Overland Traveller



Paris by Vespa

Annette on Rue Mouffetard © Emma FieldIt’s ridiculously easy to reach Paris from London nowadays, but once you get there it’s harder to work out how to get around. Metro, taxi, bus, on foot – all have their pros and cons, but, as I found out, none has the flexibility and edginess of a Vespa.

Left Bank Scooters hires pristine Vespas to thrill seekers keen to see the sights from a brand new perspective and get off the beaten track. Left Bank’s Vespa-toting representatives drop off and collect the undeniably cool scooters anywhere in Paris. It’s convenient, quirky and huge amounts of fun!

I braved the early morning October fog to catch the 7.30am Eurostar to Paris. Arriving in Paris just over two hours later I saw her, leaning with typical French nonchalance opposite Paris’s Gare du Nord, retro chic and gleaming: Annette, a pale green Vespa.

Matt, owner of Left Bank Scooters, straight-facedly explained to me that each Vespa has its own personality. Annette is very laid back and happy to pootle around taking in the sights. Fine by me – I’d never ridden a scooter before, let alone braved the notoriously busy streets of Paris on one. Matt put me at ease, explaining that Paris is one of the best cities in the world to ride a scooter in. Apparently, 60% of Parisian drivers also own a scooter so they’re hyper aware of two-wheeled rides.

Emma on Annette © Matt DoyleEach scooter is superbly maintained, he went on. He refuses to let one of his fleet go out with a dent in it. “There’s nothing quite like hitting the streets of Paris on a pristine Vespa,” he said. And I had to agree; a man on a battered, plain, non-name scooter pulled up alongside us at the first traffic lights we stopped at. He glanced over and murmured something. My French is pretty poor but, judging by the come-to-bed glance he mentally undressed Annette with, I’m assuming it was an appreciative comment. It’s not often you visit Paris and impress the locals with your style.

To begin with, I rode pillion and Matt drove, allowing me to relax and take in the sights. We started with a road-side view of the Pompidou Centre, crossed the River Seine taking in the Notre Dame, and arrived at Shakespeare and Company bookshop. After a browse through the dusky shelves piled high with English-language books, I squinted my way back to Annette for a pootle around the Latin Quarter, home to the Jardin du Luxembourg and the Panthéon. Next, we stretched our legs along Rue Mouffetard, one of Paris’s oldest streets and popular shopping spot since Roman times.

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Overland Traveller copyright © Emma Field 2010