Sunday, April 24, 2016

Paris Places: Parc Monceau

The oldest tree in Parc Monceau, planted in 1814
Another one of my favorite lunch-time haunts is Parc Monceau, especially now in the springtime. I think it's perhaps the most beautiful park in Paris, a bouquet of flowers, greenery, and trees--one more than 200 years old.

The English-style garden is strew with what looks like ancient ruins, which gives my haunt a haunted look. They are "follies," or replicas of ruins to give it that Greco-Roman look, popular when the park was designed in the 18th century. You'll find an Egyptian pyramid, a Chinese fort, a Dutch windmill, and Corinthian pillars.

The closest thing in Pittsburgh might be Highland Park. (OK, it's a stretch, but I had to fit the reference to the 'Burg in somehow!)

Although you can see the gilded gates from the Arc de Triomphe, it's devoid of tourists.* Instead, you'll find working stiffs like me out for a bag lunch on the green, school children running around at recess, and parents and babies out for some air.

Last week, I took my first jog in ages on the path that rings the park, swerving the walkers, baby buggies--and two children who were shouting at me!

"What's wrong?" I asked. They jumped up and down and said, "Are you part of the race?" "Yes," I said, knowing by their smiles that they were pulling my leg. "Then you have to take the detour over there, or it doesn't count!"

To their delight, I played their game, and took the slightly longer route. To my delight as well.

*One reason Parc Monceau is empty of tourists is probably that the golden gates are always shut, making it appear closed from afar. To enter, use one of the discrete side entrances that are open during daylight year-round. If natural beauty isn't enough to attract you to this living monument, there's always the free Wi-Fi!
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Find me on LinkedIn, email me at rose.burke89 "at", or follow me on Google+.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Paris Places: Pilates Privé

I’m on a quest to find the most effective workout ever. That’s a challenge in Paris, where fitness trends arrive from the West with a 10-year lag.

I was a long-time member of Club Med, then I switched to Fitness First (now Health City). It was OK. But I felt like a number. The classes were uninspiring, and not the quality I enjoyed in New York or in Pittsburgh.

Then I tried some of the city’s many smaller outfits, like The Daily Method and Paris Fitness, and found my groove. (Both offer an American approach, and classes in English.)

But then my office moved, and we moved house. Location is everything! I was looking for a new exercise home. So was my friend Stephanie. About a year ago, she invited to me Pilates Privé, close enough to work that I could squeeze in a session over my lunch hour.

Erin (right), owner of  Pilates Privé in Paris, with Rose
I struck gold! Small classes—solos, duos, and trios only—and individual attention by former dancers with serious Pilates credentials.

While I usually take the trio classes, every so often I take a solo class for my ills: “sitting disease” and “text neck.” My job as an editor has me glued to the screen for hours on end, and my body is paying for it.

Yesterday, Erin, the owner of Pilates Privé, showed me exercises I can do at home with my roller, and then put me on the “Half Cadillac,” which adds resistance to Pilates moves. The equipment looks like a modern version of the rack. It hurt … but in a good way!

Are these boutiques more expensive? They can be. I figure that over the space of a year, once a week at Pilates Privé costs me about the same as a Club Med membership.

It’s not something I can afford several times a week. I fill in my weekly Pilates class with at-home workouts, usually a 20-minute variation of the 7-Minute workout, and inexpensive, weekly cardio-strength classes at work.

Talking about Pittsburgh, when I’m there, I catch a workout at one of the city’s best fitness boutiques, Forma Personal Training of Sewickley. Truth be told, the co-owner is my brother!

I blame him for my becoming such a fitness snob. Or maybe it’s his loving way of pinching my underarm to measure my body fat. … No, actually it went way back to my school days, to tumbling classes with the Shade Sisters, who still have studios around town.
The Pilates teaser

In the end, I've found out for myself that small classes or personal sessions are a great value because they yield results. (I can hear my brother telling me, "I told you so.") You can’t hide in the back of the class. And the instructors care. Right bro?

I don’t think I’ll ever again be able to do a handstand. But I can slug my 40-pound suitcase around via the Metro to the airport, do 50 abdominal crunches without neck pain, and the Pilates “teaser.” Something I couldn’t do last year!

Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Find me on LinkedIn, email me at rose.burke89 "at", or follow me on Google+.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Paris Coffee Blues

Parisian tea drinkers circa 1925
When in Paris, do as the Parisians do--drink café!

And that’s what I’ve done for the 20-some years I’ve lived here. First of all, it’s delicious. Second, in a café it’s the cheapest thing to buy (that secures rights to the restrooms). Third, decent coffee is everywhere.

