Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Le Friday Night Fever

Last Friday afternoon, I hopped on a Eurostar and arrived at a little 2* Hotel in the Bastille area of Paris, around 6pm. After a bit of food and some social skating, our little group from London set off to the start-point of the Paris Friday Night Skate, which is the magnificent Montparnasse building, around 5km away. Three police vans marked the start of the skate with sirens blasting as they headed off to shut down the roads ahead. Five Police motorbikes followed - then the yellow-vested marshals. My group were around the middle as we set off through the wide avenues of night-time Paris (start time is 10pm). The 'Friday Night Fever' had begun and we were on it: a 25-30km skate over 3 hours..

Here's the route we followed:

The 'banks of the Seine' was the theme for this week's route. We went down and up the tunnels, past many of the landmarks - which I'd never seen before, this being my first trip to Paris.. left and right, all around! There were thousands of skaters, snaking round the streets in a huge procession. Too many to count. Two ambulances followed the skate - and we were assured by our tour leader that people have died in the attempt..

It didn't kill me, but I must admit I struggled near the end! As we rounded the corners after 2 and a half hours - around 12.30am - other skaters were streaming past me on all sides. I nearly got to the point of no-return.. I seriously considered giving up on a group-skate, for the first time (I've done around 7 now).

But then I only bought my skates and started learning how to use them around 10 weeks ago. So this was easily the fastest, furthest skate of my life. And for some reason I'd decided to swap my high-performance wheels for little 'disco' ones. These look immensely pretty! But the power for the 3 LEDS in each of 8 wheels comes from yours truly (which is at least an environmentally-friendly energy-source). They're smaller than normal - and softer too. All of which adds up to an around 50% decrease in speed - or rather increase in required effort! And of course the only person that can't experience their beauty.. is me!

I soldiered on with my funky wheels. I kept telling myself that when I decide to do something, it gets done. And it did get done. Montparnasse came back into view, I found some energy and tricked back to the finish line =:)

Not everyone made it. At least 4 in our group quit at some point - and this is within a group serious enough to spend a few hundred quid going on a foreign skate weekend.

After a 1 AM Capuccino and some water, we skated the half-hour back to the hotel through the empty streets.

The rest of the weekend?

The next day we had a Skate lesson on the steps of Trocadero, overlooking the Eiffel Tower. I wasn't quite able to match the skillz of the French boys - who were wowing the crowds by going down steps. Backwards. Including jumping over their laid-down buddy 5 steps down. To finish, one of them pulled a 'Dead or Alive' style handstand before flipping back onto his skates.. I promised myself I could do that too, with a little training?!

After learning London's topography this way, I reckon it's the best way to quickly get to know a city..

I didn't use the Paris Metro once during the whole weekend, except to get to and from the Eurostar. I only took my skates off for a couple of hours on Sunday - during which time I checked out Rodin's Garden ('the Thinker') and met up with my flatmates who, bizarrely, happened to be in Paris by complete coincidence that exact weekend 'of all the bars in all the world..'

So Paris was an intense, wonderful experience. The people were genuine, friendly and welcoming ..in their own French little way =;) I can't wait to go back..

But then there's the other Friday skates to try yet.. in Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona, Geneva, San Francisco, Tokyo..