Sunday, 22 October 2017

Paris Montmartre / Pigalle Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 5.5 km (3.4 miles), terrain: one hill, gain 60 meters

If there is one neighborhood in Paris that fits every tourist's romantic Paris dream, it has to be Montmartre. This is the place where so many impressionist painters made Paris the center of the art world, where Toulouse-Lautrec painted the cancan dancers at the Moulin Rouge.
Artist in Montmartre: you just have to love Paris!
Renoir, van Gogh, Matisse, Degas, Picasso, Modigliani... They all lived and worked here, and they painted the scenes that played out before them in the streets and cafés of Montmartre. Many of them are now buried in the Montmartre cemetery.

The neighborhood is not big, so we'll zig-zag a bit on this short run, to see a few of the most scenic streets. Montmartre is one of the few hills in the Paris area, so this is one place to actually do some real hill-climbing.

South of the hill is the gritty Pigalle red-light district, with clubs like the Moulin Rouge, which adds a nice contrast to the picturesque hilltop. We'll combine the two neighborhoods, plus the cemetery into one really interesting run!
Start of the run at Place Pigalle
So get yourself to Place Pigalle, easy to reach with the Pigalle station of the number 2 and 12 Metro lines. The Folies Pigalle club lines one side of the round place.
Along Boulevard de Rochechouart
The big street here is the Boulevard de Clichy. It has a wide, tree-lined pedestrian promenade down the middle, so we'll follow that eastwards. We'll pass Star's Music store with its amazing variety of musical instruments, and a lot of local shops. Lots of people of leisure sit around on the benches along the promenade day and night.

The street-name soon changes to Boulevard de Rochechouart, and you'll come to Place d'Anvers on the right side. It's a nice little square, so let's round it and enjoy the greenery and come back out to the boulevard.
Place d'Anvers
Now we'll head north towards Montmartre hill. So cross the boulevard and run northwards along Rue de Steinkerque.

In two blocks you'll be at the base of the hill with Sacré-Cœur basilica crowning the hilltop with its beautiful white domes, throning above a park along the slope. This is the one-kilometer mark.
Sacré-Cœur from below
There are lots of people here, plenty of tourists and a lot of hustlers trying to separate them from their money. As runners, luckily, we're too fast for them...

So run up the zig-zag pathways heading to the top, then continue on the central steps to the plaza in front of this really impressive church.
View from the top!
The view from the top is great! You can see southwards and eastwards across the whole city. And good news: that was already the main climb, there isn't much more of a rise for the rest of the run!

Now turn left (westwards) to run past Sacré-Cœur along Rue Azais. It ends soon at Rue du Mont Cenis, where you turn right to run a bit uphill to a square at an older church, St. Pierre. This church is left from an old monastery at the site, built where St. Dennis was martyred by the Romans.

Until the late 1800s, the hill was still mainly open country: just the monastery on top, with hillsides covered with vineyards and fields, and with 13 windmills grinding the grain for the nearby city.
Portrait artists in action at Place du Tertre
Turn your back to St. Pierre and run straight west along Rue Norvins to the next square in just a block: the Place du Tertre. This square is the heart of the neighborhood, surrounded by restaurants, and the whole square is full of their outdoor tables. In the evening, the colorful lights make it enchanting.
Street scene in Montmartre
Really talented portrait artists line the square, waiting for people to request a portrait. It's fascinating to take a look.

So circle the square and continue down Rue Norvins for a couple of blocks, one of the most charming streets you'll ever see. In fact, EVERYTHING around here is charming. Keep your eyes open! A lot of things look somehow familiar if you've spent any time looking at impressionist art.
At La Bonne Franquette
At the first right-hand turn, take that street, Rue des Saules past more famous spots. That restaurant on the right, La Bonne Franquette, was made famous by van Gogh in his painting "La Guinguette". Pissarro, Sisley, Cézanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Monet and Zola all used to drink there.

We head downhill, then turn left at the first chance (at the pink house called La Maison Rose, onto Rue de l'Abreuvoir.
Photo shooting at La Maison Rose
The road leads to a square called Place Dalida, named after a popular singer and actress who had lived nearby. A lot of fans make a pilgrimage to her statue at the square. There is a viewpoint down the steps to the north. This area is noticeably quieter than the touristy area behind us: a nice change!
Fans visit Dalida
Now turn south along Rue Girardon for just a hundred meters, till Square Suzanne Buisson comes up on the right.

