A Trip to Paris ~ Marathon Edition

First my heart goes out to Paris.  What a terrible thing to happen, especially in one of the most public places in the city.  I can only be entirely thankful that we were no longer in Paris when the shooting occurred.  Yes, Paris.  A trip that had been in the making since May ’16 when about 50+ people from November Project NYC signed up for the Paris Marathon.  This was truly a sign of our culture – say yes to practically anything combined with a fear of FOMO.  In the end only about half of those who signed up actually made the trek.

Secondly, I seem to be off my blogging game.  I of course waited forever to actually upload my pictures and write down notes about the trip.  This past Saturday morning I decided to write about it, spent about an hour on the blog and then found that half of the post had been deleted.  So, here we go again.

Wednesday ~ 5.5.17

In true Kaitlin fashion I arrived a bit too close to my boarding time but with the help of some nice passengers who let me jump ahead in the security line and a delayed flight, it was no problem.  Still, my mom would not have been impressed.

Fun fact for those flying JFK international – even if you are taking carry-on luggage and utilize the self-check kiosks, you STILL have to wait in line for a stamp on your boarding pass.  I ran back and forth between these two sections of the airport three times before I figured that out.  When I finally arrived at the gate, I spotted a couple of my November Project friends and we were able to chat for the next couple hours until our flight boarded around midnight.  By that time I was ready to pass out and get a few hours of sleep.

Thursday ~ 4.6.17

Touchdown in PARIS!  Thanks to the delayed takeoff, we arrived two hours later but still in time for lunch in the city.  My friend Meg and I navigated the RER to the Metro and then we separated as she was heading to her hotel and I was meeting NP friends in La Marais (near the Jewish Quarter) for L’as Du Fallafel.   A few blogs claimed it was the best falafel ever though I wasn’t super impressed.  It was still a solid way to start my trip and a check off the bucket list.

After we all finished our falafel we went to withdraw money from a BNP Paribas, which supposedly has an agreement with Bank of America to not charge a foreign transaction fee.  Sounds great but I still saw the $3 charge in my statement.   We then found a cafe and sat sipping our respective beverages while people watching.  I had anticipated ordering coffee yet my lack of French knowledge left me with a warmed vanilla milk – still decent but not the caffeine I was looking for.  The three of us were also not ready for the droves of French who smoke, something so different from the United States, even in New York City.

After a couple of hours it was time to move along and as Jess and Liz headed towards Musee d’Orsay, I went off to check into my AirBNB.  I was staying with my friend Lindsay and her family for a majority of the trip but happened to have a night to myself as they didn’t arrive until Friday.  Both AirBNBs were right around the Champs de Elysees and even closer to the Arc De Triomphe, where the marathon was set to start and finish.

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^^ How’s that for a view??  So maybe I had to open my window and lean out for the shot but same idea, right?

After checking in and changing clothes, it was time to explore a bit more.  To be honest, most of this trip was planned on a whim.  Sure I had a general sense of what I wanted to accomplish and where I needed to go but was comforted by the fact that I had been to most museums back in 2011.  My goal for this trip was mostly eating and walking and eating and relaxing.  Spoiler alert – it was a grand success.

That evening I had a goal to find my first croissant or French pastry since people claim it’s better in Paris.  You are probably thinking “le duh” and while I never did make it to “the best croissant in Paris“, I did treat myself a few times.  I trekked the 3 or so miles past the Eiffel Tower to Poilane only to find that they were out of croissants.  Let me just say “le duh” again since it was almost 7 pm and who would have pastries that late?  I picked up an apple tart-like item instead and made my way back to the Eiffel Tower to eat and watch the sunset amidst all the canoodling couples.

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Even though lunch had only been a couple of hours prior, I was in the mood for one more meal or snack before bed.  A friend of mine had recommended La Coïncidence but when I spent about 20 extra minutes trying to find the restaurant and failing miserably, I ended up in a pub with a “bacon” burger (aka sliced ham).   This is when researching restaurants in advance and actually knowing where to go would be helpful.

Friday ~ 4.7.17 

Opting for exploring over sleeping in, I was up around 8 and ready to hit the pavement. When I found out that the hotel breakfast was an extra fee and consisted of mostly cereal, I decided to pick up a mini quiche and baby croissant from around the corner.  The patisseries are almost as prevalent as the bodegas in New York City, which is very helpful if you are craving some carbs or break the large Euro bills.

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I then power walked along the Champs de Elysees to the Musée de l’Orangerie since it was one place I had NOT been and was dying to see Monet’s water lilies.  One day I’d love to go back to Givery where I had been as a baby.  But for now sitting amongst the enormous paintings would be just fine.  I think most people there or anywhere really end up taking pictures in order to post it online.  I mean, if it’s not on Instagram did it really happen?  Not to say that I’m not guilty but still, an interesting perspective.

Following a few hours of art, I took the metro back to the Arc where I dropped my bag off at the next AirBNB and we all went off to lunch.  Lindsay and crew had just arrived from their red eye flights and were ready to eat and explore the French culture.  We met their other sister and her boyfriend for lunch at Laduree, which is well known for its macaroons.  I ordered the carrot salad (above) and was in seventh heaven with the squash puree.

