2018 Race Calendar

As I prepare to say goodbye to 2017, with its extreme highs and lows, I also start to think ahead to the next year. The races booked in, the training plan and everything in between.

The focus for the year is a far cry from that of 2017 – where training heavily revolved around running and training for the London Marathon Instead there will be a full mix of running, walking, spinning and strength training to prepare for a variety of events – many of which are running in their first year or the first time I am taking part.

London Winter Walk is first on the list. Two weeks into the New Year I will be getting into full swing by taking part in this 20km walk. Based in the heart of the capital this route will see me set out from Southwark and follow many London landmarks along the River Thames to Vauxhall and back again. After not participating in a race since October I am ready to take this challenge on board and get some great training miles under my belt.

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A couple of weeks later I will be running the London Winter Run for the third year running. This 10k route, run by Cancer Research, is one I have embraced for a few years now. In 2018, I am hoping to find myself running at a comfortable pace and generally just enjoying running again.

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THE BIG HALF – Not only new for me, but a new route completely! Organised by London Marathon Events this race will see me retrace some of the steps I took during the London Marathon itself! I signed up for this half marathon very soon after the Marathon itself, when I was full of post race glory. I am looking forward to running this one, despite not running for the last two months. The two fastest half marathoners will also be taking part with Sir Mo Farah taking on Callum Hawkins – making this a very exciting race for anyone spectating. I will be miles behind these two legends of course.

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After running the first ever Adidas city run in Shoreditch back in October, I did not hesitate to sign up for the second. On 18th March I will be taking part in the Fulham 10k – which promises to be “London’s Flattest Route” – something I hope to prove true. After the enjoyable run in Shoreditch, with excellent organisation from Adidas city run, I am thoroughly looking forward to taking to the streets of Fulham in March.

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London Landmarks Half Marathon is yet another brand new race I am lucky enough to take part in in 2018. Whilst many runners failed to receive a space, I was eager, ready and waiting once I knew when the registration was going live. If it was a case of fastest finger fast, my finger was on the buzzer minutes before others – as I successfully signed up within minutes of the race going live. Running through the streets of Westminster, many of which I would have covered whilst running the London Winter Run and the London Marathon, this race will again pass many of the iconic London landmarks. Also boasting a flat route, I am happy to be one of the 10,000 runners who managed to obtain a space.

Bringing a little break to my running schedule I will be taking part in the Easter Walk run by Action Challenge   – 25km from Windsor, following the River Thames, passing through beautiful countryside and Windsor Great Park. Another opportunity to add miles to my training plan before the big event just a month later.

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THE ISLE OF WIGHT CHALLENGE! The big one for the year. 106km round the coastal path of the Isle of Wight. There are many options with this event, to take a 1/4 of the route or 1/2 the route, or to spread the total 106km over two days. But I did not pick this option. If I was going to challenge myself with something I said I will never do, I was going to make it as hard as possible. So I will be walking the full challenge with a target of 20-34 hours.

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Shortly after I will be returning to the only OCR race I have signed up to for 2018 so far, Nuclear Rush. This will be my third Nuclear Races event and after Nuclear Blast in September I am ready to embrace the mud solo if need be. Racing at an OCR event never really sees you on your own and I look forward to taking on that Death Slide that was evidently missing from Nuclear Rush!

Vitality 10,000 was an event I missed in 2017. After running the London Marathon, holidays beckoned which clashed with this event. So, I made sure not to miss it in 2018 and these guys made it hard not to, by sending out a early bird discount to entice me to sign up (it worked). Another first for 2018, I am very much looking forward to this one.

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Nine events have been confirmed for the first five months of 2018. That’s a lot of miles, a lot of commitment and lots of training needed. This is without thinking beyond to those races I have yet to sign up for: Great Newham London Run and the British 10k, for example, are most definitely on my radar – along with others I have not given thought to yet.

The fact of the matter is – I need to get myself in gear. I have not run for several months, relying purely on spinning classes and walking. Although it is great to still be moving, the lack of running has instilled a level of fear of putting the running shoes back on, at pounding the streets, the dark, the cold – you name it, I am fearing it.

