For many running a marathon is the challenge of a lifetime. It’s not just because of the physical challenge on the day, but it’s the months and months of training and preparation needed to go the distance. When you look at it like this, you begin to understand why many people choose to run a marathon in a foreign and far-flung place they’ve always wanted to visit, because not only do they get to achieve a remarkable physical feat, they also get to see and experience a new travel destination in the process.
1. Virgin Money London Marathon, UK
The world’s largest marathon in 2012, the Virgin Money London Marathon is loved by runners around the world for a course that waxes historical, a route that is good for both beginners and experienced runners and for having some of the best (and loudest) spectators. A great place to stay while running the London Marathon is in leafy Blackheath where the course begins. From here you can enjoy views across East London and you’ll find many typical British pubs to stock up on carbs before and after your run. The course itself acts like a sight-seeing tour of London taking you past the Cutty Sark in Greenwich and through the heart of the City of London to Westminster. Special highlights on the course include running across TowerBridge, through CanaryWharf and past the Tower of London. It also has one of the most famous finishing miles as you run – or stumble – your way to Buckingham Palace. There’s a reason you have to wait years for a place in the Virgin Money London Marathon.
13th April 2014 http://www.virginmoneylondonmarathon.com/
2. Big Sur International Marathon, California
Considered the largest rural marathon in the world, Big Sur International Marathon follows a 26.2 mile section of the famous Pacific Highway from Big Sur to Carmel. Expect the sun to shine and the sea breeze to keep you cool as you enjoy one of the world’s most scenic marathons, taking in the iconic Brixby Creek Bridge and a section of Big Sur’s redwood forest. For accommodation, you could stay close to the finish line in Carmel, whose full name Carmel-by-the-Sea alludes to its white sand beaches. Alternatively, make it a city break by staying just a few hours up the coast of California in one of America’s favourite cities San Francisco. Golden Gate Brigde, Alcatraz prison and cosmopolitan suburbs like Little Italy, China Town and The Castro, San Fran also has vibrant coffee and foodie scenes which will help replace lost calories after the marathon.
27th April 2014 http://www.bsim.org/site3.aspx
3. Marathon du Medoc, Bordeaux
credit: Leite’s Culinaria
If coastal views aren’t really your thing, maybe running passed vineyards will be a good enough reason to pump those pistons. This chateaux-hopping tour of one of the world’s most famous wine-producing regions is a marathon with a difference, because runners are encouraged to take frequent breaks along the twenty-six mile course which snakes through vineyards and chateaux. Energy drinks and orange slices are replaced with oysters, cheese and wine as you sample some of the fine foods and award-winning wines the Médoc region is famous for. If you stay in nearby Bordeaux you can visit the Bordeaux Wine and TradeMuseum which will tell you why this part of France is so sacred to wine lovers. There is, of course, much more to do in this historic city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. With a large and lively student population, you’ll find a lively atmosphere in the city’s pedestrian centre and a gentle walk along the banks of the River Garonnne or in Bordeaux’s public gardens on a sunny day should stretch any marathon-sore legs.
13th September 2014 http://www.marathondumedoc.com/
4. Midnight Sun Marathon, Tromsø
credit: Outreach Moldova
The only marathon on this list that begins in the middle of the night and still offers ideal running conditions, the Midnight Sun Marathon is a unique race that takes you around the island of Tromsø, the second largest city in the Arctic Circle. With beautiful dusk light and a scenic course from beginning to end, this race is worth messing up your body clock for. Take in the impressive sight of the Arctic Cathedral watching over the city and be sure to go inside to see the midnight sun shine through the stained glass windows. Warm up your legs with a wander around the city’s oldest streets which are lined with colourful wooden houses and enjoy famous Norwegian delicacies like lutefisk or sweet cinnamon buns. If you’ve got the energy after your marathon – and the budget, because alcohol is heavily taxed in Norway – Tromsø is very famous in Norway for its nightlife playing host to many of the world’s most popular musicians and DJs thanks to a student population who really do make the most of the city’s short but spectacular summers.
