Saturday, June 30, 2007

Nun (and monk)-spotting

Wednesday 27/6/07
Total: 8.8k
Week Total: 23k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1277.9k

Time: 46.40min
Av pace: 5.18min/km
Av Temp: sunny, partly cloudy, coolish breeze
Rel. Humidity Av: dry
Where: Camucia, near Cortona, Tuscany

This was another run through the Tuscan countryside, alongside fields of sunflowers, corn, and fenced yards containing snappy, snarling dogs. To get to the quiet country roads does mean running along busier ones, with tractors (with drivers that almost fall out the window having a good old look), little apes (3-wheeled cars), rattly old fiats that look like they should've died years ago, to sleek alfas that fly past. Oh and the occasional older person riding an ancient old pushbike or scooter, going so slowly you worry they might fall off.

Another town, another market day - this time it was Castiglione del Lago, on the shores of Lake Trasimeno, in Umbria. Taste tested salamis, crostini and cantucci (biscuits). Had a Cappuccino cream (a cold icecreamy type of drink) and a delicious apple from the produce part of the markets.

The market yesterday was in Camucia (where we are based). Mr CJ and I firstly fuelled up on a cappuccino at a local bar, for the grand sum of 2euro for 2 coffees (that is a bargain especially as we sat outside) and then we hit the market circuit. There were stalls in several streets - clothes, shoes (my favourite and where I bought an absolutely gorgeous pair of leather heels - to die for), household items, bags, artifical flowers, fruit and veg, plants, chooks, meats, etc. We bought porchetta panini for lunch for 2euro each - these are really tasty and delicious.

We visited Assisi in the afternoon, hence the title of the blog entry! This is definitely the place to go for nun and monk-spotting. I got a classic photo of a nun in full garb on the mobile phone. Another of a monk returning from shopping. Beautiful churches. Tasty pastries. Average coffee. Tacky, kitschy souvenirs of monks and nuns on motorbikes, playing poker, singing at the piano, etc, etc.

Friday 29/6/07
Total: 13.1k
Week Total: 36.1k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1291k

Time: 1hr 16.52min
Av pace: 5.51min/km
Av Temp: sunny, blue skies, warm to very warm
Rel. Humidity Av: dry
Where: the road to Cortona, then to Bramasole

This morning we ran up the road to Cortona - this is about a 4km climb up the hill, with some steepish parts. After slightly over-indulging in wine last night I wasn't sure how I'd go today but I needn't have worried, I ran fine! Once up at the top, at Cortona, we ran through the gardens to another road that took us to a house we are convinced is Bramasole. Strewth, Mr CJ and MR B asked for directions at a local art store and these were the directions they were given. We did do a slight detour which took us down a lovely little road that went down, down, down but it was so shady and green I couldn't resist going down! Of course it meant that we had to run back up the road - it was tough but I managed it! So this was a long run today (interspersed with hills and intervals).

Its our last night here so we are going back up to Cortona to La Grotta trattoria tonight for dinner. Actually it will be our 3rd time there but the prices are reasonable, the service is great and the food is lovely. Tomorrow we drive to San Gimignano, still in Tuscany, where we also stay a week. The plan is to do day trips to Florence and Siena.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mamma Mia!

Tuesday 19/6/07
Total: 5.7k
Week Total: 5.7k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1260.6k

Time: 37.27min
Av pace: 6.32min/km
Av Temp: hot, sunny, no breeze
Rel. Humidity Av: humid
Where: Praiano, Amalfi Coast

Praiano is a beautiful coastal town on the Amalfi Coast with streets that go up or down, or you take the other option and negotiate hundreds of steps up or down. So it was going to be an interesting run! Good six foot training! We stopped to watch some donkeys being loaded up with concrete tiles and then they were lead off down the road, down steps to somewhere, where it was unloaded and then the donkeys came back up the steps again for another load.

We have only experienced a few mishaps since picking up the car from Rome airport! These mishaps include a flat tyre (within the first 2hrs of getting the car and it happened on the outskirts of Napoli), clipping a parked scooter, knocking some rubbish bins, and a near head-on collision (that was scarey!). Driving along the Amalfi Caost road on a Sunday afternoon was an education - everyone was heading back to Naples and beyond. There were zillions of scooters and cars, and traffic jams, and tiny, narrow windy roads that barely fit 2 vehicles across, and jaw dropping cliffs and scenery. Though I hardly appreciated it because I had my eyes closed half the time as Mr CJ tried negotiating his way. It was a baptism of fire!

