In just over 2 weeks I’m starting an 18 week marathon training plan.  I signed up for the Bend Marathon last weekend for no good reason except that a) I love Bend and I’m sure it will be beautiful at the end of April,  b) I didn’t have anything on my race calendar,  c) I haven’t been injured for a long while (which is weird) so, I guess why not run a marathon. It might be my only opportunity?

I’m still not convinced that I can run that far but I won’t know unless I try. A friend of mine has never run a marathon either and is signing up so hopefully we’ll be able to run together but I’m not fully convinced that she’ll stick with me the entire time. She’s kind of a beast at running. A natural. And she trains on trails and hills.

Okay, time to slap myself. If I’m going to run this thing I need to be confident and excited. I’m excited, I tell you! And I can do this!! I CAN!

Speaking of hills, check out the hill we’ll have to tackle in the middle of the race:


I’m using Hal Higdon’s Novice 1 Training Plan. I liked his half marathon intermediate plan that included intervals (intervals are my favorite) and tempos. This novice plan doesn’t include all the speed work (it only includes pace runs) but I’ll try to incorporate some speed work, hill work, and some trails now and then if I continue to feel strong and motivated (heh). Training in the winter and at night is going to be a beast.

Bold runs are pace* runs. Sundays are cross-training days.

1 12/22-12/28 3 5 3 8 19
2 12/29-1/4 3 5 3 9 20
3 1/5-1/11 3 5 3 6 17
4 1/12-1/18 3 6 3 11 23
5 1/19-1/25 3 6 3 12 24
6 1/26-2/1 3 6 3 9 21
7 2/2-2/8 4 7 4 14 29
8 2/9-2/15 4 7 4 15 30
9 2/16-2/22 4 7 4 13.1 28.1
10 2/23-3/1 4 8 4 17 33
11 3/2-3/8 5 8 5 18 36
12 3/9-3/15 5 8 5 13 31
13 3/16-3/22 5 5 5 19 34
14 3/23-3/29 5 8 5 12 30
15 3/30-4/5 5 5 5 20 35
16 4/6-4/12 5 4 5 12 26
17 4/13-4/19 4 3 4 8 19
18 4/20-4/26 3 2 2 26.2 33.2


*My goal pace is 9:41 based on my recent half marathon pace. Huh. That sounds hard.

BTW, I ran a 5K PR (26:25 which included 2 minutes of walking at the start) at the Seattle Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving. It was mostly downhill and was so, so fun. I ran a few 7:50 minute miles!


October running events

Robert qualified for the Boston Marathon!

In early October Robert ran the Portland Marathon and finished in 3:22! He can’t sign up for Boston until next September but his time is good enough that it’s a sure thing so this is for sure happening in 2016!

p.s. He ran the marathon with his tank inside out which is so not Robert. Hilarious!

I ran my first 10K

I ran the Dawg Dash on October 19th. I’ve done the 5K a few times but somehow never managed to run a real 10K before. I wanted to race it and I was a little nervous going in but I hit my goal right on the mark (I told Robert I planned on coming in around a 55 minute mark).

I came in 28th in my division. It was really fun and an especially beautiful autumn day.

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Robert just got back from NYC. He and The Boy were able to watching the elite runners at the finish line of the New York City Marathon. Check out Wilson Kipsang’s stride length (he’s the guy in front and he won the marathon). Insane!




This is THE FINAL INSTALLMENT!!! of our London/Paris trip. Click the links for parts #1#2#3#4#5#6, & #7.

Catacombs of Paris

Robert, The Boy and I met up with boss lady and her husband to take the metro to the Catacombs of Paris. We arrived early, about 45 minutes before the opening. When we finally got in I was pretty excited but it got a little old after about 10 minutes of seeing room and after room of carefully stacked bones. I dunno. Would I suggest you not go? I don’t know about that. I’d suggest you go when they’re open and get in line if it’s a short line.

I’m a total idiot, btw. We’d brought one flashlight and I only realized AFTER we left the catacombs that my phone has a flashlight. I spent then next 15 minutes realizing my phone had all kinds of cool things it could do.

Rue Mouffetard

After emerging from the catacombs we all walked together towards Rue Mouffetard in the 5th. We were starving and a few of us (boss lady’s husband and I) were getting pretty grumpy due to hunger. The walk over was a bit boring. In my head I pictured every square foot of Paris to be magical. Nope. The 14th appears to be mainly residential (as was the 16th where The Boy lived). We eventually heard music and just like that we were transported into another world. As we entered the Rue Mouffetard area, everything came to life. Musicians were playing accordions and string instruments, while people of all ages danced; others sat on the edges of the dance area, eating delicious looking picnic lunches.

As we entered the street, the scene became even livelier. The shops! The bakeries! The wine! The color! At this point we split up with boss lady and her husband. They were planning a sit down cafe lunch, while we were trying to go more frugal. We ended up eating a gyro sandwich with fries and a coke in probably the least charming food establishment on the street but I didn’t care. It was so pretty and fun and I will go back there again and I will buy a picnic lunch. I will listen to music. And I might even dance.

I had one last place on my beer agenda I wanted to try out that we just off Rue Mouffetard. It was a place called Brewberry.

A true beer geek’s paradise, Cécile Delorme’s shop near the tourist- and student-friendly rue Mouffetard stocks hundreds of different beers from traditional Belgian and German to cult favorite Danish and Norwegian.  A rotating selection of beers are stocked cold for immediate consumption, but any bottle you like can be chilled in her fridge.  Bottle prices remain the same whether taken seated on the small patio or to go.  The collection here is deep, and staff are only too happy to advise and guide your selections. Reservations can be made on their website; sandwiches and snacks available.

Alas, it was closed. :(

Subway Fiasco

At this point, The Boy wanted to get back to his apartment and fetch a few items for us to take home, plus grab one last pile of laundry to do back at our apartment. I figured we’d go with him because I’d been wanting to get one last close-up of the Eiffel Tower and view it from across the river at the Trocadero near The Boy’s apartment. What I didn’t realize is we’d spend the next 2 hours going from one metro line to another in a zig-zag fashion all across the city because a major line was closed. On top of that the trains were all full and hot. I felt like Elaine and Kramer in that one episode of Seinfeld.


