A Kaleidoscope of Nice, France

A quick train ride from Villenueve-Loubet into Nice for a walking exploration of the city.


An Elegant Yellow Building

Nice, where the natural beauty of the distant mountains hug the soft yellow buildings accented by green shutters, red-tiled roofs – a warmer version of Paris.

Sitting for a cafe noisette (espresso with a touch of milk) at an outdoor table, when a jarring boom interrupted our conversation. I looked wide-eyed at my partner: an uneasiness overcame me. Thoughts of recent events in France flashed through my mind, but my fears were assuaged when I noticed a man sitting in a truck. I made a hand gesture attempting to describe the sound. He nodded and pointed to his wrist indicating something about time. Realizing it was noon, I nodded and smiled: the boom announced lunch.

A touch of paranoia is reasonable.


Miroir d’Eau – Promenade de Pauillon

The majestic presence of the Hotel La Scala overlooks the Miroir d’Eau (the water mirror), an interactive fountain that erupts in stages. Starting at one end of the plaza, the water spouts incrementally – low bursts to high – a varying sequence of heights, staggered timing – as if a symphony conductor controlled the rhythm of the fountain.

Young and old are inspired to express themselves by skipping, walking, running through the bursts of water with huge smiles on their faces. A plump woman in a wet, black and white dress holds a dramatic ballet pose in front of the spurting water while her friend takes a picture. A small boy pauses on a spout of water, fills up his bathing suit, then pretends to pee for an audience of parents sitting on benches and passersby who laugh at his silly showmanship.

A cacophony of action makes the fountain a performance space.


Wooden Whale Climbing Structure

On Rue Jean Baptiste… children are welcome. A playground with a wooden whale lures its prey to have fun.

The MOMAC – Modern Contemporary Art Museum – two new artists I have absorbed for the first time: Niki de Saint Phalle (colorful, cartoon-like paintings with personal anecdotes plus large paper mache figures) and Yves Klein (torso prints smudged in thick blue paint).

A surreal feeling coats the Promenade d’Anglais as a group of four soldiers in green fatigues pass by with machine guns held in a ready position. Without planning, we come upon the memorial – heads low – look at the notes, candles and stuffies… nothing more to say.


Antique Merry-Go-Round Waiting for Riders

A carousel waits for a few children to vie for a spot on the white horses or the Cinderella pumpkin while my daughter spots the pink pig on the second floor. The music starts and the lovely creatures float obliviously in an endless loop.

Travel is full of contrasts. By acknowledging the ugliness, the beauty overrides the sadness that makes me want to stay home and hide in fear.

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Denouement: Running the Marathon du Medoc


A Regal Chateau

I relax in a whirlpool tub easing the tension in my calves and hamstrings – while reliving the beauty of the chateaux and vineyards that I left behind after completing the marathon – stiff but not bad considering… the hills!

Nowhere did I read about the hilliness of the vineyards, a foreshadowing moment occurred when I met a man on the plane to France two weeks ago who had run the marathon years earlier and commented in a serious tone:

there are many hills.”

I briefly panicked hearing that description and then forgot about it until half way through the run.

First Ten Kilometres


Fresh at start line…

The golden confetti rained on our heads as we surged forward with a joie de vivre that lasted for about the first five kilometres.

Huge, jostling crowds at the first few water/wine stations prevented me from getting water let alone wine. I realized this wasn’t going to be just “a fun, casual run.” The silly costumes and jovial atmosphere hid the true nature of the run: deceivingly difficult.

At one point, I was eating dust from the dirt road kicked up by the runners ahead of me. Motorcycle cameramen passing me spewing gas fumes, which I tried to avoid breathing, and silly men with swords, daggers and canes kept waving the ‘weapons’ absurdly close to my face.

But I could handle the obstacles in my way and I had a strong running gait – onward!

30 Kilometre Mark

Lead-like legs, rocky dirt roads, uneven terrain and endless rows of grape-bulging vines undulating through the countryside, I was beginning to suffer as I trudged through the Haut-Medoc region of France. I felt a stiffness in my knee and hamstrings that I had never experienced before – at one point I thought: should I quit before I hurt myself?

An emphatic “NO” blared in my head!

I could still move so that made me believe, even if I did injure myself, it wouldn’t be so bad.


Running by Rows and Rows of Grape Vines (Cabernet-Sauvignon, Merlot?)

Overhearing one man speaking in English (I think he was Danish talking to a German woman):

“If you drink enough wine, it makes you forget the pain you have.”