The flat tyre was something we could have done without. As I said, it happened on the outskirts of Naples and when we went to change it we discovered there was no equipment in the car needed to change a tyre. Likewise with Mr B and Strewth's car. Mr B rang the hire company on the mobile, trying to get roadside assistance and 20mins later when he got off the phone we hoped the message got across. Then a polizia car pulled up and 2 lovely policeman got out, assessed the situation, and changed the tyre (well, one did the actual work while the other one supervised). Just as they were leaving, the roadside assistance guy pulled up on his scooter and was not impressed to discover that the tyre had been changed. To cut a long story short, it took almost a week to sort out the tyre situation, a couple of trips to Sorrento, the purchase of a new tyre, and several hours of me trying to negotiate the Italian telephone system and repeating 'parla inglese?' innumerable times.

In short, the Amalfi Coast was great, the isle of Capri was overpriced and overrun with tourists but the return boat trip was great - we stopped at several grottos and had a swim. Bellissimo! Our apartment was reached by going up over 100 steps; this proved tricky at night after a couple of wines! Food-wise, I prefer Roman pizza to neapolitan pizza, had some lovely pastas, a very overpriced lunch on Capri, and gelati galore. Straciatella (choc chip) is my favourite. Some of the best lunches have been when we have bought fresh bread, mozzarella or parmigiano reggiano, prosciutto cotto and tomatoes. The worst coffee was at a restaurant at Pompeii; have had some lovely limoncello and then others that would grow hairs on your chest its that strong!

Sunday 24/6/07
Total: 8.5k
Week Total: 14.2k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1269.1k

Time: 55.48min
Av pace: 6.33min/km
Av Temp: cool to start with but it did warm up; blue skies
Rel. Humidity Av: dry
Where: Camucia, near Cortona, Tuscany

We have moved again. Now we are staying at an agriturismo on the outskirts of Camucia, with Cortona up on the hill. There is some flat here as well as hills as we dicovered when Strewth and I went for a run. First we headed along a gravel road which ran alongside farmland (whiff up the country air - the smell of manure is very pungent in these parts!). We turned when we saw a couple of barking dogs up ahead - we weren't tempting fate! Then we ran through Camucia heading up the hill to Cortona - more six foot training! It went up and up and up! In fact the guys were impressed when we later walked up this very same hill to get to Cortona. And to be quite honest, I thought it was easier to run it than to walk it! We also encountered a very aggressive doberman but fortunately there was a big fence and gate between him and us!

Later we all walked back up the hill to Cortona (Under the Tuscan Sun place) - its about 5km from where we are staying. Its a lovely hilltop town - there is probably one flat road in the entire town! Wandered around the town during the day, had panino with mozzarella, prosciutto cotto and pomodori for lunch with a very good cappuccino (I know its not the done thing but I am a tourist!). Walked in on a guy in the toilets....oops. He couldn't lock the door and I never heard him call out as I was opening the door....oops. That evening we drove back up to Cortona for dinner at the Trattoria La Grotta. From the carpark outside the walls surrounding the towm we travelled up by escalator to the town! It seemed really bizarre - an escalator out in the middle of nowehere but we appreciated it nonetheless! It saved going up innumerable steps though by now we are getting pretty good at stairclimbing! The meal was superb! We had antipasti to start; then I had tagliolone with tarturo nero (pasta with black truffle) and Zuccotto for dessert. It was really delicious and I can understand now why people rave about truffle - I have never had it until now. We walked around Piazza della Reppublica to a Teatro (the name escapes me) where we watched some dance performances by children and teenagers.

Today was an experience in patience. First we went to the post office to send some postcards. Simple you might think. Aaah, that's what we thought too. But first you must get a ticket and wait....and wait....and wait...and wait. Even when the people behind the counters don't appear to be doing anything, you must wait. 35mins later we got our stamps! Then this afternoon we drove to Perugia to visit the Perugina Chocolate factory - as you do! They were filming something outside the entry to the museum and once we were inside the museum there was no chance of us escaping until they had finished filming. There are only so many times you can wander around looking at everything related to Perugina chocolate. Even the samples they had available weren't that great. Mr B asked if we could join an English-speaking tour of the factory. No problems they said, or something to that effect. When the tour finally happened, 1 hour later, it consisted of 7mins of walking above the factory floor - no commentary, nothing! It wouldn't have mattered if we had joined a Japanese speaking tour - there was no commentary!

