I recently (11th-13th May 2012) went on a 3 day long weekend inline skating holiday to Paris, France with Skate Fresh.
There were 3 main skating events on the holiday:
Friday: Pari Roller
Our group of around 20 people joined the “Pari Roller” organised street skate that takes place every Friday. It is the fastest skate of all 3 days, somewhat comparable to the London Friday Night Skate (LFNS) although it seemed easier (at least on the first half) as we were told to expect due to the smoother road surfaces. It was however faster than I am used to skating most of the time.
We met at the Montparnasse Bienvenue SNCF station at 9.30pm for a 10pm departure. I was glad that I had located the meeting place earlier in the day because I had not realised that the Montparnasse Metro station (underground) and the SNCF station (mainline railway) were somewhat in different places (5-10 minute walk away from each other). Initially I exited the metro and took the street to the meeting point however subsequently I discovered that after stepping off the train it was quicker to follow the signs for the SNCF and use the underground moving walkway which led to the SNCF station.
I completed the first half of the skate ~7.5 miles, and stopped at half time getting the metro back to my hotel. Later found out that the second half was rather hilly so I think this was a good decision with two more days of skating ahead. Some people stopped even earlier, and others took shortcuts, and joined back in with the group after half time.
Saturday: Skate Fresh Tour
For the tour we met at 11.30am, at the SNCF station again. The tour encompassed a number of Paris landmarks including the Eiffel Tower.
Saturday was a very much more relaxed pace however difficulty wise was comparable to Friday due to other factors such as dealing with varying terrain, traffic, pedestrians, pedestrian crossings, curbs etc.
Lunch was a picnic in a nearby park, and after that there was more skating and an impromptu lesson on forward cross overs, and jumping.
In total it ended up being around 12 miles of skating.
Sunday: Rollers & Coquillages
Sunday we joined the Rollers & Coquillages that as with the Friday skate happens every week. It seemed to start off fairly slowly, not sure if this was just due to the amount of people or because out group was towards the back, however it seemed to speed up later on as we pushed forwards towards the front, and was plenty fast enough given the previous two days skating.
One thing that stood out compared to London was the amount of people that skate in Paris, on Friday there were a lot of people but on Sunday there must have been several thousand at least.
Skate Fresh cost for the 3 days was £90 (there was also a £120 package for beginners).
Travel & Hotel
Travel and hotel arrangements were left up to you to organise. I booked the Eurostar for Friday morning, and Sunday evening. First time traveling on the Eurostar however it was very efficient and straight forward.
After spending some time on Trip Advisor I narrowed down a few possible hotels in the Montparnasse area where two of the 3 skates start from. I went with the Hotel De La Paix Montparnasse mainly based on the large number of positive reviews compared to other hotels. The main bedroom and bathroom were both very clean, shuttered blinds block out any traffic noise so you can get a good nights sleep. Did get slightly warm at times however this is easily solved by turning on the air conditioning which ran very quietly as well.
My experience with the catering staff was ok but not great – language barrier was a bit of an issue and on the second day after sitting down and waiting for maybe 10 minutes or so I was unable to get the waiters attention therefore left and went back to my room. If I stay again I would definitely take advantage of the room service option which would hopefully be more efficient.
Reception staff however were always smiling, helpful and able/willing to speak English from when I first walked in the door to when I checked out. The lady in reception even noticed that I had not been served breakfast when I walked out, and handed me a bag with croissants and juice without charge.
Free WiFi was available and seemed to work just fine when I used it on my iPhone. I was also given a tourist map on arrival.
Overall a very enjoyable trip.
- Metro was a lot easier to navigate than I was expecting.
- I purchased a 3 day, 1-3 Zone “Paris Visite” pass allowing for unlimited travel on the Metro, although was advised a pack of single tickets may have been a cheaper option.
- If there are issues with ticket machines from what I understand you are allowed to walk straight through the barrier without validating your ticket – you only validate your ticket on entry to the station, not on exit.
- Was initially informed that it is illegal to skate on the road, apart from during an organised street skate however according to an experienced local the actual law is a little less clear and that if the pavement is busy/blocked with pedestrians its generally considered ok. During the Saturday sight seeing tour we generally tried to stick on the pavement but did go on the road a few times, and despite being seen by police on a number of occasions were never stopped.
- The hotel offered to keep my bag on Sunday after checkout (had to checkout before leaving for the skate) however I chose to leave it at the Gare Du Nord” left luggage” facility instead to avoid needing to rush back to the hotel after the skate then to the station. It was self service and not entirely user friendly, however from what I could see you need to find an open locker, put your bag in it, turn the handle then the nearby keypad lights up showing the amount to pay, after payment is made you are given a receipt with a code number. On return you type in the code number to the keypad to open the locker. From memory the charge was 7.5 Euro for a medium sized locker. I believe I got quite lucky however since there did not seem to be many lockers left, and people started getting turned away at the entrance.
- Toilets – Paris has free street toilets in a number of locations however its best not to try and use one if you are in any kind of hurry. If it is one that has not been used recently then you can usually get straight in but if not you need to wait for the doors to close, and for it to go through an automated cleaning cycle before you can then press the button to request entry again (if you try to use it without giving it time to clean, it will not allow you to close the door). On one occasion when there was a queue I must have waited at least 15 minutes or so, a lot of that due to the toilet having to clear its self every single time someone used it, even for less than a minute. At stations such as the Montparnasse there are attended (paid) toilets however be prepared to walk as they are located up on the upper floor, right at the back of the station away from the entrance.