Part 2: USA – Making my way along the East Coast

Last week I went over some day and weekend trips that I went on, around a little bit of Europe, after my completion of the Berlin Marathon. The purpose was to show my number 1 spectator, my dad from Massachusetts, a little bit of the surrounding areas that are near to where I live in France. You can read it here.

After he stayed with us for a couple weeks, we (me, Julien, and my dad) all flew to the USA in early October. This would be mine and Julien’s first vacation of the year together since snowboarding in the winter. We had a few reasons to make a 3 week trip…first: I was a bridesmaid in 2 weddings, second: we wanted to hit up a few spots Julien had never been to before, and third: if you’re going to fly somewhere that takes at least a half day to get to and throw in some jet lag, you should make it worth your while.

So here is a continuation from last weeks blog, part 2: USA.

Danbury, CT

Wedding number 1 of my trip back home included an old roommate and one of my best friends from Northeastern University, Jocelyn and her groom Ryan. The wedding was held at The Candlewood Inn in Connecticut. It was a blast and I wish them much love and happiness in the future!

Dress Rehearsal

Dress Rehearsal

Bride’s Wedding Party

Bride’s Wedding Party

Julien and Me

Julien and Me

Northeastern Girls

Northeastern Girls

Jocelyn and Me

Jocelyn and Me


New York, New York

Being so close to NYC, we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to catch a few days in the city that never sleeps and visit my college friend, Liz. We kept the days packed by venturing out to Queens for a street art run tour with my instagram friend Marnie, who has the blog RunStreet, visiting the 9/11 Memorial and Museum, brunching with an old high school friend, and then the best part of the trip, taking a helicopter tour over the Hudson, Brooklyn and lower Manhattan. Awesome trip with awesome people and Liz just finished her second NYC Marathon yesterday while battling an injury, this girl is a champ!

Fearless Liz and I

Fearless Liz and I

Survivors Stairs at 9/11 Museum

Survivors Stairs at 9/11 Museum

NYC

NYC

Street Art Run

Street Art Run

Queens

Queens

Welling Court Mural Project

Welling Court Mural Project

Liz, Me and Julien in a Helicopter

Liz, Me and Julien in a Helicopter

One World Trade Center

One World Trade Center

Empire State Building

Empire State Building

Helicopter Tour of NYC

Helicopter Tour of NYC

Co-Pilots

Co-Pilots

Philadelphia, PA

Wedding number 2 was held just outside Philadelphia. We were able to take a short day trip to grab food at the Reading Terminal Market and see Liberty Bell and the Rocky Steps. The wedding was for my niece Kailee and her husband Chris. It was held at Normandy Farms and gave me a chance to see a lot of my family in one place. Those lovebirds are having the time of their lives in Disney World now.

Liberty Bell

Liberty Bell

Co-Pilots

Philly Cheesesteak

Dress Rehearsal

Dress Rehearsal

My great-niece Zoey

My great-niece Zoey

Bridal Party

Bridal Party

Kailee and Chris

Kailee and Chris

Family

Family



Washington, D.C.

From Philly, we continued driving south through Delaware and Maryland on our way to D.C. Another Instagram friend @clairerunsthere, graciously offered her apartment and took us on a fun run tour around the capital for us to catch a glimpse of the national monuments. 

Gravelly Point Park

Gravelly Point Park

Washington Monument

Washington Monument

Lincoln Memorial

Lincoln Memorial

That little place is the White House

That little place is the White House

Abraham Lincoln

Abraham Lincoln



Miami, FL

From D.C. we took an early morning flight to Miami. Here we finally were able to catch up on a few days of R&R.

South Beach

South Beach

Southern Point

Southern Point

Beach Run

Beach Run

Enjoying the Florida Sun

Enjoying the Florida Sun

Happy Hour and Cuban Cigars

Happy Hour and Cuban Cigars

Don’t want to go home

Don’t want to go home



Boston, MA

After a few days of fun in the sun, we finally flew back to spend our last weekend in Boston for a dinner with friends, Halloween and to attend a New England Patriots game. With a win, it was a great way to close out our trip. 