So in the New Year it will be time to take off my scaredy pants and get back to it.

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8 Mile Training Walk: Narnia

With the current mild temperatures one can easily forget that just two weeks ago the country woke to a blanket of snow.

Whilst others rejoiced in the Winter Wonderland my only wonder was how I was going to complete my training walk. I had planned to head back to the beauty of Epping Forest, however with the roads already proving to be hazardous at 8am on a Sunday I decided to re-think the plan.

The car remained on the drive and I plotted a route close to home.

Starting in the woods suitably located behind my house I followed the rugged path through to Churchgate Street. From there I walked through Old Harlow down to the River Stort – following the river path back to the town park, and Old Harlow again, before making my way back through the woods to finish.

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8 miles done.

Though in theory it sounded much easier that the journey itself. The snow, looking rather beautiful and unspoiled so early in the morning, provided an element of resistance. It was also heavily snowing when I started the walk, with the wind catching me off guard at times.

I had to walk carefully. And so I did. I did not aim for a time, I aimed for a finish. And with such a big loop I had no choice but to finish. With the roads rather hazardous I did not have the option to make a call to be picked up. So I just ploughed on.

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Usually early on a Sunday morning I would see a hoard of people running and walking. The beauty of this day was I saw very few people in the first hour of my walk. The occasional brave runner appeared, though I don’t know how they managed to run on the snow, and a few people walking. But the majority of the time it felt like I was the only one around. The snow had made everything seem so peaceful, so deserted, yet so magical. I was walking in Narnia!

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It was cold, it was long; but never before had I enjoyed a walk so much. There was such a sense of tranquillity, the silence other than the crunch of the snow under my feet.

I finished the 8 miles in 2 hours 30 minutes, rather good going seeing as I was lazily making my way along whilst taking pictures.

Once completed I thought back to my musings of that morning. When I wondered how I was going to get my training walk in. Training can fit in no matter the weather, and I proved that on that very snowy day. A training plan is just that, it can be adapted. So don’t be dismayed if you have to move things about a little.

My walk may not have been fast, but I still got out there, I did it and I was rewarded with some of the most beautiful views as a reward.

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2017: The year in Review

This time last year I was composing a similar post – reminiscing about adventures past. With 2017 almost drawing to a close it is a great time to sit and reflect on yet another year of throwing myself at any challenge possible.

Where 2016 saw me complete numerous challenges as a team, 2017 has been one that has seen me cross the finish line on my own over and over again. In previous years, the thought of going to a race alone would fill me with dread. 2017 saw me embracing the training, the racing and everything in between by myself.

And there has been a great number of challenges to keep me occupied.

The London Winter Run – This event put me on good a good path at the beginning of 2017. The second year running this event, I was not looking for a time. I was looking to feel better about running. The same race in 2016 saw me struggle with running (little did I know it was due to the fact that I was developing a bout of Pneumonia) and as such my main goal was to shake the fear from the previous year and to simply, not stop. I achieved this. It was probably one of the first races that saw me keep going, some times faster than others, but I did not stop all the same. And that felt pretty amazing.

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Next came the Hampton Court Half Marathon, new in my racing diary for 2017. By this point my training had reached a new level. I felt strong, I felt capable and determined. With its flat terrain and picturesque route along the river – it was thoroughly enjoyable. And yet again, other that a brief pause to undo an energy gel, I did not stop. Therefore making this half marathon one of my best yet. Plus, it came with a pretty heavy piece of bling and opportunities to have pictures with Henry VIII. Would I run this one again? Quite possibly, once I have ticked all the others off my list.

Another half marathon followed with the North London Half Marathon. This is one race I hated from the get go. Starting on an incline from Wembley Stadium, it was one of the most undulating races I have faced to date. The hills kept coming as we ran our way through North London, to the Saracens stadium (or Copthall to those who grew up in the area), back in a loop and finishing on the pitch back at Wembley. Yes the finishing in the stadium was fantastic, but the journey to get there for me was not. Therefore, although I encourage others to experience it for themselves – it is not one that will be featuring in my race calendar any time soon.

