Eat Travel Run: London 2

Back in London for a couple of days, wanting to be in the Ashes atmosphere. Will my luck for random tickets and events come through again, or will we be playing tourist for the day tomorrow instead of watching the first day at Lords? Time will tell!

Eat

After doing the Jack the Ripper ghost tour (awesome, by the way), mum had a hankering for a sundae or something ice creamy of all things! The exclaimation comes from the fact that mum doesn’t really do dessert or fancy sweet things. Me, on the other hand…….MORE than happy to oblige her craving! We found a 50’s style diner (Ed’s Easy Diner) just around the corner from our hotel room and shared a stack of pancakes with ice cream and maple syrup. Yummo!

Pancakes at Ed's Diner

Pancakes at Ed’s Diner

It was my 44th birthday while we were in London. As a present, mum took me to the Georgian Restaurant at Harrods for high tea. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced high tea at Harrods once before, and adore their scones. For some reason I don’t seem to be able to perfect scones. I can cook. And am actually quite a good cook, having worked in cafes and restaurants years ago. However scones defeat me. So I always appreciate a quality scone! They did not disappoint. It is funny how memory can affect an experience. The best or worst of something can be made of a reasonable event, but our memory of the experience will taint it. The scones were as sweet, flavoursome and light as I recalled. They were accompanied by clotted cream and two jams – blackberry jam and a rose petal jelly. Just beautiful! A fabulous birthday lunch/brunch! We could not eat it all, so we requested to take the left overs home (ie for breakfast and arvo tea tomorrow), and before I knew it our wonderful waiter, Matthew, had brought out a little plate of some little cakes with a birthday message written in chocolate on the plate. A nice touch! Mum was quite bowled over by the rooms of the food hall in Harrods, so we went there again after high tea to ‘ooh!’ and ‘ah!’. Good thing we had already eaten our fill!

High tea at Harrods

High tea at Harrods

Harrods

One of the rooms in the food hall at Harrods

Travel

I think this may be part Paris/part London as it occurred on the Eurostar on the way back to London. Regardless. I surprised mum with an upgrade to first class on the Eurostar. This included a significant amount of leg room as we had a 4 seater table for the two of us. It also meant a breakfast was provided on board, and mum was able to read the daily English newspaper to read about the cricket preparations and whatever other news had occurred overnight. She quoted her father once again: ‘I wonder what the poor people are doing’, and asked me if I could be in charge of booking all of her urban train travel from Mordialloc to the city (hate to say, mum, but there is most definitely no first class on that train!). I read a few magazines (Time Out, Time, and the Economist), and enjoyed speaking some French for the last time in this trip to the train stewards. Such a beautiful language.

Mum in first class on the Eurostar

Mum in first class on the Eurostar

On our first night back in London we had organised to catch up with our friends, Ali and Winni-Mae again for a quick drink before doing the Jack the Ripper tour. It is always great seeing old friends like these lovely ladies. Each time we catch up it is like yesterday, yet there is so much news to share and hear. They had previously done the tour, so would not be joining us, but it came highly recommended. It was great. Only £12 a head for about an hour and a half walking tour of the area that the Jack the Ripper murders had occurred. Our tour guide, Lyndsey, was great. She had been doing research in the area for well over a decade, so knew the stories backwards. She was approaching it from a different perspective though, as she was seeking to clear the name of the most commonly named suspect, Sir William Gull. A great tour and very affordable!

One of the main reasons we came back to London at this stage of the holiday was to try to see a day of the Ashes at Lords. We tried to get tickets in advance through the ballot, to no avail. Sadly it was the same story here. We rocked up to the ground hopeful that we may be able to score a ticket or two. No luck. Scalpers were selling them for £300 each. I don’t think so! We did enjoy the atmosphere out there at the hallowed ground, and then decided to part ways for the day. Mum wanted to watch the game at a nearby pub, and I wanted to go to a running store called the Sweatshop. There is no extra room in my bags consequently. Awesome prices for running gear!

Mum and me outside Lords

The ladies at Lords

Although we did not get to see the day’s play inside the ground, we did organise to meet up with a few friends who had managed to acquire tickets in the ballot. Georgie, Jess and Laura are all friends who we played cricket with over the years at Brighton Ladies Cricket Club, now Brighton Districts. Mum, Georgie and Laura still play on and off for the team, and I filled in a few times last season after retiring many years ago. It was great to see the gals and catch up on their own travels as well as recounting some of our own adventures.

Cricket gals reunited at a London pub

Brighton District Ladies reunion after day 1 of the Ashes at Lords

My first ‘grown up’ corporate job was with one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the world, GlaxoSmithKline. I joined them in 1986 at the tender age of 26. I ended up working for them for 12 years. Why mention this? Well I joined the company not long after Glaxo and Wellcome had merged, before the next merger with SmithKlineBeecham. The work of the Wellcome Trust and of Henry Wellcome in pharmaceutical development is quite well known (for example, the tablet form of medication was invented by Wellcome. Previously all medications were in powder or liquid form). Less than two blocks from our hotel in Euston was the Wellcome Trust building and the museum dedicated to Henry Wellcome’s work as well as aspects of medicine today. I had not noticed it the first day or so, but spotted it when walking back from shopping in Oxford street. It was a must to look at. The exhibit of Henry Wellcome’s collections was fascinating. The artefacts ranged from mummified body parts to lovely old glass medicine bottles to ancient amputation saws to Chinese torture chairs! You can spend hours in the exhibit, yet it was not daunting in size. Mum also went and looked at the exhibit the following day after I had told her about it as her father was a pharmacist, and mum had worked in his pharmacy as a young lady, watching him mix all of his magical potions. This exhibition is well worth a look if you are around the Euston area.

