Friday, 25 January 2019

Best Running Routes in Barcelona

Barcelona is one of the most fun cities in Europe, a lively urban mix that fascinates at every turn. It has a real creative feel, and people fill the outdoor restaurants each evening enjoying each other's company over some tapas and a bottle of wine or a beer. You're guaranteed to fall in love on day one. And what better way to get to know some of the most interesting sights than to strap on your running shoes and head off to discover the town on your own two feet?
Morning beach run
Here are the best running/jogging routes in town...

In Parc de la Ciutadella

Top Barcelona Running Routes:

Old Town: The Barrio Gótico (Gothic Quarter) is one of the most fascinating neighborhoods you'll ever see. It's a maze of narrow, curving lanes going back to the Roman days, with some Roman gate-towers and walls sprinkled among the medieval houses. This great route also adds nearby Plaza de Catalunya, the Ramblas and Port Vell at the harbor to round it out into one unforgettable run!

Montjuïc: The Montjuïc Hill, just south of the old town, is like being on another side of the planet. It's covered by parkland, with great views out over the Mediterranean and the city, with an old fort on the peak and the awesome Palau Nacional (now the Catalonian National Art Museum).  And we'll start the run at the Plaça d'Espanya, with its Magic Fountain and the old World's Fair buildings. Enjoy this great hill run!

Barcelona Beach: Barcelona is one of the few great cities of the world with a long stretch of beach right in the city. What had once been a decaying waterside full of old factories and railroad tracks, it's now a lively, beautiful Mediterranean hangout. This run takes you along the whole stretch, past Barceloneta and other great neighborhoods. Don't forget to take time to kick off your shoes and take a dip in the water!

Parc de la Ciutadella: This park, close to the beach, isn't terribly big, but it offers a lot of variety in one short run. With fountains, promenades, unique streetlamps, the Catalonian provincial parliament, the city zoo, a lake with lovers rowing in the evenings, and the Barcelona  Arc de Triomf. Make sure you visit this great corner of town!

Monday, 7 January 2019

Funchal Madiera Waterside Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.8 km (3 miles), terrain: easy, fairly flat, gain 33 meters

Funchal, the capital of the Portuguese island of Madeira, is a pleasant place, with a quiet old-town and a long, beautiful waterfront promenade. And there are also lush parks and botanical gardens, the elegant hilltop retreat of Monte, with its viewpoints, gardens and quirky toboggan rides.

Finding a good running route is tougher, though, because the town, like the whole island, is so vertical. Steep uphill roads provide the only way up into the surrounding suburbs. And vertical cliffs block access to areas east and west of town along the coast. So, the best route to take is simply one that heads along the waterfront promenade, with a return loop through the old town, for a bit of variety.

So, if you're ready, get yourself down to the promenade, at the Praça Do Povo park, right next to the marina, along the Avenida do Mar.
The promenade: nice hangout!
You're in the heart of town, with the pretty, relaxed promenade stretching in both directions, with boats bobbing in the harbor and seagulls soaring above. Let's turn eastwards and run with the water to your right side, enjoying the flowers and exotic trees.

Shortly, you'll cross the river: actually two rivers meet right here just before they pour into the sea.

Next, to the right, you'll see a cement walkway heading diagonally out towards a little green/white lighthouse. If you like lighthouses, like I do, head out there and take a look, with a nice view of the coast and also back towards town.

Then continue onwards, passing the bottom station of the Teleferico (gondola lift). It takes people up to Monte above, and also connects to a second lift that continues on to the main botanical garden.