THE LONDON MARATHON! The one that causes my heart to skip a beat when I think back at that day, so many months ago. Even now, I don’t understand how I possibly got through the months upon months of training and across the finish line itself. It was by far, the biggest challenge to date and one of the proudest moments of my life. Having friends chase me throughout the day, to have numerous supporters in the UK, USA and Canada all watching my progress and my Niece, Nephew, family and friends at the final 500 metres – the feeling is indescribable. I never felt so much love until that day – responding to the messages took hours, there were that many people showing their love. It was one of the most amazing moments – crossing that finish line, not knowing how I managed to get through and at the same time raising an amazing amount of money for the Willow Foundation too.

It may not have been the time I wanted (there was no way I was not going to stop for those who had waited hours to see me), but I completed. And I will have the memories and the medal with me forever.

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Less than two weeks later, and probably a rather stupid move too, I took part in Rat Race Dirty Weekend. Thirteen miles of obstacles. On a normal day, I would have relished in the dirty fun. But so soon after the London Marathon my running was not on form, my limbs were still feeling a little tender and I was down right tired – unsurprisingly after the months of Marathon training. That said – I still had a blast (despite having a few moans too). This weekend has to be one of the best OCR races I have participated in. There were so many obstacles I was starting to feel sick at the sight of them. It was a great, action packed weekend with a fantastic after party too.

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After a long over due holiday I returned to running at the end of May in preparation for Great Newham London Run. A race that I had missed in previous years, I was extremely excited about this one. On a warm, sunny morning in July I took to the streets around Stratford – running the 10K course. The route was not easy, especially on such a hot day. But it was so worth it, to finish in yet another iconic London stadium at the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. To run along the track to the finish line where the likes of Usain Bolt and Mo Farah picked up the gold at London 2012. It was an amazing feeling – even if it was a short race. One that I definitely have pencilled in for 2018.

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Just a few weeks later I was back again pounding the streets of our Capital, running the Virgin Sport – British 10k Having run the route in 2016, when the event was run by Vitality, I returned for a second year determined to beat the previous years time. Sadly, I was over zealous. By this point in the year my love for running was wavering slightly. I was tired and was bored of running!! So, I did not perform well. This day, in fact, I achieved my worst time on record for a 10k! I kept stopping, I felt sick and I kept making excuses. I had simply lost my running mojo. It happens. Was I bothered about it? No! I had run the Marathon a few months earlier so it did not faze me in the slightest. I just got up and tried to keep going. And it is one that will still feature in my diary for years to come.

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The summer then took a rather bad turn for me. Not only did I get made redundant at the end of June – which impacted my mental well being but I also lost my Uncle to suicide. Trying to pick myself back up to do anything after such a tragic loss was a challenge in itself. With the grief I found it a struggle to breathe whilst running – so it simply became less frequent. I also developed plantar issues, despite the lack of running. Therefore several planned races did not happen; Bedford Half Marathon, Greenwich 10k and Herts Half were all races I was unprepared for and made the decision to drop out. Something I rarely do.

Just days before my Uncles funeral I had Nuclear Blast scheduled in. I was feeling incredibly low and I was determined I was not going to take part. Like most races for 2017, I was running alone – so I thought if I did drop out, it would only be me who lost out. But then the day before I decided to go ahead anyway. I needed to get out. I needed to carry on and I needed to continue living. And thats what I did. I completed Nuclear Blast on my own, at my own pace and I literally had a “Blast.” Getting out, not thinking about my sorrow – for just a few hours – was the best therapy I could have asked for at that moment in time. And what did I do when I completed? I signed up for the 2018 event, Nuclear Rush – solo, to have some more fun running the course by myself.

