Why I Always Go For a Run In a New City (and you should too!)

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Some of my favourite travel memories have come from runs that I have gone on in foreign countries.

I'm not talking about organized races with thousands of participants. No, I'm talking about a solo jog that forces you to wake up early before the crowds take over the street and shows you a side of the city that you would never see if you were just walking around. 

Why is running in a foreign city so great?

Well, first of all, you are usually up earlier than normal, which means that the streets are empty giving you an unobstructed view of the city. The warm morning light illuminates stonework that you never saw before and you can almost imagine what it would be like to live there.

And that moves me to my next point — if you are running in a country where physical activity is normal, you become almost invisible, you are now looked at as a local, part of the place, and not a tourist. (On the other hand, if you are visiting a country where going for a run isn't normal, it will be painfully obvious. In some countries I was completely ignored when I ran by, in others I was stared at, and in others I have been yelled at and whistled at. But, I have never felt threatened.)

Not bogged down by cameras, guide books, and bags full of miscellaneous items that you would normally take out on a day of touring around, you are truly free to just take in the sights and sounds of the new would around you.  

Running has taken me past Frances Mayes' house in Tuscany, through the royal gardens at the Schonbrunn Palace in Austria, over cobblestone streets in Amsterdam, and past ruined buildings and over white sand in Phuket. 

Give it a try — you never know where your feet might take you! 

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5 Popular Tourist Spots That Will Exceed Your Expectations

by Lindsay Shapka in , , ,

There's nothing worse than going out of your way to visit some must-see-hyped-up-attraction that turns out to be a total disappointment. It's a waste of time, money, and daylight — even more frustrating if you are traveling for a short period or with a small budget. 

Well, I can promise you that these five attractions are well worth the lines you may have to stand in or the distances you may have to travel to get to them. They definitely live up to the hype, and are not to be missed!

1. Anne Frank’s House     Amsterdam, Netherlands

This, the actual house where Anne hid from the Nazi’s in World War II, receives nearly a million visitors each year.

The focus of the museum is the rear house where the Franks lived before they were betrayed and sent to their deaths. The space is dark, airless and shockingly real.

Visitors leaving the space pass through a light filled stairwell with words from Anne’s dairy etched into the walls:

"April 9, 1944
I'll make my voice heard. I'll go out into the world and work for all mankind!"
—Anne Frank

It is one of the most moving exhibitions I have ever visited. 

2. Temples of Angkor     Siem Reap, Cambodia

No matter how many photos you see, or how many movies you watch with the temples as a backdrop, nothing will prepare you for actually standing in front of them.

The Angkor complex is huge and each temple has completely unique characteristics — some are getting torn apart (yet held together) by the jungle while others are home to mischievous monkeys. Each corner you turn will make you feel more like Indiana Jones as you stumble upon smoking incense left by unseen hands, or find yourself alone in a maze of moss covered mysterious history.

3. The Holocaust Memorial     Berlin, Germany

Also called "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe", instead of being a simple statue or plaque, this outdoor holocaust memorial in Berlin contains a grid of 2711 square columns set at different heights on uneven ground. It can be entered from any side and presents different, disorienting, unsettling perspectives as you move through it. It is unlike any memorial I have ever seen and definitely leaves a lasting impression. 

4. Seoraksan National Park     Sokcho, South Korea

Seoraksan (or "Snowy Crag Mountains" in English) is a region of rugged high peaks, granite cliffs, lush forests, huge waterfalls, and ancient temples in northern South Korea, and is a major draw for tourists and locals alike. 

There are hiking trails that will satisfy even the most expert of mountaineers, but there are easy trails for the day-trippers as well. No matter what level you choose, you will have breathtaking and untouched views, a rare treat in such a highly populated urban country.

5. Musee De L’Orangerie     Paris, France

Often overlooked, this museum sits in the shadow of the Louvre and the Musee D’Orsay, but is well worth the visit. Though it contains important Impressionist works by artists like Cezanne, Picasso, and Renoir, the real draw of this site is two huge, light filled oval rooms that contain an eight-panel series of Monet’s Water Lilies. Built in 1927 to the artist’s specifications, the paintings are breathtaking and visitors to the museum could easily spend hours taking in the work (I know I did!).