NOTE: Make sure you get up to Monte during your visit. It's cooler up there in the summer, and there are also spectacular views, has an old church set in a jungley garden, and it has it's own botanical garden which is at least as good as the official one on the next hill. And Monte is the place where the unique toboggan rides start, sliding down the streets back to town.
Toboggans heading down to town
Now just keep running for the next block until the promenade ends right in front of that old yellow fort straight ahead, the Fortaleza de São Tiago. The 400-year old fortress now houses an art museum, a restaurant and lots of cultural festivals. There are swimming platforms down below the fort. 
Heading towards the Fortaleza
NEXT NOTE: If you want to add distance to this short run, just connect to the street to the left and keep running eastwards along Rua de Santa Maria and then Rua Lazareto as they gently head uphill past simple homes and some public viewpoints over the cliffs.
So now we head back, this time staying a bit inland. When we get to the Teleferico again, turn right and follow the cablecars for a block to Rua de Santa Maria, where we turn left and run westwards for a block on this restaurant-lined lane.

Turn right again on another narrow lane, Rua Boa Viagem, and head the one block north to the covered market building. Now just circle the building, but on the north side you might want to step inside the entrance just to see this colorful spot and decide to come back again later. One section of the market is a fish market, the other is mainly spices and vegetables.
Inside the market
After circling the building, head back to the waterfront by running along Rua Brigadeiro Oudinot, next to the river.

Now we'll loop through the old-town and take a look at the main sights: after running one block westwards along the promenade, turn right to cross busy Avenida do Mar and run north along Largo dos Varadouros towards that grey-stone archway ahead. That's a reconstruction of the old city gate that once stood there.
The city gate
Keep running past the gate and you'll come to a quiet square, the Praça Colombo (named after Christopher Columbus), with a few nice cafés. You'll already be able to see the tower of the cathedral off to the left: let's head there next!

So at the north end of the square, turn left and run the one block to the back side of the cathedral, with its Gothic arches and ancient stonework.
The cathedral
Let's run around the building to get to the main entrance, so turn right and run a bit uphill on Rua de João Gago along the east side of the church.

You will now come to the main downtown street, Rua do Aljube. Now, let's keep heading west, past the cathedral entrance with its own little square, where the street widens to become a tree-lined promenade through the old-town. The name changes to Avenida Arriaga. Arriaga is where people come to enjoy the evenings, with cafés, restaurants and theaters lining the avenue.
Zarco statue
My favorite spot in town is at the João Gonçalves Zarco statue, who was the first governor of the island. The elegant Grand Café, with its wrap-around balcony is there, as is the impressive old Bank of Portugal building, and the old Palácio De São Lourenço is next door, the city's first fort and government building. The whole area is a lively, elegant hangout. It's a great place to relax and do some people-watching later on.
At the Ritz, with its blue-white tiles
Continuing westwards, you pass the blue-tile azulejo walls of the Ritz restaurant, and there is a really cool park across the street. The Municipal Park occupies the grounds of a former abbey, and the landscaping is lush and almost jungle-like. Make sure you loop through it!
In the Jardim Municipal
The main theater, Baltazar Dias, comes next, on the left, and then you keep running another block until you come to the traffic circle with the fountain. Here, we'll head uphill into that park on the other side, the Parque de Santa Catarina.
In Santa Catarina
Keep left and follow the way uphill past the 300-year-old baroque chapel. There are a few great lookouts over the harbor below and across the whole town from up here, including the cruise-ship harbor directly below.
Great views from the park!
The park ends soon at a fence that guards the old pink government mansion above. Circle the pond and then head down the steps towards the cruise ship terminal below. There is a pedestrian crossing right there.

You can run under the building housing the C7 Museum (honoring hometown hero, football star Cristiano Ronaldo) and continue to the waterside. 
The Ronaldo statue at the C7 Museum
There are usually ships docked up here, sometimes as many as eight of these impressive giants at a time!
At the cruise-ship harbor
Now just turn left and head back to the starting point along the promenade, a few blocks to the east. Funchal is such a beautiful place!

Wednesday, 12 December 2018

Happy Holidays 2018

Christmas and New Year's are coming up, and most runners are relaxing their running schedule to fit in all the shopping and preparation. Time to take some time out and enjoy the holiday season. Here are a few pictures from the Christmas Market in Hamburg, Germany.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!
Crowds strolling between the food stands, gift shops and kids' rides
The way in
Selling a bit of Christmas cheer
The antique carousel