Run #4 – Paris, France

My last (and only) time in Paris was a bummer because my knee was taking orders from my knee surgeon to take the summer off from running. I couldn’t get it out of my head that I never got a chance to run in Paris, and felt a redo opportunity would have to present itself at some point.

Lucky for me, that “some point” was this week. Though the first couple of days I was still shaking off some jet lag, yesterday morning I woke up and hit the road at 8:30am (a.k.a: the crack of dawn for the French). During mid-day, the sidewalks and bridges are clogged up with pedestrians and rogue bikers, but in the morning there are relatively few people out in the most touristy areas. I randomly chose to run up and down the Seine, along the paved paths rather than the uneven stone sidewalks on the street level.

Along my route, I saw many other runners (sadly none of them women), commuters, and the occasional fisherman.

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See? No people.

It was also a nice time to catch Notre Dame before it the tourist rush filled the square.

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See? Just a few people.

As I knew we would be walking the rest of the day, three miles was plenty, and just enough to get me started for a day of eating all of the things.

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Today we took the train to Barcelona so you can pretty much guess what Run #5 will be. Lord knows I need to exercise off egregious amount of food we are eating.

#22 – Relearn how to speak French. C’est fait.

Non, mon français n’est pas bien, mais je peux survivre…je pense…

I haven’t talked much about this goal since the summer since I really should have checked it off back then, but it’s the end of the year so better late than never. I studied french formally in a classroom from 7th grade until the end of college – in fact, I had so many credits that if I had taken just two more classes, I could have majored in it. But could I really speak French fluently at that level? Meh, not like you would think.

Regardless that I could get by in conversation, I still didn’t really have anyone to speak French with (since Portland, Oregon isn’t exactly brimming with French speaking opportunities). Also, it’s not like I’ve really had the money to travel to France – so that left me with a slowly diminishing language base.

This year, when my mom offered to take me to Paris, I thought it would be a good goal to refresh what I knew and try to put it into practice. I prepped by listening to hours and hours of podcasts on my work commute, and subscribing to some French news on Facebook.

When we got to Paris, my French was definitely rusty. Like I knew what people were saying, but at the same time it took some real brain power to listen, comprehend, and possibly respond. That being said, I felt my reading skills were off the charts. Things like street signs and menus were child’s play, but in museums, pieces of artwork are accompanied by passages that describe the scene, as well as the history or unique perspective of the artist. I was impressed that I could accurately read most of them.

Listening to peoples’ conversations was hit or miss. Interestingly, children were the easiest; their pronunciation was so specific (and vocabularies limited). Although there were times when I was like, I don’t know what the hell that person just said. There was still validation when one Parisian shopkeeper did respond, “Your French is very good!” after I had explained that we were Americans who were sort lost, but thought her shop looked interesting so we stopped in.

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I learned it can be high pressure (and high exhaustion) to be the translator for a traveling partner who has no experience with the native language. After several days, I was reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s story, Tender is the Night, when he describes a mother and daughter traveling in France: “After lunch they were both overwhelmed by the sudden flatness that comes over American travellers in quiet foreign places.” Truly, I needed a power nap after navigating us through the streets, responding to testy cashiers, and then reading about tellement d’histoire en francais.

Although I’m certainly not a fluently speaker, that was never my goal anyway. I went to France, spoke some French, and learned some more. Oh, and I can definitely understand this:

 

Bringing the Tables of Amsterdam and Paris to the Oregon State Fair

Next month starts the Oregon State Fair, it’s my annual tradition to compete in the “Creative Living” category; this year with vegan bread, and table decorating.

Every year, my friends and I spend hoursssssss at the fair, exploring and doing everything possible. We love the fair! While looking at the multitude of things people entered (from pies to canned meats to calligraphy to pine needle baskets), we always look forward to the table decorating competition. Part of intrigue is that the tables are an interesting departure from the eternal shelves of jams, jellies, and honeys; but the other part is that the judges write up extremely critical narratives that are posted next to each table. It’s like geez – this is the state fair, not the Olympics of table setting – but they are funny to read nonetheless.

Why the hell would I want to submit myself to be torn apart in a category I don’t have any expertise in? First, they cap the entries at 16, which makes it exclusive, and thus appealing to me. Second, you know I like a challenge. I figure why not? Maybe I’ll learn something. I’ve got thick skin, y’all.

Here’s the rubric:

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When I was in Europe, I paid particular attention to the table settings in every restaurant or cafe we ate at, as well as the menus and foods served. Since the menu essentially drives the rest of the table, that is currently my step one.

Here are some of the meals and tables I sat at this month…

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Don’t worry. I still worked out on while we were there 😛