Still, this is Italy and despite some minor frustrations, its a beautiful place.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


Thursday Total: 6.2k
Week Total: 23.1k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1238.4k

Time: 38.04min
Av pace: 6.09min/km
Av Temp: sunny, hot
Rel. Humidity Av: humid
Where: along the banks of the Tiber with Strewth and Mr B

It was good to have company running this morning though it did feel a little surreal running in Rome with Strewth and Mr B!

Then while Strewth and Mr B were doing the hop on-hop off bus tour, Mr CJ and I walked to Campo de'Fiori to have a look at the produce markets before heading to Piazza Sant'Eustachio - destination Caffe Sant'Eustachio. This place is apparently famed throughout Rome for its coffee, so we needed to check it out! They make a creamy coffee by beating the first drops of espresso and several tsp of sugar into a frothy paste, then add the rest of the coffee on top. We had due gran cappuccini to have outside which set us back 4,20euro each but hey it was worth it. Plus the waiters had attitude and it was great entertainment to watch them.

We did the Trevi Fountain and Spanish Steps after lunch and a gelato which helped work off some of the calories. I have never walked so much, so far or so fast since being here! Loved the shops in the area (Hermes, Cartier, Prada, Gucci etc) but I decided against flashing the credit card - after all how many designer things does a girl need - actually to be honest I don't have any designer gear!.

Dinner was at Da Enzo, a great little trattoria not far from us where the locals like to eat and where you have to make a reservation or you won't get a table. I had polpette alla limone (meatballs with lemon) and verdure miste (mixed vegetables which were to die for) followed by tiramisu.

Friday Total: 8k
Week Total: 31.1k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1246.4k

Time: 54.15min
Av pace: 6.47min/km
Av Temp: sunny, warm
Rel. Humidity Av: humid
Where: along the 'wrong' side of the Tiber with Strewth and Mr B

We discovered the unsavoury and unsafe side of the Tiber River this morning, and Mr B got bitten by a dog owned by a homeless guy. It was off to the hospital closest to us, on Isola Tiberina (an island on the Tiber River) where Mr B was directed to the casualty area. Well actually we went to the wrong area though we didn't know it at the time until he went back later for his antibiotic shot and a course of tablets plus a tetanus ampoule and syringe.

Strewth and I went shopping in the afternoon, first stop was a shoe shop in Via Florida where I had bought leather sandals a couple of days before. Strewth was hoping to buy a pair of shoes but I had no intentions of buying anymore shoes. But then I saw them! A pair of brown leather wedges - so cute, so Italian! Then it was off to Via del Corso, Rome's busiest shopping street (funny how we can find the important streets in Rome!) where we tried very hard to buy clothes, particularly t-shirts or singlet tops. But it seems the harder you try, the less likely you are to find anything. In one shop I seemd to do everything wrong - first I wanted to try on a t-shirtty top to see if it fitted but you are not allowed to try tops on ie you guess your size and hope for the best. Then I was looking at tops on shelves - wrong again - I was directed to the table where they were all laid out. After managing to buy a top without making any more faux pas I was feeling shopped out (yes, it does happen) I left Strewth and Mr B and headed back to my apartment.

For dinner we went to a very popular pizzeria called Ai Marmi (Casa Mortaro) - another place frequented by the locals. Its really really busy and is referred to as the mortuary by locals because of the marble-topped tables inside (we sat at one of these tables). The only sign outside is Pizzeria. Service is minimal but brisk and our waiter was a little middle aged guy who would look quite at home in a cassock! Mind you, I think we were trying his patience! The pizzas were delicious - thin, crispy crust with great toppings.

Saturday Total: 9.5k
Week Total: 40.6k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1254.9k

Time: 52.17min
Av pace: 5.29min/km
Av Temp: overcast but there was a cool breeze every now and then
Rel. Humidity Av: humid
Where: Circus Maximus with Strewth

Strewth and I went for a run along Circus Maximus leaving the birthday boy (Mr B) at home. So far there is no frothing at the mouth or any other strange symtoms that we can see (post-dog bite)! Traffic-wise it was fairly quiet so the number of close shaves with scooters today was minimal. No intervals today, it was just a gentle run around the gravel tracks and then a walk back over the bridge to home.