^^ I couldn’t get over how lovely the flowers were during this time of year.  We happened to luck out with the weather as every day was sunny and warm!

We then walked over to one of the more exclusive or expensive parts of the city for a culinary walking tour led by the impressive Marion Flipo {website + Instagram}.  This woman has been doing walking tours for over six years, has been writing food reviews and could be a culinary genius.  Turns out she had also been working for Laduree for a number of years and actually created the carrot salad that I had ordered!  I should also mention she is tiny, which is super impressive for a food critic 😉

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The next couple hours were spent walking from shop to shop, learning about the cheeses, wines, breads, and meats of France.  Funny enough we started in Maison Kayser, a bakery that is also in NYC and one of my favorite spots to pick up a croissant after a run.  So, if I’m ever missing my Parisian adventure, I know where to go.  Marion shared her gourmet knowledge with us while picking up supplies for a picnic in Luxembourg gardens.

If we hadn’t been eating enough, we picked up cabs to cross the river and make our 7pm reservation at Le Souffle.  My friend Annelise had recommended this and I now recommend it to any and everyone reading this post.  YOU MUST GO HERE.  It’s best in groups to order a few souffles for the table but if you are so inclined to order your own, you do you.  We picked out four savory and three sweet (chocolate, Grand Marnier, and raspberry), all of which were extremely light and fluffy.  There may not be another souffle that can compare, but it all was worth it.

Saturday ~ 4.8.17

When you roll with November Project there is bound to be a shakeout run and what better way to see the city than a sunrise 6k at 6:30am?  I honestly think this run was more enjoyable than the marathon and not because it was a whole heck of a lot shorter.  We started at the Notre Dame and wandered along the water, passed the Love Lock Bridge, through the gardens by the Louvre and ended under the Eiffel Tower.  We watched the sunrise and I even found 5 Euro on the ground!

The rest of the day was spent touring Paris, picking up bibs at the expo, and prepping for the next day’s race.  We picked up crepes at the Eiffel Tower and took a trip on the boat tour as a ways to rest but keep seeing the city.  Our dinner reservation was scheduled for 7, when the restaurants start to open up again.  Most places aren’t open for dinner until 7 or even 8!  Lindsay had found Daroco as our pre-race meal and I have to say, while I’m not a runner that neeeeds pasta, it was one of my favorite meals.

pre-race marathon fuel

We started with artichoke and burrata (arguably the best cheese ever) and then moved into pasta with pesto and some type of pork that’s more tender than bacon.  I cannot praise this pasta enough and you can be sure that the plate was spotless when I was finished.  Last but not least was dessert and while Lindsay and Shannon were good and split the tiramisu, I had my eye on the chocolate mousse.  Yes, it was a whole heaping bowl of chocolate goodness and I probably could have stopped with a few tablespoons but was pretty much addicted.  It was one step short of a rich and decadent bowl of brownie batter and I was ready to roll my way home and pass out.  Good thing I had about 4 hours of running ahead of me the next day…

Sunday 4.9.17 ~ aka RACE DAY

Everyone woke up around 6 to start the process of hydrating and fueling. We had picked up extra goodies (namely bananas and coffee) the night before since it was a toss-up if any local shops would be open on Sunday.  Fun fact they were but waking up and drinking a Starbucks Doubleshot Espresso in the comfort of my own bed still sounded better.  Another fun fact – they called it “espresso + lait/melk” (emphasis on the MELK, which is how I say it.)

other marathon pics

After downing a HoneyStinger waffle + banana I started to get my outfit ready and mentally prepare for what I was about to do.  I really don’t think I had mentally prepared for this race.  I sort of went in with the mindset of running and half and let’s just obviously point out that 13.1×2 is a tad bit different (le duh). Thankfully I did have my friend Maura to run with and between her company and friends cheering at Mile 18, it ended up being quite the experience.  Initially when I signed up I hadn’t considered running with anyone since out of the 17 half marathons and countless other races, I have only raced one half (from start to finish) with other people.  So thank you Maura for signing up and making the marathon experience that much better 🙂

Around 7:45, we all left the AirBNB, took a picture in front of the Arc and then I headed out to Maura’s hotel to meet her.  The staff at her hotel had actually left notes on each door warning guests about the road closures and Sunday’s marathon.  My favorite part was that they had noted runners as “the Brave Competitors”.  Yes, I think that’s quite accurate.

The temperature was supposed to reach around 74 that day with waves starting around 8:40ish.  This only meant that we would be running in the prime heat of the day and with water stations every 5k or so, it was bound to be bad.  I later found out that around 2p it was 72F with a RealFeel of 79F!!!  In retrospect I should have worn a hat to dunk in some of the buckets located on the back half of the course but I did have my buff and would dunk Maura’s hat for her at the same time.  We made an excellent team that day, keeping one another going and trying to remind ourselves to enjoy the process.

