Monday, 22 April 2013

A Weekend in Paris - Sunday

Neither of us wanted to get up on Sunday morning, but we had booked practice ice for 08:30, so we had to!  It felt like an ordinary patch, as I grabbed some coffee from the hotel before we left, and then we were there with bananas, coffee and our music!  Not too many of us on the patch, which was nice, and Hana found out how to use the music, so we were able to have one run-through to the music and then practice bits that weren't working too well.

Then back to the hotel for breakfast, after which the Swan Whisperer went down to the rink to watch the first half-hour of competition, and I stayed in the hotel to bling up and dress.  He then came back and we checked out of the hotel, and went down to the rink.  Emma won her free dance class, deservedly, although she didn't feel she'd skated very well.  We didn't have any opposition, so it was a performance, and despite missing the spin - we can DO that bloody spin, why can't we do it in competition???? - we were gratified with a season's best.   If only we'd got another 1/2 revolution on the spin it might even have been a PB.  Ah well.  The step sequence wasn't called, but they never are at Bronze.  And looking at the video, I am horrified by how wide apart my feet tend to be, and how straight my knees - you can tell how badly I skate compared to the Swan Whisperer, who is very good these days.  But oh dear, quote of the century from him: "It's all that work we do on edges!  You would think a straight line would be faster, but actually, it's faster if you're on an edge!"  It's only taken him eighteen years of skating to learn that..... !

Anyway, after the Silver and Gold free dances, always a treat to watch, it was time for the "Creation", highlight of which was Axel's rendition of "Gangnam-style", which was a hoot!  There were some good performances in the women, too, notably Lisa's air-hostess.

Once everything was over, and we had changed back into street clothes, it was nearly 3:00 pm, and our train wasn't until 19:13, so we went back to the café and had the simply enormous brunch they serve at weekends for €20 a head - coffee and fruit juice and bread and jam or croissant, followed by a huge plate of scrambled eggs with a muffin or bagel, cheese, vegetables, salad, plus either smoked salmon and taramasalata or (our choice) bacon and sausages.  As if that wasn't enough, you then got fruit salad, carrot cake and a chocolate cake - we couldn't face the latter, so the Swan Whisperer wrapped them up and we had them later.

Then we took the Metro into the city centre and sat in the sun on Pont Neuf for about half an hour until the quais underneath reopened to traffic and the peace and quiet was over, whereupon we got a bus from Chatelet up to the Gare du Nord, and it wasn't too early to check in.  Train home not as nice as it could have been due to a stag party coming home - honestly, if they wanted to spend the whole weekend getting and being drunk, as they obviously did, why bother to go to Paris?  They could have done that just as well at home!  Anyway, they were relatively harmless, and I fell asleep so they didn't intrude!  Then an uneventful trip home on the metro and bus.  And unpacking, a bite to eat, and so to bed after a lovely weekend.

I don't think we'll be going away now until our big trip in June, but you never know....

A weekend in Paris - Saturday

Today was the first day of the Trophée Hauts de Seine.  We weren't skating, so we got up slowly, and had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, and then wandered down to the rink in time to see the lower-level solo compulsory dances.  Our friend Emma was doing the Bronze solos, and did quite beautifully - a good 14-step that put her in the lead, and then an absolutely superb Foxtrot, a real masterclass in how to do it, which confirmed her victory. Another friend, Nina, from Germany, was having her first go at dance (she has been a free skater up to now) in the same class, which was not a great success, but she had fun trying - and should continue!

We enjoyed watching all the dance, and then cheered Emma on her podium, after which she and her family went off to explore Paris, and we too went for a walk.  I had slipped out and got us a sandwich and a cake from the local bakery - you know it's a good one when there is a queue going round the block - and we walked down to the Ile Ségur, which in my day housed the Renault factory, but that has long since gone, although Renault's head offices are still in the area.  The Swan Whisperer had explored two years ago, but this time we found a great transformation, as the whole island is being transformed into a public space.  Renault have a site where you can test drive their zero emission cars, but we declined to do that, and explored the rest of the site, where there is a museum, a restaurant, a children's play area and a great deal of what looks like stuff planted for bio-fuel, which gave me serious hay-fever (luckily I had some stuff with me).  We were astonished though, that on a lovely Saturday afternoon (the weather was infinitely better than it had been on the previous day, which wouldn't have been difficult, frankly!), we were almost the only people there!  Where were all the local hordes?

