Posts Tagged ‘Versailles’

Go Little Legs!

Monday, October 1st, 2012

After two Saturdays of training, the Paris-Versailles run finally arrived. I was really looking forward to the challenge – 16 kilometres with an apparently evil climb and a seemingly long finish. I knew I was going to be able to complete the race, so I added a few additional challenges to push myself – no stopping at any point and complete 16 kilometres in under one hour and 30 minutes.

It was a beautiful Sunday morning as Becky, my running buddy and fellow Equip-Top-Gâteau-Vitess member (we made up that awesome team name while waiting for the race to start), and I stood underneath the Eiffel Tower with 21000 other runners. The race didn’t start until 10am, a very comfortable Parisian time of the morning to begin a running race. We had to wait for 20 minutes before the start which meant being squished by Parisians who have no concept of personal space and many of whom had spent the last half an hour warming up and therefore stank. Yum.

Paris sky

A beautiful sunny day in Paris – great weather for running.

The race finally began with competitors being sent off in groups of 300. We were the 23rd group to go, heading off at about 10.20am. The run took us from the foot of the Eiffel tower and then west along the south bank of the Seine. We ran through the outskirts of Paris, under the peripherique and then into the banlieu or outer suburbs of the city. It was fun looking around and discovering different parts of Paris while running with a large mass of people – firstly through newer commercial areas, high density residential zones with ugly concrete apartment blocks, past sand factories along the river, and then we hit Issy-Les-Moulineaux.

Paris Versailles run map

My Garmin map of where we ran

Issy is a town/suburb/I don’t know what you’d call it, situated just outside of the peripherique of Paris and it was here that I discovered what a hill is. Before the race, Becky and I had learnt that there was a ‘hill’ in this race that many people warned was particularly painful. The incline of the hill wasn’t anything more significant than the two hills we run up most mornings so we figured it would be fine. No worries. Hmmm…

It turns out that while the incline wasn’t any greater than our normal climbs, when the hill goes for almost three kilometres you discover that a hill is not just a hill. It’s bloody awful and it HURTS. Oh how it hurts. There were quite a few turns as we went up and each time I thought, “Oh maybe this is the end.” But as I rounded the corner, another mountain was waiting for me.

I am very proud to say that I kept to my challenge and I didn’t stop. Both Becky and I overtook people who were struggling with the slope and we made it to the summit without dying or rolling back down. It was a great personal achievement. And I have to thank Jens Voigt for providing me with the “Shut up legs and do as I tell you!” inspiration.

We then ran through a beautiful forested area that eventually turned into a down-hill gallop – people were speeding past as fast as they could go, causing a few potentially dangerous moments.

The final three kilometres into Versailles were long but I picked up my speed for the final two and really pushed myself in the last kilometre to attempt to make my one hour and 30 minute goal. The actual race was 16.3 kilometres and I came in with a final time of 1 hour 31 minutes and 19 seconds. According to my Garmin watch, I reached the 16 kilometre mark in just under one hour and 30 minutes. I think that made me happier than crossing the actual finish line.

Paris Versailles race

Post-race crowds

It was such a great feeling to finish and to know I had actually pushed myself a long the way. I have never been this fit in my life – I have very strong memories of being at primary school and making up excuses to not have to do cross-country running. I now love being able to run long distances and not feel dead at the end. While my legs were a bit tired, I could have kept going. Plus all of this exercise means that yesterday I could eat two pieces of cake, which really is the best reason to run from Paris to Versailles.

Paris Versailles medal

I got a medal!

Sorry, Friends!

Thursday, November 17th, 2011

Hello, hello! How are you all?

My sincere apologies for my lack of writing recently – I have, in fact, been writing a lot. Just not on here. I am averaging 2000 words a day and once I have hit that mark I tend to close my computer and go outside. That said, the last two days have seen temperatures averaging 5 degrees so my desire to go outside has heavily reduced. It is slightly warmer today. I might venture into the wilderness.

So what have I been doing in the last while, I hear you ask? And even if you didn’t ask you’re going to find out. I have been writing for the last 17 days and am quickly reaching my 50,000 word target for NaNoWriMo. Today I hit 34,434 words which is 6000 words more than I need to have written by this time of the month in order to reach my goal. I am starting to run out of things to write about Paris but usually after I stare out the window at the grey skies for a moment or two I get some sort of inspiration.

In other news, my knees are recovering from their slight mishap on Monday morning. I have two five-cent coin sized scars on my knees and they’re a dull shade of bluey-brown. I was hoping for a slightly more impressive bruise that I could show off and prove that it really did hurt but it hasn’t happened. So unfair. What’s the point of falling over if you can’t gain sympathy for at least a week? I returned to my morning jogs the day after my fall as I was determined not to let that damn Parisian paving get the better of me. I now run a little bit like a duck – flat footed and with my arms out for balance in case I trip again.

On Monday I hobbled my way up and down many flights of stairs as I caught multiple trains and walked through some of the city’s largest train stations to catch a train to Versailles. I visited my friend Louise and spent the day hanging out at her house. It was so nice to be in a homely family environment for the day. We just sat around and ate lunch, drank cups of tea and discussed the ups and downs of life. It was great. It is so nice to have friends around.

