Walking is an great form of exercise. Without a car, we walk everyday, wherever we go, but with all the stopping for treats, shopping and photo-ops, it is hard to say just how much exercise we have been getting.
The day started with a fantastic visit to the daily open air produce market. Everything was fresh, and beautiful. We got free samples of Clementine, and Beaufort cheese. Along with various produce (more ripe and less moldy by far than what is available in the Aix supermarkets we visited), we bought some dry chevre. As far as I learned from the cheese vendor, dry chevre is simply aged goat cheese. What was once soft and white is now hard, yellowish, and covered in a black layer of… something. Aged chevre is a good example of how my body was beginning to feel.
We have seen a few people running in the evening, so we knew that it was possible, but we were still nervous leaving the house. I tried to do some basic searching online to see what people had to say about running outdoors in Aix, and especially if there were any particularly good places to go. I found a cite about running in big cities which gave good, mostly common sense tips. One tip that I really appreciated though, was to combine your sightseeing and your exercising.
I don’t really love to run, but there were some really great outcomes of today’s exercise. We ran down through the old part of the city where we live, and briefly along Cours Mirabeau, known as one of the most beautiful streets in France. This street is lined with massive trees, high end shops, cafe, restaurant, and sidewalks so wide that you could fit several lanes of traffic on each side. It was once a place where the wealthy drove their finest carriages to be seen by others. We were certainly seen on Cours Mirabeau. I felt both comfortable in that we had room to move freely, and uncomfortable, in that our exercise garb does not quite match up to the fashion being flaunted in the mid-day sun. At times I felt on display, and at times I didn’t care.
Running in the city is somewhat perilous, but as is often the case, also exhilarating. I am not sure that I have ever felt so fast or exciting as when leaping off a curb, twisting around a park bench, stopping for a boy on a scooter, hopping down stairs, and navigating the streets as though I belonged there. I found some parks online before setting out, and wrote the directions on the inside of my left arm before we left the house. Every once in a while, we paused at a corner long enough for me to pull up my sleeve, and read off the next turn.
Parc Jourdan was our destination, and though it boasts two gardens, a grand double staircase, outdoor music venue, and bowling lawns, it was no Central Park. I had amplified the tiny green spot I saw on the map to a much more formidable exercise route in my mind. We took a few minutes to loop around, trying to look sure of ourselves, before returning home. We meandered a little bit, and ended up walking most of the way. One of the reasons I needed the walk is to work out stress, and to think through some problems I have been having in regards to getting a job in Missouri while in France. It always feels like jogging helps me to flush through the ideas in a more productive way, and walking while talking with Chris is always the perfect way to overcome mental hurdles.
After discovering just how small the park was, and how narrow streets become like hopscotch when filled with pedestrians, we decided to cut the jog short. I am still not sure how much real exercise we got, but it is really wonderful to come at the city from multiple angles. In a few short days we have seen different weather, but the same people begging on the streets. The same street can look very different depending on which shops are open, and at various times of the day, so much so that we have also managed to get lost in the same way so many times, that when we realized out lostness on the run today, though we didn’t know how we got there, we knew exactly how to un-loose ourselves in the same manner as before.