Posts Tagged ‘canal’

Falling Ice Balls

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

It has become a regular occurrence that on my morning runs to Media City in Salford Quays, as I make my loop back towards the city I will notice a large black cloud looming overhead. In these moments, the sky towards Manchester is surprisingly clear but rapidly approaching is an ominous mass of impending rain.

No matter how fast I make my little legs go, there is no hope of beating the natural speed of approaching weather. And so I await the sensation of sharp bullets of water hitting the back of my legs and quickly accept that I’m about to get drenched. The good thing about this reoccurring phenomenon is that the wind is behind me, pushing me towards home.

This morning the rain came in the form of hail – small micro-balls of ice bouncing off my jacket, head and the ground beneath my feet. I had the canal towpath to myself as no other runners were stupid enough to head out this early on a freezing Friday morning. So it was just me and the swans enjoying the calm canal water being attacked by icy rocks. As I turned a corner and ran under a street lamp, the light bounced off their shiny surfaces as they managed to stab their way into my eyes.

And despite this discomfort, I smiled, enjoying the freedom of not caring and it not mattering. It was one of those moments where I realised how small I am in this world and how no matter what decisions I make or what routes I take in life, the world continues to evolve and hail will continue to fall.

Birds in the Mists of Time

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Manchester has been clouded in thick fog for the past two days making my morning runs quite interesting. Yesterday I ran along the Manchester Ship Canal to Salford Quays and couldn’t see beyond 50 metres ahead of me. It was fantastic – the heavy fog muffled the sound of distant traffic and as I stopped to stretch out my very sore leg muscles, it was just me and tiny sparrows who were darting about busily preparing for spring.

Fog seems to bring out cormorants. On my return journey, I spotted three – two perched up high on the tops of lamp posts, the third standing proudly by the side of the canal. They are such mysterious birds. If they were human, I think they would been tall, lanky men with moustaches, wearing grey trench coats and standing off to the side of the room before disappearing without anyone noticing. Cormorants have a way of looking at you that makes you aware you have been seen yet you feel like you are being purposefully ignored. They are not regular visitors to the canal – they just appear when it suits them and blend into their surroundings so it is often not until you are standing next to them that you become aware of their presence.

It was like a scene from Swan Lake on Ice that morning – the canal was flat and glossy with flocks of white swans gliding noiselessly through the water. Every now and then one would lean its head into the water to hunt for food, sticking its rear into the air to reach the delicious delights down below the surface.

However, the highlight of my morning’s birdwatching was the arrival of a flock of Canada Geese, flying through the air in a V-formation. This sight brought flashbacks of two great 90s films that were highly influential to my childhood. Obviously there was the ice hockey film phenomenon The Mighty Ducks with their game winning tactic of the Flying-V. And I will openly admit to seeing the geese, laughing to myself (and anyone who was listening behind the bushes) and saying “Fly away home!” Ahhh… so many fond memories of renting that heart-warming film from the video store during summer holidays and watch Anna Paquin show her adopted geese how to migrate. Cinematic brilliance.

Ice Water

Monday, December 17th, 2012

This morning while on my run I realised I never wrote about my morning-run experiences of last week when the temperatures dropped to below zero on some nights. Most mornings now when I get ready to head out, I check La Météo to see what the temperature is. If it is above six degrees I won’t bother with a jacket because after ten minutes of running I need to take it off. Anything below six and I will wear the jacket and anything below two requires extreme measures. I was hit with a bit of a conundrum last Thursday morning when I woke up to discover it was -2 degrees outside. What to wear?! Jacket and gloves are part of my usual kit but the day before I had found a head scarf I had been given as a complimentary gift for doing the 10km race last year. PERFECTO! I have since learnt that by covering your ears, you can keep in at least ten times as much body heat. I’m making these statistics up, but trust me – I was very pleased with my head scarf when I saw the ice floating on the canal.

It was so cool (both literally and Americanly.) I had already completed two kilometres when I started running along the eastern edge of the canal. I run past a movie cinema that looks on to the canal and there are always tourist boats in the water at that point. The canal water was beautifully still and then I noticed that along the edge of the canal and particularly in between the tourist boats, the canal water had frozen. It was very exciting times for this Australian who is learning so much about the physical properties of water, ice and snow.