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The final event I completed in 2017 was the Shoreditch 10k, organised by Adidas City Run. This was the first event run by these guys – a flat course around the quiet streets of East London. A superb event, offering the opportunity for PB’s. For me it was not about a PB. For me it was about getting back to basics. To getting that feeling I had at the beginning of the year when completing London Winter Run – when crossed the finish line without stopping. It was about showing myself that I still have the ability – it had not gone away, it was still there to take on the challenge when I was ready to do so. And I was ready. It was by no means fast, but it was steady and consistent. And most importantly enjoyable.

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So, my racing for 2017 came to an end. It is safe to say that my year has been one that has been filled with physical and emotional challenges.

Trying to remember the elation from everything I accomplished at the beginning of the year, was incredibly hard when the latter part had been filled with such heartache.

I have learnt a great deal about myself, about the power of my mind and the capabilities of my body in 2017.

But the biggest lesson of all; is learning to have the strength to carry on, to keep fighting and living when others find they cannot.

 

Keeping fit over the Festive season.

Yep – it’s that season of tide and joy. That time of year when no matter how much you try to avoid it you find yourself surrounded by mounds of festive treats, and the exercise plan starts to waver to make way for the multitude of Christmas parties and gatherings.

Its no surprise that we come out the other side with a few extra pounds and finding getting ourselves motivated to exercise just that little harder.

So what do you do to stay focused and to stay on plan over the festive season?

Over the last few years, as I find myself wanting to go to “out, out” less and less I am finding sticking to plan comes a little easier too. However, like everyone else I have my downfalls and I will no doubt reach for a mince pie or two over the coming weeks.

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So I make a plan, to follow the following rules where possible:

Plan ahead! 

Not every meal I have is going to be Slimming World friendly. There will be some exercise classes that I will no doubt miss for some reason or the other. What I will do is plan ahead. Plan for those meals that may cause me to eat things that I know are not good. And if I know I will be missing a class or two, I will work around it. I will ensure that I keep to my lunch time power walks and throw in a few more for good measure.

I know that for Christmas Day itself the rule book will go out the window. I will enjoy every bite possible. So in the lead up I will do everything in my power to ensure that I am making the better choices to account for that.

Become the Designated Driver

One thing I enjoy these days is my freedom to drive and get about. I also enjoy the freedom to leave a party whenever I choose to, to not rely on cabs and other people to get home. Becoming the designated driver gives me the flexibility to do so.

It also means that I limit my alcohol consumption and therefore less likely to be hungover – which could lead to over-indulging and the likeliness to miss training sessions and classes.

Driving keeps me in control. I still drink, though these days it mainly tends to be at home, controlled with dinner.

Eat before you leave!

If your social event involves more drinking than eating make sure you eat before you leave the house. Years of not following this advice myself has lead to many nights getting drunk at super speed and mornings spent pre ordering Dominos to cure the hangover caused by overindulgence. Eating before hand means you are also less likely to head to the kebab shop at 2am too – though I make no guarantees!

Make wise choices!

Yes – we are all going to eat our share of indulgent foods. But that does not have to be every meal for for the next three weeks. Make better choices. If you know you are going out for a three course dinner, make a better choice for breakfast and lunch. One indulgent meal does not have to lead to an indulgent day.

When you are out and about think about what you are eating. Can you swap those chips for a side salad? Do you need to have starter, main and desert?

Don’t skip breakfast!

Its a given. The golden rule. Leave the house with a full belly and you will be set up for the day. You will be less likely to snack throughout the day. There is a saying – “eat like a King for Breakfast, a Prince for Lunch and a Pauper for Dinner.” Reversing your meals so that breakfast is the biggest meal of the day will mean you have more time to digest your meal throughout the day and not go to bed with a heavy stomach! I personally hate having a heavy meal after 7pm, I always find in doing so I feel ill and wake up feeling rather sluggish and bloated the next day.

Load up on your Vitamins!

It goes without saying that fruit and vegetables should be the most important part of your diet. Getting your five a day is key and loading up with Vitamin C is vital – especially as the temperatures drop and coughs and colds are wide spread.

Load up with a mix of the two by preparing a Nutri-Bullet each morning or prepping healthy snacks to take on your travels.

I always have a box of satsumas on my desk and take a pot of crudities and hummus to munch on between meals.

