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5 Random Things I Did This Weekend

Here’s a look at the last few days here in rather warm France…

1) A Sweltering Friday Night Brick

Friday night was brick night.  Not a hard one, just a short and intense one.  Unfortunately, the temperature on Friday reached 97°F here, which meant that after the exchange rate it was approximately 120°F in the top floor of our apartment, and it split the difference on the first floor.  The reason being that we’re on floors 5/6 (or 6/7 in American floor counting) and only the roof is above us.  So the sun beats down all day and the heat from everyone else rises to us.  Free heating in the winter, not so awesome for the summer.

We have a little portable A/C unit that we initially got for the cupcake shop – but it didn’t cut the mustard there so we moved it over to our place to use to try and cool down small spaces.  In this case that space would be my bike trainer mat.  Which, it cooled fairly well.  I have a photo somewhere, but for some strange reason I can’t find it.

Thankfully it was a short session on the bike – only about 30 minutes simply as a building warm-up with a 10-minute sustained almost-FTP set to finish it off.

Then it was outside to knock out a 35ish minute tempo run.  Despite the heat I found the run pretty fun.  No particular secondary device with me this time, just a single watch (FR620) and a single heart rate strap (Scosche RHYTHM+).  Sublime simplicity.

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Afterwards we headed out to meet up with friends across town.  As usual, we took bikes.  I was wearing bike-appropriate attire from a reader that dropped off a t-shirt at the shop earlier in the day.

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Thanks Larry!

2) Yes, there’s a Grilled Cheese café

Back a few months ago while doing some errands I stumbled on a small restaurant that serves nothing but grilled cheese sandwiches.  At the time though I couldn’t remember exactly where it was though other than roughly near Bastille.  So it wasn’t again till Saturday night that when coming home via Velib from a friend’s house that we once again stumbled upon it.

Finding ourselves mid-afternoon on Sunday thinking about food, we grabbed our Velib’s and pedaled the 5-7 minutes over there to check it out.

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As noted, the entire menu is grilled cheese offerings.  But in reality, they had me at ‘pastrami’.  I can’t find pastrami here in France/Paris (which makes me very sad), so this was epic.  Combining grilled cheese (a favorite), with one of my favorite meats.  Perfect.

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We took a seat outside and waited for the food to arrive. Which, aside from the prices being a wee bit high – would be our only other complaint.  Even by French standards it took a long time for a sandwich.  On the flip side, my sandwich was definitely worth the wait.  Yes, pure brilliance:

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Three different cheeses, some meat, and I had substituted out the mustard/pickles for caramelized sweet onions.   I’m hungry again just thinking about it.

3) Saturday Afternoon Swims

I thought it would be nice on a hot Saturday afternoon to go down to the open-air pool instead of the indoor pool.  It would be just like swimming outside when I lived back in DC.  The pool that fits that description closest to us actually sits on a barge on the river, about 2 miles away.  So we grabbed a pair of Velib’s and headed on down.

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Except, once we got there we realized the error of our ways.  Specifically – everyone else thought the same thing.  And unfortunately, in Paris, ‘everyone’ means that the entire pool just becomes a giant pool party without any lap lanes.  You can sorta see that in the glass through the windows:

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So, we backtracked back to all of a few hundred meters from our home to our normal pool (thus completing a four-mile round-trip bike).

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It was roughly ‘normal’ in the busy department – about 10-14 per lane or so most of the time we were there.  I usually swim in the second to right lane, since that’s the ‘rapid’ lane.  The far right lane is for classes.  The remainder of the lanes are for Parisians to practice aquatic interpretive dancing.

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4) Watching Bike Polo…yes…Bike Polo

As we were making our way back from the grilled cheese sandwich place we stumbled past a hockey-rink like setup with cyclists riding around inside.  After a few moments we realized it was neither hockey nor a cycling event, but rather ‘Bike Polo’, which involves lawn polo sticks along with a round ball.  Add to that single-speed bikes and some hockey nets.

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The game was surprisingly fast-paced, and, at times rather aggressive as well.

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Here’s a short compilation video of a few moments of the action:

The event was drawing a small crowd of passer-byers, mostly like us though – curious as to exactly what was going on.

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The space that they’re in is being used for a number of different sporting events over the course of the summer.  And this just happened to be this weekend’s event of interest.  Cool stuff!

5) Longchamp Loops

Last up on the weekend hit list was a medium length ride on Sunday.  I waited till early evening to head out since thunderstorms had threatened to dump a few times.  My ride called for about 90 minutes of Z2 pace (so just riding), and then a short build before doing 2x17min at a higher intensity.

I ended up heading over to Longcamp again, simply because it’s somewhat mindless and this time of the day would be reasonably free of obstructions (people/cars/etc..).  As I arrived though the clouds were looking pretty sketchy.

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I decided to do bigger loops around the Bois (forest) to kill time for the first 90 minutes.  So rather than 6 minute loops they’d be 25 minute loops.  Eventually I’d head back to 6-minute land for my harder intensity stuff.