I was able to survey the ice quite well for most of my run as I had to go reasonably slowly due to slippery conditions. There was a ROAD SAFETY ALERT out for all of the Parisians who freak out every time there is some sort of slightly-more-extreme-than-usual weather. My observations revealed to me that the canal had only frozen on one side – the eastern half. My little non-scientific brain attempted to work out why this was but failed. All I could boil it down to was water flow and the fact that there were boats. Not very technical so if anyone reading this can shed some light on this freezing phenomenon I would love to hear the REAL reason.

In a slight aside, there was snow in some areas outside of Paris and the television screens that usually tell you which line is down as you entered the metro had a huge warning for POTENTIAL SNOW that might affect the train lines. WARNING! WARNING! ALERT! ALERT! It’s worse than how nervous everyone in Perth gets every time there’s a sprinkle of rain – HAIL!

That was the coldest of my morning runs so far. I have now run in -2 and +38 degree temperatures. I’m not really sure which was worse… I wanted to die and regretted my decision more after the 38 degree run but running in the cold is rather painful too.

Biking in the Bourgogne

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

A few months ago, my friend Becky mentioned that for her birthday she wanted to catch a train to the Bourgogne region, hire bikes and ride for the day. I placed my hand into the air and solemnly declared that I would be joining her. Excellent idea.

Becky’s birthday finally arrived this last weekend and she, her husband Vivien and I caught a train at 8:56am to Montbard, a town not far from Dijon. Once we arrived we walked across the road to the tourist office and picked up our hire bikes. It was so simple, painless and inexpensive with the bike hire being just 18 Euros for the day. The bikes were nice and light and had 7 gears which was sufficient for the canal-side bike ride most people would do. Plus they were yellow. Who doesn’t like a yellow bike?

Bike hire in Bourgogne

Speed mobile.

The Canal de Bourgogne runs through Montbard and extends for over 200km. We rode approximately 25 kilometres (in each direction, making an amazing grand total of 50 kilometres!) and went inland in search of hills. This was Becky’s idea, and seeing as it was her birthday she got to choose. Honestly, while the canal is beautiful, it is very flat and a bit of undulating countryside is always nice.

Canal de Bourgogne

Canal de Bourgogne

We rode to an area called Alésia, where a battle between the Romans and the Gauls took place. Julius Caesar was victorious but there is a statue of Vercingetorix, the head of the Gauls, on top of a hill. We rode up that hill (well, Vivien did. Becky and I pushed our bikes up) to see the statue and discovered a man with a very impressive moustache and long hair. He was probably very handsome in his day.

Vercingetorix

Such impressive hair growth.

View from Alesis

View from the hill

Our next stop involved another upwards climb, to a medieval town called Flavigny where they produce aniseed flavoured lollies in an old abbey. I’m willing to ride up hills for sugary treats and I managed to arrive at the top of the hill first. Red polka dot jersey for me! It was a beautiful little town with lots of old houses for sale. At first we walked around picking which house we would buy, but then we started thinking about the actual reality of living in such an isolated town at the top of the hill. So we rode back to Montbard.

House in Flavigny

I wanted this house because of the turret

View from Flavigny

The beautiful countryside surrounding Flavigny

The ride was fantastic – it was a beautiful sunny day and the views were spectacular. It was a relief to escape the noise and grime of Paris for a day and to be outside in the country. The only down side (because SOMETHING had to go wrong considering how my past few weeks have been going with the entire universe turning against me) was that I fell off my bike. Typical really… I wasn’t exactly surprised and I could see it coming as I attempted to roll down a gravelly slope and felt the bike slipping from underneath me. I knocked my shin on the bike peddle, which was probably the best outcome as there isn’t much blood between your skin and your shin bone so I could patch myself up without too much excessive blood loss.

Cut on my leg

A boo boo.

Still, I now have a lovely purple scar on my leg. Perhaps that’s why no French men have tried to kiss me lately.

Spring has Almost Sprung

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012

Paris is currently preparing itself for the arrival of Spring. Today was a particularly beautiful day with temperatures reaching a whole 11 degrees! It felt warmer though with the sun shining and people starting to remove layers of clothing. Tom and I made the most of the good weather by playing some table tennis on one of the tables next to the canal. As we arrived at our usual spot, one of the two tables was taken and the other was being guarded by a sunglass-ed man. He clearly wasn’t about to play table tennis so Tom and I took it and played a game with the guy sitting on the bench less than a metre away. At one point I took off my jacket and placed it on the bench next to him as it was the only clean surface available. He barely flinched. He eventually stood up and walked off, much to my relief as I was worried I was going to accidentally whack the ball into his face.

