Posts Tagged ‘Paris’

Returning to Paris

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

My life in Paris seems so long ago now. A lot has happened and changed in the year and a bit that I have been living in Manchester. Now all that I used to call home seems like some sort of false memory. Occasionally it dawns on me that I used to live in one of the most vibrant cities in the world. I learnt how to walk around the entire city without the use of a map, I became friends with my local boulanger, and I hung out with the BoBos. I was never Parisian but I wasn’t just an expat.

Returning to Paris for a long weekend was surprisingly challenging. While I really wanted to see my favourite city again, there was a part of me that knew it just wouldn’t be the same. Paris is no longer my home. I no longer have an apartment that I can return to to escape the car horns and throngs of tourists. I knew things would have changed and people would have moved on with their lives. That’s what happens.

However as I stepped off the plane and went to collect my luggage, I smiled to myself as I watched all of my French co-passengers rush to stand as close to the carousel as possible, blocking the view and access of everyone else wishing to collect their bags. Clearly some things will never change.

I only had three full days in Paris, one of those being dominated by the half-marathon. On the Friday I managed to cover 60 per cent of my favourite areas of Paris. My highlight: hiring a Velib city bike and zooming through Paris with the wind in my hair. There is something about this sensation that makes me feel so alive. I used to love riding a bike through the city and being able to head back to my old canal-side haunts in the 10éme instantly reminded me of why I love this city so much.

Canal St Martin

Canal St Martin

It was nice to see Canal St Martin and visit Les Récollets again. I caught up with some of my old friends but others I will need to go back again to see. The weather turned on the sunshine for me and my black jeans and long sleeved tops turned out to be poor choices. I had picnics, ate great food, sat in the sunshine, went for long walks along the Seine and discussed new romances. What else would you do in Paris?

It was great to be back and the intoxicating buzz and electrification of my senses that smacks you in the face and makes you feel so alive hit me once again. But I was happy to come back to Manchester, the city where I have created a new life and a new identity for myself. Perhaps this was because I had contracted gastro and just wanted my own bed. But ultimately I think it is more that inbuilt need to be in a place that understands you and offers you the comforts and opportunities that you are seeking at that point in your life. Paris was my crazy world one and a half years ago. Now I have something new and I like it.

The obligatory visit to the Eiffel Tower

The obligatory visit to the Eiffel Tower

Une Petite Course à Paris

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

It had been over a year since I was last in Paris. Despite insisting that I would return regularly to see my friends, the ability to travel between Manchester and Paris has turned out to not be as simple as first thought. While the two cities are reasonably close, the cost and travel time between them is surprisingly substantial. Plus life has gotten in the way and my grand return to my favourite city just never eventuated. Until last weekend.

A few months ago, I received a desperate text message from my running buddy, Becky, asking me to come to Paris to participate in a group run. It was a long way to go for a 5 kilometre race, however I was willing to accept any excuse to get me back there. Unfortunately one of our other team members had to pull out and so we never signed up for the group run. Instead, the week after completing the Manchester Marathon, while still feeling the high of running 42 kilometres, I googled “Run Paris 18 19 May” et voila! There was going to be a half marathon starting from the Bois de Bologne and heading out through the banlieue to St Germaine-en-Laye that weekend. I told Becky, we signed up and suddenly a month after completing a marathon we were doing a half. Mon dieu.

Go Number 2931!

Go Number 2931!

The race started at 8am, an hour earlier than both Becky and I thought. We then discovered it would take us 50 minutes to get to the start line. So working backwards, we realised we would need to get up at 5.45am to eat breakfast, get ready and arrive at the race on time. Yay.

Bon matin, Paris.

Bon matin, Paris.

We played ‘spot the runners’ on the metro out to the Bois de Bologne, as more and more people wearing lycra, race numbers and carrying the plastic bags we had been provided to transport our belongings got on the train. The weather was beautiful – clear skies and a nice light breeze. Perfect conditions for the run.

The race was fantastic – described as being 50 per cent urban, 50 per cent vegetation, the route started in one of Paris’s wooded areas before heading towards the suburbs. We passed through small villages, dodging cars, jumping over curbs and turning sharp corners on footpaths. We then headed along the river Seine, running along a sandy path with the water on one side and huge mansions with amazing manicured gardens on the other. It was very beautiful and peaceful. The two hill climbs were less peaceful and my poor legs, which haven’t seen a decent hill in over a year due to Manchester’s ultra flat terrain, were a little bit shocked. However Team Blonde managed to encourage each other up both hills and we made it to the top without stopping. GO TEAM.

