Monday, November 02, 2015

Lovers in Lagos

I like the title of this blog post. Fact is, I am now back in Lagos (Nigeria) with Alex and looks like I am here to stay, for the foreseeable future at least.
My time in Munich was great but being apart from Alex was getting increasingly difficult so I decided to bite the bullet. I flew to Lagos.
Been here 11 days now and I wanted to settle in a bit before blogging but in that 11 days I have discovered Lagos is not just OK, it's better than OK. 
Like anywhere new, you can have no expectations; go there and make the most of it. It is less what Lagos can do for my life and more what I can make of my life in Lagos.
So, watch this space and in the meantime here is a photo of the view from 'my space':
That's the ocean on the horizon

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Get back on track

I really regret that run said no one ever
"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." That's a quote from Arthur Ashe. It's true. There's no point in looking behind you. It doesn't change the now. However sometimes, at certain moments, you really feel you don't know how to do what you can or even to accept that YOU CAN. You don't know how to harness those words and make them a reality, and worse still, only YOU CAN; nobody can do it for you.

Admittedly it does help to have a friend or loved one close by that can support you and help you see that YOU CAN but today was one of those days. Even after speaking to my husband in Nigeria on the phone, I realised I did not have that kind of support at the moment, even though I felt I needed it. The conversation went more along the lines of, "what's wrong with you woman? You've things to do so get out of bed and go do it. It's no good staying in bed and complaining about it". Yeah thanks.

So... I got angry at my husband for being so far away and seemingly useless and I decided on my own; not that I CAN, but that I WILL. This was against everything I was feeling at that moment hence my tweet: "There's only one person can get you out of a rut. That's you. I'm climbing today. Will blog my progress later. Turn this sh*t around".

I started where I was (got out of bed), using what I had (my body) and doing what I could... whatever that was going to be. (Note: still scared at this point that I might start running and just not be able to do it)!

So here I am, blogging my progress as promised.

I haven't even written a blog post for 3 weeks. That speaks volumes. Yes I have been busy but really, I've been feeling a bit lost. My marathon training had been going so well. I felt awesome. You only need to read some of my earlier blog posts such as Trail Half Marathon: My first experience to pick up on how on-top-of-this-world I was feeling. And well, re-reading that post, I can only say that bottle of cava will have to wait.

I won't be running the Munich marathon next week. For the last three weeks, I have been pondering over whether I will ever even run again. The first Doctor I visited certainly didn't seem too optimistic. However,  I took a second opinion and accepted an appointment to see Dr Christian Beck . Now this guy knew what he was doing and how to handle a non-German speaking, potentially depressed runner-that-can't-run like me! He looked over the MRI photos of my hip and immediately told me there is nothing wrong with my hip. My back is the problem.

This does not mean I can run the Munich marathon but what it does mean is that I can run again at some point... and this was Monday. Dr Beck was telling me to try running at the weekend. Believe me, this was the difference between, "you will never run again" and "go run!" He turned me on my side, swung my right leg over my left and CRACK. That was that sorted! Then the other side. I have to stretch in a similar position five times per day for the coming weeks, before and after running, but there is no reason why I cannot run.

So why the big deal? Why didn't I just go out and run again? What's the rut I have been trying to climb out of all day? Here you go:
1) I'm still gutted that I can't do the Munich marathon. I wanted it so much. (I know, get over it. I'm trying).
2) Running did more than keep me fit; it kept my mind in good order while Alex has been away in Nigeria since May. Until last weekend, I had not seen him for 53 days. That's a long time in any marriage, but it is an eternity as 'newly weds'. (It's been just over a year since our wedding).
3) I feel really rather lost and lonely. I guess point 2 (above) is not helping with that one but it is weird; take away my running program and I find it difficult to keep a routine and any kind of motivation for anything at all, outside work.

