Good evening! Here’s the third in a series of 5 travel reviews, following my previous reviews on Russia and Switzerland.

This evening’s travel blog focuses on La Belle France, a country I’ve had a love affair with since I was sent there regularly between the ages of 9 and 16 on exchange visits with my French pen pals Agathe and Ingrid. Since then I’ve spent many holidays in Paris, Bordeaux, La Rochelle, Nice, to name just a few. I’ve also spent a year living in the South West of the country, in Pau overlooking the Pyrenees, while studying during my third year of University, and 6 months making cocktails on the Champs Elysees, when I was 18.

I love France. I love the language. I love the food. Particularly the cheese. I love the wine and champagne. I love the style and architecture. I love the art and fiction. And I love the countryside and the cities.

In April, I spent five days in Lyon with my great school friend and running pal, Tori. We chose Lyon as the neighbouring city to the village of Beaujolais, host of the Beaujolais Villages Trail, one of my running challenges for this year.

So, today’s #5aday is dedicated to France, and Lyon (and the surrounding area):

  1. First Impressions – I didn’t know what to expect of Lyon. Or I thought I did, and I got it completely wrong! It is a beautiful city. It reminded me of Paris, with its beautiful architecture, a river (in fact two running parallel to each other –  the Rhône and Saône) and wonderful eating, drinking and shopping. IMG_6308
  2. Culture – On our first day, we walked a lot – not ideal preparation for our run in the hills the following day! Lyon is a very lovely city to walk around. We spent a lot of time walking through the markets and around the cobbled streets of Vieux-Lyon, taking in the medieval architecture. We then took the funicular up to the top of Fourvière hill to visit the basilica of Notre-Dame, with its golden statue of Mary. The view from up here was quite spectacular looking out over Vieux-Lyon, the Rhône and, beyond on the far bank, the Citadines Presqu’île, between the Rhône and the Saône. IMG_6320
  3. Eating and drinking – Lyon is considered to be the gastronomical capital of France, which is evidenced by the many Michelin starred restaurants it has. We experienced lots of great food in lovely bistros hidden away off the beaten track. Notably on our last evening, we celebrated Tori’s birthday at Cafe Comptoir Abel, a perfectly traditional Lyonnais bistro tucked away from the banks of the Saône. It’s considered to be one of the favourites with the locals and was bursting at the seams on the Monday evening we visited. IMG_6319
  4. Shopping – Of course, we did have a look in the shops. It would have been rude not to! I bought a few bits from Kookai and a bright orange Minelli bag. We enjoyed browsing St Antoine Market, a farmer’s market on the banks of the Saône River, with local organic fruit and vegetables, flowers, cheeses, and other local specialities. IMG_6307
  5. Running the Beaujolais Trail – As I’ve mentioned many times before, Tori and I have started a tradition of meeting every year in France for a trail run – the second of which was the Beaujolais Villages Trail this April. It was a magical event, taking us through the spectacular, rolling Beaujolais hills and villages. The locals were very supportive cheering us on from their gardens and farms along the route. It was tough though, with many challenging ascents, and the sun beating down on us throughout. The feeding stations kept us going with traditional local music, cheeses, breads and wine for the brave! If you’re looking for a trail run in 2014, then this should definitely be on your shortlist. The bonus is you get a bottle of Beaujolais at the end! IMG_6318

I also wrote about my trip to Lyon in a post called The Ingredients for Happiness. All in all, it was a very special trip, with a special friend and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as it coincided with a rather unsettling point in my career. It proved to be the perfect therapy, however. So, I thoroughly recommend adding Lyon to your list of French cities to visit and why not sign up to the Beaujolais Villages Trail at the same time?

Safe travels!

G x

By Sarah Mayo

Evening! Following on from my last post ‘From Russia With Love‘ here is the second in a series of 5 travel reviews; with this one focused on a country that I keep returning to – Switzerland.

Over the last year, I’ve had three trips to Switzerland – mainly to visit my brother, sister-in-law and gorgeous two nieces who live in the Bagnes region, in the valley below Verbier. During these amazing visits, I’ve been lucky enough to squeeze in a lot of skiing, some running, hiking, swimming and a couple of big birthday celebrations.