Miming it up

Miming it up

French Mimes and Cruella Deville

French Mimes and Cruella Deville

Happy Halloween

Happy Halloween

Dinner with Greg and Liza

Dinner with Greg and Liza

Patriots Tailgating

Patriots Tailgating

Katie and I fit to do splits

Katie and I fit to do splits

Ray, Katie, me and Julien

Ray, Katie, me and Julien

Stacie made it too!

Stacie made it too!

Pats win!

Pats Win!

Til the next time!

Til the next time!

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Work Hard, Play Hard

Hello All! I’m back!

Last you heard from me I ran the Berlin Marathon at the end of September. It’s now November. I took October off from the blog, and for good reason, as I was resting, recovering, and then partying along the east coast of the USA.  

After Berlin my father, who came to watch me run, stayed with us in France for a couple weeks. So a few trips were made around Europe until we all flew back to the US the second week of October.

In this period of time (5 weeks), I’ve visited 11 specific cities/towns, 10 states, 5 countries, and 1 district. Amazing! I can’t imagine covering all of it with you, nor do I want to bore you, but I’ll do my best to make a brief recap for ya. 

This week will be Part 1: pre-USA.

Colmar, France 

Quaint town on the eastern side of France, close to Strasbourg. Known for alsascien architecture, cuisine, and the seasonal Christmas Markets.

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

Château du Haut-Kœnigsbourg

La Petite Venise

La Petite Venise

Alsacien Food

Alsacien Food

Colmar, France

Colmar, France

 

Nancy, France 

I’ve visited Nancy, which is 45 Minutes south of Metz, before on my own (click here to read about it). However, I liked it enough to bring my dad down to see it for a day.

My dad and Porte de la Craffe

My dad and Porte de la Craffe

Porte Stanislas

Porte Stanislas

Notre-Dame de l'Annonciation

Notre-Dame de l’Annonciation

 

Verdun, France 

Known for it’s WWI battle, the small village holds several memorials for the French Military.

Fleury-Devant-Duoaumont

Fleury-Devant-Duoaumont

Duoaumont Ossuary

Duoaumont Ossuary

Le Fort de Duoaumont

Le Fort de Duoaumont


Luxembourg 

A small country that boasts beautiful countryside and plenty of historical value throughout.

The Luxembourg American Military Cemetery and Memorial

The Luxembourg American Military Cemetery and Memorial

Château de Vianden

Château de Vianden

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle

Beaufort Castle

Dad and I at the Beaufort Castles

Dad and I at the Beaufort Castles

Inside Beaufort Castle

Inside Beaufort Castle

 

London, England 

A place I’ve been to several times, but my dad has not. We decided to cross the channel for a weekend.

Tower Bridge

Tower Bridge

The Mall

The Mall

Kensington Palace

Kensington Palace

Buckingham Palace

Buckingham Palace

 

I’ll continue Part 2: USA next week where we trekked along the east coast for 3 weeks!

How It Feels to Run My Tenth Marathon (and the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon Review)

On September 24, 2017 I ran and surpassed my finish expectations for my tenth full marathon by completing the 44th BMW Berlin Marathon in 4:19:58.

Berlin Marathon Finisher

Berlin Marathon Finisher

My marathon “career”, hobby, passion, self torture began in 2006. Here’s a running list (while mind you there have been dozens of half marathons, 10km, mud runs, and fun runs and thousands of miles from training,  also in between):

• Boston Marathon x3: 4:13:15, 4:24:43, 4:30:45 • Cape Cod Marathon 4:15:54 • Rock ‘n’ Roll San Diego Marathon 4:21:07 • Walt Disney World Marathon 4:19:12 • Chicago Marathon 4:36:30 • Paris Marathon 4:49:59 • Rome Marathon 4:38:05 • Berlin Marathon 4:19:58

While my times stay somewhat, relatively consistent within 30ish Minutes, I’ve definitely become slower over the course of time. I’m ok with that and had started labeling myself as a 4:30 marathon runner. 

