Monday, 28 September 2009

La Grande Classique AKA a Pretty Perfect Party in Paris

Impressive alliteration aside, it was a most memorable weekend. My friend Cindy, otherwise known as 'she-who-got-me-off-my-butt-and-running-seriously-3-years-ago' and I spent this past weekend in Paris as part of a blisters be-damned, sore backs be-ignored, tight-hamstrings be-stretched all girls shopping, eating, site-seeing and oh yes running junket.

We joined up with a group of 8 other women from near or around Geneva and grabbed an early TGV train to Paris' Gare Lyon Friday morning. After a quick 3-hour and a bit journey, we settled into a charming boutique hotel in the 16th arrondissement with a wicked view of the Eiffel Tower perfectly framed between the twin palaces of the Trocadero.

After a bistro lunch, we split up for an afternoon of walking and shopping on avenue Victor Hugo and rue de Passy. I didn't know the 16th arrondissement very well with the exception of having had dinner at La Table du Joel Robuchon last April so really enjoyed exploring this part of Paris close to the Eiffel Tower. We later reconnected with the other women and had a fabulously raucous dinner at Restaurant La Gare on rue La Muette also in the 16th.

Saturday dawned sunny and warm and 4 of us from our group of 10 spent much of the day wandering Saint-Germain-des-Pres, the Latin Quarter, Les Halles and Ile St. Louis. That evening, all of us had a considerably tamer dinner at the charming brasserie Le Coq in place Trocadéro. Earlier to bed that night in order to awake bright and refreshed for the real purpose of the weekend. Although truth be told, does one really need a purpose to visit Paris???

Still....we ten joined up early Sunday morning with 20,000+ other running addicts at the base of the Eiffel Tower to run in the 32nd annual Grande Classique, a 16km route from Paris to the gates of the Palace of Versailles. Can you imagine the spectacle of standing for over an hour shoulder-to-shoulder with thousands of others in their running kits singing, dancing, and watching the early morning light glisten off of the immense girders of the Tour Eiffel towering over our heads waiting for our turn to move through the start line.

The race took us on a roughly 90 minute run out of Paris into Issy Les Moulineaux, up into the hills of the Cote des Gardes and the route Royale, through the forests of the Meudon, onto the long avenue de Versailles, up the slight incline of the avenue de Paris and into the finish near the gates of the Palais de Versailles.

It was a marvelous experience, a strong and positive run, and a great memory. After returning to Paris on the RER, we showered, and treated ourselves to a late lunch, a cold beer, and a giant profiterole as reward for a good day's effort. Cindy and I returned that evening to Geneva by TGV and were home by 10:00 pm.

Katherine, Cindy and one giant profiterole

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Happy Birthday Murphy

C2 and I have been married for 15 years and for 11 of those years, we have been blessed to share our life with a dog. Not just any dog, but a very special yellow Labrador who has contributed to the quality of our lives with her unconditional love, unfettered acceptance, and pure joy in ways that I cannot even begin to articulate. Murphy is a constant. She is woven into the fabric of our everyday lives; a continual background presence that we would be lost without.

Today she turned 11, getting up there in dog years, and as every day with her at this point is a gift, we celebrated with a cake that she could eat (vanilla almond with a cherry sauce center), sang her happy birthday and smothered her with hugs and kisses. Ya ya, I can hear the groans and the "oh puhlease's" being uttered. Whatever! You have missed something very special in life if you have missed sharing your love with a dog.

Murphy was born in Kingston, Ontario and we had her flown to us in Calgary when she was 8 weeks old; we were smitten and imprinted on each other instantly. From then on, she was our constant companion, accompanying us everywhere, and slept pressed against one of us every night; a comforting presence.

In her youth, she mountain-biked with us enthusiastically, though I could have fallen off a cliff in her haste to stay close to C2's wheel. We eventually had to stop biking with her when her knees began to wear and tear. To this day, she is a fantastic hiker and rambler, rarely tiring, and approaching every climb with the enthusiasm and vigour of a puppy; her heart full as long as she can keep an eye on all of us.

She vacations with us, provided we don't have to take an airplane, and has travelled happily from Geneva to Genoa, Lago Maggiore to Levanto, Lugano to Locarno, Burgundy to Provence, and throughout the Haute-Savoie. She loves ski holidays and chasing J up and down the tobogganing hill adjacent to our chalet. When we do fly, she is back in the loving care of her godparents, Marc and Nathalie who cared for her with such love when we business-travelled for years in Calgary.
Perhaps nothing has endeared her more to us than the relationship between her and J. He adores her and as an only child has depended on her for companionship, comfort, and security for all of his 6 years. The summer J was a newborn, the three of us walked to Annie's restaurant in Fish Creek Park religiously everyday. We would share a blueberry muffin and listen to the prairie dogs squeak at her. I have wonderful memories of that first summer.

She has taken ear-pulling, tail-pulling, toddler squeezing, teasing, and chasing with good humour and great patience. She has helped to teach J empathy and a love of animals. He is the first one to throw his arms around her during thunderstorms, and to throw a tennis ball for her outside.

I wouldn't trade all of the vacuuming, inevitable blond hair on my black clothes, muddy paw prints on my white floor, sock stealing, or poop-picking-up for a dog-free household for anything in the world. She has made our lives richer and our hearts bigger.

Happy Birthday Murphy-Murph!