Did I make progress? Yes. I did.
1) I am writing this blog post!
2) I did my laundry, cleaned the kitchen, vacuumed throughout the apartment, changed the bed-clothes and tidied up. (This will help clear my mind as well as the apartment!)
3) All of this came after... I WENT RUNNING. There were some down-sides to the run which I'm not going to dwell on because the fact is, I ran 5km today and considering I attempted 3km a couple of weeks ago which resulted in me limping home in tears, this is a huge positive step in the right direction.

I started where I was - recovering from injury, missing my husband and miserable.
I used what I had - lacking my husband to give me the support I thought I needed (let's face it, it would have helped!), I used me. Me, my mind and I. Arthur Ashe said, "Do what YOU can"; not do what someone else can do for you.
So... I did what I CAN - I turned this sh*t around. I RAN.

A photo posted by @kerrylouiseleach on

Friday, September 11, 2015

Spanish Wine in Munich

The loveliest Spanish wine shop with the loveliest Spanish owner, and just what I needed at this point in my Munich-life, was discovered through a cava-tasting evening posted to Internations. I absolutely loved it and had a thoroughly enjoyable evening. Thanks to Julia Grune for arranging it!

With things I love this much, I like to share here on the blog so maybe I can assist in the promotion of the shop a little bit, and help others in Munich who might share my passion for wines. Camino del Vino is the name - check it out!

Without further ado, you can find it here:
Baaderstrasse 32, 80469, Munich

The evening was arranged through Internations  - this is an expat social network that is particularly useful if you are new to a place and it has most corners of the World covered. You can sign up for free but to have access to the events you usually need to pay a small monthly membership fee. I think it is worth it.

The website is coming soon but here is the facebook page to Camino del Vino.  

Some highlights:

  • The owner is really knowledgable and welcoming - she definitely knows her stuff
  • I discovered a fantastic little wine shop
  • Whole host of wines and cavas as well as some smaller Spanish delicacies such as olive pastes
  • Enjoyed 6 cavas, while also learning a lot about the fermentation process of cava, what to look for on the bottles etc.
  • Terrific tapas served alongside to compliment the cavas
  • Came away with a fantastic bottle of cava - see photos below
  • I found out there is another wine-tasting here (Internations only) on 17th September so I get to do it all over again with 3 red wines and 3 white wines from Spain!
  • And here are the photos of what we tried... (with a link to the vineyard website)

The wine I came away with - top price at 25.-EUR per bottle but wow it tastes good!

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Two random things I have learned about living in Munich

Typical oktoberfest scene!
I left Phuket in 2013 to move to Munich, Germany. However with my job seeing me travel around, and my husband's job seeing us live a lot in African countries, I have not really had the solid opportunity to enjoy Munich and to know it as the great city everyone has told me it is.

Of course I have done Oktoberfest. Let's just say what happens at Oktoberfest, stays at Oktoberfest! I have done the sights of Nymphenburg Palace (which by the way is very much worth a visit and is set in the most beautiful expanse of garden right on the outskirts of central Munich) and Neuschwanstein (which again is fascinating not only as the product of the crazy Ludwig II of Bavaria but also as the inspiration for Walt Disney's Cinderella Palace). But after almost two years of on-off living in Munich, it is only the last couple of months I feel I have really discovered what it is to live in Munich. 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I may review my opinion as Winter draws in, but Munich (in the Summer) is awesome!

My new discoveries:

Out for a run - looking over the mountains

1) Mountains - yes, I always knew that Munich is located just minutes from the mountains and particularly popular with those who ski in the winter or hike in the summer months, but wow! I finally had reason to get out of the city and into the country because I needed some serious hills for my run training. After a bit of research I found Taubenberg. To link you to it, I can only suggest you visit the website of the Guesthouse, which will come in useful to quench your thirst after all that running, walking or hiking! At the high points of this 'small' mountain are the most breath-taking views and walking/running through the woodland to reach the top is so calming and soothing on the soul. (Sounds cheesy but honestly, it is lovely). Very popular with ramblers, hikers, mountain-bikers and runners (well me running at least because I didn't actually see anybody else crazy enough to run!). I found running routes on mapmyrun and runkeeper but be careful because some routes are out of date and the first time I attempted this I got lost waist-deep on a forest path that was not even walk-able, never mind something to run on!