I don’t like sprint work, I don’t like the feeling of my heart pulsating out of my chest, and I don’t like not having a fun time, being able to talk to others and take in the atmosphere and experience of my runcation. These are the main reasons I’ve never felt to push myself to obtain a personal record with each of my races.

Running for me, personally, is something I do for relaxing my constantly running mind (if that even makes sense) and a way to stay healthy. No more, no less. For some running is about being the best they can be every time and for others it’s learning how to complete the impossible. Running is a personal sport that can make some feel self love or self hate. The gigantic community of runners can make you feel big and small at the same time. Everyone is allowed their own reasons of why or how they run and no one has the right to judge or criticize someone’s journey. 

Berlin, particularly for me, was a huge goal to knock off my bucket list. It would be my 3rd Abbot World Major and the lottery or qualifying system to get into one of the 6 majors (Boston, Chicago, Berlin, NYC, London, Tokyo) is a huge long shot. So when I applied last November for this race, I assumed I wouldn’t get into it as I’ve been rejected from NYC and London several times in the past. I even signed up for the Rome marathon at the same time for April because I figured I wouldn’t get into Berlin. Well, luck was on my side and I made it! But I then realized I had to run 2 full marathons in 2017.

I’ve been in training since November 2016 meaning I was running 5-6 times a week, including 2x a week doing speed and hill workouts because in the back of my mind I was thinking maybe I could get a personal best on this acclaimed flat and fast course. But after Rome in April and two half marathons this summer, my body was beat. The training cycle for Berlin, specifically, was brutal. I was tired, sore, mentally drained. I wasn’t hitting all my distance targets nor completing most of the sprint work. Personally for me, more than one marathon a year tends to shut my brain and body down. I honestly was not looking forward to running Berlin about 10 weeks into my training. But then I had a mental shift to remember that having fun is more important to me than a time goal and I learned to forgive myself for having a legitimate reason to feel tired. Then the mental game clicked and I was super excited to get to Berlin.

The atmosphere of a world major marathon is one of the best experiences. The city is swarming with people from all over the world to each take on the same task. The Expo always gets you ramped up when you grab your number and buy a souvenir or two. One disappointment was that finisher shirts were not included in the entry fee. If you wanted any piece of memorabilia besides a medal, you had to spend at least 45€ and the cool jackets were closer to 90€ but that’s a rant for another day. That evening, btw my dad and most loyal spectating supporter had flown in for the marathon as well, we made our way over to Checkpoint Charlie and saw some pieces and read about the history of the Berlin Wall.

Berlin Marathon Expo

Berlin Marathon Expo

Checkpoint Charlie

Checkpoint Charlie

Dad and the Berlin Wall

Dad and the Berlin Wall

 

Any disappointment from the overpriced merchandise at the Expo was quickly wiped away with the free Saturday morning breakfast run. The laid back 6km run started at the Charlottenburg Palace and ended on a lap around the track of the 1936 Olympic Stadium with a breakfast included. One of the best parts of the weekend plus I got to meet up with a fellow Run Janji ambassador and my favorite British couple that I met at the Virgin Sport British 10km in July. 

Lauren and Jonathan from U.K.

Lauren and Jonathan from U.K.

Run Janji Corps Ambassadors

Run Janji Corps Ambassadors

Jennifer and I running around the Olympic Stadium

Jennifer and I running around the Olympic Stadium

Olympic Stadium Olympic Stadium
Olympian in the Making

Olympian in the Making


Saturday afternoon we did a 3 hour Bike Tour of Berlin. It was leisurely and educational plus we got to spectate a little of the inline skating marathon that was taking place. After our bike tour we made our way to the sombering Holocaust Memorial and Museum.

