Paris - Plymouth Half Marathon Training

Roche Mazet Now I don’t want you to get the idea that the decision to go to Paris to do some training for the Plymouth half Marathon was just a feeble excuse, with running sessions being swapped for extended sessions on the Roche Mazet with bread, cheese and pate. Soaking in the romance of the place with a nod or two to the art, history and culture, with little if any attention given to the impending gruelling event in Plymouth. Of course not.

For those of you not familiar with Roche Mazet, it is a French wine. Not quite in the Rothschild league. More in the ‘less than 3 Euros even form the most over priced local supermarket in Central Paris, and tastes absolutely fine, after the third sip’ sort of league. Available all over France but not one of their best exports. A sort of well kept French secret. Largely ignored by most French people but drunk by British expats and wannabe artists and poets without 2 centimes to rub together, by the gallon.

Eiffel Tower “I’m going to run under the Eiffel Tower,” I announced to my wife on the first morning, to my wife’s surprise and amuzment. I was possibly still under the effects of the third bottle of Roche Mazet from the night before. “No I don’t need the map. What better landmark can you have than the Eiffel Tower? There will be no problem finding it. Should be about 3 miles round trip. See you in half an hour or so.”

2 hours later I staggered in. With sore feet, cold and rather knackered.

You see you can’t see the Eiffel Tower in central Paris. Fairly obvious when you think of it. The building are 6 stories high. So the angles are all wrong. The only places you can see the Eiffel Tower in Paris are either when you are far away from it or right under it. Not to worry. It’s and international attraction. There are bound to be lots of signposts. No. Not a single sign. At least none aimed at the adventurous pedestrian. Apart from one. The other side of Pont d’lena that leads directly to the damn thing. Where the only thing you can actually see is the Eiffel Tower itself.

Now anyone with any sense would have dusted off their school boy Franglais and asked for directions. “Excuseme moi, pour aller the Eiffel Tower?” (Trans – where have they put the Eiffel Tower?) Straight forward and well within the abilities of this particular adventurous pedestrian. After all I have been trying to improve my French since the now legendary incident when I managed to ask for Diesel in a restaurant in San Tropez and the waitress walked off in a state of some confusion and handed the whole order over to the manager, in something of a Galic strop, along with her apron and order book, before grabbing her coat and storming out in the direction of a more meaningful career and a bottle of Roche Mazet avec elles amis (Trans – with some people who understand). There was clearly something about the way I had confidently asked for Gasole (Trans - diesel) rather than gas eau (Trans - gassy water – finest Franglaise and probably meaningless even if I had got it right.) that did a reasonable impression of a straw meeting the back of an over ladened camel.

It is always difficult to explain to others why I don’t ask for directions. It is easiest to pass it off as just part of being a man. But that’s not the whole truth. When in France it has a something to do with not actually being able to understand the reply. I have got reasonable good at asking the simple tourist questions. Qu’ce que vous avez comme vin rouge. (Trans – have you got any of that Roche Mazet stuff?) But the inability to actually understand the response to any degree of accuracy renders the exercise somewhat pointless. But the real reason? I just like being lost. You get to see things that you would never otherwise see. Ok it might be an uninteresting back street somewhere in the vicinity of the Eiffel Tower, the name of which you will never recall and the only thing that marks it out from any other meaningless back street in one of countless big cities throughout the world is the fact that you caught your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Although the street was a dead end and offered no real opportunity in terms of you actually getting to the monument, at least it gave that double edged sword of all double edged swords. Hope.

It is of course stating the bleeding obvious, but the Eiffel tower is big. It is very big. Now I knew that long before going to Paris. I have seen photos and heard friends say that this was the case. But none of this actually does it justice. Just as me restating here will not do it justice. Nor will the photos I took trying to give the full impression of it’s bigness. It can only be fully appreciated by being there and allowing your mind to just take in the absolute bigness of the thing. But its not actually the bigness of the thing alone that is the most impressive thing about it. It is the pointlessness of it, coupled with it’s undeniable and sheer immense bigness that leaves you gawping in awe. It is a structure whose only purpose is to be there. To draw people to it, to go up it, to go under it and to simply marvel at the fact that it is. And there is nothing else to say about it other than to say that it is big. So at the risk of repeating myself. The Eiffel Tower is Big!

To have something in your city which is there only to be big! Now that is a statement!

There is a lot more to Paris than a collection of world famous show off statements. Though they do have plus qu’assez pour secouer un baton a.(Trans - enough to wave a stick at – translation by Bing, therefore probably not accurate and certainly not useful in France under any circumstances.) There is the culture and history. By culture I am not talking museums with over rated paintings without eyebrows and endless queues of tourist waiting to get a glimpse. Just as with history I am not talking about the countless armies marching up and down the Champs Elysees taking it in turns to call themselves ‘Top Nation’.

Paris Training Runs
For me the history is of the culture and the culture is the history. And it largely revolves around the activities of a few wayward souls who seemed to have spent their years the Paris getting drunk, being thrown out of cheap bistros and sleeping on park benches. Now most of us who go through this period of our lives trying to find meaning in the bottom of a glass, having endless conversations about the nature of things and the meaning of art, poetry and stuff, come out the other side with a determination to just get on with things and don’t end up having a whole pricing structure based around our youthful activities. But when the wayward souls in question are Hemingway, Picasso, Van Gough and Jean Paul Satre – not all at the same time but it seem largely involving the same bistros - a very interesting thing happens. If one or better still, all of them are known to have been thrown out of the bistro or cafe in the dim and distant past, and told not to darken the door again offering second rate paintings of a starry night instead of hard centimes for yet another bottle of Roche Mazet, the price of an otherwise cheap glass of wine (which admittedly, it being Paris, was never going to be that cheap) suddenly leaps skyward in the same way that prices of Van Gough’s Starry Night painting did after his untimely death. Ce la vie (Trans – bugger).

Of course the café culture is much more than homage to the big names of the art world. It is at the heart of much of modern Paris and it is what makes it so very French. Even at the back end of winter, thanks to awnings in front of every café or bistro and a seemingly endless supply of patio heaters and a complete disregard for the effect that heating the atmosphere 24/7 will have on global warming, the café culture that is such a feature of French holidays throughout the summer can continue unhindered all through the year. Of course we took full advantage of it.

Breakfast in a nice little place just across Rue de St. Germain where we had a variety of croissant and bread based petit dejeuners, (Trans – breakfasts) including one they called a ‘continental’ which was as near to a full English that the French do, but with salad. Lunch in a little place on the Ile de Citie where the waiter spent half his time reassuring us that the awning was safe and was not about to blow away in the wind, that was even driving the beggars off the street and the other half of his time hanging on to said awning for dear life. Happy hour (Trans - happy hour – said with a phoney French accent for full authenticity) supping un demi litre du cote d’rhone (Trans – half of litre of red wine that the French actually drink) and watching the toings and froings around Notre Dame just across the river. And evening meals, one of which included a bottle of Roche Mazet, probably from the over priced super market around the corner, for 20 euros! Someone very famous must have been thrown out of that joint!

Paris RunOh, and of course, not forgetting the extensive half marathon training regime. On the last morning my wife and I donned our running shoes for a memorable 7.5. miles of some of the most famous tourist sights in the world. The Lourve, The Arch D’Truamph, the Eiffel Tower and the Eglise de Dome, all over before breakfast leaving plenty of time for a bottle or 3 Roche Mazet.

Now that is the way to train for a half marathon.

Paris Tourist Infomation


Eiffel Tower tour

Eiffel Tower

Sponsor Guy in the Plymouth Half Marathon

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