Monday, October 20, 2014

Chicago in 26.2 Miles

One minute and forty-two seconds more and the tears wouldn’t have been falling across a smile. Who knew such a small chunk of time could be so significant.

It was a sunny early autumn day in Chicago. The air was crisp, the gloves were on, but my red racing shorts were making their American debut. It was marathon day, the Chicago Marathon, in case that wasn't clear, and after a trans-Atlantic flight from Paris, waking up at 4:30AM was a cinch.

The task at hand was one I had already met 6 times: run 26.2 miles. Simple enough. But this time, the training, sobriety, and healthy eating that I had endured left me hell-bent on finishing the marathon in less than 4 hours, something that I almost did in Paris. This time, finishing over four hours wasn’t an option if I wanted the trip to be worth my while. Would it be lucky number seven?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Camargue: France's Natural Narnia

The fabled white horses of the Camargue...

You don’t need to travel far from Paris to feel like you “got away.” After a long weekend in Marseille this summer, I rediscovered a place I had passed through several years ago that isn’t on every tourist’s radar: the Camargue.

The area, in southern France near the town of Arles, where Van Gogh spent his final days, is something of a French freak show, in the best way possible. It’s a mix of surprisingly beautiful flora and fauna, with certain livestock guarded by genuine French cowboys – no joke.

Pass down south, heading west along the Mediterranean, and you can experience it. We had to drive, the only way to do it besides biking, and before entering the nature reserve, we waited at a stoplight for what seemed like half an hour. The bridge, well, actually a car ferry, allowed us to pack in with other local drivers before making the crossing. Let the adventure begin.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Marseille: On Soup, Soap, and Snorkeling

Oh hey Marseille...

“Oh I hear it’s really dirty down there,” people tell me every time I discuss summer vacation. I guess it’s tough to shake some labels. But seriously, Marseille is far from the cesspool people think it is. Or at least that's the case since 2013 when it was the European Capital of Culture, forcing it to scrub up a bit.

My friend Lindsey, who loves Marseille, has written about it quite a few times, so I know I’m not exaggerating. The city, the third largest in France, is also the biggest port along the Mediterranean and the town that has now stolen my heart twice.

It was the starting point for a road trip from Provence to Paris, and it started with a taxi ride from the train station that could rival the zigzaginess of any Parisian driver. Safe and sound in the Panier, one of the oldest parts of town, we slipped easily into vacation mode. There's just something about the south, ya know?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Marathon du Médoc 2014: A Masquerade

This was well before any notion of fatigue set in...

Third Time’s a Charm

Two Americans, an Aussie, and a Singaporean walk into a marathon…

It was just another Saturday in the Médoc region of France when 10,000 runners and wine lovers descended upon the sleepy town of Pauillac, north of Bordeaux. Dressed in their Carnival finest, we were ready to run the world’s longest marathon.

Fireworks burst overhead at 9:30AM as we set off on a 42 kilometer trek unlike any other in the world. Musicians lined the streets as locals joined runners from around the world, cheered on by an equally international crowd. Water was plentiful, but played second fiddle at this marathon.

I’ve written about it before, and I’ll say it again. It bears repeating. There's a reason I've come back for a third time. We drink wine – hearty red wine – at multiple chateaux along the route, racing towards the last few kilometers where oysters (with white wine), steak, and ice cream await the willing.

And we were all willing.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Back to School in Paris: One More Time

All ready for my first day of class!

It was the last time I’d ever receive this type of letter. After grammar school, there was the excitement of high school. Then letters arrived about college. Then an acceptance letter to a master’s program arrived. Then came the notification that I had been adopted by the Sorbonne as a PhD candidate.

Yesterday I received my last set of “certificate de scolarité,” renewing my enrollment for the 2014-2015 year – my final year – at the University of the Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris 3. This officially marked the end of my higher education in France, and probably in the world. There will be no more first days of school for me as a student after this October. My lunchbox would be retired, forever.

Well, at least that’s the most likely scenario. But this being France, who knows what hiccups I may encounter…

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Bib Giveaway: Reebok Spartan Race France

Running in Paris – it’s a thing now, no news there. I get anxious when I hit the Canal on a Sunday, afraid of running into the hordes of other runners, while at the same time I’m ecstatic to see everyone sprinting along. It’s all about challenging yourself, keeping positive energy, and having fun.

With so many races, an increasingly popular marathon that has switched to a lottery system, and new running groups all across the city, Paris is an easy place to run however you want. And one of the newer trends has been the obstacle course races, like The Mud Day, which premiered in 2013.

New to the Parisian scene this year is a challenge put forth by Reebok, following the success of Nike’s “We Own the Night” and Adidas’ “Boost Battle Run.” The course, a team event, called “Spartan Race,” is inspired by the Greek soldiers and challenges participants with up to 26 obstacles during some 20+ kilometers. The first one in France happened last year in Marseille, and this September it’s coming to Paris for the first time.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A Paris Without Parisians

Just you and me buddy...
Riding my bicycle along the Canal on a Sunday afternoon, the sun shining its best and the temperature giving no one a reason to stay inside, I was taken aback. Hardly anyone was in the streets jogging, walking, playing, biking, picnicking. It was deserted as few beautiful Sundays have ever been deserted before. 

But it's August. Silly me. I’ve been summering in Paris since 2008. Finally I am starting to understand it. 

There are the obligatory activities that I partake in, be it the fireworks at the Eiffel Tower on July 14th or the Paris Plages along the Seine and Canal. Maybe I’ll play pétanque, maybe go out for a drink along the river, or jog for hours through the Bois de Vincennes with a little SPF on my face.

But only in August do I really start loving Paris because, well, the Parisians leave.