Monday, July 28, 2014

The Finale: Paris

Bonjour! So, the last time we left off we were in Gerardmer, France for the Tour de France. After a few fantastic days there, we took the speed train to Paris for the last leg of our adventure.

Note: The speed train is fast. It got up to about 310 km/h, or 192 m/h during our trip!

Warning: long post ahead

Our train was about an hour late getting into Paris, so we really hustled to try to get to the flat we rented through airbnb. The hustle was all to catch the second half of the World Cup final that started before our train rolled into Paris, despite the fact that it was 9:00 p.m. and we hadn't had dinner.

Dinner that night was cereal and some salt and vinegar chips from the nearby mini market.

One of the things about travel is, you just have to be flexible. I had to throw my usual fruit and veggie requirement out the window because some days I was lucky to even eat 2 servings.

The nice part about renting an apartment however, was that we were able to save money (and not eat croissants every morning), although they are pretty tasty.

Friday (Monday) Fashion
This was one of my Paris outfits for a long day of biking and sightseeing. I tried to keep my outfits semi fashionable, but obviously comfortable seeing as how we were moving or on our feet all day long. 

Top: Zara, pants: Old Navy, flats: Naturalizer 

The next morning, we ventured off and used the local Velib bike system, which was only 1.90 Euro per day. There was a bike check in right near our flat, which made it even easier. And, they have an app that I downloaded so we were easily able to locate a check-in spot wherever we were, without needing internet. 

Velib was a great way to cover a lot of ground without spending plenty of $ on the metro.

First: a quick stop at the Louvre for a look around and then a crepe complete (eggs, ham and cheese). Mmm...

I call this one "Dodging Tourists" because as we rode down the Champs Elysees, which was open for pedestrians only on Bastille Day, we did a lot of weaving to not inflict harm on anyone. 

Arc de Triomphe

For Bastille Day they had a torch lit and guards standing watch over the unknown soldier. It was pretty touching to see. 

And of course, you can't leave Paris without trying some macarons. We stopped by Laduree and stood in line for these spendy (1.90 Euro each) little cookies. I'll admit to never having eaten a macaron before this stop, but they were delicious.

My favorite of the four I picked out was the salted caramel eaten with a cafe crema (coffee with a little foamed milk on top).

In between biking around the city, it was nice to stop for cookies at Laduree and coffee at a nearby bar for a little Tour de France viewing and some rest for the legs. 

Le Petit Palais

Thanks to Lisa's suggestion, we rented a flat in the Marais district, which  is a major center of the Paris Jewish community with cute old buildings as well as modern shops. I loved these two buildings and the restaurant sign. 

Dinner that night was at a great little pizza place within walking distance of our flat. Thanks to Yelp, I found La Briciola in our neighborhood and highly rated! A plus: the waiters were very kind and happy to explain a few French words we couldn't understand. We opted for the chef's special pizza and salad of the day and Montepulciano wine. 

Our second full day in Paris was much the same as the first: biking, stopping, eating and even a little cat nap in the park. By this time in our trip, we weren't in the mood to do many more 'touristy' things and the one museum we tried to go into (l'Orangerie) was closed and I hadn't checked ahead of time.

However, we did head to the Sacre Coeur mainly for the views of the city.

One of the cool (and crazy) things about grocery shopping in Europe is that you often have to visit about five places to get all the goods you might need for your dinner. Fruit and veggies at an open air market, bread from la boulangerie, cheese from la fromagerie, meat from the butcher, you get the idea. 

It seems much more personal and provides for high quality, direct source food, but I have to imagine it is quite time consuming for locals. There are of course occasional grocery stores that do carry everything, but they don't always have the best variety or quality. 

We grabbed strawberries & carrots from a market on our way up to the Sacre Coeur

Later that afternoon, we made our way back to the center of Paris to go inside the Notre Dame before seeking out a few nutella + banana crepes. Must figure out how to make crepes soon!

The afternoon turned out to be pretty nice, so we stopped by the Tuileries Garden to look at the grass you can't sit on (common place around Paris) and then found some chairs to sit in and nap for a bit. 

Are you tired yet? Well, we were too!

For our final night, we opted to pick up picnic supplies and bike to the Eiffel Tower and eat dinner in the Champ de Mars (Thank you, Lisa for the suggestion). A fresh baguette, comte cheese, salami, tomatoes and a bottle of Chianti and we were set!

The next morning, we packed up our backpacks for the final time and headed to the airport for the long trip home. After 20 hrs of travel and little sleep, it felt good to touch down Eugene, OR and return to summer in Oregon.

