Sunday, November 30, 2008

Nov. 29: Bievenue a Paris Papa!

Today was my dad's first full day in Paris so we decided to show him all the main highlights, L'arc de Triomphe, Champs Alysee, Louvre (including Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and my favorite painting - The Raft of Medussa), Eiffle Tower, then dinner at Montmartre. The best way to see all of this is by, of course, bike!
Dad, Jennie, and my sister getting ready to cruise!

My sister, dad, and Jennie approaching the L'arc de Triomphe. Dad wants you to take note of his Lance Armstrong form (He says that you will just have to trust him that his yellow jersey is under his warmup jacket!)
Dad and I at the L'arc de Triomphe.
Me infront of "The Raft of Medussa" at the Louvre. This is one of my top 2 paintings in the Louvre. That speck in the bottom right corner is me (for scale!). I do not have time as to why I love this picture...we will have to save that for another post.
My sister, Jennie, and I crossing the Pont de La Carrousel...the top of the Eiffel Tower is in the background.

The Eiffel Tower - lit blue to represent the blue of the EU flag (12 gold stars are on the other side, which makes the Tower look like the EU flag)

The Eiffel Tower sparkles for 5 minutes at the top of each hour.
Jennie and I in Montmartre - The Sacre Coeur is in the background.
Dad infront of the Moulin Rouge...he was a little disapointed that the dancers were not performing outside today!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Nov.28: BLACK Friday


For those of you, you, you, ou, u
Who, who, who, ho, o
Are going, going, going, oing, ing, ng
Shopping, shopping, hopping, opping, ing, ing

Good Luck, luck, luck, luck....!!!!

(The above is meant to be read as though you have that cool echo effect going on in your head...and if possible, try to put a little growl to your voice (kind of like a DJ who was out smoking all night) for the true effect I am trying to go for here. It is meant to convey the level of intensity that you will need shopping today!)

On other news, my dad is arriving in Paris today for the first time ever! I am really excited to see him and show him around a little! He is bringing my road bike, which I am VERY excited about! I already have a few weekend trips planned around France to tour by bike (Did anyone say the Loire Valley?)!

Ok, I have procrastinated not going to work long enough. You guys keep it real today and remember that, perhaps, that $3 DVD player may not be worth an assault charge why you are fighting the masses at Walmart...


Sunday, November 23, 2008

Nov. 23: Not Running

This morning I had every intention of getting up early and heading out for another glorious morning run just like I had experienced yesterday. It was critical that I get my run done first thing since I will be travelling to the south of France later today for work (tough work - but someone has to do it!). Yet, here I am sitting in my apartment all alone while Jennie is out bagging another run. What gives?!

It seems that lately Jennie has been slacking on her Friday and Saturday night wine intake. This means that I have to pick up the slack to finish off whatever wine bottle(s) may have been opened. It would be offensive to the French if I left some of their finest wine! Yep - I hope she is enjoying her run as much as I enjoyed the wine!!


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Nov. 22: A beautiful day

Today I woke up and did something that I do not normally do - I ran first thing! What an awesome way to start the weekend! It was crispy and the sun was just high enough to cast long shadows across the pathways that seemed to dance to the same rythym of my pace today. I ran 7.5 miles as follows:

7:31, 7:29, 7:28, 7:29, 7:28, 7:30, 7:25, 7:30 (last 0.5) min/mile

I just love these runs where you just lock into a pace, get lost in your thoughts, and before you know it you are back at your door.

Now we are just getting ready to go storm Paris by bike!

ps - The last 2 days I spent in cultural training and they showed us this video to highlight the differences (and importance) of language...I thought it was hilarious!


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Nov. 20: TMI?

So, after over 30 years of negligance I finally broke down this week and did some "hair maintenance" on my chest. When I was living in the colder northern climates I found that it was quite advantageous to be born with a natural fact a hairy chest such as mine was viewed as a favorable genetic mutation...kinda of like an 'X-Man' quality. I was even referred to by some common X-Men names such as 'Wolverine', 'Sabretooth', and 'Beast'. You can also thank genetically advanced people such as myself for the whole Bigfoot myth - look at all the entertainment my people have provided!

