City Break: 24 Hours in Munich

Famous for it’s annual Ockoberfest, beautiful architecture and the BMW headquarters, the Bavarian capital of Munich is the third largest city in Germany – offering an abundance of culture.

When I was researching my whistle stop trip to Munich (24 hours to be precise) many of the itineraries and guides advised that you cannot fit everything from this gem of a city in one day. A good three to four days was advisable.

However, with no annual leave days remaining I had to find a way to fit in the trip in one weekend. Finding a cheap, early Saturday morning flight, I did not hesitate and I soon found a few itineraries that would suit my time frame. 

Many travel guides suggest that if you only have one day to spend in Munich, then centre your activity around the Old Town.

After touching down at Munich International Airport this is exactly where I headed. The great thing about a 24 trip to any city is that you carry very little luggage and don’t have to worry about wasting time checking in to a hotel. So with just a tiny back pack I jumped on the S-Bahn and was in the city centre within 35 minutes.

My adventure started in Marienplatz, the central square of Munich Old Town. Many tour guides advise to begin here, and on arrival it is clear to see why.

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The architecture within the square is iconic of the Bavarian region – you will immediately find yourself outside the Gothic New Town hall, home of the Rathaus-Glockenspiel. Time your arrival right, and you will be able to observe the Glockenspiel “Coopers Dance.” According to myth, in 1517 (the year of the Plague in Munich), coopers were said to have danced through the streets to bring “fresh vitality to fearful dispositions.”

My next port of call was a stones throw away from the New Town Hall. St Peters Church, towers above the square, and if you feel up to the 56 metre climb to the top, offers a fantastic view of the red tiled rooftops of Munich. On a clear day, you can expect to see over 62 miles into the distance (which is all the way to the Alps).

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From here I spotted some impressive looking buildings that were not in my original plan – so I quickly carried out some research before heading that way.

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Walking down the elegant Maximilianstraße, one of the four royal avenues in Munich, you will be hard pressed to miss the high end shops and the roar of super cars. Head all the way east, over the River Isar and you will find the Maximilianeum. The Home of the Bavarian State Parliament stands regally at the end of this impressive avenue.

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From here I wandered along the riverside gardens, northwards, taking in the park statue and fountain, the Friedensengel – a golden angel monument symbolising peace – before heading west, past the Bavarian National Museum towards the Englischer Garten.

The Englischer Garten is the large public park in Munich, stretching from the city centre to the north eastern city limits.

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The gardens are well known for its river surfing (drawing large crowds of spectators) and naked sunbathing. However, it also offers some great views down to central Munich from the Greek temple upon the 49 foot hill.

On a glorious summers day, or a equally beautiful mid September afternoon (as I experienced), you can take advantage of the wide open space for a spot of sunbathing or paddle in the shallow river – just like I did – whilst taking a break from the city centre.

After a short rest in the tranquil park I moved on wards, towards the landmark Siegestor – the triumphal arch that features a bronze sculpture of Bavaria and four lions.

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From here I continued my walking tour southwards – along Ludwigstraße, another of the city’s royal avenues – with my sights on The Residenz.

The Residenz, built in 1385, is the largest city palace in Germany and the former royal palace of the Wittelsbach monarchs of Bavaria.

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Today it is an open to the public to view it’s architecture, room decorations and royal collections. With such limited time and, with the weather being so glorious outside, I did not venture inside. Instead I wondered the outer buildings and admired the view from another one of the city’s parks – Hofgarten.

A short walk away, I found another landmark that I spotted from the viewing deck at St Peter’s Church – Theatine Church.

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This striking building, with yellow facade is a church built from 1663 to 1690. With its Mediterranean appearance it has become a well known symbol of the city and inside offers a peaceful break from the bustling city.

With time flying away, I made my way back to Marienplatz for an early dinner – enjoying the surroundings once more before heading to my hotel close to the airport for my morning flight home.

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My time in Munich seemed very short, but jam packed – finding my way round the Old Town and surrounding areas by foot.

After a disappointing visit to Berlin at the end of 2018, I was rather sceptical as to how I would feel returning to another German city. I needn’t have worried, as Munich surpassed my expectations. The Bavarian capital, is a bustling city with a plethora of charm and culture to suit every type of traveller.

My only regret – limiting myself to 24 hours.

With so much more to explore in Bavaria, and the promise to take the other half next time round, I will be returning to Munich and it is surrounding areas in the near future

City Break: 48 Hours in Toulouse

Taking advantage of the bank holiday weekend and a cheap return flight (bargain at £25), I found myself jetting off to France’s southern Occitane region. 48 hours in it’s capital of Toulouse.