Last walk in The Marais

At last, after what seemed like a few days, we arrived back at our apartment. After doing some last minute shopping in the area and grabbing some baguette sandwiches, we came back to the apartment and enjoyed the last of our delicious beer and wine.  At dusk we headed back out for our last night in Paris. We walked all around the tiny streets of the Marais, peeking into windows and people watching.

Ice Cream and the City of Lights

After walking through the Marais we walked over to the Ile de la Cité once again to see Notre Dame at night. It really is a sight to see, all lit up at night. And looking back, you see the Eiffel Tower way off in the distance, all lit up. We then headed to the Ile Saint-Louis for one last viewing. We came upon an ice cream shop and I insisted we stop for wine and dessert. It turns out the ice cream shop is a famous one – Berthillon. And also expensive (unless you order to go at their ice cream stand). $13 for a scoop!! The Boy was in heaven (he’s the only one who got a scoop). No regrets. It was a wonderful way to end our trip!


The following morning we said goodbye to The Boy and we headed off to the airport via the metro. Everything went smoothly until we arrived inside the airport 3 hours before departure and found Icelandair’s check-in area unattended. It was filled with people waiting to check in for the 2 flights to Iceland that leave 5 minutes apart (so, like, 500 people). There was no signage (or rather, there was one small sign that obstructed), a lot of confusion, and 1/4th of the passengers (including us) waiting in the wrong line. When the staff finally showed up an hour later to start checking people in they kicked us to the back of the line. The back of the line was approximately 80 miles away. I’m only exaggerating a little. In the end, we were in line for nearly 2 hours and had to rush to grab food before boarding and our gate was changed at the very last minute. It was all unfun but the flight home went smoothly (I watched Pacific Rim which was a ridiculous movie but entertaining and enjoyed a little bottle of Jack Daniels). When we arrived in Seattle we took the light rail downtown and caught a bus to Ballard. After being in Paris for a week our city looked so drab and dirty and the people seemed so lifeless. The Dot “greeted” us at home and I would have wrapped my arms around her had she let me. I’d really missed her and I also wanted to share all our Paris stories with her. It’s a place I know she’d love to visit.


I really enjoyed many aspects of our trip but I know I could have gotten a lot more out of it had I not been so nervous and hadn’t over-planned. I hope that the next time I go back I have a little extra spending cash and a more open agenda. It really is a magical city and the people were all so kind.  I’d like to capture it in pictures a bit more because I can’t describe it in words.

The two memories that I will cherish the most were completely non-touristy. The first was walking to the 11th via Oberkampf and sitting in the tiny beer bar, La Fine Mousse on Ave Jean Aicard. The second was sitting in Parc Monceau in the 8th, eating my baguette sandwich, just chilling out and taking in the scenery. Robert probably has his favorite memories but I think he really enjoyed these two experiences as well and I’m so happy we got to spend them together.

Mt. Hood from the back patio of Solera Brewiery

Sunriver Half Marathon recap

I’ve been waiting for official photos to be posted so I can share what must have been a pained look on my face the entire race but apparently they’re really slow at releasing photos this year. I realized I’d better hurry and recap this race before I forget the details.

The most important detail is I PR’d!

We drove down to Bend the day before the race. I hydrated with Gatorade all along the 6 hour drive but couldn’t help but have a sour beer at Double Mountain Brewery in Hood River, and another one at Solera Brewery in Parkdale, Oregon.

Once we arrived in Bend, Chris & Robert headed over to the Little Woody Barrel-Aged beerfest and I stayed back at our rental house (conveniently located just down the road from the beerfest) so I could continue hydrating and preparing mentally for the morning race.

Robert told me I slept really peacefully and I probably did because I woke feeling fully rested. The race didn’t start until 8:15 but I got up at 6:30 to eat half a peanut butter bagel and a banana. We headed over at 7:30 so I could fetch my bib and t-shirt. Robert immediately headed off on a 20 mile training run. The plan was for him to finish his 20 miler just before I finished my half marathon. Naturally that didn’t work out the way we’d planned it. I sat in the car for about 15 minutes with the heat on (it was about 50 degrees outside; warmer than in previous years but also overcast; perfect running weather) and then headed into the Sunriver Lodge to use their luxurious facilities. I made my way to the start line with 2 minutes to spare. I’m a total pro at this event!

My goal was to maintain an overall 9:29 pace which would have me finishing at just over 2:04. I was pretty sure it was going to be tough to maintain that pace but I also knew I was capable of doing it based on my 10K and 15K mock-races I’d done earlier in the summer.

Nerdy Stats

The first few laps were warmup paces:

Mile 1: 9:42.1
Mile 2: 9:35.6
Mile 3: 9:31.2

I then attempted to hit target pace for the next 7 miles:

Mile 4: 9:24.1
Mile 5: 9:36.5 (which, according to my Garmin, was only .75 miles)
Mile 6: 9:24.9 (I grabbed and gagged down a Clif gel at the water stop)
Mile 7: 9:31.3
Mile 8: 9:34.5
Mile 9: 9:36.4
Mile 10: 9:37.8 (another short mile)

The last few miles were supposed to be slightly faster paces to even out the slower start:

Mile 11: 9:42.1 (nope)
Mile 12: 9:31.1 (a few deer ran in front of me…pretty!)
Mile 13: 9:24

My Garmin said I ran 12.76 miles for an overall 9:33 pace.

The official results say I ran 2:01:50 at a 9:27 pace. Clearly, the course was short. A 2:01:50 half marathon is a 9:18 pace.

So, yes. I’m super excited that I PR’d and ran so well but I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t run a full half marathon.

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Nerdy Notes

The course looks really flat when you’re standing there looking at it but there was clearly a hill at mile 10 and I really felt it; there was a lot of heavy breathing. I had to dig deep to maintain a sub 9:45 pace. I kept passing people who clearly didn’t care as much as I did about slowing down. As I neared the finish line I felt like I had given it 100%. My body was done!

I walked through all the water stops and mostly drank water vs. sports drink with a few exceptions (I learned my lesson from the rock and roll half that too much energy drink can be painful).

