Friday, September 14, 2012

Bomb threat at UT Austin

Today's morning has been quite eventful, and it is only 10:30am.  We got steady rain all yesterday evening and through the night, which in central TX is on its own very unusual.  After a morning run and breakfast, I headed into work as usual.  When I got to my desk, it was quiet as many Fridays are, people were just starting to come in and get things going.  I was getting settled at my desk when I received a text message from the University alert system.  We get these on a regular basis, so I didn't think much of it until I opened it:
Evacuation Due to threats on campus immediately evacuate all buildings get as far away from the buildings as possible.  Further information to come.
Okay, that seemed a little scary.  The text was poorly punctuated and I immediately thought, maybe it is a hoax?  I work in the top floor of my building, so my first thought was to alert my labmates, take my stuff and head to the main office where they would have more information.  None of my labmates who where in had read the text yet, and in the few minutes it took me to alert them, the building's emergency alarm system went off.  We all headed outside into throngs of people.

I have never been at UT during a campus wide evacuation before.  My building does get evacuated when gas alarms or chemical spills occur, but that is just one building and it is easy to move away from our building to a safe spot.  Two years ago, there was a shooter on campus, but then we were told to stay in our buildings and by no means go outside.  Today was different.  There was no where to go.  UT Austin has 50,000 students, not to mention thousands of staff members.

In a few minutes, Boyfriend and I found each other and agreed it was probably a bomb threat that would take a long time to be resolved and we should just go home.  About this time, UT Staff members were also telling students to go home.  So what happened?

This is a pretty serious bomb threat and I am glad UT reacted as it did.  You can see a news story here, but more information will likely come out over the course of the day.  This morning, a man claiming to be associated with Al Qaeda called into the University saying he had placed bombs all over campus and they would go off in 90 minutes.

At this point that is all I know.  I appreciate how quickly and efficiently the University contacted everyone and continues to update via text and email alerts.  It is certainly not easy to handle such a large body of students and staff, especially in an emergency.  Hopefully this is just a scare and nothing will come from it except a minor disruption to the work week.
In other news, I did get a run in this morning, 9 miles over hills in the rain.  I love running in the rain, especially when its been hot and humid.  What a reprieve!  Given the events of the day, I am even happier that I got a run in because the endorphins keep me calm and clear headed.

That is all I've got for now.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Transitioning to Fall

September is upon us and that means that August, typically the hottest month in Central TX, is past us.  I survived and logged 174 miles in the process.  I'm pretty happy with that, but have a goal of 200+ miles for this month, aiming for 45 miles for each of the first two weeks and then 50+ for the last two weeks of September.  I'm hoping that the increased  mileage will time with a drop in daily temperatures.
A snapshot of Secret Beach in Austin, TX

The labor day weekend was warm in Austin, with daily highs hitting triple digits.  It made me very lethargic and hermit-like during the middle of the day.  Boyfriend was out of town, so I was flying solo as the single mom to Bailey.  I got up very early each morning (by 6am) and headed out for my run and then did not emerge for more exercise until the evenings, when I took Miss Bailey on walks.  If I went out during the day, it was errands that utilized the air conditioned car.  The exception was a trip to Secret Beach with Bailey on labor day.  We went with her friend Raisin.  Secret Beach is a stretch of sandy shoreline along the Colorado River in East Austin.  It is very hipster (perhaps you already got it from the name) and people will bring coolers and beach blankets and hang out.  It is also great for dogs who like to run around, splash and generally be hooligans.

Bailey (left) and Raisin (right), doing doggy things and 'sploring
Bailey, having a great time
Chasing after boys
Enjoying the water and trying to cool off
The heat has continued to build since this weekend and through this week, with triple digits nearly every day. Boo! I hate it!  The good news?  Tomorrow might be the last triple digit day of the year!  I glanced at the 10 day forecast and tomorrow is projected to hit 104F (yuck!) but then highs in the 90s for 9 days after that.  Average highs for the second half of September are high 80s and 90s, so I can only hope it is all downhill from here.  There is nothing pleasant about physically feeling your skin burning from the UV rays in the five minutes it takes you to walk between buildings on campus.

