Sunday, 15 January 2017

Paris Jardin du Luxembourg Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 4.6 km (2.9 miles), terrain: flat

Paris Running Routes:
Best Paris Running Routes: Overview
Seine island of St. Louis, St. Paul, botanical garden  
Left bank and Luxembourg Gardens 
Paris' green heart: Bois de Boulogne   

Canal St. Martin  
Rock formations of Parc Chaumont  
Seine loop with Champs Elysees and Eiffel Tower  

Seine riverside run 
Bois de Vincennes 
Versailles Palace Gardens 
La Défense/Nanterre 
Saint Germain 
For more running routes, see Route List
Here's a nice little run that packs-in a lot of real Parisian flair: a route from the middle of the Seine River through the creative Left Bank neighborhood of St. Germain and then on through the elegant Jardin du Luxembourg park. Along the way, it will pass such historic sites as the École des Beaux-Arts, Saint Germain des Prés church and the French Senate palace.
Picnic on the Pont des Arts. The love-locks have since been banished
The St. Germain neighborhood is full of history, famous for its cafés, bookstores and art galleries. It's long been the home of great French designers, students, revolutionaries, musicians and free-thinkers of every sort. St. Germain was almost predestined to become the home of the existentialist philosophy movement in the 1950s.

Intrigued? Then let's get going! Head to the Pont des Arts footbridge across the Seine, at the Louvre. This is one of my favorite bridges anywhere: gathering place for couples and friends for a bottle of wine and a piece of cheese on nice summer evenings, with the Louvre Palace on the one bank and the domed elegance of the Institut de France on the other. But we're not here to just hang out and watch the tour boats glide beneath the bridge, so off we go!
Facing the Institut de France, with fish-people doing their thing
Run south across the bridge, heading towards the Institut dome, then turn right to follow the river and the green booksellers' boites for a block along the quay. Now cross the zebra stripes to the left to enter narrow Rue Bonaparte, heading south again.
Boites along the Seine
The galleries begin immediately, with amazing objects which you would you can hardly imagine that such things really exist. Every cross-street around here is full of even more galleries, a collection that no other city in the world can offer. After a block, you'll pass the École des Beaux-Arts, the French national school of design. The lucky students who get to study design around here!
Art-gallery opening-night vernissage across from the design school
In another two blocks, you'll cross Rue Jacob, and down that street on the right the Treaty of Paris was signed between the US and Britain, ending the American War of Independence. Benjamin Franklin led the American delegation. 
Amazing objects at this gallery
NOTE: And down Rue Jacob in the other direction, there's one of my favorite Parisian hotels, Hôtel des Marronniers, set off the street on its own courtyard, with a beautiful breakfast terrace out back.
The good life in the Hotel des Marronniers
After another block, you'll come to the church of Saint Germain des Prés, what's left of a once-important monastery. It was closed during the French Revolution and was then partly used as a prison, where a massacre of the prisoners was carried out when counter-revolutionary armies approached Paris. The church is beautiful, and maybe you'll get lucky and be able to visit it for a concert some evening.

Now cross the busy street Boulevard Saint Germain and keep running south along Rue Bonaparte. In a couple more blocks, at the one-kilometer mark, you'll see the huge, strangely unfinished church of St. Sulpice. The bell tower to the right side was never finished: work stopped when the tower threatened to collapse.  
Saint Sulpice church
NOTE: By the way, this church played a role in Dan Brown's thriller, The Da Vinci Code, where a nun is murdered by a bad-guy who was searching for a clue buried under the Rose Line running through the church floor.

Continuing south from the church, Rue Bonaparte is lined by a narrow park on the left, making it even nicer.

The street ends at Rue de Vaugirard, with the fence for the Jardin du Luxembourg straight ahead. Turn left and run along the fence until you find the entrance after just 30 meters.
Chess players in the park
Now run into the park, continuing southwards through the trees, past the chess-players and the playgrounds and the mini Statue of Liberty. There are oases of quiet towards the back side. While other Parisian parks, like Tuileries, are totally overrun by tourists, this one is still full of locals. How refreshing!
Quiet spot in the back-end of the park
When you get to the back end of the park, keep to the left to exit at the main south gates, at the two-kilometer mark.

