Category Archives: Fit travels

“The longest marathon in the world”, wait, the what?!

Well ok marathon distance is 42.195km or 26.2miles, BUT this particular one will probably feel like the longest in the world as is goes through 59 of the world’s most famous Chateaux and private vineyards around Bordeaux, France, 19 wine stops…and oysters stops…and entrecotes stops (what really?)…yes and all that in 6.5 hours!!

ah did I mention that fancy dress is mandatory?

I can’t wait – It’s gonna be a blast!!!

If anyone has done it I would take tips and tricks on how to get to the finish line in 6h and 29 minutes!!! I promise I’m taking the Go-Pro for this one 🙂

For anyone interested, incriptions just opened. Sign up on this page (click on the image below), first in first served basis, and don’t forget to let me know of course!

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Now off to the gym… (or wine tasting maybe?)

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A memorable trek from Kalaw to Inle Lake, Myanmar (Burma)

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Tea leaves pickers in the mountains
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Women working in rice fields
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hot chillies left to dry in the sun

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From the very start when I started preparing the trip and seeing Charlotte’s and other friends photos, I knew I was quite curious about going trekking, meeting people outside of the beaten path. And I am immensely glad we did it as it was a major highlight of our 2 weeks trip in the country.

It is an, albeit touristy, it remains an authentic experience. It’s not that hundreds of travellers suddenly decided to go all trekking on the same path but rather that it’s the only route where the government doesn’t have any (lengthy) pre-authorisations process. We started from Kalaw where our guide John Sylvester, got us to fill a simple form with our names and passport numbers that he then dropped at the police stations, a 5min business. In comparison, fellow travellers who wanted to explore the southern region, border of Thailand, had to wait for over 2 weeks, ask for local help, and a pinch of luck to get their permits to go exploring the band of shore land on a bike. Amazing adventure that I hope they will relate soon on their blog 😉

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Young monk on his way to school

I have to make one big acknowledgement there, John totally made the trip worth it. He started as a young boy as a porter in the family business and learnt English by having tourists in his environment from then. Passionate about his region, trekking and the world in general, John has been running his own trek company for 15 years and knows his job well. He also speaks a very good English which makes the whole difference between seeing the region and experiencing it. I thoroughly enjoyed the time we spent in villages, sharing freshly cut tea and discussing about the recent changes in the country.

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We started in the afternoon and spent the night with the Nepalese family who runs the little shelter at the view point, after having enjoyed a magnificent sunset. And finally, shared the evening activities with them, steaming the fresh tea leaves and preparing the dinner mostly.

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Steaming the tea leaves at the end of the day gives them the characteristic smoked flavour we find in Myanmar tea. Half of it will go to the village which manages the land

The next day was longer, we probably covered about 35/40km, stopping in different villages and …sharing more tea. The tribes we met with are organised in different ways, have different traditions. And as we advanced, the landscape also changed much. From tea leaves, to tobacco fields, rice terraces quite labour intensive and helped by ox carts, gingers and chilly fields, sesame, Our little company was pretty tired and didn’t last much after night fall. Some houses will have a little solar panel but must don’t have electricity at all and “pitch black” takes a whole new dimension. How shinny the stars are in the middle of the mountains…

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On a house-keeping note, for those interested by the trek, it’s a good idea to carry the following:
– A 20L day pack
– Comfortable walking shoes, we went at a sustained pace (about 35km a day) and I’m sure that John is more than happy to take it a little slower but in any case, sports shoes are a good idea
– A little torch lamp
– Light sleeping bags – most families will provide you with blankets but I felt more comfortable having my own
– Sun cream and mosquito spray
– A good jumper for the evening and the early morning
– A camelback type of water supply or a water bottle
– Leggings or cropped pants instead of shorts, especially for girls. I started in shorts and quickly changed into running trousers with a longer hem line.
– Wet wipes / hands dry wash and a small Eco toilet paper roll (and their little zip bag to bring the rubbish back with you)

And our full itinerary and packing list can be found here

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Thanks John!!!

Venice, the magic marathon

One marathon a year has been my target for the past few years; and last weekend was Venice marathon turn. The scenic run easily makes it to the most beautiful in my ranking. A memorable way to see Venice, a unique experience, however not one for great times, mostly due to the 14 bridges at the end, and if you are anything like me, the “OMG this is unreal” moment on Piazza San Marco will make you loose another few seconds, just gazing in disbelief!!! Continue reading Venice, the magic marathon

Running to discover, travelling to run…

Running is allegedly an affordable sport to practise. Not much gear needed, no special equipment or conditions are required, making it a sport that can virtually be enjoyed anywhere and by anyone for very cheap – or almost.

