April 28, 2017

Perfect French Chaos

I studied French for 5 years before I ever set foot in this country.  I earned my time here in a way I'll never earn time in another foreign country.  Of course, like all things with a rewarding journey, once here, I fell completely in love and I've enjoyed every single one of my return visits.  With this feeling, E and I were very excited to start our European sabbatical leg in France.

The food.

The language.

The architecture.

The art.

The wine.

Streetside Bistrots -- one of the best things about Paris.

We were so excited, in fact, that I made plans to visit the Louvre, adjust to jet lag, get to know the 10th Arrondissement where we would be staying, meet up with friends who are traveling with their children and take part in several tourist activities with them, and round out the first 5 days with a park run on Saturday and a Sunday Domenical Lunch with friends in a suburb of Paris.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.

Crooked Notre Dame.

See, after all of our other travel this year, I was assuming that France would be a piece of cake -- everything would just work like being in the US and I could just plan and everything would fall into place.


First of all, Paris is *not* a running city.  I headed out on multiple occasions trying to find something, anything, near our AirBnB where I could string at least 1-1.5 miles together without stopping.  Nope.  Traffic.  Construction.  Cobblestones.  Markets that only opened and shut down the streets on particular days.  Even the recommended locations like running along the Seine or the Canal Saint Martin had many more obstacles than expected.  A typical outing had me on my feet for 50 minutes and *barely* 3 miles.

Picasso Exhibit at the Quai Branley Museum

Essentially, after 8 days of trying to run, I can say that Paris is an amazing *walking* city, but if you want to run, you need to go somewhere protected (the last two times I'd stayed in Paris I'd been within 5 minutes of the Jardins des Tuileries and the Bois du Bologne and if I return with a plan to run, I'll definitely be sure to book a location with easy access to a running area that is separated by fences from the bikes, scooters, motos, cars, and trucks of the city).

Our AirBnB was in a fun, funky, edgy, young, hip part of town.  This meant that on Friday night, the night before the hoped for Park Run, street fights and partying woke us up intermittently (including for 1+ hour at 4 AM) all night long. 

The Paris Metro is a wonderful system and you can get anywhere within the city for the bargain price of 1€90 (the US dollar is essentially at parity with the Euro right now).  However, the metro stops seem to be every 50 meters and there are no express trains.  When trying to go all the way across town via metro, the trip can take *forever*.

Also, I'd forgotten but was quickly reminded that the French have a much different system than the US for waiting in lines, waiting for service in general, and delivering information that is up-to-date and correct.  This system is slower than one can imagine. 

All of this combined to mean that it took me 2 full days to successfully stand in all of the various lines in order to get tickets on the same day for the Louvre and the English highlights of the Louvre tour (which we very much enjoyed), and I never made the reconnaissance trip to figure out the specifics of just how to get to the start of the Park Run before race day.

False gargoyles on Notre Dame de Dijon

So, I totally bailed on the Park Run.

But, hey, I figured - We were headed to Dijon.  We could do our own 5K around Lac Kir.  I successfully ran to Lac Kir yesterday AM (only one big construction project to dodge -- Dijon is a much easier running city than Paris), and was looking forward to doing the loop this AM with E.

Except, SURPRISE -- despite no GI issues in all of South America, Mexico, or South East Asia, both E and I came down with serious travel belly yesterday.  We can't totally pinpoint what it was exactly, but we were both up all night, and today's run around Lac Kir was *not* an option.

Moules frites and a croque monsieur -- heaven.
Other than the complaints above, we've loved being in France so much.  For me, after 10 days in the country, my French seems to have finally found a way to wall itself off from Spanish, and surprisingly, I think it's the strongest it's ever been.  Reading novels and looking up words obviously helped, but interestingly, once I didn't try to actually grab Spanish words, it seems that all that time in a different romance language helped my ability to correctly guess at and comprehend French words I didn't know before.

Our original tentative plan involved a trip to Lausanne today, some time with friends there, and then off to Zurich, Krakow, and making our way back through central Europe.

One of many gorgeous sites on the Owl's Trail in Dijon.

But, after a deliciously perfect meal in Dijon two nights ago, we agreed that France really is so magically wonderful that we had to consider more time here and just staying in Western Europe for the next several weeks instead of heading to Krakow (we have to be in Italy by Memorial Day weekend for a wedding).

So, my friends, the current tentative plan has been heavily modified with the hopes of getting all the way to Portugal before Italy.  'Til next change of plans!


Angela Knotts said...

Bookmarking for when I finally make it to Paris! (Though, I will need a few years of lead time because I hate going somewhere & not speaking the language.)

bt said...

@Angela -- from what I can tell, Paris is actively trying to become more running friendly. It may very well be that in a few years it will be much easier to string some continuous safe miles together along the Seine, for example. It's probably possible now, just not near where we were staying...