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.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Growing Green Thumbs in Paris

Eat it, LeNotre...
I’ve never had a green thumb. Let alone two. But being in Paris has a way of convincing me that I should be in charge of another life form, be it ivy or hydrangea. And apparently my thumbs are starting to ripen with age.

If André Le Notre could do it, why couldn’t Bryan Pirolli?

I have a little courtyard in my building that neighbors pass through, with a bit of sun, and a neighbor with a tangle of vines and plants in front of her flat. Convinced that I, too, could create my own tangle, I took the few plants that I inherited from the previous tenant – a mangled geranium and some green spiky things (the technical name) and I began tilling the soil.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Paris, Like the First Time

No big deal...
Seeing Paris through a first-timer’s eyes is a precious experience. Just when I think that the Eiffel Tower is boring, that Notre Dame is dull, or that the Opera is just kind of blah, a tourist comes around with an audible, “Wow” as we take in the view from in front of the Sacre Coeur and I am revived.

This is the coolest part about being a tour guide. Having just wrapped up a few weeks of intense guiding with a few Paris newbees of all ages, I feel like Paris and I have hit the reset button for a moment. Don’t get me wrong, I am chomping at the bit to get out of the city for some vacation, but I feel like I’ve readjusted my appreciation of the city, tightening it up just ever so.

Tour guiding is one of those professions like journalist or barista that just anyone can do – and I have done them all – with the right training. You don’t need a degree in tourism and hospitality to share a city with visitors. You need a bit of passion and a sprinkling of knowledge and voila, you can do it. Of course it’s not in everyone’s comfort zone to get in front of a group and spout stories from the 1600s in Paris, but I made it work for me. It’s easy, however, to get jaded.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Love Can Build a Bridge...or Destroy One

Oh dear...
I’m not one to jump on the bandwagon. A few weeks ago I wrote an article for CNN Travel about the “No Love Locks” campaign in Paris, to spare the bridges and public spaces from the padlocks of “love” that have taken over the city. I thought it was an interesting topic but I wasn’t really sure it’d go anywhere.

While I agree with the cause and trying to preserve the historic monuments that help make Paris, well, Paris, I didn’t think the locks were the biggest issue.* Plus, who wants to be the person to speak out against so-called “love locks” anyway? That’s a pretty tough badge to wear.

Then one of the panels on the Pont des Arts, the pedestrian bridge by the Louvre, broke away from the fence and fell.

And then another did.

And then another.

See where this is going?