Then I moved to Houston where my natural sweater was no longer an advantage...especially during the hot 'n humid summer months. But this is when I started running and the resistance training proved to be invaluable! Infact, during hurricane season I could just stand outside with no shirt on and let my chest hair catch all the flying debris to keep my neighborhood safe.

Plus the Yeti was something new to the local Texan folk since it is normally found high in the Himalayas feeding on inexperienced ice-climbers and yoodlers. I proved to be an attraction...kinda of like the type you see at the circus (but not the good circus, the kinda seedy - don't bring your kids to the performance - type circus!)

Lately there have been no curious crowds willing to pay 50 cents to see me, the bearded lady, and sword-swallowing midget so I found that I was the one becoming curious...I was curious as to what my belly button actually looked like? I knew that it still excisted deep below the carpeted hair forest because I could still feel its general shape below the turf! To cut a long story short, I can now see my belly button!

Yeah...definitely TMI...and definitely another good day in Paris!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Nov. 18: Oh yeah...this is a running blog

Although it is only Tuesday, this is a great week! For starters, when I rolled out of bed on Monday morning and looked out my window I was greeted with this sunrise over the Sacre Coeur:

And on Thursday and Friday I am off work to attend Cultural Training! Ok, to be honest I am not sure what I would rather or attend the training. But I am pretty sure that I will have a steady supply of croissants and pain au chocolats to keep me entertained...we shall see!

And to make this week even better, I have actually been running again lately (hence the title of this blog)! I ran 6 miles on Sunday night with Jennie at ~ 9 minute/mile pace.

Yesterday I was leaving work to catch the metro only to discover that the metro was on strike and that all of Paris seemed to be jammed into the metro station trying to catch the 1 train that was running every 20 minutes. "No problem," I thought - like any well planned runner I have a pair of running shoes, shorts, shirt, and clean socks in my office, "I can just run home." And run home I did and it was a BLAST!! It has been a while since I have done serious urban adventure running - I usually avoid it due to the threat of injury or the fact that my legs are just too brittle from extensive training to do some of the maneuvering required to jump obstacles, side step people, and hang fakies when blasting over 5-6 stairs at a time! But yesterday I was just a running I just need to perfect the army roll while running mid-stride - that would look so cool to do randomly infront of a group of people and just keep running without breaking stride afterwards!!

Today I ran 6 miles in what I believe the Kenyan Way people would call a "progressive run." I had no intention of doing this but once my feet hit the pavement I just let them make the decisions for me. This was not an easy run, nor was it an overly hard run, but it was a GREAT run! It went as follows:
7:30, 7:13, 7:04, 6:39, 5:52, 5:43 min/mile

I have had to restructure my running route to follow alongside lit roads now since it is dusky by 4:45pm and dark by 5:00pm. Since I do not start running until 7:30-8:00pm, I run in search of light! My usual running routes are a little too dark and I believe are used for extracurricular tranny activities during this time of year (2 sightings tonight). My new 6 mile running route is below - it just pains me to see all those beautiful pathways inbetween that I will not be able to run along until next spring sometime!

Speaking of running in darker conditions though - does anyone notice how super dilated their eyes get when coming in from a, generally, dark run. It is obvious why...but after my run today my pupils were huge - I scared myself when I looked into the mirror!

Tomorrow is pilates...going to get my stretch on...sucre!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

You think you are having a bad day?

This guy just accidentally sat on the sharp end of a tree stump...naked! OUCH!

Nov. 15: Parc Montsouris

Another fun-filled day was spent cruising the streets of Paris by bike on the Velib! Today we rode south to Parc Montsouris. It was originally called Moquesouris (mouse mockery) not without cause as the abandoned windmills of the barren plain were devoid of grain - even for the mice. It was a Parc designed by Napoléon III and Baron Haussmann to give Paris large green areas at its four cardinal points (this one being the southern point).