At the 2-kilometer mark, turn into the square to run past the boules players and others relaxing in this nice little park. Exit to the north through the flower gardens.  
Boules players in the heart of Montmartre
NOTE: at the moment, the northern part of the park is being renovated, so you have to head back to Place Dalida and turn left to run westwards, down the narrow lane that heads past the park.

Exit the park to the left and head west along quiet Rue Simon Dereure. It ends at Avenue Junot, where you turn left and follow it as it curves uphill back towards the area where we already were. On the right side, take a look into the beautiful little cul-de-sac, Villa Léandre.
Nice homes along Villa Léandre
When you reach the first intersection, at Rue Girardon, turn right and run the block till it ends at Le Moulin de la Galette (one of the old windmills, and scene of one of Renoir's most famous paintings, "Bal du moulin de la Galette".

Now continue along the narrow alley, Rue d'Orchampt. There is some interesting street art along the house walls here, so keep your eyes open!
Rue d'Orchampt
The alley turns to the left and continues downhill until it meets a couple of squares that connect, bringing you farther down the hill. So head downhill through Place Èmile-Boudeau and pass a couple of friendly pubs.
Place Èmile-Boudeau, heading downhill
Keep running straight downhill along Rue Ravignan until it ends at one of the main streets down along the hillside, the Rue des Abbesses.

This is a lively neighborhood, with lanes heading further downhill, and restaurants and shops all around.

Let's turn left to run just two blocks to the Place des Abbesses, a spot that looks so Parisian. This 3-kilometer mark has a carousel and a Metro station, and there's an interesting little park behind it, with its "Le mur des je t'aime", the "I love you" wall. The words are translated into lots of languages all over the wall, and many romantics head here to take a few pictures.
The "I love you" wall
Circle the park then head back along Rue des Abbesses in the other direction, heading downhill to the west.

Run about five blocks, until the road splits. Continue straight along the left-hand street, Rue Joseph de Maistre (stay to the left of the nice old half-timbered house with the Le Basilic restaurant).
This way along Rue des Abbesses!
In a block, you'll come to a busy street, Rue Caulaincourt, where you turn left. You'll cross a bridge above the Cimetière de Montmartre below. The cemetery was built in an old gypsum quarry, which is why it's so low. In fact, the whole hill is honey-combed by old gypsum mines. The mining started back in the Celtic days, before the Romans arrived.

At the south end of the bridge, take the stairs downward and then turn left to enter the cemetery, at the 4-kilometer mark. It's an interesting place, with memorials to lots of famous locals (lots of artists, and Dalida again!).
The Montmartre cemetery
Basically, just circle the cemetery on whichever paths you think look most interesting. You'll have to exit at the same place that you came in.

It's a bit eerie, a sea of old tombs and monuments, in its own little netherworld below the busy city streets.

When you exit the cemetery, continue south, down Avenue Rachel until it ends at Boulevard de Clichy.

Now you just have to get to the promenade in the middle again and turn left to run eastwards back to Place Pigalle.
The Moulin Rouge, always good for a picture!
Along the way, you'll pass the Moulin Rouge club on the left side with its famous dance revue (cancan was invented here). And a few hundred meters later, you'll be at Pigalle again. Now that was a lot of contrast!

Sunday, 8 October 2017

La Palma, Ruta de los Volcanes Trail Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 14.4 km (9 miles), terrain: very hilly, sometimes steep, gain 757 meters!

This is one amazing run. You'll transition from rain-forest shade forests to blasted, wide-open volcanic lava-flows. Sometimes you'll be in the clouds, sometimes you'll have views out over a carpet of clouds way below. You'll be stepping along the edge of craters, and viewing out across the Atlantic Ocean towards other islands. 
Trail view over the Atlantic towards Tenerifa
NOTE: This route is extremely rugged! It's steep, rocky, and you have to watch your step all the time. You might even prefer to hike it rather than to run it. But there are some hearty runners who traverse the rocky terrain like mountain goats. However you do it, make sure you bring a water bottle and a windbreaker! Walls of clouds can also suddenly move in, so watch their movement, and bring a good map and GPS. Plan it for a day when the ridge should be clear of clouds.