There were two issues with the race:

  1. There were no toilets along the route. This is fine for the french men who are able and willing to go to the toilet against any tree, fence, pole or open space they can find. Not so easy for the ladies who either had to drop their dacks in front of hundreds of people or simply hold on.
  2. The water stations served water in paper cups. Have you ever tried running with a cup of water in your hand? Have you then attempted to drink from it? I dare you to try it and if you manage to get more than half of the water into your mouth and not up your nose, all over your hand or on the ground then I will kiss your feet. Perhaps it was therefore a good thing that they were filling the cups with a high pressure water hose so most of the water jumped straight out and you were served a cup that was only a quarter full. Not great. Water is quite important when you’re running 20 kilometres.

The race finished at the Chateau in St Germain-en-Laye which has views over Paris and the surrounding suburbs. It was extremely pleasant to stretch our legs with such an amazing view. Plus we both managed to finish in under two hours (my time was 1 hour 57 minutes) – very pleasing results considering the warm temperatures, the painful hill climbs and the lack of water and toilets. Definitely one of the prettiest races I have ever completed. And I have discovered that a half marathon is less than half as difficult as a marathon. The painful bit of a marathon hits after you have reached the 30 kilometre mark. Becky and I both agreed that 20 kilometres is the optimum race length – not too short and not too long. Now I just need to find another race so that I can add to my ugly medal collection.

Nice view.

Nice view.

How Ugly is Ugly?

Tuesday, April 16th, 2013

Very ugly.

Wow.

Wow.

Just in case you wanted to see in detail the hideousness of the medal that I ran 42km for.

Marathon Completed!

Monday, April 8th, 2013

I, Jessica Davies, writer of words, traveller of countries, blonde of hair, am now officially a runner of marathons. I DID IT! I am currently experiencing a sense of complete personal pride. In my mind, I am the fittest, most talented, most generally genius person in the world. It’ll pass, but for a few hours I am going to feel really bloody good about myself. And I think that’s fair enough – I just ran 42.195 kilometres in 4 hours, 42 minutes and 24 seconds.

The experience was extremely rewarding – as my group (we were separated into groups by expected completion times) set off from the starting line, I felt a huge surge of excitement and general “wow, this is happening!” as I joined thousands of feet hitting the pavements of Paris. The weather was PERFECT. Sunshine, clear skies and no wind. It was the wind I was concerned about – there was none of that today! It was cold at the start but by the time we got moving it got quite warm. We headed down the Champs Elysées, past the Louvre and through the centre of Paris before hitting the Bois de Vincennes, returning back through Paris, past the Eiffel Tower, through the Bois de Bologne and back to the Arc de Triomphe. Not a bad place to run. Thankfully, Paris is nice and flat so there were no major hills to climb.

While the weather was perfect and the scenery beautiful, the toilet situation wasn’t – there were portaloos set up at various points along the course, but by the time my slower group reached them they were all disgusting. Really not pleasant. I quickly ducked into a café along the route and smiled a “I’m running a marathon which is a really long way and you should DEFINITELY let me use your loo” smile and it worked. In and out like a flash, I was. Now I shall move on from discussing my ablutions.

I felt reasonably strong for most of the course and have potentially become addicted to sports-energy-goo-things. They’re DELICIOUS! I was eating chocolate flavoured goop whilst running through Paris in the sunshine! How great is that! The last five kilometres were a little bit extremely tough as my thighs were screaming at me, my feet were questioning my motives and my original plan on telling myself that five kilometres is the shortest distance I will ever let myself run in the mornings on my everyday jogs didn’t really work. Five kilometres became REALLY LONG and as I watched other runners dropping off, getting cramp and walking I doubted whether or not I would make it. This is starting to sound like a soap opera. Anyway, I didn’t stop, I popped another energy goo and as I hit the final kilometre the adrenaline kicked in as I realised that I was about to finish running a marathon. LET’S RUN FASTER! Without any consultation with my brain, my legs started working harder and I crossed the finish line in an impressive non-jogging pace. Hardly a sprint, but still. I was impressed.

Somewhat pathetically, I almost cried as I crossed the line, I was that glad it was over and that proud of my achievement. No tears were physically shed but they were in there somewhere. I collected my horribly green tshirt and my ridiculously hideous medal before walking very, very slowly to the metro. Walking down stairs in currently a challenge. Yes, the medal is awful – it is a huge rectangular thing with very poorly shaped text and images and some terrible colour choices. Whoever designed it needs to go back to design school. But still. I have a medal! WOO! It’s like winning the Olympics.

So I am now looking for another marathon to run! But if I do it I will have to take my amazing friends who met me before the marathon and positioned themselves at multiple points along the route waving flags and cheering for me as I passed. Knowing that they were waiting for me spurred me on and I feel so grateful for having such wonderful, supportive friends. Merci, mes amies! Vous êtes les BOMBS! A super huge thank you to Becky for your artistic sign-making skills and for being heavily pregnant yet willing to stand outside in the cold for hours waiting for me to run past. You’re either crazy or amazing.

