Chicago – spending $ in “The Magnificent Mile”, the shopping mecca of Chicago

If you google shopping and Chicago, “The Magnificent Mile” will pop up as the top results. It boasts more than 460 retailers, including popular brands; major department stores; international luxury labels and designers; and three vertical shopping centers, each with incentives and premier savings (source: www.themagnificentmile.com). We decided to dedicate one of our pre-race days in “The Windy City” to this shopping street a few kilometers from our hotel. We were on our way way there, strolling along The Riverwalk, when we suddenly stumbled upon the building owned by one of my less favorite politicians, the Trump Tower. The guy obviously feel he has something he to compensate for, but (spoiler alert) your own name in giant, tacky letters is never the answer.

We finally reach the famous “Magnificent Mile” and after just one shop, we were in dire need of a sherpa, or at least an Uber, because we have run out of arms to carry all the bags. Not that that stopped me from acquiring an IPad in addition before we called it a day and dragged our loot back to the hotel.

As mentioned in earlier posts, Chicago is definitely cooler than I imagined, and I could have just wandering about for days checking out all the historical landmarks and the amazing skyscrapers.

 

 

PortAventura World – Spanias Disneyland-wannabe utenfor Barcelona

I Salou, en snau times togtur fra Barcelona, finner man PortAventura World, bestående av tre parker; PortAventura Park, PortAventura Caribe Aquatic Park, samt 5 hoteller og et bobil-område. Stedet har også sin egen vaskeekte maskott i form av en Hakke Hakkespett-lignende karakter. Da undetegnede i løpet av sine tre visitter ikke har kommet lenger enn PortAventura Park, er det kun denne som blir omtalt her.

Likt som Disneyland består også PortAventura Park av flere tematiske områder. 5 som dreier seg om ulike sivilisasjoner; Mediterrània, Far West, México, Cina og Polynesia, samt et område for de aller minste med et Sesam Stasjon-tema (for de som måtte huske Max Mekker & Co). Hvert område har sine attraksjoner, alt fra berg-og-dalbaner og tømmerrenner til spisesteder og underholdning og PortAventura sitt egne tog kan frakte deg fra område til område.

En av hovedattraksjonene er Shambhala, en såkalt hypercoaster som frem til 2018 var både Europas raskeste (134 km/t), høyeste (76 m) og hadde høyest dropp (78 m). Supergøy for adrenalin-junkies, men not so much for meg, som i et svakt øyeblikk lot meg overtale til ta den. Trodde jeg skulle dø en 2-3 ganger (den tynne stolpen på låra som var det eneste som sto mellom oss og et 78 m dropp virket ikke så veldig stabil) og holdt øynene lukket mesteparten av tiden, men kom meg helskinnet gjennom; blek og ikke fullt så fattet. Reisefølget løp straks tilbake for å stille seg i kø igjen; det gjorde ikke jeg…

Så var det podens tur til å overtales og da han er sønn av sin mor sånn berg-og-dalbanemessig, endte vi opp med El Diablo, som tross navnet viste seg å være mer i min gate (kun 60 km/t og ingen dropp) og mer enn skremmende nok for junior, som da var kun 6 år.

For å summere opp parken: masse opplevelser både for fartssøkende og de litt mer rolige typene, så vel verdt et besøk. Det er veldig enkelt å komme dit med tog, da stedet har sin egen togstasjon, men det er også mulig å bestille kombinert inngangsbillett og tilgang til PortAventura Park direkte på deres hjemmeside. Velger du å overnatte på et av områdets 5 hoteller, er parkbilletter inkludert og da får man også ned seg alle kveldsaktivitetene som i sommermånedene kulminerer i et fyrverkeri rundt midnatt.