The Canary Islands isle of La Palma is the result of one huge volcano, then many smaller ones that followed through the millennia. No visit to the island is complete without a visit to the edges of the volcanic craters, some less than 50 years old.

This route follows the Ruta de los Volcanes (E7) hiking trail that winds along the peaks among a variety of volcanic cones and lava fields that popped up, one by one, forming the south end of the island. The route is normally well-marked, heading north-south almost the whole way.
El Pilar mist
We'll start it at one of my favorite spots on the island, El Pilar, a picnic park up in the clouds, and one of the most popular recreation areas for the islanders. Often, the clouds get stuck up here on the north/south ridge, and it looks like a rain-forest. Cloud-soaked Spanish moss drips from the trees, which disappear upwards into the swirling mist above.

The E7 hiking route begins a long ways north of here, circling the huge Caldera de Taburiente then heading southwards past all the main volcanic cones along the ridge of Cumbre Vieja, all the way to Fuencaliente, at the southern tip of the island. We'll just follow the middle section of the trail, Cumbre Vieja, where the biggest concentration of volcanoes and lava flows can be found.
Start of the run at El Pilar
El Pilar is off on a side-road from the main road between Santa Cruz and El Paso (watch for the signs to turn off), along the ridge that divides the eastern and western sides of the island. There is plenty of parking, so find a spot and put on your running gear!

Now walk to the area with the picnic shelters and playground swings on the south side of the road. If you walk past the playground to the far south end of the park, you'll see the waymarker signs for the hiking trail towards Fuencaliente, which begins going right up the hill. Did I mention that this is one difficult trail? Oops, well now is the time to tell you...
View northwards towards the Caldera de Taburiente
The trail heads uphill through pine woods towards the southwest, along the north flank of Pico Birigoyo, our first volcano. There are some nice views northwards towards the huge Caldera de Taburiente, La Palma's first volcano, the biggest volcanic crater in the world.

After a kilometer, the trees thin out and you have a wide view westwards, over the black lava fields of an eruption about 70 years ago.
View westwards over the clouds
After 2 kilometers, the trail heads down into a valley to join onto a jeep road, turning left, then heading uphill to the south. At different spots, you can see where recent fires have blackened the pine woods around you, but most of the trees survived.
Blackened pine tree along the way
After another half a kilometer, the trail leaves the jeep road and heads uphill southwards, passing a strange rock spiral that some people once laid out. The trail crosses a couple of wooden bridges and then takes you out over the ridge to the face the east side of the island.
Wooden bridge
At the 4.5-kilometer mark, you'll have a great view eastwards out over the ocean towards Tenerife. A few trails branch off here, heading downwards towards the east coast. But continue uphill, following the signs towards Fuencaliente.
Downhill runner at the trail branch-off
We are now in the high country, the trail will follow the Cumbre Vieja ridge for the rest of the way. This area is where the 1949 volcanic eruption happened, with lots of fairly fresh-looking lava flows.

Soon, at the 5-km mark, you'll come to the steep edge of a crater opening westwards, Volcán Hoyo Negro. The black and tan volcanic ash layers are strongly eroded into deep canyons. What a sight!
Volcán Hoyo Negro
Continuing southwards past some rocks with great views to more volcanoes. You'll face the blackend peak of Montaña de los Charcos across a lifeless, black valley of loose ash and rock.
Approaching Los Charcos
The trail takes you along its western side. The wind is wild up here at the peak, not a place to hang around!

Just south of los Charcos is a second cinder cone, Deseada, almost 2000 meters high. There are some cement markers along the trail here, with a couple of smaller trails heading off the the left (eastwards) that take you to the edge of Deseada and los Charcos.

Take one of those trails down to the crater edges and get a closer look at these other-worldly sights. You'll feel like you're on Mars.
Deseada and Los Charcos
But it's been 7 kilometers of hard trail climbing so far, so let's turn around and head back home now. There's still a long way to go to get back! And when you make it, kick off your shoes, shower off the sweat and grime, and it'll be time to tilt-back a well-earned glass of local La Palma wine!
Here's to one beautiful run!

