May 3, 2015

A Mile in My Shoes: Roche Montagne


I'm suddenly hearing a lot about the Fit Bit -- the little gizmo that measures how many steps you take in a day. It's the modern pedometer, I suppose. Anthony has an app on his iphone that does essentially the same thing, as long as the phone is in his pocket, measuring out the rough distance walked each day along with a special notation for staircases climbed.

We just came back from Italy, where our trip included a 15km day, some of which was spent climbing up Mt. Vesuvius, the active volcano whose eruption destroyed Pompei. Well, it nearly destroyed me too, given that I hiked it and the rest of the 15km day with a very active stomach bug that had me erupting, too. Old people were passing me effortlessly, but at least I made it to the top.

Days later, we climbed from the Amalfi coast seaside town of Minori up (and I do mean up) to the cliffside town of Ravello. Anthony's iphone measured that as, roughly, 99-flights-of-stairs. That's 99 flights up, and then 99 flights down. When Gigi realized this, she made Anthony walk into the hall of the hotel and do one more flight with her for an even 100. Poor little Pippa did this 99-floor (~1500 stairs) hike with the same erupting stomach bug she caught from me. Anthony and I felt like slightly cruel parents asking her to do the climb but a) we wanted to do the climb, and had no other chance, and b) even she herself admitted, "I'll feel just as bad if I'm sitting around doing nothing."


So, we pushed her up (literally, in some cases), distracted her with funny stories, and -- in the end --  bribed her with a special PPP (Puke-y Perseverance Prize): in this case, an Italian ceramic version of the lizards we'd seen on the climb seemed to be symbolically appropriate.

And what does this have to do with life in Paris? Well, it certainly gets me thinking about the amount of walking we do in the city.

It's been four years since we've owned a car, and even when we take public transportation, there's a fair amount of walking (to and from metro stations) and climbing (up and down stairs underground). I walk to and from the grocery store (but get my groceries delivered for free -- I'm not a masochist). The girls walk to school; we all walk to and from painting class; I walk with my friends along the Seine; we even have to walk to get to our dance/gymnastics classes. Amazingly, crazily, in almost four years of living in Paris, we have only taken one taxi, from the Bercy train station home, when loaded down with luggage. It's generally quicker to take the metro, and for any trip less than a few kilometers away, we'd just as soon walk.

Though we're in the center of Paris and surrounded by metro stations, we don't have one right outside our door. We usually end up walking half a kilometer just to get to the metro, despite the fact that, in theory, no address in Paris is supposed to be more than 500m from the nearest metro station. All in all, we walk at least 5km on a regular weekday, and easily 10 when we're out and about.

On an average school day, Gigi walks up 22 flights of stairs -- particularly large flights in an 18th century building...with a loaded backpack (no lockers, no permanent classroom). Pippa climbs up 20 flights every school day.

So, frankly, if it weren't for the app telling us we'd walked 15km or gone up 99 flights of stairs, we'd barely have noticed (though I must admit my calves do feel like it's unusual that they've gone down 99 flights of stairs in a row). We are finely tuned walking machines, trained and conditioned by the streets of Paris.

THE CHEESE: Roche Montagne

Roche Montagne (literally "Rock Mountain") is a pasteurized cows' milk cheese made only for the Pascal Beillevaire store, as far as I can tell. It's made in Puy-de-Dôme, in the Haute-Loire department, which is not in the Loire at all, but rather in Auvergne, in southern France.

It's a blue cheese, but just barely. That is to say that it's a very mild, mellow blue, without the characteristic stink or tang. It's related in size, shape, texture, and even taste to the non-blue Reblochon. It's a new cheese, like a cousin of a RocheBaron, that seems to have sprung up as a way to give people a very smooth, sweet blue.


In the absence of a cheese shaped like or named after a staircase (I'm sure it's just a matter of time), here's a cheese named after a mountain. If you've got the stamina built up by years in Paris, you too can climb every mountain, and also eat every mountainous cheese.


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