Friday, August 9, 2013

Gladiateurs de la petanque

Overall I have been very busy, but not too much to write about.  I'm just trying to find enough hours in the day to attend my French classes and go to the lab.  As a result there isn't much time for anything else, other than a quick trip to the Monoprix down the rue to pick up some groceries.  I haven't even been able to make time to get back to that cool climbing gym that I saw on the weekend.  I'm afraid all extracurricular activities will have to wait until my classes finish at the end of the month.  I do hope to get out to see a sight or two this weekend; le tour Eiffel, at least, as I promised the kids that I post some pictures of it this weekend.  Until then here is a picture taken from my chair looking out my office window toward Les Jardin des Plantes.

This was taken on the one rainy day of the week, so no blue skies.  Other than that day the weather's been really nice.

It wasn't all work and confusion (i.e., struggling through French classes), however.  I did manage to get out yesterday when I was invited to play petanque, better known as bowles or bocce to anyone likely to read this.  I hadn't actually played in 25 years and had forgotten how much fun it is, and a bit surprised at how it can be so fun for such a simple game.  But what's not to like about standing out in a beautiful setting, drink of choice in one hand and ball in the other all while surrounded by 50+ other people doing the same thing and obviously having as a good a time at it as you.  The best part is it doesn't even matter if you're any good; in fact it might even be more fun if you're not.  It certainly is more funny.

Last night's petanque battles were held in the Lutece Arena, an ancient Roman arena in the center of Paris, which also just happens to be a stone's throw from my lab/office.  Amazingly, in all the times I've been in Paris I had never been here.  It's easy to miss, but a nice place to check out if you're interested in history.  It's quite humbling to stand in the center of a place like that and see the pieces of history that surround you from ancient times to the present.  Makes you realize just how short a time you are here.  Here are a few photos to give you an idea.

The entry to the arena. 

Walking in I'll admit to being a bit nervous; no, not for the battles that were about to take place, but for putting myself in a situation where I would actually have to use some of my pitiful French.  For better or worse that was minimized, as the Frenchies that I was with - from the medical imaging lab where I worked several years ago - are all English speakers.  Some aren't even French, so most conversations came back to English in the end, if they didn't start there to begin with.

This is the inside of the arena where we were gathering.  I was a bit early, so it looks emptier than it actually was.  Above it looks like maybe 3 games going on, in the end there was probably at least 10 - 12.  Below is an "action" shot .... ooo, now doesn't it look exciting?
I survived my first battles of the wild game of petanque, winning 3 of 4 matches (or at least being on the winning team) with the 4th being called due to the park closing (though to be fair we were losing).

On one of the other nights of the week I passed the Paris Plage (i.e., the artificial beach they put on the banks of the Seine in the summer).  I took a couple pictures there too.  Here is one looking from one of the ponts (bridges).
As part of Paris Plage, they also put beach volley ball in front of the Hotel de Ville (city hall).
And yes, hordes of people really do come to sit out on the "beach" at these places, dressed as if they really were at a beach and no one looks at them strange for it ... except maybe me.  It all seems a tad contrived, but they seem to enjoy it so who am I to judge.

One more pic, mainly for Kay.  On my way past the beaches I went by Notre Dame and saw the hideous monstrosity they have put up there for the 850th (yeah, 850th) anniversary of the cathedral.  It's pretty appalling, but I guess it serves a purpose (other than obstructing the view).  It is a grand stand so they can seat people in front for concerts and other performances.  Still ugly though.

That's it for now.  A+