Heart of a Lyon – Day Two

It’s been a while. I meant to continue the stories of Lyon, but Sunday I was tired from Lucerne / the Gansabhauet, Tuesday was busy and I was just a little sad on Monday about the passing of Stan Lee. There’s a lot that’s been already said about Stan the Man, so I’ll just say that I am pretty sure no other writer/creator has had or probably will have as big of an influence on who I am as he did. I even quoted him (or Ben Parker, I guess) in my law school applications.

Also, there are devastating fires destroying several parts of California. It’s awful. For those back home, please stay safe. And if you can, there are a number of organizations accepting donations for fire relief.

And with that, let’s go back to Lyon.

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It’s actually quite amazing how much I was able to get done in the hours that I had in Lyon on Sunday. I think the timing for everything worked out really well, but I had a pretty busy and exhausting day before I boarded the 5pm train home to Basel.

After hotel breakfast and checkout, I hopped on the bus to Croix-Rouge, where my walking tour of the city was scheduled to start. The tour typically meets at the statue of Joseph-Marie Jacquard (whose technology for weaving was later an inspiration for the computer). There was a fair going on at the time, so we met nearby.

On the tour, we got a history of the city as we walked down the hill, took as good of views as we could get in the fog, and made our way to town hall.

We started the tour going through the market of Croix-Rouge, which was enormous and smelled so good. There were even some stands selling interesting animal parts, including brains.

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We tried to get some good views from the top of the hill, but didn’t get much due to the fog. We did pass some interesting street art, though.

We walked through some of the city’s traboules on our way down the hill. I mentioned the traboules in my previous post. The city of Lyon is littered with these historic passageways and stairwells that would help the silk workers move their goods around the city. Many of them aren’t easy to find. I know this because while I felt like we were weaving in and out of them during the tour, I struggled to find one when I was on my own.

We did two that were pretty cool during the tour. One was not as well-maintained, but was a historic gathering place for a big workers’ rights movement (if I remember, correctly). The other acts as a sort of incubator to help local artisans get their business started.

As we made our way down the hill, we also saw some Roman ruins (and got some history of the Roman occupation of the city), passed a church scarred by the French Revolution, the opera house, and town hall.

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We ended the tour along the Saone River, where the weekly book market was underway. As soon as the tour was over and despite the fact that I had a very tight itinerary in mind if I wanted to grab a good lunch and see more of the city, I got sucked into that book market almost immediately. I may or may not have bought stuff.

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I tried and failed again to get into some of the hyped bouchons from the list I had put together, before walking through a different market on the other side of the river and failing to find more traboules.

I found myself back in Vieux Lyon, where I did manage to find one traboule while trying to find the funiculars from the day before.

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My plan had actually been to grab kabobs to save time, but I ended up sitting down at a bouchon. I was concerned at first that it would take too long like the one I ate at the night before, but I then heard the most beautiful words anyone in a hurry could ever hear. The waiter apologized to me and said that there was a reservation for my table and wanted to know if I’d be able to eat and leave within the hour. Amazing. Also, I tried Lyonnaise salad which was pretty incredible. Now energized with food and a sitting break I forgot I needed after walking all morning, I was ready to take on the second part of the day.

I caught the funicular up to Fourviere. The Notre Dame basilica sits on the top of the hill and oversees a lot of the city. It’s also joined by a tower that resembles the Eiffel Tower. I started with the inside of the basilica, which was very beautiful. I had actually considered skipping the basilica all together and the inside kind of validated the whole trip up there.

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The views of the city from outside were just as spectacular as the inside of the basilica.

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I made my way back down the hill and took the bus to the Parc de la Tete d’Or, which is the big park of the city. It was the other big part of the city I was hoping to see before I left. It was also conveniently located near my hotel, which I had to go back to to pick up my backpack.

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The park is enormous, as in, there is a botanical garden with historic green houses, a small lake, and an entire zoo in the middle of it big. I got into the park and had a set itinerary, which would involve me hitting the botanic gardens and parts of the zoo before heading back towards the hotel. I immediately got disoriented and went the wrong way. After some course correction, I found the zoo and saw a zebra in Lyon. Also, no, did not see lions.

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I also visited the botanic gardens, which I didn’t last too long in because it was stuffy and kind of crowded, and I realized that I needed to get back to the hotel to the hotel. It was pretty, though.