Speaking of, yesterday an American friend of mine, Sonja, arrived in Paris for a few days. She and I were English assistants together in 2006/7. She was working in a town relatively close to me and we used to meet every Wednesday afternoon in Nancy to help pass the time and make life in northern country France slightly less isolating. She and I travelled quite extensively together during that time and formed a great friendship. I hadn’t seen her since 2007 and yet as soon as she stepped off the train at Gare du Nord it was like we had seen each other every day for the past four years. She is here until Sunday so I am excited to have someone to hang out with.

Tom has some freelance development work so that’s keeping him off the street. And I am working on a project that will hopefully be exhibited in the chapel of Les Récollets on 16 and 17 December. Let’s just say there’ll be socks involved. I’ll keep you posted.

Here’s the Latest

Sunday, February 27th, 2011

Exciting and fun times have been happening over here. Our French teacher from Perth, Louise, (a wonderful young lady from Versailles) is in France at the moment and has been our tour guide and food provider for the past few days. She was kind enough to invite us to her family home in Versailles for lunch last Thursday. It is so nice to go into family situations in other countries. It gives you a much different perspective on the way of living and how people function.

Louise’s family lives in an apartment on the fourth or fifth floor. The apartment layout is beyond confusing – all rooms seem to be connected with multiple entries and exits, random bedrooms attached to sitting rooms and the corridor to the kitchen is also the dining area. The walls are covered in trinkets and souvenirs from places they have been. It is cosy, warm and inviting and Louise’s family welcomed us with open arms. Wine flowed, we ate delicious saucisson, and Louise’s mum prepared an amazing French lunch of chicken with a mushroom sauce. And we had CHEESE. One of my favourite things about going to French people’s houses for meals is being offered cheese. We were given five different cheeses to try (we sampled them all), three of which they had purchased in the Alps the previous week. It was fantastic and our breath stank as a result.

Friday night we were invited back to Louise’s for a party with Louise’s friends. Everyone was so friendly and spoke English with ease and were excited about meeting Louise’s Australian friends. I’m not a party person and generally hate being social when I don’t know anyone, but I felt really at ease and had a great time. Sadly we had to catch trains back to Paris and left just in time to catch the final train from Versailles to Paris and then the last connection back to our place. I was somewhat relieved to be leaving the smoke-filled rooms of Louise’s house. Every one at the party smoked. We were engulfed in toxic smoke fumes which we are strangely starting to get used to. It amazes me how many people smoke in Paris. My “You know that thing will kill you” threats don’t even seem to work. I couldn’t wait to wash my hair after that party.

Train to Paris

Heading home on the train

Then it was Saturday. We met Louise, her husband Marcelo, and another girl from Perth, Anuska, at the Musee D’Orsay and we wandered around the gallery with hundreds of other people being cultured. The Musee D’Orsay is a brilliant gallery with some amazing works. One of my favourite sections was a collection of photographs revolving around the theme of sleep. The introductory text said that there was a movement of taking photographs of people pretending to be asleep as it was like seeing them at their most innocent. There was also a collection of Van Gogh’s paintings and some amazing paintings by Manet.

After our cultural boost, we headed our for dinner to a lovely little restaurant in Montmartre. I have walked past this place a few times when looking for somewhere to eat but never went there. It is always so hard to know where to go unless you have recommendations. Like most menus in France, the mains consisted of meat dishes. Hard to be vegetarian in France. I had a steak with roquefort sauce. So so good. Everyone’s food was delicious. To start we had an oeuf cocotte which is an egg cracked into a ramekin and cooked slightly. This version then had foie gras on top and you dip pieces of bread into the sloppy egg/foie gras mixture. SO SO SO GOOD. Yes, foie gras is bad. But it is also delicious. Very delicious.

Oeuf cocotte

Oeuf cocotte. Mmmmmmmiam!

Anyway, the past few days have been really great. Today Tom and I went for a walk to a local park called Parc de Buttes Chaumont which has rolling hills a big cliff/hill/thing in the middle with a look out that has views over Montmartre and towards Sacre Coeur. Everyone is out and about on Sundays, going for walks with the family. It’s nice to be part of the ‘normal’ lifestyle instead of just a tourist.

Buttes Chaumont

Parc Buttes Chaumont with the lake and look out

Oh and we have shelves! We had bought them 2 weeks ago from a shop in the city called Conforama but we had to wait for them to be delivered to the store. We collected them on Friday lunchtime and had to carry a 35kg box along streets, down flights of metro stairs and home. My body is so sore. I have bruises on my hip from where I rested the box. I may have given Tom a few evil glares as he didn’t want to pay to have the thing delivered to our door. That said, once we got it home it was fine. We then opened the box to discover it was divided into 20 different parts that had to be stuck together. So we left it in the box until the next day when it was raining and too yucky to go outside and we put it together. Our shelves are so great. We can put things on them. This excites me more than seeing the Eiffel Tower. Seriously.

Shelves

Look at how the shelves hold things! Brilliant.

On saying that, the train ride from Paris to Versailles goes through some outer suburbs of Paris that have an amazing view back towards the Eiffel Tower. The thing sticks out above the city like a sore thumb and at night time is lit up. It looks so cool.

Look for more photos on my flickr site soon (ie. once the internet builds up a bit of speed.)