It was out in the larger Bois that I remembered an e-mail a reader had sent me on Friday asking whether or not it was safe to run in the Bois due to concern about ‘working ladies’ there.  See, both of the major parks close/in Paris have many ladies that work along the edges of the roadway in the relatively quiet park.

There are essentially two types you’ll roll into.  The first have their own van nearby/with them for dining in.  Usually the vans look pretty rough, so this is actually a rare nice van.

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The second type is more of a ‘take-away’ service, where you head elsewhere.  Entertainingly on the next loop this women was being picked up by some teenagers.  It was obvious since they had the ‘A’ on the back of their car indicating a learning permit/driver.  Further, they just looked like two 18-year old teens when I rode past their windows.

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As for the reader’s question: No, the ladies are completely harmless.  Both myself and The Girl have run and ridden at all hours of night there and never been bugged by one.  Unless you look like a business man (or a plumber), they’ll completely ignore you.  That’s because neither of those two should be in the park  – thus making it easy to figure out who’s looking for services and who’s out exercising/park-partaking.  As for how many there are, on my route last night I saw no fewer than 20-30 women on that specific loop in the park.

In general, you’re far more likely to get hurt by a little old lady holding her course walking her miniature dog than you are by any of the women.

As for my ride, I just went around and around.  Eventually I hit up the smaller loops and continued going around and around.  Every once in a while someone would try and hang on my wheel (usually possible), and then they’d jump in front.  That never really works out though because they end up slowing things down.  This guy however was able to actually hold is own.  Nonetheless, I’m not a terribly big fan of drafting since that means I’m out of aero-position.

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I was however using wattage for these, so whether or not I was in a draft was somewhat irrelevant as long as I was hitting my zones.  Hence why it mattered if a person got in front that was too slow (as I’d have to immediately re-pass them).

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After about 2hrs and 15 minutes of loops I started working my way home – eventually getting back into the city and passing by the National Assembly building, which has been lit up since Bastille Day last Monday.

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From there I found home a few minutes later – coming in just under 2hrs and 45 minutes.  Gotta love warm night rides where the sun doesn’t go away until 10:30PM or so.

With that – thanks for reading, and have a great week ahead!

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43 Comments

  1. You can get great pastrami at Freddie’s Deli in the 11th!

  2. Urs

    Is this confortable with the bike computer on aero bars?
    An the cheese sandwich looks incredibly!

    • Yes, I much prefer it as I can see it far easier. Though, I need to move it up a bit more again as I had moved it back to accommodate other units up further on the bars for testing. But I’ve since moved those just to the top tube for now.

  3. Seb

    Hi Ray,

    you should try to go to the swimming pool of the Butte-aux-Cailles:
    link to equipement.paris.fr

    This swimming pool as just reopen its doors after renovation. There are 3 swimmong pools: 1 inside, 2 outsides.
    This is the oldest swimming pool of Paris. The water comes from a water spring.

    Regards

  4. z

    Btw, DC has some mad bike polo matches. Has for many years!

  5. Renee McKinney

    Oh my word! That sandwich is beautiful! I had no idea France experienced temps that high.

  6. Gunnar

    Mon Dieu! C’est un Croque Monsiuer? No?

    • The Croque Monsiuer has cheese melted back on top (this was just butter). Also, lacks patrami, and the multitude of cheese types. So basically, it lacks awesome. ;)

  7. Tami

    Is the “work” the ladies are doing legal there?

    • I’m bit entirely sure to be honest. I’ve never seen any police officer hassle them. Perhaps one of the native Parisians knows.

    • BubbleMakerTrailer

      Definitively illegal in France FYI. Whether Police forces are tolerating it or not is another question. But they tend to in certain limits that the involved persons probably know and play with very well.
      What exactly are the risks, penalties that both working ladies and gentlemen or ladies using their offers, I don’t know.

    • Kochka

      I believe it’s a bit more complicated. Active and passive soliciting is forbidden by the law, and obviously procurement.
      Usually Police don’t bother the “girls” if they stay away of living area… But actively try to catch procurers and destroy networks.

    • Roland

      Prostitution is not illegal in France, however protitutes must not attract customers (this is illegal, called “raccolage”) and pimping too (“proxénétisme). That’s why the ladies just walk in an explicit dressing so men can identify them and proactively approach them.
      There are currently discussions at the congress about penalizing the prostitute customers, however not finalized.

  8. Bert

    Puteaux is nice as well, though it can get crowded during the summer I’ve actually had staff enforce the lane rules (speed/stroke) in the past, which was a Paris first for me: link to puteaux.fr.

  9. Dave

    Ray

    Dead on with your assessment of the pool – I was in Paris on a business trip and quit after 45 minutes – I call it the MMA swim :-). Did stop at some cupcake shop afterwards to calm me down :-). I used this one the second time: Le Centre aquatique de Levallois – very nice and not overly full (I went on a Friday evening).

    thanks for the Paris Blog though – helped a ton when looking for running and swimming locations.