A collection of glass bottles and jars

Some of Henry Wellcome’s collection of medicine jars and bottles

It isn’t a trip to London without visiting Buckingham Palace or some other royal spot. On our way to Harrods we detoured via Buckingham Palace so that mum could see it. I had run past it earlier in the day, and had seen it many times before, but it is always worth a look. Mum loved the atmosphere around the Palace. Gorgeous gates, polite police, tourists were not stressed or pushy. There was a very large collection of media tents around the square outside the Palace due to the impending royal birth, so we knew that something was going to be happening soon on that front. The birth had not occurred before we left town, so there was no chance of picking up a royal baby souvenir!

Mum at the gates of Buckingham Palace

Mum at the gates of Buckingham Palace

Run

Run #1: 6.77km. Just a quickie! It was 31 degrees this afternoon in London, so I was happy to be running just a short run. Mind you I felt great, and also as we are staying in a different part of town, there is surely more exploring to do! Anyway, not long after checking into our hotel, which is very close to Euston Station, I laced up and headed out through a couple of back streets in the direction of Regent’s Park. I guessed that running there directly and doing a loop of the outer circle before heading back would be pretty close to the 6.44km scheduled for today. Pretty close estimate! It was a very pretty run around the outer of Regent’s Park. A lot of shade from large trees in the Park, which was much appreciated. The outer circle is flanked by a mass of very grand houses, apartments and buildings. There was a lot of gorgeous Georgian style architecture to enjoy. Also on the outer circle there is a running track (see pic below), a trapeze school (!!), and the London Zoo. I did venture into the Park here and there for a glance as well, but plan on running a bit of a web through the Park on one of my other runs while we are here. It was towards the end of the city workers’ lunch break, so the Park was full of people enjoying the sun. Looking forward to exploring a little more soon.

Georgian building on the Outer Circle of Regent's Park

An example of the buildings on the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park

Running track on the Outer Circle of Regent's Park

Running track on the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park

Circus School on the Outer Circle

Circus School on the Outer Circle

Inside Regent's Park

Inside Regent’s Park

Run #2: 7.33km. I won’t write much about this run as I essentially did the same run as yesterday, give or take, plus a few extra streets. The highlight was how gorgeous and cool it was after running in 30 degrees the day prior. Running in the morning is the way to go in the middle of summer! It is going to be quite a shock to the system when I get back to Australia and have to run in dark cold mornings again!

Run #3: 16.29km – the birthday run! I thought it was time to head back down towards the Thames one last time before I left London, so I planned a route that would take me there as well as see a few lovely sights. I started my run in the same direction as the last two – heading towards Regent’s Park, but kept going until I hit Baker Street. From there I headed down to Oxford Street and around to Park Lane (Monopoly anyone?), which I took down to Wellington Arch. Naturally, being so close to the Palace, I could not resist running along Constitution Hill and right past the front gates of Buckingham Palace. There were not many people around yet, so I did not have to wade through throngs of tourists. After a quick wave to Liz and Phil, I headed down Birdcage Walk. Handily the royal guards were doing a marching drill in their parade grounds on this street, so I felt like the show was put on just for me as there was no one else around at all. Cheers! Anyway, if you follow Birdcage Walk it eventually takes you past Westminster Abbey, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. Still incredible monuments to look at no matter how many times I might run past them! I did stop briefly opposite the Houses of Parliament for one last look before I followed the Thames until Blackfriars Bridge and turned left. This took me up New Bridge Road/Farringdon Road/Kings Cross Road until I was up near Kings Cross station. I then headed back along Euston Road, past our street and into Regent’s Park for one last visit. It is one of the parks that is still looking green in the current heat wave, so it is very pleasant. This was my last outdoor run in the sun, so I was very grateful for the wonderful weather England had been having.

The Queen Victoria Memorial

The Queen Victoria Memorial outside Buckingham Palace

Regent's Park

Inside Regent’s Park

After the last run

Last London run done during the heat wave. Sweaty but happy!

Next stop: Dubai again!

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Eat Travel Run: Paris 2

Back in Paris for a handful of days so managed to get a few runs in as well as enjoy the sights, sounds and tastes of one of my favourite cities.

Eat

There are a few boxes that I like to tick foodwise in Paris. The croissant and coffee for breakfast at a railway station was done on the way to Blois from Tours when we were in the Loire Valley. Another I like to get in early on any visit is a caramel et fleur de sel Macaron from Laduree. Mmmm! I knew there was a Laduree outlet at one of the entrances to Printemps, so when mum and I hopped off one of the open top touring buses nearby, I made a bit of a bee-line to Printemps to acquire said macaron. Mum had a vanille macaron  while I had my fave. Sadly no picture of us consuming them as it was done with rapid reverence. But here is the empty bag to prove we were there!