I passed a 12 year old and his mom and dad around mile 6. At mile 11 the 12 year old and his mom passed me. The kid was clearly hurting but his mom was cheering him on. She kept yelling at him (he was about 5 feet behind her): “Pass her! You can do it! Pass that yellow lady!” They passed me and finished about a minute ahead of me. Go mom!

When I got to the finish line there was no Robert in sight. I grabbed some food and a drink and walked around for a bit and still no Robert. After about 10 minutes I headed towards the car and he came running past me with a few more feet to run to get in his 20 miler. Somehow he thought I told him I was shooting for a 2:15 finish. Clearly, he’s tuning me out because I went into this whole boring story about my goal pace of 9:29 and my hoping to PR by as much as 10 minutes blah blah blah blah blah.

I came in 93rd place overall (181 finishers), 7th out of 18 in my age group, and 46th out of 112 women.

My feet never hurt me. Nothing really hurt. My psoas got a little tight but quickly recovered. Once I hit the finish line I was good to go. Ready to enjoy the beerfest (and that we did, plus 2 more days of beer festivities in both Bend and Portland).

My 2 favorite songs that played during my run: Starships by Nicki Manaj and Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

More photos from the weekend. I can’t wait to do this all over again next year!

3 Days

This is installment #7 of our London/Paris trip. Here are parts #1#2#3#4#5, & #6.

Part 1: Thursday

May 1st is France’s labor day and pretty much everything was closed. Also, it was pouring rain. We walked towards the Montmartre neighborhood and somehow walked directly up to the Sacre-Coeur. Despite all the rain it was crazy with tourists. We quickly walked around it and headed down the hill towards an area that I later found out was the home of Van Gogh and his brother Theo. Oddly enough we ran into Boss lady and her husband on Rue Lepic. We all decided we should get lunch and hoped that the rain would dissipate while we took a little break. It took a while to find a restaurant with room enough for 5 but we finally found a spot and enjoyed some wine and food. I have absolutely no idea what the name of the restaurant was or what street it was on (Le Colibri. On rue Véron) but it was nice to get out of the rain and enjoy some authentic food (omelets, in our case).

Once we set out again the skies had cleared up and we headed towards the Montmarte Cemetery. It’s not the most famous cemetery in Paris but it’s still really cool. The Boy spent much of his time tracking down feral cats. A few of the more interesting folks buried there include Edgar Degas and  Emile Zola. We split off from Boss lady and husband after the cemetery and made our way to beer destination #4: Le Supercoin. This place felt like it could have been a beer place down the road from my house and the thought was reinforced when I made my way to the bathroom and found a poster for Sub Pop Records. We encouraged The Boy to try a little beer, which he did, and pronounced that he prefers wine. That’s my boy!

As we left Le Supercoin we were caught in another downpour. We dashed into a market to grab food for dinner and made our way to the subway headed to Le Marais where we drank some really yummy (and fizzy) beer in our apartment and I enjoyed some time tucked away with Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life. Since so much of her food background came from her experiences living in Paris it was a perfect time to read it. I saw her outside Delancey a few days before I flew to Paris and I wanted to stick my head out the car window and tell her where I was headed and that I was reading her book. I wonder how she would have responded to that. Anyway, thank you Molly. I loved the book!

So yes. We went to Montmarte and we didn’t see the Moulin Rouge. We basically didn’t see much at all.

Part 2: Friday

Friday and Saturday were our museum days. The Boy had morning class so Robert and I headed to the Musee Rodin. I’m kind of dumb because I had no idea that when we walked into the garden we would immediately be standing next to The Thinker. We spent some time in the lovely gardens and also got to see quite a few photos of penises in the Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit inside. Nothing like looking at a photo of a huge semi-erect penis while an 8 year old boy stands right next to you, with a a look of wonderment on his face.

After Rodin we walked to Musee d’Orsay. We were meeting The Boy there and we were a bit early so we sat down outside a cafe and ordered an espresso and a butter and ham sandwich. It was our first and only outdoor cafe sit down and I really enjoyed it despite it being on a very busy, touristy street. We could see the line forming at the museum and I wasn’t looking forward to the wait. One thing that really got to me was a group of American tourists (most likely coming from a cruise ship) walking down the road after their tour guide. I’m sorry to say this but so many of them were HUGE. And SLOW. Yikes! Finally The Boy showed up and we made our way to the line. It took quite a long time to get in (and we got caught in another soaker while we were out there). I couldn’t help but think that I’d rather be doing something else but when we finally got inside I enjoyed the art. We caught a special Van Gogh exhibit with many of his famous works and it was all very sad (the exhibit, I believe, was called The Man Suicided by Society). One could see the progression of his madness in his self portraits. The Boy really, really enjoyed it all and I was grateful to share it with him.

After the museum we walked across the famous passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor (a pedestrian bridge) which took us back to the Tuileries and the Louvre. From there we walked back to our apartment, exhausted. I have absolutely no idea what we did for dinner that night.

Part 3: Saturday

On Saturday we went to Versailles. What can I say about Versailles? Cool train ride over. Long, long, long wait in line. Way too many tourists and way too many people blocking our views with their iPad cameras and such. Impossible to see anything at all. The walk in the gardens was nice but sadly they don’t allow you back in to the chateau once you’ve left it so after the place had cleared out a little you can’t go back in and try to enjoy it. A bit of a let down. I can check it off the list. And I won’t go back. I suggest you watch the forgettable movie Marie Antoinette instead.

Next up: our last day in Paris. Skeletons and a wonderful street market. Plus a horrible, terrible subway adventure soothed only by a late night walk viewing the City of Light from bridges, in search for expensive ice cream.

Early mornings and blisters. A running update.

It has been an unusually hot summer here in Seattle and a few weeks ago I decided that I’d had enough of after work runs in 85 degree temps so I switched to early morning running. Early as in getting up at 5:30am. Total insanity! 5:30 is for people with newborns and early morning flights. And yet. I love it.

(I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I am not a morning person at all and I’ve never managed to be a morning exerciser. I’ve been pretty proud of myself for getting up on the occasional weekend morning and out the door by 8am.)

