Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Iron & Ice Enrichment Voyage

London Wrap-up: Food and Found Friends

While posting a series about my London stay, I bumped into that great American holiday Thanksgiving. Deciding to hold off on sharing my London food finds until we had made our way through the end of the year, I now find myself well into February. Given our current clImate, it’s an opportune time to talk about the wonderful foods of London and what each cuisine brings to the table, literally and figuratively.

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The simplicity of fresh rocket with aged parmesan and just a dribble of olive oil makes the perfect late night bite after an evening of London theatre.

My first find was a simple meal which will stay etched in my memory as the ideal post-theatre snack. After an evening show, we returned to South Kensington in need of just a light something. Of all the small Italian eateries lining Brompton Road, we found the one that satisfied that need. I noted the name of the restaurant as Pasta by Mama, but I don’t think that is correct. If any readers identify the insignia on the plate above, please help me out with the correct name.

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I chose the Fish Bhuna, a freshwater fish served with sauce and herbs, accompanied by a delicious cup of tea.

Our next find was during an exploration among the narrow streets of Spitalfields. This immigrant community has also become an area energized by a young crowd of fashionistas making their way through open air markets, small shops and outdoor cafés. We opted for Shada Bangladeshi restaurant housed in a building on Brick Lane home to earlier restaurants. The building can be identified by the frying pan atop, an emblem historically used by braziers. As we enjoyed our meal, a large screen television was showing live footage of the Hajj, the annual Islamic pilgrimage to Mecca.

Along with scoping of restaurant finds on our own, we benefited from friends living in London and friends of friends who shared their dining favorites.

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Dinner with long-time family friend Elizabeth at the Green Room, a collaborative restaurant with the National Theatre serving locally grown British fare.

One of those friends shared a favorite stop on the South Bank, the Green Room. I felt at home in this neighbourhood diner serving British food in an open airy space. Seating includes props and scenery used at earlier shows at the National Theatre, located nearby. 

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Later in my stay, I met with Elizabeth again for a lecture at the National Gallery and tea at the exquisite Ham Yard Hotel hidden away in a courtyard near Soho.

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Catching up with Katherine, a travel connection from earlier journeys. We enjoyed tea along with self-serve salad and sandwiches at this ornate museum café.

Stopping for tea and a light lunch is such an enjoyable way to spend time with friends. I rendezvoused with Katherine at the Victoria and Albert Museum . We met several years ago on the Iron and Ice voyage, two of the few travelers on that journey who enjoyed sightseeing on foot. 

 

 

My travel partner reached out to a friend of a friend in the Somali community of London. He shared with us a favorite of his, Yogiz Dairybar & Eatery located near Stratford and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We enjoyed lamb on a bed of rice with condiments on the side. I learned that a banana is generally served with all Somali meals and is sliced and eaten along with the main dish. We also enjoyed the samosa (or sambas, a pastry with savory filling) and a cup of tea.

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Finally, let’s talk about the first meal of the day: Breakfast. My best breakfast during the London stay was definitely British. On a misty morning at the Holland Park Cafe, I chose the Traditional English Breakfast and was totally satisfied with the choice. It included some of the most flavorful sausage I have had. From the eggs to the tomato, I could identify the freshness in each bite.

There you have it. Mix in friends and acquaintances old and new,  some familiar cuisine, and some that stretches your palette and dining experience. The result will be warm memories and new food knowledge to take home with you.

To enhance your travel and dining, I suggest keeping an open mind and an inquisitive palate.

 

 

 

 

 

Calm Fjord Kayaking with a Run Chaser

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Photo Credit: Jerry Isenberg

One year ago, on my journey aboard the M/V Explorer, we made our way around the shores of Iceland, A cloud-covered sun was already bright in the sky that June morning as I felt the familiar shudder of the ship.

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On a voyage in and out of ports for 21 days, that sound clued me that we were either slowing significantly or about to enter a harbor. At 4 a.m. – yes, a  bright sun at 4 a.m. – I looked out the cabin window and saw the most beautiful site yet on this long and varied trip.

We were entering port at Isafjordur, Iceland. Down the gangplank, I looked for the tour bus marked for kayakers. To my delight, I learned that I would not be taking a bus but instead would walk just a few blocks to another portion of the harbor.

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And there they were, kayaks in every primary color lined up near the blue morning water.

My kayaking experience had been brief, most taking place on summer days and calm lakes in Quebec and the Adirondocks of New York, so a calm fjord sounded just right.

The day’s high temperature was 46F degrees (8C). Here, in the hands of West Tours, we kayaked on a beautiful flat surface of clear water. Those around me saw several seals; I saw the scenery directly ahead. Even though I was thoroughly skirted, the kayak was longer than any I had experienced and my center of gravity seemed a bit unstable.

Photo Credit: Jerry Isenberg

Photo Credit: Jerry Isenberg

My preference was to enjoy the morning above the water, a beautiful morning with quiet conversation between kayakers. Surrounded by the unspeakable beauty, this was a port to be etched in the mind.