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And after walking through the park and getting my stuff at the hotel, I made it to the train station with a little time to spare (not that it mattered, because the train was delayed).

The weekend, overall, was a lot of fun. There were some moments over the weekend where things could have probably gone south, but it was ultimately a fun and somewhat chaotic weekend in all the best ways.

And there is only one way that I can end this post.

Excelsior!

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Heart of a Lyon – Day One

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Hello. I’m taking a break from the messe food for a post on Lyon. Lyon is the culinary capital of France and its food scene includes markets, foods with organ meats, Michelin starred restaurants, and traditional bouchons. It’s for this reason, that I was incredibly excited about the weekend trip. Of course, there were so many options and not enough time.

I spent quite some time trying to figure out how to split up the post about Lyon. I started trying to do it as one post and it didn’t work out as well as I thought it would. I considered doing a food versus sightseeing breakdown like I did for Amsterdam, but it didn’t quite work. So, we’re just going to take it one day at a time.

After an early morning train ride, I rolled into Lyon at 11 and was immediately overwhelmed by the fact that the city was significantly larger than I expected. Never mind that everything I read about the city told me that it was the third largest city in France. I was expecting a tiny and cute French town. It didn’t help that I had a 12 pm reservation for a restaurant called Bijouterie (which means jewelry in French). I started going towards the first thing I saw on Google Maps with that name until I realized that I was just going to a random jewelry store. This happened moments before I boarded a the metro going in the absolute opposite direction, making it very convenient that I bought the 48 hour public transportation pass and hadn’t just wasted a ticket.

All of those hi-jinks, as well as a brief interlude where I thought I might have a moment to drop off my bags at the hotel and get to the restaurant before noon, managed to take up a half hour. This meant that my immediate reaction was to panic and just take a taxi over to the restaurant. Of course, this got me there with an awkward 15 minutes before the restaurant opened. It worked okay because it gave me a chance to explore the neighborhood and get my first sight of the Saone River. I even caught one of Lyon’s more famous frescoes.

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Bijouterie doesn’t do French food per se, but a lot of people seemed to rave about this restaurant and I was able to get a lunch reservation, so I decided to go for it. For lunch, they do a prix fixe menu of pan-Asian dim sum. You choose three “jewels” for the set lunch price and can add dessert for not much more.

The dishes come out in a very quick procession and are started with a soup (that I drank like I would miso soup and not with my spoon like everyone else because I’m absolutely not civilized). I chose the siu mai, the fish, and the chicken wings and got the spicy variation of the rice. They were all delicious, but I think I’d have to say that the chicken wings were my favorite. The dessert was a fascinating combination of chestnut flavors with some ice cream. So good. Despite all the small plates, I was quite full after the meal.

Lunch was followed by a trip to the the town square, where I saw town hall and a pretty cool Bartholdi statue that where the horses look like they have smoke coming out of their noses (I learned during my tour the next day that the statue was actually intended for a different city).

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This was followed up with the Nike store and some post-lunch downtime at the hotel. I considered walking around the big park, especially since it was across the street from the hotel, but as mentioned previously, was trying to spare the pre-race mileage so as not to injure myself. A lot of good that did.

I had just enough time pre-race for a trip out to the Halles des Lyon – Paul Bocuse (named for the famous chef who would shop at the market). Have I mentioned that I have a weakness for markets? There was food everywhere and it looked delicious. I didn’t try much so as to not get sick during the aforementioned race, but did grab some food to bring back to Basel with me and had my first taste of Lyon’s signature pink pralines. I bought a couple of bags of pralines to bring home with me, but also tried one of the tarts, which was incredible.

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I wrote enough about the failed race, so we’ll pick up from where that ended. After taking the funicular back down to Vieux Lyon, I finally did get to get my taste of the old part of Lyon. It was pretty deep into the evening, so the next challenge would be trying to find dinner.

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I tried and failed to use the “there’s only one of me” excuse to sneak into some of the more famous Bouchons of Vieux Lyon, so then played a very interesting game of trying to find one to eat at. I tried to use a very scientific process of balancing the window stickers with how touristy the menu looked. I probably could have used Yelp or TripAdvisor like a normal millennial, but that’s no fun.

