Paris green and sporty

Notre-Dam cathedral

Our intention is to participate 30km Nordic Walking in Ecotrail event ( in Paris. The event includes several running and Nordic Walking disciplines (80km running race inclusive). The event has about 8000 participants, 800 from them international.

And yes – we would like to stroll and watch the Paris as well.

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Day 1. Trocadero, Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides

On March 23 2012 we fly Ryanair to Bruxselles (Charleroi airport). After the night in a hotel we drive taxi to Bruxselles rail station. This doesn’t cost much more than to take taxy back to airport and then go to Bruxelles by bus. Further on we take train to Paris (Gare Nord – the drive lasts less than an hour and a half). Our Hotel de l’Avre (we get here on a metro) is about half hour walk from the Eiffel tower.

Leaving our luggage in the hotel we go out for some stroll. Boullevard de Grenelle to Seine then crossing the Seine to Jardins du Trocadero. The weather is warm and sunny. The platforms of Eiffel is full of people. Id does not look like a workingday at the end of March – if everybody is out there, who is supposed to be busy at office? 🙂

There is a wonderfull view accross the Seine and Eiffel tower. Does not matter that the sun shines from the wrong direction – we probably should come again at night.

We leave the Jardins du Trocadero for the square of Charles de Gaulles to view the Arc de Triomphe. You can get to the Arc only by the pedestrian subway (unless you don’t mind to be struck by any of the multiple cars circulating around). The way up to the top by the spiral staircase takes some time. But the views from there are worth it. Twelve avenues radiating from the Arc to all directions (at first the square was named Place de l’Etoile or star square), the Eiffel tower, Monmartre with a (Sacre-Coeur) chapel on top, La Defense district, castles, parks. A large aerostat pending above the park Andre Citroen.

When descending we walk around the Arc to view it from all the sides, then move on by Champs Elysees. Shouldering in between the other walkers we cover about the half lentgh of the Champs Elysees to the Chateau Grand (the grand palace). Then turn off to the right to the Seine and accross the gold-radiant bridge of Alexander III follow to Les Invalides and to our hotel.

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Day 2. Saint-Cloud

The start of the race should be located near the museum of Sevres – not far from the Pont de Sevres and the Seine river. We get there by subway to the subway station Pont de Sevres. We are greeted by the sunshine and blossoming forsythias, magnolias and other miracles. The Seine at our feets and a green hill accros it – the park of Saint-Cloud.

After a short walk by the Seine we find the building where the Ecotrails headquarter. They are busy with the participants or the 18km run for couples. The runners are all around busy running the walkways of the park. A number of bycicle drivers fill the gaps between the runners. Nearby is a row of large buildings where the yahts are being dragged out and delivered to Seine. Everybody is busy – we feel like an idle fellows slowly walking up the walkway to the terrace. They say there is a wonderful view across the Seine to the Paris. It is indeed. We sit down there on a bench and stare at the items already familiar – Eiffel, Montparnasse tower, La Defense.

We walk further the walkways of park of Saint-Cloud uphill to the next terrace – the view from there is not bad as well.
We watch the runners on the way – both the competitors with a violet bibs and the ordinary weekend runners. They are men and women of all ages and physical conditions. Obviously they are trying hard but it is obvious that they like it.

Back we return to the subway and drive to the Trocadero to watch how the runners are finishing the distance next to Eiffel tower. The lady stands at the finish line and points a reader gadget to the bib of each runner to fix the time. The runners get the Ecotrail’s t-shirt and proceed to a huge tent to (ēst). It’s very hot inside. We watch a while and then walk to our hotel to get ready for the tomorrow.

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Day 3. Nordic Walking in Paris

Somebody has been smart enough to select for the event the day next to the short night 🙂 Neither of us has a watch and we had to guess what time to set alarm at in our mobiles (do they now we are switching to somer time or not?).

Waking up at 4.30am. A porridge in the hotel room, geting ready and moving out. When we come out of the subway at the Pont de Sevres station it is dark night. Comes to mind that the (lantern) whould be of use. It’s not particularly warm either, a cold wind is blowing from the Seine.

We find the events headquarter but does not see there any Nordic walker. After a short examination of the roundabouts we luckily find Michelle – one of the events organizers. Thank God 🙂

A cosy little tent is being erected on a nearby lawn and the participants can get their bibs. While everybody is busy with the bibs and warming up, the night has been gone. Three (instructors) are being introduced – they will help us to stay on the track. Soon we start to walk. We follow the first of the three guides – the (sirms) gentleman who moves without any visible (piepūle) but rather fast. The track starts to go uphill, then downhill, then uphill again and this repeats all the way to the finish. Our (sirms) guide doesn’t slow down on the uphills, but the downhills (tipina maziem soliem un arī ļoti ātrā tempā). After the first kilometer he stops suddenly – one has to get rid of the redundand clothes. Then he says something in French and jumps ahead to move further. We have several other stops to rest and to wait for those left behind.