Anyways, here is my week thus far:
Monday: 8.51 miles over hills, 90 minutes of flag football
Tuesday: off! Boyfriend returns :)
Wednesday: 8.16 miles, 90 minutes of flag football
Thursday: 2km swim

Wish me some cool, dry weather!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

A Day in Alsace - Strasbourg

This weekend I ran both Saturday and Sunday.  Although the temperatures and weather conditions were pretty much the same, the runs felt like night and day.  Saturday morning I did my long run and it was tough.  I felt so exhausted only 6 miles in (which were all downhill or flat), which is a bad sign and quite surprising as my daily runs are 8+ miles.  I was super sweaty and just couldn't get enough water.  Because I ran the Town Lake trail, I was able to refill my bottles about half way through, but still drained them by the end of the run. Although my average pace was okay, I felt like I was slogging through the last few miles, I didn't enjoy it and I felt wiped by the time I got home.

This morning was completely different.  I decided after yesterday's sweat-fest long run that I would treat today as a recovery and go easy.  Nonetheless, it was one of those oh-so-easy-everything-clicks runs that remind us why we love the sport.  I felt really good, never very thirsty and each mile got progressively faster without trying.  Halfway through, things felt good, so I tacked on an extra mile around the pond before heading home.  When I got home, I did feel like I could have kept running.

Isn't that just how running is, always going in cycles?  I'm certainly hoping for another good one tomorrow!

This week I ran 46.5 miles (!) and swam 2km.  Beginning of the week here.
Friday: 8.5 miles total; Track workout, 3.5 miles hard
Saturday: 11.45 miles; sucky long run
Sunday: 9 miles; awesome recovery run

I have two more cities to recap from my trip to Europe.  Read earlier reports for Biarritz, Bordeaux, Paris & Echternach.
Timber frame houses in Petite France
After Echternach, Boyfriend and I took a train to Strasbourg, located in the Alsace region of France.  The Alsace region borders the Rhine river and Germany and throughout history was shifted back and forth between Germany and France.  This makes Strasbourg an especially interesting city to visit because of the mix of French and German culture.  This is reflected in the architecture (timber-frame houses) and cuisine.

Strasbourg is a really old settlement, having been around long enough that it was at one point under control of the Roman Empire.  It thrived during the Middle Ages as a trade city.  To protect itself, the oldest part of the city (now known as Petite France) is an island surrounded by the Ill river, which flows into the larger Rhine river.  A series of little bridges cross the Ill to connect it to the rest of the city.  This old part of the city is extremely charming and the best place to stroll, shop and dine (if you are a tourist).  We were lucky to have beautiful sunny weather and blue skies.

Sunshine in Petit France
Boyfriend thoroughly enjoyed the Alsacian beer, and now picks himself up a Fischer Ale (imported from Alsace) whenever he warnts a treat.  I also enjoy the Alsacian style beer!  Anyone know of this style being produced in the US?  Very little is imported, and when it is, it is pricey!

Another major attraction in Strasbourg is the cathedral, which took over 200 years to build and when completed in 1493 was the tallest building in the world (beating the pyramid in Giza!)  Interestingly, this cathedral has only one tower because they ran out of money to build the second.  The stone is a sandy red color and the style is gothic.

Intricately carved front of cathedral
A side view showing the one tower
We climbed to the top to get a panoramic view of the city and Boyfriend got a little artsy ;)
Itty-bitty Strasbourg
We stuck around the cathedral to see the Astronomical clock, which only goes off once a day (12:30pm).  This is a massive clock with many intricate, moving pieces.  In addition to tracking the time of day, it tracks month, day of the week, lunar cycles and many more things!  I really enjoyed seeing it go off.  The best part was the shut down the cathedral during that time so only the people who buy the clock ticket (which is very cheap) are inside, so we got to walk around the cathedral without the crowds.

Astronomical clock
That evening, we took a tourist boat ride around the Ill river.  It came with an audio recording in many languages that pointed out sights and gave a lot of history.  Sometimes these boat rides are cheesy, but I really enjoyed it.  We got to see a lot, learn a lot and the city was beautiful lit up at night!

The next morning, I explored the city on foot in running shoes (of course!).  I decided to stick to the jogging/biking path that ran alongside the Ill river.  I figured it would prevent me from getting lost, which it did.  Unfortunately, the city center has a lot of traffic, so I found myself stopping at a lot of intersections early on.  After a few miles, it calmed down.  I ran past the European Parliament (which is located in Strasbourg) and kept along the bike path heading towards the Rhine.  After 3.5 miles, I turned around and retraced my path back to the hotel.  I didn't see any other runners out, but lots of people were using bikes to get to work or school.  I did notice on the map some big parks not too far from the city center, so I think there are some other nice running options.