En helg i vassfisens tegn

Hva skjedde med jenta som bodde i vannet og som måtte til store protester bli halt på land etter en lang dag på stranden? Vel, noe skjedde på veien over til de voksnes rekker og nå på mine eldre dager har jeg vel blitt det man kaller en real vassfis  (som hvis man slår det opp interessant nok enten kan bety “en fisker som ikke får fisk eller en feig person, som ikke tør å dukke hodet under vann). Nuvel, det med fisk vet jeg ikke helt, men noe som er helt sikkert er at jeg ikke stikker så mye som en lilletå (og slettes ikke hele hodet) i vannet før det minimum runder 22 grader.

I de siste dagene har vi fått kjenne litt på heten som har feiet over Europa store deler av sommeren, men som VIRKELIG har glimret med sitt fravær her oppe i nord (selv om YR har gjort sitt aller beste for å bygge opp forhåpninger om sommer, bare for å brutalt knuse dem i etterkant). De siste to nettene har vi til og med kunnet sove under åpen himmel (les: lukket markise) ute på terrassen og falle i søvn til måkekvitter og fyllerør (bor nemlig slik til at huset mitt gjerne passeres både på vei ned til byens utesteder og ikke minst på vei hjem fra nevnte utesteder).

Inntil nå har badetemperaturene ligget og vaket rundt 18-19 grader, men nå begynner de å ta seg opp og i dag bikket de jammen 22-tallet på Korsvikstranden i Sandefjord, så da var tiden endelig inne for å senke denne damas ekstremt kulde-sensitive legeme ned i sjøvann for første gang i moderlandet dette året.  Virkelig forfriskende, og er jeg riktig så heldig rekker jeg en liten dupp før vi nådeløst blir kastet tilbake til normalen denne sommeren; det vil si sur vind, perioder med regn og temperaturer stabilt under 20-tallet. Men, den tid den sorg, for nå skal hvert minutt nytes.

 

360 Chicago – a perfect post-marathon activity with amazing view of Chicago skyline

In 2018 I had an amazing trip to Chicago, which was so much cooler than I had previously given it credit for. I have in earlier posts described the main event and reason for me going, namely the Chicago Marathon, and I have also written about the amazing walking tour we took where we learned about the city’s transformation from a swamp into a modern metropolis. On one of our final days we went up in the 360 Chicago,  a 314 meter observation deck and it proved to be a good choice of experience, because the view of the skyline in Chicago was nothing but amazing.

 

 

 

Tickets can be bought directly from the 360 Chicago  homepage, and costs USD 25 for adults and USD 15 for children 3-11). For an additional USD 8, you can do the Tilt where you can really get a good view of the Magnificent Mile and the skyline. I, however, chose to pass on that one and felt that the regular view was sufficient on my part.

Chicago – from a swamp to a metropolis in 200 years

 

Not only is Chicago the hometown of Barack Obama (something that might explain the giant and tacky letters on the Trump Tower, since number 45 obviously has issues with number 44), it also holds an amazing history and have the most spectacular buildings.

It might be that a three hours walking tour a couple of days before Chicago Marathon was not ideal, but wow, what a tour! Everywhere we turned, there was a new story, like the picture above, which is of the ceiling of Macy’s and the largest Tiffany mosaic in existence. It was designed by Louis C. Tiffany in 1907 and consists of 1.6 million pieces of glass. Another quite fascinating story was the one of the docking station for zeppelins in the top of a skyscraper that was never used since the Hindenburg incident turned out to be a buzzkill for future airship travel.

We booked the trip ( Chicago History and Architecture Tour    )  through Viator.com, which outsourced it to the local company “Chicago’s Finest Tours” and this trip is really recommended if you should find yourself in the Windy City.

Our guide was Richard, an older, funny and really knowledgeable guy who obviously was very proud of his town. The rest of the tour group was Americans from various US states and what do you know, almost all of them had Norwegian ancestors, so for a minute we was the point of interest for the group since they wanted our picture for show & tell back home.

