They say that you don’t truly know what class and style mean until you visit Paris. My wife and I took a trip there in the winter and I, of course, scheduled some time to train. Gracie Barra Paris has several gyms and a large and diverse group of practitioners. It is run by Julien Cazier, a black belt and probably the most prolific competitor in all of France. He and I met several years ago when we faced off in the Montreal Open. After the tournament we kept in touch on social media and he welcomed me like family when I told him I was visiting. Here is what you can expect if you visit and I even threw in a few suggestions for restaurants at the end so you can take full advantage of the Parisian experience.
I shot a note to Julien prior to the trip and he was quick to let me know he would be traveling for part of the time I was there but that I would be warmly welcomed by his team. He was exceptionally responsive via social media and helped with directions and suggestions. The gym had a less formal vibe than the typical Gracie Barra but there was a warmth that was immediately evident. Everyone was quick to welcome me and say hello. Several practitioners offered to drill with me and I was invited out for beer and to hang out afterwards. I have to give a shout out to Marc, a black belt and super cool guy, who gave me the inside track on the gym and treated me to the best German beer I’ve ever had. There aren’t that many gyms that are as friendly as this one. Also, many people are intimidated if they don’t speak the language when they visit a different place. I found people to be extremely patient with my pathetic attempts at French and several people spoke perfect English and were quick to help with translations.
The only challenge you’ll face if training in Paris is figuring out which gym to go to. They rent several spaces by the hour, which is a brilliant cost saving strategy and allows them to be very affordable for practitioners, but it means that you have to go to a couple different locations depending on which day and time you attend. The locations are also sometimes a little hidden. Message Julien and he will give you all the details you need. Most of the locations were pretty close to each other. All of them had ample space, changing rooms, showers, and nice mats.
What to Expect:
The class structure was slightly different than the typical GB experience. The warm up was open with people showing up early to drill and stretch. Technique followed the standard format of sequencing moves based on opponent reaction and the detail was excellent. Any given class had between 3-5 black belts and all the other colors of the belt rainbow. Females will find many practitioners of varying skill levels but all eager to roll and help each other. After technique, about an hour of sparring followed. Depending on the day there was time after class for open mat. Most of the team had other jobs so you won’t get murdered as a visitor but there is sufficient skill to get a good workout and people who are willing to push the game if that’s your thing.
When Julien and I fought in Montreal my size carried me through the experience. He was exceptionally strong for his size and played half guard. I was impressed with the evolution of his Jiu Jitsu just a few years later. He had moved away from half guard that often resulted in being squished into open guard. He told me his grips had been bothering him and he started experimenting with lapel guards as they put less strain on his fingers than traditional spider guard. He was well versed in worm guard and de la riva variations and it made passing very difficult. He had just competed and was recovering so we didn’t go ballistic but had an awesomely technical roll that went through a whole series of advanced guard positions. It was immediately obvious that he was constantly evolving his technique.
I had a great time at the gym and really appreciated how kind everyone there was. There was a group of about 5-10 people who went out for dinner and drinks after most classes so if you’re looking for a social group, you’ll find that as well. I definitely recommend visiting the school both for the training and for the friendly support you’ll find there.
There are a million things to do in Paris but here are a few tips, tricks, and suggestions from our trip. You can visit my wife’s blog for even more foodie and fashion details:
- Get a subway pass: It’s not expensive and easy to navigate. Paris is great for walking but if it’s hot, cold, or you’re tired, I’d recommend the subway.
- Food: Throw your diet out the window and take advantage of the amazing food in Paris. The good news is that the food is healthier than American food and the protions are much smaller so even if you splurge you won’t end up obese. Here are some of my favorites from the trip:
- Au Trappiste – boasting one of the most impressive lists of Belgian Beers this is great for beer lovers. If you catch happy you can get fries, muscles(which are killer), and a beer for 17 Euros. It’s a steal.
- Angelina’s- This is the best hot chocolate(if you’re into that super thick melted chocolate type stuff) that you’ll find anywhere. The brunch special with pastries, etc. is pretty pricey and not that great. I’d recommend going a la carte and getting the eggs benedict and maybe a dessert if you’re feeling fanciful. Whatever you do, get the hot chocolate. It’s worth every calorie.
- Antoine- When you’re ready to impress a date or truly splurge, this is a high end restaurant with a view of the Eiffel tower. Make a reservation to get the view and I recommend doing the lunch tasting where you can get a 3 course for half the price of the dinner menu.
- Crepere La Place- If you go to the palace of Versailles don’t miss the chance to eat here. Their lunch special features a savory crepe and a sweet crepe as well as a cider that will blow your mind and not hurt your wallet. I’m a crepe fan and try the butter and sugar crepe everywhere I go. This place had the best one, by far.
- Chez Alain Miam Miam- You’ll find this place located in a small open air market. It’ll be the stand with the ridiculously long line. Trust me, it’s worth it. The sandwiches will change your life and the classic butter and sugar crepe is the 2nd best I had in Paris.
- Sites: You can get a more comprehensive list from Fromer’s but here are a few of my favorite places we visited while there.
- Palace of Versailles- the famous location where the treaty was signed is breathtaking. Make sure to check the schedule because it’s not open on a couple select days during the week. You can spend hours walking the gardens and the inside of the palace is worth the price of admission.
- Louvre- an obvious choice. Make the treck and spend a day looking at some of the most famous art known to man.
- Eiffel Tower- If you’ve never gone up, it’s worth the treck. I’d skip the stairs and fork over the cash to ride up. If you’re on a budget you can get inside to the base and look up the bung hole of the tower. For cool pictures head over to the museum just North of the tower so you can get it in the background.
- Arc de Triumph- The arch is impressive and it’s at the top of Champs Elysees which is a street full of shopping and restaurants. It’s also great for people watching.
For more sites and details check out my wife’s blog HERE. We went during the off season which was a little cold but totally worth it. Anytime you go, you’ll have a blast and you’ll get some great training in with great people! Enjoy the extra pictures below… and if your wife is also a fashion-style blogger, holding her fancy purse like a football is probably ill-advised…