I love that I get my run done first thing and have my evenings back. I love that I love running again because I’m not sweating like a pig. I love being able to run down the middle of a deserted street. I even love going to bed earlier. Who dropped me on my head??

Did I mention that I’m training for another half marathon? I’m 3 weeks out from the Sunriver Half Marathon for a Cause. I’ve run this race twice before and I’m feeling really good going into it. I’m following Hal Higdon’s Intermediate Half Marathon Training Plan and I’ve pretty much followed it to a T.

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After my mediocre Seattle Rock n Roll effort I did a lot of research about my foot problem. I decided to have my feet and running re-analyzed at Road Runner Sports. 3 years ago I was analyzed and categorized as needing a stability shoe to correct a slight ankle roll (I ended up wearing out about 3 pairs of Mizuno Wave Inspires since then). My analysis this year came out as neutral and my ankles didn’t roll at all. So I guess things change when you become a better runner. Or something. I wish I’d research this earlier because my Mizunos hadn’t felt great for more than a year. They felt heavy and slow. Time for a shoe change. I tried on everything the store suggested for a neutral shoe but didn’t really love anything so continued on with my research and new knowledge about my shoe type.

I scoured the Runner’s World forums for tips from other neutral runners with high arches (another thing analyzed at the shoe store: very high arches) and forefoot pain and kept finding people who recommended the New Balance Supportive Cushioning Insole.  Could it really be this simple? It’s kind of embarrassing that I hadn’t figured this out a long time ago, actually. I then found a shoe that was also highly recommended amongst the high arch crowd: the New Balance 890v4.

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I LOVE these shoes. And the insoles. I’ve had them for 6 weeks and have put 123 happy miles in them. And no nerve pain. I wore my old Mizunos 2 or 3 times on short runs to compare and I felt slow and heavy again. And my left forefoot went numb.

So, as the Angry Beavers like to say, “Problem Sol Ved.” I hope! I’m running faster than ever and if I can keep up the momentum I hope to shave 8-10 minutes off my half marathon PR.

There is still one problem (squint your eyes if you’re queasy):

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Sorry for the nasty feet. I was in the middle of a porch painting project. Oh, and hideous blisters!!! I’ve never really had a problem with blisters before. Maybe it’s the increased pace or the heat? I started getting them with the old Mizunos on all my long runs so it’s not the new shoes. I’ve tried thinner socks, non-cotton socks, and Injinji’s but the blisters always come back on long runs. My feet generally seem to be getting tougher and more manly and they didn’t really hurt on my last run so I hope that’s the worst of it. I also hope you weren’t eating!!!!

Now that I’ve forced myself out of my comfort zone on several runs and haven’t died (my average heart rate on my 15K was 174) I’m building confidence. And when I have pain I can mentally talk myself off the ledge. Also, when I have pain it’s symmetrical! No more left hip pain but both hips hurt equally (but not very much)! I’ve also been working really hard on getting more air in my lungs. Everything is good. I can do this.

Selfie at Arc de Triomphe

Yes. More Paris!

This is installment #6 of our London/Paris trip. Here are parts #1#2#3#4, & #5.

Blogging about Paris is getting kind of lame, I know. I KNOW. But I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked someone for information about a trip they took and they always tell me they can’t remember. 

“Hm. We ate at this really great place but I can’t remember what it was called.”

“We hired this tour guide and he was excellent. Too bad I can’t remember his name or the company I found him through.”

“What did we eat?”

Anyway, why am I apologizing? It’s my blog. (And I’m not even sure I have any readers…)

On Wednesday morning we did our usual breakfast of coffee and protein shake at the apartment and then took off to walk through the grounds of The Louvre and The Tuileries towards Place de la Concorde and  the Champs-Élysées. Along the way we perused many runners and I felt a little sad that we weren’t running but we’d both decided to take a break while in Paris since we were doing so much walking plus the logistics of running from our apartment to these grounds and navigating tourists sounded gross. After a while of walking I started noticing crepe carts and I decided I was in the mood for a savory crepe. I pointed at one and said to Robert, “How about a crepe?” Him, “Let’s see if we can do better.”

Later, on the Champs-Élysées, I  pointed out another crepe stand. I said, “Mmmm. Crepes. Mmmm. Hungry.” This was my passive-aggressive way of saying ,”Hey, can’t we fu**ing stop and get some food?” Robert remained oblivious. Oh sweet oblivious husband.

We walked past a huge McDonalds with outdoor seating. Heck! I’d eat that! But no. NON.

We eventually arrived at the Arc de Triomphe after navigating much touristy things and much restauranty things. We took a selfie and veered off onto a side street towards the 8th Arrondissement with the intent on visiting the Musee Nissim de Camondo. We both agreed that it was indeed time to find some food. I tried to hide the fact that I’d become HANGRY. Robert knows this about me but it always takes him by surprise when I go insane while looking for food. We walked this way and that and kept running into sit down cafes. What we really wanted was a take out baguette sandwich. Why was it so hard to find? Why?

I will tell you this. Don’t go to Paris and try to keep a tight budget when it comes to dining. You will get angry and you might get divorced.

Anyway, after 20 minutes or so of wandering around and finding nothing I threw a fit. I can’t even remember what I said but it was something about how useless Robert is in deciding on places to eat. It really wasn’t his fault but he was the only one there, poor guy. We finally saw a place that looked a bit like a Subway sandwich. We walked in and stood in line with a crowd of people who all looked like they were on their lunch breaks. Hey, if the locals are eating here at can’t be horrible. The shop had 3 options for ordering so it made it easy for us to attempt to do in French. Option 1) Sandwich only. Option 2) Sandwich with drink. Option 3) Sandwich with drink and dessert.

I rehearsed my order in my head a little before we got to the front of the line. When asked what we’d like we both pointed to the sandwich we wanted and asked for the drink option. She grabbed them and then said in English (because she could tell our French sucked), “Dessert?” Only her accent was so strong that I made her repeat herself like 4 times. “Oh, dessert? Non. Merci.”