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I did eventually find one that I was drawn to because of the very eclectic interior. It’s very possible that they didn’t actually have for me because they seated me at this tiny table that looked like an old fashioned desk and was piled with stuff. The meal took a while, but it was all delicious. I never knew you could have foie gras in salad, but now I do. We also topped off the dinner with a pastry with more of Lyon’s pralines.

After dinner, I walked around Vieux Lyon a little more. However, between the early train, attempted race, and the heavy food, I was starting to get tired. I made a sad attempt at trying to at least see some of Lyon’s traboules from along the river before understanding that they are actually just passageways. Oh well.

I walked along the Saone until I hit the court of appeals, where I crossed a bridge over the Saone. I made it to the Place des Jacobins before trying to find the bus back to the hotel.

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Honestly, there was a lot about the day that was a hot mess, but it ended up being a fun hot mess at the end of the day.

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Race Failing in Lyon

I am on my train back to Basel right now (although we are still at the train station ten minutes later). I have a long train ride that is now ever so much longer due to aforementioned delay, which means it’s a good time for a blog post.

I tried to do a race this weekend and failed horribly. It started one morning as I was getting ready this past week when I realized that I needed to get a few races on my calendar. I found some website that listed upcoming races in Europe and, lo and behold, there was one this weekend in Lyon. It must have been sign, right? The entrance fee wasn’t that high, so I signed up and packed my running gear. The race was a night race, so I also had to pack the head lamp that I have only used once before for the SF Treasure Hunt.

I got to Lyon and very quickly realized that I forgot a very key component of my running ensemble. Strangely, my time here in Lyon was one of the rare times I’ve been in a big European city and have had trouble finding an H&M, which is where I probably could have gotten what I needed for cheapish. I could have taken that as a sign that maybe I should just eat the 15 euro I spent to register for the race and spend a relaxing day in Lyon. Instead, I found a Nike store where I found what I needed and was also informed very matter of factly that the Warriors are too good because they are a stacked team. I mean, it’s hard to disagree with that, but part of my Bay Area blood compelled me to try to defend the team with my limited basketball knowledge.

I checked into my hotel and spent the next few hours hanging out in the hotel. I needed the break in part because the 730 am train was starting to hit me and because I didn’t want to add too much mileage right before an 8k. Around 330, I got all my stuff together and left with the intention of doing both the big covered market and some of Vieux Lyon before the race.

Several bus stops later, I realized I forgot both my head lamp and my registration ticket, so I ended up doing the market and turning going back to the hotel to get my stuff. As I was approaching Vieux Lyon on the Metro, I saw more people dressed in running gear, which I took as a sign that I was going in the right direction. The funicular ride up the the starting line at the Roman theater was absolutely jam packed with more runners.

The pre-race expo area was packed, but I got my bib and the free gift (a running buff that was very much appreciated in the cold) with no problems. I spent the rest of the time pre-race hanging out in the expo, where for the first time I waited for a race to start among Roman ruins. You can’t get that in the US, for sure.

I also looked at the course map for my 8k and realized that the course was significantly more hilly than I expected.

As the race start came closer, I realized that I should go wait in the corral because I would otherwise not understand the announcement that would remind me to queue up.

It was crowded and, despite my attempts to keep towards the back where there would hopefully be other slow runners, people kept on joining the corral. I was getting hungry around this time, so I tried to distract myself from hanger by taking goofy selfies in my running gear.

Eventually and after listening to way too much Coldplay, the race took off. We spent the first half mile running straight down hill through some of the cobblestone streets of Vieux Lyon before going right back up hill. It was awful and painful even though I walked the steep uphill incline with my fellow back of packers.

At some point, the race circles back near the starting line and, after getting to the top of a long staircase, followed who I thought was the man in a blue jacket that I was using to pace. He ran through some of the spectators crowd. I thought this was a strange course decision, but saw people jogging behind me, so I continued through the crowd until I realized I was following some man who was running to the expo for one of the longer distances races.

At this point, I realized two things. First, I had gone off-course so much at this point that I was pretty sure I disqualified myself from the race. Second, even if I hadn’t, I kind of just wanted to go eat dinner. Nevertheless, given that this was a night race, I felt like I should notify the race organizers so there was no room for thinking I had injured myself in some back alley.