Well that’s the theory. But judging by the growing number of running specialised shops in London, or the inflated price of international races, there is little doubt it is a money-making industry; and so it has been for a number of years now.

But an interesting sub-trend is the synergy between travel and running industries. Albatros Adventures for example is offering “running” and “marathons” theme in their package holidays (I’m still dying to participate in the Great Wall of China one).

Today, the Flying Blue newsletter caught my attention: the major airways miles programme offered me to subscribe to their “Flying Blue Running now” newsletter!! They actually came up with running-oriented travelling tips and review destinations from a running-ease angle! Ok the real reason I got hooked in is that they offer good deal packages on some marathons and even let you sign up using miles….ok it’s a commercial operation, but it’s still pretty cool.

So that’s another website on my list of favourite, adding to the cool “where people run” page that I became fond of already 🙂

 

below, their packing tips, reblogged from this article

Check the weather

The weather is the most important thing to consider. Check the weather forecast of your destination so you can decide what running outfit you’ll need to keep yourself comfortable on your run. A capri-pants, half-zip top and light jacket works well in a wide variety of conditions.

Packing list

Use this handy list to make sure you’ve got everything in your travel bag for your exciting run to explore new areas:

  •  top / t-shirt
  •  shorts / tight
  •  light running jacket
  •  sports bra
  •  socks
  •  shoes
  •  watch plus charger
  •  sports armband for your smartphone
  •  gloves, hat and thermo underwear (when travelling to a cold climate)
  •  sunscreen, cap and sunglasses (when travelling to a warm climate)

For a long-term trip

Are you planning a big journey? To travel light limit yourself to two running outfits. Wash the sweaty outfit in the sink as soon as you’re done and hang it over the shower rod or balcony and they’ll be clean and dry to use the next day. Pack two short-sleeve shirts, one shorts or tight, socks and one pair of running shoes. A thin and lightweight windbreaker can double as a rain slicker on your trip and a protective layer for running.

What items are your running must-haves on your travels?

 

How to spot an Italian ski resort?

How to recognise an Italian ski resort and differentiate it from its neighbours from France or Switzerland at first glance?

First things first, look at women’s blow-dry. If ladies look like they’re coming straight out of the hairdresser no matter how much snow and wind there is through out the day: no doubt, you’re in Italy.

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Last summer when coming back from 2 weeks in Tuscany I was stunned by how pretty, and above all stylish, Italian grand mothers were (see the article “fashion lessons learnt from Italian grannies“). Guess what? it applies on the slopes more than ever.

Second clue? are people throwing their skis and poles on the floor nonchalantly, creating an ocean of eclectic boards, Prada shoes, Gucci goggles, gloves and so forth outside of bars and restaurants? if yes, you’re in Italy. (note: if they’re meticulously organised, you’re in Switzerland)

Extra clue: if people around you can telephone while skiing AND gesticulating….where else? Italian skills will never cease to amaze travellers….

Continue reading How to spot an Italian ski resort?

Where People run?!

tokyo running map

When visiting a city, I always try and include a long run in my planning. It’s a great way to have a good overview of an area, mingle with the locals, and capture the atmosphere: nothing like running in Manhattan along the Hudson river to capture the empowering NY vibe…

Planning a run in a new city may take a little bit of prep, and one doesn’t always have a local friend to guide them. Where do people run? how cool would it be to use the tracking apps at an aggregated level to actually visualise the answer to that question?

Those 2 blogs have done it for us, using data from Edmondo – I’m all excited and planning my next run in Tokyo now 🙂 happy geeking and running!!

http://barsukov.net/endomondo.html

http://flowingdata.com/2014/02/05/where-people-run/

Winter surf in Tanghazout, Morocco

As a touristy destination, Morocco almost has it all: sun pretty much all year round, surf, mountains, cultural cities, fantastic food, stable political background, cheap access from Europe  and no jet lag, no need for a visa…..la douceur de vivre in a bloody disorganised Mediterranean atmosphere. Oh well…we love it.