The first half of the route is a forest path (we did not expect to walk for several hours in Paris and to see nothing but forest – wow). Only the last section of the track is streets – no other option to get to the Eiffel tower. Shortly before the finish line we cross the Pont de Grenelle bridge and walk the Allee de cygnes (swans allee) on a long and narrow island. Then comes the finish line as well – which has no line in fact. Walkers just join the queue at the entrance in a huge tent. Here we get the t-shirts and the lunch (that features vine, cofee and a piece of cake in particular). It is 2pm – a warm and sunny day.

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Day 4. Chateau de Vincennes, Tour Montparnasse

The castle Chateau de Vincennes and the forest Bois de Vincennes is located at the East of Paris. We are taken there by the subway line one. It has a glass walls with glass dors in all stops. The doors open automatically intact with the trains doors. We drive to the last stop which is straight at the north tower of the castle the Tour de Village. We are at the palace entrance short before the opening time 10am and are the only visitors (except for the dynamic group of French ground school pupil). The teritory of hte palace is huge with a number of buildings built at different centuries (starting from the 14th). The most impressive is the stronghold (Donjon) at the West side – the only one Kings residence that has survived from the Middle Ages. We stroll the rooms (kings bedroom, wardrobe, chapel etc.) in the several storey building and ascend to the terrace of the smaller tower. Unfortunately visitors on the large tower are allowed only a few times per month only in groups and only if booked. What a stunning views we should be missing 🙁

Saint Chapel built buy King Charles V and Tour de Village are very impressive as well.

After having spent a couple of hours inside the castles courtyard we walk on to the nearby Botanic garden Parc Floral (Park of flowers) to spend a next couple of hours in company of beauty of the flora. Next we proceed to the one of the lakes of Bois de Vincennes – lac Daumesnil. One and only bridge gets the visitors to the two islands of the lake. The bridge happens to be at the farest end of the lake (counted from the stops of public transport). If somebody has strolled to the other end and has no energy left, he/she has an option – to get accross the lake by boat. You guessed right – this is not a free service ;-).
We stroll both islands – the Parisians relax laying on a lawn near the water (in a company of gooses) or strolling the walkways. Other ones relax in a more active manner – running. Close to the bridge that connects the two islands a swan has arranged a nest. The nest is insulated by a red tape – to make everybody safe and happy. Nearby the couple of peacocks relax on a branch of pine. Magnolias, camellias and other kinds of miracles all around in blossom. Wonderful.

In a corner of a zoo near the lake there is Grand Rocher (the grand rock) – a 65m high artificial rock inhabited by wild goats.

A little bit tired (but not surrendering the temptation to use a boat) we walk to the subway and drive to Tour Montparnasse. Here we get immersed in a different world – noisy croud of tourists rushing for “I have been there”. Nevertheless when the superfast elevator takes us to the roof of the 200m high tower the rush retreats into backround. The weather and the views are perfect. We watch the Panorama of the Paris searching for the familiar places and trying to understand where the route of the yesterdays competition goes. We find Chateau de Vincennes, Grand Rocher. They seem to be so close (closer as one can think after getting there on subway) and the Grand Rosher is impressive indeed.

After having enough of sight-seeing we walk to our hotel (that should be nearby). Down on the ground this “nearby” turns out to be 4km walk. We drop in a restorant Les Comediants in the boullevard Montparnasse for a lunch where we are the only one customers.

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Day 5. Ile de la Cité, Le Marais

Around 200B.C. the Ile de la Cité was discovered by the sailors of parisi tribe who settled down here. More than five centuries this place was called Lutetia and only in about a year 360A.D. it was renamed by the name of local tribe to Paris. Ile de Cité is a very center of the Paris. The worlds perhaps the most famous Notre-Dame cathedral is located here (the distance to the other cities of the France is oy make a measurements exactly from Notre-Dame).

We plan to explore this and the other island – Ile de Saint Louis. To do this we take subway to the Pont Neuf (the new bridge – despite of the name this is the oldest bridge in Paris) and crossing it we get to the Ile de la Cité. The history is all around there. Close to the place where we start our visit is a square of Dophin. The French king Philip IV ordered to slowly burn upon the scaffold here the last Grand Master of the Knights Templar Jacques de Molley. The French king watched the execution by the window of his palace. By the way, Philip IV was deeply in debt to the templars. It happens – as Kurt Vonnegut would say.