You are now running south through a green, narrow square, the Jardin des Grands Explorateurs, flanked by some old university buildings.

Run the two blocks until the square ends, rounding the fountains with their wild copper horses and return to Luxembourg Garden along the other side, re-entering the south gates.
Heading towards the palace
Run straight towards the Palais du Luxumbourg ahead, home of the French Senate. Keep along the right side, and enjoy all the people relaxing in this amazingly elegant setting, passing the three-kilometer mark. 
The palace, home to the Sénat
You'll pass another quiet oasis on the right side, the Fontaine Medicis. The 350-year-old palace and gardens was built by Marie Medicis, mother of King Louis XIII.
The Fontaine Medicis, with obligatory couple making-out
Now exit the park next to the palace and turn left and run towards the Sénat entrance and the police watch, and then turn right to head up Rue de Tournon.

This fairly residential neighborhood is typical Saint Germain, upscale but creative, with a lot of nice local shops and a covered market to the left in a couple of blocks.

The street name changes to Rue de Seine and you'll cross busy Boulevard Saint-Germain again.
Lively Rue de Buci
In a block, you'll cross Rue de Buci, a street of door-to-door restaurants full of tourists, but a fun place nevertheless.
The famous Boissonnerie fish restaurant
Run past the wonderful mosaic facade of the Boissonnerie fish restaurant and you'll find yourself back in the heart of the galleries again, with each gallery window more amazing than the last.
Still more galleries
In a few blocks, you'll be back at the Institut de France, and just a few steps away from the Pont des Arts finish. Ah, Paris!

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Segovia Walled City Loop Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 6.6 km (4.1 miles), terrain: hilly, gain of 155 meters

Segovia is one of those hidden gems that are maybe off your radar, but are well worth getting there: beautiful, historic, elegant, scenic, and with lots of tourists, but it hasn't lost its soul to tourism. And if you're working/visiting Madrid for an extended period, as I just did, then plan a day-trip to this great town, with spectacular running terrain all around it.
The Segovia aqueduct and city walls
You can easily get there: it takes less than a half-hour on the bullet train from Madrid's Chamartin station, and only costs about €20, round trip. Tip: at the Segovia-Guiomar train station, run to be early in line at the bus-stop to take the bus 11 into town (costs €2 each way).
View of the old town from the castle, with snow-covered mountains in background
Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a hilltop town, almost completely surrounded by its old walls, with one of the most scenic castles anywhere, and with a huge, perfectly intact Roman aqueduct. The old town is a maze of lanes and plazas, and the leafy, park-like river valleys below town are a perfect place to do some running out in Castilian nature, with great views of the town and castle from below.

So that's just what this route will do: combine a quiet valley run with a loop up into the old town and castle: packing a lot of scenery into a moderately-portioned run.
Plaza Artillería and the aqueduct
We'll start the run in the spot where all tourists approach Segovia, at Plaza Artillería, the spot where the 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct spans the valley between the new town hill and the old town hill. The towering aqueduct dominates the scene, and deserves a bit of appreciation before we get started on the run. You can go up the hill along the aqueduct to the south to get a great view of how it heads into the old town.

NOTE: Plaza Artillería is the spot where the buses from the train station dump out the day-tourists.
Along Paseo Guzmán
So, ready to start now? Standing on the east side of the aqueduct, at the bus stops, go to the roundabout and follow the Paseo Santo Domingo de Guzmán as it heads north along the base of the old-town hill, then curving westwards.

You'll be following a sidewalk along this fairly quiet street, heading downhill. You'll see the river valley stretching out down below, to the right, and the dry hills beyond. To the other side, the town walls rise beside you to the left side.

After about 700 meters, you'll see a monastery and its church sitting just below you on the right. Take the steps or the street down to it and turn left to continue just past its grounds. The monastery now houses IE University.
AI University in the old monastery
Pass the parking lot and continue following the cobblestone trail as it heads downhill to the river below.