Known as La Ville Rose, (“the Pink City”) this charming location offered a idyllic whistle stop break away.

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On arrival at Toulouse-Blagnac airport I jumped on board the tram located right outside the arrivals hall. For a reasonable price of just under two Euros for a single journey, the transfer from airport to the city centre was simple and stress free – setting the tone for duration of my visit.

Albi

My first port of call was a trip to the small town located on the Tarn River, just an hour by train from Toulouse, Albi.

This UNESCO World Heritage Centre, offered bags of charm. With picturesque views from either side of the river, quaint streets, red bricked architecture and Saint Cecile cathedral standing glorious.

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If you enjoy spending an afternoon wondering old city streets, taking in historic monuments and simply enjoying some local wine in one of the many bistros or cafes, then this is the place for you.

My time was spent doing just that.

Taking in the impressive cathedral that dominated not only the skyline, but the centre of town. The largest brick build cathedral in the world and the largest painted cathedral in Europe, offers a rather impressive Gothic sight. For a small fee you can spend time inside taking in the colours and geometric patterns painted within.

Jardins de la Berbie was my favourite spot in Albi. Located between Palace de la Berbie and the Tarn River, the terrace offered a perfect view point across to the northern areas of Albi and the beautiful bridges spanning the river.

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Pont Vieux, one of France’s oldest bridges dating back to the 11th century provides quite the photo opportunity of the cathedral across the River Tam. Enchanted by this spot, I could quite happily have sat, taking in the view for hours.

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Toulouse

Back in the city centre of Toulouse there was plenty to keep me occupied. Working my way through the narrow cobbled streets and along the River Garonne, admiring the mix of architecture and enjoying the relaxed, friendly vibes.

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Heading to the heart of the city, I found myself reaching the Place du Capitole and it’s name sake building, Capitole – Toulouse’s town hall. Dated back to 1750 it’s pink marble columns provide a rather impressive facade.

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As one of the many buildings within Toulouse that is free to enter, you can spend time enjoying the artwork and painted ceilings of Salle de Ilustres.

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A short walk from this main square you will stumble across Basilique St-Sernin. With it’s prominent bell tower and distinctive organ playing, it would be hard to miss.

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Toulouse offered a multitude of religious buildings of significant interest. Couvent des Jacobins was by far my favourite.

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Wonder through this elegant structure, admiring it’s ornate stained-glass windows, before heading to the rather tranquil Cloitre des Jacobins. For a very small entrance fee you will be able to enjoy its russet-brick columns surrounding a green courtyard, providing an overwhelming sense of calm.

Before I knew it it was time to depart from the beauty of Toulouse.

The city of colour, with it’s warm climate, had provided a perfect location for a 48 hour break away from home – re-instating my love for the South of France.

Travelling as a solo woman.

If you told me several years ago I would be booking flights to travel solo in years to come, I would not have believed you. I presumed that the only way to experience the joys the world had to offer was to have a companion.

It is funny how moments in life completely change the way you think and the way you live. Being made redundant almost two years ago brought a heightened level of anxiety and stress. The numerous job interviews and applications, along with the redundancy process itself was taking it’s toll. So, I simply had to get away.

With many friends and family working, or otherwise occupied, my only choice was to book a getaway alone. So I booked a flight to Edinburgh; the first flight out and returning on the last flight the same day. It was by no means far, but it gave me the time out I needed.

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The day trip did the job and as a result I was back on the job search the moment I returned. Soon after, accepting a job offer.

A short few months later I took advantage of a cheap flight to Bordeaux. My reasons for getting away this time were somewhat more heartbreaking. After a family member took their own life I needed time away to deal with my grief alone.

Yet again, travelling solo did the job.

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Whilst some may argue travelling alone as a woman is dangerous and lonely, I can argue the complete opposite. There is nothing more liberating than taking yourself away from all of your life’s stresses (including your loved ones) and enjoying your own company.

That is not to say I would no longer travel with a companion. I take great pleasure in travelling the world with others and sharing my experiences, in particular with my other half.

However, as many other travellers can relate, this does come with its own issues. As someone who craves adventure, a eternal wanderlust, I get excited about locations that my partner does not. By restricting my travel to only the destinations he wants to visit would mean a huge percentage of the world would be left unexplored. Huge parts of Asia, Africa and even France does not entice him, but are places that rank highly on my bucket list. This is where travelling solo comes at great advantage.