Nov. 16: The Louvre

Today we spent a few hours in the Louvre. I have a free pass to go anytime I want so we generally just pop in for an hour or 2 at a time because, who am I kidding, I can only process so much in a museum during a given time. Perhaps it says something about me that my attention span for a museum is less than that for a crappy teeny-bobber movie? At any rate, we decided to visit the German, Flemish and Dutch Paintings. Here are some of my highlights:

The Beggars (Pieter Brugel the Elder)
This is a very small picture. I found it quite amusing. Apparently it could be a social satire where the beggars represent different classes of society that are on their way to destruction. The classes are indicated by their headgear: a cardboard crown for the king, a paper coiffe for the army, a beret for the bourgeoisie, a cap for the peasantry, and a bishop's mitre for the church.

The Village Fete (Peter Paul RUBENS)
This picture depicts what I want to do every, drink, dance and be merry with the ones that you love! Apparently, the landscape was painted ~15 years prior to the rest of the painting. The feast is most likely representing the end of the harvest (as noticed by the sheaves of wheat in the foreground). My favorite thing about this painting is the pig's snout poking out of the sty in the bottom right - this is a symbol of gluttony, which is meant to empahisize the picture's moralist intentions.

The Baptism of Christ (Cornelis van Haarlem)
I just found that the actual part of the picture showing the baptism gave me a very eerie feeling - it just seems so dark and cold. If you look above the baptism you will see a dove flying towards you - I suspect that this is representative of the Holy Ghost.

The Slaughtered Ox (Rembrandt Harmenzoon van Rijn)
There are a lot of things one can interpret from this painting ranging from how a once powerful beast has been brought to death not by his own wishes but by those of others. Now he hangs in the same form as Christ during the crusifiction and like Christ, eating his flesh will provide nourishment and salvation to those that eat it. The woman in the background has a slightly bowed head, almost giving respect and honor. Or it is just a dead choose!

The Lacemaker (Johannes Vermeer)
This was my whole motivation to going to the Louvre today...I really wanted to see this painting. The book to her right is likely the bible and highlights Vermeer's fascination of combining everyday objects around him into his paintings. I found this picture very peaceful - by being drawn into and focused into the task in which she is very clearly concentrating on gave me the same comfoting feeling I have when working on similar tasks (i.e. making a model as a kid). The picture is done to center our attention on her painstaking work as it is focused and shown in great detail. You notice that other elements of the painting, such as the white and red string coming out of her sewing cushion on the left, are drawn in almost abstract dribbles of paint.
I hope you enjoyed some of these as much as I did!

I totally want to go to Canada now....

Lately in the Paris Metro stations I have noticed an abundance of advertisements for Canada. It is not uncommon to see country advertisements in the Metro and to be honest, I often find myself going, "Wow, I would love to go there someday!" However, I have to say that I am a little disappointed in the effort Canada made to promote herself. Of all the treasures that we have to boast my country could only manage to come up with the 4 posters below (I apologize for the glare of the lights). I have included rough translations for those who do not know french...

"Come to Canada so you can stay in a TeePee with no heat in the middle of winter when it is -30 degrees outside...WooHoo!"

"Come to Canada where it is so cold that even our bikini model could not pose in her full bikini. Come huddle on our rocky beaches."

"Canadians are so tough that we hike to mountain vistas barefoot."

"Spend 2000 Euros flying to Canada just so you can have a dinner exactly like you have here in Paris."

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Nov. 9: Cruisin' Paris

Over the last month or so Jennie and I have been slowly buillding our confidence for cruising around Paris by bike. Believe it or not, Paris is an excellent city to cycle in. When we moved I did not even bother packing our bikes because after visiting Paris before our move and seeing the traffic I figured, "No way in hell I will ride in that city!" Here it is ~ 8 months later and I have done a complete 180 - Paris is awesome to tour by bike. So, every weekend now we jump on our bikes and cruise.