Food in hand. Crisis over. I knew that the museum was near a park so I suggested that we head there and sit down to eat. We came to the entrance of Parc Monceau with its grand gated entryway. It appeared to be a pretty tiny park and it was full of people eating lunch, sitting on benches that lined a walking/running path. We found a place to sit and started watching the runners, making comments about their form and their pace (it’s a stupid thing but we always do it). I noticed that most of the runners reappeared about every 7 or 8 minutes so deducted that it was indeed a very tiny park (wow, I’m SUPER smart!).

Okay, maybe it was because we were really hungry but this was the best sandwich either of us had ever eaten. The mayonnaise was heaven. The baguette so perfectly springy and crusty. We could not shut up about our sandwiches. Who knew that this would probably be one of our most memorable moments in Paris.

It’s really too bad that we didn’t inspect the park more. It apparently has some cool old 18th century shit in it.

The park is unusual in France due to its “English” style: its informal layout, curved walkways and randomly placed statues distinguish it from the more traditional, French-style garden. It includes a collection of scaled-down architectural features, orfollies — including an Egyptian pyramid, a Chinese fort, a Dutch windmill, and Corinthian pillars. A number of these are masonic references, reflecting the fact that Philippe d’Orléans was a leading freemason. Parc Monceau includes statues of famous French figures including Guy de MaupassantFrédéric ChopinCharles GounodAmbroise ThomasAlfred de Musset, and Edouard Pailleron.

Instead we headed towards the museum. I wish we’d skipped it. It was semi-interesting and had a really cool kitchen and servants’ eating area in the basement that reminded me quite a bit of Downton Abbey. I sometimes wonder why I like to visit old mansions. They’re really kind of depressing. And they smell weird…

We needed to get back to our neighborhood so we could meet up with Boss lady and her husband. She’d flown in that morning (I think) and her apartment was just around the corner from ours. We planned on visiting both apartments and then would try to catch a fancy dinner together (this was the only dinner we planned to splurge a little on).

On our walk back we passed Place Vendome and La Madeleine before stopping at a visitors center to purchase a 2-day museum pass.

We made our way to Boss lady’s apartment. She led us up and gave us a tour. We then walked over to our apartment to give them a tour. On our way we noticed that the other beer shop we wanted to visit, the one just a few hundred feet from our apartment, was now open. We had to stop (Boss lady’s husband were also very excited about picking up some French and Belgium beer). This place is called Cave a bulles and it has a pretty great selection and the owner is really friendly (again, like the other beer shop owner, he was helping someone and we had to wait quite a while before he was done with them). We came away with several more bottles of beer for Robert to drink at the apartment and then did our apartment tour (and visited with The Boy who was there doing homework). Boss lady and husband were visibly winded after climbing up 4 stories to our apartment. We both decided that each liked their own apartment better. Our was quieter, theirs was cleaner. Ours had cool views from the living room, theirs didn’t make them tired getting to it.

We had a little bit of time before we needed to head to Frenchie Wine Bar but we were ready to get our drink on so we walked down rue Quincampoix where we found a cute little bar called L’Art Brut. The girls ordered red wine and the boys ordered beer (The Boy stayed back at the apartment because why would he want to hang out with old people), and we ordered a small plate of cheese and meat. I kind of didn’t want to leave. Especially if we ended up not even getting into the wine bar.

As luck would have it the bar was opening just as we arrived and there was a line out the door. We stepped to the back of the line as people were streamed in. I’m pretty sure we were one of the last, if not THE last group let in and we got the best table in the house! We were seated in front of the tiny kitchen separated by a large window and we were able to watch the sous chefs (just young kids, really) making all our meals. It’s one of those places where they make sure every plate looks like a piece of art. Robert said he saw one of the chefs rearrange a small pea shoot 3 different ways before he was happy with it. Despite the chi chi-ness of the place the food was AMAZING. We did shared plates of fois gras, pea pesto and burrata, buttery white asparagus with fish, a huge man-sized lamb shank, a cheese plate and something else (sigh, I’m already forgetting things) and a bottle of wine and then some. I left the place kind of tipsy but very satisfied.

The owner of Cave a bulles told us about his favorite wine shop and it was on the way back from our dinner so we stopped in (it’s called Le Comptoir du Terroir). The owner is this friendly, wacky looking dude with long white hair. He was really helpful and selected a few wines for me based on my likes and price range and I also picked up a few cans of duck fois gras and rilletes. The owner had great English and he bragged that his daughter is married to the bassist for Metallica. That’s about all I remember about the end of our evening. We came home and crashed.

Good food, good wine. Good sleep.

We only took that one photo the entire day!

Next up: a national holiday, rain, rain, more rain, a famous church with tourists and rain, and a cozy meal with more wine! Also, dead famous people. Also, another beer place gets checked off my list! And more rain!

Selfie at Arc de Triomphe (I'm smiling despite my hangry-ness)
Selfie at Arc de Triomphe (I’m smiling despite my HANGER)

A lazy day in Paris

This is installment #5 of our London/Paris trip. Here are parts #1#2#3, & #4.

I would also like to apologize in advance for not putting accent markers where they belong (or at all). I am too lazy.

When Robert and I finally rolled out of our apartment on our 2nd full day in Paris we were on a mission to fetch a delicious croque-monsieur, walk along the Seine, and drink beer.

And that’s what we did. The end!

Okay fine. Here are a few details.

Croque-monsieur getting was as simple as walking up to street vendor, saying “deux croque-monsieurs” (like a dork) and instantly receiving two sandwiches with a napkin. Sandwiches (both croque-monsieurs and baguette sandwiches) are all pre-made and super quick to fetch. Also, delicious.

With our lunch in hand we walked to the furthest tip of the Île de la Cité to a tiny park called the square du Vert-Galant. Tres romantique! If only I’d had the foresight to pack a picnic with a bottle of wine. Very cliche, sure, but it would have been unforgettable. Instead we carried on and we walked around the park and back up along the bank of the Seine and sat under Pont Neuf for a while taking in the city. After a while we continued on up towards Île Saint-Louis where I encountered our first musician playing classic Parisian accordion. Yes, also very cliche. I loved it!

We made our way back to the right bank and headed towards Place de la Bastille and further on towards a beautiful old train station called Gare du Norde. Of course, they were just part of the journey. Our real destination was L’Express de Lyon. Yes. We were there for the beer.