Already in 2019 I have travelled alone twice, spending long weekends in France and Inverness, simply enjoying my own time, exploring the sights and, back at my hotel taking advantage of the large hotel bed by reading a book uninterrupted.

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Solo travel also allows you to do whatever you want, without having to consider another person. Some may call it selfish, I like to call it indulgent. You don’t have to wait for others to get ready, you don’t need to worry about rest stops and you actually end up spending less money than you would have if you had a companion.

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Travelling alone has become a great pastime of mine. Not only has it given me great freedom and independence, it has also given me the confidence to work through the bucket lists. Destinations I would usually have second thoughts about have suddenly been added to a “must do” list.

In September, I will be jetting off to Morocco to climb the Atlas Mountains. Something I would never have considered before, thinking I would need someone to travel and complete the challenge with me. I will be heading off alone, sharing a room with another like minded woman – who I will not meet until I arrive – with an adventure that will be my most exciting yet.  

For those thinking of travelling alone, I would thoroughly recommend it. Plan a trip, pack light, take a book and simply enjoy your own company!

A Weekend in Inverness & the Isle of Skye

Fellow wanderlust’s will understand the itchy feet travellers get once they touch down on home soil. Add in offer emails from numerous travel companies and you quickly find yourself on another flight jetting off to discover another corner of the world.

I did not hesitate booking a cheap flight to Inverness in the Boxing Day sales, having always wanted to visit the tranquil areas of the Scottish Highlands.

Having visited the bustling cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow on numerous occasions, I was rather looking forward to exploring this smaller city located in Scotland’s north east coast.

With stress free links to the city, via a 30 minute bus journey from Inverness airport, I was quickly transported into the centre and checked into my comfortable room. Booking the Premier Inn on the river Ness meant that I was a stones throw from the amenities of the city, with lovely views of the castle.

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I did not waste any time with exploring and, to be quite honest, with the city being rather smaller than others in Scotland I quickly saw everything that was on my list.

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After wandering along the banks of the River Ness, visiting Inverness Castle and strolling around numerous shops, I was ready to retire early for my day trip to the Isle of Skye.

Booking at day trip to the Isle of Sky with Viator proved to be fantastic value for money. Visiting in early March I expected the excursion to be rather quiet. What I did not expect was to end up having a private tour of the Isle and the surroundings.

When discovering I was the solo traveller on a day trip in excess of seven hours I imagined being told that it would not go ahead. I was rather delighted to be informed it would not be cancelled and soon enough we were heading off on my own tour if the Isle of Skye.

Our first stop was the infamous Loch Ness, home of the legendary Loch Ness monster. Sadly there was no sighting of Nessie herself, but the views were to die for.

Back on the mini bus we whizzed along taking in the picturesque views, taking advantage of the lack of tourists in the off peak season.

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We stopped for a break in Invermoriston, taking in the Thomas Telford Bridge before continuing through Glen Moriston and the Five Sisters Mountain range.

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Our next stop was the Eilean Donan Castle, taking time to explore the ruins along the banks of the Lochs.

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Continuing on we headed to the capital of the Isle of Sky, Portree. Stopping for a hearty lunch with fantastic port views.

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The perks of being the solo passenger here on out continued. Unrestricted by other travellers meant we were able to venture further into the Isle of Skye, allowing more stops. The knowledge of my guide was second to none. Despite not originating from Scotland, he provided a wide education around the area and it’s history.

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We saw numerous stops from Portree to Culnacnoc, back to Carbost and Kyleakin, all providing scenic views for which the camera does not do justice.

Before we knew it, we were heading back to the city with plenty of facts relating to the local areas en route.

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It was a long day with so much to take in. Without a doubt, it was one of the best experiences I have had to date. The private tour allowed me to appreciate an uninterrupted and peaceful tour of the Island.

Despite spending several hours on this glorious Isle, there was so much left undiscovered. We barely touched the surface of what this Island had to offer. So despite the tour being fantastic, offering many highlights, I feel there is a return trip on the cards to explore further.

City Break: Venice and Verona

After returning from the beautiful region of Tuscany last summer I quickly found myself missing the beauty of Italy. So I got set on planning my next adventure to the one country that captures my heart over and over.

The wondrous floating city of Venice was my destination.

After booking my trip I was rather sceptical after many friends and family advised the city was busy, smelly and often flooded.

I am never one to be put off by another person’s review or opinion. However, I made the decision to pick a date off season, to avoid the crazy tourist season and any extremities in weather. Early February proved to be spot on.