The astute reader must be asking themselves, "But I thought that you did not pack your bikes?" True, but Paris has an excellent public bike system called the Velib'. I generally use it everyday to partially commute to work, but it is best enjoyed just cruisin' around Paris on a crisp autumn day!

When we cruise there usually is no real destination, but general areas of interest. Today we started by heading over towards the Place de Bastille (shown below), grabbed a coffee, and sauntered towards the Cemeterie Pere Lachaise.

A coworker of mine told me that the Pere Lachaise cemetery was her favorite place in Paris. After visiting, I can fully understand why. I have pictures below all taken from my camera phone. They do not even come close to displaying the beauty and tranquility of the cemetery.

For Jim Morrison fans out there - his grave is below. (I personally thought that this was one of the least impressive looks so unkept and, basically, like a glorified garbage can).
Below is Oscar Wilde's grave. After learning more about him on my recent trip to Dublin, I was curious to see his grave. It was not what I expected. I thought it was quite interesting that his admirer's kiss his grave with bright red lipstick (look closely and you will see plenty of kiss marks).

And alien tears will fill for him
Pity's long-broken urn,
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.
Below is the crematorium. The two smoke stacks (only 1 visible below) sent chills up my spine.
The rest of the photos are a feeble attempt to capture the tranquility of the cemetery.

After the cemetery we rode down past Notre Dame. Here is Jennie on the Velib'. Sure the bike looks dorky, but it sure makes for a great day in the city!

Then we cruised by the Eiffle Tower. This picture was actually taken last weekend on our weekend Paris cruise.

After about 5 hours of our urban biathlon of riding and walking I squeezed in a 6.5 mile run at an average pace of 7:24 min/mile. I saw 6 trannies (sorry, no photos) and am now chillin' and looking forward to the next weekend all ready!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Nov. 8: Running again

Today I ran for about 7.5 miles at a pace that only Garmin knows since it decided to go into stealth mode at the beginning of the run while giving me some double-talkin' back talk about a low battery. Whatever, my garmin is dead to me now...well, at least until the battery gets recharged, then I am sure that we will kiss and makeup.

I have said it before and I will say it again. Autumn is phenomenal! And this autumn has been amazing. Today my run was nothing short of spectacular. Amazingly there are still many leaves on the trees, there is a crisp chill to the air, and there is that mysterious autumn afternoon light which sends chills up my spine when running through a wooded area like today.

Each time I go out I wish I had my camera with me to capture just how gorgeous it has been the last 2-3 weeks. But then I remember that 3 weeks ago the concrete next to the Eiffel Tower jumped up and bitch-slapped my camera into a painful and sudden death. Oddly, I was not the klutz holding the camera at the time....!!! At any rate, I think I know what my Christmas present will be!

While running today I was running across a pedestrian crossing where a fully geared cyclist (think Terminator II) was waiting for the light. He had the full body lycra, gloves, time-trial helmet (ok, not really...but it makes for a better visual effect), super-sweet bike, and well you get the idea. In Paris you know that the cyclist is either a tourist or VERY serious if they are wearing a helmet...this guy did not look like a tourist. What I find amusing though is that as we both see each other we both instantly give each other "the head nod". You know the, "hey man, I see what you are doing...and although we are different breeds, I respect what is going on over there."

I always laugh at these situations because it only seems to happen when I know that I am looking super-serious and when I see someone else who is looking super serious. I saw many other cyclists out today, but none of them in full body lycra, and none of them gave me "the nod". Oh oh...after re-reading this last paragraph an entirely new thought has crossed my mind...I am running in a park where I see a ton of trannies and only the dudes in full body lycra are acknowledging me...oh dear, I got to go and map out some new running routes...


ps- I have not run much this week...but all my bits are starting to feel normal again...this has been a good break that will soon end...