Nearby is the famous Concergerie – former royal palace and prison. Here the execution on guillotine was awaited both by french aristocrats and later by the leaders of French revolution Danton, Robespierre etc.

Notre-Dame is situated on the other end of the island. The square in front of the cathedral is full of tourists (let’s remember that it is a workingday and not a high season). After a couple of minutes in queue we get into the cathedral which impresses deeply with it’s hugeness and mightiness. The thoughts about the smallnes of the human come into mind easily.

After coming out of the cathedral we stroll around it and then proceed to the Ile de Saint Louis which is smaller and and less known to tourist but still worth the attention. After having explore it we walk accross Pont Louis Philippe to Le Marais. Here Place des Vosges (the oldest square of Paris) is located. We explore the square and the chapel St-Paul-St-Louis.

We return to Notre-Dam and stand in a long queue to get on top of the cathedral. A narrow spiral staircase takes us half the way up then another one – to the top of the North tower. It’s still sunny and we can see Sacre-coeur, Eiffel tower, Odeon, Arc de Triomphe, Les Invalides etc from still another viewpoint.

When getting down we take another walk to look and then drive to the hotel.

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Day 6. Place de la Concorde, Quartier Latin

We start with the chapel Le Madeleine which does not look like chapel from the outside at all. The the first cornerstone was laid in year 1763, but the building was not completed when in 1769 the French revolution began. During the times of the revolution the chapel was partially destroied. Later in 1806 Napoleon decided to erect the memorial to the glory of his Grande Armee. After the fall of Napoleon King Louis XVIII decided to use the structure built by Napoleon as a church dedicated to Mary Magdalene. That’s why the church has huge standing columns and looks like antique temple. The columns are inside the church as well. The sunlight comes in only through the three round windows in the ceiling – no other windows here. The walls are dark but colored richlyl in gold which brings a warm look to the room.

We procees to the nearby Place de la Concorde, then through the Jardin Tuileries and Louvre we get to the other side of the Seine to Quartier Latin. There is Sorbonne university, Panteon and several beautiful churches as well as narrow streets with cafes and souvenir shops.

After a short recreation in the hotel we walk to in the direction of Eiffel tower across the Seine to Jardins du Trocadero. While waiting to darken we enjoy the fountains. There are a number of them. The central group of fountains reminds a batteries of russian rocket launching platforms. When they are switched in the gush goes as far as a hundred meters perhaps.

While we watch the fountains the Eiffel tower gets iluminated. Then it starts to scintilate. Looks like a hundreds of flashlights glimmer by the all height and width of the tower.

Next we walk to Arc de Triomphe. Nobody is allowed to the top unfortunately. Still the view is good enough from the bottom as well. Both to the direction of Place de la Concorde and to the Defense and the large arc here.

We use the subway line six to get to the hotel. The train comes on the surface before the Seine and proceeds by the pier over the boullevard le Grenelle. While on the pier we can enjoy the iluminated Tour Eiffel one more time.

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Day 7. Pere Lachaise cemetery

Our plan for today is to explore a couple of interesting places near the Pere Lachaise cemetery and then the cemetery itself. We take a subway to the Porte de Bagnolet to take a look on a pair of old streets with two storey buildings. We found them on a little hillock. Perhaps long ago there was a village that has been engulfed by the Paris.

Having enough of the “village” we walk to the direction of Pere Lachaise. We enter the cemetery through the Porte de la Reunion from the South-East. The gate takes us through the high wall with a metalic rods on top. Through the gate we get into town for the departed with the paved roads that even has names. The cemetery has sections and every section has tombs close one to another. There are all sorts of them – to begin with a huge dead-houses with doors and windows to the modest stone plate.

Using the map we search for the tomb of Edith Piaf. We circle around it while find it at last near the cemetery road. The tomb is of the modest type – she does not need a pompous tomb to be remembered by the people (another 5-6 visitors are there the same time as we). We visit the tombs of some more celebrities – Marechal Ney, Oscar Wilde, Honore de Balsac and Jim Morrison (the last one is the most visited in the cemetery).

With this touch of eternity we put the end to our Paris trip. On the way to the hotel we drop in to see the Place de la Bastille and the nearby Quai de la Rapee (it looks nice surrounded by the trees in blossoms ) as well as the Jardin des Plantes (botanic garden) just accros the Seine. On a way from the hotel to Gare Nord we experience a traffic jam – we manage to squeze in only on a third train in a row. Further on we take train to Bruxelles, then another one to Charleroi and a taxi to the airport where we arrive at midnight. Our flight to Riga is at 6am.

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