At the expo, I confirmed that I had definitely disqualified myself from the 8k. They offered to let me do either the 14k or 26k, but I politely declined. A mile of the 8k wrecked me, so I wasn’t ready to add 6 km and certainly was not ready for a 26k.

Out of curiosity, I made my way to the finish line, which finished in the big Roman theater. It would have been cool and pretty unique to do that, but whatever. Crazily, some of the people from the earlier corrals were already finishing the race.

I went back down the funicular to Vieux Lyon. After failing to get into some of the bouchons, I recognized from my pre-Lyon research, I chose one of the many in Vieux Lyon and ate dinner with my hydration belt still on.

There are lessons to be learned from this experience:

First, I really need to do hill training. I didn’t make it through that much of the race, but that little I did make it through wrecked me. I guess it’s probably about time I stop actively avoiding hills.

Second, sightseeing during a racecation works well, but it doesn’t work the other way around. I now have four successful racecations under my belt where I racked up far too much pre-race mileage but still had a wonderful time. Tacking this race on last minute to a weekend I had planned to sightsee and eat meant I had to postpone most of my sightseeing to the second day of the trip. I still got a lot done, but it would have been a lot more relaxing if I didn’t have to re-plan the trip around a race. It’s so much easier when the sightseeing plays second to the race.

Third, maybe I should listen to the key signs that the race wasn’t meant to be. I had such an easy out when I realized I left some of my running clothes behind. I shouldn’t have been stubborn and just accepted it.

Fourth, running while traveling is fun but maybe I shouldn’t do night races in cities I have never been to before? I probably wouldn’t have made the mistake I did if I knew the city a little better. (By the way, I qualify this in part to justify the fact that I want to register for a Basel night race I’ve seen a few ads for).

So, there you go. I tried and failed to do a race this weekend. I do want to do more racecations while I’m out here, but I just need to plan them a little better. It all worked out well in the end though. At least, I got more use out of that medical certificate I had to get for the Disneyland Paris race.

Disneyland Paris

The days leading up to last weekend included a series of conversations where I would mention that I was going to Paris for the weekend. People would ask what I was doing in Paris and I’d mention with a slight cringe that I was going to Paris to go to Disneyland. I got at least one eye roll, but whatever. It’s Disneyland. And, slightly more importantly, I found a Chris in Paris the night before.

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The last time I actually went into Disneyland Paris, the park was still called EuroDisney, so I’d been pretty excited about visiting the parks. Although I think we would have been more than happy sticking to one park, we got the two park hopper because I absolutely could not end the day without doing the Ratatouille ride in Walt Disney Studios.

The parks opened at 10, so we left Paris pretty early to get to our hotel, Hotel Santa Fe. It’s part southwestern theme and part Cars theme, which is funny because the last Disney hotel we stayed at was also Cars-themed. We walked got to Disney Village just around 10 and made the mistake of sitting down at Earl of Sandwich for breakfast. It ate up a precious hour of park time, after which we did get into Walt Disney Studios.

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Walt Disney Studios is part Hollywood Studios and part California adventure. There’s a Marvel section, the Tower of Terror, a Pixar section, and the Rocking Roller Coaster. They even have a backlot tour, but I’m not really sure what the point of that is there. The first thing we did once we got into the park was make a bee line to the Ratatouille ride to get our fast passes, then we backed up a little to do Crush’s Coaster (another Pixar-themed ride that I think is unique to the Paris parks).

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The ride is a roller coaster where the cars spin. It wasn’t too bad at first, until things sped up. That’s when it got pretty rough and Chris and I spent the next hour a little disoriented. By the time we got out of Crush’s Coaster, we had just enough time to walk around the park, but not really enough time to get onto any of the rides. The exception, much to my surprise, was Tower of Terror, but Chris refused to ride that with me. What a butt. Instead, we walked around the park (surprisingly small). We explored the Marvel section, failed at getting Fast Passes to the Rockin Roller Coaster, ate Groot bread, bought Disney gear, got way too excited about Spiderman and visited the Art of Animation. It was a productive 40 minutes.

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We also walked through the Toy Story section, which was kind of awesome minus the fact that none of the rides were good rides to go on after a spinning roller coaster.