From the moment I landed at Marco Polo International Airport I was not disappointed. Whilst the weather in the UK was cold, wet and windy, I had arrived to blue skies, blazing sunshine and temperatures in double figures (though a jacket was still required now and then).

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Staying just outside the city in the Best Western Tritone, Mestre proved to be the perfect base to visit Venice and it’s surrounding areas.

Day One – Murano & Burano

No visit to the Venetian lagoon would be complete without a visit to these two remarkable islands. Booking a half day boat trip was a great way to experience what they had to offer.

Murano, renowned for a long tradition of glass-blowing, was the first port of call with a live demonstration at a glass blowing factory. The secrets of glass have been closely guarded for years. Even today, there is no official glass school – the skills can only by learned by apprenticeship to one of the glass masters.

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Wonder beyond the numerous glass shops and you can stroll along the tranquil Canal Grande with its 19th century iron bridge or the parish church of San Pietro Martire.

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A short sail away from Murano, is the explosion of colour that is Burano. According to tour guides, fishermen who live on the island painted their houses in bright colours so that they could recognise them from afar whilst out fishing.

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The cheerful island and its charming canals makes for a striking Instagram photo. Without a doubt, Burano has become one of the happiest places I have visited to date.

Day Two – Verona

When I knew I was visiting Venice I had to ensure a trip to Verona was included. Within easy proximity of our hotel base – the city best known as the home town of star crossed lovers Romeo and Juliet was a must!

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The medieval town has been declared a world heritage site by UNESCO due to its urban structure and architecture. On visiting, it is clear to see why.

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We spent the day gently strolling around, taking in the sights of Castle San Pietro, Ponte Pietra, the Roman Arena and Ponte di Castelvecchio, to name a view.

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We climbed the 83 metre tower of Torre dei Lamberti, for exceptional views, and spent time at Juliet’s house marvelling at the sea of love letters and taking in the visitors from the famous balcony.

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Day Three – Venice 

On our final day it was the perfect opportunity to take in the sights of the main attraction itself. Jumping on the Vaporetto we cruised down the Grand Canal, taking in the floating city, we took the lift to the bell tower of Campanile di San Marco to marvel at the sights from up high and we stopped for pictures on the Ponte dell’Academia.

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With its famous gondolas, waterways and picturesque views I struggled to understand how anyone could not fall in love with such a beautiful location.

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From San Marco Square with its impressive Basilica to the multitude of bridges – including Ponte di Rialto – there wasn’t a moment I didn’t enjoy. Come off the beaten track and you will find the perfect pizzerias, quiet alleyways and a general sense of peace.

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As I reflect back on my trip to the floating city and its neighbours, it is clear to see I was at an great advantage visiting out of season. Had it been at peak, when cruise ships docked in the height of summer, I don’t see how I would have been able to navigate the tiny alley ways and bridges without feeling frustrated.

Without a doubt, Venice has become one of my favourite locations. To see it all, to take it all in would take more than a few days. I was simply happy navigating the canals, enjoying the view and soaking in the culture, to put down the map and relax with gelato beside the water.

 

The London Marathon: Decision to Defer

When you enter into a challenge, no matter how big or small, the last thing you think about is the possibility that you will have to admit defeat and defer.

During the training for the London Marathon back in 2017 I found myself with a few niggles, strains and even a small groin injury that put me on a week long time out. But generally I ploughed through the pain and boredom of training with little complaint.

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Second time round it seems that I have been riddled with injuries. The beginning of my training schedule saw me struggle with the annoyance that is shin splints. Then, as documented several weeks back, as I attempted to increase mileage I hit a major stumbling block.

Diagnosed with Peroneal Tendonitis and ligament damage in my ankle put me on a serious time out. Easing off the training and instead resting, whilst carrying out a variety of strengthening exercises.

The last three weeks have not been easy. As I struggled to come to terms with “rest” and panicking about time slipping out of my hands, attempts to run were filled with stress and anxiety.

This weekend I had planned to spend it picking up the miles again. But yesterday morning I lay motionless, summoning myself to pull myself together and to get running. With my anxiety level through the roof I managed to get out the front door and pounding the pavement, only to find that dull ache in my ankle increasing and the sense of failure overwhelming.

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I knew right then I had to make a decision. Do I push myself through the pain when I am clearly not ready and hope that 10 weeks is enough to pick everything back up? Or do I make the most disappointing, but probably most sensible decision to defer my entry to 2020?

It is very easy to slap on a brave face and push through both the physical and mental pain. I am not one to admit defeat. I love the thrill and accomplishment you get from working hard to achieve things you never thought possible.