A Laduree bag that contained macarons

The remains of our macarons!

We have enjoyed dinning in as much as out while here. Renting an apartment instead of staying in a hotel provides the opportunity through a fully equipped kitchen. Mind you, as it is summer here, we have just been making salads for dinner, and various sandwiches to take around with us. The apartment we are in has a collection of dry goods left from previous occupants – something I am sure we will contribute to. One little treasure that I found at the back of the cupboard was a bottle of truffle oil! Went very nicely on the salad I made with smoked salmon, mâché, tomatoes, goats cheese, carrots rappe, marinated beetroot, and walnuts thank you very much.

Dinner in our apartment

Dinner in our apartment. Smoked salmon salad with greens, goats cheese, walnuts and truffle oil (and chateau neuf de pape)

The other thing I have enjoyed (especially the days I have been running) has been a boule of ice cream. It is summer, so hey! Vanille, caramel, or speckuloos have been the flavours of the moment for me. Due to the heat my breakfast, typically porridge before a long run, has been yoghurt and fresh fruit. Being summer, all of the beautiful stone fruits are around. The cherries have been amazing, and I have felt quite indulgent enjoying a handful of cherries out of the fridge. Sweet and refreshing!

Travel

To help orient mum a bit, and to make sure she did manage to see all of the main attractions as they are spread out, we decided to do the hop on hop off tour for a few days. Our apartment is situated not far off Boulevard de Sebastapol, so we walked down to the river, crossed the bridges to the Isle de la Cite until we got to Notre Dame. We stopped in Notre Dame to sit in the square and eat our sandwiches while admiring this 850 year old cathedral. Extraordinary is an understatement.

Mum outside Notre Dame

Mum outside Notre Dame

We picked up the hop on hop off from here and did a grand circuit of most of the main sights: Musee d’Orsay, Place de la Concorde, Champs de Lysee, Arch de Triomphe, Grand Palais, Trocadero, Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, etc. Similar to London, mum said it was like being in a postcard. We paid for a 2 day pass as due to the public holiday on Bastille Day, we could score a third days use. On the second day of the hopping on and off safari, we headed out in the afternoon to go to Sacre Coeur. I have been here many times, but I wanted mum to see it. The steps were a little challenging initially I think, but she agreed that it was worth it when we were sitting in the church listening to high mass. We did take the funicular down though – it was going to be much faster!

At the base of the steps at Sacre Coeur

Just before ascending to Sacre Coeur

As has been the case in most cities, I have caught up with a few friends. This time in Paris we went and visited my friends Andrea and Said with their lovely daughter Sarah in the 16e. I used to work with them both in Belgium a number of years ago, so it was fantastic to visit them. We were very spoilt with a beautiful rosé and a plate of nibbles to accompany the fantastic conversation.

On Bastille Day we rested a bit in the morning. Well, sort of. I ran 16.64km then rested     : )

In the afternoon we did a little more hop on hop offing (is that a verb?), before enjoying dinner together at home and heading out for a drink at a gay bar in the Marais (the area our apartment is in). The first place we tried was an interesting feminist bar, but as soon as we saw they served their drinks in plastic cups, I was out the door! Perhaps I may be a bit of a snob, but I like my coup de champagne in a glass, svp. We found another great bar/restaurant called Les Fouines, where we enjoyed a Bastille Day beverage. Very groovy spot – highly recommend it. After a couple of drinks we wandered down to the Seine just in time for the fireworks. They went for a mammoth 45 minutes!

Mum and I at Les Fouines

Mum and I at Les Fouines

Bastille Day fireworks

Bastille Day fireworks

A trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to either the Louvre or Musee d’Orsay. Mum wanted to see the Louvre, so there was no objection from me on that. I planned our Louvre visit so that mum was not thrust straight into the crowds. That started by buying our tickets in advance so that we did not have to queue (that came later at the Tour Eiffel). Once inside, we headed straight for the Richelieu so that I could show mum the sculptures in the Cours Marly and Puget. It was well worth starting there as there is a lot of space, and a lot less people go to this section first.

Mum in the Louvre

Mum in the Cour Puget in the Richelieu wing at the Louvre

Selfie in the Louvre

Selfie in the Cour Marly in the Louvre

After looking at the grand sculptures, we went to the apartments of Napoleon III on the first floor of the same wing. Truly worth a look if you have not seen that section of the Louvre before. The incredible artisan work on the furniture and objects of art are amazing. To ensure mum could say we saw it, after a short coffee break (is that a chocolate mousse filled eclair I see on your plate, mum?), we battled the mob to see the Mona Lisa. It is an extraordinary picture, and one of the first few pictures ever acquired by the Louvre, so it is worth a look, but you really need to steel yourself for the mob. We also looked at the large format paintings from the Italians and the French in the same wing in more leisure!