Bike Tour

Bike Tour

Brandenburg Gate

Brandenburg Gate

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

Holocaust Memorial

 

Sunday I was scheduled for the 3rd wave slot that had a 10am start, with an elite start time of 9:15. Easy subway transportation allowed me to sleep til 7am and head over around 8am. I chose not to bring a drop off bag but the organization at Tiergeten Park was well defined, although you did have to walk about a mile and a half from the closest metro stop to get towards the start. Plenty of porta potties, lots of musical and video entertainment on several big screens helped the 40 thousand of us stay occupied til the gun. 

The race went off without a hitch, The temps were cool (10C/50F) with a little rain to start. The race was crowded, honestly, in its entirety. The crowd support was awesome with live bands every so often along the way. Because Berlin is built on mostly water, there aren’t many skyscrapers and the buildings are all about the same height making everything look the same with little standing out, so it was nice to have the entertainment as a distraction. The course itself is exactly as they say, fast and flat, and my starting times were, for me, quicker than I was planning. But I felt good, so I held onto the 9:15-9:30 pace up until the half way point when I was looking for my dad. I thought to myself, “if you go fast now that means you can slow down later”. Which, btw, is opposite of what pros would tell you to do. After seeing my dad I maybe had a mile at about 11 min pace but felt good enough to go back to my original pace. The volunteers and aide stations were fantastic and I really felt energized by the crowd and cool temps. So I pushed on at this pace comfortably through the second half. Upon hitting the Brandenburg Gate, I was sprinting and smiling towards the finish knowing I would have one of my best times since 2009!

The Start of the Berlin Marathon

The Start of the Berlin Marathon

Some Motivation

Some Motivation

My new Baby

My new Baby

All Smiles

All Smiles

#10 in the books

#10 in the books

 

I’m so elated and proud to have completed my 10th marathon with my 4th best time after having a crappy training cycle. My enthusiasm is renewed and my goal will be to push forward and complete all the world majors! But first a break from racing for the rest of 2017 😉.

Throwback to Japan

Facebook is great at remembering dates that happened, “On This Day”. Eight years ago this month, I made my way to Tokyo while a friend worked abroad there. Memories made, some remembered vaguely, and the experience of a lifetime ensued next. 

After 20 hours of flying leaving Boston on a Friday at 10:30am, I arrived to Tokyo on Saturday at 5:20pm with a 13 hour time difference. Meeting up with my friend Katie, we made it to our hotel in the Shinagawa ward of Tokyo after an hour train ride from the airport to the city. Having dinner and several Kirins, we ended up meeting an Australian couple at the hotel bar who was in town for breeding horses. I end up doing a couple of tourist attractions with the couple later in the week as well. 

The next day we made our way over to the ward of Asakusa with open air markets and several shrines. Japan has two primary religions: Shinto and Buddhism, which co-exist and are complementary to each other. Here we could participate in a few rituals such as wafting smoke to inhale from burning incense, collecting water from a fountain with a cup but then drinking it from your hand to then spit back out, paying to write prayers on piece of paper to attach to an outside post to the shrine, or participating in yoga like prayer while tossing coins into a tin collection. We also experienced a customary lunch that day which required your shoes to be taken off and sitting crossed legged on pillows as you cooked your meats and vegetables in a hot broth being boiled on your table. 

Asakusa with Katie

Asakusa with Katie

Buddhist ritual

Buddhist Ritual

Park in Asakusa

Park in Asakusa

That evening we took the subway to Shibuya, with an equivalency comparable to NYC Times Square. An immediate difference, however, is the cleanliness of the city and the politeness and friendliness of the natives to foreigners. The area hosts thousands upon thousands of people shopping, eating, and walking about. Great entertainment if you enjoy people watching. While having dinner that evening at a restaurant called 603, we felt our first earthquake and learned the experience was somewhat common and experienced several more throughout the week. This happened to be a year and half before the terrible earthquake and tsunami hit Japan 2011.
Shibuya

Shibuya

“Franklin”

Famous Shibuya Crossing

Famous Shibuya Crossing

The next day I ventured solo, south of Tokyo by train, to Kamakura. I ventured to Engaku-ji Temple which houses monks and an 8 foot bell at the top of a hill which requires you to take several flights stairs to access. I made my way around the small city center to do a bit of shopping and to tour the Great Buddha, otherwise known as Diabutsu, within the Buddhist temple of Kōtoku-in. It is a bronze statue that stands 37 feet tall. It was massively impressive. Making my way back to the train I visited Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū, one of the most important Shinto shrines in Kamakura and where one of my favorite photos of Sake Barrels was taken.