That said, at times you can do more harm than good carrying through when your mind and body just has other ideas.

So, after much deliberation and with a heavy heart, I made the move to defer my London Marathon space.

Instead I will be concentrating on building up strength, both physically and mentally, and most importantly I will be concentrating on learning to love running again. With the pressure off I can head back to the simplicity of running just because I can, not because I have to. To spend Saturday mornings enjoying the local parkrun and weekday evenings pounding the track and streets with Harlow running club.

It’s time to shake off the disappointment, to start loving running again and to focus on the London Marathon 2020!

 

 

 

 

Climbing Pen Y Fan

Nestled in the Brecon Beacons National Park lies Pen Y Fan, the highest peak in south Wales. The gruelling mountain walk to the summit was the location for training at the break of dawn this Saturday morning, in preparation for another adventure to take place later on this year.

Not to be outdone with the London Marathon, I will be joining several others to complete the 84 mile walk that is Hadrian’s Wall; from Bowness-on-Solway in the west through to Walls End in the east.

Taking on two huge challenges in the space of a month may be incomprehensible to many. But for others, like myself, it is just about living life and making the most of every possible adventure.

Therefore, not only have I been attempting to add in the miles (with great difficulty of late) for the London Marathon, I have also had to keep up the long distance walking too.

So, Saturday morning saw myself and a fellow training buddy head off to south Wales at 3am. Less than 12 hours after I arrived home from a week away and with just four hours sleep I was waiting eagerly for the sunrise at the bottom of Pen Y Fan.

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Much to my surprise we were not the only early risers. In fact there were numerous vehicles parked up with enthusiastic ramblers and hikers ready to take on the challenge.

And a challenge it was. Not only were we faced with sub zero temperatures, meaning layers were key, but also over 30mph winds with a strenuous up hill climb to boot.

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As with most mountain climbs, the first 20 minutes is somewhat of a struggle. With the wind, cold and an almost vertical start we had to take our time and acclimatise to the conditions we were facing. In addition, the rickety paths along the route we chose (later discovering we had taken the tougher course) meant we had to watch our footing to prevent slips and falls.

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Half way up, and rather exposed to the elements, we found the wind speed picked up and as such made the sensible decision to get to the summit and back down again as quickly as human possible.

As we reached the top we found ourselves surrounded by many other walking enthusiasts, who had clearly chosen the quicker, easier path.

Had the weather allowed us to feel safe, we would have continued on to include the infamous “Jacob’s Ladder” that forms part of the Fan Dance route taken by potential members of the British Special Forces. Unfortunately we had to make the judgement call and return back down after a quick celebratory picture at the summit.

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We quickly descended, taking just a fraction of the time it took to climb to the top, praising all the hikers attempting to make it to the top en route.

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In just over two hours we had braved the strong winds, reached the summit and returned to the safety of the car, ready for hot Ribena and breakfast – all before most people had risen from their beds.

Before we knew it we were flying back down the motorway and home, elated by the mornings achievement.

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As we made our climb a part of me wondered why I put myself through such gruelling training. Why couldn’t I just stay in bed on a Saturday morning like the average Joe?

Why? Because when you get to the top and see the view, you feel so alive!!

London Marathon Training: Week Three

It has taken me some time to put words together that can summarise the third week in my London Marathon training – mainly because I have been a week long strop.

I began the week with the ultimate rest day, waking up at the Champneys resort in Henlow.

The temptation to book myself into high intensity classes and go for a country run was extremely high. However, with a slight niggle in my ankle from the previous weekends activity and a poor night sleep due to lack of heating in my room, I gave myself a stern talking to. Simply allowing myself to relax by the poolside before my treatments later in the day was the one thing I needed right there and then.

Tuesday, still in a rather relaxed state post treatments, I allowed myself a gentle day of walking before ramping up the mileage at the latter end of the weekend.

The rest of the week started well with spinning sessions and treadmill running. But on Thursday evening, whilst attempting to complete my long (10 mile) run that little niggle I felt in my ankle during the week got progressively worse.

Only 3 miles away from my 10 mile goal, running was no longer an option. I started to experience shooting pain all the way from the ankle joint to the hamstring – bringing training to a complete halt.

Hobbling home, I made a swift decision to book myself into the sports therapist the next day. Lucky enough, SV Therapy were quick to respond to my desperate messages and a tough session followed to determine the source of my pain.

The verdict: Peroneal Tendonitis.

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Not only did I have a touch of this painful condition, but I also had ligament damage and scar tissue from a previous ankle injury that had not healed correctly.