Running along the Ill river in Strasbourg was charming

Later that day it was back to the train station and on to Germany, which I will tell you about soon!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Running & Being Vegan

This week has been a little unusual with my running, mostly because I have had some heel pain :( and to be cautious took a few extra days off.  I am still hoping to finish the week with 5 days of running because the heel is feeling much better today.

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: Tempo run, 8.65 total miles with 5 @ tempo
Wednesday: Hilly recovery run, 8.8 miles
Thursday: swim 2km

I have been meaning to write a post for awhile addressing the fact that I am vegan, what I eat and why I decided to become vegan.  To be honest, I put this off for awhile because I had no pictures of the food I cook/eat and posts without pictures are boring!  Boyfriend and I cook and eat almost exclusively at home (I really enjoy it) but I keep forgetting to take pictures for the blog.  Probably because I am so hungry by the time everything is ready ;)  Anyways, I think I have enough pictures to do the post justice at this point.  Also, I might cheat and come back and add more pictures later.  Caveat: I'm not trying to 'convert' anyone.  Veganism has become an important part of my daily life and for completeness I wanted to address how it fits into my life.

The Story
I began transitioning towards veganism about two years ago in August of 2010.  I was motivated through my desire to become a better runner and knew that eating a healthier diet with lots of plants would probably improve my performance.  I listened to a lot of running podcasts (still do) and found Run Vegan Run (no longer available), which talked a lot about running and eating vegan.   I decided to cut back my meat consumption to 1 meal a day, which I knew would force me to explore more plant based foods and get creative.  At that point, I had no intention of becoming vegan, I only wanted to consume less animal products and processed foods, which I intuitively knew were unhealthy.

Creamy gazpacho
Fast forward a few weeks and I was really enjoying all the plant based meals I had swapped in.  Cooking with meat became less and less attractive to me and the plant alternatives became tastier.  I also discovered Vegetarian Food for Thought, which is a great podcast that I highly recommend.  I started listening and thinking more about foods like cheese, butter, and eggs, how I didn't really need them and how they were linked to a lot of health issues like diabetes, cancer, heart disease and dementia.  I also started thinking about the ethics behind what I ate.  I began reading a lot about nutrition and industrial agriculture, including scientific studies and personal accounts.  I watched documentaries and undercover footage at factory farms.  It was a very tumultuous period and there was a lot of information to process.  However, I really value the ability to critically assess information and make my own choices.  The information was all pointing me in one direction and I realized that I wanted to be vegan.
Chocolate crinkles from The Joy of Vegan Baking

The Hard Parts
Changing my eating and living philosophy wasn't easy at the time.  Although in retrospect I feel the choice was obvious once I had all the information, it still rocked the boat in a big way.  First of all, I was concerned about how Boyfriend would feel.  We cooked and ate most of our meals together, and he enjoyed a lot of meat-oriented dishes.  That was no longer going to be an option for me, nor something I wanted to prepare for him.  Second, I was concerned about the reaction from my parents, especially my mother because she is an excellent cook and always goes out of her way to make things that I enjoy.  I didn't want to insult her or make her think I didn't appreciate her efforts.  Finally, I was concerned about what it would be like eating out or traveling, when I couldn't pick my food out from a grocery store and prepare it all myself.

Couscous with caramelized apricots
In reality, all of these things worked themselves out.  Boyfriend accepted my decision very gracefully and realizes and respects how important being vegan is to me.  Although he is still omnivorous, he has cut back his animal product consumption and almost always eats the vegan dinners that I prepare.  If he wants animal products, he makes it himself.  Although I got a lot of jabs (in jest) from my dad about the decision, both of my parents respect my choice and accommodate it when we are together (which sadly isn't much with me in TX).  My mom sends me great vegan recipes when she finds them and made me some of the most delicious vegan food on my recent trips home.  Eating out has been easier than I thought.  I typically look at menus in advance and if nothing is vegan, I simply ask the wait staff politely to work with me, which they always do.  I don't have ridiculously high expectations, especially if I don't get to pick the restaurant, and I am often pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes, however, it is a little boring, but I never go hungry.  Traveling has been totally manageable and fun, although it does require more foresight.  Since being vegan, I have been to China and France and managed in both!  China was actually easier (the French use a lot of animal products), but I did have to have a friend write out in Mandarin that I do not eat animals.  I speak French, so I was able to explain myself, even if the French thought I was strange.