Today we also did the Vatican - there was the inevitable queueing but not for long and then we managed to catch a free tour of the Basilica with an American guide. My favourite was PiƩta - the sculpture by Michelangelo. Next was the Sistine Chapel which wasn't free but well worth what we paid. However to get from the Basilica to the Chapel before the doors closed meant race walking, literally. People who know me and know at what pace I generally walk would be amazed at my newly acquired skill of walking rapido! The Sistine Chapel - Awe-inspiring, breath-taking, amazing (I need a thesaurus!) - it was all of this and more. Finally we walked through the Vatican Grottoes which are below the church and contain the tombs of numerous popes including that of John Paul 11.

By this stage I was tired, hungry (last meal was at 9.30am and it was after 3pm) and my bladder was about to burst (public toilets in Rome are as rare as hens teeth). We had a very ordinary panini before heading back to Trastevere and Piazza Santa Maria where we had a delicious spremuta di arance (freshly squeezed orange juice served in tall slim glasses) at Caffe delle Arance. It was nice just to sit back and watch the people passing through the Piazza.

Tonight we have dinner at a restaurant below Strewth and Mr B's apartment where we will eat lots, drink lots and be merry. Its a birthday bash for the birthday boy. Tomorrow we leave Rome for the Amalfi Coast. There may be a few sore heads as we head south for the coast. It will also be Mr CJ's first experience of driving in Italy. Be afraid, be very afraid!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

When in Rome.......

Monday Total: 7.7k
Week Total: 7.7k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1223k

Time: 42.41min
Av pace: 5.29min/km
Av Temp: sunny, v warm and muggy (8.00am)
Rel. Humidity Av: humid

Ran alongside the Tiber River - amazing sights and not-so-amazing smells! There were people out walking their dogs (I have never met such placid dogs as I have seen in Rome), a couple of runners, cyclists and they've all been male. Also running along cobblestones has proven to be quite a challenge but so far I've not done a CJ.

We arrived in Rome Saturday afternoon after a 13hr flight from Singapore to Heathrow, a 6hr wait at Heathrow (and there's only so many times you can walk around the shops before it all starts looking the same particularly in a jet-lagged state) and then a 2hr flight to Rome. I upset one of the guys in Rome airport trying to get us a 'taxi' because I said I was going out to the taxi rank. We were told not to take a 'taxi' from them because we could end up paying a lot more than the 40euro flat rate from the airport to Trastevere, where we are staying.

Our apartment is gorgeous and the owners are just brilliant. We have a decent sized living area, kitchen, dining area, bedroom, and bathroom. Shelley, the owner, had left dark chocolate bars on our pillows (she won me over immediately!), a basket of snacks and fruit in the living area, and coffee beans as well as moka coffee powder in the kitchen, plus a complimentary bottle of wine. If you ever come to Rome, this is the place to stay.

Anyway briefly, Sunday we did the flea markets at Porto Potese - these are huge and we got lost. But I also managed to buy a cute bag and some casual shoes (tho when we got back to our apartment I discovered I had a size 37 and a size 40 - this meant a sprint back to the markets before they closed, find the right stall and swap them. We managed all of this!). The Pantheon visit was in the afternoon - amazing if you ignore the hordes of tourists, the stalls selling fake everything and the McDonalds. Before this we stopped at Torre Argentian cat sanctuary - these are ruins which are home to hundreds of Roman cats, all of which are sterilised and vaccinated. There are some big pussy cats in there.

Intervals at Circus Maximus

Tuesday Total: 9.2k
Week Total: 16.9k
Month Total: k
Year Total: 1232.2k

Time: 48.52min
Av pace: 5.16min/km
Av Temp: warm, partly cloudy
Rel. Humidity Av: humid

Ran intervals at Circus Maximus before breakfast. Getting there was interesting - nearly got run over several times just crossing roads. Once at Circus Maximus I thought it was the perfect place to do intervals becasue the track is roughly a kilometre long. The surface is uneven but hey, I'm getting used to uneven surfaces now! There is no shade so it was hot work after the first couple of intervals but I ended up doing about 7 or 8 of them. I saw a few females running today - I think they were tourists.

Then we did the Colosseum, Palatino and the Forum ruins during the day, or maybe that was Monday. I'm losing track of the days! I think we did all of the above on Monday and then on Tuesday we did the hop on, hop off bus tour to get a better idea of the city.

I won't even start on the eating - only to say that carbo loading is an ongoing thing here. The panini, pastries, pizzas, gelati - its all delicious!

Strewth and Mr B arrived ths morning - it was great to see them though the poor things are feeling a little weary! Can't wait to hit the shops with Strewth - there are some seriously goegeous shoes here in Rome!