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Last month I spent a glorious five days there with the whole family, celebrating my brother’s 40th birthday.  We also took the opportunity of the first family gathering in two years, to celebrate my father’s 70th birthday, from earlier this year.

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So, today’s #5aday is dedicated to Switzerland, and the Alps:

  1. First Impressions – Whenever I arrive in Switzerland, I’m always blown away by their efficiency. Everything works like clockwork. Little wonder they’re renowned for their time pieces as well as their time keeping. Swiss is my preferred airline to travel to Geneva, with no baggage restrictions, good value, great service flights from Heathrow. I have yet to experience a delay and my bags always seem to be waiting for me as I come through passport control (hope I’m not tempting fate by saying this). From the terminal it takes minutes to get to the train station, with regular and prompt trains to Martigny and Le Chable. IMG_2980
  2. Summer in the Alps – The Swiss Alps are stunning in the summer. Having spent so much time there during the winter months, it was lovely to see the mountains in all their green glory, with wonderful wild flowers, grazing goats and beautiful blue skies. We went to a lovely outdoor pool in Champex-Lac (great for kids and big kids!), by a stunning lake. We had an adventure on the Sentier Suspendu (Go Ape style obstacle course in the trees) in La Fouly. And the pinnacle of the holiday, took place at Cabane Brunet, 2100m high above the Val de Bagnes. This was the location of my brother’s 40th party, where 60 of us enjoyed wonderful company, food and drink, all with a backdrop of sensational views over the Petit and Grand Combin glaciers, as well as the valley. A few of us chose to hike up on the day and down the following day – not ideal with stonking hangovers, but definitely worth it for the views and the exercise! Image-15
  3. Eating in the Alps – I’ve enjoyed some delicious food while in Switzerland – my favourite tending to be raclette, or some other cheese-based winter speciality. This summer however, we were treated to a new restaurant in Orsieres – Restaurant Les Alpes, for dad’s 70th. It used to be the proud recipient of a Michelin star, but even though this status has not been maintained, the food and service was exceptional. Perfect for such a special birthday. Favourite winter restaurants in the area include Le Caveau for raclette, La Marlenaz for family meals, Fer à Cheval for pizza and Al Capone for its local speciality ‘Potence’ (hanging meat). Image-16
  4. Running in the Alps – I’ve mentioned before, how I like to run whenever I travel, but this time I only managed to squeeze in the one run, in amongst all the other activities. Earlier this year, when I visited I was training for a trail run in April, and managed to get a couple of much needed altitude and hill runs under my belt. My great friend Tori and I have started a tradition of meeting every year in France for a trail run – the first of which was the Eco-Trail de Paris in March 2012 and the second was the Beaujolais Villages Trail in April 2013. I am now hoping I might persuade her to come to the Swiss Alps next July for the Verbier-St Bernard trail. Entries aren’t open yet, but I’m hoping that by publishing this, it will encourage us both to sign up, as well as any other takers out there!? IMG_4188
  5. Skiing in the Alps – And finally, I could not complete this blog, without mentioning the skiing. I’ve been very fortunate to have a brother who I can visit as many times as I can afford (holiday and money-wise!) over the last 8 years. While it is a little pricey in Verbier, the skiing is definitely worth it. I’ve written a number of posts about Verbier and skiing, which can be read here. In March, I also managed to squeeze in a long weekend at the Swiss Ski Resort of Crans Montana. I took part in the Momentum City Ski Championship and entries will soon be open for 2014, if you fancy entering a corporate team? It’s great fun! Crans is very different to Verbier in that it is a fairly open and exposed resort and therefore it can be susceptible to icy slopes. It does boast spectacular vistas and has a wide variety of skiing. It is also host to some excellent music during the Caprices Music Festival. It seems bonkers, while we’re still enjoying a late summer, but now is the time to start planning your ski holiday for this winter. So, if you’re feeling fit, check out the Momentum City Ski Championship. If you’re feeling flush, check out Bramble Ski. And, if you’re feeling flash, check out Haute MontagneIMG_3791

Whether you’re looking to book an active holiday in the summer, or in the winter, whatever the time of year, I thoroughly recommend you make it Swiss O’Clock.