A forest path that I could run along!

2) Munich really does have culture - again yes, I already knew this. However the open-air cinemas are mainly screened in German and I never had anybody here to accompany me while locals seem to arrive at these places in their droves, and seem to know exactly what to do! I still haven't been. The opera is a similar thing; I'm not going to rock up on my own. To get tickets without booking way in advance is impossible so again, I still haven't been. Then, I was in Vienna a few weeks ago and culture just seemed to jump out of every minute corner of the city. Vienna was a living, breathing example of a cultural capital of the World! I was literally stumbling across open-air cinemas/bars/operas/art galleries; all at the same time, in one place, and you would totally fit in alone there without feeling odd. Vienna didn't offer culture for Austrians; it offered culture for all and delighted in the presence of anybody who wanted to appreciate it. It was enlightening and I felt I lacked this feeling about Munich even though Bavarians seem to think they have this kind of thing totally sorted! 

But this comparison is unfair to Munich. Munich-dwellers don't make it altogether welcoming and obvious, or easy for that matter, but go in search and thou shalt find. Munich does have culture. If you class it as 'culture', which I do - I mean, beer culture is an actual thing - then beer gardens. I don't know so many people in Munich, but even acquaintances are suggesting a meet-up in the Beer Gardens through the Summer months. Awesome!

Cava tasting evening - Baaderstrasse 32

Then I became more active in my discovery of Munich via my Internations membership. In the last month I have discovered wine/cava tasting (see my next blog post). I have found dragon boating and sailing, which is of interest to me since I used to be an active member of the Dragonboat Club in Phuket (in my former life). I have also found various other meet-ups, cycle rides, groups and dinner events that I would love to join but there are only so many hours in a day! In essence, Munich is great as a tourist but it has a lot to offer its inhabitants too!

Live music at Kulturstrand August 2015

The ultimate highlight that really struck me was when I stepped out of Müller´sches Volksbad after an afternoon swimming session and heard some fantastic live music floating across the air from the other side of the river. They sounded fantastic and I had to find out more. In fact there was a live band, a bar/seating area set up, whole families and people of all ages enjoying the music that was just there. Next to the river. For seemingly no reason. Except for, why not? 

Brilliant. I had finally found Munich's culture slapping me in the face like Vienna's did. This was great. This is what people had been telling me about.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Trail Half Marathon: My first experience

Cheddar Gorge Challenge medal collection
Six weeks ago in my blog post 'Run light like...' I explained how my recent involvement in the Relish Running Races Cheddar Gorge Challenge had rekindled my passion for running and allowed me to discover the delights (and pains!) of trail running.

Well, I did it! 16th August marked my first trail half marathon and I picked up my last piece of metal to complete the Cheddar Gorge Challenge. Not only did I complete it but I came 10th overall!!! I am absolutely over the moon and ecstatic. I thoroughly enjoyed it and many thanks to Relish Running Races organisers for the fantastic job they did at all three races I attended.

Lindsay & I on the finish line
What can I tell you? It was bloody difficult! But then? That is what you want. That is what makes it interesting. I was doing ok but I got a great burst when I saw Hell's steps for the last time. I went bounding past four others as I was determined to give my all at this point in the race. As my friend Lindsay had told me in training, "Don't see them as hills. See them as mounds of opportunity!" By the end, as I approached the finish line, my legs were like jelly. I had definitely gone as hard and as far as I could. Great feeling.

Hills are mounds of opportunity
Everybody has their own demons. Everybody has their own challenges. This was mine and even if I missed the odd training session here or there, I know that in the end, I did the best I could during that trail half marathon. I had everything to be proud of and I was.