Engaku-ji Temple

Engaku-ji Temple

Komyogi Temple Bell

Komyogi Temple Bell

Diabutsu

Diabutsu

Kōtoku-in Temple

Kōtoku-in Temple

Giant Buddha

Giant Buddha

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gū

Sake Barrels

Sake Barrels

The weather in August is hot, humid, and some days full of rain. This day happened to be one of them, as were most of the days of my trip.

The next morning we were awoken to our 16th floor hotel room shaking at 5:02am. We were experiencing our 2nd earthquake. Unsure of what to do for the 30 seconds that seemed forever, I vaguely remember hoping into the tub. Unsure of our rational back then, it seemed like the most logical solution. By the way, Japan’s technology seemed to be quite ahead of Americans, that even the toilets and showers light up, heat up, and self clean. But I digress. Eventually the shaking stopped but we were pretty rattled ourselves so decided it was a good time to head over to the famous Tsujiki Fish Market in Shimbashi district.

Tsujiki is the largest fish market in the world. We probably saw every type of fish imaginable, along with whole Tunas that was claimed to be the most expensive in the world. The workers were quite disgruntled with having to work around the tourists and it being already close to 100 degrees by 6am, I can understand why they would be annoyed. 

Tsujiki Fish Market

Tsujiki Fish Market

Tsujiki Fish Market

Tsujiki Fish Market

Making our way back after an incredibly hot and humid trip, I showered up again and then took a bus tour from the hotel to Mt. Fuji and the town of Hakone. After a 2 1/2 hour bus ride, we made our way to the 5th station (out of 12) and also the highest point cars can drive up to Mt. Fuji. We were given some time to explore, shop, and walk around. I hiked a bit of a trail but unfortunate you could not see the peak due to the clouds. 

Mt. Fuji

Mt. Fuji

Hiking up Mt. Fuji

Hiking up Mt. Fuji

Hikers at the 5th station

Hikers at the 5th Station

View from 5th Station

View from 5th Station

Views from Mt. Fuji

Views from Mt. Fuji

2,305m up from sea level at 5th Station

2,305m from sea level at 5th Station

We then continued to drive on to Hakone, which houses sulfur hot springs and Lake Ashi. Upon arrival, we took a cable car up to the hot springs. Unfortunately, The cloudy weather stuck with us and made it difficult to see anything. However, you could certainly smell the sulfur. Here you could participate in a ritual where one is supposed to eat a boiled egg from the sulfur water that turns the egg black, claiming to add 7 years to your life.

We drove our way back down to the Lake, where we got on a large Pirate looking ship and took a cruise. Our tour ended with taking the Bullet train back to Tokyo. The ride was incredibly fast, lasting 30 minutes. I was also on the tour with the Australian couple we met earlier in the week, in which I found out the husband, Kerry O’Brien, had participated in the ’68 & ’72 Olympics for the Steeplechase. The world is so interesting!

Kerry O'Brien, Australian Olympic Athlete. Photo from: Racing Past

Kerry O’Brien (2), Australian Olympic Athlete. Photo from: Racing Past

That evening we had dinner with them, a couple of their associates, and I ended up going to a traditional Japanese Karaoke Bar late night. However, word of advice, don’t leave your friends overnight, in a foreign city, without a working cell phone.

The next morning I toured parts of Tokyo. When I got off the subway a Japanese University student named Takashi, wanting to practice his English, offered to help show me around. We went to the Imperial Gardens where the emperor lives. We went to Ginza, which reminds me of 5th Avenue or Newbury Street. We then made our way over to Roppongi and viewed the Tokyo Tower. 