At the 1-kilometer-mark, you'll cross an old stone bridge over the Río Eresma. The riverside is lined by green parkland. Turn left to head west along the river on the dirt trail, called Calle Cuesta de los Hoyos.
Running along the Río Eresma
Just before the 2-kilometer mark, the trail rises above a dam, where another old stone bridge and the old royal mint provide the foreground for a great view of the castle in the background.
Royal Mint and castle
At this spot, another monastery, Santa María del Parral sits to the right, up the hill to the north. It's worth it to run up the hill a bit and take a look at the buildings, and maybe even take the trail further up the hill to get a better view of Segovia from there.
Santa María del Parral monastery
Now run back down and catch a glimpse of the mint, built 500 years ago to use the water power to roll New World silver and gold into Spanish coins.
Mint mill-wheels
Continue westwards along the same path again, with the river to your left.

You'll run under an old stone road bridge, then the trail will curve to the right as you pass the Alcázar, the castle, above.

You'll then see a wooden footbridge over the river, so cross it and then take the trail to the left -- now heading the opposite direction -- running past the Alcázar along the other side. The castle sits perched on the cliffs at a point where two river valleys merge.
View up to the castle: now this is one scenic route!
The views of the castle throning above are spectacular here. The trail is now winding its way uphill past cliffs, along the west side of the old town.
Trail up to town
When you're past the castle, you'll see a trail branch off next to the cliffs on the left, heading up to the old walled city above you, straight towards the cathedral tower. Take that rather steep trail up and you'll enter town through the gate, Puerta de San Andrés.
Entering Puerta de San Andrés
You'll enter a plaza with half-timbered houses: turn right, right after entering the gate, and follow the street, Calle Martinez Campos upwards, with the wall to your right side.
Entering the old town
You'll come to the cathedral walls, topped a dome adorned with Gothic spires and gargoyles. Continue rounding the back-end of the cathedral and you'll come out into the town's main square, Plaza Mayor.
Plaza Mayor
This beautiful plaza is lined by the town hall, a theater and various restaurants with their outside tables.
Cathedral spires
Circle the plaza to get a good look, then head back to the cathedral and exit the plaza by heading past the main entrance to the cathedral, northwards along Calle Marques del Arco.
Doorway along Calle Marques del Arco
So now you're heading past the typical old-town houses and shops with ancient doorways, and you'll pass a triangular plaza at the San Andres church, then come out to the green square in front of the castle.
Entering the castle park square
The square is open to everyone, so loop the square and take a close look at the castle and take in the views to each side (you're 1,000 meters high!). 

The Alcázar drawbridge
The current gothic castle is 900 years old, built on the foundations of a Roman fort. The Alcázar is said to be an inspiration for Disney's Cinderella's Castle, which I can readily believe.
In the castle park

Now head back out of the little park and head up the street that splits off from Calle Marques del Arco towards the left, Calle Velarde.

Calle Velarde gate
This little lane will take us into the Knights' Quarter, coming out to San Esteban church with its arcade porch, facing the austere facade of the bishop's palace. 
San Esteban
At the palace, run past its right side along Calle Valdeláguila until you come to the next little square with the outdoor café.

Now turn right and at the next plaza (Plaza Potro) turn right again and in a few steps you'll be back in Plaza Mayor.

Run past the Teatro Juan Bravo and exit the plaza on Calle Serafin, the main shopping street in the neighborhood, with cafés and old stores.
Plaza del Dr. Laguna fountain
In a couple of blocks, a green plaza will open upon the right, Plaza del Dr. Laguna, so turn right and run through the plaza and then turn left onto Calle Rodriguez to head downhill back towards the aqueduct, running past the old seminary.
Cats on the aqueduct where it enters the old town
The street ends at Calle Obispo Gandásegui, where you turn left and approach the upper end of the aqueduct. Now just follow the steps down to Plaza Artillería, next to the aqueduct. You'll exit the city walls and stand in the majestic shadows of the aqueduct again.
Aqueduct view from the steps
Now if this wasn't a scenic run, what is?

Sunday, 11 December 2016

Madrid Rio Manzanares Running Route

Click here for route map
Length 9.1 km (5.6 miles) or 6km if you turn around at stadium, terrain: flat

NOTE: Of course you can turn around any time you please, making the run shorter to fit your needs.