We sat out on the sidewalk, sipping our beers and enjoying the people watching (it’s basically across the street from the train station so all types of people were coming and going). Eventually it started to rain so we headed inside. We ordered a cheeseburger* and fries. And more beer. Plenty of beer.

*Robert asked the bartender if they were serving food yet and was told in a thick accent that they could make us “cheesebaregares.” (NOT pronounced like this, mind you.)

After drinking plenty of beer we stumbled over to the train station and took a look around. Very cool. It reminded me a lot of the train station in the movie Hugo (which was actually modeled after the now modernized Gare Montparnasse). Robert paid to pee and we departed. I  had promised Boss lady that I’d make a reservation at La Biche Au Bois for the following evening in case our plans to get into the coveted Frenchie Wine Bar fell through. A restaurant employee (the chef, possibly?) was standing outside and the restaurant hadn’t opened yet. I asked him if he spoke English. “But of course!” He helped me make the reservation and gave me their card. He was so nice and the place so cute that I was a little sorry that it was just a backup plan.

We walked back to our apartment and met up with The Boy. We discussed dinner plans and decided a home cooked meal would be best. At the nearby Monop’ we picked up jarred bolognese sauce, spaghetti noodles, more Dr. Pepper, more Bordeaux, and ice cream. You should have seen The Boy devouring his first home cooked meal in over 3 months. Adorable!

Next up: A walk up the Champs Elysses that makes me so “hangry” that I throw a fit; lunch in a park (food at last!), and a visit to an old mansion with a kitchen that Mrs. Patmore surely would have adored!

Tunisien sandwich on the Seine

Doing touristy things in Paris and listening to some Thin Set Jazz

This is installment #4 of our London/Paris trip. Here are parts #1#2, & #3.

I would also like to apologize in advance for not putting accent markers where they belong (or at all). I am too lazy.

Ah. My first morning in Paris.

Our apartment was just around the corner from a dozen adorable cafes so the perfect thing would have been for us to wake up, cascade down the cool wooden spiral staircase in our apartment building, skip out onto the cobblestone street (taking in the spring morning air) and grab a seat at the first cafe we see, and order a big puffy croissant and cafe creme.

Instead, I heated up some water in the kitchen and poured it into my Starbucks Via powder. Stirred. Drank. Opened fridge, pulled out a whey protein milk shake (bought at Costco) and downed that. Ready to go.

How’s that for classy?


The goal for the day was to walk until we could walk no more so I wanted to be energized from the start. My next trip to Paris will be about slowing down. Now that I’ve seen all of the city I’d be happy to spend 80% of my time just puttering around Le Marais. Ah. Next time.

And walk we did. We headed south from our apartment directly towards the Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame, then over to the Latin Quarter across the river. Our first goal was to pick up a Paris Street Guide By District. I recommend getting one before you arrive. It was extremely helpful and we couldn’t have gotten around without it. Once we picked up our guide we stopped at Starbucks for an Americano. Yep. We did that. And we walked around the Latin Quarter with our Starbucks in hand. Hey, if Parisians don’t like the idea of coffee to go then they should not allow one million Starbucks in their city. Just saying.

After fetching some Euros from an ATM, goal #1 was to find a little bakery on a tiny, windy road just a few blocks off the river called Patisserie Sud Tunisien. After a few wrong turns we finally found it. I expected it to be bigger. It was really just a small, boxy space and two foreign men stood inside. I’d heard that their Tunisian sandwiches were delish so that’s what we were there for but they had some pretty amazing looking pastries in the window. I asked one of the men if he spoke English.  He said a little. I held up 2 fingers, my forefinger and middle finger (apparently the wrong 2 fingers) and said “2 sandwiches please.” He gestured to the other man and the other man started making the sandwiches. Then to me he said, “8.” I handed him a bill and he returned some coins. The sandwiches were ready almost immediately and we thanked them and headed out. That went fairly well, I’d say!

Out on the street we tried to figure out how to eat our sandwiches. They were big, messy looking, and bready. Not really something that seemed okay to eat while walking around. (Actually, it turns out that while Parisians don’t do coffee to go they are often seen eating baguette sandwiches on the go; this sandwich was a bit similar than a baguette sandwich so it would have been totally appropriate, albeit messy, to eat it as we walked.)  In the end, we found a spot on a bridge along the Seine to consume this lovely (and very bready) sandwich. This thing had spicy sauce and tuna in it. And whole olives. And a WHOLE BOILED EGG. Amazing!

After consuming good food we were ready for some serious walking. We headed towards Luxembourg Gardens, passing from a distance (without really seeing) Shakespeare and Company, Sorbonne, Musee de Cluny, and The Pantheon (which was under renovation and covered with a shroud).

Luxembourg Gardens was, um, how do I say this? Underwhelming? Maybe because it was a kind of cold day there weren’t many people there. And beyond the central fountain, heading west through empty picnic areas, it was a little depressing. That was also where we encountered our first gypsy children. Their trick is to ask you if you speak English and if you say yes, they ask you to sign a petition. While signing this fake petition, they’ll try to pickpocket you while you’re distracted. My trick was to immediately tell them “No!” and shoo them away when they asked me if I spoke English. It worked every time. I’m actually surprised anyone would fall for it but apparently it happens all the time. Anyway, I’ll give Luxembourg Gardens another try and spend more time exploring there when I return. It was really just poor timing and me being in a rush, I’m sure.

We continued heading in the general direction of the Eiffel Tower (which we got our first glimpse of at Luxembourg Gardens). After a quick downpour in the relatively quiet 7th Arrondissement, we came upon Les Invalides and the Musee de l’Armee. We went into the museum and considered paying for admission but then changed our minds because later in the week we planned to buy a museum pass. It didn’t make much sense to spend extra money on an unplanned museum when we could instead spend it on wine and beer. See how we think? That is how we do.