Nakagin Capsule Tower

Nakagin Capsule Tower

Tokyo Tower

Tokyo Tower

After several days of jet lag, I finally slept through the night and got an early morning start the next day to visit Harajuku and Ueno. Harajuku is famous with the Japanese youths for shopping including American/British style clothing and some girls that dress up like baby dolls. A colorful area for sure. After, I made my way to Ueno park and visited the zoo and Tokyo National Museum of Western Art.

Harajuku

Harajuku

Harajuku

Harajuku

Ueno Park

Ueno Park

The city is vibrant with culture and history but also modern with advanced technology. I’m lucky and happy to have made it to that side of the world. 

Hachikō, the loyal dog and a couple of other Huskies

Hachikō, the loyal Akita dog and a couple of other Huskies

456 Hot Air Balloons

I’m always searching for something interesting to see or do, to broaden my horizons or purely satisfy my curiosity. 

Luckily for me, I’m living about a 30 minute drive away from the annual Mondial Air Balloons held at Aérodrome de Chambley in Hagéville, France. 

It’s an annual week long international Hot Air Balloon Festival held at the end of July. Several countries participate with, weather depending, morning and evening flights.  People can come watch and peruse local vendors with outdoor activities for the kids. And best of all it’s free.

This year was particularly special because they were planning for what’s called “La Grande Ligne”. This was a plan in hopes for the most hot air balloons to take off at once, to set a world record. The days for take off kept shifting due to storms and wind but finally was set for a 6:30am on Friday July 28. I didn’t want to miss it!

I woke up at 4:30am and drove the half hour to claim a front row view. Then I waited. I wasn’t alone with some other brave early risers but the weather was cool and damp, with no indoor waiting area, and nothing to look at. We were staring out to empty runways and I think most of us were hoping we were in the right area. We waited some more as 6:30am came and went with no action. But around 6:45am we started to see cars with trailers, what seemed like thousands, driving out to line up on the runways. This went on for a good 45 minutes. Then the pilots and crew started setting up by laying the ballons on the ground, attaching baskets or single seats to the balloons, checking the ignitions of the fire and then started to blow the balloons up. What seemed to take forever and seemed like thousands of balloons, was actually 456 balloons that anti-climatically lifted off around 8am. With a suttle wind, the balloons were seemingly all in flight and began quickly drifting north all within minutes. 

I grabbed as many photos as I could and ran to catch a great action shot. I watched them raise higher and drift more north as I made it back to the car and started to drive home (which was north). So surprisingly for me, I got a great view of them as I headed back home.

Are we in the right place?

Starting to see some action

And it’s take off


Such a cool experience. I highly suggest catching a festival, maybe next year I’ll make friends with a pilot and be on one!

Sweet Oporto

What an amazing week I’ve had! Not only did I begin training for my 10th marathon for Berlin in September and adapted my nutrition to start following a ketogenic meal plan (high “good” fat and low carb), more to come on these on later posts, but I also spent a long weekend visiting Porto, Portugal. 

Visiting the 2nd largest city in Portugal started as a trip to visit a couple of American friends traveling through. However, a friends flight got cancelled twice, due to strikes, cutting 4 days out of her trip so she decided to stay back, meaning I was venturing on my own. I took a 2 and a half hour direct flight late Thursday afternoon from Luxembourg to Porto. From the airport I was able to get a metro ticket for less that 2€ to get me towards Trindade stop in the historic portion of the city, and also where my airbnb was located. After a quick check-in and shower I took to Google trips to get myself acquainted with sights to see nearby. Here’s a recount of what I did daily:

Thursday:

Livraria Lello

Famous Bookshop

Famous Bookshop

Red Staircase

Red Staircase

 

The Historic District

Town Hall

Town Hall

Ingreja da Santíssima Trindade

Ingreja da Santíssima Trindade

Typical tiled buildings

Typical tiled buildings

Praça de Carlos Alberto

Praça de Carlos Alberto

Igreja do Carmo

Igreja do Carmo

French inspired architecture

French inspired architecture



Street Art 

Street art is legal with a permit. It brings bright colors to the already lively city.