One of Madrid's best-kept running secrets is the great route along the Manzanares river. This stretch of waterfront provides quiet promenades and parkland for miles. And we're lucky that it's this way: there are actually freeways under the promenades, so if the city planers hadn't decided to cover them up, the river would be wedged into a corset of inaccessible urban blight.
The Manzanares at the start of the run
So let's celebrate this great planning decision: the river belongs to the people! And what people enjoy a long stretch of nature in the middle of a city like runners do.

The Rio Manzanares flows along the west side of the city. The city center sits on a plateau to the east, with the palace and cathedral perched on the bluff, looking out over the river and to the Casa de Campo nature reserve further west.

The part of the river which has been turned into parkland begins just west of the palace, and continues southwards past Calderón Stadium, home of the Atletico Madrid soccer club. Actually, south of the stadium is the best part of the river run, where the riverside park widens to include more than just a narrow promenade with some lawns and trees.

In the wide park area, called Arganzuela, there are fountains, a skateboard park, playgrounds and greenhouses.
In Arganzuela park
There are also lots of other sights along the run: ancient stone bridges, boat-locks in the river and a variety of pedestrian bridges to let you switch sides fairly often.

The promenades line both sides of the river, but the one on the west shore is continuous, whereas the one on the eastern shore is interrupted for a couple of kilometers where the stadium and some uncovered freeway block access. But the best part of the parkland is on the eastern side, so you'll probably want to switch sides for at least part of the run.

So, if this sounds like something for you, get yourself down to the riverside, just west of the royal palace, at the beautiful old stone bridge, the Puente del Rey. You can take the Metro to stations like Príncipe Pío, Plaza de España or Opera to get close to it, if you like.
The Puente del Rey
Down at the bridge, you just have to turn southwards and run. This route will start by running along the western shore, so cross the river and turn left to head south. Just hug the river and everything will be fine. It's hard to believe that a busy road (the M30 ring-motorway) lies right below your footsteps in this quiet spot.
At the Puente de Segovia
At the next bridge, the Puente de Segovia, the promenade widens for some fountains.

Soon after, a footbridge covered by trees veers off to the left, crossing the river.

After you pass a green metal footbridge, the Puente de Andorra, you'll see Calderón Stadium coming into view, sitting right on the water's edge on the left shore. From this point onwards for a while, only the west shore is open to pedestrians.
Calderón Stadium, Atletico's home
At the stadium, the 2-kilometer mark, the river curves to the left and then you'll see the ancient stone bridge, Puente del Toledo coming up. We'll go out onto the bridge on our way back, it's worth a close look!
Approaching Puente del Toledo
This is where the most scenic part of the run begins. The Arganzuela parkland opens up across the river. We'll stay on the promenade along the west side for now, passing the futuristic DNA-spiral footbridge, the Pasarela de la Arganzuela, at the 3-kilometer mark.
Walkable DNA strand
After passing a sluice in the river and going under a big car bridge, you'll see the buildings of the botanical garden in Arganzuela park.

When you come to the second of twin modern covered bridges, at about the 4.3-km mark, cross the river and now head back north along the other shore.
Cross the river here, botanical garden in background
There is a winding main path, plus others you can take through the park. You'll pass the glass greenhouse of the Crystal Palace, part of the botanical garden.
Crystal Palace
Enjoy the view: the skateboard park, the fountains, cafés, playgrounds: it's a great hangout, right at the water's edge.
At the skateboard park
The main park road climbs up to be even with the entrance to the old Puente del Toledo, so run out to the middle to take a look at the statuary of this beautiful spot, if you didn't take the smaller path that goes under the bridge.
Puente del Toledo
Now head to the next footbridge before the stadium and cross to the western side again and continue northwards.

Just after the 7-kilometer mark, you'll see the green-metal Puente del Andorra. Cross back to the east side here and continue northwards. Watch out when you come to the bridge of trees that you don't accidentally take it back to the west side.
Along the eastern shore
Back at the Puente de Segovia, the path turns right to get around the base of the bridge. You have to cross at a traffic signal, then continue running through the last bit of park below the palace.

You'll see a brick church there, the Ermita de la Vírgen del Puerto, then you'll be back at the start. Great stretch of riverfront!