Safe travels!

G x

By Sarah Mayo

Welcome back to #GTime!

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed some much needed #GTimeOut and feel refreshed, revitalised and ready to write again; and specifically about some of my adventures from the last month.

I wrote in my last blog ‘Off the Radar’, about my impending holidays to Switzerland and Russia, so thought I’d dedicate the next few blogs to the highlights of these experiences. In fact, as I like to do things in 5s 🙂 the next 5 posts will focus on the last 5 places I’ve visited over the last year: Russia, Switzerland, France, Turkey and finally, Portugal.

So, today I’m kicking off my series of travel reviews with Russia and Moscow, as the destination of my most recent trip… hence today’s title! Image-14

I was really fortunate to go to Moscow for the final few days of the recent World Athletics Championship, and what a few days it proved to be. I was warned of various things beforehand – how expensive it is and the (sometimes) sternness of the locals, but otherwise I really didn’t know what to expect of Russia. I was super excited before I went and I’m delighted to report that it did not disappoint!

So, here is today’s #5aday on Moscow:

  1. First impressions – It was quiet. While the oligarchs were away on holiday in San Tropez and Ibiza, we had most of the streets to ourselves (excluding the Kremlin/Red Square area, which was teeming with tourists, of course). It was very clean. The pavements are jet-washed twice a day to get rid of the dust and dirt. The sun was shining. In fact it was the perfect temperature; not too hot for sight-seeing, and balmy enough to sit and enjoy an alfresco rooftop drink. And the sun, blue skies and river provided a stunning backdrop to the formidable, yet impressive architecture.  photo-60
  2. Culture – We were very lucky to have a fabulous tour guide called Svetlana. Young, and incredibly knowledgeable, she painted a colourful and fascinating picture of some of Russia’s most infamous Tsars – Peter the Great and Ivan the Terrible. She took us on a boat cruise along Moscow River, pointing out the many incredible buildings including the Kremlin, the Seven Sisters (a group of 7 skyscrapers in Moscow, designed in the Stalinist style), and the Olympic Stadium. We also had a walking tour around Red Square and a rather surreal visit to Lenin’s Tomb, where he’s been on display, embalmed since his death in 1924. photo-61
  3. Food and drink – We enjoyed delicious food and cocktails at some of the city’s best restaurants and bars. Amazing seafood and cocktails on the rooftop of Chips (the latest from the Novikov Group); cocktails at the O2 Lounge, the Ritz-Carlton’s rooftop bar, overlooking Red Square; traditional borscht (beetroot soup with beef) and filet mignon at Cafe Pushkin; and pizza and Bloody Marys at Olive Beach, an amazing bar/restaurant cum ‘beach’ complete with sun beds, by Gorky Park overlooking Moscow River. photo-62
  4. Shopping – When in Russia, it’s important to shop like the Russians, and I’m pleased to confirm that we did! But we also benefitted from some good sales… I bought some Carrera sunnies (50% off), a Jonathan Saunders skirt (70% off) and some Russian dolls for my nieces & god-daughter! photo-63
  5. Athletics – The main reason for visiting Moscow was to go to the World Athletics Championships. We were treated to some lovely hospitality, and some thrilling athletics. Notably, we watched the controversial 4x100m relays, where Team GB’s men were disqualified of their bronze, and the women were upgraded to a bronze medal. In addition, we witnessed Bolt’s 200m win and his cossack dance celebration, after he powered the Jamaican team to win the 4x100m relay! All of this, we enjoyed in the crowds right behind injured Jamaican sprinter Yohan Blake! photo-64

When visiting somewhere new, I do like to don my trainers and pound the pavements, seeing it through the eyes of a local. By the last day I felt I knew my way around sufficiently to enjoy a decent run, from our hotel to Red Square, and along the river, past the Kremlin. photo-65

All, in all, it was an incredible three days of sport, culture, shopping and eating and drinking – all with two fabulous friends. I can confirm that Moscow is very expensive and the people can come across as a little unfriendly. Having said that, we did meet some very lovely locals, especially Svetlana, our wonderful tour guide and a number of smiley taxi drivers! photo-66

Much love and safe travels!

G x

By Sarah Mayo