21st June 2014 http://www.msm.no/index.php?language=no&cat=23429
5. Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town, South Africa
Confidently called the world’s most beautiful marathon, I wonder if this name tricks people into thinking the Two Oceans Marathon is a ‘normal’ marathon, because it’s actually fourteen kilometres longer than the traditional marathon distance. One of the world’s most popular ultra marathons, runners follow a spectacular circuit of the Cape Peninsula, beginning and finishing at the University of Cape Town (UCT). Although an extreme reason, the marathon is the perfect excuse to visit South Africa’s second largest city and arguably its most beautiful. Must-see sights include the view from the top of Table Mountain, the colourful houses of Bo-Kap, and there is of course the option to visit the thought-provoking Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned. For a post-marathon feast try some Cape Malay food, which centres around spice infused meat dishes like denningvleis, slow-cooked lamb, and bobotie, an Indian inspired mince meat and egg dish that could fuel many marathons.
19th April 2014 http://www.twooceansmarathon.org.za/
6. Vodafone Istanbul Marathon
Perhaps the only marathon in the world that crosses continents, the Vodafone Istanbul Marathon began in 1978 when 34 visiting German tourists wanted to run a marathon in the Turkish capital. These days, you’d be one of thousands who lace up their trainers and run across the Bhosphorus Bridge and through the city’s European and Asian streets. While the marathon will show you a real mix of Istanbul’s old and new architecture and culture, you can choose to immerse yourself in one or the other depending on where you stay. Be just walking distance from all the historic buildings around Sultanahmet Square in the Old City or find yourself a slick apartment with a view in one of New Istanbul’s high-rises. Either way, be sure to over-indulge in meze before and after your cross-continental run and book yourself in for a hammam spa, a traditional Turkish spa treatment that washes away dead skin and will also relaxingly soak those tired muscles.
16th November 2014 http://www.istanbulmarathon.org/en
Do you run? Which was the most beautiful marathon course you’ve ever enjoyed?
If you’re thinking it’s a bit early to be looking at ways to celebrate the Irish Saint of Green Face Paint and Guinness, let me explain. St. Patrick’s Day might be a few weeks away (17th March, just so you know) but the world’s a vast place and Irish Bars are many. So I thought I’d get a jump on the big day itself, do some background research and point you in the direction of a few places where St. Paddy himself would not feel out of place having a Craic and a pint of the black stuff – if he wasn’t a saint, obviously. But, before you go off dismissing my efforts as a thinly disguised excuse to trawl the drinking dens of Dublin, not one of my suggestions for this year’s celebrations is on home soil. They’re spread far and wide, but have one thing in common: a deep and enduring reverence for ‘the auld country’.
Someone once told me that all you needed for a traditional Irish Band was three chords and a Begorra. Working on that logic, it seems the only requirement for an Irish Pub is a leprechaun bobble-head, a liberal sprinkling of shamrocks and a road sign. There was even a tale doing the rounds about Dublin having to spend a fortune replacing street plaques removed by unscrupulous visiting publicans and hived off to add a touch of authenticity to Irish Pubs in less than Irish locations (Mongolia anyone?). That may be so, but my search goes far beyond the superficial window dressing of the Irish Pub to the heart of the true spirit of St. Patrick’s Day – drinking, dancing and telling complete strangers that you’ve always loved them.
And where else would I start my arduous quest, but Boston? The city’s keeper of the flame when it comes to Irish heritage and has the pubs to prove it. Steer clear of the ‘theme’ bars (a green drink does not an Irish pub make). And if it’s part of a chain, I don’t think I need to tell you how that’s going to go. No, my money’s on the Brendan Behan Pub or ‘The Behan’ as it’s known locally. Four times winner of ‘The Best Irish Pub in Boston’ and loved for its wide range of stouts and ales, ‘craic-centric’ philosophy, live music and traditional (for Boston) atmosphere, The Behan’s named after the poet, Republican, political prisoner and hard drinker Brendan Behan. The Brendan Behan, 378 Center Street, Jamaica Plain (a trolley ride from Downtown Boston).
London’s tiny Tipperary is the city’s oldest Irish pub and has held its ground on Fleet Street since 1700 (the original pub is older but not Irish, so doesn’t count). Supposedly this was the first place in England to sell Guinness and it’s been upholding that fine tradition ever since. It’s small and very friendly and has the kind of cosy atmosphere you might expect if you really were celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Tipperary and not in fact in the heart of one of the world’s busiest cities. The Tipperary, 66 Fleet Street, London EC4Y.