It is safe to say that my session with the therapist was not easy. The pain was intense and I left for the second time in two weeks feeling rather bruised and battered – but also relieved to have a action plan to strengthen my ankle.

First port of call? Rest. My least favourite activity. Meaning no running for a good few days. In addition lots of exercises and icing the affected area.

You can imagine the mood of a runner who has been benched, particularly when training for a big race. It was not great.

Riddled with another injury made me question, yet again, if I should be taking on such a enormous challenge. Despite many assurances by others that it was still only week three and I still had plenty of time to get the miles in – once I had recovered – I have spent every “rest day” since the diagnosis thinking I should defer my place. With loosing valuable running time I keep thinking of the long runs I would be doing had I not had this set back.

Analysing and overthinking the situation does nothing for confidence. So yet again I had to start then new training week telling myself to forget about the miles I have not achieved and take each day at a time.

And so, as I entered week four, my only goal was to take baby steps, to plan my training a day at a time and to find myself fit enough to run the London Winter Run this coming weekend.

But most importantly – I need to stop beating myself up about miles and training I have not been able to do.

 

 

 

 

 

Time Out at Champneys

I have always been an advocate for experiences rather than things. So when the other half handed me his credit card for my birthday and said “book yourself into Champneys for the night,” I was in my element.

When you spend your life rushing around at high speed and training consistently, time out becomes precious. Even more so when it is time you can spend alone, with a book, and complete relaxation.

So last this time last week, after a long walk on one of the coldest mornings of 2019, I checked into Champneys at Henlow Grange for a one night spa break.

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Having been a spa day guest many times before I knew a overnight break, where the majority of my time will be spent in the famous white robes, was just I needed.

Checking in with ease just before 2pm, I quickly fell into the relaxed mantra that Champneys promote.

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Donning my robe I booked myself into a Thalassotherapy session – a warm salt water treatment rich in minerals that is ideal for re-mineralising the body and aiding the detoxing process. The session, lasting around 25 minutes, is designed to stimulate and tone tired aches and pains – perfect for those who are put through their paces with training.

After my session in the Thalassotherapy session, I took to the conservatory with a piece of cake, a hot drink and a book – admiring the sun setting on a cold, frosty day.

A light nap followed in my room, followed by a three-course meal (included in the package) and a bottle of wine. Although I know Champneys are very much into the detoxing and well-being, the dinner was somewhat of a disappointment. Not only were the portions incredibly tiny, but also some dishes were simply tasteless. You have the option to purchase extras – such as side orders – should you feel you need them. But personally, after spending a fair amount of money of a bottle of wine, I felt inclined to add further expense to my bill.

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On returning to my room for the evening I found myself disappointed further. I had no heating – on a day that hovered around zero temperature wise. I complained several times and was advised I would receive a portable heater – only to have to go searching for one when, at 10:30pm, I was still waiting. After heading to reception, to be given a broken heater and no resolution to my predicament I gave up on expecting any kind of service from the team that remained over night. I prepared for a cold night sleep – with extra layers.

Awaking early the next day, I removed all my belongings at 7:30am and headed to reception to speak to someone further. With treatments booked for later in the day, I had no choice but to hang around and see out the rest of my stay – soaking robe (not drying out overnight without heating) and all.

Although I received an apology, it did not feel heartfelt – the manager on duty knew there was no heating in my room before they left the night prior, but nothing was done. And the next morning nothing was offered to make up for it.

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After a very nutritious breakfast (much more satisfying than dinner), I spent the morning lounging by the pool waiting for my treatments. My original plan was to join a few classes in the morning however, after a disrupted sleep in the cold, I simply had no energy to entertain my original schedule.

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The treatments themselves were delightful. After a full body exfoliation, body wrap and head, neck and shoulder massage I felt extremely relaxed – though I wished I had moved the treatments to the day prior when I did not have to drive home.

Post treatment it was time for the final meal – a buffet lunch – both nutritious and satisfying, before heading home.

Leaving the resort in a mix state of relaxation and disappointment. Disappointment coming from the lack of customer care and service when it came to the lack of heating in my room.

However, a week after my stay, I was contacted by the new resort manager. Swiftly restoring my faith in their customer service – I was invited back to Henlow with a guest.

So I return to Champneys next month, for a little more rest and relaxation in the hope to test out more of their fantastic treatments.

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City Break: Berlin

Berlin, Germany’s capital and largest city, has a somewhat turbulent history. Badly damaged after World War Two and broken apart by the Cold War, recent years have seen the city rebuild itself – especially after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989.