We had a lovely rest in the Jardin des Tuileries and ate our sandwich there on the way to the Tour Eiffel. At the Eiffel Tower we had to queue and queue and queue to buy a ticket to take the elevator up to the second level. We queued for over an hour and a half. I can tell you, I was a slightly grumpy thing by the time I got to the second level of the tower! Only ice cream and a sit down could calm me! The view was still spectacular as the second level is approximately 30 stories high. Mum is not so keen on heights, but wanted to tick the box of going to the Eiffel Tower. She really appreciated it.

Up on the Tour Eiffel

Mum on the second level of the Tour Eiffel

Me on the Tour Eiffel

Up on the second level of the Tour Eiffel

For the first time in all of the years I have been to Paris I finally made it to the Palace of Versailles. We did a half day tour where we went by bus with a group and had a tour guide who explained the rooms of the palace to us. It was well worth it. The crowds were vast, and it would have been near impossible to try to navigate the rooms with a guidebook. We did not have time to do the gardens as well As they are over 2,000 hectares. So a reason to return I think!

Mum at Versailles

Mum at Versailles

Selfie at Versailles

Selfie at Versailles

Run

Run #1: 14.47km. My plans for my runs in Paris were to pick a different side and direction along the river each time and do an out and back. Nice idea, but not necessarily easy to implement. My first run this time in Paris was to be on the northern side and head east. So I ran down to the river again and instead of crossing the first bridge, just popped down to the Quai and off I went. Unfortunately there was some blockage along the way and I was unable to continue the same route, so I turned around and ran back towards the crossing to the Isle de la Cite and past Notre Dame to end up taking the same route as last time, but just went further. My fuel belt has proven to have been a great purchase, as no matter what distance I usually need some water in this heat (we have not had a day below the mid 20’s since leaving Australia), so carry at least one little water bottle with me in the belt. Drinking fountains are few and far between. It took a few runs to get used to wearing it, but as I am not actually carrying anything in my hands, it is fine. I was only planning to do 12 and a bit kms, but I was enjoying the sights, so ended up with a couple extra added on.   : )

My running belt

My running belt with bottle cages and pockets for fuel and cash/keys

Run #2: 16.64kms. A poetic and perfect distance to have run in Paris on Bastille Day! 1664 is a well known beer made by Kronenberg in Paris. It is also the year that Louis XIV started building the palace at Versailles (where we are going in a couple of days time). Funny coincidence. Anyway, I headed out down towards the river and past the Hotel de Ville. I had planned to run along the north side of the river heading west, so I would see all of the setting up for the parade later in the morning. The plan started off well, and I trotted along the river until I reached the other side of the Louvre. Once past the Louvre however, the police would not let me run any further as it was blocked off for the parade, so I crossed the river and ran west along the south bank instead. I was amazed at how much work has been done to the Quai. Even last year when I was here and ran a similar route, this area was a little grubby with a lot of homeless people sleeping near the water. Now it is a trendy place to run, walk or hang out. There are a lot of pop up style bars built in old shipping containers and exercise areas, including rock climbing walls on the side of the Quai. I was impressed, and am keen to check the area out at night now, as I suspect it would be very lively. It was definitely lovely this morning in the sun. I am developing my summer running tan.   : )   Oh it is winter back home isn’t it? Hehe

Developing a nice summer runner's tan

Developing a nice summer runner’s tan

Run #3: 20.21kms. my last run in Paris (sob!) – well until next time at least! It was another gorgeous morning in the early 20’s. I headed down to the Seine and kept to the north bank in the westerly direction. This time I ran past the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, the Place de la Concorde, the Trocadero, past one of the three statues of liberty in France, and pretty much right to the end of the 16e along the river before turning around and running back most of the same way. However, once I hit Pont d’Iena, I took a right and directly approached the Tour Eiffel for one last good look, headed down to the Quai on the south bank and followed it all the way to Isle de la Cite before heading across the river, past the Hotel de Ville, back up Boulevard de Sebastapol and home. I have thoroughly loved running every km in Paris. Such a fantastic way to see a city, especially in other countries. I love saying ‘bonjour’ to passing runners as opposed to ‘good morning’, and hearing the same welcome in return. Running is a universal language, and as long as you learn a simple greeting I think you will be welcomed in the running community of the world.

Jardin des Tuileries

Jardin des Tuileries

Pont de la Concorde

At Pont de la Concorde

Tour Eiffel

Tour Eiffel

Hotel de Ville at night

Hotel de Ville (taken Bastille Night)

Me after my last run in Paris

Me after my last run in Paris (20.21km) – sweaty but happy!

Next stop: London again!

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Eat Travel Run (actually I lie – no run this time): Loire Valley

It was only a short stay in the Loire Valley, but enough of a taste test for me to want to come back again in the future. As we were only there for the one night, we just took a back pack each for the journey, and I did not run.

Eat

At Tours Centre Gare, we had the typical French breakfast fare on the go: an espresso (hot chocolate for me) and a croissant. It really is the perfect simple breakfast. When I lived in Belgium I recall how even the smallest cafe would make their own croissants, even if they were a hole in the wall next to the train station. Walking home from the station at night the trays of rolled and shaped croissant dough could be seen sitting in the windows of the closed stores, proving overnight so that they could be cooked fresh in the morning. A plain croissant eaten for breakfast always brings back this memory, so the rich buttery flavour is infused with dark windows and small crescents of dough slowly fermenting with promise.

