And so, we might have started our dinner between the two of us, but we ended it between the six of us.

I also had the plan to see Fred and Rachel, but felt sorry to unfortunately be short of time.

Time flew by, as always, bringing me closer to when I had to pack up and prepare to head back across the Atlantic. And, as with every time it occurs, I felt a pinch in my heart at the thought of leaving.

But who wouldn’t? I met great people in a great city, leaving Paris, once more, feeling enriched.

Until the next time when I am back, hoping that then, amongst other things, P. will be able to be with me, to meet our friends and enjoy dinner at Chez L’Ami Jean. Because for sure, we will return!

Chez l’Ami Jean
27 rue Malar
75007 Paris
Tel : +33 1 47 05 86 89
Open from Tuesday to Saturday
Reservations highly recommended as it fills up quickly

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Posted in Food & Travel, Food Photography, Food Styling


  1. Magnifiques photos de Paris, cela reconstitue toute une atmosphère et cela donne envie d’y retourner!
    Si tu prends les vélib” la prochaine fois, attention toutefois à la pl de la Concorde 😉

  2. Oh que j’aurais aimé être là pour partager ce dîner 😉 et aussi cette magnifique balade dans Paris. Toujours d’aussi belles photos.
    J’en profite pour te féliciter pour ton nouveau site : splendide. Tu as raison de garder la photo et le styling, tu as le talent des 2

  3. Ah Paris…j’y vais souvent comme j’ai ma fille là-bas. En plus maintenant nous avons le tgv, à 2 h 20 de Strasbourg, c’est superbe. C’est une ville magique et avec les musées c’est géant. Merci pour les belles photos. Je te souhaite un bon dimanche et à bientôt.

  4. Thank you for this magnificent post about Paris. I miss it…I went there more often when I didn’t live in France! I know there’s a direct train from Rodez and all, but life gets in the way…

  5. Bea, you captured some magic atmosphere in Paris. I adore your choice of black and white, recalling vintage photos and reminding us that these scenes are indeed timeless, even giving the new bikes their proper value. I also loved your way of choosing to place your human subjects within the frame in a way that indicates that they are a part of the picture, but only part of it. Those were powerful choices.

  6. Lovely pictures Bea (it makes such a change as food pictures are hardly ever B&W). And your brother was right – so lucky with the weather!

    We are very excited here in Oxford because we have just heard that the University is planning to roll out a self-service bike loan scheme here too

  7. You know what? Since I met you personally in Chicago while the BlogHer conference I cannot read your Blog without hearing your lovley french accent – and this time it makes realy sense. 😉

    Thank you for these wonderful impressions about my fave town! I miss it so much.

  8. As always, your photos are so evocative. Paris looks especially wonderful in black and white.

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  10. Love the warm, rich autumn colours, Bea – so beautiful. Glad you had a lovely time, I must go back soon too…

  11. Long time reader and lurker. Felt I had to come out of the shadows to congratulate you on such a wonderful post and photographs. Thank you, you’ve inspired me to wander about my own world a little more often… although, my world is nowhere near as charming as Paris.

  12. I think I remember that little stone bench next to the Seine, isn’t it on one end of the Notre-Dame “island”? Think it’s called Ile de la Cité but not sure.

    En tout cas tu as pris des photos magnifiques 🙂

  13. I can’t believe I never been to Paris. Walking around like you did — it seems wonderful. And walking is what I enjoy the most with European cities. One can just walk and walk until all of a sudden ones legs are crying out loud for a sit down. Is there a better excuse for a café or a meal. I don’t think so.

    About the bike program — I’ve seen it in Copenhagen for years and it seems to be working. Good for Paris!