We arrived at the Champ de Mars and I texted The Boy to tell him where to meet us (he had class in the morning but said he’d meet us later near the Eiffel Tower since his apartment which was just across the river in the 16th). More gypsies and many more tourists. Ugly tourists, oh my. I am way too self conscious to travel, I’ve decided. I want to look completely like a local and I try so hard that I end up not really enjoying myself and seeing things. I need to find a happy medium. The Boy found us and we headed to the Eiffel Tower admission line. We planned on climbing the stairs and the line for that entrance (the Pilier Sud entrance) was much shorter than the line for the elevator but still took us about 30 minutes to go through. After going through security we headed up. It was kind of fun to look at the structure up close like that. I’d been reading about the construction of the tower in the book Eiffel’s Tower: The Thrilling Story Behind Paris’s Beloved Monument and the Extraordinary World’s Fair That Introduced It and I couldn’t help but imagine the men up their manually pounding in the rivets and looking back down at the Champs de Mars and picturing the World’s Fair going on down below with Thomas Edison’s popular phonograph recording exhibit packed with people eager to hear the sound of their own voices. I highly recommend putting the book and your first visit to the Eiffel Tower together. Fun!

We didn’t climb to the top but to the 2nd level (I don’t even know if you can climb to the top). From the 2nd level you can see all of the city and it’s really remarkable. We stayed a bit and took some photos, then headed down.

The Boy took us across the river so that we could see his Chambre de Bonne and grab a few things to bring back to our apartment (laundry, mainly, since his local laundromat was temporarily closed). Originally, The Boy wasn’t going to stay with us in our apartment but due to the laundromat situation and his room’s fridge having died while he was away it was the sensible thing to do. After a quick tour (the building he lived in was very nice with a private courtyard and an amazing backyard view of the Eiffel Tower; his room faced the opposite direction from the tower, unfortunately, but still he had peek-a-boo views of quaint apartment balconies and rooftops), The Boy escorted us to the Passy subway stop and we made our way back towards Le Marais. That is where we got to witness our first packed subway. It’s interesting to see how people deal with being packed in tightly on mass transit. In Taiwan they really packed themselves in and no one really seemed to show any expression about the situation. In Paris, they were equally packed in but the attitude was a bit different. People paid just enough attention to each other to move a bit as needed, offer a seat if necessary (and if possible to move) etc. It was pleasant chaos. Also, sweaty. I couldn’t wait to get off.

Once back in Le Marais I was anxious to go “home.” I used to think of myself as super adventurous but I need a mixture of excitement and routine these days. Before heading to our apartment we stopped at the local grocery store (thank god it was opened on a Monday) to picked up dinner-y things and wine. I really came to love that stupid little market during our week in Paris. It was just a mini-Monoprix (called Monop’). To The Boy’s delight they stocked Dr. Pepper (the Monoprix in the 16th where he normally shopped didn’t). My exciting purchases included duck liver pate, smoked meats, soft French cheese, mini baguettes, bottles of Bordeaux, tabouli salad, salmon lox, blinis, etc. Yum! And crazily affordable (in particular, the wine and cheese was way cheaper than I was used to).

Upon returning to the apartment, I slipped off my walking shoes, made myself a huge plate of yum, poured a big glass of red wine and we all watched Elf in French (because it was there) followed by more wine and listening to TSF Jazz*.

*Give TSF Jazz an “écouter” and tell me you don’t hear the lady between songs say “Thin Set Jazz” rather than TSF Jazz.

Next up: A romantic walk along the banks of the Seine (with accordion music even!) plus “Project Get Good Beer” continues and a visit to a cool old train station. Bonus: A mom cooks hot food for The Boy. This makes mom and boy happy.


Arriving in Paris

This is installment #3 of our London/Paris trip. Here are parts #1 & #2.

As I mentioned in my trip planning post, I’d purchased Eurostar tickets to get us to Paris from London. The train was scheduled to depart at 11:30am so I wanted to be sure to check out of our hotel no later than 10am. Robert and I rose early-ish and fetched breakfast in the hotel lobby. It was a very nice spread of hot food (including more delicious black pudding!)

After breakfast and hotel checkout we stopped at the market in Paddington station to pickup picnic food to eat on our train ride. My plan was to get cheese, sausage, various other tapas, and wine. I started loading items in my basket when an employee approached me to inform me that the town of Paddington does not allow the purchase of alcoholic beverages before 10am on a Sunday. Oh. La-ti-da. Like I’m in Utah or something. Okay. I purchased the other items and crossed my fingers that I could pick up a bottle of wine at St Pancras station.

I’d researched ahead of time info on getting to St Pancras station from Paddington. It was a 2 step process but didn’t sound complicated. 1) take the Circle line to King Cross (usually 10-15 minutes) 2) walk 5 minutes to St Pancras.

What really happened:

Approaching the circle line we were directed toward the “H&C platform.” Signage was vague but apparently train 1 would take us to St Pancras. Train 2 would take us to some god awful Mordor place so by all means, do not take! Also, the trains didn’t appear to be marked. Also, announcements kept coming through the nearly indecipherable PA about a line being closed and for passengers to walk to a bus. A train was there when we arrived at platform 1, however I was too panicked to get on it so we just stood there and let it pass through. It turns out that was our train.

So we waited. For quite a while! I kept questioning whether or not we were even in the right place. I tried to relax. Nope. My heart rate was at VO2max! This would have been a good time to just ask for help from someone else standing there, right? No. Too chicken.

The next train finally came and we were fairly sure it was the correct train so we crossed ourselves and stepped on. After only a few stops we were directed to make a change in order to get to St Pancras. Robert appeared cool and collected as usual. Sid, also. Me? Eyes bulging. We followed the pack of people who casually hopped off the train and headed up the stairs. They all immediately got on another train that was about to leave. We shuffled on as well. I looked around quickly having no idea what train we are on. I yelled, “Let’s get off!” So we got off.

And, yes. It WAS the correct train. *sigh*

At this point I told Robert that he was now in charge. We caught the next train and arrived safely and with plenty of time to fetch a precious bottle of wine and to go through security at St Pancras and get to our seats on the train.

