Monday, September 26, 2011

Fight Club

I like to dress in white... and I like to hit people.
The first rule of fencing club is:  you must dress
entirely in white and hit a lot of people.

Bonjour and welcome back!

Oh my friends I have had many developments in my life in Paris.  First, there is Fight Club.  Recently I joined the club Les Chevaliers des Blancs Manteaux.  This translates roughly into the Knights with White Coats.  How do they fight?  Well they first dress all in white (my specialty) and then they pick up swords and hit each other with them.  The purists call it ‘fencing’ or ‘escrime’ to use the French term.

Of course I’ve had the usual rash of other discoveries, restaurants, behaviours and other things that really could use mention.

Here are some of my observations so far:

Travel:  Paris is home to a number of train stations, periodically housing trains that take you a long way from the city.  I recently took a train from Paris down to Aix-en-Provence to visit a dear friend who is producing her own cooking show.  For the first time I will debut sub-observations to tell you about it.

  • The TGV trains, operated by CNCF, travel around 200km/h (125mp/h) and about 70km/h faster than the posted speed limit.  To beat a train from a Paris to another part of the country by car (sports car), one would have to do a brilliant piece of driving and risk nasty fines from the police.

TGV trains in Gare de Lyon.  Beware, to the right of this picture is a whole
other section of the station dedicated to confusing a newcomer and sending
passengers to further parts of the country.  Ask for directions!
  • Gare de Lyon is a confusing place and if you must take a train there, start at the information booth.  Once armed with information, upstairs you'll find a restaurant called Le Train Blue.  Go there!  It's a spectacle for the eyes.
Le Train Blue at Gare de Lyon.  Simply breathtaking.
  • A 1st class train ticket runs anywhere from 30-50% more than the 2nd class ticket (in stark contrast to the airlines) and is worth the money.  You get more room, better seats and it seems a less annoying class of fellow passenger in the neighbouring seats.
  • A lesson in relativity; Aix-en-Provence is the ‘big city’ to my friends, but coming from Paris it had a decidedly provincial village sort of a feel.  The streets were wider with far less people.   The town features has many very old buildings with moderate amounts of ornamentation as compared to Parisian architecture and is famous for its many fountains (one of its most famous, pictured below).
A famous fountain in the heart of Aix-en-Provence.

An example of the provincial architecture.

Sport:  I’ve become a bit of a fat bastard while visiting Canada and my Paris diet hasn’t been taking off the pounds as it did.  This may be because I’m taking the Metro more often when I could be walking.  In any case, to combat my growing waistline and just for the sake of being in combat, I’ve taken up fencing.  Here’s what I know so far about the sport:
  • Novice fencers begin by learning footwork.  It seems perhaps at first to be obvious, but I can assure you that it is not.  There are 6 possible steps; forward, back, lunge, recover (from lunge) crossover forward, crossover back.  A typical combination of steps might be forward, lunge, recover, and back.
  • Novice fencers, fight each other from the first day.  They (we) don’t know how to fence, but the object is to practice footwork.  Despite my lack of technique, I have to confess that is it VERY fun to bend my sword into an opponent… even an opponent who also has no technique.
  • Getting hit hard can really hurt, despite the fencing gear.

"Untitled", by Henry Miller.  Now featured in my
Paris studio.  Viewings by appointment.  
Art:  A good friend invited me to a gallery opening in the Bastille (Dorothy’s Gallery, which featured artists who became famous for something other than painting.  Examples included Grace Slick, Jimmy Hendrix, and Henry Miller.  The latter, was irresistible to me and I purchased a lithograph of Miller’s entitled “Untitled” from that very gallery.  It hangs on my wall now and I am quite happy with it.
  • Inspired by the artwork, the various artists I see in the city and a book by Myamoto Musashi, I’ve decided that it is time to try my own hand at painting.  I’ve thought about doing this for years, but when I heard from Musashi that painting may also help my fencing… well then I was completely sold on the idea.
  • Like so many things, my Art Classes start in October.  I’ve signed up for a year and will sketch, draw, paint and have live models thrust in front of me to immortalize with my current lack of artistic ability.  Hopefully, I will be able to rise to the challenge and create brush strokes that are somewhat related to the subjects before me.
  • Oh, if you ever get a chance to read Henry Miller, of course his most famous book is Tropic of Cancer.  I would call it a 'must read' for any ex-pat living in Paris.  If you are American, it may be difficult for you to get past the language... oh how he uses words that are not allowed on the public television stations, but I'd say that he's perhaps one of the most well read authors I've ever come across.  Writing that is simultaneously low-brow and high-brow is very difficult to do.

Well my friends, that is all I have to report for this time.  Thank you again for reading.  Please take the time to comment, like, +1, follow or put a mouseclick anywhere toward my online well-being.

Au revoir!
Sir Robyn


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