In a nutshell: the manfriend and I had a blast and loved the opportunity to have three weeks together exploring Europe without the daily stress of work. But we also came home pretty exhausted.

Don't be surprised if our next big vacation includes lying on a sunny beach or an escape to the wilderness. ;)

I hope your Monday is treating you well! 

What was your most relaxing vacation to date? And your most hectic?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Re-Entry and Listening to My Body

After three weeks of straying far from our normal routine, it's no surprise that coming back to life as usual in Eugene wasn't seamless. In fact, I woke up from a nap yesterday totally confused as to where I was and sure that we were still in France despite the fact that I was in our living room.

As we left Paris, I could feel the beginnings of a sinus infection coming on - sneezing, itchy nose, foggy head, sore throat, etc. It's as if my body knew the honeymoon was over! We touched down in Eugene on Wednesday around 9:00 p.m. after about 20 hours of travel and limited sleep.

Not taken while traveling home. We looked much worse than this.

We crashed hard and survived two days at work. While it hasn't been easy and I'm still sick, a few things have been important to getting back to normal:

  • Sleep - while we both napped a bit on the planes, we tried not to sleep too much so that we would crash hard when we got in that night. And crash we did. 
  • Healthy eats - Thursday evening, I went straight to the grocery store and loaded up on veggies, fruits, yogurt, milk, oats, kombucha and some other staples. 
  • Exercise - I have still tried to do some exercise each day because it makes me feel good. Two short runs, a walk with friend Stef, long dog walks and a little strength training have helped me feel better about myself. 
  • Couch time - While we took the trip of a lifetime and had some relaxing moments, we really were on GO for three weeks straight. A few hours of reading books, scrolling social media and watching the Tour de France were much needed. 
  • Laundry - clean clothes and the act of doing laundry just helps me feel as if I'm getting my life back in order.
Listening to my body
It's probably some small miracle that I returned home with only 5 lbs of extra weight on me. After all the pasta, cheese and bread we consumed in Europe, I knew I'd be a bit heavier than when we left. 

Lunch at Mercato Centrale in Florence, Italy

And that's okay! I was prepared to not only fully enjoy our trip, the food and the moments, but not obsess about the work I'd have to do after to not only feel healthy, but get ready for that 50K {eeps!}.

Delicious strawberry cheesecake gelato also in Florence, Italy 

But I won't lie that running with five extra pounds doesn't exactly feel graceful and wearing tighter pants isn't my favorite. All that being said, I'm trying to be easy on myself and realistic as I let my body recover from this sinus infection and get healthy

Thursday, I ran 30 minutes after work knowing I probably shouldn't, but just wanted to get my run and sweat on! Victory: limiting myself to nothing more than 30 minutes

Friday, I did a short 15 min run around our neighborhood followed by 15 min of strength training in the garage before work. I had considered doing something else after work, but knew my body was run down and didn't need it. Victory: Being okay with 30 min of exercise

Saturday, I took Jonah Bell on a long walk while talking to my mom and then took a 45 min walk with Stef before Team Run Eugene's RUNderstand event on marathon nutrition. Victories: no strenuous cardio, tons of veggies & fruits, serious couch time and taking a long nap

Today, I did 25 min of strength training (two videos via Sarah Fit) + 25 min of yoga in the garage. Victory: not running

The moral of the story is, despite feeling a little uncomfortable in my own skin and being a bit undertrained for a 50K that's in 7 weeks, I'm letting my body tell me what it needs right now. And hopefully in return it will reward me with ridding this sickness so I can get back to some serious running real soon!

What was the highlight of your weekend?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Le Tour de France

One of the things I was really looking forward to on this trip (among many) was seeing the Tour de France in person.

I purposely chose the first stage in which the riders would meet a few decent climbs so we wouldn't just see them whiz right past us. I also chose stage 8 because it ended in Gerardmer and stage 9 started the next morning there (which doesn't always happen). Turns out, the town had to pay 150,000 Euro to have the tour stages end and start there.


Anyway, a few months ago I booked a few nights through with our host Stephen of Chez Georgette. Stephen had inherited his grandmother's house in Gerardmer and was in the process of fixing it up and renting it out to visitors. Well, I'd say that we more than lucked out. 

Our first lunch in town enjoying salad with cheesey bread and fresh creme on top. Europeans sure do like their good bread and cheese!