Until next time.....ciao!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Wednesday Total: 9.9k
Week Total: 20.1k
Month Total: 42.9k
Year Total: 1205.3k

Time: 57.32min
Av pace: 5.47min/km
Av Temp: overcast (7.55am)
Rel. Humidity Av: humid

Thursday Total: 10k
Week Total: 30.1k
Month Total: 52.9k
Year Total: 1215.3k

Time: 58.57min
Av pace: 5.50min/km
Av Temp: sunny and hot (8.05am)
Rel. Humidity Av: humid

As you can see I have been running in Singapore - its not too bad as long as I don't try to run fast. So I plod along and enjoy the scenery. When I stop its like the taps are turned on - the sweat simply pours off me.

I need to run - we have been eating non-stop since we've been here. Food has ranged from noodle dishes and dim sum through to Carls Jnr burgers, to a Brazilian restaurant called Carnivore, through to the chocolate buffet which is tonight. Naturally we had a Singapore Sling at the Raffles (this afternoon) to recover from shopping (not that we bought a lot its just that you do a lot of walking and looking but do you think I could find what I was after?!) Oh, I have also had Jurian icecream - an interesting experience ands Kaya Toast - an interesting cafe they have here that sells toast - very popular and actually very moreish.

Tomorrow we are off to Malaysia for a quick trip before flying out midnight, destination Heathrow where we will spend 6 hrs before flying to Rome. We've had a great time here in Singapore.

Monday, June 04, 2007


Monday Total: 10.2k
Week Total: 10.2k
Month Total: 33k
Year Total: 11895.4k

Time: 59.04min
Av pace: 5.48min/km
Av Temp: 3.6*c (6.20am)
Rel. Humidity Av: 99%
Wind Spd Avg: 9kph (E)
Started with: I was alive - The Whitlams
Finished with: No Way Back - Foo Fighters

Last run in Australia for 6 weeks. It wasn't difficult getting up early this morning and facing the chilly morning air - funny that!

Highlight of the run: most mornings I pass a dour old man out walking his dog who usually never acknowledges my greeting; its only recently he's made eye contact. This morning I ran past cheerily greeting him and he nodded his head.....omg! Did I really see that? Not only that did I see a slight twitch at the corners of his mouth - not quite a smile but hey, its progress!

Anyway the case is packed and we're ready to go! We leave Canberra at 12noon and then fly out of Sydney about 3.50pm, bound for Singapore. Woo hoo!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Greyer Shade of Cold

Saturday Total: 16.5k
Week Total: 57.2k
Month Total: 22.8k
Year Total: 1185.2k

Time: 1hr 32.52min
Av pace: 5.37min/km
Av Temp: 7.2*c (6.59am)
Rel. Humidity Av: 90%
Wind Spd Avg: 6kph (NNW)
Started with: Leave Me Alone (I'm Lonely) - Pink
Finished with: All Star - Smash Mouth

The cold this morning was of the type that seeps into your bones and chills you from the inside. The morning was very grey and misty and still - and very cold. So consequently there weren't too many people outdoors as I ran down by Lake Ginninderra and came home via the Florey bike path. I don't think I broke into a sweat at all on this run.

Had a coffee with Strewth and Mr B at the Mall then spent the afternoon sorting out paperwork, printing photos for a friend and generally avoiding having to start packing. Tomorrow......

Only 2 sleeps to go and one suitcase to pack - that is the challenge!

Friday, June 01, 2007

Last hurrah.......

Friday Total: 6.3k
Week Total: 40.7k
Month Total: 226.5k
Year Total: 1168.7k

Time: 31.59min
Av pace: 5.01min/km
Av Temp: 6.8*c (7.25am)
Rel. Humidity Av: 94.8%
Wind Spd Avg: 13.7kph (NNW)
Started with: Cherry Cola - Eagles of Death Metal
Finished with: Straight Line - Silverchair

My last day at work for 12 weeks. It was spent tidying up, deleting emails, handing over work to my colleagues (actually this process has been going on for more than one day), attending a finance meeting this afternoon (cruel joke) and finished with a farewell afternoon tea with the Branch, including the obligatory speeches (v embarrassing) and gifts (v nice).

So no gym sessions for the next 6 weeks and by then I will definitely need to get back into the gym! I'm still planning on fitting in some runs while I am away, if only to start the day with a calorie deficit ;-)

Only 3 sleeps to go!