Sunday, August 30, 2009

Golfing at the Racetrack

The other day, while looking on the internet for other activities while in Paris, I discovered something called the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe, the most prestigious horse race in Europe. It is held at the Hippodrome Longchamps in the Bois de Boulogne, a large forest/park on the western edge of Paris, (the Bois de Vincennes is the large forest/park on the eastern edge of Paris).

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Bois de Boulogne is over 2000 acres, 2.5 times the size of Central Park. Roland Garros, the site of the French Open (tennis), is located on the edge of the park.

Hippodrome Longchamps was established in 1857 and the Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe is apparently bigger than our Kentucky Derby, with over 30 million people watching worldwide on TV.

This year the race is on Sunday, Oct 4 and as best as I can tell, it is only 8 Euros to be admitted to the grounds which I believe is the infield. Grandstand seats and skyboxes are sold out (and very expensive in any case). Nonetheless, just being present at such an event would be pretty cool so I tentatively put it on the calendar (see bottom of page).

What does this have to do with golf (as the title to this post suggests)?

Well, last night at dinner, our new friends Alex and Andrea invited us to golf with them at the Bois de Boulogne along with Andrea's sister and her boyfriend Jean-Paul.

We met them at their apartment at noon and shared a taxi ride to the park.

As it turns out, the golf is actually just a driving range and series of putting greens along with a pro shop and dining area; it is not a true golf course. However, the location is in the infield of the other hippodrome, Hippodrome d'Auteuil, located in the park -- Golf du Bois de Boulogne. This one is much smaller than Longchamps, but it is a racetrack (although of the Steeplechase variety) nonetheless, with full stands and grass track.

The golf facilities were comparable to a municipal facility in the states. You hit balls off a mat with an artificial tee; the balls were rather used and beat up; the greens were bumpy and slow.

There was an unusual number of women and children. Because the golf facility is free except for the golf balls, it appeared that families from the adjacent apartments would simply walk over and eat and putt for a nice Sunday afternoon's family entertainment. In other words, this was more like a round of putt-putt in the states, except on real grass rather than serious golfers practicing.

Alex had clubs for himself and his son so I borrowed a 3-wood and then a sand wedge and hit a few balls.

Then Alex, Jean-Paul, and I had a little putting competition for about an hour.

In between hitting balls off the mats and putting, we all had a nice lunch (including Beer #5) on the outdoor tables near the greens.

All in all a wonderful afternoon. The weather was a little chilly this morning but it ended up rather sunny and warm... maybe even hit 80.

We caught the metro (M10) back into town (Odeon Station) a little after 4p and met for drinks at the Horse's Tavern at 16 Carrefour de l'Odéon in the 6th arrondissemetn (St Germaine) just down the street from the Odéon Theatre, another one of those amazing structures that just pops up on you when you are just minding your own business drinking a beer at a pub on the street surrounding by 5 story apartments and hotels.

The tavern offers beers from everywhere it seems (including China and Jamaica!). It is here I had Beer #6 while seated at a nice streetside table enjoying conversation about business with Alex and Jean-Paul.

So it is hard to beat a day like this. Wonderful weather, a little golf, a nice lunch outside, and a drink with friends at a tavern down the road from an 18th C theatre inaugurated by Marie Antoinette.

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