Saturday, March 19, 2011

Exercise, Parisienne style

After we’d been in Paris for six days, I had to do laundry even though it meant finding out just how much waist I had regained.

The equipment in the apartment was so state-of-the-art that it took me a good fifteen minutes to translate the various settings and figure out what the range of cryptic symbols meant. Eventually, however, I tossed in a load of trousers, turned two knobs and pushed a button, and retreated to the salon to drink wine and wait.

I ran out of wine before the washer ran out of cycles.

It was still chugging when I went to bed, grateful for multipurpose European machines and knowing that the dryer function would kick in long before morning.

But as Patsy Cline sang, I was wrong.

On Sunday morning my clothes lay in a damp clump in the washer/dryer, which had forgotten the second part of its mandate. And no wonder, really, since it took so frigging long to get to it.

I had a choice: I could wear my faded black cotton yoga pants – intended only for slouching in a comfortable chair after a day of sightseeing – or spend the day in our unimpressive apartment, peering up between 18th-century slate roofs for a glimpse of blue sky.

At home on Canada’s West Coast, nobody would even notice a woman on the street in sweats but in Paris people simply do not dress that way in public. Or anywhere, for all I know. I had certainly never seen anyone outfitted so…let’s say casually, shall we?

Since the apartment lacked a comfortable chair anyway, I pulled on the pants and ruthlessly tightened the drawstring. If a yoga class broke out in the Place des Vosges, I’d be prepared.
We strolled across the river and sipped coffee in a 17th-century arcade by a classic French park where there were plenty of people enjoying the crisp air but no sign of anyone attempting Tadasana.
Dad decided to sketch in the sun while the Saint and I stretched our legs.

The Promenade Plantée is an old elevated train line that has been converted to a garden extending southeast from the Opéra Bastille for about a kilometer and a half. At its far end, at the Jardin de Reuilly, another green-path begins at ground level and continues for couple more kilometers.
We thought it was ideal for a Sunday stroll, and so do many Parisians. In fact, many of them were doing more than strolling.

Kind of.

Decked out top to toe in suitably logoed and coordinated athletic gear, they looked me up and down as they approached at a slow jog. A slight frown of puzzlement (or so I like to think) crossed a few brows as they scanned from my brown polar fleece pullover past those cropped yoga pants flapping around my calves to my grey trail runners.

But I was enjoying my walk and too intrigued by their odd running style to waste my time wondering what they thought of me. They looked fit enough – not jocks, maybe, but not Monsieur et Madame Pantoufle, either.

Mr and Mrs Slipper (the French editions of couch potatoes) would not be out doing even this slo-mo version of jogging. It wasn’t power walking. For one thing, it wasn’t nearly vigorous enough and for another it was an entirely different gait.

When a trio of chatting men came up behind us and passed, I marveled to the Saint, “I bet we can keep up with them.”

We grinned at each other, increased our walking pace slightly and, sure enough, stayed fairly close to the group for several hundred metres before we were distracted by some birds in the shrubberies lining the path.

When we resumed our walk, I mused on this Parisian style of running.

“It’s kind of like a trot,” I said. “The French Trot.”

But something about the title wasn’t quite right and even though the inaccuracy was bugging me, I filed it away in the back of my mind because by then it was almost lunchtime and I have my priorities.

(Quiche Lorraine with salad, in case you’re curious. Fodder had a big bowl of soupe aux legumes with slices of baguette, and the Saint devoured beef bourgignon on a bed of little beef raviolis. There might also have been wine.)

And that night, the Saint figured out how to get the washer to dry.


  1. I'm catching up on your blog posts, Rachel, and was so thrilled to read about your trip to Paris! I hope to get there too someday, so I'm really enjoying hearing about your experiences. Thanks for the smiles this morning!

  2. I hope you make it to Paris soon, Angela – it's definitely worth the journey.

    It always makes me smile, so I'm doubly happy it made you smile too!