I think that attempting to get in some movement and attempting to explore a city go hand in hand sometimes. Most of my close friends know that I have a brilliant idea for a startup along these same ideological lines (I think I am the only one that thinks it is brilliant—running tourism company?!! C’mon.) Anyway, “The Exercise Chronicles” started as a way for me to remember some the places I found on my runs so far in Paris. I’ve cleaned them up a bit for you here, just in case you have the opportunity to run around in the Parisian cold and be stared at like you’re an alien.
First run in Paris. Leaving from my home on Chabrol, I attempted to follow my host dad’s instructions to go towards the Opéra station. Of course, I was distracted by the giant gothic-architecture church at the end of the block, and ended up following some winding alleys that caught my eye. I was lost in a matter of minutes. I ended up near the Pigalle, which is the red light district of Paris. Pigalle at 11 a.m. on a cloudy day is far from what you would expect from Baz Luhrman’s “Moulin Rouge,” although I did stop to stretch and watch tourists ask others to take photos of them in front of it. Lifeless and flat during the day time, the late 90’s era sex shops and cash-for-gold stores lining the street came off as laughably undaunting. With the help of my handy-dandy “Paris Pratique,” I made it back home safe and sweaty.
Second attempt at fitting in some exercise, despite the almond croissants luring me in at every corner. Chose a more scenic route this time, and headed east toward the Saint-Martin Canal. In the dead of winter, the canal retains its charm. It had specialty stores eventually moving into discount grocery stores and hip-looking bars as I got closer to Bastille, and I only tripped over the cobblestones a couple times. Their cuteness just floored me. I had a hilarious and quintessential attempt to figure out the public restrooms which seemed like they were from the future—a Parisian man tried to help me, and I begrudgingly accepted while keeping an eye peeled for any funny business. Luckily, he was a Good Samaritan through and through, and I figured out the space-machine-bathrooms with the grace of a caveman being introduced to the Internet.
Went for a run from Chabrol down La Fayette to Opéra (or so I thought—almost everything I do here ends with me hopelessly lost). The first part of the run was perfect, with interesting people watching and plenty of sidewalk space. I eventually ended up in the shopping area that surrounds Opéra, and got many weird looks from women with fur hats and people carrying around a bunch of “SOLDES” bags (The French annual “sales” holiday to boost the economy). If you’ve ever wanted to fully illustrate to yourself what it would be like to be in a zoo, I would highly recommend running through this shopping center of mega-rich people—it makes for really interesting people watching, but they watch you back. Suspiciously. And with a little bit of disgust. I even had one woman shake her head at me as she took a deep drag into her cigarette in protest.
After the first time at the Saint-Martin Canal, I decided to return to it. This time, I went the opposite direction and stumbled upon the area where the canal opens up into a larger channel. It was like a runners haven—there were other spandex-clad maniacs running along the banks (I am not alone!) and I only got mean looks from one old men’s lawn bowling club. The area surrounding the channel is like a Parisian fisher’s town, and probably the closest I’m going to get to a nautical experience in the center of a city filled with fancy cars and fancy restaurants. The banks are lined with seafood cafes, young people roaming in search of decent happy hours and little boats that probably rarely leave their dock. Definitely a place to return with the ‘rents when they visit.
Finally made it on my dream run, the one I’d been using as a daydream to not listen to professors since October. Took the metro down to the Seine (it would be a little too far from cozy ol’ Chabrol to start at home), emerged at a random point and ran towards the Eiffel Tower. The Tower had been recently illuminated, and in the late winter fog it was a combination of ominous and magnificently formidable (as my Theory professor loves to say). I ran along the quai, making up my route as I headed toward the tower. It rained today, so the air was heavy with water and I spent a lot of time jumping around puddles that had pooled in between the cobblestones. I finally reached the Tower at 6:00 p.m., when it lit up and sparkled. I watched it from the Parc de Champ-de-Mars alongside a bunch of people taking pictures and consulting guidebooks, and for the first time didn’t feel like a tourist.