The best parts of traveling are not only relaxation and sight-seeing, but also learning how people in other parts of the world live. During my recent trip to France I witnessed Paris's greenness through not just their bike share program and prefab architecture, but also several other details — some of which I can take home with me and incorporate in my lifestyle immediately and some of which I'll sadly need to leave behind.
Here are some of the green highlights of my trip:
- Scooters: I've been lusting after a scooter (electric preferably) for a long time, but haven't spurged for it because I'd have nowhere to store it at home. This would be no problem in Paris because they park their scooters just about anywhere. Scooters make for a fun and efficient way to zoom around town, and can be quite stylish to boot.
- Bicycles: As I shared in an earlier post, Paris has a great bike share program called Vélib. I understand that some cities are more bike friendly than others, but I really don't see how any city can promote themself as being green without a bike share programs and a healthy amount of bike lanes. The Parisians really seemed to embrace the bicycle culture as an alternative means of transportation.
- Compact Cars: It's pretty common knowledge that most cars in Europe are compact and tiny, though I admit that the charm has sort of started to wear off with the emergence of Smart Cars, Mini Coopers and compact hybrids in the US. Regardless, compact cars are really the only type of vehicle driven in Paris and the drivers really know how to use them.
- Public Transportation: I'm lucky to have access to the Chicago city and commuter trains and buses, but I am super envious of Paris's public transportation system. They have tons of well connected train lines (which I never had to wait more than 5 minutes for) and buses, as well as access to commuter and high speed rail lines. I was able to get around the city and even take a few day trips with such ease (and so fast!).
- Air Conditioning & Ice (or lack of): Just as it's been scorching here across most of the US, it was really hot the first few days in Paris. I had an incling before I arrived of the lack of air conditioning, but it became very apparent that the Parisians simply don't believe in it. The only place air conditioning would be found was in nice hotels, museums or other commercial areas. A few locals I spoke with said air conditioning is just something they don't care for because it's unnatural feeling, expensive and a waste of energy use. Apparently the same idea goes for ice (and often water) because they rarely serve it unless specifically asked for.
- Picnics & Parks: It's hard to imagine visiting Paris during cold weather, because so much of the activity and so much of the city is based on being outdoors. The parks in the city are some of the best I've ever seen and the citizens really do spend a lot of time in them: reading, relaxing, exercising or meeting up with a group of friends. Of course there's the classic eating outdoors, facing the street while enjoying a glass of wine and people watching. Lastly, one surprise was the abundance of people partaking in a picnic! Along the Seine, in the parks and even on the bridges, couples or groups of people would congregate in the evening for a picnic — often this looked almost close to a street party because there were so many people having picnics.
(Images by Rachel Wray)