Looking back the race is somewhat of a blur.  The first half was through the streets, which I enjoyed – lots of people and not too much sun.  We wandered through a park and there were plenty of European men using the side of the road as their restroom.   About 13.1 in I realized how much I love the half marathon distance.  I recall telling Maura “ok so now we just have to do that all over again”.  It got a little gnarly as we ran down by the water and through a couple of tunnels, one of which was the tunnel Princess Diana died in…

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As we ran on, it got warmer, we had to mentally and physically push through, we passed our friends around mile 18, and started playing many mind games to get through the remaining 8 miles.  Our initial goal was 4:30 with a few selfies in between.  Then the mid-marathon regret and pain hit.  We changed our goal to sub-5 hours and called it a day.  I didn’t tell Maura this at the time, but we were averaging 9-min miles, which even with a few walking breaks would bring us to our initial goal.  While we both were struggling (though I didn’t tell her that I was at the time), I think we would have regretting not pushing all the way through.  We managed to power through the finish, not stopping for the last 4 or so kilometers and my watch dying with a mile to go.  It wasn’t until 30 minutes later when I charged my watch and we did some simple math that we realized we had actually run 4:12!!! With our lack of mental (and probably physical) preparation and the heat, we were SO PROUD.

How was the race itself?  Well, there wasn’t as much site-seeing as I would have hoped.  The course was alright, mostly miles through streets and parks and hundreds of Europeans pushing their way through as runners and on the sidelines as spectators.  Yes, there were areas in which the spectators were pushing so much that I almost had to just barrel right through in order to run by.  I apologize after the fact but SERIOUSLY?  I know you are excited to cheer but please folks, leave some space for those in pain.

Looking back I can recall the periods of pain and frustration.  Even as we headed into the final three kilometers, I remember thinking “there is no way I’m signing up for another one (for a few years)”.  Of course a few days later when the soreness wore off and I spectated Boston, I decided it wasn’t thaaaat bad.  Just maybe not for a year or so…

“Never mess with a woman who runs 26.2 miles JUST FOR FUN” << TRUE FACT.  I should wear a shirt with this written on it.

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Later on I met up with Lindsay, Shannon, and her family to celebrate their first marathon finish!  We ultimately drank our way through recovery until 9PM when we sat down for dinner.  The well-known steak place –Le Relais de l’Entrecote – that Lindsay picked out opens up at 7 and doesn’t take reservations.  It serves one thing – steak and pomme frites and boy was the steak tasty.  Of course it happens to be one of the best steak places in town, and with that comes a decent sized line if you don’t arrive on time.  Cue another glass of red wine in line and time just flew by.

When you ultimately sit down, you are served a green salad.  The waitress then takes your order on how you want the meat cooked.  Yes, this is the ONLY thing you will order. In a few short minutes later, she arrives with the meat and pomme frites.  You are allotted two servings per person and anything more than that requires another order.  We would know because we initially thought it was unlimited and well, when you run 26.2 miles and are practically starving, you want to eat more than 4 ounces of steak.  Ok, maybe that’s just me.  In the end, using the leftover baguette to soak up the delectable secret sauce.  In retrospect I would have loved to have gobbled a burger down earlier in the day but life happens and there are simply times to go with the flow.

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Both Lindsay and Shannon wanted to end the night with the hourly lights show by the Eiffel Tower (or rather ON the Eiffel Tower).  We jumped into two cabs (since there were actually six of us), picked up some final crepes, and watched in awe as the display went off around 11.  I’m not sure if it was the marathon or the many glasses of wine that had been consumed but that was the best crepe I’ve had to date and quite a way to end the night.

Monday 4.10.17 ~ The Post Marathon Blues + Travel Day

There often is a sense of calm or peace when I go on vacation.  I love to walk around the streets and see how the locals go about their day – how regal they seem and how special it would be to walk the historic streets.  Maybe it’s also the fact that I don’t have to work when traveling.  Of course, there must be tourists who travel to NYC and who think the same thing.  It’s all a mater of perspective.

Looking back, I found that I was happiest while walking and sampling some of the local flavors.  It made me realize again that this combination – despite how basic it may be – is the key to my happiness.  No matter where I travel or live, good exercise and good food are the way to win Kaitlin over.

But simply due to the nature and length of the trip, I wasn’t able to make it everywhere on my bucket list.  I was lucky that I had been to France back in college (I look so young there!!) but was still jealous of people who extended the weekend into the next week, heading off to other areas of France or even Amsterdam.  Unfortunately, we are heading into busy season at work so I couldn’t gallivant off for a longer trip and am hoarding my PTO days for a trip this fall.  But that doesn’t mean that my long weekend was a waste and of course there’s the dream to go back to Europe and maybe have a special full fledge France experience.

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2 thoughts on “A Trip to Paris ~ Marathon Edition

  1. Burrata is the best cheese. Oh man. I am SO jealous. I went to France once 11 years ago and it was the best. I was a French minor in college but haven’t spoken in yearsssss. I mostly remember eating crepes and sandwiches and how I had Nutella every morning with my breakfast on toast. It looks beautiful. I have never been to Giverny or the Musee de l’orangerie (and I love Monet’s work) so that’s on my to-do list next time I go! Glad you had a fab trip!

  2. Pingback: Life of Late ~ 5.26.17 | California Endless Summer

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