Taghazout is a fishermen village nested on the Atlantic coast near Agadir, a good couple of hours by car from Marrakech where one can get easier flight connections. The drive from Agadir foretells a wide upcoming change in the area. Currently, it is touristy, but still at human scale, for how much longer? Mohammed VI & the government put in place a development plan in 2010 and decided to boost the country’s tourism capacity and infrastructures by 2020. The industry currently represents over 7% of the country’s GDP and is the 2nd biggest sector for job creations. Tourist flows are mostly coming from France and the rest of Europe. The little village of Taghazout, can only get busier.

The village is a large main dusty street fitted with small grocery shops and restaurants, vagabond cats, and goats eating off the rubbish. My hosts recommend going eating outside of town, driving to Agadir as we’ll find “nothing suitable  here”. Well that wasn’t quite right. We we able to find welcoming quirky little places with fresh quality products, and in particular, Dar Josephine, on the main street, close the the pharmacy.

** And how about the surfing?

the winter swell is (really) big, it’s cheap and convenient to come from Europe and makes Anchor Point one of the most attractive winter spot in the region; together with its Spanish neighbour, 170km offshore, the Canaries Islands, roughly oriented the same way, exposed to the N-NW swells that churn the North Atlantic from October to March. But if the quality of surfing instruction in Lanzarote (when I say that I mean Surf School Lanzarote) was outstanding, however the standards are not quite the same in Morocco, and not better value either.

We had been warned, it’s big waves, for big independent guys, not improvers. We did find nice little schools run by Brits, but we struggled to find a real ISA recognised school. And indeed, the safety talk is mostly reduced to “Inch’Allah”, there are obviously no life guards in sight, and the coaching is rather limited to showing you a few pop-up on the sand….not exactly my definition of coaching!!

If you are just looking to have a blast and meet people, any of Surf Maroc or Surf Berbere camps will probably be exactly that; everyone is really chilled and laid back, in a very backpacking-y sort of atmosphere reminiscent of the hippy days of Tanghazout. Most schools will also offer day trips and after-surf yoga classes during the sunset hours (amazing….).

** A good book for the plane….

I asked quite a few friends, what should I be reading in the plane? I love exchanging good books recommendations with friends, it’s normally a great way to scratch a little bit beyond the surface; as invariably, people start with food recommendations when they talk about their country). Those 2 are standing out:

Partir (Leaving Tangier) –  by Tahar Ben Jelloun, written in French

For Bread alone – Mohamed Choukri, written in Arabic and translated to American English by Paul Bowles, and to French by Tahar Ben Jelloun.

** Travelling in my kitchen

berber tajine spice
ok I admit my tajine hasn’t bathed in water overnight yet….but the spices are sitting really pretty in my kitchen 🙂

2 dishes that I stole from Josephine, who’s been kind enough to show me her wonderful sauce and chit chat about flavours and smells. Lots of garlic, cumin and the  fabulous local aromatic oil are some of their secret ingredients.

Sweet’n healthy starter: carrots & beetroot salad: 

Ingredients:

– 2 ts orange blossom water
– 2 ts orange juice
– press half a lemon (2ts)- 1/2 ts paprika
– 1/2 ts cumin seeds or ground
– 1/2 ts cinnamon
– a pinch of salt

Instructions:

dice the beetroot (after cooking and peeling if required) and peel and grate the carrots, macerate with the vinaigrette and serve fresh, maybe with a mint leaf or a couple of pomegranate seeds as a decoration.

The 2nd one will be the Kefta & egg tajine; but I have to confess here, I have been rather lazy. The dish itself should be soaked in water overnight before use and I keep procrastinating this bit.

** and in my bathroom…

(following the earlier “moroccan pampering” article)

I came back with an over-packed suitcase in which I managed to cram non only a berber tajine but also some of the missing items in my pamper-pantry, and in particular, some argan- enriched black soap and ghassoul.

Black soap comes in a sort of jelly mushy dark brown paste. This one is enriched with Argan oil so a little bit lighter. Ideally in a hot steam room (or in my case, after an essential oil enriched bath) spread it on your body, warning, the smell isn’t exactly pleasant but be reassured, it doesnt stay as after a few minute you’ll scrub

** Other Inspirations:

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the Djellabar amazing decoration, I was about to steal a cushion!