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We finally did the Ratatouille ride, which was everything I wanted it to be. It was a 3D adventure through the kitchen in the movie. The ride was absolutely adorable and everything smelled like butter at some point. It would have been even better if it wasn’t for the screaming teenagers on the ride. Otherwise, the ride was perfect.

Once out of the ride, we partook in the food festival that was taking place in the park. In the Ratatouille area specifically, they had a number of stalls selling various regional French foods. We had some stuffed peppers, curry (Antilles), and wine. Unfortunately, they were out of ratatouille at the time.

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It was early afternoon at this point and time to switch parks and pick up our bibs. We ran into Disneyland quickly to pick up fast passes for the Indiana Jones ride before we left the parks to get our bibs, check into the hotel, and unload some of that stuff we’d accumulated during the first half of the day.

After a short break and the realization that we hit about 8/9 miles of walking by 4pm on the day before our half marathon, we made our way back to Disneyland. While we were waiting to get into the park, we found out that one of the rides that I had been most excited to ride in Disneyland (Phantom Manor) was closed for the day. If I recall, the ride is a much more intense version of the Haunted Mansion.

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Instead, we made our way to the Indiana Jones ride. At Disneyland Paris, the ride is a roller coaster (with a loop!). Unfortunately, it meant that we didn’t get to listen to Sala tell us not to look into the Forbidden Eye five hundred times while we were in line. The ride was fun, but awfully short.

We followed it up with one of my favorites, Pirates of the Caribbean, after which I almost bought an amazing Maleficent hat and we failed to get into the Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant. Business as usual.

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We failed at a couple of other restaurants along the way. There was the Hakuna Matata restaurant that was meh, the pizza restaurant that we briefly considered but decided against, the barbecue restaurant we didn’t find until much later. We ended up deciding on the Mexcian restaurant, in part because it was Coco themed at the time and also because it’s been a while since I’ve had Mexican food. I have to say, being in Switzerland made the Disneyland food prices not so bad. The burrito I got at the park was significantly cheaper than the burritos back in Basel. Although the guacamole in a tube was kind of sad.

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While eating, we checked out the lines for our other usual contender rides at Disneyland. According to the app, Star Tours had an obscene three hour wait and both Buzz Lightyear and Hyperspace Mountain were broken down. So, we made our way to Fantasyland.

The other attraction I was hyped for besides Phantom Manor was Sleeping Beauty’s Castle. The thing that sets this castle apart from the castles at the other Disney parks is that you can walk through the castle. They’ve got stained glass, tapestries and, of course, the wheel. Oh, yeah, also they have a dragon, which is what makes it the best Disney castle.

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As a side note, I’ve spent years thinking that the castle at Disneyland Paris was Belle’s castle because Belle was in the name. I was just being stupid, though, because belle is just the beauty part of Sleeping Beauty.

From the castle we went to the Alice in Wonderland maze, which was significantly larger than I remember. It felt like we were in there forever. Now, I love Alice in Wonderland, so typically this would be heaven. Unfortunately, each step was another pre-half marathon step, so we probably racked up a few too many steps during the maze. It was also incredibly crowded.

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Chris refused to ride It’s a Small World with me, so we walked to Discoveryland (aka Tomorrowland) to try to ride either Buzz Lightyear or Hyperspace Mountain. Unfortunately, Hyperspace Mountain was still closed and while Buzz Lightyear did open up again, we didn’t want to wait in line for 80 minutes after being on our feet pretty much all day. So, we decided to stop by the Star Tours gift shop to find socks for someone who decided to forget to bring socks with him for a half marathon, and made our way out of the park.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we racked up somewhere between 12-14 miles of walking for the day. I think I was in more pain Saturday night than I was on Sunday night, actually. Nevertheless, it was a fun day. I become hopelessly basic in Disneyland. I also was very close into falling into my old habits and very nearly upgraded my ticket to an Annual Pass.

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Disneyland Paris Half Marathon

I am writing to you from our train from Paris to Strasbourg. It feels good to sit. Because we’re kind of dumb, we decided to “pre-game” our half marathon by doing both of the Disneyland Paris parks (more on that in a different post) and racking up about a half marathon worth of steps the day before. It’s our half marathon MO in many ways, but this one seemed rougher than usual. Everything after mile 11 was a blur of pain.

