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Ourcq Canal

Not too long ago, I was enjoying an afterwork picnic on the banks of the Ourcq canal with some friends. As I gazed at the moss green water, I contemplated what it must have served as back in the day…perhaps a way to transport goods into the city? Where does it start?

That’s when I decided it might be worth exploring…exploring by bike. The following weekend, along with a friend, I rented a bike for a day at 20 euros (see here) and set out to ride up the Ourcq canal for as far as I could go.

The Poudrerie Forest

With no cars and a paved bike path the whole way, I rode approximately twenty kilometers to discover, to my suprise, grassy lawns, flowers, fishermen, kayakers, and a peaceful forest (Le Parc National Forestier de la Poudrerie).

Not only was I getting some serious exercise, but I really felt like I was outside of Paris on an adventure. Once we got out of a slightly industrial zone just north of the Parc de la Villette, it was just a long tree-lined rode along the glistening Ourcq canal. When we came across the Poudrerie forest, we pedaled on some trails through the forest and found ourselves the perfect picnic spot facing a large pond with a small island in it. Very picturesque!

Fishermen along the canal

While the Ourcq canal continued on without us, its source still a mystery, we vowed that the next bike ride would start off from where we started. We’ll get to the end someday!

All in all, if you want an outdoor, sporty day trip outside Paris for cheap, cycling up the Ourcq would definitely be up your alley. Just make sure you bring a picnic and som sunscreen, as there is hardly anything along the canal, and you are exposed to the elements. However, if you make it to the Poudrerie forest, there are some small snack shops, and one in particular that is inside a building that ressembles small castle.

Here is site (in French) with a good map and some background information: http://www.aufildelourcq.org/loisirs/promvelo.php

Happy cycling this summer!!

And I am not talking about you know what. I am talking about Bikram. Again, not something in the Kama Sutra book, but more like yoga in a 45 degree celsius studio.

Now if you are from the States, this is nothing very novel, but here in Paris, it’s become a rather trendy way to exercise. After hearing so many friends try it, this past week I decided to try it for myself. Here is a sampling of my experiences on the first day…

Hmmm, how to describe this…initial impressions going into the room…well, it’s a bit warm, but tolerable, and then all the sudden WHAM. A wave of odor something like a mix of stinky feet, sweat, and mold greeted my nostrils.

After taking some moments to adjust to the smell, I set down my mat and waited in the dark. By 6pm there were still people arriving and I was wondering how they were all going to fit. At 6:05 pm, our instructor arrived, and we began. She installed herself on a little podium at the front, and  began rapidly dictating the exercises without actually doing them herself. In general I thought she was rather good, but I have to admit it was a bit of let down not to able to see her perfect the poses as we went, and instead having to look at the large wobbly guy in front of me as an example.

The routine was a mix of poses that I didn’t find particularly challenging, however with the repetition of them and the added element of heat, I definitely felt my body working. After five minutes of breathing exercises, I was already sweating up a storm. Eeeewww. After 90 minutes, well let’s just say you couldn’t tell the difference between those who had just showered and those coming out of the room.

 

First day conclusion: It was a deep burn.

 

So after 5 days of this, here are the pros of sweating your tushe off for 90 minutes straight:

1. The post exercise high is great and you are warm to the core. If you live in a cold place, you are immune to the cold until the next day around noon.

2. You work every part of the body without imposing any sort of of impact. Limbs and back feel strengthened, and posture is improved.

3. Glowing skin! The heat and movement induces increased blood circulation which in addition to the outrageous sweating make for really soft skin.

4. Relaxation. you are reeeeeeeeeelllllllllllaxeddddd. and sleep like a baby.

5. You get an energy boost, who doesn’t like that?

*Perk: Classes can also be taken in English!!!

 

And now the cons:

1. $$$ – Bikram Yoga, as most yoga in Paris, is on the pricey side. As there is only one Bikram studio with two locations, there is even a monopoly going on here…

However, if you just want to try it out, they have a great deal available for first timers. For 30 euros you can go an unlimited amount of times over the course of ten days and don’t even have to pay to borrow a mat. Otherwise, it’s 55 euros for a  7 day unlimited pass, and 140 euros for a monthly unlimited pass.

2. Showers and dressing room at the Grands Boulevard location are cramped! You can risk waiting a bit to shower, and don’t expect any privacy!

3. Classes are not capped at a certain number, so some days can be really packed, taking away from the relaxing element as you sweat and get sweat on by your neighbors.

4. The stench. While you do get used to it, it still can be a put off to very sensitive people.

5. Lack of variety  in the poses. Everytime I went we did exactly the same poses every time. While I was far from perfecting them, I was starting to get bored. PLUS, the poses do not really work the mid-section or the butt.

 

Last quick tips: Bring 2 towels – one for your mat, one for the shower. Bring loose clothing to put on afterwards, if not forsee taking 15 minutes to get your jeans back on.  Yoga outfit = the skimpier the better. Men typically don on speedos, women are mostly in sports bras and shorts. Finally, bring new clean undies, because eveything gets soaked in there. I mean everything.