In the last 8 months I have given up smoking (-something I should have never started but I do - or did - enjoy it!). I have started running again at a respectable fitness level. I have achieved better than I could have imagined in the Cheddar Gorge Half Marathon and well... since I have got this far, after 2 years of saying it, I have finally committed to the Munich marathon on 11th October 2015. 

Champagne celebrations
Another great challenge, Munich is a city I hold close to my heart for a number of reasons and I felt a connection to this city long before I came to live here (for inexplicable reasons), so I have always wanted to earn THAT medal; that of the Munich Marathon. I ran the Phuket Marathon in 2011 and said, "I will never run another marathon again" but even then, I gave myself the exception that I would do another marathon if it was in a cooler climate such as that of Europe "just so I can compare my race time". So here I am.

Final weeks of training in progress. A fresh bottle of cava is awaiting in the fridge (thanks to a wonderful Cava Tasting evening I recently attended at Camino del Vino in Munich - worthy of another blog post!). And well, as always, watch this space..............!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Lagos: It's OK

Very strange thing living in Lagos, Nigeria. You ask someone how it is to live in Lagos and there is almost a standard reply of, "It's OK".

I spent two weeks in Lagos and I openly admit that is not a long time but seriously, nobody is ever "great" with Lagos. It's always just "OK". I'll try to observe again when I am back in September to see if I can get a more positive result for you! 

Anyway, I did 2 weeks in Lagos and guess what? It was OK. I explained with my last post (One Week in Lagos) that I had been exploring the cafes, bars and restaurants since I didn't know what else to do. Week 2 was much more of the same although we did go to a beach and I also (wait for it...) explored a supermarket! Here are my continued first impressions of Lagos as I spent my second week there:

1) I'll say it again - Lagos is "OK". Ask anyone that lives there!

2) Funny moment: We were in the queue at the road-toll station. The very long queue was for those that did not possess a pre-paid ticket. The shorter queue (thankfully) was for people like us that did possess a pre-paid access ticket for passing straight through the toll stations. The police stopped the car in front of us due to them not having a ticket, hence they should not have been in our queue. What happened next was just funny. Here is the conversation in our car between my husband (Alex) and the Driver:-
Alex: Why did the car come to this queue if they don't have a ticket?
Driver: (Totally surprised that my husband had even asked-) It is a woman, Sir.
Me: (Laughing)
Driver: (Turning embarrassed, shade of red) Sorry Madam.

3) LOS airport is the worst airport in the World, I think. I will probably blog this on its own at some point but you will have every single bag you are carrying with you opened and inspected (regardless of whether cabin baggage or check-in). It does not matter who you are or what flight status you might have or what skin colour you have (so at least they are fair in that regard). Absolutely everybody has every bag checked. Also, boarding the plane seems to be a competition for Nigerians; it is as though you do not actually possess a pre-reserved seat number that you are entitled to and so must push, shove and generally carry a complete dis-regard for personal space! Deep breaths are required.

4) I still maintain that you do not get hassled so much. Nigerians will try to hassle you by offering their services but they only offer once and don't continue to bug you so actually in my opinion, this is not hassling.

5) Do not expect the supermarket check-out people to even know what they are doing (or maybe that was just my personal experience in 'Grand Square' supermarket).

6) On the up-side I can see that having our own apartment in Lagos (rather than hotel dwelling) will actually make life a lot more affordable since groceries seem a bit more normally priced. Still not found a huge supply of decent vegetables but then I have not had the need to find them yet; we do not have a kitchen!

7) But then there is the relentless traffic in Lagos. Here is a small video clip from outside our Hotel room on a normal Friday evening:

And so to my second review of restaurants/cafes in Lagos:

Duck Green Curry: Bangkok Restaurant
1) Bangkok Restaurant: I loved it! We were served by a lovely Thai lady who even let us speak some Thai with her. For me, having lived ten years in Thailand, it was very home-from-home. We were presented with complimentary salted roast peanuts with our drinks (just like Thailand!) and then we ordered a mixed starter plate (spring rolls, chicken satays and the like). It came with the sweet chilli sauce as it should and a peanut dip for the satay. Alex ordered a Duck Green curry and I dug into a bit of that. It was delicious! I had a Pad Grapow Gai (Chicken with basil leaves) which was absolutely enormous! The portion size was way too large and the chicken dish was a bit too MSG for my liking but in general it was OK. Complimentary juicy fresh pineapple was served at the end of the meal. Bonus!

