Monday, October 31, 2005

Back in Paris

The more astute among you, Dear Readers, will have noticed that things have been rather quiet around here lately. For that I apologise, and will explain later. Suffice it to say for the time being that spending the last week in London meant that Our Man was not in Paris.
Well, this weekend being my first back, was one of contrasts. Yesterday was rather dull, and consisted of me catching up sleep, doing domestic tasks (such as washing my clothes, my floor and myself, and eating), then spending the rest of the day on Wikipedia wishing that I could summon up the energy, motivation or imagination to go further afield than the local shops.
Today, on the other hand, things were somewhat different. After bemoaning the fact the things I really wanted to do, and had been putting off for some weeks (such as buying a bike and signing up for sports at the Cité Internationale Universitaire de Paris) could not be done on a Sunday (although, ironically, it would have been a lovely day for cycling, had I possessed a bike), I decided that enough was enough. It was a perfectly pleasant day, and I wanted to enjoy the extra hour that I had been given by the clocks going back.
Four years living quite close to Hyde Park in London made me envious of roller-bladers. Of course, one finds problems such as, "I wouldn't know how to do it", "I wouldn't know who to do it with", and, "I don't have the right equipment", all of which are fairly facile, and I could have solved had I put my mind to it. Today, I bit the bull by the horns [mixed metaphor, shurely?], and resolved to take to the streets of Paris on roller-blades.
A quick search on the internet revealed that there was a blade-hire shop close to the Place de la Bastille (above), which was a part of town I hadn't yet explored. Having been assured by the guy in the shop that, since I'd done ice-skating before, I would have no trouble as it was "très pareil", I completed the necessary bureacracy and left, with blades on and hand and knee protection to the ready, full of confidence. It was entirely misplaced.
What he had neglected to tell me was that there were two principal differences from ice skating. Firstly, ice tends to be flat, both in that the surface is smooth (quite unlike Parisian pavements), and there are no hills; I have never in my life been so aware of even quite slight gradients in the pavement. Secondly, there are no cars, and all the other people in an ice rink all know the risks involved before taking part. The Parisian passers-by had made no such commitment to endanger their lives. I'm not sure whether the greater part of the experience was taken up fearing my own life or those of others, but the net result was the same: I was terrified!
The other crucial detail I had forgotten was that during my days on the ice rink I had never mastered stopping. That's not to say I wasn't able to stop, but colliding into the barriers is not particularly elegant, and when roller-blading, is simply not an option. The next best substitute was trees and lamposts. "Thank God for the hand protection", was my only consolation, despite which, I still managed to inflict a stigmata-like cut on my left hand. I'm frankly amazed that I didn't do myself more damage.
The day wasn't a complete failure: I built up strength in my triceps, a muscle which is particularly useful for decreasing momentum with the aid of a lampost; I caught the bug of roller-blading, and despite being somewhat lacking in ability, I have resolved to take lessons and improve; and I also saw some nice parts of Paris on a pleasant Sunday afternoon.
I finished the day by wondering around the Bastille area, which, amazingly (for Paris) has shops open on a Sunday, and straying for the first time into the Marais, the gay district of Paris. Frankly, a little disappointing, compared to Soho.


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