10 tips for surviving the Patinoire

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Despite being no good at it, I really love ice skating. This week some friends and I battled the queues and went ice skating inside the Grand Palais. The expedition reminded me of some key things to remember when going for a skate, which I've listed below.

1. Get there early
There's going to be a queue, and you're going to have to stand in it. Maybe for quite a while. Ice skating one of the most popular things to do in winter (one of the only things to do in the city in winter) so every man and his dog - this is Paris so  it's not unlikely - will be there. Set yourself a whole morning/ afternoon aside for the experience. Grab a cup of vin chaud from a local Christmas market stall and use the time in line to build up your excitement and anticipation. Also, getting there early means you'll be skating on freshly cooled ice as opposed to a very shallow lake. It will be all the difference when you fall; you'll just be brushing some ice flakes off your backside as opposed to looking like you didn't make it to the toilet in time.

2. Wear form-fitting clothes.
This tip is two-fold.
a) Ice rinks can get very busy in the winter time and are generally swarming with amateurs like yourself (let's face it, if you've gathered the gist of this post so far and are taking heed of this list you're, like me, no pro). Amateurs fall over, and what does one do when they fall over? They grab onto anything they can. Don't let that anything be the pocket of your trendy over-sized Zara coat. Or a flailing scarf. You'll either loose your balance or a chunk of fabric from your jacket. Or be asphyxiated. Or all three.
b) Wearing streamlined clothing means that, if you're a natural, you'll go faster. That's not rocket science. Being able to stay upright on two thin blades of metal on the other hand...

Charles Parsons: Central Park, Winter: The Skating Pond (63.550.266). Source
3. Wear gloves
This is a heath and safety issue. All skate rinks enforce it. Maybe to cushion the heel of your palm when you fall but more likely so as to protect you should you be on the floor and a 150 kg male German tourist decides to make bratwurst of your fingers. Although, I can't see how little tubes of wool or a thin piece of leather is going to protect your fingers from being sliced off, but nonetheless you won't be allowed on the rink without wearing a pair of gloves.

4. Wear thick socks
Ice skates are uncomfortable. Extremely uncomfortable. To prolong your time on the ice wear thick socks. You'll want to be retiring from giddy exhaustion rather than blisters and bruises from ugly, hard, standard-issue ice skates.

5. Carry a satchel/ across the body bag
Personal choice, but would you rather be clutching your handbag for dear life or have your hands free for clutching the side rail every 5 metres? Or for ripping people's Zara coats? Think about it.

Norwegian sweater chic. Source.
Le Sourire, Ice Skating, Winter Sport Magazine, France, 1930. Source.
 6. Dress up
With all the above being said - dress up! Ice skating is probably the most fun you can have in winter outside of your warm apartment and has been celebrated for centuries. It was a favoured past time of the upper echelons of society from early 17th century and as well as being thought of as joyous and gay was regarded very good for one's heath and flexibility. Channel the cute boys and girls from days of yore and pull on your patterned Norwegian sweater knit, don a woollen beret, stuff your hands in a fur muff and wrap yourself in a princess-cut coat, everything preferably adorned with bows or pom-poms, fit for an illustrated holiday postcard.

Affiche for the 'Palais de Glace'. Source.
7. Avoid children
Children have yet to completely develop their sense of peripheral vision and will spring up from nowhere to startle you into falling over. They are also quite slow and so once you've got the hang of skating they'll be in your way. In an ideal world they would have their own kiddie rink where they can all be slow in unison. In a similar strain, avoid teenagers. By now they should have developed their peripheral vision yet most disregard it. They also have competitions to see how quickly they can make each other fall down. Don't get caught in the cross fire - avoid them at all costs.

8. Avoid the those with white ice skates
They are the pros. White ice skates mean they brought them from home. Which means they skate often and they are likely to be good at it. On a packed rink they somehow will find the space to do spins and jumps and other unnerving tricks and things. They're good enough to not bump into you however if you want to avoid a bruised ego stay clear of those wearing white ice skates.
 Essentials: Home-made shortbread (recipe posted soon!) and Haribo.

9. Take snacks*
Ice skating is a sport. You're likely to become parched and hungry. If you don't want to line up at the cafeteria for a watery coffee and a pack of over-priced crisps take your own. Some rinks, such as the one at Hotel de Ville, have no food and bev outlets nearby. Take along your own thermos with some tea and pack some biscuits to re-energise for a few more turns 'round the rink.

*Note: This tip is not reserved solely for ice skating jaunts. I whole-heartily endorse taking snacks everywhere you go. I'm always hungry and can't rationally interact with society if my stomach is screaming at me. So I'll always have a little pack of biscuits in my bag. Plus, if you pick up a take away coffee to have with it's almost like an impromptu picnic. People will look at you with a certain level of disdain for eating in public, but really they're just jealous.

10. Take friends
A no brainer. Every experience is better shared. Taking a loved one means you can do cute things like skate whilst holding hands or take turns going backwards. Plus, after you've failed at going backwards and you've fallen over in the middle of the rink you'll need a helping hand to yank you to your feet. It's also nice to have some one to laugh along with at your wobbles and falls rather than be laughing at yourself alone.

Most skate rinks in the city close tomorrow however the one at the Hotel de Ville will stay open until mid-March. Find more details here.
Have fun!


  1. This is so adorable! I am bummed I missed the one at Grand Palais, but I'll have to head to Hôtel de Ville for sure! :)

  2. Thanks Meg! It was quite beautiful being inside the Grand Palais but unfortunately badly organised and oh so many people! The one at the Hotel de Ville is really special! xx