This place is definitely recommendable and I will return but I think I will trust their curry dishes more than their traditional stir-fry-type Thai dishes. I'd like to give their Tom Yam soup a go next time too so watch this space. (Find them via their Facebook page).

Pad Grapow Gai: Bangkok Restaurant
2) Bottles: This was my kind of place and my kind of evening! As you may or may not know, I am not a big fan of 'funky' bars/night clubs that seem to be all the rage throughout the World, and also in Lagos. Bottles is not this kind of place. It is quite normal! 

It's actually a kind of Mexican restaurant-pub and every Wednesday night they have live music. Reportedly the best Margaritas in town - I can't vouch for them being the best in town but order a pitcher with friends and you will soon believe they are the best in town whether you thought that on the first sip or not! The band were terrific with a really good mix of tunes and it seems that every expat in Lagos knows to be there on Wednesday nights. 

Point of note: I have been told you should book a table, especially if you go as a group because the place is literally heaving on Wednesday nights. Food was good though and most of all, I enjoyed the good tunes. I was dancing and everything! 

If you want to meet other expats, this is probably the right place to be on a Wednesday evening. (Click here for their Facebook page). Please don't tell my husband about all-you-can-eat Wings N'Beer night on Tuesdays at Bottles or he might swap my Wednesday night there for Tuesdays ;-)

3) Atican Beach: Only about 20 km away from Victoria Island but the traffic was terrible when we chose to go there; about 2pm on Saturday afternoon! You enter at Atican Beach Resort. We had to pay a fee of 1000.-Naira per person. Now, do not expect 5* luxury beach complex but do expect a low-key do-it-yourself type beach. The staff around offered their services straight away but we politely declined and took a walk down to the ocean-front to see for ourselves.

Greeted upon arrival by the sandy football/volleyball area and some cool wall art
The Sea!!!! (I love the sea) Sadly, if you looked up the beach you saw lots of debris and the ocean looks prone to nasty rip currents but I still dabbled my feet in the water.

Looking up the beach to the left
Everybody on the beach seemed to be local Nigerian but there was no trouble. Everyone was just enjoying their afternoon. As I understand it you can rent a small beach shack for yourself/family/friends (although I don't know the rate) and it looks like a fun afternoon to bring a cool box of beers and a BBQ picnic. You don't need to bring music as they have a quality sound system blasting music across the complex (and that is not as bad as it may sound). I felt there was a really good vibe. I did feel like maybe I had out-grown this kind of 'hip' beach hang-out but we had a couple of large Heineken beers (800 Naira per bottle) and sat a while; before I knew it, I was saying I would return with a group of friends! 

Could definitely be a cool place to hang and relax very low-key with friends. It's not really a couples hang-out so don't expect any kind of romantic atmosphere; think more low-key party atmosphere! You make it as you want it; sit back, enjoy the ocean view and if you fancy a dance, get up and enjoy the music. 
Looking up the beach to the right
There you have it. My first two weeks in Lagos.

Now safely back in Munich and back working full-time in the Munich office. It is good to be home and the weather is awesome. Made the most of it with an 18.2km run this morning before going to work... a FREEDOM I have missed (and now appreciate so much).

Back to Lagos, Nigeria in September so expect more blogging from Lagos but first I will enjoy the Munich summer and it is only 12 more days until the Half Marathon around Cheddar Gorge in UK. Bring it on...

Monday, July 27, 2015

One week in Lagos

I made it to Lagos, Nigeria. I've been here a week so far. Here are my first impressions of Lagos and some things I have found surprising.

