Friday, April 19, 2013

La bella vita

Ubud is going to be a hard act to follow… But I’m now back in Florence, in the little studio I rented last year beside the Duomo, for nearly two months at a beautiful time of year. Life is molto buono in Italy in the spring.

The big news among my runner friends is, of course, the terrible events at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. Talk about targeting innocent bystanders... It’s just pathetic and heartbreaking. I knew a number of people running, including Marie, a good friend in New York. Some members of the Dead Runners Society, which I’ve been a member of since 1996, are planning to try and qualify for entry to Boston next year or in the coming years. Some of them have already run it multiple times. I’ll aim for 2015.

I have had only two runs since I left Asia: the Vivicitta Firenze half marathon held a couple of weeks ago, and a scenic run with Min in Paris last weekend.

A foreigner wanting to run a half marathon in Italy needs to have a Sports Certificato Medico Agonistico. This is not easily come by. I’m halfway through the process of getting one now, but there was no time to attempt it before the Firenze race so I jumped in at the start line and ran it without a number. At around the 10K mark I tripped and went flying on the cobblestones, grazing my right forearm and palm and both knees. I thought it might be a sign that I should pull out, but I didn’t want to not be able to say in future that I can always pull a half marathon out of the hat, even without much training, so I carried on. I estimated my time at around 2:05, but it’s possible I went astray for half a kilometre or so where the 10K runners took a different route.

At the finish line I put my hand out for a finisher’s medal but was shooed away when I couldn’t produce a race number. As I was walking off I decided I only had that one chance to get a medal, so I went back and made a nuisance of myself until someone finally thrust one at me and basically told me to go away. Yes!

I enjoyed the course: two loops of a meandering route along both sides of the Arno. Min and I had covered much of it last September.

I’ve just spent four days in Paris, where I went to catch up with Min and Sam at the end of their “It’s Tuesday, this must be Belgium” tour of architectural highlights in about five countries. It’s a short flight (under two hours) and very pretty when crossing the Alps. I still had a heavy workload but caught up for meals and the run with Min on Sunday morning.

We met at the Pompidou Centre when it was still dark, then ran via the Hotel de Ville, Pont Neuf, the Louvre with I.M. Pei’s pyramid, Tuileries, Place de la Concorde and obelisk, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower, the Princess Diana memorial by Ponte d’Alma and Musee D’Orsay before swinging back through the Louvre after we met up with Sam, Peggy and Irene on bikes.

I later met up with Stephanie J, an artist friend from Oz, and her friend Neil for a fun hour over a coffee before I went to see the film Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present for a second time.

A late-afternoon rendezvous with Min and Sam at Sacre Coeur and dinner in Montmartre rounded off the trip. I won’t see them again until maybe March next year, which is a very long break considering in the last 12 months we have spent time together in Kuching, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Singapore, Bali, Italy and now France!

I stayed in a tiny garret in a popular shopping street, Rue des Francs-Bourgeois, in the Marais area. Paris was cold!

Back in Florence, we are having gorgeous warm and sunny weather. I don’t have to think any longer that I might have to spring for a winter coat. (I bought one here last year, but it’s in New York!)

It’s great to be spending time again in a city with English-language cinema options. I love the Odeon here, a beautifully preserved art nouveau cinema/theatre in a building that dates back to 1462. And I’ve also found the Fulgor cinema, which shows films in their original language. At the Fulgor I saw The Place beyond the Pines, but I struck gold with the Middle East Film Festival at the Odeon. I saw documentaries from Israel and Afghanistan, and about three features and a few short films.

As part of the promotion for Palazzo Strozzi’s exhibition “The Idea of Beauty”, the Odeon had a free screening of American Beauty. A perfect venue for this wonderful film.

Another treat was seeing Madame Butterfly performed at St Mark’s Church. They do amazing things with opera in a small space. The Wees and I saw Carmen performed there in September.

My workload is starting to ease, so I’m hoping to sample a bit more of what’s on offer in Florence and the region over the next month.

1 comment:

  1. Good read over my morning coffee in Ubud...Thanks, as ever, Rob!