Why am I Vegan?
I'm not here to preach, but this is the most common question I receive when people learn I am vegan so I want to address it here for the sake of completeness.  I ventured into veganism for health reasons, but I continue to be vegan for both health and ethical reasons.  The health benefits of a plant based diet are numerous, but more importantly to me is embracing compassion and doing my best to not contribute to the harm of other animals, be they human or non-human.

Tofu basil "ricotta" pizza from Save the Kales

The Benefits
As you can probably tell, I am pretty happy with my decision to become vegan and the benefits have been vast.  I feel my ethics are consistent with my actions and that makes my interactions with animals very rewarding, including Bailey.  I am eating healthier than ever before, consuming easily 8-10 servings of vegetables and 3-5 servings of fresh fruit a day.  Most of my carbohydrates are whole grains and I buy very little processed food.  I know that I am getting more nutrients through my vegan diet including fiber, folate, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and omega3 fats.  I have found so many new foods that I enjoy including tofu, tempeh, flax, soba noodles, quinoa, kale, beets, sweet potatoes, edamame, red cabbage, arugula, and chia seeds.  I am healthier than before and hardly ever get sick.  Maintaining a healthy weight is very easy now.  My blood panel results were excellent, with low cholesterol, low blood pressure and good levels of iron.  Most importantly (for this blog at least) is that my veganism has positively affected my running.  I noticed improvements in pace shortly after cutting animal products out of my diet and morning stomach/digestion issues are a thing of the past.

Some Resources
For those of you who might want to learn more, here are some of my favorite resources.
Nutrition Facts (short videos that cover the most up to date scientific findings related to nutrition)
The China Study
The Joy of Vegan Baking
The Vegan Table
Color Me Vegan
The 30 Day Vegan Challenge
Slaughterhouse by Gail Eisnitz
Mad Cowboy
Vegetarian Food for Thought
Our Hen House
Red Radio
Save the Kales!
Forks Over Knives

Veganism was a lifestyle I chose after carefully exploring a vast amount of information available to me.  It is a choice that I am very happy with, but it is important to recognize it was a choice.  I would not have responded well if someone tried to impose their views on me before I was ready for the information.  I do not want to impose my views, but encourage everyone to explore options and information for themselves, wherever it leads you.

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Day in Echternach (& a two-nation run)

So this post is coming out a day later than I wanted to write it.  I have been trying to stick to a twice a week posting schedule.  I usually write posts on the evenings that Boyfriend has band practice, but this week the practice got cancelled.  That meant more opportunities for together time and less opportunities to be a nerd on my computer (which is a good thing).  Bailey also had a special play date last night, so there was that...
Bailey in a kiddie pool, being crazy
She really likes swimming and splashing when it is hot out.  Don't worry, she definitely got a bath after this mud-water-fest.

So today I want to write about the fourth place I visited on my Europe-trip (Biarritz, Bordeaux and Paris already recapped).  Before that, a quick workout recap:

Monday: 90 minutes of football practice (too sleepy to run in the morning)
Tuesday: 2100m swim (too lazy to get up in the morning for run, Argh)
Wednesday: 8.25 mile leisurely run
Thursday: 8.26 miles total, 3.25 miles hard on the track (3x1mile, 400m hard)
Friday: 8.00 mile recovery run over hills & 2000m swim

With that out of the way, let me tell you about my visit to Echternach.  After Paris, boyfriend and I took a train to Luxembourg city.  Why you ask?  Well, we were heading east anyways to visit a friend of mine living in Germany and we wanted to visit some interesting places along the way.  I had never been to Luxembourg and it seemed like a really easy way to add another country to the list of places I have been.  It's really easy to get to Luxembourg city, which is the capital, by high-speed train from Paris

Map of Luxembourg
Although Luxembourg city does have some stuff to see, it is like a lot of capitals in Europe and not super unusual, so instead we took a bus from Luxembourg city to Echternach, in the northeast corner of this tiny country.  It only took 45 minutes between the capital and Echternach, including many stops.  Echternach is the oldest town in all of Luxembourg and sits right on the border with Germany.  Heads up, Luxembourg city has the only train station in the country, so to get anywhere else you have to use the public bus system, which is very nice and was surprisingly easy to use.

Echternach is located in the Mullerthal region of Luxembourg, which locals refer to as "Little Switzerland" because of the hilly terrain, green hills and abundant hiking.  We picked this small town to visit because it was quiet, pastoral and close to the very old and interesting Beaufort castle. The afternoon after we arrived it was very drizzly, but we took a bus to the Beaufort castle, which was quite empty and very interesting to visit.

Beaufort castle
Beaufort castle and ME!