 

Richard took us, story by story, through the history of Chicago, from its small beginning as a desolated swamp to grow into a metropolis with one of the strongest economies in the US. I mean, it even had the funds to cover the top of one of its skyscrapers with gold (not exactly how I would have spent the money, but at least they knew how to flash their wealth). Furthermore, Richard told us about the “discoverers” of Chicago (even if it was inhabited by the Native American tribe Potawatomi), the Frenchmen Jolliet and Marquette, about the founder of the city (Lasall) and about fights both against the English and against Native Americans.

 

In 1871 the town suffered the Great Chicago Fire which destroyed a large part of the city. From the ashes, however, grew the inspirations to some of the amazing skyscrapers we see today.

Richard also told little anecdotes about the prohibition period and Al Capone (which evidently was a client of the hat store below), before he whisked us through the wonderful world of the architecture of Chicago and we were shown skyscrapers from different eras and got a short guided tour in a couple of them.

 

The tour ended not far from our hotel, along the Route 66, and then we were quite happy to be able to rest our legs before our Marathon a couple of days later.

Alternative Training the Scenic Way

After 2 days of wogging in a row, I originally planned for a day of rest today… maybe sleep in, or at least sleep until 7. But, no such luck… I was up at 5 like clock work as usual, so I though that I might as well leave the car at home for the day and walk the approx. 6 K to work. So, with a 4 kg backpack containing the necessities (change of clothes, my laptop and pepsi max), I set off for the hilly, but very scenic, road to work.

Since it was 05:45 when I left home, the city center was completely empty when I passed through, except for a guy looking for bottles in a trash bin and a street sweeper. The only sounds around was the sound of seagulls in their constant search for food and the quiet sound of the ocean as I approached the docks.

A perfect way to start the day 🙂

 

 

London Marathon – My favorite in the Abbott Series

After doing the New York Marathon in 2013, the bar was set high for beating that experience. London Marathon, however, a great deal due to the fantastic spectators along the course, having a party from start to end (meaning they were pretty intoxicated by the time I came along).

My first spot in London Marathon (in 2014) was secured through Springtime.no since I did not risk loosing out in the lottery (when all the traveling agency spots are taken). I had, as I always do, trained way too much way to late and ended up with both shin splints and hip bursitis, but didn’t want to miss out, so I started anyway (a real recipe for disaster in other words). Well, the race wasn’t very glorious for my part. The last 17 km I crawled my way to the finishing line with a severe limp, in the end using about 12 minutes/km, while piss drunk English men cheered me on the whole way, offering me beer (which I declined) and “lifted” me the rest of the way while shouting encouraging phrases like “Come on love, you can do it!” Have I mentioned I love these guys? Dissolved in tears and in excruciating pain, I managed to cross the finishing line and grab the medal. When I came to my senses again I was able to enjoy the though of all the crazy outfits I noticed on my way, like several guys running with a giant rhino’s head, one lady was trying to do the marathon in high heels (don’t believe she made it, though) and the best one of them all, a guy carrying an old fashion fridge!

My second attempt in London was in 2016, where I secured a spot through Rogaland Marathon Travels. At least time I did not have any injuries to blame, so I completed in my usual slow manner. This time, I managed to enjoy some of the costumes along the race. Among others I passed a several meter long T-rex (you know, the feeling of finally passing the dinosaur…) and right before the finishing line, I crushed Jesus on a cross (a guy running barefoot, tied to a huge cross).

Among the six marathons included in the Abbott series, London is definitely my favorite. Securing a spot, however, can be tricky and the wait list can be several years, unless you are fit enough to qualify or lucky enough to win the lottery. But hey, “Wait lists are temporary, big fat medals last for ever” 🙂

 

 

 

5 Marathons on My Bucket List

Alas, so the great Abbott World Marathon Majors-adventure has come to an end. Or, at least to a pause; the rumor is that they are actually expanding from 6 to 8 or 9 marathons within short. When decided, we of course will need to run these, so that we can maintain or status as Abbott 6/8/9 Star Finishers. 