I heeded his advice and actually had a few more sips of wine after 37 kilometres and yes, the stiffness/pain seemed less obvious. I have never tasted such perfect wines – a fresh, fruity, rich superb essence – so smooth but an earthy edge. I gazed lovingly at the purple, almost black, grapes soaking up the sun, making them bulge with flavourful juice. I had an urge to jump in the middle of the vines and hug them.


Plump Juicy Grapes (I think they are cabernet sauvignon since they are my favourite)

The beauty of the chateaux and the picturesque setting didn’t make the run easier. But the five sips of amazing, superb wine, sausage, homemade nut bars plus oranges and bananas – made it worth the torture of the hills.

Why Continue to Run Marathons, I ask myself?

I have tried to figure out why I keep doing marathons and I think I’ve decided that it pushes me to a high level of physical (and mental) exertion that can’t be matched in everyday life and therefore makes me remember the run vividly – makes me remember moments of my life vividly. It breaks the habitual nature of life. I need that. So I will continue to push myself to run (in this case some walking involved) 42.2 kilometres and experience the feeling of every muscle in my body working to get me up all the hills that I encounter in everyday life.


Me and my daughter (Cleo) running together at finish line

And now I pour myself a glass of Les Hauts de Trintaudon, Haut-Medoc wine…

Stay Tuned for further marathon reflections…

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Surreal Run-up to Marathon du Medoc

We slept with wet towels draped on our bodies trying to stay cool as the temperature reached 38 degrees Celsius with no A/C in our Bordeaux hotel. I got up the next day and staggered around like a zombie!

(sorry no pics – too distracted!)

Ready to travel to Carcans (a village 17 kms from start line in Pauillac), we waited for the 710 bus from Bordeaux to take us to arrive, then it started to rain… and the bus never came.

The exhaustion, rain and no bus made me wonder if running a marathon in two days was possible (or wear a zombie costume).

Still determined, we rented a car and drove the hour to Carcans (taking a few wrong roundabout turns)…

cottage_careMade it to Camping Les Pins (just outside of Carcans) and our cute cottage where we had a luxurious night’s sleep.

* *

But today in our pine-treed oasis, the temperature has dropped to a freezing 16 degrees – yes, I am now chilled to the bone. After a refreshing sleep and a short run around the grounds, I am ready to tackle (and enjoy) the 42.2 kilometres (with fingers crossed).

Heading into Pauillac for racing bibs, figuring out how to get to the start line, drinking litres of water and eating sausage and pasta.

hatOh, I almost forgot – still have to sew a beak onto my hat…

Next stop: run that marathon1

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Last Long Training Run before Marathon du Medoc


Gare de Lyon, Paris @ 7am

On the high speed train (SNCF) from Gare de Lyon, Paris to the south of France. Finding the right train car is always a challenge at 7am especially when the ticket (printed at home) is difficult to read. But a helpful French man figures out it’s car 15. We walk/run along the platform beside the sleek blue train and arrive at our car with two minutes to spare – a 4 1/2 hour ride awaits us.

Villenueve-Loubet (12 kms from Nice)

I look out the window from the small cabin in Camping Parc des Mourettes – grey sky hovers replacing blue from the day before. Letting the curtain fall back in place, I see a flash of lightning followed by a rumble of thunder.

It is my last scheduled long run in preparation for the Marathon du Medoc, but I hesitate since getting struck by lightning would put a crimp in the training. But at least it will be cool. The temperature has been hovering over 30 degrees C for the last week and I am almost acclimatized to the heat.

I’m hoping to get to Nice and return.


Statue Telling me To Turn Back?

Downhill from the camping ground, I cross the main road to the train station and then take the under pass metres from the Mediterranean Sea. There is no beach running here – no sand, just small pebbles. I need to make it around the large pyramid-like apartment complex that blocks the sea view. A quick run along the edge of the fast road until I see an entrance through the complex and the red walking path.


Bleak Boardwalk

The run really begins now that I have no cars to fend off and the lightning has stopped. I pass leisure boats, fishing boats and reach a faux boardwalk hugging the sea. Picking up my pace to outrun the rain,


Complicated Path to Nice

I glide through the towns of Cagnes sur Mer, Cros-de-Cagnes and finally Saint-Laurent-du-Var. I pause, looking for a safe, calm route into Nice.

I quickly discover that the route is too complicated to navigate. I stop and turn around.

It will be another 10 kms back to the campground (plus a hill) – a decent training run (with dry running shoes). Tonight I will sleep well knowing I have completed the last long run before the marathon.

Next stop: Nice by local train (a twenty minute ride).

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Paris: Petit-Montrouge Running Route


Intersection: Avenue General Leclerc and Rue d’Alesia

Big city heat greets me at 7am – heavy, still air highlights the smell of sewage, rotting fruit and pastries – it must be Paris!

