Tags » urban

 
 
 

Cobblestone “Trails” in Quebec City

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

I enjoy going for runs in parts of the world beyond Vermont when I have the opportunity to travel.  Typically, I have a full day of activities whether I am visiting for work reasons or solely for vacation, so the logical time to fit in a run is first thing in the morning.  I am usually not much of an early morning runner, but running through the streets and parks of unfamiliar locales provides a great way to explore before the touring throngs descend on the attractions as the day progresses.  I recently had the opportunity to visit Quebec City with the Trailrunner family, and decided to go for a leisurely city run on our first morning in this beautiful city, only 6 hours away. We were staying in the old city, inside the city walls, and this made for a great starting point for some exploring on foot.

At the start of the run, I was drawn to the most famous sight in Old Quebec, the Chateau Frontenac Hotel.  This really is a grand hotel, and quite a spectacular building on a bluff above the St. Laurence River.  The Frontenac, with its tower and turrets looks remarkably like the fictional Hogwarts Castle of Harry Potter fame, but is of surprisingly recent construction, having been built “only” a little more than 100 years ago in 1893.  There is also a huge promenade deck on the river side, high above the lower city and the river, providing for some more room to run, and I was far from the only person out there enjoying a pleasant summer morning.

St Laurence River View from Chateau Frontenac

After soaking in the views from up on the bluff, I jogged down the long set of stairs which brought me to the riverside, into the oldest inhabited part of the city. I discovered that the cobblestone streets of this ancient section of the city require much of the same care that is needed when running the trails – I had to run “eyes wide open” at all times so that I didn’t careen head over heels on an errant stone, much like I have to do on the less urban trails of Addison County, VT.

Cobblestone Streets of Old Quebec City

The view of the Frontenac itself from this lower level (about 200 feet lower than the higher city bluff) was also particularly breathtaking.

The Chateau Frontenac view from the St. Laurence River shoreline

Before setting off on this run, I had noted that, just to the west of the Chateau and the Citadel, there was a large expanse of park land, called “The Plains of Abraham“, which looked like a good place to get in some true trail running. If you remember The Plains of Abraham from your high school education, you will remember that this was the sight of one of the battles which changed the course of history, where the British defeated the French, effectively ending French colonial ambitions in most of North America. What you probably didn’t know was that this battle, this turning point in world history, lasted all of 20 minutes. I will resist the temptation to insert snarky comments about French military prowess.

I had hoped that there might be some way to access the Plains of Abraham park from the riverside, but was disappointed to see no trail connection. (Note, there apparently is a rather precipitous trail up from the riverside, but I did not notice it in the course of this run.)  So, I added some mileage to this run with a job on a bike path alongside the river front road, through a mix of parks, docks, and construction sites.  After a few minutes along the river front, I more or less retraced my steps back up to the Frontenac, getting a few odd looks from some early morning walkers as I jogged up the seemingly endless stairs, and back to my hotel and a waiting cappuccino.  This came together as a slightly less than 5 mile run with a pretty steep descent and climb.

Quebec City run on Google Earth

Altitude Profile

A Golden (Gate) Run

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

While Vermont runs are the focus of this blog, recent professional commitments have brought me to the little known and not particularly interesting city of……San Francisco!  I couldn’t let an opportunity for running in a city which is pretty much new to me go to waste, so I thought it would be fun to do a run along the shoreline from my hotel across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf to that most famous San Francisco landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.  So, on my first morning in the city prior to my meetings, I set off from the hotel, heading west towards the bridge.  My first curious observation was a group of people swimming in the nearby protected section of the harbor.  What I found amazing was that some of these people were actually swimming laps in 42 degree water.  To put it in perspective, part of the reason Alcatraz was so secure, was the fact that the water was so cold most escapees died of exposure in a matter of a few minutes!  Do they make “people antifreeze”?

The Inner Harbor and Fishermans' Wharf

Much of the rest of the run was along land which long served military purposes, but has been spectacularly reclaimed for civilian enjoyment. The first former military site which the shoreline path (OK – it is an urban path, so most of it was paved!) passed through Fort Mason, the point from which most of the US troops departed for the Pacific theater in WWII. Angling from the fort heights back down to the waterfront level, the next section passed by a section of shoreline known as the Marina District, which not surprisingly, featured a marina! For those with longer memories, the Marina District made the news during the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake (aka the World Series quake) of 1989, when the early news flashes proclaimed that San Francisco was burning, and showed scenes of what appeared to be quite a conflagration in the Marina District.  While this quake was certainly tragic, both in regards to human life and financial costs, when I asked about it, I found out that only a handful of homes actually burned down as a result of the quake!  Ah, our news media, always looking for the big story.  Running through this district, I also noted a few scenes which looked very typical California, at least to my northeast caricature of the culture – I saw a few men bodybuilding along the beach (I thought that was more an LA phenomenon?) and a young man walking his dog, while he rode a skateboard.  A little further along, the oceanside (OK more specifically, San Francisco bayside) trail passed through the Crissy Field area, which had been the site of the city’s first military airfield until the 1930′s.  This huge open space is now a wildlife refuge and park for the inhabitants.

