Friday, 24 June 2016

Brussels EU Quarter/Woluwe Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 7.3 or 12.3 km (4.5- or 7.6 miles), terrain: hilly with 122-meter gain

NOTE: Brussels is bilingual, for Dutch and French, and street signs are sometimes in one language, the other or both. I'll include both names when I mention streets here. Sorry about the bad pictures but it was raining when I did this run!

Brussels Running Routes:
Avenue Louise/Bois de la Cambre  
Center Loop 

Old-Town Sights
For more running routes, see Route List

Brussels is a compact city that is graced with some exceptional roles: as the Belgian capital city, European Union capital, NATO headquarters, capital of its own small province, as well as being the chocolate capital of the universe. There are interesting things to see everywhere you go.
Woluwe Park
Here's a run that takes you from the city center out through the EU quarter, along an elegant boulevard and then through the rolling hills of Woluwe Park out in the wealthy suburbs before returning on a parallel path. Actually this route can also be shortened by almost half by returning before getting out to Woluwe.

I used to run fairly often to Woluwe, in the days when I worked several months each year in Brussels. But that was decades ago. And when I headed out there again on a business trip this week, I realized that I had forgotten how hilly Woluwe was! But it's still as beautiful as I remembered. So let's get going on this varied and beautiful route!
The fountain in Brussels Park, with the Belgian Parliament in background
So get yourself to the fountain in Brussels Parc, across from the entrance to the Belgian Parliament. This shady square is lodged between the parliament and the royal palace, and is one of the most popular jogging spots in town.

Turn east and start running east, out Rue de la Loi/Wetstraat. As you enter the EU quarter, you'll already be able to see the gigantic triumphal arch in Cinquantenaire/Jubel Park in the distance, right where we're heading.
Along Loi, let's get by here fast!
This first part of the run is the least pleasant, actually, with loud traffic and office buildings for the first kilometer. You'll run downhill, then up again, past various EU buildings and other offices. On the uphill section, the new European Commission building is on the left side before the Robert Schuman roundabout.
European Commission building in the rain
But once you get past the roundabout, the street gets nicer, with a narrow park as a median strip.

Then, you run straight into Cinquantenaire/Jubel Park, a nicely maintained park dominated by its huge arch, built to celebrate modern Belgium's 50th anniversary.

Cinquantenaire Park
At each side of the arch are some old exhibition buildings now used as museums for art, cars and the military, at the 2-km mark. You can look into the windows of the big airplane hall on the left side to see a lot of cool old planes.
At the arch
Now exit the park, still heading eastwards.  Continue following the street, now called Avenue de Tervueren/Tervurenlaan, which will become increasingly more elegant, lined with nice stone row-houses.
Rowhouses along Tervuren
The further out of the city you run, the nicer it gets. As you come into the wealthy Woluwe suburbs, you're in another world, with huge homes and landscaped gardens.
Montgomery Square
At the three-kilometer mark, you'll come to a huge traffic circle, Montgomery Square. From now on, you'll run past big mansions as you come into Woluwe. 
Amazing art-deco mansion
NOTE: if you want to cut off 5 kilometers from this fairly long run, turn right at Montgomery onto Boulevard Saint-Michel/Sint-Michielslaan and run a few blocks till Rue de l'Escadron, where you turn right and follow the return way back as described later in this route.

Turn in here to the park!
When Avenue de Tervueren comes to a green valley sloping away to the right, take that first cobblestone road down (Montagne aux Ombres/Lommerberg) into the valley, into Woluwe Park. Before the road turns to the right, take the stepped shortcut down towards the ponds below.
The park trail: head uphill, then left
Now, head uphill between the lake and the pond to follow the trail eastwards on the far side of the lake as it turn left, keeping you further from the street noise. This also means, though, that you have to climb the hills over there.

When you come to the paved road after the first lake, cross the street to continue along the trail lining the second lake.
The fake-stone bridge
When you see the little fake-boulder path leading across the lake, cross it to the east to get a nice view of the lake, then turn right to continue southwards, uphill.