It wasn’t until Tom and I were heading home and we walked out of the park that I realised this guy wasn’t just a keen table tennis viewer. He hadn’t gone home, he was hanging around the park, still wearing his sunglasses and a very ‘natural’ look on his face. Our epic sporting feats had clearly disturbed his usual drug-selling techniques and we had infiltrated his zone. Clearly I am getting to know my neighbours better.

Meanwhile, you’ll be pleased to hear that I beat Tom in the first match, and he won the second. And we avoided hitting the ball into the canal.

Bugger.

Monday, November 14th, 2011

I conducted a small social experiment this morning. Clearly I was bored with my usual morning run or I was delirious from not sleeping well last night, and I decided to trip on the annoyingly bumpy cobble stones that are along the edge of the canal and hence fall forward onto my hands and knees. That was fun! Not. I managed to avoid sliding too far but as a result planted myself quite heavily on my knees. Let’s just say it hurt but we’ve all been there and done that – we all know what it is like to fall over in public.

As I sat on the ground telling myself how stupid I was, I switched my attention to see what the numerous Parisians who had DEFINITELY seen me fall over were going to do. Would they rush to my aid? Would they appear concerned for my well being? Would they point and laugh? Turns out they did none of the above and instead pretended they hadn’t even seen me. As I stood up and wobbled my way over to a bench to sit down, a man who would have had a very clear view of my tumble, did everything possible to avoid eye contact with me. A group of men who were a few metres away looked at me at first but then turned their backs to avoid any sort of involvement.

I am 100 per cent certain that if I had been in Australia someone would have come to see if I was ok. As I sat there thinking, “I want my Mum” I hoped someone would come to my rescue and offer to drive me home. But no. Nothing. Not even a glance. Not even a furrowed brow of concern. Not even a “Ca va?”. Nothing.

So! As I sit here unable to bend my knees and thinking about all of the metro stairs I have to climb today, I would like to give a big high five to Australian comradeship and a big BOOOOOO to Parisian “If I stop and help her she might ask me for money”ness.

That said, after a little rest I was completely fine and managed to run the rest of the way home BUT for a moment there it was the end of the world as I knew it.

Boating on the Canal

Monday, October 17th, 2011

Something that I love about Parisians is despite their snooty attitudes, strict style guides and general up-turned-nose at anything seemingly ‘different’, they still manage to celebrate strange, somewhat banal things with vigour and passion. Yesterday delivered a prime example of when I had to stop, shake my head and laugh at the ridiculous contradictions that were appearing before my eyes.

Tom and I went for a walk along the canal, heading to a show for regional produce from Provence. Along the way, we passed Point Ephémère – a hip and happening bar/club/restaurant full of bobo-Parisians hanging out and being seen. This all seemed normal except for the wooden boat floating in the canal, the folk music and the number of people dressed up in traditional costume. It was the Festival of Estonia (apparently) and for some reason they had set up a small exhibition with wood turning, music and general information about Estonia and viking boats for those who were interested.

Estonia festival

An impressive banner.

Tom and I joined the Bobos for a drink and as we sat by the canal, a group of well dress Parisians (most of them with children) jumped into the viking boat and took it for a spin along the canal while a ye-olde-Estonian played a horn-like instrument in the back.

The juxtaposition of snooty French people not daring to do anything out of the ordinary, and the fact that there was now a viking boat replica being paddled around with a group of ultra serious Parisians was really too much. I just sat and stared and wondered how on earth this could be happening and why it is ok for these Parisians to do something that dorky and yet me wearing a slightly old jumper is just SO INAPPROPRIATE.

It was fantastically entertaining. I also particularly liked the fact that kids were being allowed to use the wood turning machine with no eye protection and were getting bits of saw dust flung straight into their faces. What is health and safety?

Estonia Festival

Wood working at its best.

What’s in the Canal Today?

Monday, October 17th, 2011

It was a bright and sunny weekend, so lots of ‘outdoor walking time’ was had. Yesterday we headed north along the canal and spotted a few interesting objects floating in the water along the way. I thought I would share these with you. I saw:

Couch in the canal

A couch.

Cans and bottles in the canal

Various consumed beverages.

Estonian viking boat

An Estonian Viking Boat.

During my run this morning I saw a double mattress in the canal. I contemplated using it as a raft to paddle myself home but wasn’t confident on how it would fare in the locks.