And just to make this sound even more like an Oscar acceptance speech, I also would like to thank my friend Brett for making an unexpected, unrequested but ultimately generous and life changing gesture of sponsoring me so that I could afford to run in the marathon. Without him, I probably would have said “Bah, too expensive!” and never gone ahead with it. Then there were my fantastic parents who also helped me out and my friend Sonia who insisted on donating to the “Make Jess Run a Marathon” fund. And finally to my cousin, Sam for his kind shoe donation. I would like to recommend that everyone buys Mizuno shoes. They’ll get you across the line!

So my brain isn’t functioning properly, my legs are so, so, so stiff and I’m not sure I can stand up from this chair. But that was one of the best days of my life. Can I do it again?

Oh Goodness Gracious Me.

Friday, March 29th, 2013

I have become extremely aware in the past few days that in one week and two days I will be running in the Paris Marathon. I am completely willing to admit that I am really, really, really, really scared. Beyond scared really – I am terrified. I am not sure what of, exactly – perhaps my legs falling off or just not being able to run further than 10 kilometres. I know these are both not going to happen and I accidentally ran 10 kilometres the other morning by getting lost in Manchester, but my brain works in mysterious ways. I feel very under-prepared as moving countries, packing boxes, and getting gastro and then a cold have all meant that I haven’t been able to do as many long runs as I would have liked. But then I wonder if it really would have made any difference and I can quite genuinely say that I doubt it. I’ll either be able to do it or I won’t and I’ll try my best and see what happens. But if anyone is free on Sunday 7 April and feels like standing at various points along the route and cheering for me and telling me that I’m not dying and that my legs are still attached and that I really can make it to the end then I would really, really, really, REALLY appreciate it. Thank you kindly.

Oh and a little note for my sponsors who are paying for me to do this fantastic event – I currently don’t like you very much. Just kidding! I will just be a very, very happy girl when it is over. Then I might start training for the Manchester Marathon…

Accepting Differences

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

My move from Paris to Manchester has been a remarkably smooth process and I haven’t felt as overwhelmed as I expected. This largely due to the wonderful support I have received from my extended family members who have been looking after me and taking me to wonderful places. I think it is also because moving to England is a bit like moving back to Australia, only the buildings are older, the weather is colder and the people say strange, strange things like pronouncing ‘castle’ as “cAssle” instead of “cAAAARRRRstle”. Weird.

I am, however, having to come to terms with some significant differences between Manchester and Paris. While I miss Paris and my friends, I am not desperately wishing to return and am enjoying myself in Manchester. But there are a few key things that I am having to get used to.

Public Transport
It’s rubbish. I am now very aware at how well organised the public transport in Paris is. Here in Manchester, I have had many long waits standing in biting winds and snow waiting for a tram/bus/train that is delayed or apparently non-existant. Last night, for example, I had planned my evening so that I would prepare my dinner and then at 7.30pm catch a tram to Salford Quays to watch a group of people running and dancing around in costumes covered in LEDs. I was very keen to see the performance and it was only going to be on between 8-9pm. At 7.30pm I was at Deansgate tram stop waiting for two possible trams and as I froze to death in the siberian winds that are currently caressing Europe. Half an hour later, neither tram had arrived, despite them apparently coming every 12 minutes. I gave up and went home as I was completely numb, generally annoyed and wouldn’t have been able to see much of the performance if a tram had eventually arrived. This experience made waiting 4 minutes for the next train on the Paris Metro seem very insignificant. Considering these are the only trams that go to the area where the performance was, it wasn’t the best service.

Chain Restaurants
In the three weeks I have spent in Manchester, I have eaten at two chain restaurants and been informed they are good. I have been to a Pizza Express and a Tampopo (which describes itself as an “Asian restaurant”. Hmmm…) My food snobbery has reared its head as I can’t accept that a restaurant chain is a good eating option. Sure – it’s cheap, edible and it isn’t McDonalds – but the food is produced following detailed instructions and is in no way influenced by the person cooking it. Both meals were ‘ok’ but could have been prepared by anyone. The menus don’t change depending on seasons and there is no care, precision or passion in the food. It’s just something to eat. I am looking forward to trying some real restaurants with real chefs in the near future.

Meal Times
Following the food theme, I have also eaten dinner at 5.30pm twice. Sure, both times were because we were going to see a theatre performance, but if this was in Paris then we would have something to eat after the show at 10pm. Most restaurants in Manchester are filling up by 6.30pm and many have special ‘Early Bird’ specials if you eat before 7pm. This does remind me of being back in Perth but I had grown to love the long after-work event of an apero at 6.30pm followed by dinner around 8.30pm in Paris. I hope that summer time will slow things down in England but I doubt it will be the case.