Nevertheless, we made it and can now say we’ve done races at the three parks that (to my knowledge) offer (or offered…RIP California RunDisney) races. Unfortunately, due to the aforementioned “hiatus” of the California races and the fact that we didn’t have the time to do one of the FL races this year, we didn’t qualify for Castle to Chateau. Another time.

There’s a lot about the way they do the race here that I loved and a lot that I didn’t.

We’ll rip the band-aid off for what I didn’t like.

1. The Expo: It could be that we were there late in the day on the last day, but the expo was kind of lacking. Look, I come to these things prepared to throw a lot of money at race organizers and the assorted vendors there. Chris and I both came with things to buy. It was cold on Saturday and I’m in denial that it’s fall, so I needed a long sleeve shirt. Nope. None. Chris needed socks and failed at that. There was no New Balance, no medal display vendors, no people selling “I run for wine/coffee/etc” shirts. It was weird and made me sad. They didn’t even have the car magnets that I’ve collected.

2. Race Shirts: The quality was not as good as the other RunDisney events I’ve been to. I think that’s because they don’t use the same shirt vendor, but I absolutely love my collection of Disney race shirts and am just a little sad this one isn’t as nice.

At the end of the day, though, this race entry was a fraction of the cost of the ones in the US, so I’m sure both could be tied to that.

The Good:

1. The Course: Like any RunDisney race, you spend a decent amount of time in the parks, but you spend most of the time out of them. The parks aren’t that big, so I was impressed that they were able to get us about 8km of park at the beginning. For reference, that’s about the same amount of park time we got for Light Side and Super Heroes in Anaheim. You also spend the last 5k weaving through the hotels and back in Walt Disney Studios. The time outside of the park goes by fast, despite the fact that a lot of it is an extended out and back and run through a small village.

There are some quiet stretches, but it’s no Orlando highway or Harbor Blvd.

2. The Finish Line: There are two reasons why I love this. First, you typically finish in a parking lot and are funneled through a quick path where food and drink are thrown at you and there are people everywhere. For this one, we finish in an area of Walt Disney Studios after having run through stretches of the Backlot ride and are greeted by Mickey. It’s kind of awesome. The other thing I loved about this was that the parts of the park you run through are parts that are closed off to the public. When we did Dark Side, we ran through the World Showcase in Epcot but all the runners are bunched up because you are running through areas open to parkgoers. I get why they have to do that, but it was hard to run and chaotic. Here, we got out and took pictures with a statue of Black Panther. It is a much more pleasant finish. Didn’t see the massage stations that I’ve seen at the US races, though. Eh.

3. The Theme: The theme of this year’s race was Disney Villains. One of the best parts of the Disney universe and people brought their costume game. I’ll say, though, that my favorite costume was someone dressed up as Miguel from Coco. He had a speaker attached to his guitar and was playing songs from the movie. Except, we ran into him when they had Remember Me playing. Not a good song when you’re already race emotional.

Chris and I both dressed up. My Ursula costume was kind of a bust and I don’t have a full length photo of me in the costume. Chris had a low key Gaston costume, which I think came out pretty well considering we bought all the pieces on Amazon last weekend.

The Medal: Wasn’t too happy about the medal at first because it was the only medal from the race weekend not in the villain theme. Now that I have it, I can’t complain. It’s much nicer than it looked online. I kind of love it, actually.

The Start Time: I’d much rather not have to wake up at 4:30 am (or 2:30/3 for the Orlando races), so I appreciated the 7 am start time. The downside to 7 am (or 8 for those of us in Corral E) is that we hit it ridiculously close to our extended check out deadline after the race. Then again, I woke up at 6 and not before 5. I’m less miserable right now.

The Weather: It was overcast and windy during the whole race. It was raining, but the rain was a gentle light mist that kept us cool. It was cool, but not cold, so the fact that I didn’t have a long sleeved shirt ended up being okay. The wind got a little rough towards the end, but it was generally pleasant race weather.

So there we are, I’ve checked another RunDisney race off my list. It’s a little bittersweet, though. It’ll probably be the last RunDisney race we do for a while. IF we’re lucky, we may get CA races again in a few years. We want to do Wine and Dine in Orlando at some point but I need to gather the willpower to do another one of the FL races again. That won’t be for while (or at least until we forget how exhausting they are). I can’t complain, though, I thought Super Heroes last year was going to be the last one.