When you get to the paved street with car traffic (Avenue du Parc de Woluwe/Woluwelaan), turn right and follow it as it snakes its way westwards up the wooded hill towards the park exit.

NOTE: The rest of the way back involves a lot of zig-zagging from street to street. If you want to keep it simple, just turn around here and re-trace the first part of the run from here. But the route as it continues lets you experience a bit more of this interesting town.
Coming into Woluwe
You'll now enter a quiet Woluwe neighborhood, at the 6-km mark, full of nice villas, running northwards. The street name changes to Avenue des Franciscains/Franciskanenlaan. When you pass the church ahead, the road curves to the right as it goes by a few small stores. Turn left at the little square to run past the bank and continue running north along Avenue des Eglantines/Eglantierenlaan. A really pleasant neighborhood around here!

When you get to Legrain, the street-crossing with the triangular planters in the street, turn right to run downhill, heading north. This street is lined with fairly normal apartments. The further we run back into the center, the less elegant things will get.

After Legrain starts to head uphill again, turn left onto Avenue des Volontaires/Vrijwilligerslaan for just a block, and then turn right to continue northwards along Baron de Castro.

In a few blocks, at the 8-km mark, you'll come to where Castro crosses Boulevard Saint-Michel/Sint-Michielslaan, with its tram line and lots of traffic. Cross the street and continue straight ahead for two blocks.
African archer
When you come to a roundabout surrounded by shops and a supermarket, turn left to keep following the street with the median-strip, passing a statue of an African shooting a bow along Avenue du Front/Frontlaan.

This neighborhood has some fairly modern apartments lining it, and you'll run through a park-like square and continue (the streetname changes to 11 November) till you cross Avenue de la Chasse/Jachtlaan.

After Jachtlaan, take the second right-hand turn and run north along Baron Lambert in Etterbek. The houses look a lot simpler around here, and more urban as we get closer to central Brussels. Keep running along  Baron Lambert until it ends at Chaussée Saint-Pierre/St.-Peter.
Etterbek street
Turn left onto St. Peter, and run until you reach one of the of the coolest spots in Brussels, Jourdan Square, with its outdoor restaurants and cafes. You'll immediately wish you weren't wearing your smelly running gear, and could sit down to enjoy a good Belgian beer at one of those outdoor tables.
Jourdan Square: I want to stay here!
Turn right on the far side of the square to follow the tram tracks northwards to the next intersection with a traffic light, at Chaussée d'Etterbeek, the 10-km mark.

You'll see a park across the street, Leopold Park. So let's get away from the street noise and head into the park, keeping left to run past its little lake, and run past the Lycee school sitting above you on the left.
EU Parliament from Leopold Park: keep right!
Head west through the park, heading towards the giant glass EU buildings ahead, for the European Parliament. We're now back in EU country, and almost done.

When you get to the oval-shaped parliament building, keep right to run past the right side of the glass building next to it (another parliament building). You'll see stairs going up along the side of the building (look for the big, colorful arrows!), taking you up to the higher square in front of the EU buildings, Luxembourg Square. There are giant banners hanging all over, illustrating the insides of the parliament for visitors, a bit of pro-EU propaganda.
Luxembourg Square: EU Parliament entrance
Now turn right to run westwards through the square and along Rue Luxembourg, which will take you a few blocks through some downtown buildings until you come to Troon, a traffic-clogged square and its Metro station. The cross street here follows the course of the old city walls.

Cross Troon and then follow the street to the right (Rue Ducale), past the side of the Royal Palace, then straight into Brussels Park again, where you'll see the fountain across the park where you started. You've made it!
Entering Brussels Park again

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Apalachicola Summer Fun-Run Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 6.1 km (3.8 miles), terrain: flat

If you visit the Florida Panhandle, Apalachicola is sure to be one of those places that stand out as a favorite: a quiet, authentic fishing town on beautiful Apalachicola Bay, full of historic homes, with some of the Gulf-Coast's nicest islands just offshore to the east and west, forming the southern boundary of the bay.
Apalachicola home with live-oak
The people there take great pride in their gracious Victorian-era neighborhoods, full of shady live-oaks and fragrant Confederate jasmine, and the town makes a great place to run. This route combines a loop through the scenic old town with a stretch along the funkier Apalachicola River waterfront, out to the little Botanical Garden.