Bread
I was overwhelmingly relieved to receive a REAL loaf of bread when my brother came to visit on Tuesday. There are no real bakeries, no real patisseries and finding decent baked goods is very, very hard. I miss my daily trip to the boulangerie to buy a fresh baguette. I also miss real cheese, although I am enjoying some good English cheddar. At least I have dark chocolate digestives. They make me a very happy girl.

Thankfully I still don’t understand half of what is being said around me so I can live in a bubble of blissful ignorance as people talk around me in strange accents and saying odd things. It is wonderful.

Yum.

Monday, February 25th, 2013

This morning I ate this with my coffee:

Escargot pistache et chocolat

Escargot pistache et chocolat

It was from Du Pain et Des Idées (one of the best bakeries in Paris and where I bought my galette de rois from this year) and it was just amazingly good. Simple, crispy, buttery, pistachioy, chocolatey. Pure delight for my tastebuds. Gosh I’m going to miss French baked goods.

Is that the Eiffel Tower?

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I wanted to share this strange site that my friend Becky and I stumbled across on a walk last weekend. We were wandering through the 15eme arrondissement and discovered this:

Odd.

Odd.

Next to it was a fish market, which somewhat explained the existence of a light house next to a train line in the middle of Paris but we both still had many questions. The fisherman wasn’t very talkative.

Little Popelini

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

Yesterday I went on a random walk through Paris and as I was heading through the Marais I realised that I would be going past a cake store that I have been meaning to try. As I am about to leave this great city, I felt it only appropriate that I stop and sample their goods even if I had only just eaten lunch. Named after the inventor of choux pastry – an Italian genius by the name of Popelini – this patisserie only sells small choux balls filled with delicious flavoured creams. I, of course, sampled the dark chocolate and as I stood outside in the snowy weather and bit into the exploding puff, my eyes lit up and a huge smile took over my face. Why hadn’t I tried one of these earlier? I am not a huge choux pastry fan and I never choose eclairs – but this! WOW.

So cute and so delicious!

So cute and so delicious!

 

The chocolate cream was dark, rich and plentiful inside the pastry puff. I almost turned around and went back in for a second but probably would have felt very sick if I had. One was perfection.

Popelini
29 Rue Debelleyme
75003

It’s the Final Count Down (Again)…

Sunday, February 24th, 2013

I have lots of final count downs. Two years ago it was counting down to moving to Paris and now it is for leaving. Apologies for not having written in a while but my life has literally turned upside down and inside out and then been stuck together with packing tape. I am writing this from my apartment which is very quickly turning back into its original prison-cell-like form with only hard plastic furniture and bare walls. Yesterday a friend came and took my couch so I now have no where comfortable to sit. This is probably a good thing as staying inside is less and less appealing and I have been going for a lot of long walks through Paris (in the snow).

So what has been happening…? Lots. Apart from unintentionally starting the War of the Anglosaxons, I have been spending most of my days packing, cleaning, calculating box weights and how much I can fit in my suitcase, eating, working, and catching up with friends. It has been busy busy busy which is somewhat pleasing as it doesn’t give me time to feel too sad about the fact that I am leaving. Today is Sunday – so I have four more full days in Paris before my time here is up. Of course, it won’t be forever and at least I know I will be back in April to do a stupidly long run and eat more good food. Plus I will soon be a surrogate Aunt and will need to return to play with my adopted nephew and I have friends to visit! So Paris and I aren’t over yet – as my mum hates me pointing out, it’s not like I am going back to Australia.

Over the next few days I plan on eating as many delicious pastries as possible in between working out how to get all of my stuff to England. I had a successful day with the post office on Friday after I carried 30 kilograms worth of books there by hand to send on to Australia and England. There is a special shipping rate for sending books but you can only send them in 5 kilogram lots. So I had spent the first half of the week scrounging in Parisian bins looking for small cardboard boxes. I am quite fortunate to live near a clothing warehouse area and every night there are hundreds of cardboard boxes out for rubbish collection. So I became a crazy hobo and got my hands dirty and managed to find enough perfectly sized boxes to send my books. When I got the boxes to the Post Office I managed to smile nicely and flutter my eyelashes enough for the Post Office Man to ‘overlook’ the extra 100 grams in some of the boxes. It makes a huge difference! To send 5 kilograms of books to England cost 8 Euros. To send 5.1 kilograms of books to England cost 34 Euros. I had to repack two of the boxes but now they are all on their way to opposite sides of the globe.

Boxes o' Books.

Boxes o’ Books.

I am most likely going to send two or three boxes with FedEx as it is cheaper AND they will come and pick the boxes up from my apartment! And plus I can then say I FedExed them and that makes me feel like I’m in a movie.

So that is my exciting packing news. Tomorrow I plan on going to the Australian Embassy to vote in the Western Australian state election which will either be really exciting or really disappointingly frustrating. I am betting on the second option. But at least the Embassy is next to the Eiffel Tower so I can pop over and see that while I am there. Give a final salute to the big pointy thing.