The castle had many rooms but the torture chamber was the most intriguing

Thumb screws make me sad
After visiting the castle, we had some time before the next bus back to Echternach.  We decided to take a short hike because there was a trail head directly across from the castle.  It was still drizzling and quite wet, but the trail was beautiful and it was a nice way to pass the time.  

There were sheep grazing adjacent to the trail head.  The lambs were very cute.

Me on the trail.  Everything was so green, unlike TX
We had a relaxing and quiet evening in Echternach, which is not exactly a happening place after hours.  That was okay though because it was one of the only days where we weren't constantly in motion trying to see things.  The next day we explored the town, which is small but pretty, and visited the abbey, church and abbey museum. Then we took a bus back to the Luxembourg train station and heading back into France.

Echternach town center.  That is the original celtic cross transported to the town by an Irish missionary in the 1100s.  Also note we had a brief period of blue sky in the morning.

Of course, I started the day with a run, and it was the best of my entire trip!  About a half mile from the hotel are some Roman ruins, which are adjacent to a lake that is surrounded by green hillsides.  I started my run with a loop around this lake, about 3 miles.  Everything was green and dewy and it was early morning so it was very quiet and hardly anyone was out.  I saw little foxes bounding through the hills and it was just beautiful.  I wanted to get some more miles in, so I headed back into town and then ran along the Sauer river that creates a natural border between Lux and Germany.  This river is about 1/4 mile from the hotel with a jogging/bike path right along the banks.  Again, it was a breathtaking place to run.  Couple that with cool morning temps and I found myself running a great pace effortlessly.  I passed some cows grazing in the field and the path put me less than 10 feet from them.  I found myself extending the run farther than intended and then reached a footbridge that crossed the Sauer to meet some hiking trails.  I ran over the bridge into Germany and decided to run in two countries that day (definitely a first for me!)  Although I wasn't in Germany very long, it was a pretty cool experience.

My run in Echternach was magical, pastoral and everything I could possibly want from running in a new place.  Although not the most exciting city I have visited, I really enjoyed the day there and would recommend it to anyone venturing to Lux.  Don't forget to pack your running shoes!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Extra Mile - Book Review

Quick running recap for the week! First half of the week is here.

Thursday: 8.13 miles, tempo
Friday: 8.13 miles, hills
Saturday: 2.2 km swim
Sunday: 12.01 miles

I hit 45.67 miles for the week and 2.2 km of swimming.  I was just shy of my goal (4km swimming) because I woke up exhausted on Monday morning and skipped a run.  Because I had flag football in the evening, I couldn't get a swim workout in and I was too tired all week to do a double workout day.  Oh well, I am still very happy to have run 45+ miles two weeks in a row and the swimming is secondary.  There are two weeks left in August, so hopefully I can keep this base going!

Yesterday we had the most awesome and welcome sight in all of Austin, heavy rain!  We didn't get a single drop of rain all of August  2011, so this made for a nice change.  The rain cooled things down here considerably and it carried over to my long run this morning; I had cloud cover the entire time and the temp when I finished was 71, about 10 degrees cooler than usual.  I noticed a huge difference in the way I felt while running (better, obviously) and that gives me hope that a) I will make it through the heat of the summer and b) running will get easier and more enjoyable as the weather cools down.  Don't worry though, my clothes were still sopping wet when I finished.  It might have been low 70s, but it was still 100% humidity.

Today I want to review The Extra Mile by ultrarunner extraordinaire Pam Reed.  You can find her official website for the book here.  Full disclosure, I actually read this book several months ago and hadn't found the time to write up my thoughts until now.

Pam Reed is an elite ultrarunner who lives in Tuscon, AZ.  She was born in 1961 in Michigan.  She is the race director for the Tuscon marathon and has set multiple course and world records in ultra distance events including 24 hour races.  She is probably best known for winning the 135 mile Badwater Ultramarathon in 2002 and again in 2003 (146 miles when she first ran it).  What is most spectacular about these achievements at Badwater is that is marked the first time a woman won the event outright.  This book details her running achievements and lifestyle up to the time it was written/published (2007).

The majority of the book focuses on Pam's running career, and especially the 5-7 years before the book was published.  There are some details about her upbringing, marriage, and family life peppered in for effect, but this plays a minor role in the book.  Pam predominantly discusses her motivation for running, interest in running long distances and then personal accounts of many specific races she participated in.  One problem I had with the book is that it is not entirely chronological and jumps around a bit.  Nonetheless, I did find her account of specific races to be very interesting and good story telling.  However, overall, I would have to give her low marks for her prose, which is choppy and very stream of consciousness.  I would say she is an average writer at best, and although all the details are there, it just doesn't read as well as it should.