Travel

The kindness and warmth of strangers can never be over rated. In Tours we were fortunate enough to experience this. The premier reason we went to Tours for a short overnighter was so we could see a stage of the Tour de France come in. The secondary reason was so we could get to Chambord with less fuss in time to see the equestrian spectacular. Tours is a city larger than I had thought. It has the same population as Canberra – approx 300,000. So it is a little spread out. We walked from our hotel to the area where the stage of the Tour de France would be finishing. Mum stayed at the point where the riders had 1km to go while I jostled with the masses at the finish line. We agreed that I would come back to mum’s viewing point after I had seen enough. Watching the caravan and then the riders come in was incredible. I was standing right on the barriers, so had an uninterrupted view of the sprint. It also meant I had a great place to catch some of the give always being thrown into the energetic crowd by the caravan of sponsors. I managed to score a couple of odds and ends as souvenirs through the caravan. When the lead riders came up the last 500m, the crowd were at fever pitch and the riders responded as they threw everything they had into getting over the line first. It didn’t really matter who won the stage, as the finish was fantastic.

Mum at the 1km point of the 12th stage of the Tour de France

Mum at the 1km point of the 12 stage of the Tour de France

The sprint at the end of the 12th stage of the Tour de France in Tours

The sprint at the end of the 12th stage of the Tour de France in Tours

While mum was watching the Tour from her less crowded vantage point she met a local lady, Marie, who turned out to have a daughter living in Wagga Wagga (of all places). This did not surprise me as I expected mum would speak to everyone around her including the gendarmes. Marie very kindly invited us to come over to her home and meet her husband to enjoy a drink later that night. We accepted, and after mum and I had consumed an early dinner, Marie and Thierry were at our hotel to collect us. However instead of taking us to their place they gave us a guided tour of the highlights of the city, which was spectacular. So much medieval architecture in the old part of town. Really amazing. What surprised me more was that the old medieval homes were lived in by students as the rooms were so small. After driving and walking around a bit we took a seat in a square in the old town and enjoyed a drink together and some dessert that mum and I had organised. Another amazing coincidence was that Thierry was a manager of a company who was building the tram network in Tours, and had an office in Melbourne. Small world. We spoke for many hours in french and english and it was quite late when we got back to our hotel feeling very welcomed by people who clearly love their town.

The next day we went to Chateau Chambord, which was ‘in the middle of nowhere’ according to the Tours office of tourism. I don’t think they have lived in the Australian outback, so our understanding of the middle of nowhere differed somewhat. To get to Chambord we needed to take the train to Blois and were advised to take a taxi. I ignored the advice and checked out bus lines when we arrived, delightfully discovering a navette service that does a circuit of the chateaus in the area to a measly 6 euro each return. Yes please! As long as it got us to Chambord comfortably before the start of the equestrian show, I was happy. Chambord is an extraordinary Chateau. It is situated on over 5000 hectares of hunting land, and the chateau has 426 rooms, 77 staircases and an extraordinary 282 fireplaces. Leonardo Da Vinci was involved in the design of some of the chateau, so there are some quite innovative features that are not typical of architecture of the time.

Mum in front of the double spiral staircase inside Chateau Chambord

Mum in front of the double spiral staircase inside Chateau Chambord.

The equestrian show was fantastic. It was a bit of an ordeal to book the tickets for it initially from Australia before we left, as it is not possible to book them online, so I had emailed requesting the tickets. However I was told that as it was entirely in French, it was not for foreigners! Red rag to a bull. I curtly replied (in French) that I spoke French, thank you, having lived in Belgium for some time, and could they please organise for the tickets. I was immediately called by the booking office and we did the transaction over the phone. Yes, the show was in French, but it was a visual event. You did not need to speak French to enjoy it, so mum loved it.

Archery during the equestrian show at Chateau Chambord

Archery during the equestrian show at Chateau Chambord

Next stop: Paris again!

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Eat Travel Run: Paris 1

The Paris blog posts won’t be a daily blow by blow, as we are here for a whole week with a sojourn to the Loire Valley inbetween, so I will focus on highlights as they occur, or as I remember them (however accurate that may be!).

Eat

Supermarket shopping in other countries is one of my favourite things when travelling. We are staying in an apartment while we are in Paris so that we have altitude more space and the ability to cook for ourselves should we so chose. This meant we could also go supermarket shopping!! Yay! Buying fresh fruit and vegetables was lovely to do. It is summer over here and all of the stone fruit is in season, so purchasing cherries, apricots and peaches was a must. I also bought some figs and strawberries, which were so beautiful and sweet. I chopped them up into my yoghurt for breakfast. Mmmm! I also bought a baguette and some bagels so that we could make lunch to the with us on our journey to Tours. Mum kindly played in the kitchen and prepared our travel lunch etc while I took a post-run shower.

