Hints and Tips for Running and Biking in Paris

Hints and Tips for Running and Biking in Paris (and an impassioned plea at the end)

It’s no coincidence that “endorphin,” the chemical produced by the brain during intensive, repetitive exercise like running, biking, rowing and swimming, seems to rhyme with “morphine” (an opiate pain reliever).  It is morphine, its name being a contraction of “endogenous” (i.e., manufactured “within,” or by, the body [en = “in” in French, for example]) and “morphine”--or other “-ine” drugs, such as codeine, etc. Endorphins are natural pain relivers, which is why we get a “runner’s or biker’s high.” This would be the case even if we were pounding the pavement or pushing the pedals in Lost Springs, Wyoming (as of the 2010 census, population: 4). Or Charleroi, Belgium (according to the BBC, the ugliest city in the world).

BUT WE ARE RUNNING AND BIKING IN PARIS! Need we say more?

Yes, we need. In order to keep safe and happy while all that home-grown dope…

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Rosa Bonheur

Broad with a Brush Rosa Bonheur portrait by Anna Klumpke. 1898. Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection

Does the name Rosa Bonheur mean anything to you ? Hint: She was the most well-known female French painter in the 19th century, the first woman painter to receive the Legion of Honor (presented by the Empress Eugenia herself). Still no bells ? She painted animals. Still no idea ? Well don't feel bad it seems most French people don't know who she is either. In fact despite being French, born in Bordeaux, growing up in Paris and then living in a château with menagerie on the edge of the Fontainbleau forest, she was in fact more well known and her paintings were more appreciated by the English and Americans. She was so famous at the time that Queen Victoria, who had a love for animals as well, requested Rosa visit her. It is even hard to find her paintings in French museums. Many were sold into private collections and some are now seen in America…

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Get out of Town: The Somme

The Somme department in the region of Picardy just two hours north of Paris, is not on the usual tourist circuit, but nevertheless has a ton of places to visit from natural sites to chateaux and the Somme battlefields of WWI. ALBERT You can put down temporary roots in the little burg of Albert with its picturesque park surrounded by typical brick houses. Albert also has a WWI museum that is located in a 230 meter long underground bomb shelter which gives a taste of the dampness of the trenches. In fact the last section of the tunnel is dark and sound and light are used to help you imagine being in a trench during WWI in the dead of night, under artillery fire. The neo-byzantine basilica, known as the Lourdes of the north, was originally built between 1885-1895, then destroyed in 1915. It was rebuilt in identical fashion in 1927-1931 by the original architect’s son. The golden virgin statue on the top of the dome was hit by a shell during the war and dangled in a horizontal p…
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The War to End all Wars, The Great War, La Der des Ders*

This is 2018, one hundred years after the end of World War I (and 74 years after the end of WWII). I realized how little I knew about this war that changed the course of history, redrew the borders of Europe and the Middle East, advanced technology and women's status and made great strides in medicine. This war marked a distinct change from the past and was the real beginning of the 20th century. Thinking that it was time to improve my knowledge of this time period I decided that a kid’s book would be a good place to start. The book 50 clés pour comprendre la grande guerre (Castor Doc, Flammarion) written by a French junior high teacher named David Dumaine is an excellent summary of the war. The level of French is for junior high and so it easily readable for those with imperfect French. Dumaine gives a clear overview in 50 key points each on a double page with images and side bars. He covers causes, results, battles, the trenches, women and children. I finally understood the r…
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American WWI Museum opens for centennial

American WWI Museum opens for centennial By Gary Lee Kraut The museum, like the monument above it, is the work of the American Battle Monuments Commission. A presentation space was created along with the monument in the late 1920s but it wasn’t furnished until now, as part of the overall restoration of the monument. As it had at the Normandy American Cemetery on the eve of the 60th anniversary of D-Day in 2004 with respect to the Second World War and the Battle of Normandy, the ABMC saw the need provide American visitors with an overview of the American intervention in the First and battles in the Aisne region of France on the 100th anniversary of our participation in major combat during that war. After all, pristine cemeteries and imposing monuments and pristine cemeteries aren’t intended merely to serve as dramatic backdrops for the occasional speech by a government official but are to be visited, honored, understood, questioned and contemplated year-round. Despite its mod…
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Explore new territory on your bike, Forest of Senart

Here’s an idea to get out of town, hop on the train with your bike to get out of the city a little ways. Then peddle to another station to ride back to Paris. You can travel with your bike on the SNCF Transilien (suburban) trains on weekdays before 6:30, between 9:30 and 16:30 and after 19:30 and all day on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, for no extra charge! And now that Navigo covers all zones there’s nothing to stop you. To whet your appetite here’s a set of rides along the Seine and in the forest of Senart beginning and ending at RER C/D stations. 3 different lengths make them accessible for all riders. The family - 6 km loop begin/end at Juvisy. Ride along the water’s edge of the «Port aux Cerises» recreation area. Touring - 10 km begin at Evry Val de Seine, end at Juvisy. A ride along the Seine and ponds in the recreation area. Longer - 13 km begin at Evry Val de Seine, end at Montgeron Crosne. Ride between the valleys of the Seine and the Yerres, then in the Sen…
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Get Out of Town to Houdan

Get Out of Town to Houdan The Yvelines is a lovely department just to the west of Paris. I live there, so I'm biased, but it is hard not to like rolling hills, small towns, discreet historic sites, the wide open agricultural spaces, forests, sinuous roads with little traffic (perfect for cycling), paths for walking or riding. To me the Yvelines has it all. And the town of Houdan sums it all up. Houdan is just an hour from Paris by train, but it is a voyage to the provinces. Make a day trip to Houdan and you won't regret it. The tourist office offers a handy brochure of the of the town center discovery circuit. The English is not very good, but you'll enjoy the charm and have a chuckle. The most famous of Houdan's historic sites is the 12th century dungeon or keep. Yes, a real medieval dungeon that you can visit! It has graffiti from the prisoners who were held there and a gorgeous view over the town and countryside from the top. After viewing from up high you can walk around t…
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Get out of Town: Antwerp

There are hundreds of cities you could visit on a 2 hour flight from Paris that will give you a feeling of really getting away, but fewer are accessible on a 2 hour train ride. Antwerp (or Anvers in French) is in Belgium, our neighbor to the north, is one that is just far enough away to be a complete change of scenery, yet close enough for a 3 day visit. First of all the language. They speak Flemish there and they are proud of it. They are also proud to be able to help you in English or French. We personally enjoy getting wrapped up in a different language and learning a few new words. We've got quite a repertoire now in Dutch including slagroom (whipped cream) and winkelwagen (shopping cart). Wouldn't they'd be great names for cats? So what's to see in Antwerp? A large variety of different things from different periods. Art and industry (this is the third largest port in Europe). A strong food culture. There is of course a cathedral, but this one is worth visiting, even if …
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