Monday, 25 September 2017

Geneva Old-Town/Rive Gauche Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 8.9 km (5.5 miles), terrain: flat with two hills, gain 87 meters
Or shorten it to just 5-km if you leave out the last leg along the leg

Geneva running routes:
Geneva Old Town / Rive Gauche route
Geneva Rive Droite / UN route

For more running routes, see Route List.

A runner in Parc des Bastions
In our other Geneva route, we went up the north shore of the lake. This time, we'll see the old town and the south shore (Rive Gauche). But you can easily split this route into either half, if you want shorter runs.

The old town is perched up on a hill overlooking the exit of the Rhone River from Lake Geneva (Lac Leman). There is a fairly steep uphill climb to get to the top, but it's really worth it! The town has existed since pre-Roman days, founded by a Celtic tribe, and there are lots of interesting spots to discover.
Old-town café near the cathedral
And down behind the old-town, to the southwest, lies the university quarter, with its lively (and relatively cheap) pubs and restaurants and the Plainpalais fairgrounds.

So, if you're ready to discover Geneva's fascinating other half, get yourself to the Jardin Anglais park at the lakefront. This is one of the nicest spots in town, a great place to view the boats going by and to people-watch.

The steamship fleet heads off from several docks all around you, and out in the harbor the huge Jet d'Eau fountain rockets a stream of water into the sky.

In the summers, a big Ferris Wheel lifts visitors up above it all, right next to one of Geneva's landmarks, the immaculately trimmed flower clock. Remember, Geneva is the "City of Time", the headquarters of Swiss watch-making-craftsmanship for centuries.
The flower clock
Standing with your back to the flower clock, cross the busy street to run southwards into Place de Longemalle, a narrow square full of the mix typical of Geneva's downtown: banks, watch-sellers, jewelers, chocolate shops, restaurants, hotels and fountains.
In Place de Longemalle
Keep running south as the street goes uphill towards the cathedral spires ahead. You'll come to Place de la Madeleine, with an old church, a carousel and restaurants accompanying you into the old town.

Continue straight ahead, following Rue de la Fontaine uphill, with terraced parks above you on the right side. And of course, you'll go by fountains. In fact, everywhere you go in Geneva you'll find beautiful fountains.
Cafès at Place Bourg-de-Four
You'll soon reach the next square, the beautiful Bourg-de-Four, with alleys zig-zagging into it from several directions. There are some lively cafés and restaurants here (for later!). Keep to the right and keep heading uphill along Rue de l'Hôtel-de-Ville.

There are nice galleries and antique shops here, and the cathedral is coming up on the right. So at the first lane to the right, turn there and run straight towards Saint-Pierre cathedral, just a block away.

It's pretty impressive, with various additions from various eras. The oldest parts are over 850 years old.

Turn left and run downhill a bit to come to the front entrance, with its huge portico.
Saint-Pierre Cathedral
This is a Protestant cathedral. Geneva was a hotbed of Protestant activity during the Reformation. John Calvin preached here, and his house was just a block away. Many Protestants, persecuted in nearby Catholic areas, fled to Geneva for refuge.

Now turn with your back to the church and run out along Rue Otto Barblan, which ends at the armory in just a block (another great fountain here!).

Now turn left and run past the armory, with its cannon collection in the arcade.
The armory cannons
At the corner, the flag-covered town hall is waiting, which has a cool old courtyard inside the doors, take a peek!

Keep running southwest, along the right side of the town hall and you'll run under a columned gateway and out onto a wide terrace, with a view out over the south side of town. You can see the Alps rising behind the city.
Along the Promenade de la Treille: great lookout!
This park with the inspiring view is called the Promenade de la Treille. A lot of people come here to relax and enjoy the amazing view, and whole families come to picnic at the tables.

Down below, that other park and the neighborhood behind it is where we'll head next.

So, after taking in the view, turn right and run downhill along the street, passing the 1-kilometer-mark. You'll come to Place de Neuve at the bottom, flanked by a collection of elegant, classical buildings. The biggest one, the Grand Théâtre, is now inside a big tent, undergoing restoration.
Chess players in the park
On the left side, behind the iron fence, is Parc des Bastions. This is a great place, with chess-players, a restaurant-café, monuments, exhibits and the main university buildings along the south side.

