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For anyone new to the world of parkour, let me explain. Lisses, and its neighbor Évry, is where parkour began. It is where the founders pushed themselves and explored their physical and mental boundaries. And it is where the famous Dame du Lac structure can be found (photos below). Visiting Lisses is like going to the first spot someone ever surfed a wave. It is where the idea was born. And because of its significance in parkour history (even though it is really just a random suburb of Paris) every traceur wants to go there at some point in their lives. Well, it took me a couple of months but I finally completed my obligatory history trip. Twice in the last couple of weeks actually!

On my first trip, I went to meet a Polish couple who was visiting Paris and the second time with my friends who came down from the UK. For those of you who want to go someday, it is easy to get to from Paris. I took the RER D to Évry Courcouronnes from Gare de Lyon (you can also get there from other train stations). From there, you can take the bus, a taxi, or you can walk if you know where you’re going (or have faith that you’ll find it). It’s not very far from the station.

Arriving at the Dame du Lac was, I imagine, like seeing the Eiffel Tower for many tourists. You have seen the monument in half a million photos and videos, dreamed about going there, and now that you are standing in front of it, you can’t quite comprehend the reality of it all.

When I arrived at the lake for the first time, I stood there staring across like a cartoon character drooling over a beautiful woman. Fitting since her title means “Lady of the Lake.” I’m stealing K’s photo because it came out so well. She even got the swans to pose for her…

Dame du Lac 1

Dame du Lac, Lisses, France

There is an awkwardly narrow path in the grass that winds around the water to the other side next to the entrance. At the end of this path, you come face-to-face with an ugly Interdit sign telling you not to climb this structure… this structure that was, in fact, built for climbing. No, that is not the parkour talking. There are literally climbing holds on this thing. But someone got hurt and, well, you know the rest. Really they should just let you sign something that says “I know what I’m doing, and if I get hurt I promise not to sue you.” But that’s another story.

The second time I went was just as exciting as the first. I ran towards the structure eagerly eyeing every corner, hold, jump, and climb I could see. The thrill of exploring something that cool really doesn’t go away. It is truly unlike anything I have ever seen or climbed. Also, there is a backside which you never see in photos! Every inch was built to be played on. But I bet you want to know how to get to the top!

It is a pretty easy climb physically, but mentally it can be quite difficult. The best and easiest way is to climb up the left side which has hand- and foot-holds and indents along the wall to dig into. As I climbed, I paused halfway up and looked out around me. I find it helps me to keep my fear in check when I can take in my surroundings. I look down, take a few deep breaths, tune into my environment, and then keep moving.

Looking down

Don’t look down

Eventually, you make it to the last part of the climb which is the hardest part. The first couple of times, I had someone there waiting to grab my arm just in case. I wanted to do it on my own, but it made all the difference knowing that there was someone to help me if I needed it. To climb up, I looped my finger into a little metal ring on the platform and used my left arm to muscle up.

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We made it!

Standing up on top of the Dame du Lac is an incredible feeling. I honestly can’t believe I did it on the first try. It is a scary climb and I was aware of my fear, but I had control of it. Each time I climbed, it got easier but the fear was still there. It was like that fluttery feeling when you go on a first date. Sorry, I know that is a strange comparison, but it’s the first thing that came to mind. It is this sort of excited/anxious feeling in your chest and it gets a little smaller every time you make the climb.

Getting down is scarier because you have to lower yourself and find the first foothold without being able to see it, and then the hardest part—you have to let go. I may have had a minor freakout moment the first time I climbed down. I almost asked for help but I needed to do it myself. Stop being a baby, I thought. You’re stronger than this. I took a deep breath and managed to transition from the metal-loop-grip I had to a cliffhanger grip on the edge of the platform and then lowered myself down. From there the rest of the climb is relatively easy. It is like climbing down the banister of a staircase. A very tall and steep staircase…

Once I knew I could do it, I was comfortable. As I mentioned, the fluttery feeling in my chest remained, but I wasn’t hesitating or thinking too much. I was just going up and down. I even got comfortable enough to bring my phone up there with me and take some photos! Don’t worry, I was perfectly safe while I did this. This was actually the first time I have ever felt comfortable enough to climb with my phone in my sports bra (it has pockets!) and grab a few photos while I was exploring.


Looking through the center from the top

You might be thinking wow, A, you must be totally fearless to be able to do that. Ha. Something I learned is that fear is very subjective. Not just by the individual but by each scenario. K only did the climb to the top once because it was scary coming down and she didn’t feel the need to do it again. Then later on when we were working on precisions, there was a jump that I was scared of and she could probably do in her sleep. She could not believe I was afraid of this little jump after scampering to the top of the Dame du Lac. It was entertaining for us to compare these fears and definitely put things in perspective.

We spent the day going back and forth between the Dame du Lac and all the old-school spots that I have seen in countless parkour videos—including the infamous manpower gap. No, I didn’t make the jump (this time…).


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It was so cool to see all of these spots and climb around where the founders started their journey. After a long day of exploring, we wrapped up with one more session at the Dame du Lac. This time we were more relaxed about it, just exploring a bit. K and I went back up into the circles to play and we tried out challenges in different parts of the structure. You can spend several days there and not get bored!

Overall, a fantastic day both times I visited. I feel so lucky to be able to spend all day jumping, climbing, and exploring with such amazing people—and in the birthplace of parkour! It’s not what every day of my life looks like, but I have to count my blessings and feel good about the days I do get like that.


This post was originally featured on Adrienne Toumayan’s blog: