Irish woman in Paris: When we bought our home, little did we know Olympians would be running past our window

Paris 2024 is shaking things up and the Irish going, competing and living there will have to go with the flow

My 1830s house in Saint-Ouen-sur-Seine, is a stone’s throw from the Stade de France and Olympic swimming pool.

When we bought it in 2000, little did we know Olympians would be running past our window to train in our next-door Pablo Neruda stadium. Even my parents’ stories of how teeming Dublin areas were once countryside couldn’t beat that.

In the lead-up to the Olympics, Paris is abuzz with ex-pats still debating whether to rent pads to strike Olympian gold and trying to crack the Paris 2024 transport codes, along with Sex and the Seine conundrums.

The road ahead is still hazy.

Working from home will be “advised” or “obligatory”, depending on one’s employer, activity and location. Motorists will require digital passes in arrondissements near where 13 downtown events will occur (including Place de la Concorde, Invalides, the Eiffel Tower, Trocadero, the Grand Palais and Pont Alexandre-III, where newly-weds are often photographed immortalising their big day with its extravagantly ornate Art Nouveau lamps, cherubs and nymphs as a backdrop.

A few metro stations will be shut, and although pedestrians will also require digital passes on certain dates and in certain zones, navigating on foot will be easier than driving. Bye-bye Louboutins, hello runners!

Logistics quickly bore in Paris, and conversations rapidly veer towards more exciting subjects, such as sexuality, food and the Seine.

Following a large investment of €1.5 billion to purify the river for the open-water events, including swimming legs of triathlons and paratriathlons, Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo promised to have a dip in the Seine on June 23rd. In response, anti-Paris 2024 protesters are declaring they’ll “Sh** in the Seine June 23!”

French president Emmanuel Macron has also vowed to take a swim in the Seine sometime before the games commence, but the date of his dip remains secret.

Personally, I’d prefer to opt for a tetanus-free meander in a self-drive boat (no licence required) on one of the north Paris waterways – the Canal de l’Ourcq, the Bassin de la Villette or the Canal Saint-Martin.

The Canal Saint-Martin, aka the “Little Venice of Paris,” is almost three miles long and has nine locks and 10 romantic bridges. The area went from shabby to chic in the noughties, and the legendry Hôtel du Nord (of the 1938 film by Marcel Carné fame) on the bank of the canal is worth a visit and has a good brasserie.

Sex also has its place at the pinnacle of Olympian news, with “anti-sex” reinforced cardboard Tokyo Olympic-style beds reappearing.

The myth of sex and the games has been explored from Rocky Balboa’s prematch advice, “Women weaken legs” (‘Creed’ 2015), to expert studies. France will not depend on Hollywood or Tokyo to answer the critical question of “to have or not to have sex before competing,” and Maïa Mazaurette, who hosts a daily sex chronicle on Yann Barthès popular Quotodien on TMC, has delved deeply into the question.

After sifting through all sorts of research and accepting that each discipline and athlete are different, Mazaurette’s rule of thumb is: a “quickie” (not lasting more than 5 minutes) before competing would probably not impact a male’s Olympian performance and sex pre-games for a woman Olympian could even enhance it!

Twenty-nine-year-old Matthias Dandois, French nine-time BMX flat world champion, cracked the myth further, informing Mazaurette it makes absolutely no difference to his performance if he has or hasn’t sex before competing. Apparently, Paris 2024 will distribute 300,000 condoms to athletes.

Thankfully, Irish athletes won’t be faced with cardboard bed-related conundrums as they will be housed in the iconic Centre Culturel Irlandais in the Latin Quarter. The CCI’s romantic cobble-stoned courtyard will be the place to meet Team Ireland athletes as they flex muscles and relax during Paris 2024 at the CCI’s midday cafe, exhibitions and music events. We’ll also be able to eat as we ogle at the pop-up Green Goose Café, bringing us to another crucial French preoccupation: Food.

If in Paris during the games, opt for an as authentic experience as possible. Local brasseries and ‘bouillons’ are in. Bouillon restaurants offer hearty retro classics at surprisingly reasonable prices, often in old fabulous interiors. I’m looking forward to Thierry Marx, France’s beloved celebrity chef, opening his bouillon at metro Mairie de Saint-Ouen pre-Olympics.

My current favourite bouillons are Chartier – no reservations, go early to avoid queuing) and the Art Nouveau Bouillon Julien (book in advance). If you prefer a Belle Époque decor restaurant, try Café Blanche, which has live music at weekends and is just two doors down from where the Gestapo arrested Irish woman Margaret Kelly, dancer and founder of the Blue Bell Girls and is opposite the Moulin Rouge, where Isabelle Van Den Bergh from Sutton carries on the Irish high-kicking tradition.

Then, harken back to the future with Ireland’s own celebrity chef Gary O’Hanlon, who recently inaugurated his spectacular kitchen in Paris’s newest Irish hotspot O’Sullivans Bar & Grill Bastille, right next door to Opéra Bastille. O’Sullivan’s ginormous Bastille terrace will be the place to be during the games and beyond, where we will admire sculptor Auguste Dumont’s golden Spirit of Freedom glinting like “a giant golden star shining in the east” as we sip.

Personally, I’m excited about Breaking, which was born in the streets, making its Olympic debut in Paris 2024, when b-boys and b-girls will dance to a revolutionary beat at La Concorde Urban Park, the exact spot where heads rolled in the summer of 1789. Henry Edgeworth, Abbé de Firmont, was an Irish priest who accompanied King Louis XVI to the guillotine. However, wily Edgeworth somehow managed to hang on to his own head.

With an Irish chef taking the Bastille by storm, the Breaking entry, intricate regulations for navigating the city, and updated Sex and In-Seine dipping guidelines, Paris 2024 will surely prove revolutionary.

Vive la France!

  • Patricia Killeen is from Phibsborough in Dublin. She left Ireland in 1992 to travel the world. She now lives in Saint Ouen, on the outskirts of Paris. She hosts Turning Points for World Radio Paris
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