But while waiting for this, I have made a bucket list of the marathon I would really like to wog/run. Prior to Tokyo Marathon I had more or less decided to just complete there and then burn my running shoes in firm belief that I would never be a runner. Now, however, I am not that sure… Or, I am quite sure I will never be a runner, but maybe I should aspire for being the best wogger I can be? I have completed 13 marathons, but I have never really been prepared (meaning enough long runs before the race). When you are aiming for a 42,2 km, it isn’t sufficient with 30-45 minute sessions. I was, for not foreseeable reasons, not able to do any long runs prior to our travel to Tokyo, so I was only able to do a 15km. Since I lasted about 18 km, I feel that I have some improvement potential if I can only get some more long-runs. 

To boost my motivation to become a better runner/wogger, I have created a bucket list of marathons I would like to participate in.

 

1. Honolulu Marathon

Honolulu Marathon is scheduled for December each year, which brings a temperature equal to a wonderful Norwegian summer. A bit too hot for some, maybe, but for a frozen wogger, is just perfect. Ever since I spent a few weeks on Honolulu 12 years ago, I have wanted to return, so why not kill 2 birds with one stone and do a marathon while I am there? 

The advantage of Honolulu Marathon is that it is not that difficult to secure a start number, meaning the cost will mostly be just air fare and hotel. If you don’t want the hazzle of booking by yourself, you can book a complete package from a travel agent. The course is mostly flat, but with some rough places between 10 and 15 km and between 35 and 40 km. 

 

2. Great Wall Marathon

The Great wall has an amazing history and I have been quite fascinated with it since I was a kid. The Great Wall Marathon is considered a tought course and you will have to conquer over 5000 steps along the way! Fortunately you have an 8 hours time limit, but you need to have passed 34 km in 6 hours in order to be allowed to complete. Step practice anyone?

The race is in May each year and I have seen that e.g. Albatros Adventure Marathons sells complete travel packages that includes a start number. 

 

3. Paris Marathon

I know nothing about Paris Marathon other than that it is in April each year and that the finishing line is on top of Champs Elysses . That is all the reasons I need in order to include this marathon on my bucket list (hey, we are talking about “The City of Love” here!). It should be fairly easy to secure a start number on your own, but you can also do it through a travel agent.

The course looks a bit scruffy and ends with a slow slope up Champs Elysses. 

4. Praha Marathon

Prague is an amazing city I never grow tired of; fantastic architecture, a rich cultural life, delicious foods and cheap beer. I mean, what is not to like, so why not go “all in” and throw a marathon into the mix as well? 

Prague Marathon is in May every year and the course takes you through both the old and new parts of the city, including crossing the Charles Bridge. The time limit is cosy 7 hours, so here you can really combine easy jog with sightseeing. I am not sure if any of the Norwegian travel agents are offering Prague Marathon, but it should be fairy easy to secure a start number on your own. 

 

5. Medoc Marathon

So, last but not least, Medoc Marathon. This marathon is known for its runners’ costumes (this year’s theme is: Super Heros) and the fact that you run through vines and that all drinking stations supply wine. Official time limit is 6:30, but sometimes they extend this limit since many of the runners are starting to get wine happy. 

The program is set and shuttles will bring you to and front the start/finisher area, so it should be OK to arrange everything on your own. Me, however, think I would like to prefer to book the trip through a travel agent.

So, this was my bucket list. Do you guys have any suggestions that should be included in the list? If so, feel free to comment below..

 

New York Marathon – Once in a lifetime

Preparations

In Boston Marathon in 2103, 2 bombs went off in the finishing area, killing 3 and wounding hundreds. I had never considered marathons as possible terrorist targets, so it was with a bit skepticism I accepted a charity spot to the New York Marathon in the fall the same year.  Could it happen again…?

Well, to put it like this. The security measures taken before, during and after the race could not have been better. Body search, police helicopters constantly hoovering above us, plenty of armed guards in the starting area and along the course and a tightly closed off finishing area (it took me like 1 hour to get out of there afterwards..). Even with all the security the organizers, and the good people of New York managed to give us an event for a life time. What a crowd and what a support along the way!