Allow yourself the rest and cheat days!

Giving yourself a break every now and then will mean you are less likely to fall off plan completely. We all need those days of rest, make sure you plan them in. If you have a cheat day or a cheat meal so be it. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Draw a line under it, move forward and look to the next days plan.

Its an exhausting time of year. Give yourself a break. Its allowed!

Focus on the long term goal.

In the grand scheme of things the festive period is only a small portion of the year. Yes we become very indulgent, over excited and sometimes allow things to slide. However, it is short term. Think about the long term goal, how far you have come and where you want to go. Then make the next plan – the New Year plan – and get right back on the horse ready to keep going.

Whatever you are doing over the next few weeks to celebrate; enjoy yourself, relax, rest and remember to keep going!

Enjoy a happy, healthy holiday!

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Training Walk: 6 miles in Epping Forest

A few months ago, as I signed up to the Isle of Wight Challenge (the big one planned in for 2018), I was told something that I did not quite believe.

“Just because you can run, don’t assume you can walk.”

I did not think that much of it again, until I decided to get a head start in training for the big event next year.

65 miles will be no mean feat. With all kinds of terrains following the coast of the Isle of Wight, in what I estimate to take around 24 hours, and throughout the night too. If the miles don’t get to me, the sleep deprivation certainly will.

So, I took the time to start racking up the miles before Christmas and before the training plan kicks in in the New Year.

I have progressively increased the walking miles over the last few weeks, even covering around 30 miles whilst in Bordeaux. And this weekend I took to Epping Forest to start covering some mileage closer to home.

My first outing to Epping Forest came around a month ago. One wet, miserable Saturday afternoon I ventured out, got lost and found no joy in the route – which was rather desolate. It was not until the end of my walk that I found the “main path” detailed on the map and I kicked myself for not finding it sooner.

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This time I headed in the right direction. Again; it was wet, raining and generally a rather miserable day. Starting at the Wake Arms Roundabout I headed south into the depth of the forest following that “main path.” I did not get lost, I did not find it desolate – instead it was one of the most joyful walks I have had in a long time.

Despite the weather the forest was full of like minded walkers, runners, cyclists and even several horse riders. It seems I was walking in the right direction this time round – the forest had a wonderful bustling atmosphere.

Two miles in I reached the Kings Oak Hotel and continued along the main path a little longer. This is where the path changed considerably. What started as a predominantly flat route became one that saw some of the biggest hills I had trekked for some time.

Some runners were bravely powering up and down the hills. Although I was tempted to follow them, I stuck to my strong walking/ marching pace, which was a challenge in itself on the downhill stretches.

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Shortly after the hills my Garmin buzzed for the 3 mile marker and it was time to turn back on myself. Back up the challenging hills, that had a definite impact on my heart race but also left me feeling like I was having a great work out.

And then the Garmin died! I stupidly forgot to charge up before I ventured out, so after four miles I had to guess my pacing and overall time.

Quickly retracing my step I made it back to the start feeling a little worn out, but with a sense of exhilaration – that feeling I get every time I finish a work out that I am pleased with.

The next day I realised the comment my friend made rang true. My legs, glutes and calves were all tight. Walking is tougher than you may think.

And It was only six miles. Taking a total of 1 hour 46 minutes – averaging at around 17 minutes per mile. A great base to build up on over the next few months. At this pace, without stoppages, I would be looking at a finish time of around 18-19 hours. Not realistic, as lets face it not only am I going to have to account for rest stops but anything the actual day will through at me too.

However, I will use this timing as a guide to push myself forward and improve over the coming months.

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City Break: J’adore Bordeaux!

Whilst my suitcase was barely unpacked from my trip to Budapest back in September I was already hunting down the next adventure. Then came along the Ryanair sale and before I had the chance to stop myself, a cheap flight to Bordeaux was booked – ooops!

I don’t often get to travel this time of year, due to previous work commitments, so the opportunity to spend the “Black Friday” weekend away from the hustle and bustle of crazy Christmas shoppers was something I was not going to pass up.