Despite Berlin now being known for it’s lively nightlife, cafes, bars and street art, the references to its tumultuous history can be seen throughout the city.

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Growing up learning about the events around the World War and remembering the fall of the Berlin wall, it was always a city that was on my bucket list. So, when I discovered a few free days between Christmas and New Year I quickly booked in a bargain break to explore the sights Berlin had to offer.

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With our base being in the lively, shopping area of Alexanderplatz – one of the best-known squares in Berlin – we were right in the hub of the city. Not only was the famous TV Tower (The Fernsehurm) visible from our hotel window, but the hive of the Christmas Markets were a stones through away. The TV Tower was on the top of our list, it’s views were reported to make a visit top of the list of things to do whilst in the city. Due to foggy, cloudy weather obstructing any views, we sadly decided to save this for the next trip.

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The area of Alexanderplatz had numerous sights to explore, including the World Time Clock, and due to the season, the Christmas markets offered plenty of traditional German treats and Eggnog.

A little further East (a good walk if you are up to it) is the East Side Gallery. The open air gallery consists of numerous murals painted on to the remaining Berlin Wall and is now a heritage protected landmark.

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The Berlin Cathedral Church is a sight to be seen. Nestled along the banks of the River Spree this elaborate 19th century cathedral is one of Berlin’s main landscapes.

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Twenty minutes east of the cathedral you will stumble across the iconic, and most famous landmark in Berlin, Brandenburg Gate. The gate has come to represent German unity and peace since the end of the Cold War, with hundreds of thousands of people celebrating here when the Berlin Wall fell. Today, thousands of visitors flock to the landmark as part of the city’s New Year celebrations.

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Minutes away from Brandenburg Gate you will find the Reichstag and the most significant historical buildings. Visitors can enter the building for free, when booked in advance, and explore the new roof dome with fantastic views of the city. If you want to visit the the dome and take in the views from this modern adaptation of this historical building make sure you book at least three days in advance. Our visit left us rather disappointed when we discovered that advance booking is imperative after a series of terrorist threats in 2010. Sadly, this meant that we missed out visiting this impressive building.

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The Memorial to the Murdered Jews in Europe is located on the other side of Brandenburg Gate. The outdoor memorial consists of 2,711 concrete slabs arranged on a sloping field. Designed to produce an uneasy atmosphere, many visitors have noted it resembles a graveyard. When visiting and taking in the scope of the area I found the memorial rather harrowing and somber. It is hard to imagine the suffering of the victims and the immorality of those that caused this.

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After visiting such a saddening sight, Tiergarten offered peace and tranquillity. The picturesque paths and ponds was a runners dream (just a shame that I did not bring my running gear). The huge park is home to the Berlin Zoo, Victory Column and forms part of the Berlin Marathon route.

On our final day in the city we found ourselves fully immersed in yet more of Berlin’s gloomy history.

A visit would not have been complete without visiting the famous “Check Point Charlie,” the name given by the Western Allies as the well known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West Berlin during the Cold War.

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The Berlin Wall Memorial on the border strip in East Berlin, is an open air sight commemorating the division of Berlin by the wall and the deaths that occurred there. Nearly 80 people were killed trying to cross from East to West Berlin between the years of 1961-1989, all of which can be seen at the memorial. It is estimated that around 5,000 people made a successful escape from East to West Germany during that time.

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It is safe to say that, despite enjoying our visit, taking in the sights and culture, our trip left us feeling rather melancholy. Whilst the city offers a lively energy in parts, the depressing monuments and gloomy weather left me wondering what more Berlin had to offer.

London Marathon Training: The Treadmill

With Christmas and New Year now a distant memory it is time to prepare for the most important time in the running calendar….Marathon Season.

I’m not going to lie, getting myself motivated to train for the London Marathon the second time round has been rather tedious. With the festive season taking precious running time away, bad weather, injuries and re-occurring bouts of illness, getting out to pound the street has been difficult.

I have never been a fan of the treadmill. The monotonous pounding on the belt, going nowhere, staring at a wall and watching the clock slowly tick away simply bores me. I have always been a runner who prefers getting outside, running in the fresh air and picking picturesque routes to stimulate my mind.

However, the past few months have meant that I have had no choice but to jump on the dreaded treadmill (or “dreadmill” as I like to call it), to keep my legs ticking over and to work through injuries and illness without the harsh impact of the pavement or weather aggravating my ailments.

