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Friday, February 26, 2016

Running Towards the Goal

Every Thursday between now and race weekend, we are adding 10 minutes of time to the overall run. Yesterday's run was a daunting 100 minutes and I was nervous. Not sure what contributed to my anxiety but I felt more unnerved about this run than I have in a long time. I think part of it was the pain that I had been experiencing in my right hip along with the numbness I am getting on the long runs in my feet. I was concerned that both would prevent me from reaching the goal.
I am happy to report that it went quite well! I felt better than I thought I would with the aches and pains in my body being kept to a minimum. I am making a more concerted effort to stretch which really does make a difference. I was running in a small group, only 3 of us, and the pace coach did a great job of keeping us at a slow but steady pace so I didn't really feel like I was running out of gas until the last 8 minutes. The first time I looked at my clock, 55 minutes had gone by so that was a big relief!
The route was awesome and the day was gorgeous. It was chilly but the sky was super blue and the sun was shining brightly. We ran down to Hyde Park and then around almost the entire perimeter. Entering the Kensington Gardens area of the park was beautiful. I still love the London aspect of these runs and it's always fun to see something new. The majestic Albert Memorial is something I do not believe I've seen before. This ornate statue commemorates the death of Prince Albert in 1861 of typhoid. Across the street is the Royal Albert Hall. We've yet to attend a function there and seeing this gorgeous building, even from the outside, motivated me to find a show to enjoy in these wonderful surroundings.
The park is not in full bloom yet but the daffodils are making a wonderful appearance. I will definitely return to this gorgeous area once the weather is even better and the spring gardens are blooming in all of their English glory!
At the end of the run, we had banked 7.5 miles! I even felt good and didn't experience the soreness that I had in the previous long runs.
From here on out, it's a fairly rigorous training routine. 45 minutes on the weekend. 60 minutes on Tuesdays and longer and longer runs on Thursdays. 8 weeks to race weekend and I feel like I might be able to do this. 

Monday, February 22, 2016

One More Little Note about Paris: Memorable Marais

A week ago Sunday I was in Paris, waiting for Doug to arrive that night. After attending worship at the American church in Paris, I decided to grab a croque monsieur, France's answer to the grilled ham and cheese, and then jump on bus 69 and head for another favorite part of the city, the Marais. Home to Victor Hugo and the Jewish quarter, there's just something about this area of town that I have always loved. It's lovely to stroll the streets, to see the Jewish vendors selling falafel, watching people enjoying the beautiful surroundings. The Place de Vosges is such a lovely square with the majestic buildings enclosing a lovely square.Built by Henry IV in 1605, it is a prototype of the European residential square. Victor Hugo lived at #6 from 1832-1848. Nearby Hotel du Sully contributes to the grand beauty of this little corner of the city. And everywhere you turn in this neighborhood there seems to be a gorgeous building rising up around you.
I stumbled upon this restaurant that is every seafood lover's dream come true! Beautiful displays of shell fish fronted a worker shucking oysters for those wanting to indulge. And the Jewish bakeries and shops added a wonderfully different flavor to the patisserie culture of Paris. One shop, an old chemist's building, was now a cafe serving up crepes through the small window. Another bar that had been written up in some travel books was worth a peek mainly because of how tiny it was. I was going to have a glass of wine but drinking alone isn't that much fun. 
I just loved the scenes of people enjoying a coffee or a wine or a snack in the outdoor seating areas. The architecture, the parked bikes, the entire atmosphere is just so inviting.
On my way home, in the midst of the busy traffic noise of Paris, I heard the clomping of horse hooves. A horse drawn carriage emerged in the midst of the cars and it seemed a little too much like a fairy tale rather than the real time real life scene that I was living in. 
Views of that Eiffel Tower at night is something everyone should get to see at least once in their lifetime.
Doug finally arrived at about 9.00 p.m. It was Valentine's day and we were in Paris so we ventured to a nearby restaurant and indulged in a delicious bowl of Onion Soup and a nice glass of red wine. (They don't call if French Onion Soup here...it's obvious, that in Paris, it's French.)
Ah Paris...not sure when I'll return but I'm thankful for the numerous wonderful times we have forged memories in this grand city.