So get yourself to this great oyster-fishing town, and head to the landmark Gibson Inn on Market Street, just west of where the miles-long Gorrie Bridge carries the coast road, US98, over Apalachicola Bay and into town.
Crab traps in Apalachicola
This few blocks of shops and a gas station form the main business street in this little town of 2,000 people. The Gibson Inn, with its wraparound porches, is the local hangout, day and night. Just across the street you'll see the little Franklin County Courthouse, this being the county seat.

So, let's get a move-on. Turn towards the stone courthouse and run north on the side street called Avenue C. In two blocks, it ends at Water Street, where you turn left and continue for a kilometer. Water Street is home to the fishing fleet, and it also has the few waterfront tourist motels and restaurants in town.
Buoys along Water Street
The water here is that of the Apalachicola River, which flows into the bay right at the bridge. The river begins way up in the North Georgia hills, 180 kilometers north of here.

After passing the little downtown and the fishing boats, you'll run by various houseboats and some somewhat dilapidated businesses.
House-boats for rent
Water Street ends at a little park, with a Vietnam Veterans memorial and the botanical garden. Loop through the garden: it looks like visitors are required to pay entrance, but the grounds-keeper just gave me a friendly wave as I followed my little loop through the simple park.

Exit the park on the other side, heading southwest along Fulton Street for three blocks. This traditionally black neighborhood is fairly simple, and not part of the historic district, but it has its own charms. It's a laid-back, mixed neighborhood with blacks and whites sharing the neighborhood, and it has a few cool old houses and a surprising number of little churches. At 8th Street, at the 2-km mark, turn left to head back towards the old town.
Graves in Chestnut Cemetery
At Avenue I, you'll pass a really cool community garden on your right. Turn left here to run along the back side of the historic Chestnut Cemetary, full of Civil War graves.

When you get to 6th Street, turn right and cross Avenue E (US 98) and into the old town. The Coombs House Inn bed-and-breakfast is on your right and the little Trinity Episcopal Church on your left. The church one of the first pre-fabricated buildings in the US, having been built in New York City to be pegged-together on its present site almost 200 years ago. 
House in the historic district with little lookout on roof
This scenic spot combines a few little parks, a couple of cannons and the John Gorrie Museum (a local doctor, he experimented with refrigeration and air-conditioning to help his fevered patients).

Now run past the Catholic Church down to the bayfront, where 6th Street ends at the marina at Bay Avenue, at the 3-km mark. Turn right here to continue along the water.
Jasmine flowing into the sidewalks: what a fragrant place to run!
Bay Avenue ends at 13th Street, where you turn right to run up the little bluff where Lafayette Park provides a nice view over the bay. Follow the wooden boardwalk out over the water for an even better view.
Home on Lafayette Park
Then return back to the park and exit to the southwest to continue along Avenue B until you hit 16th Street.
Another great house along Columbus Street
Now turn northwest onto 16th Street for a block back to Columbus Street. Here you turn right and run all the way back through the historic district to the Gibson Inn again. This will take you past some of the nicest old homes. Enjoy the neighborhood! You might even want to zig-zag up and down some of the side streets in this great area.
Home with natural garden

Thursday, 26 May 2016

Charleston Hampton Park Running Route

Click here for route map
Length a short 3.2 km (2 miles) but extensible with 1-mile laps of Mary Murray Drive loop, terrain: flat

Here's a nice run, far away from the tourist crowds in the Charleston old town. While the tourists are wandering the magnificent old streets at the south end of the peninsula, there is also a great park run further north, at Hampton Park. The park is surrounded by some pleasant, gentrifying neighborhoods, like Hampton Park Terrace, and it is also bordered by The Citadel military college. This run combines that green parkland, waterfront campus and quiet neighborhoods for a really beautiful route.
Live-oak in Hampton Park
Hampton Park is also packed with history, including being a precursor for today's national Memorial Day holiday. It was the site of an orange grove 250 years ago, then became a horse-race track in the decades before the Civil War. Carolina planters would gather there every February to celebrate their plantation lifestyle with a race festival.

