A Weekend in Paris

This past weekend it seemed as if Paris was having one final attempt at making the most of summer and sunshine and there were lots of events and activities happening around the city. My weekend was full of action which is always enjoyable particularly if it means I get to wander through Paris in the sunshine. Here was my weekend:

Saturday Morning
I have decided I should train for my 16km Paris to Versailles run that Becky and I will be undertaking at the end of the month. So Saturday morning I put on my Garmin GPS watch and headed out into the Parisian madness. I left early as there is no point in running through Paris when there are people around. Both tourists and Parisians are incapable of not being in the way and you may as well walk slowly behind them because you’re not going to get anywhere. I wanted to do at least 16km but wasn’t sure how I would go as I was running on my own and I usually get bored or just give up. I managed to surprise myself, running across the city and reaching the Eiffel Tower in under 7km. I then ran back home along the river, took a slight detour towards the canal and arrived back home having completed 17km.

Running through Paris

That red line is me!

It was fantastic! The key to running long distances is having something to look at. My run took me past the Opera House, the Ritz Hotel, through the Tuileries (twice), along the Seine, to the Eiffel Tower and then back past the Louvre, Notre Dame and finally the canal. I couldn’t get bored, I was too distracted thinking, “Ooh look I’m running past where Louis XIV lived!” That and “Move out of the way you slow tourists/Parisians who are taking up the entire footpath.”

I managed to do the 16km in around one hour and 30 minutes which was very pleasing considering I though I’d stop half way. GO ME.

Saturday Afternoon
I had read about a music event called TechnoParade last year but never went, so this year I roped my friend Marcello into coming with me. It is a electronic music festival that is open to the public and that had DJs standing on top of large semi-trailers and driving through the streets of Paris. These large trucks are then surrounded by hundreds of drunk, half-naked teenagers. I hadn’t thought about that aspect. When we arrived, I instantly felt OLD and as if I had been transported back to Perth and was at an electronic music festival. At least this time I hadn’t paid $150 for a ticket and there was lots of space to stand back from the crowd.

Technoparade

Technoparade

It was an interesting thing to see and there were approximately seven trucks playing different styles of music. They were driving very slowly so you could easily walk up and down the street, listening to the various sets. But I don’t think I will go again – it was very messy, the music wasn’t that great and it is hard to dance while walking! I did spend the entire time thinking, “This would NEVER happen in Perth.” Free music, driving down the streets of Paris, alcohol everywhere, drunk teenagers and people climbing on cars/bus stops/fences/walls/trees/lamp posts. Crazy.

Saturday Night
I thought I would be having a quiet night as all of my friends were either away or busy. I went and sat in the garden of the Récollets and was soon joined by various other residents and the night turned into a late one. The Récollets had been taken over by the Mairie de 10eme (the local council) and there had been activities, art shows, and music performances all weekend. The garden was full of people eating and drinking and at about 11pm a band started playing. It was fantastic music, I have no idea what it was though. There was a group of men playing brass instruments in a very upbeat “Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!” kind of way and then 10 or so girls with fantastic voices and gorgeous smiles singing along. It was exciting, vibrant and made you want to dance – so that’s what we did. You could certainly pick the foreigners from the Parisians – the dancing Australian/American/Italian weirdos and the straight-faced, sullen French refusing to even tap their feet (although the more alcohol-influenced Parisians were dancing too.) It was a great night.

Sunday Morning
My Saturday night did stretch into Sunday morning but I still managed to get up early enough to ride down to the Hôtel de Ville and be one of the first in line to go inside. This weekend was Les Journées du Patrimoine – two days where all of the old, beautiful buildings that are usually closed to the public are open. There are hundreds of buildings across the city that are used as government departments, hospitals, museums, or are privately owned, and on these two days you can enter and see what they are like on the inside. It is a fantastic idea and last year my brother, Ben, and I managed to be at the right place at the right time and went into the Senate. This year I had decided I would go to the Hôtel de Ville – one of the most prominent and most beautiful buildings in Paris that is now the main town hall.