  14. grâce à toi, je repense à cette période de ma vie, où je vivais là, à deux pas du Louvre et du la place Vendôme, mes ballades (toujours à pied) rive gauche, ou au jardin des Tuileries dès qu’un rayon de soleil pointait son nez (mais je partais tjs avec mon chapeau de pluie dans la poche de mon imper…ça c’est le temps de Paris)…

  15. J’arrive ici un peu par hasard et je suis enchantée par cette découverte ! Que ce soit des photos de Paris ou des photos culinaires elles sont tout simplement magnifiques 🙂
    Je reviendrai !

  16. Je voulais t’envoyer un mail qui t’aurai fait sourire, mais je n’y arrive pas. merci pour cette ballade parisienne, je réessaierai demain.

  17. Oh dear!!! Beauiful pictures!!! I love Paris, I don’t know Paris but I like sooo and yours pictures are how Iam this it it! really how beautiful pictures, many thanks for the pleasure to see them!!! Gloria

  18. Oh the fountain in the top photo in Jardin du Luxembourg . . . we spent so many times there. All you photos make me sad we didn’t go this year!
    Great story on the dinner Béa – so much fun when those things happen.

  19. Ces couleurs! Magnifique! B. et moi avons eu un diner ecellent a L’Ami Jean a Noel, a cote de Jean Pierre Bacri et Vincent Lindon…et mon petit mari qui ne comprenait rien aux chuchotements des gens en face de nous, ahahah!!!

  20. Ah, I can’t wait to see Paris. I was there when I was maybe 6 or 7 years old so I don’t really remember much…The Disneyland yes!! :))

  21. Bea, visiting thru another blog and am so happy to come upon your site. I was lucky to visit Paris a few years back and France itself has become one of my favorite places. I have good friends in Saumur now. Thank you for your notes and photos of a marvelous city.

  22. J’étais à Paris ce WE et je retrouve dans tes photos tout ce que j’aime de cette ville, ponts, jardins,musées, cafés,ruelles,…le tout dans des tons automnaux et sous un soleil presque estival, le rêve.Que c’est bon de rêver à travers tes photos!

  23. Those were beautiful, loving picture postcards to a beautiful city. Thank you for sharing, and I hope your next trip back sees you bringing some sunshine with you again. 🙂

  24. De très jolies photos comme d’habitude, mais merci sûrtout d’avoir créé un lien aux photos d’Akiko, elle est d’un tel génie, c’est une poètesse.

  25. Dear Bea, thank you for your beautiful pictures of the jardin du luxembourg! It brings back the memories of playing the boats in the fountain next to the senat building with my grandparents!

    Keep up the good work,

    Job (a very happy reader!)

  26. Darling Bea, what can anyone say about Belle Paris?? C’est l’amour de mon coeur, non? The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of my favourite, favourite places. I can spend hours just there, watching the people come and go, old men reading news papers in the sun, young lovers tenderly kissing on benches under trees, as only Parisian couples can, posh older women walking their little dogs, never a hair out of place on their perfectly coiffed heads and groups of men playing boules and drinking champagne on their lunch breaks, their ties loosened and their jackets thrown over the back of a green chair. Oh, I am jealous!

  27. Ooooh . . . I can’t believe your timing. I’ve just been writing a post about a Paris memory of mine . . . which includes the Jardin du Luxembourg. You’ve made the nostalgia even sweeter. Thank you.

  28. Thank you Rosa, very much so!

    Reva, thanks!

    Thérèse, je prends bien note, merci du conseil. Tu les as déjà testés alors?

    Kat, thank you!

    Yoyo, yes indeed. Great place! Thanks for your comment!

    Eva, thank you!

    Sophie, ah oui alors, quelle coincidence ! Je n’en croyais pas mes oreilles 😉 On a passé une soirée super agréable. Merci de ton gentil mot.

    Eleonora, ah oui, j’ai moi aussi pris le TGV jusqu’à Metz, quel changement heureux ! Ca rend la vie bien plus facile!

    Amy, thanks.

    Wendy, very nice of you!

    Betty, yes isn’t it funny to see that we often visit places more often when we are far away? I visit Paris way more often than some of my French friends living in France in province too!

