Lil’ Europe

This title involves an inside family joke.

We were taking the train to Brussels when there was an announcement that we were approaching the stop for Lille, which is in France. It’s the stop right before Brussels and one of our daughters was confused about what they were saying, translating it as “Lil’ Europe.” When she told us the story that evening, it was the funniest thing I’d ever heard, especially after a big pint of nice Belgium brew.

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Enjoying that pint (and the Lille story) in Brussels with my daughter, Liz. Photo Credit: Christie Nyfeler

We’re back from the family European vacation. Over July 1-12, I only managed to run three times. My plan had been to do my long run on Thursday, the day we left, and then hit at least one long run somewhere again in all that, leaving me relatively on track, with short runs interspersed. Unfortunately, a crisis arose Wednesday night…and Thursday was out of the picture for running. I started our holiday (I much prefer the British “holiday” to “vacation” and am going to be pretentious and say I’m “on holiday” from now on) on a big sleep deficit and horrid adrenaline rush. But all worked out well and we were able to meet up for our flights out Thursday night.

Running in London

Our first hotel in London was near the Tower of London and conveniently located near the Thames river walk. I got in a lovely, if slow, 2:00 run. It was slow simply because I didn’t know where I was going and had to do a bit of navigating at times to get around bridges.

But now I know why so many world records are set at the London marathon; that place is flat as a pancake. Boringly flat. But the weather was lovely and I barely broke a sweat nor needed any water. What I did need was a public toilet and that proved a bit hard to locate.

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Tower Bridge in London. Photo Credit: Christie Nyfeler

That run was one of my trip highlights — I started from the hotel, ran to the Tower Bridge (that’s the fancy one everyone thinks is London Bridge, which is really boring and not pretty at all), crossed the Thames, and ran along the east side (?), passing the Globe Theatre, a reproduction of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, the Tate Museum, the London Eye, the Millenium Bridge, and all other manner of wonderful things. I crossed the river at the Vauxhall Bridge and ran around Parliment, heard Big Ben strike, saw Westminster Abbey and St. Paul’s cathedral, some lovely parks, and even found a bathroom. Back to the hotel! The day we left for Brussels, I snuck in a short 1:00 run along the Thames, merely staying on the west side and going out and back as time allowed.

Brussels and Amsterdam

We went to Brussels, where I was thoroughly charmed by the old cobblestone streets, maze of squares and side roads, ancient churches, amazing gardens and beauiful, relaxed sidewalk cafes. We were there for four days, and I ran nary a step. The city just didn’t lend itself to any kind of satisfactory run or route that seemed to make sense. Oh, I walked all over (just as I did in London) but a run was not in the cards.

What would Europe be without delicious food? Enjoying frites in Brussels. Photo Credit: Christie Nyfeler

We made a day trip to Amsterdam during that time in Brussels and I was blown away by the bike traffic. I’ve never seen anything like that! There was even a parking garage for bikes, and there were THOUSANDS. More people on bikes than on cars. Elegant ladies, shopping, in heels, riding bikes. Families with kids draped all over the bikes. Everyone was on a bike.

Back to London after our times in Brussels and Amsterdam, and this time we stayed in Soho, deep in the theatre district. I had about a 10-15 minute brisk walk/slow jog to pick up the Thames walk or I could go a bit further and try to find Hyde Park. I opted to go back to the Thames via Trafalgar Square. While I’d never say I was “lost” there were times when I was not on the optimal path. However, my diversions did lead me to St. James park, and I took a side trip down Regents Way and by the palace before I found myself on the river path again. I took about a 30-something minute run there before meandering my way back through St. Martin’s (past a crpyt). My one hour run had turned into another slow 2:00 but it was lovely.

London 10K

The family had suggested I run the London 10K on Sunday before we left but I did not want to mess with the details. The lovely thing was that we managed to see a bit of it as we headed off to take a morning river boat cruise (the Westminster tube stop popped us up right before the race crossed the bridge, around the 7K mark). It was fun to do some cheering; the music was hilarious. It was not at all what we play to “pump up” runners; they played “Chariots of Fire,” the aria “Nessun Dorma,” a Coldplay song I love, “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” (a choir version), and some patriotic march. Which was repeated. That was it. I tell you, there’s not a lot of pep in any of that music. We had a good laugh over it.

We did have a family stroll through Hyde Park, which was enormous. We saw the memorial fountain for Princess Diana, the Albert Hall, and covered quite a lot of ground, though we probably only walked through half of the park. And we watched sport; we caught almost all the semifinals at pubs or bars, and even managed to squeeze into a standing room only pub packed with avid fans for the final (certainly, no fire code exists that would allow the full-on, can’t open the door kind of body contact that was going on there).

Back in ATX

The heat here hit like a brick when we came out of the airport last night.  I’m going to have to acclimate all over again. I’m a bit jetlagged, so I’m not pushing the exercise today; I’m heading over to French Place to take care of the jungle that must exist after all the rain we’ve evidently had over the last two weeks. (Ironically, we saw no rain while we were in Europe and, as with when James and I headed to Greece last year, the areas we visited experienced record heat waves.)

Just being outside today is the goal. I hope I’m up for a quality workout tomorrow morning.

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Published by Leah Nyfeler

I'm a writer, editor, runner, and adventurer who is always looking for the next new story, exciting adventure, and good meal/book/movie. My focus is on helping people find their best, healthiest self through sharing what I know and how I've come to learn it. In addition to my blog "Enjoying the Journey: Observations on the Fit Life" at, my articles have appeared in a variety of print and online magazines. You can hear me as part of the 2015 Austin cast of Listen To Your Mother.

0 thoughts on “Lil’ Europe

  1. Welcome Home

    Loved your post and can\’t wait to hear more about your trip! It was a mini walk down memory lane for me. Glad you and the family are back safely. Hope you have time to rest up before your next European holiday –

    Let\’s try to get together some time in August. Have a wonderful time in Germany.

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