17th Restaurant & Bar

Views of Porto

Views of Porto

Rosé on steroids

Rosé on steroids

 

Dinner at O Buraco

Fresh and inexpensive traditional Portuguese restaurant

Fresh and inexpensive traditional Portuguese restaurant


Porto Walkers Pub Crawl
I signed up for a pub crawl for 12€ which started at 11pm going til 5am, if you could make it that long. With 5-6 stops visiting bars mostly on Galeria de Paris, a drink special was included at each stop. I’m glad I went because I met a bunch of English speaking backpackers from US, Canada, and Australia. Albeit, I was the oldest by 10+ years, but was able to dance the night away (or at least until 2:30am, I admit I couldn’t quite hang as long).

Friday:

Early Morning Run

Free Walking Tour
I can’t recommend enough taking this free 4 hour walking tour with a passionate local from Porto Walkers (Do this!) I learned a lot and felt it was necessary to share a few important points…

1. Porto’s tourism is relatively new (think 15-20 years new). Thanks to UNESCO and budget flights like RyanAir, the city has seen an influx in visitors and most of the locals are appreciative for the economic boost but…

2. In the poorer sections of town, where the buildings create narrow, quaint winding, colorful, clothes-lined drying alleyways, some families monthly wage is 500€. There used to be laws to protect them, where monthly rent was grandfathered over to keep prices low to protect them from losing their homes. Due to greed and a change in law, rents have skyrocketed from 50€ per month to 800€ per month, to create Airbnb’s for tourists like myself. This results in families getting kicked out of Porto or ultimately leaving them homeless.

3. Here’s what we can do to help: Don’t rent Airbnb’s within the Riberia district or support the overpriced, tourist restaurants and shops along the river front. Do eat at local Portuguese restaurants and shop off the typical tourist beaten paths. You’ll know the difference immediately because there will probably be a wait to get in because they are small and the prices will be extraordinarily less expensive.

Ponte Luís I

Ponte Luís I

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

Ribeira District

View of Douro

View of Douro

Old Tram

Old Tram

Igreja paroquial de Santo Ildefonso

Igreja paroquial de Santo Ildefonso

Inside São Bento Train Station

Inside São Bento Train Station

 

Port Wine in Vila Nova de Gaia

I did a self tour visiting several wineries of the sweet port wine.

Ramos Pinto

Ramos Pinto

Croft

Croft

Inside Taylor's

Inside Taylor’s

Taylor's Courtyard

Taylor’s Courtyard

Taylor's

Taylor’s Port Wine

 

Saturday:

Praia do Molhe
I got up early and took the old Tram line 1 along the river to where it meets the Atlantic Ocean and spent most of the day at the beach. 

Dinner at Tapabento
Ranked #1 Restaurant in Porto, there are advantages to eating solo. I didn’t need a reservation! Fine dining in a quaint restaurant, you’d never know from the outside. 

Seated Tuna

Seared Tuna

Red Mullet

Red Mullet

Pistachio Sufflé

Pistachio Sufflé

 

Sunday:

Last day in Porto and started it with another early morning run. Expecting to find the streets deserted I was actually weaving in and out of the drunks making their way home at 6:30am.

Breakfast at Zenith
Best Brunch Ever

Detox Smoothie bowl (I also got 2 eggs with avocado not pictured)

Detox Smoothie bowl (I also got 2 eggs with avocado not pictured)

Armazém
Vintage Flea Market and bar. Cute, artsy and unique.