    Lucy, this is a really nice compliment that you are paying me. Thanks so much. It means a lot!

    Dave, many thanks! I am pleased to hear you enjoyed it!

    Sophie, yes I was lucky with the weather indeed. And from what I am hearing, it continues on! Thanks for your nice comment. I bet you will be pleased with the bike system too!

    Creezy, ahah, that is so sweet. Me? An accent ? 😉 I wish I could hear it! Thank you!

    Claude, merci beaucoup.

    Lydia, thank you. I actually enjoy a lot playing with B & W these days.

    Keiko, thank you so much. I know Paris would always look beautiful behind your lens.

    Sx, thank you very much for commenting and your nice words. I am delighted to hear that my little blog can have this impact.

    Yakumo, yes it is 😉

    Christina, oh you must! I am like you, walking in European cities has something special. I am delighted to hear about the Copenhagen bike system as I will be there in January (although probably not biking if it is too cold ;-))

    Vanessa, ah quelle chance. Ces balades sont en effet de superbes souvenirs, j’en reste persuadée.

    Mercotte, merci beaucoup.

    Lydie, bienvenue et merci de ta visite.

    Ronell, merci!

    Mamina, j’espère que tu réussiras. Je n’ai rien reçu!

    Sophie, oui! Profite bien de ta chance!

    Gloria, thank you!

    Tanna, yes this was a funny dinner indeed. I loved every minute of it, including the amazing food.

    Helen, alors cela, c’est trop marrant. Comment as-tu fait pour ne rien leur dire??? J’aurais été si curieuse 😉

    Andrea, thank you!

    Tea, I hope you can go back soon.

    Eleonora, sweet! 😉

    Barbara, thank you.

    Deb, thank you for your first visit, and words.

    Cécile, merci bien, je suis bien contente d’avoir pu créer cet univers pour toi.

    Annemarie, thank you very much!

    Sarah, many thanks.

    Hilda, ah oui, Akiko est si douée et chaleureuse. Un bonheur que de la rencontrer.

    Job, so nice. Funny, I almost posted a picture of boys playing with the boats. It was fun to watch!

    Robyn, you are so right, so much to say in fact. I loved reading your account of it. Merci!

    Kate, thank you. Hope you will.

    Swirlingnotions, many thanks. I loved to read your story too. SO nicely written.

    Natural leap, thank you very much for the nice compliment.

  29. This makes me so sad that I did not have a chance to visit Paris one more time before moving back to the states! But, paradoxically, your beautiful photos and stories make me feel like I did get to visit once last time!

  30. Bea, j’etais au pied de la fontaine Medicis la semaine derniere, et me disais tiens, Bea ferait des belles photos ici! Je ne connais que toi pour la montrer comme ca…

  31. Thank you Claire., too sweet!

    Amy, thank you!

    Nicole, I am sure you will have many more opportunities to visit.

    FleurdeCerisier, thank you.

    Fabienne, ah oui, tu as bien raison. Elle a beaucoup de talent!

    Stephan, ah merci. Trop gentil à toi. Je m’y serais bien promenée aussi!

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  33. I am late to the table on this post, Bea. Such lovely photos with such depth – you have an eye for this and you inspire me to do better on my next trip, which will be in the early fall, instead of spring. It seemed to rain daily in Paris in May, I can vouch for that, but there were a few moments of sunshine!


  34. You are a wonderful photographer. I just came back from Paris two days ago and I actually went to many of these locations that you took pictures of. One of your pictures shows the exact location I sat, next to the Seine, and ate Berthillion ice cream. Isn’t it an amazing city?

  35. WOW!!! I love Paris and always have, and seeing it through your art gave me sweet memories of when I was there….. I will be back one day, I know I will..

  36. I want to Live in Paris.Paris it’s my dream,it’s my life..and can be myy love..I will go there..i Know..

  37. it’s amazzzzzzzzzzzing i like it it’s wonderfull place paris is like a dream

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