A much needed break

14 December 2018

The last few weeks have been difficult and disappointing in equal measure but I’m not going to elaborate or dwell on them. Suffice to say I felt an overwhelming urge to run away and hide from a situation that was not of my making and a lot of questions I didn’t feel at liberty to answer. Damned if you do dammned if you don’t kind of stuff. Luckily, Commando had just the thing to put a smile back on my face. While I’d been hiding away he’d been booking a weekend in Paris.

We had a very early start, a taxi to the station, a train, underground and finally, after a bit of a wait, Eurostar. This was my second under the sea crossing and this time I wasn’t quite as worried about being under the actual sea. That part of the journey is only about twenty minutes or so anyway and even I can stop worrying about the water all around for that long. The darkness outside the train window is a bit disconcerting but it’s soon over and then there are French fields to look at. Truthfully, it’s much more relaxed than flying and there’s none of that worrying about your luggage not turning up at the other end either.

By the time we arrived at Gare du Nord the light was fading. The first thing we noticed was how much colder Paris was than home. My small case was filled with jumpers and warm things though so I pulled on my wooly hat and gloves and we hurried across the road from the station to our hotel.

The hotel we stayed in on our last visit was closed for refurbishment so we weren’t quite sure what to expect. What we got was a small reception, a very friendly welcome and a tiny, somewhat quirky lift to the top floor. The lift door opened right onto a spiralling wooden staircase, no landing, just stairs. It reminded me of the hotel I stayed in the first time I was in Paris back in 1980. Then I’d stayed in a room with a bidet but no toilet, that tiny convenience with its ornate cast iron cistern high on the wall, had been half way up the stairs. Perhaps this lift had once been a toilet? It was certainly small enough.

The only word to describe our room is bijou. It was a typical Parisian garret room with sloping beamed ceilings and a dormer window. The bed, small desk and chair almost filled it but there was a little bathroom with a bath, shower, sink and, most importantly, a toilet. Back in the 1800’s, when buildings like these were built all over Paris, these attic rooms would have been the least prestigious. In those days there were no lifts so the less important you were higher you had to climb. This was the kind of room where all the starving writers and artists would have lived. Needless to say I loved it.

From our window we had a marvellous view of Gare du Nord and the tiny, ant like people walking about below. Once we’d rested and freshened up we went back out to join them.

Our first stop was the Starbucks on the edge of the station. Not very imaginative in a city filled with cafes I know, but it was convenient and I needed coffee badly at this point. As usual the barista asked for my name. In the past this has caused both difficulties and amusement in France. With a name like Marie you’d think it would be simple but, for some reason, although they understand all the other French words I say, no matter how I say my name, the French don’t seem to understand it. Try as I might to pronounce my name in a more French way, in Starbucks all over France I’ve received cups with amusing things written on them, Mattie, Murray, Mary but never actually Marie. This time I thought I’d done quite well. There was no questioning look from the barista, no need to repeat it several times. The coffee I got though had the name Stephanie written on it. Thinking it belonged to someone else I questioned it but it really was my coffee. Commando was very, very amused. He called me Stephanie all evening.

There was another reason for choosing to buy and drink our coffee at the Gare du Nord Starbucks. When we arrived we’d both noticed a strange little crooked house on the pavement outside the station. We were positive it hadn’t been there last time we were in Paris. As we drank our coffee we looked out of the window at this odd little building trying to work out its purpose. It looked like a slice had been taken from one of the hotels opposite, complete with attic room, and dropped into the pavement. There were windows with curtains but no door we could see. The people of Paris seemed to be walking around it as if it didn’t exist.

The peculiar little house was, I later discovered, a piece of art. It’s called Madison Fond, or melting house, and it was created by Argentinean sculptor, Leandro Erlich, as a symbol for climate change. It was built at the time of the Paris climate change conference and is designed to look as if it’s melting into the pavement.

The main reason for our little jaunt to Paris was for Commando to run the Paris parkrun. Come on, you all knew there had to be some running in there somewhere. Once we’d had our coffee we stopped to check out the maps on the street, trying to work out how best to get to the park in the morning. The first thing we discovered was that Bois de Boulogne is a very big park. As the people of Paris are not yet sold on parkrun and the runners averagely number just thirty three, it might not be as easy to find as Commando thought. This was the moment when I realised I should have done some research before we left home rather than moping about feeling sorry for myself.

Luckily, the parkrun website did have information about where in the park the start was. Of course it was in French so it took me a while to get my head around it. There was a metro station, Porte d’Auteuil, fairly close so I took a photo of the metro map to try to work out a plan.

Much as I’d have liked to wander the streets for a while, it was far too cold and we were both far too tired after our long journey. After a quick shuffle up and down the impressive array of restaurants and cafes on offer, we settled on Au Baroudeur Patient, on Boulevard de Denain. The service was friendly, the food was good and Commando had even remembered his glasses so he could read the menu.

This was the full extent of the Paris nightlife we saw. The long day of travel and an early start in the morning, not to mention the cold, had us scurrying back to our garret room for an early night.