I expected our Eurostar trip to be really cool but it really wasn’t. The train speeds up pretty quickly and goes through a series of short tunnels as it makes its way towards the English Channel. As the train exited each tunnel our ears popped. Looking around, everyone was grabbing their ears. It was a little unsettling and slightly painful! I set up our “picnic” a short time after we departed. Wine for each of us plus some delicious Jamon Iberico that The Boy had brought with him from Spain (he says he purchased it in a vending machine at the train station!), salami, crackers, manchego cheese (hm, not a very English picnic), mangos, and a few other various items. The family adjacent to us had obviously planned poorly because they didn’t have anything and kept staring at our spread enviously. Eventually the father got up (it was a family consisting of mom, dad, and 2 younger daughters) and returned with cheap mini bottles of wine for him and his wife. I was really digging that The Boy was able to share some wine with us. Oh, I also got a few bottles of beer for Robert when I picked up the wine. He continued to be underwhelmed by the beer available in the UK (but drank them nonetheless).

Eventually we were in the dark and we knew we were in the Channel Tunnel. No announcement or anything. 20 minutes later we popped out. We were in France!!! The countryside looked very French. (Oh, who am I kidding. The English countryside looked exactly the same.)

Quicker than I expected we were pulling into Gare du Nord station in Paris. This is where The Boy kicked into gear. We grabbed our bags and he motioned that we should follow him. He zipped off the train and easily made his way to the subway area (he still walks fast like a New Yorker; ridiculous). We dashed after him and he brought us to a ticket machine where we each bought 10 subway tickets (by now Robert had learned that he should leave his card IN THE MACHINE until the transaction was complete instead of immediately pulling it out like he accidentally did at Heathrow about 8 million times).

We approached our first Paris subway train. The doors were open and an alarm was beeping. The Boy told us to get on. “Get on fast! The alarm means the doors are closing and you’re not supposed to get on!!! So get on!” We got on. I later read an article about how a few subway lines in Paris are driverless and tourists have been crushed in their doors. Thanks Boy!!!

Little did I know that this would be our one and only uncrowded subway ride in Paris. Our stop was Les Halles, just a few short blocks from our apartment. There are stop announcements on the subway. A man’s recorded voice first says, “Les Halles?” as if asking if you would like to get off at Les Halles and then train arrives he says “Les Halles” as if to say “here we are!” Oh, just listen to it. For some reason the announcements continued to amuse us the entire trip.

Les Halles was originally a market and was later turned into an underground mall. It is now undergoing renovations to pretty it up and there was construction everywhere. However, I didn’t really pay much attention to the station itself. It was what I saw as we came out onto street level. I don’t know what I was expecting exactly but it definitely wasn’t The Church of Saint-Eustache towering over my head. There she was, like a miniature Nortre Dame, right freaking in front of me. Welcome to Paris! Wow!

We again had to dash after The Boy who didn’t seem to take much notice to the wonderment around him. He later said it was really cool and he was a bit jealous that his chambre de bonne was in such a drab neighborhood (the 16th). We made our way towards the 3rd arrondissement, passing Rue Saint-Denis (without seeing a single prostitute) and Boulevard de Sebastapol. Honestly, at the time I didn’t even notice these streets. I was trying to open my notes on my phone so I could get the code to buzz up to the apartment (the manager was at the apartment waiting to let us in). One block from Sebastapol was Rue Quincampoix a pedestrian-only street with a rich and interesting history. Also, the location of our apartment.

As we approached the big black doors I tried again and again to get my notes to pull up to no avail. Shit!!! My phone was not getting data and Evernote (my note app) required internet to open notes for some stupid reason. I could not believe it. I had a huge temper tantrum. Fortunately, I had the phone # of our contact in the first line of my notes and that appeared without internet so I had Robert call her on his phone. Thank God that worked. She answered and immediately came down to let us in. How many times had I had a panic attack so far that day? I began to wonder if traveling just wasn’t worth it. How did I ever manage to live in Asia all those years ago?

After a quick intro regarding the apartment and handing off the keys, the manager left and we were on our own. Our apartment was very cool and fairly large. I loved it! (The only thing I didn’t love was the single wifi connection we had available and one had to be about 4 feet from the wifi router to get that connection). The Boy took off to get settled back in his room after his long trip to Spain and to get a little homework done. I peeked out our window and could see the busy cross-street, Rue Rambuteau, packed with people, enjoying their Sunday afternoon. I couldn’t wait to get out there.

Our first stop was a little beer shop in Le Marais called La Moustache Blanche. I had about 6 beer places I wanted to check out while we were there and this was not only not far from our apartment but opened on Sunday (the other beer shop was actually on our street but not opened until Tuesday). We meandered through the tiny streets of Le Marais (and at one point I though we’d stumbled upon Place des Vosges but it seemed so tiny and then I eventually realized it was the Archives Nationales. D’oh!). Robert was very excited to find a lot of very nice beers there and the owner was really helpful with selections. None of the beer is refrigerated and it definitely reminded me more of a wine shop than a beer shop. My favorite tips from the owner regarding the beers we purchased were “this is a strong beer and should be drunk with friends” and “this should be opened VERY SLOWLY, be very careful”. The 1st one was unnecessary since Robert can hold his own with strong beer and the 2nd tip ended up being REALLY IMPORTANT!

We lugged our box of several bottles of beer back to the apartment (with a pass through the REAL Place des Vosges) and sat down to plan out the rest of our evening. I was getting pretty hungry and since I didn’t know of anything particular opened on Sunday in our area I picked the sure thing. That sure thing was La Fine Mousse. It was a bit of a walk to get there (I believe it was in the 11th arrondissement, just a few blocks from the Pere Lachaise Cemetery) but completely worth it. It was REALLY crowded and we wedged ourselves into a spot at the bar. I was getting panicky (again!) about how to order things so when the bartender approached I blurted out “Do you speak English?!!!” He smiled and said, “of course.” Phew!

You’d think at that point I’d calm down but I never really did. The entire time we were in Paris I was nervous about sounding and looking like an idiot.

So that night we drank amazing sour beers, eventually found ourselves a seat, and ate a delicious tray of cheese, cured meats, pate, rillettes, pickled onions, and baguette.

On our walk back the apartment I picked up a bottle of Bordeaux in a wine shop and was approached on the street by a stranger who asked me in French for directions. My response, “Je ne parles Francais.” So I got it a little bit wrong but I did it (and hey, she thought I was French!!!!)

Next up: Tunisian sandwiches on The Seine, Luxembourg Gardens, and La Tour Eiffel. Plus Elf in French!




I run and stuff