If you’re a diehard traditionalist and you find yourself in Athens on March 17th, despair not, the James Joyce Irish Pub is celebrating like it’s Dublin on a Friday after 5. Everything’s where it should be from the draught Stout and whisky selection to a dark wood long-bar and Steak & Guinness Pie. But the music’s more DJ than Ceilidh and the folks you get to declare undying love for are of the younger variety. James Joyce Irish Pub, Astiggos 12, Thiseio 105 55, Athens.
No one’s going to accuse the world’s Irish pubs of imagination when it comes to names, so you’ll have to forgive Istanbul’s one and only for also heading down the route of James Joyce Irish Pub. But if you’re dying for a long, black drink and some Irish Dancing Classes you’ve arrived. The James Joyce, Istanbul is a bit of a favourite on a city pub crawl and does boisterous as standard so I’m thinking all stops will be pulled for St. Patrick’s Day. James Joyce Irish Pub, İstiklal Caddesi, Balo Sokak 26, Beyoğlu, Istanbul.
If an ‘Open Mike Night’ with Siggi Porbergs isn’t likely to have you weeping into your Jamieson’s, you’ll be right up for the Irish pub experience Reykjavik style. The Celtic Cross is one of two Irish pubs in the city both owned by the same Icelander (he makes no claims to Celtic roots) and while it might not focus on authentic music, the booze is plenty traditional enough to distract you. The Celtic Cross, Hverfisgata 26, 101 Reykjavik.
Paris has always been a pull for Irish ex-pats and has more than a few literary and artistic connections to its Celtic counterpart, so finding an Irish pub is never a problem. For very traditional music, warm atmosphere and a great bar I recommend The Quiet Man, in Le Marais. A lot more authentic than the John Wayne movie it’s named for, The Quiet Man is open from 5pm to late, almost always has live music and will definitely be celebrating St. Patrick’s Day. The Quiet Man, 5 Rue des Haudriettes, Paris (close to The Pompidou Centre).
I couldn’t write about Irish pubs without including at least one ‘tavern’ – I love a tavern. It’s New York, of course, and if you like your Guinness surrounded by flat-screen sport The Kinsale Tavern is the place for you. Not that New York City’s lacking in Irish pubs (there’s even one at JFK, if you’re desperate). But The Kinsale Tavern does a mean Shepherd’s Pie and a Full Irish Breakfast. And everyone knows how important it is to max the carbs if you’re going to do St. Patrick’s Day justice. The Kinsale Tavern, 1672 3rd Avenue, New York, NY10128.
And come the 17th March, when the Guinness is flowing and the Craic is crackling, feel free to have at my all-time-favourite bad Irish Joke:
Q. What did St. Patrick say to the snakes when he was driving them out of Ireland?
A. ‘Are you all right in the back there lads?
Yes, that’s quite enough St. Patrick’s Day nonsense from me. I know.
If your children are animal lovers, care for a treasured pet or deliver heartfelt speeches on the terrible effects of whaling on the sperm whale population; they’ve probably already told you that today is World Animal Day.
To celebrate a day of caring for the cute and fuzzy, the feathered and winged, even the scaly and slimy; we’ve put together some pictures ideas for your next holiday break, if you want to centre your holiday around getting your little activists enthused about some of the amazing creatures to be found in all corners of the globe.
When some animal rights lovers think of a zoo, they sometimes think of dank, dark cages and sad animals in wretched captivity. But the truth is that many zoos around the world are beautiful places to live, dedicated to animal conservation and providing their fluffy guests with plenty of room to roam and live free-range, as it were. These are some of the best.
Chester Zoo, Chester, England.
credit: Adam Foster
Tiergarten Schönbrunn, Vienna, Austria
National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa
Bronx Zoo, New York City, United States
Berlin Zoological Garden, Berlin, Germany
credit: Tambako the Jaguar
Apart from the only way for many of us to experience incredibly tough to spot deepwater fish (such as the rarely-seen-in-captivity Sunfish which you can find in Valencia or Lisbon) – and the slow, otherworldly elegance of the earth beneath sea-level, aquariums are homebase for many marine biologists, whose jobs are to try and keep the oceanic ecosystems in balance.
