"The oars gave me power, but also taught me humility" - Anonymous
4 Minute Read
One of the best things about temporarily living in a capital city is all the exploring it allows for on the weekend. One particularly sunny September morning in Paris, I woke up to a text from my English friend who also happened to be in Paris, saying she had a list of things to do whilst here, and one of those things included visiting a Parc on the outskirts of the city, where there was supposed to be a lovely lake, a chateau, a crêperie, etc etc, so we hopped on the metro and rode it to the stop ‘chateau de vincennes.’ As we 2 Brits and 2 Americans emerged from the deep dark depths of the metro wearing 8 jumpers and 4 coats between us, I think it is fair to say we were somewhat unprepared for the 29 degree heat of the sunny Parisian suburbs.
Upon finding the entrance to the Parc floral, the combination of the temperature and the blooming trees verts almost had us believing we were in the tropics! Or at least, that’s how it felt to a Northern gal, a lass from Wales and two Americans who had previously never set foot in Europe. We trudged through the dusty paths of the Parc, blindly following my friend’s somewhat dodgy directions on google maps that only seemed to be functioning as and when it felt like.
After walking for 11 hours through this subsaharan desert nightmare and snapping the obligatory nature-loving pics, we eventually happened upon a trickle of water, which gave me the inspiration to follow the moss as greenery always grows towards the downstream! We made it to the heart of the Parc, and finally we had reached the rowing boats; after all, our expedition had prepared us well for the choppy waters of Lac Daumesnil…
We all clambered in, not really expecting to rock the boat quite so much(!), but once we were safely inside, I took the reigns and off we went! ‘Don’t worry’, I beamed at my compatriots, ‘I’ve rowed around the lake in Madrid and the one in Central Park, not to mention the choppy waters of the river Wear in Durham. I can handle this.’ Safe to say, I had not anticipated quite how difficult it would be to row four 20 year olds around a lake in the blazing heat of a Parisian September; no fear, I rolled up my sleeves and got us through, albeit very slowly and turning us in a circular motion which I wish I could say had been intentional.
It was all going fairly smoothly, until it was my friend Missouri’s turn to take over. We all switched positions, which came with the inevitable wobbling of the boat, -‘if you fall in I’m not coming after you’- and Missouri began to row. She began to row straight into some reeds and water debris (RIP left side paddle), but the worst was yet to come. Of course there were other rowers on the lake, couples and friends alike, but we happened upon a rather sweet French family, a father and his two daughters with whom we exchanged a friendly ‘bonjour, bonjour’. For those of you who don’t know, often when you row you sit facing backwards, hence the need of the cox, which was supposed to be my friend from Boston’s job as we had agreed she was the loudest (bossiest). Now, given this information, who would be blamed for this next event will be heatedly debated between us forever, and I will remain diplomatic, but I will say that if you’re the one holding the oar, you probably should be more aware of who is in your vicinity. You guessed it, Missouri lifted the remaining oar out of the water as we passed daringly close to the French family’s boat, and as we all squealed at her, the French father was knocked backwards into the water. Talk about crewcial timing. Ok forget diplomacy, she should have been more careful. Missouri burst into hysterical tears, as she was prone to do, Boston was cackling away, and my British friend and I attempted to hold the other boat still as the poor soaking wet Frenchman clambered back aboard. Fortunately, as his daughters were laughing, he saw the funny side of it, and on the upside, we learned the French for ‘I’m really sorry my friend hit you on the head with an oar.’
Solemnly, we rowed back to the boat station and apologised for the lost oar, and for the drenched French man who may or may not be mad AF when he returned the boat, and as we sat down on a bench eating a takeaway crêpe with nutella, a slow smile began to form on each of our faces. Before we knew it, we were in hysterics, each of us reliving the thwack of the oar, the splash in the water, and the gentleman’s poor face as he resurfaced, an adornment of freshwater seaweed dangling from his neck like some new kind of accessory trend. We hopped onto a bus that would take us back to our beloved city, content that we had fulfilled our promise of a weekend adfrenchure, and as embarrassing as the situation had been, we had learned to just row with it, because in the main, people are nice about stuff like that. You know, stuff like when you push them head first into a lake.
PS When rowing one must always remember that timing is crewcial.