Turn left to run through the park. Along the left side, lining the wall to the outlook is a series of statues for the Protestant pioneers, many of whom spent time in Geneva.

Along the other side, the classical university buildings line your run. Normally, quite a few runners come through here mornings and evenings.

Just before you exit the park, turn right to stay on the walkway within the fence and exit the park on the south side. Now turn left, then right to get onto Rue Saint Léger, running southwestwards.

Follow the street for the next few blocks as it curves to the right. This is the university neighborhood, with some cool hangouts.

Cross the tram tracks at the 2-km-mark, with the Holy Cow gourmet fast-food hamburger restaurant (try it out some evening: their Montreux Jazz and Blues burger is amazing!)

After a block, you come to a big empty square, the Plaine de Plainpalais. This used to be a big swamp, but is now home to Switzerland's biggest flea market every Wednesday and Saturday.

Now just circle the square for a kilometer, running as you please, and come back to this spot again.

Then head back the same way you came, but when you come to the Parc des Bastions, stay on Rue Saint Léger, running along the outside of the park fence, heading towards the hill of the old town, straight ahead.

Stay on Rue Saint Léger as it goes by nice flower plantings at the park gate, then up through an archway into the old town.
Rue St. Leger, heading up into the Old Town again
Soon you'll find yourself at Place du Bourg-de-Four again. But this time, instead of turning left to head down the way we originally came, turn right to see a bit more of the old town, along Rue Etienne-Dumont. This is a nice street, with interesting boutiques and restaurants.

The street ends at Place Franz-Liszt, an elevated spot, with a busy road sunken down in the valley below.

Turn left to run through the Promenade Saint-Antoine square, which lines the roadway below.

Run to the traffic circle ahead, passing the 4-km-mark, then turn left and you'll be back at Place du Bourg-de-Four again.

Now turn right and head downhill again towards the lake, but keep right to stay on Rue Verdaine, to see a bit more of downtown.

When Rue Verdaine ends, turn left till you're back at Place de Longemalle, where you turn right and in a block you'll be back at the flower clock, right at the 5-kilometer-mark.

NOTE: Now you'll have to decide if this is the end of your run or if you want to add another four kilometers and run out along the south shore of the lake.
Musicians in the Jardin Anglais
So, if you want to experience a bit more of this beautiful lake, head to the water's edge in Jardin Anglais, and turn right to follow the water, heading out to Genève-Plage (Geneva Beach).
Along the Rive Gauche docks, with a steamship
There is a tree-lined promenade along the waterfront for the whole way. The line of apartment buildings has an elegant flair, but not much life. There are hardly any restaurants or stores along the way. The waterfront -- with its docks and boats -- is definitely the big attraction. And it's crowned by the view across the lake to the Jura Mountains, forming the nearby border to France.

You'll pass a water-taxi dock (ride these to get a great view from the water!) and then the narrow causeway to the Jet d'Eau fountain. You can run out there and take a close look!

After the big Eaux-Vives marina and then the appropriately named Baby Plage (a tiny beach), you continue following the promenade.
View along the whole lakefront stretch, from the Jardin Anglais
You'll then come to Port Noir, with the yacht club and Genève-Plage, an outdoor pool and a little lakeside beach. You can't get into either place, though, so you might as well cross the road at the crossing and turn back towards town.

On this other side of the street, running southwestwards, we can pull into a couple of elegant old parks along the way on the left side.

The first one is Parc des Eaux Vives, a huge park-like property on the sloping hillside, with a tennis club behind the mansion. The house is now used as a hotel. The property is actually private, and not a public park.

The grounds are impressive, so take a loop towards the house, then continue southwestwards through the wall to the next park. This will be the 7-km-mark.

This next one, Parc La Grange, also has a huge mansion, and big trees and a rose garden. But this one is a real public park. Again, loop around near the house and then exit at the lake road again, across from the Baby-Plage.

Now, just head back to the Jardin Anglais, passing the Jet d'Eau at the 8-km-mark.

So, what do you think? Geneva is not a bad town! No wonder it is rated as one of the world's top cities to live in.