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In Europe/ Outdoors

Trail Verbier St-Bernard X-Plore Trail Race

A tram to a regional train to a plane to an intercity train to a regional train to an alpine train to a train replacement bus, and a cable car. So was our nearly 12-hour journey from Berlin to the Swiss alpine resort town of Verbier.

And it was worth every transfer.

As has been the theme this year––from Gran Canaria to the Scottish Cairngorms, and the Greek island of Hydra––we traveled for a trail race. This time, it was UTMB’s Trail Verbier St-Bernard 26-kilometer X-Plore course.

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In Europe

Back in Athens | Visiting Exarcheia and the Central Market

Athens view of Acropolis

Back in Athens, our first time since just a week or so before the first COVID lockdown began in Germany. We spent about a week between the city, where we waddled our gluttonous selves across an Athens food tour, and Hydra. Now we’re back to take care of some unfinished business.

Athens is both a wake-up call and a shot of adrenaline. Cars and crotch rockets whip around skinny streets before the road suddenly turns into a pedestrianized zone. Not that I––a pedestrian with bones that don’t hold up well to getting bulldozed by metal––am complaining.

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In Europe/ Outdoors

Trail Running on Gozo | Malta’s Wild and Windy Island

It’s our fourth day in Malta and I’ve yet to hit the trails. Excuses kept conveniently presenting themselves.

“What if the weather turns and I get caught in a storm on the coast?”

“Running doesn’t seem particularly popular here. I don’t want to stick out like a sore thumb with my red running vest.”

“I just don’t feel like it.”

My excuses are fruitless this Wednesday morning. There’s nothing more than a gentle breeze in the air and the sun is shooting through a clear sky like a tractor beam pulling me outside. I decide to just pick a route off Komoot and get my ass out the door.

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In Europe/ Outdoors

Hydra’s Trail Event | Greek Island Masochism

Welcome to Hydra, a Greek island a couple of hours off the coast of Athens. This is a place that holds a special place in my heart for two reasons.

  1. It’s car-free. So no douchebags speeding around with their crotch rockets or in their military-sized vehicles as if their fragile masculinity gives license to pollute our air and clog up our streets! (I have thoughts about this, if you couldn’t tell.)
  2. It’s the last place we visited before the COVID lockdown began, so memories of that trip kept us going at a time when it seemed like every cough was a deathly omen.

While on Hydra, we saw an advertisement for a trail race. We thought “Hey! We loved it so much, let’s come back next year for the race!”

Next year didn’t happen. But in the year of our pandemic, 2022, Hydral’s Trail Event, as it’s very literally called, was a go.

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In Europe

Germany

Schmalkalden, Germany View

You have a taste for history, cities, and the great outdoors, so you’ve made the wise decision to visit Germany. There are plenty of resources out there to help you plan for your trip to Germany, but all the focus seems to be on the big cities of Berlin, Munich, Hamburg, and Frankfurt. To be fair, they are all fantastic cities and you should visit them.

That said, there’s more to this country than these cities. Luckily, this is a big chunk of land, so there is no shortage of things to do in Germany, and although the country in and of itself is not necessarily off the beaten path, getting away from the cacophony of clicking cameras can still be done. So, when compiling this off-the-beaten-path travel guide for Germany, I used a few self-imposed barometers.

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In Europe

Valletta Food Tour: An Intro to Maltese Cuisine

Despite the veil of darkness, the splendor of Valletta hums softly against dim streetlights after our flight lands. I get a glimpse of the city’s ornate facades that make you feel like you’ve stumbled into a baroque masterpiece. This is all confirmed the next morning thanks to a rooftop view after breakfast. We head up, minding our heads as we navigate the narrow, black spiral staircase––the norm for Valletta where there simply isn’t much space. That is, until you find yourself in the countryside or diving into the depths of the sea in search of the island’s many mysteries.

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In Central America/ Food

Costa Rican Gallo Pinto Recipe: The Best Breakfast Ever

What can I say about gallo pinto? First and foremost, it’s how I started many a day in Costa Rica. In the land of pura vida, it’s breakfast––rice mixed with black beans, cilantro, onions, maybe a red pepper, and seasoned with Salsa Lizano, a kind of Worcestershire sauce that’s truly the nectar of the Gods. This simple yet delicious combo is typically served with some scrambled eggs and a hot cup of coffee. I came to love gallo pinto in the same way I loved my ridiculously sugary breakfast cereals with cartoon mascots before I hit double digits.

If you’re looking for something different to make for breakfast that isn’t your typical egg-focused dish, pancakes, or cereal, then you ought to start working gallo pinto into your routine. It even stores and reheats nicely if you want to make a big batch. Just be sure to keep a bottle of Salsa Lizano handy so you can top yourself off with each plate.

For more Costa Rica, check out my book “Talking Tico: (Mis)adventures of a Gringo in and Around Costa Rica.

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