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Cyber Bully

So having a blog is fun until someone decides to use it as a platform to bully you.
There is unfortunately a very sick person from Stockholm who has taken to posting non-sensical and at times incredibly mean-spirited comments and I'm very tired of having to moderate these comments on my public page. So, since I don't get much comment traffic anyway, I am no longer going to allow comments to be posted on my blog site. If there was a way to prevent her from reading the blog I would but that isn't possible right now.
C'est la vie...sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do in order to protect yourself from the crazy ones out there who use websites and the social media in totally inappropriate ways.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Magical Montmartre & The Bateaux Mouches

For as long as I can remember one of my most favorite parts of the city of Paris is up on the butte of Montmartre. The enormous and impressive Sacre Coeur cathedral sits high above the city and artists dot the square hoping to catch a willing subject to sit for a portrait. The Sacre Coeur is an architectural feat in and of itself with its enormous dome. It's always fun to feel small in the grandeur of these great European churches.
The buildings that surround the square and are colorful and charming and at times it seems hard to believe that you are in a living, breathing city and not a made up village like New Orleans Square in Disneyland! A vintage carousel added to the appeal of an already attractive area.
We caught a beautiful but cold day to head up there and we were not disappointed. The sprawling views of the city are worth taking in. Being amidst artists working their trade. Eating crepes. Hard to imagine a better way to spend the early afternoon.
The sun continued to shine so we decided to indulge in another of our favorite things to do in Paris, hop on the Bateaux Mouches and cruise the Seine. The water was really high and rough. We realized that we had never been in Paris in the winter months. This boat ride is one of the best ways to see most of the iconic buildings that dot Paris. I especially love the Musee D'Orsay, the former train station, majestic in every way. The Louvre passes by and you go under all of the wonderful bridges that connect the left and right banks.
The Eiffel Tower, the New Bridge and the American Church spire to the right of the Eiffel.
The only disappointment was that the water level didn't allow us to round the Ile de la Cite, the spot where the Notre Dame sits. That was a big bummer as that is one of the best parts of the cruise.
The cruise ends with a commanding view of the Eiffel Tower coming into view. The Eiffel tower is really amazing to behold. At night it glistens and sparkles with light but during the day you can really see the hulking architectural masterpiece it really is. It gets bigger and bigger the closer you get. It is huge! Clouds moved in and out all day, but as the Eiffel Tower came into view, sunny blue skies emerged so I was able to capture several shots of this great sight.
As the boat makes the turn to head back to the dock, the smaller Statue of Liberty comes into view.  At just the right moment, Lady Liberty and the Eiffel Tower line up and creates quite a lovely visual.
The Bateaux Mouches docks directly across from the American Church in Paris and this is why we've become so familiar with it! The Spire on the Seine has been a welcome sight to immigrants, ex-patriates, and French people for many years. I'm always so thankful for the time spent here and all that the church means to so many here in beautiful Paris.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Paris...again!