Dubai Aquarium and Discovery Centre, Dubai, U.A.E.
The Deep Aquarium, Hull, England
credit: Bruce Stokes
L’Oceanogràfic, Valencia, Spain
credit: Jofre Ferrer
Turkuazoo, Istanbul, Turkey
Oceanário de Lisboa, Lisbon, Portugal
Featured image of Squid, the HouseTrip office dog, by reversepanda.
Video, words and images courtesy of The Planet D, exclusively for HouseTrip as part of our #housetripping series.
Istanbul, Turkey is arguably one of the most exotic cities in Europe. Straddling two continents, it is a destination filled with cultural diversity and ancient traditions. With a population of nearly 14 million people, Istanbul is a true international city that can be overwhelming to the first time visitor.
Some people may feel a bit of culture shock when they first arrive and this can put a lot of stress on your vacation. While part of the excitement of travel is to experience new things, it’s also important to feel comfortable while you see the sights.
Staying in an apartment rental can definitely help alleviate the stress of travel. Having the comforts of home at your fingertips can make you feel more relaxed and ready to take on the hustle and bustle of the day ahead. When you are comfortable in your surroundings, it gives you the confidence to explore the city.
While visiting Istanbul with HouseTrip, we came up with a few ideas to help get over that homesick feeling that you may get when travelling.
1. Meet the Locals
When you’re missing your friends and family at home, the best way to feel better is to make new friends. You’ll find that most people are very warm and welcoming, and if you open up and give a smile, people will be happy to say hello.
2. Cook at home
Cooking in your apartment is the best way to get into the swing of things. Exotic food can be wonderful, but sometimes you may want to eat your favourite meal from home. Head to the nearest supermarket and buy your food and drinks for your dinner and breakfast the next morning, Being able to stay inside for a night without having to search for a place to dine or find a taxi back home, can add that extra element of comfort that is so often lacking when traveling.
3. Go to the market.
A little retail therapy would never hurt anyone. Shopping at the local markets is fun and a great way to get to know the people who live there.
4. Go to the movies.
If you are traveling for a while or really feeling the culture shock, sometimes it is great to escape to the movies. Eating popcorn, turning off your brain and enjoying the air conditioning for a couple of hours can rejeuvinate even the most weary of travellers.
5. Learn the local customs.
Find out what makes the locals comfortable and try it yourself. In Istanbul, tea and coffee are a large part of their culture. Go into a local coffee shop and order a traditional Turkish coffee. It’s pure heaven. But don’t stop there, learn one of their favourite games like backgammon and if you are feeling truly daring, give a sheesha a try. Sheesha is a waterpipe used for smoking flavoured tobacco and you will see many people settling in for the night inhaling flavours like mint or lemon.
6. Visit a Home
Feeling homesick? If you visit a family you will feel right at home. In Istanbul, it’s not uncommon for a foreigner to be welcomed into people’s homes. There’s nothing more soothing than eating a home cooked meal and getting a hug from someone’s mom to make you feel warm and fuzzy all over.
Travel to a city like Istanbul doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming, if you keep your mind open and embrace the culture, you will find that it can be a very comfortable place to be. By following our advice and staying in an apartment to suite your taste, you’ll find that you are so comfortable, you may never want to leave.
The International Olympic Committee are getting ready for a huge announcement this weekend: who will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games? The 3 contenders have been preening their feathers, flexing their muscles and showing their best side.
And it’s all come down to this.
Will current favourite Madrid claim this incredible honour?
credit: Víctor Peña
credit: Tonymadrid Photography
Will Tokyo be able to overcome the negativity surrounding the Fukushima disaster, and prove to the world they have the passion to host the best games yet?
credit: Brendan Skinner
credit: Stuck in Customs
credit: Jun Takeuchi
credit: Stuck in Customs
Or perhaps Istanbul, making its 5th bid for the games, will finally be able to show us all just what their flourishing economy, young population and widespread support will give to a transcontinental games.
credit: Christopher Chan
credit: Kıvanç Niş
Who would you like to see hosting the 2020 Olympics?