Travel

The first night in town we went and saw the show at the Moulin Rouge. We were incredibly lucky and had front row seats from our table. Mum could not believe her luck! The show was the spectacle that we had anticipated. The highlights for me were the rollerskating duo and the woman who swam in a pool of snakes (seriously). The meal that was part of our ticket was lovely and the service gave us a bottle of very good champagne that we were not charged for (whoops, but thanks!).

Mum outside the Moulin Rouge

Mum outside the Moulin Rouge

Run

Welcome to Paris run. A lovely 7.02km run from the apartment down Boulevard de Sebastopol until I hit the river, crossed Pont au Change, around to Notre Dame, through the gardens that flank the cathedral, across the famous bridge where lovers affix padlocks with their initials on them, and down to the quai to run along the river for the rest of the kms until it was time to turnaround, then I ran the same route back. As it was around 7 am when I went out, it was quiet and cool. Very few tourists or cars. Made life way easier for running, and aided me in taking some good shots too.

Metro Reaumur Sebastopol on the corner near our apartment

Metro Reaumur Sebastopol on the corner near our apartment

Isle de la cite

Isle de la cite

Pont de l'Archeveche

Pont de l’Archeveche

Running along the Quai

Running along the Quai

On the Quai with Notre Dame in the background

On the Quai with Notre Dame in the background

Notre Dame

Notre Dame

Next stop: Loire Valley!

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Eat Travel Run: Brussels

Arriving in Brussels was like coming home. I lived here for 18 months about 5 years ago and miss Belgium very much. It was incredibly emotional when I took mum to Grand Place to show her the grandeur of this city.

Eat

Day 1: it was not about food. It was all about champagne! I discovered a brilliant new spot around the corner from Grand Place called Champagnotheque. It is sort of like a bar but small and very nice. They sell goodness knows how many varieties of French champagne. Everything can be bought by the bottle, half bottle or glass. Everything. Even Krug (at 120 euro a glass). I opted for a label I did not know. It was a bio champagne (organic) and was quite dry. Perfect for what was a 31 degree day in Belgium. Pity we are only here for a couple of days as I would love to try some more.

A bar called Champagnotheque

Champagnotheque near Grand Place

Day 2: Well fed. One of the things I recall about Belgium is how well one can eat for a reasonable amount, and high quality as well. Both meals consumed on this day were exceptionally good. I refer to lunch below. Dinner was enjoyed at a restaurant behind La Monnaie called Hemispheres. It is a mixed selection of middle eastern, Asian, and African cuisine with a dash of European flavours thrown in for good measure. I had a lamb tagine and mum had saffron salmon. Both were delicious and large serves. We were stuffed to the gills by the end, especially as we had shared a Greek mezze plate with my friends to start with. Lesson: order from the entrees only!

Travel

Day 1: Grand Place. Is there anywhere more spectacular in Brussels than Grand Place? Mum was nearly as overwhelmed as I was, but for different reasons. I recall what it is like to see Grand Place for the first time. It is jaw droppingly beautiful. As I mentioned above, it is a coming home for me. I felt unbelievably happy being back in that extraordinary square again. It is UNESCO listed and deservedly so. For those who have never been to Belgium, I highly recommend going. The lack of expectation that most of my friends have had when they visited me when I lived here makes Brussels and Belgium an incredible surprise.

Mum near Grand Place

Mum near Grand Place

Day 2: Friends. After my run and taking mum for a tour of the area I used to live, we met up with some friends of mine for lunch: Hils, Amanda and Anay. We dined at a lovely cafe in Place Jourdan called cafe des epices. I enjoyed a delicious goats cheese salad and mum had a dish with scampi, mushrooms, peas and rice. Both were delicious. It was great to see some of my old soccer team again and to hear of their adventures and direction that that their lives had taken since I had seen them last.

Amanda, me, Hils and Anay

Amanda, me, Hils and Anay

We also caught up with a couple of other good friends for dinner, Tiffany and Tuni. I originally met Tiffany when I was looking for a room to rent just before leaving Brussels late in 2007. Tuni was a close work colleague. Like the soccer crew at lunchtime, it was wonderful to see them both again and catch up on what everyone was doing. The biggest news was Tiffany’s pet snake!

Run

Run #1: It was a 16.25km recovery run following the London Marathon from the weekend. It was great to run around my old neighbourhood again. The streets and footpaths are not even or flat, so it is a little tricky to run in the city. It sort of slows you down a little, but that is ok – I am on holidays : )
My route took me up from Grand Place, through Place de l’Albertine, past the awesome museum of musical instruments (a stunning example of art nouveau architecture), the Royal Palace (saw the changing of the guards), up Rue Balliard and past my old street (Rue de Pascale), a quick lap of Parc Leopold, up to Parc Cinquanteniare where I ran a couple of laps before heading up past Merode for a couple of kms, back to the Parc for a couple of laps, back past the Palace again, down to Sablon and through a few back streets until I hit Grand Place, past Galeries St Huberts before arriving back at my hotel. Some images of the run are below.