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Winchester, the last of the parkrun tourism

1 September 2018

We ended our month of parkrun tourism with a trip to Winchester. The original plan had been to run every August parkrun somewhere different but we squeezed an extra one in to help a young lad called Leo celebrate his hundredth run. As usual, getting to Winchester involved an earlier start than normal but we parked up close to Winnal Moors with enough time for me to dash past the Willow Tree pub, along Durngate Terrace to the High Street and grab a coffee and croissant to make up for missing breakfast.  Continue reading Winchester, the last of the parkrun tourism

Setting up camp at Thunder Run

20 July 2018

Frankly, a three hour drive to Walton on Trent was probably not the best thing for my back. Two or so hours in, when we reached Warwick Services, I could barely get out of the car. There was some hobbling around, a loo stop, some much needed food and coffee and then it was back to the car for another interminable, painful hour. At least there was a hotel at the end of it and a chance to walk around, albeit like an old lady who’s lost her walking frame. No photos were taken, apart from one of the hotel door so I’d remember the number when I came back from my hobbling. All this, was yesterday and it was just the precursor to Thunder Run, a twenty four hour endurance race. As far as I could see, at that point, I’d already endured quite enough and it hadn’t even begun yet.  Continue reading Setting up camp at Thunder Run

Parkrun tourism, Lakeside

30 June 2018

There was no parkrun on the Common this morning because the Pretty Muddy Race For Life 10k was going on. This meant it was time for some parkrun tourism. With so many parkruns within a few miles of home we were spoilt for choice but, when Teresa and Gerry said they were going to Lakeside in Portsmouth, we decided to tag along too as we haven’t been to the parkrun there before. Continue reading Parkrun tourism, Lakeside

Hythe, powerboats, hovercraft and a final postcard

10 May 2018

With a little help from Google Maps we found our way back to Hythe High Street. Here we sat for a moment or two on a shady bench and perused Google Maps. My next objective was on Shore Road where another famous resident of Hythe once lived. While I was searching for it I spotted a road called Sir Christopher Court.  Behind it was a small park facing the water.  Might this be where the hovercraft stone was hidden? As the park was right at the beginning of Shore Road, we decided to check it out.   Continue reading Hythe, powerboats, hovercraft and a final postcard

Postcards from Hythe

10 May 2018

Hythe is a quaint little place that seems half stuck in another, gentler age. The narrow High Street may be pedestrianised these days but the shops with their bow fronted windows look much as they must have when Jane Austin visited back in 1807.  Red white and blue bunting was strung across the street and no one seemed to be in much of a hurry, unlike the busy city centre we’d left behind us. Despite its slightly old fashioned air, I knew there were some modern amenities and, once we’d left the pier, we both decided our first port of call should be one of them. Anticipating the journey CJ hadn’t had any breakfast, for fear of seeing it again on the boat, so we headed down the High Street to Costas for croissants and coffee.  Continue reading Postcards from Hythe

A short cruise and a very long pier

10 May 2018

CJ suffers with terrible sea sickness. We discovered this on many trips across the English Channel to Cherbourg when he was a small child. At first I’d spend the whole journey in the ladies watching him throw up. Then, thankfully, he got too old for the ladies so Commando had to deal with the puking. We tried every anti sea sickness product under the sun. They didn’t work. Not one of them. Not even a little bit.  Despite this, today, he and I were going on a cruise. It would be a very short cruise. Hopefully it would be too short for any actual vomiting to commence. Continue reading A short cruise and a very long pier

Wet, muddy and probably hallucinating

23 July 2017

The rain just kept on falling. There were a few slight lulls when Commando prepared for his first night lap. Each time he pinned on his race number, checked out his head torch and pulled on his trainers it pelted down again though. Rob went out with Kim on her evening lap because he was so worried about the conditions and two torches are better than one. The gloom, the rain and most of all the mud meant it took a ridiculously long time. The woods were especially bad, tree roots hidden under water and slippery mud. After a conflab everyone agreed it was just too dangerous, not worth the risk of a broken ankle or worse.  Continue reading Wet, muddy and probably hallucinating

The legendary Solo Dave

22 July 2017

When I got back to the tent Mark was already back and Tamsyn had set off on the next team lap. So far neither Rob or Commando had run along the final part of the course in front of our tents so I settled down in my garden chair to watch and wait. Runners were coming past all the time. My eyes were firmly fixed on the race numbers as they approached, white numbers were team runners red were solo. We cheered everyone who passed but the red numbers got the loudest cheers. A pair of solo runners dressed as a bride and groom came past together. Maybe they’d just got married? If so it seemed an odd kind of honeymoon.  Continue reading The legendary Solo Dave

Rain and the Thunder Run

22 July 2017

The rain didn’t stop. In fact it got worse and worse as the evening wore on. There was a brief interlude of almost dryness, just long enough for Pete the Meat to cook burgers and sausages on a couple of reluctant portable barbecues under the awning of Rob and Kim’s tent then it got so bad everyone retired to their respective shelters. We slept on our new air bed inside our new sleeping bags with the sound of rain pounding on canvas as a lullaby. It was a sleep broken by worries about floods washing us away. The name Trent is Celtic for strongly flooding and the river is renowned for it.  Continue reading Rain and the Thunder Run