View of Crissy Field

Leaving Crissy Field brought on the only true climb of this run, the 2oo vertical ft ascent to the headlands of yet another former military base, the beautiful and legendary Presidio, now used for pricey housing in old barracks, and public parkland, where the bridge itself abuts. The contrast between the view towards the city in the above picture, and the bridge itself was amazing. While most of the city was having a glorious sunny California day, the bridge itself was wrapped in varying degrees of fog for my entire stay in the city. Nonetheless, as the fog cleared a little bit, I enjoyed a very dramatic view of at least part of the bridge – views of the Marin Highlands behind would have to wait for another day.

Golden gate bridge in the fog

At the 3.75 mile mark, the real goal of this run began – the run across the slightly longer than a mile Golden Gate Bridge itself. I wish I could tell you of the great views on this run, but as the above picture shows, they were rather limited. There were countless tourists on the pedestrian walkway, and yes a few other runners and bikers enjoying it. I also noted the scaffolding for the bridge painters -apparently the sea spray is so corrosive, that the bridge in a state of “perpetual paint job” which takes 3 years per cycle, only to be immediately restarted upon completion. Unfortunately, a short way across the bridge, my GPS ran out of power – despite what the GPS track shows, I really did make it all the way across……and back to Fisherman’s Wharf for a round trip run of about 10 miles, and some great California culture and scenery.

Truncated Google Earth projection of the run

 

Completing the run, I had another opportunity to savor the flavors of California – my west coast friends have been regaling me with stories of their favorite burger joint, the institute known as “In-N-Out Burger”. I certainly felt like I had deserved this treat after a long run! I had also been informed that there is a poorly kept secret (not on the public menu!) that if you ask for your burger and fries “animal style” they would put all kinds of extra stuff on them for you. While the animal style burger looked good, and I enjoyed it immensely, the animal style fries looked way too much like the Quebecois treat, poutine. I knew I could afford a few more calories than usual for lunch, but didn’t want to have to go to a cardiologist after lunch.

A Golden (Gate) Run

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

While Vermont runs are the focus of this blog, recent professional commitments have brought me to the little known and not particularly interesting city of……San Francisco!  I couldn’t let an opportunity for running in a city which is pretty much new to me go to waste, so I thought it would be fun to do a run along the shoreline from my hotel across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf to that most famous San Francisco landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge.  So, on my first morning in the city prior to my meetings, I set off from the hotel, heading west towards the bridge.  My first curious observation was a group of people swimming in the nearby protected section of the harbor.  What I found amazing was that some of these people were actually swimming laps in 42 degree water.  To put it in perspective, part of the reason Alcatraz was so secure, was the fact that the water was so cold most escapees died of exposure in a matter of a few minutes!  Do they make “people antifreeze”?

The Inner Harbor and Fishermans' Wharf

Much of the rest of the run was along land which long served military purposes, but has been spectacularly reclaimed for civilian enjoyment. The first former military site which the shoreline path (OK – it is an urban path, so most of it was paved!) passed through Fort Mason, the point from which most of the US troops departed for the Pacific theater in WWII. Angling from the fort heights back down to the waterfront level, the next section passed by a section of shoreline known as the Marina District, which not surprisingly, featured a marina! For those with longer memories, the Marina District made the news during the infamous Loma Prieta earthquake (aka the World Series quake) of 1989, when the early news flashes proclaimed that San Francisco was burning, and showed scenes of what appeared to be quite a conflagration in the Marina District.  While this quake was certainly tragic, both in regards to human life and financial costs, when I asked about it, I found out that only a handful of homes actually burned down as a result of the quake!  Ah, our news media, always looking for the big story.  Running through this district, I also noted a few scenes which looked very typical California, at least to my northeast caricature of the culture – I saw a few men bodybuilding along the beach (I thought that was more an LA phenomenon?) and a young man walking his dog, while he rode a skateboard.  A little further along, the oceanside (OK more specifically, San Francisco bayside) trail passed through the Crissy Field area, which had been the site of the city’s first military airfield until the 1930′s.  This huge open space is now a wildlife refuge and park for the inhabitants.