Portobello Rooftop Bar

Finished the trip with a couple cocktails at Base

I hope you all get a chance to visit and take into account the need to respect their culture, heritage, and people. And drink all the port wine 🍷. If you’re waiting for a reason to go, the weekend of June 23rd is a huge street party for Saint John (Sao Joao) with plastic hammers, drinking, dancing, and fireworks. A celebration not to be missed 🎉

Don’t Become Complacent

When I moved to France, I entered into a newlywed ideology that this move would be like a honeymoon. I was in a foreign place, new to the customs and language, but felt free to explore and be adventurous.  I’m sure this can be relatable for many in any form of life change like moving anywhere, starting a new job, actually getting married, or having kids.

Within a year of having accessibility to travel within Europe, I visited 8 countries and luckily for me it was overwhelmingly for leisure including snowboarding, running, rest and relaxation along with tourism. Even where I have established my new home, I would ride my bike, take a bus or train to neighboring villages or cities. This curiousness and willingness to take in new sights and sounds even surprised my boyfriend, Julien, the native French national who has expressed I probably have seen and know more about France or Luxembourg than him.

Although I love traveling and consider myself an interested wanderer, I was fearing that I was becoming a bit too comfortable and not having a need to travel. I mean, I was starting to make a life for myself here with a part time job and having started French classes (yesterday), I was starting to get into a routine of doing everyday tasks. The excitement of travel seemed to be taking a backseat as I was starting to get accustomed to the architecture and history surrounding me and all of it was starting to feel less novel to me. So even on my days off, when I should still want to be out touring new towns, I occasionally slacked because I felt, “Hey, what’s one more building to see?”

A couple days ago I thought to myself, “Get over yourself”. So I visited Saarbrucken, Germany an hour train ride away. I had been before for a day trip to go shopping before Christmas in 2015 as Germany is known for being notoriously cheaper than it’s neighboring countries. This time I went to Germany to experience the hype of the Karneval or Fasching, which is a long weekend party where everyone gets dressed in costumes and watch parades, and have plenty of booze before Lent comes and you have to behave. Widely celebrated in Colonge but also around most of Germany and Belgium, the Karneval is celebrated but it winds down after the Rosenmontag, the Monday following the festivals. Some cities actually designate it as a holiday but for most it’s not, however most towns recognize it and give acceptance to miss school or work. This is typically the last day of dressing up and drinking, you know, to cure the hangover from the weekend.

Photos on Instagram of the karneval

Photos I found on Instagram to give you an idea of the Karneval


I showed up to Saarbrucken around lunch time not sure what I was expecting. In fact, I was only informed about the Karneval through events on Facebook and not even from anyone who actually celebrates it. I had done most of the research on my own regarding the Karneval on the internet. I got out of the train station to a big pedestrian walk way, lined with shops and restaurants, and immediately saw college age kids in Pokemon and unicorn onesies and I thought to myself, “I’m in the right place”. There were no parades going on specifically here but I had read of a couple of towns nearby that were having them. I decided to stay within Saarbrucken and take in the city a bit more than some shops I had seen last time I was there. There is a river that parallels the pedestrian path and brings you towards the town hall and a couple of churches and open markets. Once I made my way through the quiet alleys and realized most of the shops were indeed closed for the non-official holiday, I decided to make my way over to a couple of bars that were playing loud German 80’s pop music surrounding the Schnokeloch St. Johanner Markt.

Saarbrucken, Germany

Saarbrucken, Germany


Inside came all the glory, color, dancing, and happiness of the perceived Karneval Rosemontag. People were dressed as hippies, clowns, Super Mario characters, cats, military pilots, fitness instructors, and of course there was a Donald Trump. I felt mystified and in awe on this Monday afternoon party. The place was decorated in streamers and balloons. The music was pumping and the people were all in a good mood, despite hangovers, but seemingly possible because they just happened to be drunk all over again. Beers and Champagne were flowing and ridiculously cheap. I made conversations with a few of the locals that spoke English and enjoyed my afternoon, taking in the sights and sounds that I brazenly thought I was too experienced in European culture to venture out to see. I patted myself on the back for being brave enough to leave the comforts of Metz and experience the culture of this bizarre yet awesomely fun party.

My advice is purely to myself…Don’t become complacent.