I turn left along Avenue General Leclerc – passing street cleaners, and cafe waiters aligning chairs, all pointing toward the street for the breakfast crowd.

My shirt clings to my body as I reach the intersection of Rue d’Alesia. Not sure which way to go, I notice a woman in running gear walking down d’Alesia, but I continue along Leclerc until I realize it will not be a pleasant run. I retrace my steps and make my way along the quieter Rue d’Alesia. The air seems fresher and fewer cars pass by. Across the street, I see a golden red glow emanating from a Vienoiserie/Boulangerie


Tempting Patisseries

luring me in for a café noisette and croissant, but I resist.

Since my route is vague, I scan the side streets for an oasis – et voila! – I see a tree- lined path. Turn right. My goal is to reach the end of the trees and turn around. But to my surprise, I reach a wrought-iron fenced park with a sign: Parc Montsouris.


Les Naufrages – Man holding fainting woman

Entering through the gate, I see a paved path that rises and disappears into the lush trees. Assuming it circles around the island of grass, I almost sprint up the hill making my unplanned-adventure run satisfying since I had forgotten about the heat and heavy air as I figured out my route. A great way to train.

A dramatic statue reminds me that I am running in Paris still training for the Marathon du Medoc, which takes place in less than two weeks.

*  *  *

Next stop: Villeneuve-Loubet (a high-speed train ride to the South of France).

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Marathon du Medoc Costume Dilemma?!?

How to choose and make a costume to run 42.2 kms in September when temperatures can reach 30 degrees?

Colourful, comfortable, and cool are the requirements.

The theme of the 2016 Marathon du Medoc is Tales and Legends – a large category to wade through, but I’ve narrowed it down to a mythical bird creature. Never having run in a costume, I’ve considered a design that keeps with the lightness of a bird, which implies ease of running. Besides, I’ve yet to see a bird breathing hard.

A phoenix rising from the ashes? Too serious for a fun marathon. But a play on a phoenix is from Hindu mythology, the Garuda – part bird and part man – rejuvenated by the sun’s rays each day.  An uplifting thought while running through picturesque, sun drenched vineyards.


Garuda-esque Runner

The legend reads: Lord Vishnu rode atop the Garuda – while seeking protection from poisonous entities. Garuda saved his mother by retrieving ambrosia from heaven to give to her captors. After returning the ambrosia, he was rewarded with a meal of serpents. His role in Hinduism is protector against poisonous creatures – or evilness.

What do I want to express while running in the vineyards of Medoc? A feeling of invincibility, joy, power…spread my wings and fly – that might help when I’m depleted of all my life force at 37 kms – my usual spot in a marathon where I feel as if I’m plodding through quicksand. Maybe the wind will catch my wings and transport me to the finish line. (I can only hope).

Garuda makes a good contrast to the frivolity of imbibing in fabulous wine and food since I may be feeling evil at the finish line (if I eat the oysters and foie gras) – it should protect me from myself!

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Steps to a (Fun) Marathon

Marathon du Medoc


Runners Snake Through Vineyards in Medoc

The first attempt at registering for a marathon in a foreign country usually fails, which happened to me for Marathon du Medoc. But a year later, I am organized.

Not only is mental preparedness and timing important for training, it helps for registering as well.

First step: prepare mind.

I see myself running 42.2 kms in a foreign country – the Medoc (wine) region of France – where sunshine, chateaux and vineyards surround you as you run wearing a silly costume.

Yes, I am ready to commit myself to hours of training – logging kilometres and litres (of wine).

Second Step: get in-sync with registration timing.

Registration: having missed the previous year’s registration deadline, I checked the site every morning from mid-February to March 1. But before I actually registered I setup an account in anticipation. Patience and perseverance required. February 28… Calculating the time difference – 9 hours ahead – I try late February 29 – nothing – credit card ready… early morning March 1 – Yes – registration opens!

Typing madly with personal info – pick a basic package – without accommodation or pasta dinner.

Select basic entry package only – click OK.

Sold out!

No! It’s only been 10 minutes! Try again, pick package, without accommodation but with pasta dinner. Click OK.

Accepted – yes, I’m in, but…

A medical certificate is required (since drinking wine is part of the race). Download sample form – print. Fill out. Make appointment for doctor. Go to doctor for signing. Done. Upload to site. Wait for response. Wait, wait…

No response a week later. A glitch. Re-send. Still no response. Third try, and an email confirmation received next day – registration is complete.

Whew! Next step is figuring out a costume (mandatory)!



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