New York Marathon starts at Staten Island, ends up in Central Part and passes through all the boroughs of New York along the way (Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Bronx and Manhattan); all the places you are familiar with through watching TV, but which some you maybe would not have visited if ever in New York. In other words, very exiting.

 

Pre-Race Expo – Excitement (and tiger balm) in the Air

 

Race Day – Shivering Cold

Included in my charity spot was a bus to the starting area about 04:30 in the morning. I did not feel particularly tough jumping over poor homeless people sleeping by the entrance to my hotel in the morning or when I passed several fairly large rats while wandering alone in the dark in Manhattan, but I made it to the bus and finally we were on our way. Something else included in the charity experience was a heated tent, hot beverage and bagels before start, something that really saved my morning since I was freezing cold.

Right before the start gun went off, the speaker listed earlier winners of NY Marathon and when the Norwegian Grete Waitz was mentioned, I must admit I got major goose bumps; this was BIG!

 

The race itself was nothing but amazing. Even slow woggers like myself were cheered on with great enthusiasm and along the course we passed several iconic places seen on TV. The finishing line was in Central Park and I was all teared up when I finally got my medal after some exhausting hours.

Post-Race – Time for Sightseeing

In the days after the race, we were as usual sore all over, but we were able to do some sightseeing.

 

Central Park

Central Park is an amazing park in the middle of New York with a zoo (famous through Madagascar), lakes, entertainment, skating course, horses, joggers, tourists, and thousands of squirrels. I could have spent several days in this park, just exploring, but since we only had 1 day to our disposal, we chose to hire bikes to cover as much as possible.

 

Empire State Building

The famous 102-story Art Deco skyscraper in Midtown Manhattan, famous from movies like “Sleepless in Seattle” with an amazing view of New York.

 

World Trade Center /”Ground Zero”

The World Trade Center site, formerly referred to as “Ground Zero” or “the Pile” immediately after the September 11 attacks.

 

Hockey Match in Madison Square Garden

First time at a hockey game. Madison Square Garden was a fantastic venue, but kind of stupid that we were not able to buy beer without a passport; we were obviously old enough.

 

High Line Park

High Line Park is an elevated rail line turned park and is definitely worth a visit. Read more about it in a separate post.

 

Vatican City – St Peter’s Basilica

Our final, but one of the best, stops on our sightseeing tour of Rome was the St Peter’s Basilica, which played a major role in the “Angels and Demons” book by Dan Brown, along with other magnificent structures like the Castel Saint’Angelo, Pantheon and Piazza Navona.

It is an Italian Renaissance church in the Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome and actually the world’s largest church with a capacity for approx 60.000 people. Even though it is not the mother church of the Catholic church, it is considered as one of the holiest Catholic shrines (Wikipedia).

St. Peter’s Basilica is built on the tomb of St Peter, who was one of the 12 apostles of Jesus. After the first Basilica was knocked down due to deterioation, it took 120 years to rebuild it  (done in and some of the most famous architects of the time contributed to its design, like Gianlorenzo Bernini, Carlo Maderna and of course the great Michelangelo

 

Visit to the Basilica is free, but there is a fee if you want to see the beautiful dome made by Michelangelo (approx EUR 10 for adults). It is also possible to buy “skip the line”-tickets from a tour operator from around EUR 20, incl an audio guide. We visited the Basilica a hot July afternoon (35-40 degrees C) and we had not booked any skip-the-line-tickets in advance, but still it did not take us more than 15 minutes to pass the security check and enter the building.

I am sure I could have wandered around inside for hours, just admiring the interior; awsome! Junior, however, started to get bored after about an hour, so since he had been a good trooper through 6 hours of sightseeing, we called it a day and took a taxi back home to the hotel. But, I will definitely return one day.