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In doing so, I have found a way to carry training when factors outside my control prevent me from getting outside. With the trusty iPad covering the time and distance, I can now work around anything that is thrown my way between now and marathon day.

Although I will never be a lover of the treadmill, spending time racking up the miles on the dreaded machine, I have come to appreciate there are benefits of getting indoors to train.

Its safe and convenient!

As the last few months have taught me, treadmill running allows you to focus on training without the risk of slipping on uneven surfaces or the aches and pains that you gain from the harsh pavement. Running in cold weather takes its toll on our bodies, as it takes a while to warm up muscles – using up precious energy. A treadmill workout allows us to invest energy into the job at hand – the training.

After running in the cold, and subsequently coming down with a rotten cold on several occasions, I have made the decision to take my running indoors in wet weather over the next few months. The idea of completing long runs on the treadmill fills me with dread, but loosing weeks of training due to illness is not ideal either. The treadmill allows me to adapt my plan to the weather.

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Running indoors is also safer. Dark winter mornings and nights are not ideal for women running alone. You can keep to the most well lit paths and still be at risk, especially if you go into your own running world like I do. During the dark hours I try my best to stick to busy areas, main roads and routes where I know I can get help quickly should I need it. That said, I would not risk training on dark mornings, when there are few people around. This is another occasion where the treadmill offers an alternative solution.

Control the pace!

Although they can be a bore, the treadmill is a great way to control a steady pace or training yourself to run at a faster pace for a bit of interval training. Adjusting the incline can also help your stimulate races, with pre-loaded race profiles to aid your training.

Improve your form!

According to Runners World, researchers discovered that runners have reduced stride lengths and higher stride frequencies on the treadmill compared to running outdoors, due to the feeling of instability when running on a treadmill. This in turn can help to improve form and reduce impact on the joints.

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Treadmill running is by no means the same as road running, and certainly not a form of training I enjoy. However, it offers a perfect way to keep my training for the London Marathon going during busy times and unpredictable weather. I definitely intend to take the vast majority of training outdoors. But, if I find myself on the “dreadmill” at times too, that is perfectly okay!

 

 

Exploring Pompeii, Sorrento & Capri

Venture to the southern area of Italy (into the “Italian Boot”) and you will find yourself surrounded by a mixture of history, culture and culinary delights. Several years ago I found myself immersed in Italian charm and sunshine, found in the south.

Known in Italian as the “Mezzogiorno” or “Midday” region, it is home to some of the most historical towns, tranquil bays and stunning coast line.

With only a few days to make most of the area I settled slightly south of Naples in Vico Equense – a quiet coastal town – in the historical farm house “Astapiana Villa Giusso.” High up in the hills, away from the hustle and bustle you would normally experience this farm house offered an idyllic break away with nothing but charm and tranquillity.

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Far from the mainstream hotel, this family run gem allowed an escape from everyday life. If you are looking from a break from Wifi, TV and luxury amenities then this is the place for you. Its remote location offers exactly that, whilst providing amazing views over the bay of Naples and being a great base for many attractions in the area.

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Pompeii

I could not visit the region without taking time to absorb the remains of Pompeii. The ancient Roman city that was obliterated when Mount Vesuvius erupted back in 79AD is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, attracting over 2.5 million visitors every year. You can easily spend a day wondering the ancient cobbled streets taking in the ruins as they stand today.

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The site can get extremely busy, especially in the summer months, so if planning a visit it is advisable to book in advance or plan a trip during the off peak season. I visited in September, when the weather was still pleasantly warm but had less of a crowd.

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Sorrento

This southern coastal town facing the bay of Naples offers a great combination of culture and history. Not only is it convenient for visiting nearby Pompeii, but also provides a gateway to Capri – just a short ferry ride away. Here you will find copious numbers of restaurants with sweeping water views offering gourmet cuisine, tasty Limoncello and of course Gelato! A day spend it in Sorrento is pure delight.

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Capri

We did not get much time in Capri, but the time spent was enough for me to fall in love with its rugged charm. If you have time it is advised to visit the Blue Grotto – only accessible by boat.

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Sadly with only a few hours to spare, we did not get to visit this waterfront cave but spent a great deal of time at the marina, swimming (or floating) in the crystal clear waters and riding the funicular railway to Piazza Umberto – the centre of the island which offered breathtaking views of the island below.

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A few hours on this stunning island was not enough – so much so that a return trip is on the cards.

My visit to the region was a whistle stop tour filled with culinary delight, stunning landscape and an abundance of Italian charm. I hope to return to explore more of what Southern Italy has to offer in the near future.