View from room at Four Points Victoria Island
1) I had been told that I would get hassled a lot at the airport. To be honest, it was not so bad. When I was approached for a taxi or help with my bags, I politely said, "No thank you" and there was no further issue. This surprised me since I remember in Uganda, people would simply keep walking alongside me as though I might change my mind at any moment and suddenly want that taxi.
I had to wait for Alex, so I bought a bottle of water and placed myself in the nearest cafe.

2) It was super hot and sticky in the airport. There seemed to be no ventilation but hopefully I won't have to sit around too long in the future.

3) I arrived around 7pm on Sunday evening. This seems to be key since the journey from the airport to Victoria Island was really rather fast. I have been told that this is unique because the journey to/from the airport is renowned for being very slow, with lots of traffic.

4) Champagne is a big thing here. It is really quite easily accessible in the supermarkets and restaurants on Victoria Island. The reason? Wine is not great and is very expensive so when you are spending 100.-USD on a bottle of not-great wine, why not go the whole hog and order champagne? Erm... ok then!

5) Traffic is hectic and noisy. If Kampala (Uganda) traffic seemed crazy, this is a whole new level! I have no intentions of ever driving here. They drive on the right side (as in mainland Europe) but it is very aggressive driving with lots of hooting of the horns.

6) The streets are unsafe. Now honestly, I am not being fair there. I have not been for a walk on the street but only because I have been told not to! It is a strange thing. There are absolutely no expats walking around here.

7) You can get most things - there is even a branch of MAC (make-up) and Mango (fashion) here in Palms Mall. However, it does seem that fresh vegetables are difficult... hence there was an amazing supply of vitamins "with greens" in the pharmacy to make up the all-important five a day. This is the most difficult thing for me to come to terms with!!! I love my fresh vegetables.

8) I find the people very friendly but then I am living in an expat bubble that is life at Four Points Sheraton... Maybe I will feel different when I am really living here. I shall not be negative though - for now, I have found Nigerians perfectly friendly.

Restaurants/cafes i have tried because so far there seems little else to do here:

1) Art Cafe: Very nice and has an elevated open-air area where you can enjoy real Italian brewed coffee. They also do alcohol, cocktails, soft drinks, cakes and snacks. Nice ambiance.

Coffee at Art Cafe

2) Lagoon: Bar/restaurant down on the water across from Ikoyi. Nice setting because you can sit by the water and apparently they serve the most enormous cocktails if you dare to order one. I didn't! Enjoyed 2 beers, one mojito, one soda water, hummus pitta plate, 2 prawn skewers, 2 chicken tikka skewers, a salad and a mini pizza. The price was around 160.-USD.

View from Lagoon Bar/Restaurant
Lagoon Bar/Restaurant
3) Bungalow: I loved this place! Kind of relaxed pub atmosphere and the perfect place I see myself watching the football or formula one. Their TVs are on invertors so even if the power goes out, you don't miss the action. There menus are on tablets (think iPad or similar) which was rather cool! Ordered chicken avocado salad, burrito, nachos/guacamole, one beer and one soda water. Price was around 60.-USD.

4) Coral Blue Seafood Restaurant: Looks like a fast food joint when you arrive but actually the decor is quite nice. Very nautical. Climb the white stairs with rope banisters and turn left into the restaurant with panoramic windows. I had a mixed platter/combo of seafood with mussels, prawns and grilled fish. Salad was very fresh. Generally very impressed but for such a big restaurant, it was dead! Maybe we went too early on Sunday evening (around 6pm).
Inside Coral Blue Seafood Restaurant
Inside Coral Blue Seafood Restaurant

5) Cafe Nero: Small intimate coffee shop right next door to Bungalow. Found it on google and decided to give it a go. Enormous coffees (if you order the large) and well-priced. Their carrot cake was good and they seem to have free wifi. We called in randomly on a Saturday afternoon and there were a few people in. The sofas were comfortable. I liked it.

And that be that. One week in Lagos. My first impressions.