Too soon, we were climbing out of the kayaks. Though my upper body had experienced a workout, I was totally energized. Returning to the ship for a snack, I changed into my running shoes before setting out to explore the town and find a trail to run a few miles.

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Side trails exit off the path leading to bus stops and boat piers across the highway

The small and efficient information office directed me to a path that would take me on a trail parallel to the highway and – if only time had allowed – to the next town up the road. My first miles were more of a walking pace, assessing my surroundings, breathing in the beauty while considering the safety of my on-foot journey.

The wired crib set off by a field of lupine is used to dry fish heads.

The wired crib, set off by a field of lupine, is used to dry fish heads.

I made my turnaround around mile 3.5, enjoying the return view toward Isafjordur. With the exception of a couple of cyclists and one walker, the path was mine.

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Melting ice flowing from the fjords under the path and into the bay.

Arriving back in town, I stopped in a restaurant for a delicious bowl of fish stew (more about this in a forthcoming food post). Before making my return to the Explorer, I did a quick look through some local shops, accommodating and friendly but not particularly tourist-oriented – a good thing.

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Typical residence near downtown shops and path.

Isafjordur is one of the dwindling authentic locations I have found on this earth and at the top of my list for a return.
Have you found authentic places and have you returned and found them to have remained authentic?

Travel Theme: Energy

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The white geothermal pipeline snaking through the ruggedly beautiful countryside captures steam that is processed and provides much of the needed energy for the Reykjavik region.

 

My friends in travel over at Where’s My Backpack? have sparked memories of steaming streams, fumaroles and geysers. I’m flipping through photos of a beautiful, energy-efficient land. It’s a timely topic.

 

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Those of us living in the Northeast United States are growing weary of deep-freeze temperatures, comparing notes on fuel prices, watching the electric meter click away, and taking a deep breath before opening the utility bill.

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Here is my solution: Move to Iceland. Your energy bill will be $0 (or, um, 0 kr). The land under their feet and the technology aboveground sustains their energy needs. Here, no one will ask you to turn down the thermostat or hit the light switch as you leave a room.

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In a more low-tech and time-tested method, the energy from streams fed from the underground heat will bake your bread and cook your lunch.

 

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Finally, get on your feet. Use your personal energy and take a run or a walk in the Laugarnes area on one of the interlinking paths around Reykjavik. It will take you from the Videy Ferry Terminal toward the City Center and link in with other trails as well.

 

Travel Tuesday – DIY Copenhagen

Of the many ports of call during my Enrichment Voyage, Copenhagen was one of the shortest, a mere eight hours from disembarkation to ship’s time. I was fortunate to spend some time with my family in Copenhagen and Aalborg Denmark in the early ’80s. Arriving at the Lengelinie Pier for a brief port stop this time around,

Narrow walkways to mysterious private destinations

Narrow Copenhagen walkways lead  to mysterious private destinations

it made sense to avoid any of the castle tours and other sites I had distant and fond memories of. Instead, it was a do-it-yourself walking tour.

My partner in impromptu city strolling this day was Catherine, a travel-loving American ex-pat making her home in London. She also happens to be a fellow blogger who can be found over at the Blue Marble. Catherine and I became acquainted during our tour of the Baltics. Though less than half my age, we discovered one of the many traits we have in common is a preference for seeing port cities on foot. This day, according to my Garmin, we walked 8.6 miles exploring Copenhagen’s streets.

On this overcast, drizzly day, we hopped indoors to do a walk-through visit to Georg Jensen. To call this a store somehow doesn’t do it justice. Georg Jensen rises to the level of a museum where the beautiful designs are for sale. Here for me, there is no desire to buy, to own. Simply experiencing the clean lines, the aesthetic design that seems to transcend time is enough. Should you be in Copenhagen, save an hour or so to peruse the exquisite lines of their jewelry and home products.

IMG_0556With long, sometimes dreary days, the bright energy of color takes the gray edge off a busy retail street. Likewise, the bikes that make their way through traffic and line store walls offer sunshine colors.IMG_0521

Outdoor restaurants similar to this one dot the streets. Across Scandinavia, al fresco dining casually or elegantly is a way of life. I love the cozy, colorful throws that are provided with the seating, saving diners from the chill of a sudden breeze.

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Before sprinting up the gangplank, we popped into the port shopping area. The facade gives the incongruous appearance of second rate shopping, particularly after our stroll down the Strøget. Don’t be fooled. There is some excellent shopping behind those cluttered windows.IMG_0517

Departing through the harbor, the windmills make an impressive view and an impressive energy source for the Danes. IMG_0510

Coming into view was an impressive ship full of brave academy men, settled like crows along the yardarm of this wood vessel.IMG_0564

And like ocean-going birds, we too return to open waters destined for the North Sea.

 

 

Travel Theme: Arches

Let’s do a Travel Tuesday and join the folks over at Where’s my Backpack? as they explore the shape of the arch in all the forms it appears to us.

Photo Credit: Scott D. Welch/Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: Scott D. Welch/Wikimedia Commons


On this Veterans Day in the U.S., I will begin with the Pacific Arch at the World War II Memorial.

