April 10, 2014

Paris


Under somber skies I have to say that Paris is still the most beautiful city in the world. I should have run the Paris Marathon last weekend but because of a substantial injury to my calf I couldn't. The upside is that Paris is only three hours away and my father is now there on sabbatical. Yes, my life is pretty awesome.

This was my fifth time in Paris which is exciting because I've 'done' the major attractions and it left me  with time to just be Parisian. We spent days biking along the Seine (at times a rather dodgy expedition), strolling the shops and eating, eating, eating.

Intermittent bike paths and locks of love


Aux Merveilleux de Fred
This fabulous pastry shop, around the corner from where I was staying, consistently had a queue I just had to get into. The last time I got into a line that long was in Taiwan for a piece of fried chicken the size of my face. This line was all about meringues surrounded by white/dark chocolate or nuts. Sharing was really hard.

The only attraction, other than Musee de l'Orangerie, we invested in (because pastry shops aren't the only places for line-ups) was The Paris Catacombs. Originally a limestone quarry, the catacombs was turned into an ossuary during the late eighteenth century to accommodate the remains of all those buried in surrounding, overcrowded cemeteries.
'ArrĂȘte, c'est ici l'empire de la mort'
If you ever wondered what it's like to be trapped underground with 6 million dead bodies, the catacombs is the place to be. Even more disturbing was ducking around people posing in front of heaps of bones like it was the Eiffel Tower.


This unpretentious historical site is located 130 steps under Paris and above someone's laundry mat.

The Exit
This is one of the gates of hell. Take a good look, prepare yourself in case one day he tries to invite you over. The other gateway is in Turkey. I know because I saw it. Didn't I tell you about my trip to Turkey? Next time.


April 2, 2014

Spring Projects


Spring is here in Switzerland and that means home confinement. Pollen is the enemy. I'm only permitted a quick glance at cherry blossoms and magnolias during a weekly grocery shop before the wheezing begins. So, if the mountain can't come to Muhammad...

Not that my friend Sara is Muhammad but several times now she's graciously lugged her sewing machine over to my place for a weekly sewing session, an event inspired by sombre winter weather and bad local fashion. Last year we attempted handbags. It took two weeks of labor before I realized I hated mine. It's been in the closet ever since.


This time we've been attempting skirts. 


and shadow puppetry
Cutting patterns out of newspaper, following vague instructions from a book and creating templates before cutting into the real material, we managed to create basic but unique skirts, a staple for every woman's wardrobe.


As usual I chose a rather demure design. In fact, I think it's supposed to be for a table cloth, which is convenient because I'm a slob while eating. But it was also cheap... and the handbag wasn't.

With the slit, darts, facing and zipper, it took five days, twelve cups of coffee and a bag of cookies to assemble. It still needs to be hemmed but I'm happy with the results, which means I'll make more, and wear them as soon as mother nature allows. 

It also goes well with the cute shoes I picked up in Paris. You mean I didn't tell you about my trip to Paris? Next time.

January 22, 2014

16 Days to Sochi


When my friend Kelly invited me to the Olympic Museum last Sunday I thought, why the hell not. It’s the closest I’m ever going to get to the Olympics. Will we be running there?
 
Although I enjoy sports I can’t confess to following one in particular. I look forward to gymnastics in the summer Olympics and freestyle skiing during the winter. I’m especially excited that, for the first time, women's ski jumping will be included at the Sochi Olympics!!  
 
Olympic Track. Note how no one attempts to run it.

Olympic Torso. With no head, arms or legs..mine would look like that too.
The Olympic Museum was a little disappointing. It turned out to be more of a celebration of the Olympics than an educational montage. I’m no wiser on the judging, the financing or the logistical challenges. I don’t even know who the current I.O.C. president is. I did learn that each Olympics has a mascot. And some of the equipment, like the bicycle with one gear and no brakes, was a bit surprising.

Men's Olympic bathing suit. Also doubles as pajamas.
More interesting is that while the design for the gold and bronze medals are the same, the silver medal is almost always different.

Two naked men. Wonder how Russia will design the silver medal this year.

January 16, 2014

Starting 2014 Strong(ly) and Honestly

I’m now 43-years-old. It’s not much different from last week as I’ve been referring to myself as forty-three for a few months now. Most people do the opposite, suggest they’re younger than they are, but I like to prepare. This is why I joined a gym. I expect osteoporosis any day now.

Gyms can be intimidating. Surrounded by people with better bodies, attempting bicep curls on equipment you later find out is for your legs, there’s plenty of opportunity to humiliate yourself especially if you sweat heavily, forgot deodorant and fart at the smallest exertion. But the gym I joined was cheap, convenient, clean, and I got a free introductory session to the machines.

“I want you to start on the treadmill,” said Maxine. It was 8am, I and a petite Asian girl were listening to Maxine, the instructor's, distinctive and record-speed take on exercise. “The impact a treadmill has on your body is best for fitness,” she explained. 

Although I raised my brow, it's unusual to hear the word ‘impact’ used in such a positive way, I had also heard this before. According to The Hanson's Marathon Method, there is aerobic fitness, cardio and strength training, and then there is structural fitness, which prepares your body for the stress.

Moving over to a row of elliptical machines, three guys were industriously working their bodies. As we approached you could see them pick up speed, elongate their stride. A gym can sometimes feel like a bar, complete with mating rituals. Maxine walked right up to them, turned and said, “Don’t even bother with these machines. They’re useless.”

“But aren't they good for knee problems?” asked the Asian girl. I looked down and noticed she was wearing slippers.

“Sure…if you have knee problems then I suggest you really swing those arms. But people think because you sweat you’re getting a good workout. The truth is it’s not the same impact as a treadmill.” She started swishing her arms forward while mimicking the moonwalk, again, right in front of the men. “This motion is just not natural.”

She walked us over to the stationary bikes and told us to spend at least 30 minutes on them. “But thirty minutes will only warm up your body.” She looked at me and added, “There’s no weight loss.”

At the rowing machine Maxine gained credibility by reiterating something my sister-in-law already told me. “This is the best machine here because it’s a complete body workout. Unfortunately almost no one uses it."  We looked over the rower. "There’s a heart rate monitor but I have no idea how to use it.” I was starting to like Maxine. There would be no oversell.

By now more people had entered the gym but the ratio of men to women was still 5:1. We ambled over to the weight machines and Maxine pointed out the ones that were effective and those that were ‘stupid’. While a rather saggy guy was working out his quadriceps, Maxine pointed to his machine and mention it wasn’t a favourite of hers, either. The guy jumped off and walked away.

“Oh, are you done?” She sat down and showed us how to injury your knees. “See. Terrible.”

I liked the fact that a lot of machines worked the same body part. Maxine pointed out that some workouts could be done on the floor mat if it ever got busy. The last piece of equipment she showed us was for chest muscles. After she sat down and adjusted the weight, she looked at the Asian girl and said, “Don’t worry, this won’t reduce your chest size, just raise them up.”

I later tried to recall if Maxine had shown us ID, whether she really worked there or perhaps strolled in off the street. She was too audacious to be a proprietor but as Cam pointed out, if I needed one, Maxine would make a great personal trainer, honest and able to focus on individual needs. We'll see. The true test will be the next time I see her, when I ask her how old she thinks I am.