Pre-Brussels run

Pre-Brussels run

Parc Leopold

Parc Leopold

Hotel de Ville in Grand Place

Hotel de Ville in Grand Place

Galeries St Huberts

Galeries St Huberts

Run #2: a short 6.91km before checking out. I started with a similar route to the previous day, but once passing the Royal Palace, I turned up Trone and along to Avenue Louise, which I ran up for a few kms Before turning back around and running through Sablon and Grand Place again. My post run breakfast was a liege waffle : )

Next stop: Paris!

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Eat Travel Run: London 1

This is the first of two London blog posts. The second will occur in about 2 weeks time when we are leaving here again on 19/20 July.

Eat

Day 1: Village East. Just a few doors away from our hotel is a fantastic little restaurant by the name of Village East. while I was out doing a short 6.5km run along the Thames, mum was responsible for finding our dining experience, and it did not disappoint. We ordered 3 items from the entrees to share between the two of us (my favourite way of dining out): venison and shredded beetroot, soft shell crab, and a lovely green salad. I am a huge beetroot addict, and was delighted by the creamy sweet nature of the shredded beetroot that accompanied the rare venison. It was a well matched pairing, and left me wanting to eat more of it, but satisfied enough that I did not need more.

Day 2: Strawberries and cream on court 1 at Wimbledon on the day of the women’s finals. I love the way that at experience and the emotion of an event can affect the way you enjoy food. It is summer over here, so naturally the strawberries were beautiful, but to be at Wimbledon – a life long dream. I am sure it enhanced the flavours. And then there was the pre-marathon dinner in the west bend before seeing War Horse. Great British pubs are a dime a dozen here, so there was never a problem to find a good meal. Mum had the hunters chicken, which was kind of like a chicken Parma with no breadcrumbs, and baked instead of fried. I usual one of the usual pre-marathon meals: lasagne with a green salad and a little garlic bread. Very very good. And great value too.

Pre-lasagne in the west end

Pre-marathon lasagne in the west end

Day 3: Nibbles at the Swan at The Globe. Next to Shakespeare’s Globe on Southbank is a fantastic bar/restaurant called the Swan. This was the venue for a social catchup with some dear friends of mine that I have known for over 20 years. The menu for the Swan is below. We ordered the tapas plate and the cheese board, which were just wonderful. The cheese board consisted of a goats cheese, a blue and a and a riper rich yellow cheese. The blue cheese was served on a rich fruit cake, which was the perfect accompaniment. There weren’t quite enough crackers to go with the cheese and dips, so we had to request some extras. The tapas plate consisted of a bowl of hummus with radishes, thin Hungarian salami sticks, fennel and fennel salad, salmon pâté, and fruit yoghurt (a random addition), and some crackers and bread. Other than half a ham and cheese croissant, this was the first thing I had eaten after my 45km run, so everything tasted incredible! It is interesting how when the body is deprived of nutrients for some time, it finds almost anything to be the best meal in the world.

Menu at the Swan

Menu at the Swan

Travel

Day 1: London is like a living postcard. I have been here many times over the years, and still cannot help but smile when I see sights such as the Tower Bridge, Tower of London or Big Ben. It was such a delight to see that same look of wonder and thrill on mum’s face. As we could not check into our hotel room until the afternoon, we had many hours to go exploring. Our hotel is just near Tower Bridge Road, so it was not hard to decide that we should go there and then check out the Tower of London. We tagged along with a yeoman tour of the Tower, which was fantastic. Extremely entertaining and informative. Happily we were both able to obtain discount tickets into the Tower, as they recognised international student and senior citizen cards. Yay!

Mum near the Tower Bridge

Mum near the Tower Bridge

Day 2: Wimbledon. I was beside myself with excitement to go to Wimbledon. I love seeing the tennis love and have been to the Australian Open many times, as well as watched many a grand slam on the tv. Mum and I headed out there at the start of the day so that we could be there to sit on the grass and see some of the first matches of the day. We joined The Queue and waited in line to try to obtain ground passes. It was the women’s finals day, so we were crossing our fingers that we would be able to get in. Get in – we managed to score tickets to court 1 and watched some of the girls final. Never in a million years would I have expected to see a final of any sort at Wimbledon, and for a pittance. I know mum was similarly overwhelmed by the experience.

Mum in the crowd at wimbledon

Mum watching the senior men’s doubles invitational at Wimbledon

Day 3: it is all about the run, so please scroll down to read about that. We also caught up with my very dear friends Ali and Winni-Mae at the Swan.

Run

Run #1. On the second evening I took off for a short 6.9k along the Thames. It is a route I know well, having stayed close to the river many times on visiting London. From the hotel I took off down Tower Bridge Road, down to the Thames, west along the Thames towards the Tate Modern. Along the way I passed Shakespeare’s Globe also, a place I have visited a few times now. I highly recommend seeing a show there if you are in town, especially a Shakespearean comedy. With summer in full swing here, everyone was out to play. Great for atmosphere, but crap for trying to run. Regardless, it was a gorgeous evening for a run, and I hope you like some of the pictures I took below.