– Films: Laïla Marrakhi’s first and controversial film “Marok” is a fresh high school romance but not only. I can’t wait to watch her most recent one “Rock the Casbah” (I’m waiting until the dvd as I doubt we’ll get to see it at the cinema in London…)

– music: and the the playlist I keep listening to Claude Challe – Djellabar

– 2 other point of views from a beginner surfer and his girlfriend: http://moreintelligentlife.com/story/moroccos-freezing-waves

and a more experienced surfer: http://www.surfermag.com/features/morocco-surf-expedition-dispatch-2/

– Organise your trip and check your visa etc:

http://taghazout.org/

http://www.moroccolondon.co.uk/index.php

tips from a Moroccan travelling magazine, in English: http://www.feetupmagazine.com/64-321

other bloggers went there: http://www.flickr.com/photos/heatheronhertravels/sets/72157633095942122

– other surf schools I was recommended (but have not tested though):

Yassine Ramdani: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Yassine-Ramdani-Surf-Rider-Camp/111130802254861?hc_location=timeline

and Denny Tolley from http://www.morocsurf.com/

my next time in Morocco? The more I read about it, the more I’m burning to discover Fes, the desert; I’d also like to spend a little bit more time in Marrakech and get to see Yves St Laurent’s gardens….and last but not least I”ll DEFINITELY carry more hand sanitiser in my hand bag.

Where’s the next race?

Two half-marathons and a full one a year has been my diet for the past few years.

Royal-Parks-half-marathon-2012I ran the Royal Park half every year in the past 3 years and very much appreciated the friendly atmosphere, and the world class sight seeing. It’s a fantastic race to enjoy with friends, but it’s not one for a good time! This year was very warm and sunny, perfect London autumn day really

I didn’t make it into the NY or London ballot this year and was looking for a flat European marathon to sign in or spring 2013.

My friends recommended the Rome marathon in March 2014, even though I’m  afraid it cold be a bit hilly, or the Vienna marathon in April 2014; but I’m increasingly tempted by several less conventional races:

– the  Marathon du Medoc in France in September. It sounds like  a very fun run, lots of food, good wine and landscape

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– the Marathon du Mont Blanc in Spring in the French Alps: the other end of the  spectrum in term of sport performance; it seems to be an extremely demanding race, saying it’s hilly is an understatement and even the most seasoned  of my friends struggled, but the challenge is appealing….

otherwise it’s little sister in Aletsch claims to be the “most beautiful half-marathon”, running along the Aletsch glacier: tip-top !?!

– the Great Wall of China Marathon: I promised to do it before my 30th birthday. It is a commercial organisation but it does give a unique opportunity to run on parts of the Great Wall..up and down stairs which I would rather do before my knees start hurting!!

any recommendations?

a useful calendar:

http://www.marathonrunnersdiary.com/races/europe-marathons-list.php

Surfing on a volcano in Lanzarote, Canarias (2!)

For me, Lanzarote was
the most beautiful place on earth …
… then I made it a point to
show Lanzarote to the world .

Cesare Manrique

I discovered Lanzarote last year and fell in love with the serenity and splendour of the place. I went back to Famara in October, for a week, with a camera this time. It hasn’t changed a bit.

 

Edit : I strongly recommend having dinner or at least a drink at Jameos del Agua, a volcano cave redesigned by Cesar Manrique, the Lanzarote-lover. They organise concerts some nights of the  week, the sound echoing in this magical place makes it a must-check!

 

Kite Surfing in Camber Sands, England

Can’t get bored of London but knowing that I can spend a weekend on a white sand beach less than 2h away from it is also rather appealing!

if kite surfing was invented by the  French (apparently in the 80’s and on water skis!!)…Camber Sands is definitely a beautiful English south coast kite surfing spot, a short ride from home.

What’s the weather like? check the winds and weather conditions here. Anything below 10/15 knots won’t be enough.

I don’t have my equipment / I’m a beginner, what do I do? several options to hire and take classes but those guys are the only one with a base on the beach. Personally, I found the best value in the private tuition shared in 2 people.

How do I get there? from London, it’s either a 1.30h train and cab ride; or more social, rent a car with a few friends for about £20/person.

I don’t care about kiteboarding, is it worth the trip? yes if you’re bored of Brighton and want to wrest with a sea gull for a fish & chips at  the cute (but not  exceptionally affable) Mermaid Inn or closer to the beach we also found very fresh fish at the beach bistro

have fun, enjoy !!!

Perfect-issimo weekend on the Garda lake

Day dreaming on a Monday morning is nothing unusual but today particularly…just back from a perfect-issimo romantic weekend around the Garda lake.