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Bordeaux provided the perfect opportunity to escape the madness!

Located in the Aquitaine region, in southwestern France, this UNESCO listed city has oodles of charm with its 18th – 19th century Gothic architecture and of course being the capital of wine it is the perfect location to experience a variety of wine tasting.

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Unsurprisingly, with my love of wine, my first port of call was Cité du Vin – a unique museum dedicated to the heritage of wine located on the banks of the Garonne. I decided to work up my thirst by taking a long walk round, crossing the Pont de Pierre bridge and taking in the river views from the west side of the city.

Within minutes of setting across the bridge it was clear to see that Bordeaux is a city full of active residents. I lost count of how many runners passed me en-route to Cité du Vin. There were so many, I actually thought that there must be some kind of race taking place. However, I quickly discovered that residents just have a love for running – and who would not want to run in such a picturesque city? The flat route along the Garonne offers such views, with plenty to keep your mind occupied.

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Crossing back over the river saw me walking over the Pont Jacques Chaban-Delmas bridge and offering the most perfect view of Cité du Vin as a result.

You will need to allow yourself around two hours to enjoy all the exhibits the museum has to offer. For twenty euros you can work your way around the attraction at your own pace, with a personal guide to assist you. Then take yourself up to the eight floor, as included in the cost of your ticket is a wine tasting with panoramic views of the city.

For any wine lover it is the perfect place to spend your first few hours in Bordeaux.

It is easy to cover some considerable distance during your time in the city. And I certainly did that after my visit to the museum. Heading back along the Garonne I took my time wondering the streets, taking in the 18th century architecture and all the beautiful sights.

You cannot miss the Place de la Bourse whilst walking along the river bank. The impressive landmark square, with the world’s largest reflecting pool of Miroir d’eau.

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This was an area that has to be visited in daylight and then again at night. It is simply magical.

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Wonder a little further into the main hub of the city and you will spend hours strolling along Rue de Catherine. The shopping hub of this city offers a mix of recognisable clothing retailers, boutique shops, cafes and chocolate shops. I spent many hours wondering, window shopping and purchasing chocolate and macarons to take home.

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In the vicinity you will also find the Grand Theatre, Cathedral Saint-Andre, Monument aux Girondins and Port Calihau – all equally impressive, especially lit up with Christmas trees and lights at this time of year.

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It you like a little nature I thoroughly recommend visiting Jardin Public! The gardens here are small, but ever so beautiful. With the changing of seasons, they provided such a stunning backdrop for a leisurely afternoon stroll.

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With thirteen miles covered I decided to call it a day – heading back to the hotel for a little rest and recuperation, along with plenty of wine of course.

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The second day’s plans saw me pick up a half day tour to Saint-Emilion – the charming medieval village located in the heart of the this wine region. The village offers world famous wineries, fine wine, beautiful architecture and fantastic monuments. Booking the day trip with Viator meant that as well as visiting Chateaux Champion for a wine tour and tastings, I also got a guided underground tour of the largest monolithic church in Europe. This picture perfect village is a sight to behold; the views, the history and the vibe completely stole my heart.

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Photos simply don’t do it justice. Visiting during the off peak season, during pruning season was somewhat beneficial – the streets were quiet meaning the free time we were given to explore the village was rather blissful. Our guide made a point in advising that peak season in the area proves to be rather stressful, with the streets bursting with tourists.

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Saint- Emilion quickly became a place dear to my heart. I only wish that I had more time to explore, to sample more wine in the numerous wineries and take time to taste the local produce. One village that will definitely require a re-visit at some point, perhaps in the peak season when the vines are blooming!

With the half day trip over, my time in Bordeaux was soon to come to an end. Spending the next morning retracing steps in the city I picked up some souvenirs to take home and generally took in as much of the culture I possibly could.

As my first solo break, Bordeaux was a cultural treat offering me the opportunity to relax and unwind, whilst continuing to be active.

Though smaller than other French cities, the charm and culture is plentiful. Anyone planning to visit will not be disappointed. Bordeaux is simply a city that needs to be added to your bucket list.