Before the Paris Sun

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

I have never had that much trouble getting up in the mornings. I am a morning person rather than night – after 9.30pm I am useless, often grumpy and I generally want to be in my pyjamas with a cup of tea and a good book. However, since coming back from Portugal things have changed.

Most mornings my alarm goes off at 7.15am (so not even THAT early) and I go for a run along the canal. During summer this is the perfect time to be out as there is a beautiful golden sun glow on the canal water and most Parisians are lazy and sleep in so it is nice and quiet. This morning when my alarm went off I thought it was a joke. It was pitch black. Even after waiting an extra 15 minutes in the hope that there was just a very thick cloud covering the sun it was still dark. No sun at all.

As I stepped outside, Gare de L’Est was glittering with street lights and neon signs, yet there was so much action. There were people on their way to work, clearly used to this ridiculous lack of light at this time of the day at this time of the year. Running on uneven footpaths, dodging Parisians and avoiding dog poo when there is little light is difficult. But remarkably enjoyable. The lack of light meant I ran further than I had planned, as a bridge covered in a neon “Cabaret Sauvage” pulled me along and encouraged me to do that extra kilometre. It was a bonus that it wasn’t cold – I’m not sure how I will go when winter sets in and the mornings start to become cold as well as dark. Then there’s the rain. And then the snow. I’ve never run in snow before. Not sure how smart an idea that is.

I realise I haven’t told you about my running buddy and my amazing running achievement pre-Portugal. Recently I have been joined on my morning runs by my friend Becky (another resident at the Récollets.) Having someone to run with makes the time go so much faster and stops me from slacking off. We set ourselves the ULTIMATE CHALLENGE of running to the Eiffel Tower one morning. We planned a week in advance – Becky worked out a direct yet scenic route and I just mentally prepared myself for a slow and painful death.

To be honest it was kind of disappointingly easy. We saw the Eiffel Tower after running just two kilometres and we were there within seven. We decided to add a detour in order to make it a decent length run, feeling that tiny Paris had let us down. Our epic run that was supposed to impress and awe the world had turned into being shorter than our usual morning jogs. Still, it sounds impressive and we did get to stand underneath the Eiffel Tower at 8.30am with no tourists around (although they were starting to arrive!)

Run to the Eiffel Tower route

Time: 54mins; Distance: 8.91km; Calories burnt: 635

We contemplated running back home but I had an early morning appointment so instead we caught the metro. It was rather funny riding the metro through Paris stinking out the tiny carriage as poor Parisians looked on in horror and disbelief at our red faces and sweat patches. It definitely isn’t the “done thing” and we broke every rule in the Parisian style manual. We spoke loudly in English to reassure the locals that it was foreigners partaking in this strange act and no one they were associated with.

Anyone For Table Tennis?

Tuesday, September 27th, 2011

Autumn has arrived in Paris with the trees shedding their leaves at rapid speed. However, the past week has also seen beautiful warm weather – perfect conditions for spending the day outside. A recent visit to GoSport (an awful store selling all your sporting needs) saw Tom and I investing in a table tennis set. We didn’t just choose the cheapest option either – we went for the ultimate in table tennis brands, Dunlop.

There are lots of table tennis tables spread throughout the city in local parks and along the canal, and they are in high demand on a sunny Sunday afternoon. But if you’re lucky enough to score one then much fun can be had. Ben, Tom and I took our new set out for a spin the other Sunday at a table situated next to a lock on the canal and underneath some beautiful chestnut trees. We encountered a few potential dangers – the table wasn’t in the greatest condition and appears to also be used as a beer table, drug exchange hangout and a homeless-person’s bed; the canal/lock was right next to us and any mishit balls would end up in the water (this happened twice); and the chestnut seeds are currently in the habit of bursting open and dropping large cannonball chestnuts onto our heads. They hurt! Trust me.

Table tennis

Table tennis by the canal

We struggled on despite these dangers and discovered a wonderful way to spend the afternoon. This last Saturday, Tom and I headed back out to have a hit and had to walk up and down the canal for over half an hour in order to find a table. There are clearly dedicated table-tennis-ers who concentrate on their game play, as well as families out enjoying themselves, and groups of friends drinking beer and having a friendly game. I think as the weather cools down there will be less competition for the tables but we will also freeze to death playing next to open water. That’s the life of a pro table tennis player.