Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday in the Parks

Just outside of the center of Paris...
Homework, and the double commencements two days ago of les conferences (2-hour lectures on French civilization) and phonetics classes of one hour per day have made it impossible to sit at the computer and contemplate my fabulous environment this week.  I'm now fully immersed in the student life, including homework at 1am following dinners out with visiting friends. 

But I did get out on Sunday, for my first organized randonée, which is basically a walk in the country that can vary in length and focus of the group (from fast nordic walking in a park, to more traditional hiking, and in my case on Sunday (about which I really hadn't read properly in the French - bien sur - description of the walk), water-coloring!  No, if you're wondering, I don't watercolor, paint or do anything artistic of that sort, though I have great admiration and envy for those who do and can.  So it was worthwhile on many levels, not least of which was the necessity to speak in French the entire day. 

Of course, where I got to walk and what was on view throughout the day was the main event.
Bois de la Malmaison
my fellow aquarellistes
I can't paint, but I can take an impressionistic photo?
Interesting residential architecture along the way
Chateau de Malmaison

Parc des Impressionnistes
up close
The group who organized this walk is Randoneurs de l'Ile de France, which is commonly referred to as RIF (pronounced "reef").  I learned that they are the largest membership organization for randonées in the Paris region; they organize dozens per week, all over the Paris region, all of which are accessible by train from a Paris train station or métro stop.  The walk I took was my free sample, and from now on, if I wish to do more, I must join (annual fees and other information appear in their website, which is also available in English).  My walk was relatively small for RIF (12 of us) and of a short walking duration (about 10km, and they usually average 18-25 km) because we sat for an hour at a time, twice during the day, for the watercoloring.  For me, those periods became a chance to walk alone, write and enjoy the quiet and sunshine.  You bring your own lunch and beverages in your back pack.  We shared the lunch hour together, sitting and chatting as the sun became warmer, while a couple of the more experienced randonneuses passed around cookies and chocolates they brought along for everyone.  

It was all so genteel and of another time, for this truly jaded New Yorker.  I hope I can go on another soon, before it gets too cold for wimps like me (although I have been told winter is the best time to hike - fuggedaboudit!!).  

But I hear Fontainebleau is a must, so I might have to rethink my natural New Yorker reflex on that one.

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