During the Civil War, the racetrack was used as a prison camp for Union troops, and over 250 died there and were buried in a mass grave. Then, in 1865, when the city was surrendered to the Union Army and the white residents had fled, the town's newly-freed black population celebrated a precursor to Memorial Day at the race-track. They reburied the Union soldiers into single graves and then 10,000 people held a procession there, decorating the graves with flowers and singing liberation songs, they then sat down to picnics and watched Union soldiers parade around the grounds.

The graves were later transferred to national military cemeteries.
Firemen out exercising in the early morning near the pond
The racecourse never got going again after the war, and the area was turned into a park, designed by the company that designed Central Park in New York. The west end of the property, along the Ashley River, was given to The Citadel as a new home after their old quarters downtown had gotten too small, so the present park is smaller than was originally planned.

Nowadays an oval road, Mary Murray Drive, follows the original racecourse around the edge of Hampton Park. Mary Murray is a one-way road with a big bike lane, and is fine for running. The course is exactly a mile long, letting you easily add as many laps as you wish to this short route to lengthen it to your needs.
Along Mary Murray Drive
So, ready to visit another historic, beautiful corner of Charleston? Let's get to the east edge of Hampton Park, where Cleveland Street meets Mary Murray Drive. There are two baseball fields and a playground just east of the park proper, in McMahon Playground, north and south of Cleveland Street.

To start the run, turn westwards towards the gazebo in the park and start running! The gazebo was left over after a big international exhibition held on the site. You'll see spreading live-oak trees dripping with Spanish moss to either side.
The gazebo
Just run straight through the park until the path ends before the pond.

Now continue straight across the grass and cross the little bridge over the pond, and continue over the grass at the other side. 
Crossing the pond
When you reach the next flower-lined path, turn right and head to the north edge of the park, running past the parking lot back to Mary Murray Drive. This is the part of the park where the graves once stood, at the site of the old racetrack grandstand.

NOTE: You can start the run here, if you need a place to park.

Now turn left and follow Mary Murray until the left-hand curve. Here, continue westwards along Jenkins Avenue, passing through the gate into The Citadel. It's a private college, but it's open for runners like us.
The Citadel entrance on Jenkins Avenue: just cruise on through and hang left!
Follow Jenkins Avenue as it takes you to the left between some college classrooms and Summerall Field, the big parade grounds. You'll likely see cadets moving between buildings, going to classes and crossing the field.
Cadets crossing Summerall Field
Keep running westwards along Jenkins until it ends at the waterfront of the wide Ashley River. There are estuary swamps along the water's edge, so take a closer look by running out to the end of the little pier behind the clubhouse towards the right. It's a beautiful sight! Originally, Hampton Park was supposed to continue to the river here, with a riverside path here, but that never happened.
The estuary at the pier
So now turn south to run along Hammond Avenue, with the river to your right side. There are some athletic fields here.

After the sports fields, Hammond Avenue passes some housing for faculty (officers), and curves to the left.
Faculty housing on campus
At the first turnoff to the right, take Mims Avenue as it loops past more faculty housing (it looks just like the housing in the Presidio in San Francisco!) and heads north to Richardson Street.

At Richardson, turn right, then left to get you back to the south end of Summerall Field.

Now turn right on Lee Avenue and run eastwards out of the Citadel campus and into the Hampton Park Terrace neighborhood.
Along Moultrie Street
You're now back at the southwest corner of Hampton Park, and you have the choice of either running east past the old homes along Moultrie Street, or run a few meters within the park itself along Mary Murray again, which parallels Moultrie here.

Now just follow the south edge of the park until Ashley Avenue, where Mary Murray Drive curves to the north, and follow that curve past the baseball field.

In just a few steps, you'll be back at the start, and can now add one or more laps along Mary Murray to add some distance. Have fun!