It started with a perfect kite surf session on the Garda lake; the refreshing mountain water was very welcome as city temperatures reached 37+! check out the kite schools and offers there, beginners should hire the full equipment and take lessons but more advanced and independent surfers can just get a “lift” with one of the school to access the kite zone.

A friend also recommended staying at the Reamol Hotel, which I may try next time but it seems quite demanded in high season. As I always have a special endearment toward agriturismo places in Italy (basically B&B lofted in olive fields or vineyards), I opted for the

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Borgo di Calmasino held by a lovely Italian family, an oasis nested in the middle of vineyards.

The day carried on with a perfect sunset and aperitivo on the beach, and al fresco sea-food based dinner at Giuly, where they didn’t have oysters forks (yes i’m picky) but they did let us drive safely home and finish our lovely bottle of wine at home – thanks folks.

Verona was truly hot and sweaty but the picturesque city made up for it. As opposed to the tourist-packed Venice, the crowd is kind of flocked around Juliet’s breast under the balcony and therefore relatively easily avoided. We met up with local friends for a gelato on Piazza San Zeno, on of the city’s saint, facing the Basilicata, in which crypt, according to the legend,

L’ultimo bacio dato a Giulietta da Romeo by Francesco Hayez

Romeo and Juliet were married (!!). We stayed a throw-stone away, at charming (and AC’ed, thanks god!) B&B San Zenetto (they also take bookings on airbnb). So I slipped on my 2-inches red soles (try that in 37 degrees, balancing on cobblestones…) and off we headed to the open-air roman arena. Even after having done my due-diligence, read the history of the arena, reviews, the full libretto of the very bloody Il Trovatore (well done me as there’s no subtitles)… it IS a mind blowing, and mmm, yes : pitch-perfect evening…(did I say that already?)

Surfing on a volcano in Lanzarote

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On stressful days like this, I dream of being able to take a coffee break on Famara beach, Canarias.

It’s the end of the world. Don’t go to party, not point. We were alone, watching the sun rise and falling asleep right after the sun had set (and the bottle of local vino), exhausted and ocean-washed. Alone to the point when we wondered : where are the locals gone!?

We asked the (many) Brits we found, why they had decided to live in Canarias: the answer was invariably, “because it’s sunny, and we benefit from steady surf conditions all year round”. It would be a good enough reason; but the volcano-island in the Atlantic ocean, has much more to offer; great wine, cheese, sun, and above all : peace.

Go get your surf board, it’s one of the best spot in the world

The first things that surprised us was that the island is small, but you’ll definitely need a car, no public transport there. Also, that the weather is ever changing. The land is swept by the wind, for the greatest pleasure of surfers, but making the shining sun turn into a bone soaking shower in 3min.

Famara is an amazing beach for surfing beginners, it’s a safe and high quality beaches, with consistent swell. We went in October and could use a short wetsuit
check the weather, tides and other info here

or here
but for more experienced surfers (or for those who, like us, will enjoy watching some serious action live), go to La Santa. It’s 10min driving from Famara, and the most famous surf spot of the island.

 

Do’s and Don’ts

helpful map

go rent a car cauz you’ll need it. They’re lovely people, and you’ll get an audio guide

get spoilt in a cosy B&B

do take your car and cross the island from one side to another, stopping in bodegas to test the wine.

please don’t think it’s a good idea to go for an ice-cream in Puerto del Carmen. It’s not, you’ll be disappointed.

Cultural Corner

Once back at home, watch Pedro Almodovar’s Abrasos Rotos (broken embraces). In Spanish please.

Pedro Almodovar seldom gets it wrong

London marathon

 

Secret Santa brought me “The London Marathon. The history of the greatest race on earth

I don’t know if it is, but it’s definitely the most exciting race I have ever participated to. Why? Because it’s just as much about discovering London, about meeting people and experiencing London in a different way.
The London marathon is totally legend, over 35 thousand people participating in the race means that one of your friend / neighbours / colleague participates…and will need support! TimeOut regularly publishes a list of pubs and the London Pride is….an official supporter. Yes a real sporting event the London way with fancy dress, charity work and a big knees up, the way we like it.

 

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So I’m signed up for the Paris Marathon and the Rock’n’Roll Maraton de Madrid but I have to say I’m worried….will it come even close to the London experience?

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