As I was feeling a bit rotten with the hay-fever, we walked back towards the rink, and I sat in the square while the SW went and got my bag for me from the hotel, and we went back to the rink to watch various friends free skates and the pairs.  Then we went off to a local restaurant and had a meal - we both chose salads; I had a Salade Landaise, which has giblets, hard-boiled eggs, pate de foie gras and beans as well as the usual salad stuff.  And beer, of course.  Neither of us wanted any pudding, so we came away, and went back to the hotel for 20 minutes or so, before going back to the patinoire for the tour of Paris by Night.  This was quite fun, but the usual irritating courier rather detracted from it - as did the fact that the bus got lost and couldn't find the rink!  Ah well.... we got there in the end, and then got back to the hotel just before midnight.

A Weekend in Paris - Friday

Up far too early, and out of the house by 06:00 to catch the 07:31 to Paris.  We arrived at St Pancras in good time, and bought ourselves coffee and a sandwich at the Café Nero there.  The train was on time, and we arrived in Paris, as scheduled, shortly before 11:00 local time.  We decided to go straight to the hotel, as even if we were too early to check in, they would doubtless allow us to leave our luggage there and go out again; however, they kindly allowed us to check in even though we were a good 15 minutes before 12:00!  We took longer than we need have going, as we went to the wrong ticket-hall; if we had gone on to the one on the line we wanted, there was no queue at all!  We bought Mobilis tickets - the local equivalent of the one-day Travelcard - as we were planning to travel all afternoon.

We settled in, and then headed out to the local creperie for lunch - I had one with mushroom, egg, ham and cheese, followed by ice-cream and washed down with beer, and the Swan Whisperer had one with mushroom, egg, bacon (lardons) and cheese, followed by one with stewed apple, and washed down with cider.  Then we ventured forth into Paris.  The Swan Whisperer fancied going on the T3 Tramway again, only we made a mistake getting there - we should have got off at Porte de St-Cloud and got a bus across the bridge, but we ended up at Charles-Michels and it was pouring with rain and I needed a loo, so we went into Monoprix, but they said there that the nearest were in McDonald's, so we went there to find they were locked out of service, by which time I was desperate, so we ducked into a random café and ordered a coffee!  Phew, relief!  And the coffee was heaven - I'd forgotten how much I liked expresso on occasion!

We then ended up waiting ages for a bus, but got on one eventually and found the start of the tramway.  We discovered that it now went all the way to the Porte de Vincennes, so stayed on it the entire route; there is also a 3B that goes from Porte de Vincennes round to Porte de la Chapelle.  So we got on that.  Fortunately, I think, the Swan Whisperer got bored of trams by the time we got to Porte des Lilas (I had got bored of them rather earlier, but men and their toys...), so we got off.  There was a direct bus to the centre of town - forget exactly where - which went via the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, and that sort of area.  We got off on the Grands Boulevards, and walked for a bit until we got to Havre-Caumartin métro station, at which point the road forked and I wasn't sure which road we should use to get to the next métro, so we called it a walk and went back to the hotel for a cup of tea.

After a rest, we went back into Paris, to the Café du Commerce which I do rather love, and had reserved a table at.  The Swan Whisperer had oeufs dur mayonnaise - oeufs plural, as there must have been at least 2½ eggs - followed by boeuf bourguinon, which he did not like as he said it was too salty.  Basically we had made the mistake of ordering pints of beer, so we didn't want anything more to drink, but it would have been nicer accompanied by wine!  I had snails and then kidneys, both of which were gorgeous, but again, the kidneys would have been nicer with red wine than they were with beer.  I didn't want a pudding, so drank a Courvoisier while the Swan Whisperer ate lemon meringue pie, which he said was lovely.

After which we went back to the hotel and slept!