A WEEKEND IN PARIS - PART II by Armen Pandola
When last we met, I was at Nuit Blanche, touring the City of Lights with a huge (really) crowd.
But I couldn't stay up all night (Nuit Blanche is a French idiom for a sleepless night) because I was headed to the races on Sunday, specifically the 98th running of the Qatar Prix De L'Arc De Triomphe held at Longchamp horse racing course in the Bois de Boulogne.
The metro took me to Porte Maillot which sits at the top of the Champs Elysee/Blvd. Charles DeGaulle, a ten minute ride. From there I hopped onto a shuttle bus provided by France Galop, France's racing bureau. The park is huge (really :)) and the ride through it was very enjoyable. At the end of the day, a shuttle bus and metro ride had me back in my apartment in 30 minutes. The US could learn a lot about how to run a large event like this from the French.
The first thing you notice is the people - almost all are dressed to the nines. Gowns, party dresses, suits and ties were the staples - take a look at the collage to see some of the finest, including the women's hats, many of which were as lovely as they were unique. Since an Englsih horse, Enable, was going for its record third win of the main event, the Prix De L'Arc Triomphe, the Englsih were a strong second nationality in attendance with Asians coming in a distinct third and I did not see another American although I am sure there must have been many there.
French horse race betting is different than in the US. There are all kinds of combinations and 'special' bets and some very unusual rules, for example, there are horse from all over the world in the races so if you pick a horse from one country, you automatically are given a bet on any other horse in the race form that country. So, you could lose - but win!
There were eight races that day but, unlike in the US, the main event was not the last race of the day, but rather the 4th. I do not know if this was unusual but it did serve a great purpose - lots of people were there for this race, only, so placing it in the middle of the day meant that the crowd had thinned out considerably by the end of the day. The shuttle buses ran from after the 4th race on so when I caught one, there was no crush of people.
Betting was made as easy as possible: bet-takers roamed the crowd and were stationed everywhere to supplement the betting machines and usual methods. Many of the bet-takers spoke English and this helped me a great deal since, as I said, French betting is very different than our system. Result - they made it a lot easier for me to lose my money.
The winner of the day was the great food - they had food of all kinds, from all regions: Middle East, Asian, Mexican, Italian, American, English and, of course, French. You could eat a pizza, have some dim sum, fish and chips, tacos, French pastry - and the drinks were plentiful from beer to champagne. In fact, I have never seen so many bottles of champagne being consumed (Veuve Clicquot at 75 euros a pop - $82.40).
Oh, the horse races - right, the reason why we were all there. Each of the races was exciting since all were close. In the main event, Enable had the lead coming down the stretch but another English horse, Waldgeist (Forest Spirit) overtook him in the final few lengths. In this video you will see another difference between this race and US races - the horse leave the paddock and are galloped around the course to the starting gate. I love this announcer's call, although I didn't understand one word - it just sounded exciting.
So that was my weekend in Paris - hope you enjoyed reading about it as much as I did doing it. Bonne journee!