With the birth of my child and office job (sleep deprivation on two counts), I upped the ante. And it became too easy when my workplace installed all-you-can-drink Nespresso machines. One cup of espresso became a double. A double became a triple.

As George Clooney might say, “What else?”

I've read all kinds of studies about the good and bad effects of coffee, and the jury’s still out.

But one jurist started to scream--my body. I reached some sort of tipping point. My stomach gurgled, and I felt I was running on empty all time. I was more exhausted than ever!

In January, I resolved to cut back to once a week, which I’ve done! Check! But as I ratcheted down, my body became even more sensitive to the caffeine--and the acid.

So I resolved to allow myself just a few sips, for example, when my husband makes his mug of java with his amazing Aeropress machine. (The best coffee ever!)

Yesterday, after abstaining for a good week, I had five small sips from the weakest espresso I could draw. It was Friday afternoon. The week had been long and I was flagging. The vitamins didn’t do the trick, and neither did the herbal Rooibos tea, which I’ve grown to like.

As a result, I went to bed at midnight and woke at 5 a.m., bursting with fuzzy edgy energy and the familiar stomach grind. I reached for the Gaviscon and tried to sleep an hour more. No beans. A coffee hangover.

What else?

I hereby resign myself to end my coffee habit, but it won’t be easy.

Thank goodness that in France, there is something else. The country has some wonderful herbal teas that are unusual in the U.S.: “tilleuil,” (made from lime tree leaves, though ridiculously heard to pronounce; sounds like "tea oil") and “verveine,” (made from leaves of the verbena plant).

These days, when I go to a café, I look at the bartender and woefully say “un infusion, s’il vous plaît.” (An herbal tea please!) I’m waiting for him to say, “Quoi d’autre?” (“What else?”) Fat chance. ("Pas de chance.")

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Paris-Pittsburgh People: Christine Arriola

This past week, I decided to expand my horizons and meet new people. And learned, yet again, that it's a small world.

I accepted an invitation from Christine Arriola to give a talk on mentoring at her Toastmaster's club where she works, at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). I wasn't sure if she was French or from some other foreign country. Over lunch we talked business, but afterward, I asked her where she was from:

“Pittsburgh,” she said. “No way,” I said, “what part?” “South Hills,” she said. “Me too!”

Proof that “six degrees of separation” is off by about five.

But Christine's journey from Pittsburgh to Paris wasn't a direct flight. Here, Christine shares her story, and her fondness for her native city and her adoptive one. Sounds familiar!
Tell me about your journey from Pittsburgh to Paris:
“My journey from Pittsburgh to Paris has been somewhat circuitous with many stops along the way.  After graduating from Thomas Jefferson High School in Jefferson Hills, I headed east to Oberlin, Ohio,  to attend college. It was just far enough away that I felt like I finally launched into independent adulthood.

''After university, I made my way east to Washington, D.C. where I worked in policy research organizations. Overtime I didn’t feel like the nation’s capital was east enough, so I up and joined the Peace Corps which took me to Burkina Faso in West Africa--my first foray living in a
French-speaking country.

''After a few more stops in the U.S., which included time in both Pittsburgh and D.C. again, I picked-up a husband and a second degree, and finally settled here in the Paris area.''

What do you like about Pittsburgh, and what do you like about Paris?
''Someone once suggested to me that Pittsburgh was a big city with a small town feel. I think that is a great way to describe the ‘burgh. Everyone is kind and friendly. No matter where you go in town, everyone seems to know each other.

''The stunning architecture in Paris, to me, is second to none. I am consistently mesmerized by the Haussmann buildings which line the streets of my bus ride into the center of Paris. The Grand Palais and Opera Garnier are works of art."

What would bring you back to Pittsburgh?
"My family and most of my childhood friends are still in Pittsburgh. It would be nice to see them more often. I just need to show my California native husband the charms of four seasons--especially the Pittsburgh winters."

What would have you stay in Paris?
"Paris and France have a lot of nooks and crannies to explore. There are lots of regions and areas in and out of the city to discover. The French people we’ve met so far have been more than happy to share with us information about the wine they are producing or the history of area we are visiting. I love it! I love to learn and discover new things. Since moving to Paris, I feel like I discover something new every time when I walk out the door.''

It was great meeting you Christine! Perhaps we'll bump into each other again—maybe on that direct Delta flight back to Pittsburgh?
Rose Marie Burke, an editor and journalist, writes a blog about her personal insights into life in Paris. After 20 years in the City of Light, she still calls her native Pittsburgh "home." Want to follow this blog? Email me at rose.burke89 "at" Or follow me on Google+.