Our first trip to Paris was back in 1999. We were on our way home to Stockholm from Cairo, Egypt, flying with Air France and the airline offered a 3 day layover in Paris for no extra cost. Did we want to do this? Uh, yeah!
Well, when we first arrived, I was grumpy and I remember saying to Doug, "I don't see what's so great about this town!" Oh how I have changed my tune since then. We have had the privilege of being here 6 or 7 times.
Awhile ago, on another trip to this grand city
That is crazy great. We have always stayed in the neighborhood of the American Church in Paris and we love it. We love it in part because we know it well but also because the Seine is right there, the Eiffel Tower is nearby, the restaurants and bakeries are fabulous and we just know the area. Such a treat to have had the privilege of really enjoying this city, seeing the major sights but also just having the joy of being in the city without a huge agenda. Today was one of those days.
The weather is bleh. Cloudy, gray, rainy. But after a quiet morning getting some final prep work done for the women's retreat I'm speaking at tomorrow, I was treated to a wonderful lunch at a cute little Parisian cafe with Kim, the pastor's wife at the church and chief organizer of the retreat that I'm speaking at tomorrow. I had pumpkin soup, a glass of white wine and a beautiful berry crumble for dessert. Lovely place. From there I headed for Laduree....the beautiful cafe that is famous for its macaroons.
Stock photo
I really had no idea that they were a full service restaurant with a cool "underwater" feel bar in the back. I was meeting an old friend from Stockholm days who I had not seen in about 7 years! They left Stockholm to move to Paris and since I knew I had some time today, I decided to see if she was free. She was and we met up and had a fabulous catch up. It was so easy and fun to be with her! Great time in a great place. The take away line was huge. The macaroons were delicious. I indulged in the salted caramel and raspberry ones on the spot. I saved the lemon and chocolate ones for later. Mmm, mmm good. Beautiful spot. Great restroom! It was also located on the Champs Elysees, which must be in the top 5 incredibly awesome streets in the world. A look in one direction lands you at the Arc de Triumph. A glance in the other shows the sprawling boulevard in all of its urban glory. It was really cloudy today so I didn't take many photos.
But on my walk home, I caught this awesome view of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower and decided that even in the gray, it is still awesomely beautiful. The architecture that surrounds you is really stunning. And I walked by all of the major fashion designer stores today.
A wander around my favorite neighborhood close to the church took me by a flower shop and numerous bakeries with delights too many to sample...but I am going to give it a good go this weekend! And I popped into the local grocery store for a bottle of Champagne that was about 6 euro and lovely.
Now I am home, in my little apartment that the church has for guests, sipping the champagne, enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower from my windows, feeling contented and blessed that these are the experiences of my life right now. 

Saturday, February 6, 2016

A London Sort of Friday Night

Thanks to Travel Zoo we enjoyed a wonderful meal at a super nice place in central London. Smith and Wollensky has been a New York City steakhouse for many years, but a mere 7 months ago it hopped across the pond and opened up in London. It was a lovely experience with classic touches to a great evening. All of the waiters were dressed in suit coats. The place was beautifully decorated with a classy urban vibe. Our meal deal was a set menu with chateaubriand as the centerpiece. When the food was ready, the waiter rolled out a food cart and carefully cut the meat table side. The food was melt in your mouth great and the mashed potatoes were about the best I've ever tasted. It was really fun to "dine out" for a change!
After dinner we took a lovely stroll past Trafalgar Square and headed up towards Leicester Square. We happened upon the National Portrait Gallery and to our pleasant surprise, it was open. On Friday night they stay open late and have special events with music and drawing opportunities. Many amateur artists were scattered throughout the museum trying their hand at replicating the portraits.
We had not yet been in the portrait gallery and I have to say that I never would've thought that a entire museum devoted to portraits would be that interesting. But we were enthralled by the variety of paintings and the various renderings of many well known folk in British history. I was struck by how recognizable Henry VIII is. He and Elizabeth, the virgin queen, are really the only 2 historical royals that are immediately recognizable to me. I loved this wall of royals. 
I was dazzled on more than one occasion by a portrait that kind of took your breath away. This one of the princes struck me as so interesting. Both look so young and innocent. It seemed to harken to an age long ago. The princess of Wales was beautifully depicted as was the Queen. I was happy to see John Wesley get a shout out and while I would not want Margaret Thatcher on my living room wall, clearly she represents a formidable person in British history. 
The rooms were, of course, tastefully presented and beautiful in their own right. I loved these little statues that lined a wall along a stairwell.
It was a really great night with the unexpected joy of stumbling on an open museum and enjoying a wander amidst great art. And the museum is free, all the time. It's moments like these that cause me to pause and give thanks for the opportunity to live in such a vibrant, culturally interesting place like London.