    Dave

  10. Joshua McLaughlin

    If you ever come to Cleveland, Ohio check this place out for awesome grilled cheese. http://meltbarandgrilled.com

    The only problem is you will need a weekends worth of workouts to burn through it all.

  11. wai

    That pastrami looks yummy… It is always good that as a cyclist I could eat almost any food with no guilt.

  12. Joshua Parks

    Ray: I was happy to see your ‘loops’ workout posted to Strava, something that’s pretty irregular for you. As I’m sure you, and many of your readers know, you can get pictures from Instagram up to Strava automatically. That said, I can very easily see why you’d not want to do that with a couple of the shots above…interesting stuff. I’m lucky to see some of the actual native New Jersey wildlife on my rides, something very different from the Parisian version you spotted here.

  13. SimonNZ

    I’ve had the pleasure of a Katz Pastrami on Rye. How did this sandwich compare?

    (and to my eternal shame I realised later I forgot to tip the carver… will just need to go back one day to double tip)

    • As a very frequent Katz customer (frequent defined as it’s my first stop from the airport on every NYC trip I take, as well as often my last stop before the airport) – it’s not quite in the same league. Don’t get me wrong, the grilled cheese was great, but I’ll take Katz almost any day.

  14. Good looking sandwich! But I might argue that it looks more like a Monte Cristo not a grilled cheese. Traditional Monte Cristo includes ham but yours had pastrami so it’s open for debate regarding sandwich classification.

  15. marco

    Hi Ray,
    the piscine Josephine Baker has a published online plan with the weekly program.
    You have to look for “nageur sportive” or something like that (usually early in the morning :-))

    Don’t you have a slick membership for the reopened “Pisicine Molitor”?

    Be care! Not all the “ladies” in bois de boulogne are female :-))

  16. Robert black

    Hi Ray seeing that your running with the rythem+ of late do you not find the running smoothness metrics provided by the him run useful?

    • Yeah, I’m just not finding any real usable value there. Perhaps someday, but nothing either myself nor my coach can really use to actually tweak training plans. Right now it’s most “oh, that’s neat…moving along”. Perhaps someday that will change.

  17. Mr Nofish

    Can’t you just “take some fresh air” instead of passing them or is that not enough? with your FTP I’m not surprised they bust a nut, your looping at 260-270W is enough to put the less sucky roadies in VO2max territory, guess that guy was a racer.

    I see the ‘ladies’ there are less friendly, so to speak, than the ones I’ve got here. I only have to deal with them on one route, but I get some unprovoked reactions passing by about 50% of the time, they’ll even try to pick some extra work (why they would even try to approach a tired, sweaty roadie is beyond me..), other times they mock me or act playful, trying to attract attention.

    As for me me, I don’t get to meet a lot of triathletes (other roadies are my bread and butter), but I latched to one last year – when I tried to return the favor, he snapped back in front – figured I was throwing off his target and simply stuck to his wheel from that point on.

    • Yeah, like most triathletes (or those on training plans), I have target. So in this case I was doing 17-minute intervals at a specific zone, so sliding back would have put me below zone/effort.

    • Mr Nofish

      Eh drafting is second nature for roadies, it makes for some interesting moments when someone’s doing intervals out on the road – especially on popular loops :)

  18. Jose Carlos de Silva

    I used to live in DC and in Paris and I have been reading your reviews for I don’t know how many years now. Thanks for all the information. Now I live in Malmö, Sweden but while living in Paris I used to train and hangout with the Triathlon store and Bicycle store guys near republique, maybe they can help you find new training rides. (you were commenting about in other post).
    Cheers and Thanks again

  19. Larry

    Ray – Glad you like the t-shirt and it fits (“The Girl” helped me get the right size). When I saw this shirt in Florence it looked like a nice small token of my appreciation for all the hard work you put into this blog. My wife has started reading just to catch the color of your travels and adventures around Paris. Our family loved the cupcakes as well, but wish we knew about the grilled cheese place as that would have been a big hit. Question – have you become immune to all the public smoking around Paris, or is there a secret Paris we don’t know about?

    • Thanks again!

      Yeah, the smoking sucks. You sorta get used to it to a degree. It’s a little better in the winter because they aren’t allowed to smoke inside, so when you’re eating you’re generally inside – versus the summer with so few places having A/C, you’re generally outside.

  20. freakydoz

    Hi, as far as I know you could find pastrami in Mark & Spencer in several places know around Paris. I haven’t tried yet the one on Champs Elysée thought.

    • Hmm, that’s a good point – they just opened up a new one, with a ton more planned for opening this year (I think I saw something like 15 stores…crazy).

  21. Roland

    Hi Ray,

    The swimming pool Guy Bey of Meudon is my favorite one. 50m, lap swimming at any time, quite uncrowdy except in rush evening hours during the school season. And has a terrace. Only problem: it is outside Paris city.