 

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From the East Coast of the U.S., we move in time to the Middle Ages and across the Atlantic to a Baltic port city and this arch in Old Town Riga, Latvia.

 

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Then north on the Baltic and a bit inland to an arched walkway through a building near the Täby Kyrka in Svenskakyrkan, Sweden.

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Off to Northern Ireland and Belfast’s City Hall. In addition to the beautifully arched stained glass window, at least three other arch shapes appear in the photo.

 

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Continuing east across Asia and into the Pacific Ocean to one of our westernmost states, we found an arch of holiday lights surrounding one of many homes, vehicles and driveways located in this historic Oahu neighborhood at the foothills of the Waianae Mountains. Decorations are ready for the Makakilo Christmas Light Spectacular.

 

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Back to the U.S. mainland and in Niobrara State Park stand a lovely couple centered in an flowered arch overlooking the Missouri River.

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Across the Missouri on the Dakota side, the river forms its own gentle arch.

 

20130720-10kroadrace-tj-001jpg-7c79ed43a5447f89On to Cleveland Ohio during a downpour prior to the 2013 Senior Games 10K where a runner attempts to stay dry employing an arched plastic bag overhead.

 

IMG_0611Finally, we have circled the globe and made our way back home to one of the many bridges with arches spanning our beautiful Susquehanna River.

Thank you Where’s my Backpack for this great suggestion.

 

 

 

 

Hoofing it through Helsinki

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Nearing Helsinki’s harbor through Gulf of Finland in the Baltic Sea

It’s Travel Tuesday. Our cool autumn weather feels like an overcast Spring morning in Helsinki, Finland. The ship arrived in port and this traveler was oh so ready to set feet on the pier.

Helsinki is the perfect port for a traveler in need of room to breathe.  Three wonderful days of museums and magnificent buildings in Saint Petersburg, escorted by our guides and surrounded at every stop by dense crowds, those days of claustrophobic gilded beauty left me ready for some personal space.

A variety of day tours were available as well as a shuttle ride into the city. Me, I was hoofing it. A solo walk was on my personal itinerary. Besides, how much trouble could I find in Helskinki?

Out the gangway, I simply began a fast walk, assuming the view of steeples on the hill would take me to the old city sites. IMG_0392I assumed correctly and a 45-minutes walk found me at Market Square, again surrounded by other tourists and the downtown harbor.

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I crossed paths with a local runner, one of the few Helsinkians on the streets Ascension Day.

The town was quiet with many shops closed. We had arrived on Ascension Day, an official holiday in Finland. Fortunately, outdoor markets dotting the square with local foods and handicrafts were open with tourists giving them brisk business.

Around the block and the corner was Senate Square where I spotted a Hop-On Hop-Off bus stop. A couple of the outlying locations I wanted to explore suddenly seemed possible, especially since the buses ran until 5:00. I rode the Hop-On to the Rock Church, the Temppeliaukio Lutheran Church where architects had designed IMG_0409a building carved from the natural rock.

After a day mostly on foot enjoying a city full of parks and open space, I briefly visited the statue of Finnish Olympian Paavo Nurmi before engaging in my own run, a sprint to the last Hop-On bus scheduled. It was 4:00 p.m. when I learned the Hop-On bus was no longer going near my terminal. In fact after it dropped current travelers at Market Square, it wasn’t going anywhere. As it turned out, the claim that it was “running until 5:00” actually meant that all buses would be returned to the barn no later than 5:00. Quickly throwing in with a couple of other travelers returning to the same ship terminal, we flagged a cab and made it back well before ship time.

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Nurmi photo taken on the run

A day on my own did wonders for my psyche. I was back aboard ship, ready to move on to the next port enjoying the company of my fellow voyagers.

Endurance on the Isle of Mousa

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Mousa Broch, Shetland Islands

This week, I was prompted to share a photo that reflects endurance.  To my surprise, the first visual was not another photo of yours truly crossing a marathon finish line, or a photo of friends during ultra trail runs.

It may have been that the prompt arrived on a day following Scotland’s vote on independence. At any rate, I immediately scanned through my collection for a photo of the Mousa Broch.

In early June with a comfortably brisk temperature and long sunlit days, we docked in the Shetland Islands in Lerwick’s port.

Entering Lerwick, Shetland Islands

Entering Lerwick, Shetland Islands

 

A small boat took us to the Isle of Mousa where we had the opportunity to enter the broch, climb the interior stairs for a view of the bay if we chose, and wonder how this 2,000 year old structure was used.

Was this a fort, a strategically placed island home, a storage facility? IMG_0608Brochs remain a mystery. Of the 500 or so brochs built through the Shetlands during the Iron Age, the Mousa Broch is the best preserved.

Interior wall Mousa Broch

Interior wall Mousa Broch

On an uninhabited island where Shetland sheep graze nearby

Shetland Sheep

Shetland Sheep

and seals find their way to the shore, the broch endures the wind, the sea, the years and even a few humans who continue to puzzle the details of its purpose and ensure its protection.IMG_0593