Hotel de ville

Hôtel de Ville de Paris

While you followed a set route to go through the building, you are allowed to explore quite extensively and there are lots of people around to provide you with information about the building. The Hôtel de Ville was even bigger than I imagined and was beautifully decorated with plenty of gold and wonderful floorboards. The floor is always my favourite part of these old buildings – I love the way it creaks.

Hotel de Ville

Fancy.

You could enter the Mayor’s office – a lovely room with a great view but a really UGLY desk that looked like it was from IKEA. If I were the Mayor, I’d ask for a new one. The Mayor wasn’t there which was a shame. I would have liked to ask him if I could stay in France for longer.

Paris Mayor's office

Salute the Mayor!

Morning Tea Time
It was time for coffee so thankfully around the corner was one of my favourite coffee shops – Caféotheque. Unfortunately I decided I needed cake and made the mistake of ordering a chocolate cupcake. It was described as ‘chocolate’ but it was in fact chocolate and orange, a combination that I dislike profusely. Plus it was dry… but the coffee was delicious.

Caféotheque coffee

Mmm… coffee.

Next…
I then wandered along the river as I had heard there would be a market near Notre Dame. On the way, I had to wait for a group of very slow cyclists to pass – there was apparently a bike ‘event’ (I want to say race but they definitely weren’t racing) and I had been watching these cyclists ride past the window of the café for at least 30 minutes. Most of them were plump and over the age of 55, wearing lycra and taking the whole thing very seriously. There were designated people in yellow vests stopping the traffic, which is problematic in Paris as any hold up in the movement of traffic results in a fusillade of car horns. As I tried to cross the road I had to wait for a hundred or so cyclists to pass. At one point a taxi attempted to drive through the pack and a man on a bike with a yellow jacket started blowing a whistle, yelling at the driver and placing himself and his bike in front of a moving car. He was NOT happy. Neither was the taxi driver. Neither was the person who had hailed the taxi. Neither were the people in the traffic jam. Neither were the bike riders. I was THRILLED to be watching this incredulous action – it was absolutely hilarious!

Eventually the bike riders disappeared and things returned to normal and I went to the market, sampled some foie gras but didn’t buy anything. The same market had been there the year before, selling exactly the same products. Clearly nothing changes in Paris either.

Before Lunch
I decided to see if any of the buildings on Ile de la Cité were open and discovered a small queue of people outside the Conciergerie. This was where people were held before being trialled and/or executed and it is now open to the public as a historical monument and an exhibition space. It was open for free and the queue didn’t seem very long so I went inside. I managed to get into the first main space – a large medieval dungeon-like space with an impressive arched ceiling – before I realised that there wasn’t a queue outside because the REAL queue was inside the building. People had clearly been waiting for hours to go and explore the rest of the building and while it would have been nice to see, outside the sun was shining and it was a glorious day. Why spend it inside a dungeon? So off I went.

Conciergerie

Nice arches.

Crêpes
I met up with my friends, Sonia and Guibril, near Montparnasse at 4pm for goûter – the French version of afternoon tea. I love any country that has afternoon tea and really don’t understand those that don’t. Anyway, Montparnasse is known for having Breton-style crêperies and we sat and had delicious sweet crêpes (mine had chocolate and banana) and cider. We sat chatting for a few hours and before we knew it time had passed and our stomaches were grumbling thanks to the delicious smells wafting from the kitchen. So it was round two – this time savoury galettes for dinner. Yum.

Home Time
One of my favourite things to do in Paris is to hire a Velib (the city bikes) and ride from the Montparnasse area, straight through the middle of Paris to my house. It is essentially one long, straight road and the first half of it is on a slight downwards slope. This means you can zoom through Paris with wind in your hair and not a care in the world (except, of course, the traffic on the road but at 9pm on a Sunday night there were hardly any cars.) It is such a thrill, particularly as you reach the Seine and ride over the river and see all of the lights reflecting and dancing on the water. Such a beautiful city.

So that was my weekend. Full of adventure, I learnt lots, I spoke plenty of French and I made new friends. Sometimes my life is awesome.

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