His rates were not only totally reasonable (he charged about half what everyone else was), but he was also an awesome host, from cooking us a few amazing vegetarian dinners to buying fresh baguettes and good cheese from the markets to driving us to the train station 30 min away. And the house had an awesome view to boot!

The house was pretty large, so he had rented the rest of the house out to a group of 16 (3 couples with 2 kids each and 2 aunts). While it was a little crazy with all the kiddos, it was a lot of fun and the people were all so nice. They were all Americans, but two of the families have temporary international stays for work.

The town of Gerardmer was pretty great too. With a population of about 9,000 and a beautiful lake, it makes it the perfect relaxing destination, Tour de France or not.


Overall, it was incredible to get to see just a sliver of the tour! All of the details and man power that go into setting up and taking down just one stage of this race are incredible!


July 12, the morning of the stage (and our one year wedding anniversary) I got up early and went for a run up to see the finish area where we'd be spectating from. Decent hill workout! Then, came back to the house for a big breakfast and to get ready. 

We picked up sandwich supplies at the market (plus some tour swag) and hiked the hill for what would be essentially 5+ hrs of tailgating and anticipation with our housemates!


Serious game of Uno going on here!


We checked out the finish line and podium area as we were stationed just 250m from the hill top finish (a 2km climb in total).


During the afternoon, the team buses rolled through as well as a bajillion sponsors and all their free stuff.



The weather had been iffy, but about 45 min before the racers came through, it started to rain pretty good (and then thunder and lightning). But it didn't effect the awesomeness.


And finally, for about 30 min we got to see some wet riders pushing to the top! Some looked pretty miserable and others looked determined to get to the finish strong.



We also got to see the riders on their neutral roll out start the next morning from downtown, which was cool. They all seemed a little more relaxed and th rain had cleared for a bit.


As our host drove us out of town on Sunday to catch our train to Paris, he made sure to take us up to this cool view point of the lake and the entire city.



Gerardmer and Chez Georgette, we hope to be back someday!

We are now enjoying our last full day in Paris and fly home tomorrow. I suppose the honeymoon has to end sometime. ;) 

Oh, I thought it would also be worth mentioning that on several occasions, we've been told that in Europe, three weeks is a minimum length of vacation for most people and 4-6 weeks is more normal. Au revoir! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

When in Tuscany

After a few nights in Florence, we took the suggestion of a few friends back home and decided to take a side trip to Siena.

While we loved our little apartment in Florence, we were excited to explore a smaller town in Tuscany. Within 20 min or so from stepping off the bus in Siena, the manfriend and I agreed we were in love with the little Tuscan town. It was just the thing we needed to relax a bit.

I lucked out by booking us an affordable hotel (porta romano) for about $85/night with this view. 

That evening we grabbed slices of pizza from a local gourmet market with an awesome bakery and also picked up a bottle of Brunello di Monticelo wine, which is sort of notorious in this area and delicious!

El Campo where the town was gathering for the culmination of the big contrada (horse racing) event that had just taken place.

We then enjoyed the wine on the hotel's patio with a side of this view. 

Monday, we booked a small wine tour so that we could see the country side and really enjoy the chianti wine region. It was a small group with just one other couple and allowed us to learn more about the region and do a wine a food pairing tasting at a small organic winery, St. Agnese. 

The owner and leader of our tasting was hilarious, which added to the experience.

This family winery also makes their own high quality olive oil, 8 and 30(!) year old balsamic, bruschetta and truffle oil and only ships directly to the purchaser (not retailers).

Everything was amazing, but we ended up purchasing one bottle of Chianti Classico to drink later in our trip. If I wanted to spend more, I would have been tempted to buy the olive oil and balsamic as the flavors of both were amazing.

We capped off our time in Siena with dinner out and snickers gelato that was most definitely the best gelato we have had on our trip.

And now we are on our way to Muenchen (Munich) for a few nights. 

                 {View from our train}

I won't lie that after being away from home for this long, the manfriend and I have both started to feel a bit guilty (and tired of spending SO much $ on everything). But, we don't take vacation often and this really is a once in a lifetime kind of trip, so we are just trying to enjoy the moment. 

On the running front
I have only been out for three runs, but that is good considering I wasn't sure if I would get the chance to run at all. They have been only 30-40 min long, but something anyway. We have also been walking and biking most days, so that helps offset all the bread, cheese and wine we have consumed . ;)

I hope to take a yoga class or something in Paris, but we'll see!

Moral of the story: if you ever get the chance, visit Siena, Italy and enjoy the wine, views and relaxed pace of life. You won't be sorry.