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Wed Mar 26, 2003

Paris - France

At the time of his parting Julien had left us with an open invitation to stay at his Parisien uptown pad. Ryan Air had just opened up a new service from Bergamo to Paris Beauvais so, with all the pieces in place, I finally got around to taking him up on his offer.

'Paris' Beauvais is a little more than an hour on the bus from 'Paris' Paris so Julien had arranged to meet me at one of the largest roundabouts in the city. With this in mind and his inability to use a cell phone it shouldn't have been surprising that we took over an hour to find each other. Relieved not to be spending the night on the rue side I willingly accepted his suggestion to drop in on a typical French party. Without a qualified guide it took Julien a while to locate first the metro, and then the apartment. Somewhat later than expected, we arrived.

We quickly discussed plans for the weekend, which were simply to stay in Paris and drive to Fontainebleau everyday. This ensured a good meal and a comfortable nights sleep, the down side was the volume of traffic returning to Paris in the evenings.

The following day we met up with Thierry, a friend of Julien's. Thierry had the crash pad and video camera, both essential items for a days bouldering. We had struck lucky with the weather as for weeks it had been raining. This had conveniently stopped my French hosts from training themselves to much.

Movements on this type of rock are so particular, and even though I had been regularly visiting the climbing gym I struggled to awaken muscles that had long been forgotten. We worked slowly into the routes precisely following a blue circuit. These circuits of circa 80 problems are great, some easy, some troppo hard. The best circuits include slabs, aretes, cracks, overhangs and traverses, everything you could want for a complete day out. Unfortunately my 'comfortable' shoes were proving to be anything but, and my toes were soon cut up.

The second day followed the same routine. Perhaps we were still a little tired since we didn't follow the circuit with as much determination as the previous day. Instead we chose problems as we went, throwing in and working some reds here and there if they took our fancy. Again footware was the big issue, even if I was removing my shoes between problems. By now the competitive spirit of the French had turned our gentle meanderings amongst the forest into full blown French/English rivalry. Despite being out numbered 2 - 1 team UK under the green colours was victorious at the last.

Watching the videos in the evening with beer in hand and full stomachs was perhaps more entertaining than instructive but it was interesting to see our various techniques or lack of. Before leaving the pride dented French threw down the challenge of a rematch for later in the year. I accepted of course.