View of Crissy Field

Leaving Crissy Field brought on the only true climb of this run, the 2oo vertical ft ascent to the headlands of yet another former military base, the beautiful and legendary Presidio, now used for pricey housing in old barracks, and public parkland, where the bridge itself abuts. The contrast between the view towards the city in the above picture, and the bridge itself was amazing. While most of the city was having a glorious sunny California day, the bridge itself was wrapped in varying degrees of fog for my entire stay in the city. Nonetheless, as the fog cleared a little bit, I enjoyed a very dramatic view of at least part of the bridge – views of the Marin Highlands behind would have to wait for another day.

Golden gate bridge in the fog

At the 3.75 mile mark, the real goal of this run began – the run across the slightly longer than a mile Golden Gate Bridge itself. I wish I could tell you of the great views on this run, but as the above picture shows, they were rather limited. There were countless tourists on the pedestrian walkway, and yes a few other runners and bikers enjoying it. I also noted the scaffolding for the bridge painters -apparently the sea spray is so corrosive, that the bridge in a state of “perpetual paint job” which takes 3 years per cycle, only to be immediately restarted upon completion. Unfortunately, a short way across the bridge, my GPS ran out of power – despite what the GPS track shows, I really did make it all the way across……and back to Fisherman’s Wharf for a round trip run of about 10 miles, and some great California culture and scenery.

Truncated Google Earth projection of the run

 

Completing the run, I had another opportunity to savor the flavors of California – my west coast friends have been regaling me with stories of their favorite burger joint, the institute known as “In-N-Out Burger“. I certainly felt like I had deserved this treat after a long run! I had also been informed that there is a poorly kept secret (not on the public menu!) that if you ask for your burger and fries “animal style” they would put all kinds of extra stuff on them for you. While the animal style burger looked good, and I enjoyed it immensely, the animal style fries looked way too much like the Quebecois treat, poutine. I knew I could afford a few more calories than usual for lunch, but didn’t want to have to go to a cardiologist after lunch.

Urban Trailrunning in Berlin, Germany

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Sneaking out for runs while traveling is always a great way to shake out the lethargy of long airplane trips and too much junk food on the run.  City running, on the other hand, can be almost as frustratingly “stop and go” as urban driving, with stoplights at every corner.  As a result, I always look for a nearby city park to run in, to duplicate as well as I can my preferred trail running experience.  This posting brings me to one of the great city parks of the world, the Tiergarten in Berlin, Germany.  I guess this would also be my first international trail run in this blog!

I left my hotel on a quiet cul-de-sac in a residential section of old West Berlin, pulled out my map, and made my best attempt at following this old city’s meandering streets in the general direction of the Tiergarten, a little over a mile from my hotel.  Many Berliners, as is the case in many European cities, bicycle to work in the early morning hours, and one of my first lessons running in this city was how to share sidewalks with these ecologically-minded commuters!  If I had been watching my feet more carefully, I would have noticed that I was running in a sidewalk bike lane, and the frequent reminder of bicycle bells behind me was the result of courteous riders requesting that I step aside out of their designated path.  I also discovered that jaywalking was not at all common – the orderly German pedestrians would almost always stop and wait for the light to indicate that it was their time to cross the street, even if there were no cars to be seen in any direction.  After about a mile and a half of sidewalk running/cultural awareness lessons, I came to the wide boulevard which bisected the Tiergarten along its north-south axis.  Heading north into the park, I had a great view of the golden monolith standing at the park’s center, celebrating 19th century Prussian military victories over the Danes, Austrians, and French.

Tiergarten Victory Monument

Reaching the center of the park, it was time to leave the sidewalk and finally do a little true trail running. If I had turned right here, to the east, I would get to the famous Brandenberg Gate, site of John F. Kennedy’s famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech, but realizing I had appointments to keep, chose the more direct return trip, heading back west in the general direction of my hotel. The meandering paths of this beautiful urban oasis provided a great escape from the nearby city streets. At one point, I even saw a fox cross my path – when I mentioned this to my German colleagues, they mentioned that there were even wild boar in this park! After a far too short section of these broad wooded trails, I crossed over a downtown canal, along the outskirts of the Berlin Zoo, and back onto the streets for my return to my hotel.

Park pathway

Canal Crossing

This ended up being about a 4.5 mile run, but lets face it, this one was more about the journey than it was the destination. It also made it so that I could indulge in Berliners’ favorite junk food – the ubiquitous “currywurst” without guilt for the rest of the day. The currywurst is basically a hot dog covered in a sauce made up of curry powder and ketchup, which is one of my guilty pleasures when traveling in Germany.

Google Earth projection on a Berlin city street map