[Paris-Themed Song Reference]

Well, it’s now Wednesday and everyone has left me. Chris left on Sunday and the rest of the group left yesterday. But, you know, how can you be lonely when you have the Liars to keep you company? In any case, we spent the past weekend in Paris. I actually have not spent much time in Paris overall. Usually it’s been a very walking-intensive day trip on the way to or from another location. Even though it was just a weekend, it felt nice to do some sightseeing but also take things a little slower in the city for once.

We started our weekend trip with a 5 am wake up call that was made worse by the fact that we were up late watching Les Mis the night before. This is probably the worst pre-Paris hype movie, but it’s also Les Mis, so I don’t care. Getting tickets to Paris was also an apparent adventure because we got them a little too last minute and they had to work with the ticket people at the Basel train station to get some creative itinerary that wasn’t prohibitively expensive (procrastination lesson learned).

The Scam

We got to Gare d’Est around 10 am a little tired but ready to go. Well, we were ready to go until we got to the area for metro tickets and saw a massive crowd. We made one failed attempt to get tickets at stations that were apparently re-charge stations before we gave up and waited in the long, long line. As we were approaching the ticket machine, a woman came up to us and asked us if we needed help. We told her no, that we knew exactly what tickets we needed to get and that we’d done this before. She stuck around, but it was so crowded that I stepped out of the way so Chris could get the tickets for everyone. I wasn’t really paying attention to what was going on, but my ears perked up a little when I heard Chris say that the machines only took French credit cards and we had to pay cash. The red sirens really went off when I looked up and saw the same woman pocketing cash. Before we knew it, we were through the gates with the sinking feeling that we were just scammed.

Little did the scammer know that the same plucky incompetence that got us into the mess also led us to accidentally exit the subway tunnels and immediately identify that, yes, we’d been scammed. We tried to make our way back to the ticketing area and once we did, Umma charged at the woman who was in the process of scamming some other tourists and made an absolute scene. She kept shouting that the tickets didn’t work and not to buy tickets from that woman. The woman quickly threw our money (minus a few Euros) back at us and ran out of the area. We got weird looks because of how loud the situation got, but we did ultimately get our tickets and left the area. In the end, it was kind of hilarious, despite the blow to any travel/common sense credibility we thought we had.

Learn from our failure and don’t fall for the silly scams. Someone also attempted to pickpocket Chris on the subway on the way to the hotel, so we clearly look like easy marks.

The Touring

After dropping our stuff at the hotel and getting some crepes in our systems, we started our tours. Our hotel was an easy walk to the Eiffel Tower, so we started there. It was hot, crowded, and you apparently now have to go through a lot of security to get to the actual Eiffel Tower area, so we didn’t stay there for too long before we started what was supposed to be a trek to the Arc de Triomphe in the heat.

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Instead, we got distracted and very nearly talked ourselves into taking a city tour on a tuk tuk before they got rushed off by the police (and you wonder why we were an easy target). Instead, we opted to take a cruise down the Seine because we thought that’d be cooler and more refreshing. It was one of those Hop On/Hop Off boats so we could just take the Seine down to our POIs. The boat ended up being a little more like an open air oven, so we were both overheated in an enclosed area and had little to no shade. It was nice to see Paris from the Seine, but we got off at the Notre Dame Cathedral and called it a day on the boat tour.

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I love the Notre Dame Cathedral. It doesn’t hurt that the Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of my favorite Disney movies and I definitely was singing the songs a little while we were waiting in line to get into the Cathedral. The Cathedral is also just stunning both inside and out, so it was nice to be able to take some time and stroll around the inside.

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Well, I had fun in the Cathedral at least, but Becca and Miranda were much more interested in playing with the pigeons outside. It was also ridiculously hot by then and our five am wake up call was finally wearing us down a little bit. We opted as a group to take a break at the hotel for a while before things cooled down. It helped and I’m pretty sure everyone slept a while.

We got back out around 8, where we tracked down some much-needed Korean food and then made our way to Montmarte to see the Sacre Couer Basillica. This was the first time I’d seen the basillica and I don’t think any of us were emotionally prepared to climb all the stairs we had to climb to get up to the top. Every time we thought we were done climbing, we’d turn a corner to see a new set of stairs. We did find some ice cream along the way and it was fun touring the Montmarte area.