 

 

 

Yoga Bikram Marais

13, rue Simon Le Franc – 75004 Paris
Tél. : 01 42 47 18 52 – Fax. : 01 40 27 03 19

Yoga Bikram Grands Boulevards

17, rue du Faubourg Montmartre – 75009 Paris
Tél. : 01 42 47 18 52 – Fax. : 01 40 27 03 19

Website: http://www.bikramyogaparis.com/index.html

Souliko, one of my favorite mares

So I realized that I have abandoned my passion for blogging these past couple of months, and I am sincerely sorry for it. Somehow, it was just too easy to let myself succomb to the excuses such as a lack of time, stress at work, or “general fatigue” (isn’t that what they call it these days?). It all just kind of sucked out any motivation I could gather to get back on the horse.

That was until, I decided to get back on the horse literally. After doing some research on stables in the Parisian area, I recently signed up for half a year of horse-riding lessons at La Villette and was so excited that I needed to blog about it.

View inside the barn

Nestled at the edge of Parc de la Villette lies Equivil, a riding center with over 50 horses and the only stable within Paris’s périférique. The center, while being on the smaller side, still has a large indoor and outdoor arena and offers a wide selection of lessons  from beginner to advanced. A good portion of the lessons start at 6pm or after making it feasible to ride after work as I do on Monday nights.

Depending on your level, lessons include dressage work and jumping which alternate each week, and with not so many people per lesson, you really get personal feedback. The instructors are a dedicated group which reflects in the quality of the lessons and the cleanliness of the stables. Lessons unfortunately are not offered in English, so I had to not only brush up on the my English horse terms, but also then had to find out what they all were in French!

The indoor arena

While I stopped horseback riding over 10 years ago, due to a lack of time and resources (hmm sound familiar to above excuses?), and I always regretted it. To me, horses are beautiful creatures that have a great calming effect. Sensitive and complex animals, they require a great amount respect and care, and one must constantly strive to understand them in order to take real pleasure in the sport. Having practically zero interaction with animals since I moved to Paris, picking up riding again was a great way to relax after a long day’s work and feel a connection to nature in a town full of cars, scooters, buses and more.

Now that makes horse sense!

Tack

The Quick Facts:

They offer lessons on a season basis, the breakdown being as follows:

Autumn/Winter : 21 classes for 431 euros

Winter/Spring: 15 classes for 308 euros

Both seasons combined: 36 classes for 670 euros.

– Call or check their website for the lesson schedule

Address:

9, Boulevard Macdonald

75019, Paris

Tel: 01 40 34 33 33

Site: equivil.fr

Plage de Santa Giulia

After having spent a little over a year so far in France, one of the most culturally widespread obsessions I have observed so far has to be “les vacances.” Suffice to say, I can recall memories of discussing summer vacations with random strangers as early as March. With every employee entitled to 5 weeks of vacation, it didn’t take much to convert me to the French system. This summer, I was determined to join the club, and discover one of the most popular french vacation destinations, “La Corse.”

Having already spent several vacations in the south of France (Nice, Monaco, the Camargue etc) , I was preparing myself for gorgeous coastlines cluttered with extravagant villas. Someone was very pleasantly surprised.

Les Aiguilles de Bavella

Corsica, with its history of terrorism and strong sense of Corsican identity, was a world away from la promenade des anglais. My boyfriend was happy to inform me upon arrival in Ajaccio that a gas station had been blown up the day before (in Ajaccio) by those manifesting their separatist inclinations. A nice warm welcome, eh?

And yet despite what I had heard (that Corsicans poopoo mainland frenchies), I was greeted by very sweet locals in Propriano, Tizzano, Bonifacio and Porto Vecchio, and I was completely enveloped in a preserved savage beauty on every part of the island I visited.

Les iles Lavezzi

The island was  a cornucopia of natural beauty that included crystal clear water, sandy beaches, imposing cliffs at it’s most southern tip, quaint mountain and beach towns, and a range of solid rock mountains with turquoise colored rivers flowing out of them.

An outdoorsman’s/woman’s paradise, one week was way to short to do the whole island. Not only do you need time to discover the flore and fauna, but there are also all kinds of sport activities available to do. Mainly water sports (scuba diving, snorkling, wakeboarding, waterskiing, wind surfing etc) but also horse-back riding, cycling, rock climbing, and running. In a seven days, I was only able to cover the entire southern region, leaving the north’s treasures for another trip!

Plage a Tizzano

And if the nature wasn’t good enough….let me just briefly recount the eats…

DIVINE goat cheese (taste between a great parmesan and a salty feta) otherwise known in Corsica as “tomme de brebis”

– Tangy Rosé wine (local of course)

– Sweet and perfectly ripe cataloupe

– Deliciously salty jambon ( a dried ham – see photo)

– And last but not least – amazing seafood of all kinds!

Good Eats!

Check out my photos of some Corsica goodness, and I added a wee map for those thinking of checking out the same sites!

Map of southern Corsica

Bonnes Vacances!!!

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