Hiking in Ile-de-France

Last Sunday I went on one of the Canadian Club hikes, a day-long trek from Chars to Meulun (23.6k). Two things should be known: always get to the train station EARLY to have time to buy a ticket at the window in case the automated machine is out of order (or doesn't take your credit card); and never try hiking with the Canadian Club in anything other than real hiking boots (your feet will regret it, otherwise).

Here we are checking out the old church in Chars at the start of the hike.

Brian shows us the route on a topography map. We're heading for the Chaussée Jules César, an old vestige of a Roman road into Paris. He advises the "slow" people in the back to keep a map on them just in case. Then he takes off at lightning speed, leaving us all in the dust.

The hike starts off casually enough under the shade of the forest trees. We even think we have time to stop and smell the roses!

But as the sun gets higher in the sky, we leave our lovely forested trail and follow Brian into a endlessly stretching fields of wheat with no trees in sight. Bordered by stinging nettles (note: long pants not a bad idea on these hikes).

We find a patch of trees with enough shade to eat our lunch. Apparently, this is the Roman bit here.

Here are my sidekicks for the day, Lena & Pedro (wishing they'd left the black fur coats at home).

The post-lunch half of the walk is also tree-free. But notice those clouds are getting poofy (that's a French meteorological term).

Here's one of the cute villages we pass through. The horse is just a lawn ornament for the tourists.

We stop in front of a private château for a group photo. A few minutes later we enter the town of Villette, and Brian thinks it might be fun to hop over an old stone wall to see another château, designated on his map. Luckily for all involved, I actually recognized the name, Château de Villette (aka Teabing's mansion in the Da Vinci Code), and thought it might be more heavily guarded than your average country home. As we rounded the front to peer through the gate, indeed there was some sort of large pair of jaws with four legs frolicking on the grounds with some teenagers. They wouldn't let us in for iced tea (with nor without lemon).

After a day of sweltering heat, it begins to bucket down raining fifteen minutes before we arrive at the train station. We all get soaked. Here Pedro & Lena, completely pooped out, dry themselves in the sun while waiting for the ride home. They wouldn't look at me for two days afterwards. ;)

 PS Thanks Philippe for the extra photos!


Around Bercy

Last week I took a walk around the Parc de Bercy (12th). After opening just over a decade ago, the park and its gardens finally have a "lived in" feel. All of the flowers are in bloom, the trees shrubs have grown big enough to provide plenty of shade, and even the ducks seem to be at home now.

The Rose Garden at Bercy Park.
Being new, and slightly off the beaten track, the park is usually one of the quietest in Paris, the perfect place to hide with your lover in a leafy corner.

A leafy trail.

But the tranquility may be short-lived, since the new Passerelle Simone de Beauvoir is set to open next month, linking the François Mitterrand Library (and MK2 cinema and entertainment complex) directly to the park.

The new bridge and the library towers in the background.

The bridge connects to the park at the top of these stairs (that's a cascading fountain running down the center).

The Bercy vineyard and Maison du Jardinage in the back.
Bercy Park used to be part of the old wine bottling district of Paris. Wine used to arrive in big barrels from all over France via the Seine, then were stored and bottled in the stone warehouses, or chais, at Bercy (which was outside the city limits until the 1860s).  See some old photos here. This industry prospered until the early 2Oth century, when wines started to be bottled "at the château" instead. 
The "Potager", an educational garden for students within the park.
The whole district, completely run down by the 1990s, was completely transformed with a park, sports stadium, entertainment complex, and office buildings (including the enormous FISC tax-collector's HQ). Some of the original chais, cobblestones and buildings were preserved in the park. There are also several plane trees that are over 100 years old.
This historic building is now the Maison du Jardinage, open in the afternoon.
The pond and duck houses. Trees in the back disguise the Bercy Village shopping center.

The park is divided into two sections by a busy street, but two foot bridges make it easy to cross. At the far side of the park is Bercy Village, with cafés, shops and a movie theatre.
One of the resident water fowl near the lily pond.





Looking for something to do this weekend? Check out the calendar!

I just added a ton of new events to the Secrets of Paris Calendar for this weekend, so go have a peek!


Eiffel Tower Memorabilia Auction

Now here's an event that doesn't happen every day: there's going to be an auction of Eiffel Tower memorabilia on the Eiffel Tower Monday night! There are over 500 lots, all featuring the Eiffel Tower, the architect Gustave Eiffel, and the Universal Expo of 1889 in photos, objects, magazines, drawings, etc. dating up to the 1930s.

June 26, 6pm-10pm, First Level of the Eiffel Tower.
The lots will be on display the same day from 9:30am-4pm.
Free entrance to the auction.


"Left Bank Waltz" Book Launch

00book.jpgOn June 14 Elaine Lewis gave a reading and signed her new book, Left Bank Waltz, at the Abbey Bookshop. It's a true story about her struggle to open -- and keep open -- the Australian Book Store on the Quai des Grands Augustins, 6th:





From the publisher:

At a time in her life when friends were retiring and spending time with their grandchildren, a night out in Paris while she visited her musician son inspired Elaine Lewis to dream of a daring venture in this most enchanting of cities. Her vision was more than just fanciful. After doing the necessary research and groundwork, Elaine packed her bags and left Australia to open, on the Left Bank, the first Australian bookshop in central Paris.

But when some bumbling and nasty French bureaucrats threatened to close down the shop, Elaine and her many staunch supporters were faced with a battle against the establishment that quickly became stranger than fiction .

A huge turnout for the reading.




Who are these smiling fools?

What's with all of the big toothy grins? Is this a toothpaste conference or something? Well....yes.

Wine Expert Olivier (testing the Champagne) et moi (drinking it). On the left, some crazy dude who snuck in.

Bernard (Flouride Poster Boy 2006) and his Mise-en-Scène specialist François.

This is part of my glamorous journalism career, attend press events like the Fluocaril 60th anniversary event at Le Paris-Paris club. When I received the invitation I was a bit confused at first, because I don't often write about teeth. But it turns out part of the soirée included a runway show of Gentry de Paris' sexy nightgowns (brushing teeth being an activity one tends to do in their PJs, of course). At least half of the people there turned out to be FOGs (Friends of Lady Gentry, the one dancing in the green dress).

Lady Gentry and her ladies-in-waiting dancing after the show.

Gentry's Legal Eagle (left) and Marc (International Playboy) enjoying the benefits of the FOG lifestyle.

And what do they serve us at a toothpaste press conference while they're showing us slides of rotting teeth? You guessed it: mini chocolate eclaires, chocolate-dipped strawberries, macarons, and Champagne! (would journalists show up for carrots? hell no!) After the short presentation and runway show, we got to stay the rest of the night to dance, drink, and clean off the petit-four trays. 

Good for your teeth.

I should mention, for the heck of it, that Flocaril now makes a special toothpaste to use before bed, "Fluocaril Nuit". It would be worth having a day toothpaste and a night toothpaste (because we all have such huuuuge apartments in Paris) if the night toothpaste would get rid of the "morning after" party breath that no amount of pre-bed brushing seems to eliminate.

And an idea for all of you scientists out there to start working on: why not just find a way to put flouride in Champagne and macarons? Without ruining the taste, of course...