What’s it like driving a 2CV around Paris?
I’d always wanted to try driving a 2CV, ever since hiring an original Fiat 500 for the day in Tuscany, Italy. On this occasion, though, as we were in the centre of Paris and not out in the countryside I thought it better to have a guide drive us around instead. We were in Paris for the marathon so what better reward after the race than to experience the sights and sounds of the city in such an instantly recognisable vehicle! We’d chosen Paris Authentic and were delighted to be escorted for the hour by the wonderfully hospitable Jean-Luc. With the roof rolled back we soaked up all the happy smiles from the passers-by as Jean Luc pointed out secret little squares, famous writers’ coffee shops as well as more popular locations such as the Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. The back seat of the 2CV felt more comfortable than my sofa back home!
Our tour started at 11am when Jean-Luc picked us up from outside our Champs Élyseés hotel. We’d booked a short 1hr session, more to experience the classic 2CV than to see any of Paris itself which we’d both visited many times before. As such we told Jean-Luc we were happy to see some random hidden locations instead of the more well-known sights such as the Eiffel Tower. There was a little bit of light rain in the air but not enough to prevent us from having the full length roof folded back. This also made it easier to take photos of buildings as we trundled by them and made us feel closer to all the admiring views from passers-by. Having a Tricalore coloured car no doubt helped make us that little bit more noticeable as we chugged by.
From our hotel it made sense to head straight for the the Place de l’Étoile, the famous multi-lane roundabout encircling the Arc de Triomphe. Closing our eyes as we entered from Avenue Kléber we completed a 450 degree circle. Jean-Luc expertly providing commentary while navigating past all the other cars on the roundabout at the same time as us. As he says “For me it’s easy …. one rule – priority on the right“. As a result it all just magically works! Supposedly all accidents are split 50:50 here too as nobody can be totally sure who was to blame. We were certainly glad Jean-Luc was driving and not us all the same! I also didn’t know that there are coloured cobblestones in the ground radiating out from the centre that allow you to see where the twelve avenues are leading off from it. Another nice article about circling the Arc de Triomphe on Rick Steves Europe post.
Having done a loop we headed down the Champs-Élyseés in the direction of Place de la Concorde. It’s a pretty long road but with so many crossings we weren’t making much progress, but it really didn’t matter. At its end Jean-Luc drove us over the Pont Alexandre III bridge, an ornate, arched bridge named after a Russian czar. I’d never even noticed this bridge before. Another benefit of being on a guided tour rather than simply walking off to your normal haunts.
From there I lose track of where we went, apart from remembering we visited Place de Furstemberg, a small square labelled as being one of the most picturesque squares in Paris. Jean-Luc parked up, turned off the engine and made us listen … we couldn’t hear anything. All the commotion of the city had suddenly disappeared. However we could hear the conversations of a couple talking discreetly across from us so there’s evidently something special with the acoustics here.
From there we drove past the Restaurant Le Procope, the oldest café in Paris. Trundling past rows of streets with their 6-floored buildings – the 2nd floor of which being the most revered. We skirted past Les Deux Magots, a famous rendezvous point in Saint-Germain-des-Présarea for the literary and intellectual élite. We turned down streets that seemed only passable by a car as narrow as the 2CV … and then we did indeed visit the Notre Dame as we returned back to the Champs Élyseés.
Our 1hr trip had flown by but was a great little taster to the magic of driving a 2CV. If you’ve never been to Paris before you may of course wish to see much more of the city. But for us this little interlude was a special one before we returned back to the UK on the Eurostar. Sitting in the back of a 2CV did indeed feel just like sitting on a comfy sofa. This was the combination of the 2CV’s suspension plus the sponginess of the rear seats. As Jean-Luc dropped us off we bid our farewells but not before posing for photos in front of our hotel. I definitely recommend this unique experience for anyone wishing to visit this romantic city. Driving a 2CV around Paris is now another great experience ticked off the list.