Me in the elevator before the 6.9 km run

Pre-London 6.9 km run

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

The Tower of London

The Tower of London

Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe

Winchester Castle

Winchester Castle

Run #2: The London Marathon. Well, not really. It was my marathon. My running schedule had me doing a 42.2km run in London today. Knowing it was going to be pretty warm (28degrees C), I thought it was best to make sure I was finished my lunchtime. So I was up at around 5:30 am, and after breakfast and stretching I headed out. I had initially planned to do two 21 km loops, but when I was out there I changed my mind. The route I ended up running saw me head down Tower Bridge Road, cross the bridge, run along the northern side of the Thames (passing the Tower of London, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminister Abbey, and the Tate), until I passed Vauxhaul Bridge, which I ran past for an other couple of kms before coming back and crossing the Thames. Once across on the southern side, I followed the river until I reached Tower Bridge again (passing the Tate modern and Shakespeare’s Globe). I had originally planned to either do the same loop again or turn around and do it in reverse, but I was inspired to just keep heading east and see where that took me. It ended up taking me past Greenwich! I was delighted to follow the Thames Path along its zigzag path through narrow lane ways and private gardens as well as along the waterfront. One of the highlights was seeing the magnificent buildings in Greenwich as well as the Cutty Sark. By the time I finally returned, by distractions and enjoyment of the run had added a couple of extra kilometres onto it, and I ended up running 45.07 kms in 4:35:40.

Next stop: Brussels!

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Eat Travel Run: Dubai 1

As per my last post, this has been typed up on my iPad app, so I apologise for the lack of style and structure. Will tidy all that up when back and in front of my laptop.

Eat

Our stop in Dubai was a 24 hour layover on the way to London, so we did not have the time to gorge ourselves on much local cuisine – saving that for the days we are here on the way back! The hotel we stayed at, the Carlton Towers, was simple but comfortable, and included a buffet breakfast. Not that we had time to enjoy that at a leisurely pace. On waking and starting to get dressed around 9am, mum had found a Dubai city tour she was interested to do. I rang them to work out if we could do it and was advised that we would be picked up in less than an hour! A mad dash ensued with the two of us quickly getting dressed and rushing down to the restaurant to make sure we had time to eat something substantial. The spread was quite good. I stuck with my old faves of some oatmeal, and some toast as I was not starving, but suspected it might be a while before I saw food again. Mum decided to try the cooked buffet so she could taste some of the local food. I can’t recall the name of the bean dish she ate, but it sounded remarkably like ‘foul’ beans or something, which naturally mother exclaimed ‘Whatever that is I am going to have it!’

The food highlight for me was the amazingly huge fruit plate that I ordered for room service in the afternoon as I was feeling a little peckish after my run. I expected a few slices of watermelon and perhaps some slices of orange, as that is all I spotted earlier on the breakfast buffet. Wrong. This feast of fruit cost me only $10 for room service, which I thought was exceptional value. I am not a huge watermelon fan, but it is everywhere in Dubai, and I can see why. Extremely refreshing and sweet. And OMG, the pineapple. I do need to source some dates next time through, as they are in season here and aplenty. Mmmmm….fruit!

Travel

We had initially thought to do a hop on hop off style of thing here as we only have the one full day, and thought it would be a good way to work out what we might like to do when we return in a couple of weeks time. Mum found a reasonably priced Dubai city tour in a tourist brochure and we decided to give that a go. As it would not be normal if I did not do this at least once on holidays – I happened to have a voucher for the tour, so we ended up with 25% off as well. I can see a few sets of eyes rolling back home on that comment. Hehe.

Anyway, the tour turned out to be quite good. We went to the old fort, which is also the city of Dubai museum. It is a fascinating museum on the history of how the city evolved. Well worth the exorbitant $1 AUD to get in (seriously, it cost a buck). The tour also took us to the Burj Al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Atlantis and the palm islands, Jumeirah Beach (where we are staying next time through), we took a boat ride across the creek, and walked through the spice and gold markets among other highlights. Mum and I agreed that we will come back and look at the fabric and the spice markets in more detail next time. I very much desire trying some of the sweet treats : )

We also discovered that we will be back for Ramadan, so that will be interesting as there will be festivals and feasts aplenty a night.

Run

I may be hard core about many things running-wise, however I had no desire to run in 40+ degree heat today; and didn’t want to get up before dawn either as that would have meant less than 4 hrs sleep. So the hotel gym it was today. I prefer running outdoors, but I am not silly.

It felt like I was running in a fishbowl. The gym was located on the 4th floor next to the pool, both of which have a magnificent view of the city. However the people in and around the pool took to staring at me running instead of watching the boats on the river, so I felt a little self conscious to start with. I even thought that I may had inadvertently breached a clothing etiquette, but then noticed that all of the women in the pool were in bikinis. I was fine in my singlet and shorts.

The treadmill had all of the usual bells and whistles, all of which were familiar, so that was good. The only complication was that it used miles as opposed to kilometres. Hmmmm…tricky. I don’t know the miles to kms conversion off the top of my head, especially for speed, so I decided to go for time and guess at speed. I know I trot out a 6.5km in less than 39 mins, so I thought if I go for 40 mins, and push the pace up til it feels ‘normal’ then I should be fine. I ended up doing 4.06 miles in 40 minutes. No idea what that converts to. Ok I think.

Next stop: London!

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