Wednesday, August 24, 2016

From Paris to Chamonix

It’s the day before the OCC, and I’m in Chamonix doing what I do worst: waiting. It’s hot in the valley, at least 25 degrees in the shade, and I’m anticipating struggling with the heat during the race tomorrow. Follow me live during the race (starting August 25 at 8:15am CET) by clicking this link and entering the bib number 9383 in the search box in the left corner.

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Mug shot today after bib pick-up.

Usually, my vacation weeks are a struggle to cram in as many hours of outdoor sports as possible into my days. This time around, it’s a little different. The OCC, my big race of the season, is this Thursday (tomorrow!), and I’ve taken the whole week off. Not wanting to tire myself out too much in the days preceding the OCC, Audun and I elected to go to Paris for a long weekend before heading to Chamonix for the big race. Sightseeing is relaxing, I reasoned. 

We hit the ground running, arriving in Paris after an early flight that had us up at 5am. Luckily I had done some restaurant research before arriving, and we had a refreshing brunch at Treize before heading for the Louvre. The crowds at the central pyramid gradually diffused as we made our way through the cavernous warren of an art gallery. For me, the Louvre is not about its most famous pieces, like the Mona Lisa. It’s about the countless lesser-known works that provide a brief window into the past. I make it my mission to find the neglected corners, devoid of the throngs of camera-wielding tourists lazer-focused on checking off the next piece of art on their todo list.

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Me and the aforementioned throngs of tourists near the Winged Victory of Samaranth. Photo by Audun

This time, Audun and I found solitude in the newly instated gallery of art from America, Africa and Oceania (yes, that’s a lot to fit into one room!). Here wooden carvings depict people with strangely elongated limbs or grotesque, mask-like facial expressions. These works are a far cry from the primped portraits of the Renaissance artists most prolifically displayed at the Louvre, and they offer a glimpse into cultures that I can’t even pretend to understand.

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Audun imitates the Art.

I had ‘museum legs’ after three hours, and conceded that being a tourist is not the relaxing thing in the world. We met our German friends Stefanie and Andreas for dinner and a little too much red wine in the 3 arrondissement. They had just moved from Paris to  Versailles, and I decided visiting them was a good excuse to live out my Marie Antoinette fantasies for a day.

There are crazy lines to get into the palace at Versailles, but based on the recommendation of a helpful lady at the Versailles tourist information, we entered the enormous grounds via a back entrance and took in Marie Antoinette’s estates first. 

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Le Grand Trianon. Yes, this is just a ‘small’ summer home on Versailles scale. Photo by Audun

It started raining as we wandered around Marie Antoinette’s little hamlet, a fake village where she could escape the stresses of being queen of the world and pretend to be a milkmaid. We retreated to our friends’ apartment for an indoor picnic lunch before heading back to enter the palace. In the afternoon, the lines were much shorter, just as predicted by our savior at the tourist information office. Score!

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Self portrait in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles

Later than evening we went in the Eiffel Tower. The security at prominent French landmarks has become extremely stringent as a result of the Bataclan and other terrorist attacks. I don’t necessarily think that going through two metal detectors to go up the Eiffel Tower makes me safer, but it definitely indicates a city on high alert. Predictably, Audun and I took the stairs up to the second viewing platform of the Eiffel tower, just in time for sunset and views of Paris by night.

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Photograph of me photography the Eiffel tower. Photo by Audun

The next morning, our last day in Paris, we rounded off the sightseeing with a morning run to the Arc de Triomphe, along the Berges of the Seine, and to Notre Dame. After two days of jelloid museum legs, it felt good to stretch them out properly again.

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Notre Dame in the morning

One of our last stops in Paris was Holy Belly, a hipstery brunch place that totally lived up to the hype, although we had to stand in line for 20 minutes to get a table.

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Audun enjoying pancakes with eggs, bacon, mushrooms and sirup. Not a typical French breakfast, but a delicious one!

We spent the afternoon taking the train to Chamonix. Even though this is my fifth time in Chamonix, the view straight up to rocky spires and enormous blue glaciers spilling out to forests never ceases to inspire. I’m so excited to race through that landscape tomorrow, no matter how it goes!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

2 comments:

  1. Good luck!!! Can't wait to hear how it goes!

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    1. Thanks Karen! The race report is up now, hope you enjoy it :)

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