The highlight of the book is definitely her accounts the Badwater Ultramarathon.  She is obviously a very talented and amazing endurance runner, which makes her a unique and admirable character in her own story, and is the primary reason I enjoyed reading The Extra Mile.  As a female runner, I am particularly intrigued to learn more about those circumstances under which women are faster than their male counterparts.  Here is an interesting article about it in Runner's World, but basically at long distances, the physical (smaller, carry higher % of fat) and mental attributes of women (better pain tolerance, focus on long term goals) become advantageous.

I would rate this book 3 stars.  As mentioned above, I had problems with the prose and quality of writing.  That being said, it is an easy read and she is an interesting character that is worth learning more about and her experiences definitely interested me.  I'm not raving about it to my friends and bugging them to read it, but I think nearly all running enthusiasts would find it enjoyable and easy to get through.

Let me know if you read it and what your thoughts are!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Passing through Paris

Paris skyline from Sacre Coeur
Today I will recap another piece of my recent vacation in Europe (4 days in Paris), but first a little running update.

Monday: 1.5 hrs of flag football practice
Tuesday: 8.66 miles, easy
Wednesday: 8.74 miles, hills

Monday night it almost rained, even started drizzling, while I was playing flag football after work.  But, it never did rain, and now we are left with even more miserable humidity than usual.  The past two mornings the humidity has been well above 90% with overnight lows around 77F.  Sigh.  August is definitely the worst month in central TX, but at least the roughest part of summer is drawing to a close.

In recent posts, I mentioned my adventures in Biarritz and Bordeaux.  From Bordeaux, I took a high speed train to Paris, where I met Boyfriend and we began traveling together, while is arguably more fun!  This was his first trip to Europe, so it was even more special.  Paris is of course a great city to start in!  The last time I had been in Paris was the summer of 2006, when I interned with the French company Air Liquide.  I was excited to be back, albeit briefly.

We spent the first day on our own and then the next 3 days (and one day at the end of the trip) with a Parisian friend of mine who I met during the internship in 2006.  We stayed in the 14th arrondissement, which is on the left bank and south end of Paris.

On our first day:

We visited hilly Montmartre

And climbed up Sacre Coeur
Climbed to the third tier of this tower

It was windy up top!
And saw Notre Dame on Ile de Cite
After our first day, and checking off some of the must see's in Paris, boyfriend was very flexible about our remaining days.  Seeing as how I had done all the major museums and touristy stuff six years ago, I was inclined to pick some less common sights that I had missed doing.  Thus, the next two days we did day trips by train from Paris.  First, we went to Chateau Fountainebleu, which was inhabited by many French kings and famously by Napoleon I & III.  We chose this Chateau (over Versailles) because it is much less crowded and tickets are very reasonable.  The estate and gardens are so beautiful and well preserved, I highly recommend it!

The front of the massive Chateau Fontainebleu

Hanging out on the staircase from which Napoleon made his farewell speech before he was banished to Elba

The gilded throne room of the Chateau (the inside was so beautiful and lavish)
 The next day, we visited the medieval town of Provins.  We had a lot of rain and coldness that day, but we didn't let it stop us!  This is a walled city that hosted many of the champagne fairs during the Middle Ages.  It is now a UNESCO World Heritage site (and sister city to Pingyao!)

Caesar's tower, the oldest part of Provins, which was first built in 1137!

Smelling some of the beautiful roses, for which Provins is well known!  We bought rose honey and mustard

The old town square

The old city walls; this is main city gate and where there used to be a drawbridge 
So in addition to all the fun things we saw, we also got to spend a lot of time hanging out with my friend and his fiance, which was really awesome!  They took us to some great restaurants and strolls through Paris at night.  Unfortunately, I didn't run while I was in Paris!  I had run for over a week straight while in Biarritz and Bordeaux and needed a little break.  I did intend to run a few times, but then I ended up staying up pretty late socializing and couldn't get myself going in the mornings.  Sometimes that happens on vacations.  Fortunately, I have run many, many times while staying in Paris in 2006.

So, after several days of not running, we got back on a train and headed to Luxembourg for the next stop in our adventures.

Have you been to Paris?  Have you run in Paris?  What is your favorite section of the city?
-I love Luxembourg gardens, which are just so beautiful and great for strolling and eating a french macaroon!