It took a lot of climbing, but we did ultimately make it up to the basillica. Suddenly, all the whining and sweating paid off for the lovely view of the city. It was quite a party up there too, with a lot of younger people blasting music and drinking.

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We took the funicular down and did some souvenir shopping before we walked to the Metro and made our way back to the hotel. We (as well as some nearby rats) had a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower and happened upon a memorial to victims of persecution and racism on the way back.

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Chris left early Sunday morning and we had a late start, so we took it somewhat easy on Sunday. We had planned a few stops in, but really just barely had time to do a handful of things. We started at the Statue of Liberty Replica on the Ile aux Cynges, where we had breakfast and walked around. They also have a small fitness park on that island with climbing holds that we did not get to experience.

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We actually did make our way to the Arc de Triomphe from there, where we stood in the middle of the road to take a photo like the other tourists there.

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This was followed by a very leisurely stroll down the Champs Elysees. By leisurely, I mean that we stopped in multiple stores along the way. At some point, we lost Becca and Miranda to the Louis Vuitton store. They were gone for a long time, so I got to go in and find them and got to field the weird stares from the nicely dressed people looking at me in my shorts and Britney Spears t-shirt. On the upside, we also got some macarons and pastries along the way.

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We got back to the hotel with not too much time before our train back. It was just enough time to gather our stuff and do a quick trip through the Korean market to stock up on my groceries. We made the train, but it was pretty close given that our transfer added an unexpected fifteen minutes to our trip. We made it though, and ended up having quite a feast of sandwiches and pastries on our trip back to Basel.

Our weekend in Paris was a little hectic and almost started off on a pretty sour note. In the end, it was fun and oftentimes goofy trip to the city, but that’s our style. I’ll be back at least in September. Paris is so close to Basel, though, there may be an additional trip or two to that area. Maybe next time, we’ll even focus more on the French food 😉

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A (Korean-) American in Paris

One of the drawbacks of life in Europe is that we have been severely deprived of Korean food. Sure, we brought gojuchang with us, but that only fills a small ever-growing food void in my life and I have really needed some kimchi in my life. The last time we saw a Korean restaurant was the closed KRestaurant we walked by in Mulhouse several weeks ago.

So although our intentions were to have French food in one of the most world renown food cities on Saturday night, we ended up having quite a bit of Korean food. There were a lot of Korean restaurants in the neighborhood we were staying in. Enough that we were able to use two fallback restaurants when we found out the ones we left for were closed on Saturdays. We ended up eating at Manna.

The first part of the experience with French Korean food is the experience of translating the dishes. Sure, we could always read the writing in Korean, but there’s also something a little novel about reading dishes like Korean crepes (seafood pajeon) or ragout de kimchi (kimchi jjigae) on your menu.

We shared a couple of dishes, but after a day of touring Paris in 95 degree heat, it only makes sense to get nengmyun. It was perfect.

Manna had great Korean food. The kimchi jjiage we split as a group also hit the spot and the kimchi they gave with the banchan was fantastic. On the banchan note, I should point out that it was included in our meal. This is one of those things that you don’t always get with European Korean restaurants, so that was a great change of pace. All in all, would highly recommend if you’re in Paris and want good Korean food.

We also happened upon a Korean Market (K Mart…not that K Mart) right next to our hotel. The store looked tiny from the outside, but was surprisingly large. We got kimbap and bibimbap there Sunday morning and had a picnic along the Seine.

We also stopped by the store when we returned to the hotel to get out bags and grabbed some groceries to take back home, including kimchi and kimchi-making necessities. In other words, be prepared for something about me attempting to make kimchi using Swiss vegetables at some point in the future.

I may make continue to try Korean food on various stops because it’s fascinating to see how the food differs from place to place, especially when the availability of ingredients may differ. For now, if I had to rate Paris in terms of Korean food, it would get an A.

I guess the only regret is that we sent Chris off with Korean and not French food on his last night in Europe. Yes, Chris is currently on a plane to the US as I write this. I think he’ll survive, though, because we’re meeting in Paris when he comes back in September.

In any case, full Paris post later this week, but wanted to give a snippet of our Parisian weekend for now.