Parks in cities and suburbs are crafted and placed with the intention of giving resident's a break from the rush of city life, the crowding of tall buildings, people and cars, and drudgery of artificiality. In a sense, there provide a natural release from the confines of urbanity. Paris has countless great parks, from the small and relaxing Pont Neuf to the large and formal Tulieries. And of course, everything in between. I do love Paris, but my soul needs trees and fresh air, more than the parks can provide.
With the wind at my back and the sun hiding behind clouds, I did today what every good city dweller should do during the weekend - leave for the countryside. A British friend from my home Mike took to our roots and got back into the woods, taking the train out to spend the day bouldering in the forest outside of Fontainebleu. If you didn't know, there's an unbelievably huge and great area of the forest with a ton of boulders out there. It was about a 20 minute train ride (just 7 euros for the day) then a 20 minute walk through the forest to get to an area with hundreds of great rocks. There were a ton of climbers also, which was really cool to see. Plenty came in on our train from Paris, so I'm thinking there could be some future friends.
Not only was it a great excuse to get my nature fix and get to know a new friend better (speaking English and French), it was a great opportunity to work on my climbing skills. Mike is a great climber, and he teaches just as well. He helped guide me through some of the things that I have struggled with such as trusting my feet. He was also great motivation in getting me to push myself and conquer problematic boulders.
Bouldering is a lot like French for me. I can see other people make it to the top of boulders no problem, and theoretically, I internalize how to make it to the top, the technical aspects of where the put their hands and feet, and how they shift their weight. But just as my feet don't do quite the same things, the words just don't sound the same coming into my mouth.
That is not a negative outlook at all, merely an observation. Just as I am improving on the rock, my French is rapidly improving. There was a new French couple at the house tonight, and we talked all through dinner. I felt pretty comfortable, was able to say what I wanted to say, and understand most of what they said. It will be a real benchmark when I can climb with some Frenchies and understand what they are saying. Regardless, in the past week I stepped up to some serious challenges, be them big boulders or intimidating conversations, and things are great.
Coming soon in my life: finding a climbing gym, calling the president of the bike team and riding my bike, buying a French cell phone. Yeeeee.