Monthly Archives: August 2016

My 17 questions to the first Indian participating in the super challenging Spartathlon 2016

runner's sigh

When I started writing this blog, I thought of writing stories that have inspired me to do the stuff that I do and why will I do it again. But, there are also stories about people that I have had the pleasure of knowing. It is some of these stories that I would like to unfold for many.

I really admire those who have the courage to try out something big on their own. And one such courageous person is Kieren Dsouza. I am always heard saying this, “Kieren is one of the finest ultra runners that we have in India”. And I totally mean it.

I met him at the time when I was doing my first 100 km race in Nilgiris. This guy had also participated in a 100 km race there and had finished it in a little over 13 hours. Killing those hills stretching over- 100…

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My 17 questions to the first Indian participating in the super challenging Spartathlon 2016

 

When I started writing this blog, I thought of writing stories that have inspired me to do the stuff that I do and make me say ‘why will I do it again’. But, there are also stories about people that I have had the pleasure of knowing. It is some of these stories that I would like to unfold for many.

I really admire those who have the courage to try out something big on their own. And one such courageous person is Kieren Dsouza. I am always heard saying this, “Kieren is one of the finest ultra runners that we have in India”. And I totally mean it!!

I met him at the time when I was doing my first 100 km race in Nilgiris. Kieren had also participated in a 100 km race there and had finished it in a little over 13 hours. Killing those hills stretching over- 100 km, in 13 hours, I was massively impressed with this guy sitting on the table next to me, at Hyderabad Biryani House in Ooty.

And over the years, I have met him during many running events and have seen him grow and become better at what he already does so well. He has ran a spectrum of races from Bhatti Lakes, to Stadium run to Mont Blanc, and have done them really well!!!

In fact, very recently he finished the tough 111 km La Ultra High in a crazy time of 15 hours 30 minutes. Considering the altitude, this is bloody insane!!!

Just to give you a teaser on how this guy trains, during a training run before La Ultra High, a friend of mine Shailja Singh Sridhar was pacing him for a 60 km run on her bike and this fellow did a full marathon (42 km) on a training run in 3 hours 23 minutes. A pace many can’t imagine on the flattest of the surfaces during a fully supported actual marathon.

To me he completely redefines the perception of ultra runners being slow runners in India.

Now getting to his next event, he is participating in Spartathlon.

It is one of the few runs I aspire to do someday. And I am sure many like me want to, too.

But, currently I am so happy and proud that our Kieren will be on the start-line at Spartathlon 2016, this September.

So, what is this Spartathlon? And what is the fuss about?

This is how it is described on their website:

SPARTATHLON is a historic ultra-distance foot race that takes place in September of every year in Greece. It is one of the most difficult and satisfying ultra-distance races in the world because of its unique history and background.

But, I will tell you as a runner, you should know it is a race between Athens and Sparta over the distance of 246 km. And you have to do this distance in 36 hours- non-stop (ouch)

Now to begin to tell you what a beast of an event this Spartathlon is, well, it is one of the most difficult races to qualify for:

To qualify for Spartathlon, you have to achieve one of the following

  1. Finish a 100-km race within 10:00 hours (men) or 10:30 hours (women).
  2. Cover a distance of 120 kms (men) or 110 kms (women) in a 12-hour race. (We have seen even in our most well controlled stadium runs, with all the hydration and nutrition facilities at your beck and call this has been tough to achieve)
  3.  Finish a 100-mile race in 22:30 hours (men) or 24:00 hours (women). (oh my god, that means no sleep??? )(And kindly note: from next year -2017- on, the qualifying performance for a 100-mile race is changing to 21:00 hours for men and 22:00 hours for women)
  4.  Finish Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run within 24:00 hours (men) or 25:00 hours (women)
  5. Cover 180 kms (men) or 170 kms (women) in a 24-hour race. ( two who managed this miracle can totally apply)
  6. Finish a non-stop 200-220 km race within 29:00 hours (men) or 30:00 hours (women).
  7.  Finish UltraBalaton 2015 (221 kms) in 31:00 hours (men) or 32:00 hours (women) (note: the Ultrabalaton edition of 2014 – 212 kms is covered by criterion
  8. Finish a non-stop race longer than 220 kms or Badwater within 41:00 hours (men) or 43:00 hours (women). (Note: from next year -2017- on: the qualifying performance for a non-stop race longer than 220 kms is changing to 36:00 hours for men and 37:00 hours for women. The qualifying performance for Badwater is changing to 39:00 hours for men and 40:00 hours for women. Finally, from 2017 on, Grand Union Canal Race has its own distinctive qualifying performance of 34:00 hours for men and 35:00 hours for women)
  9. Finish Sakura Michi 250-km race in 36 hours
  10. Finish Yamaguchi 100 Hagi-O-Kan Maranic 250-km race in 42:00 hours (men) or 43:00 hours (women).
  11. Cover a distance of 280 kms (men) or 260 kms (women) in a 48-hour race. (next year’s target maybe)

*Source: Event Website

 

And you thought the qualifier was tough. Then please check out the crazy sectional cut-offs.

Check Point No Distance from Athens Final Point Closes Distance for Sector Max Time
0 – 22 81 KM 16:30 FRIDAY 81 KM 9:30 HOURS
22 – 35 124 KM 23:00 FRIDAY 43 KM 6:30 HOURS
35 – 43 148,4 KM 03:30 SATURDAY 24,5 KM 4:00 HOURS
43 – 52 172 KM 07:30 SATURDAY 23,5 KM 4:30 HOURS
52 – 60 195 KM 11:00 SATURDAY 23 KM 3:30 HOURS
60 – 75 245,3 KM 19:00 SATURDAY 50,3 KM 8:00 HOURS

*Source: Event Website

 

NOW you know why am I making a big deal out of it…

I caught up with Kieren and asked him these 17 questions that I need to know answers for before he ventures out to conquer Spartathlon:

1. Why did you choose Spartathlon?

Well, Spartathlon is one of the biggest races out there. From what I have heard, it is easily the greatest foot race on earth :), so I can’t wait to experience it.

2. When did you set your eyes on it? 

 It’s been a few years since I was aware of the run and dreamed of doing it someday. It got a little more real when I qualified last year and really real when my entry got accepted.

3. You just completed the La Ultra High 111 km challenge and that too in a record time. How was that race and how are you recovering for this next big challenge? 

 La Ultra was great, the weather was great and things pretty much moved smoothly during the run. I feel I am getting along ok. I have a couple of long runs planned in the next few weeks so I will get a better idea then.

4. Spartathlon has a very difficult cut-off qualifying time. Which race was your qualifier and how did you achieve your qualifying time for this race?

 So, I did the 100miles at Bhatti Lakes Ultra last year. That was my first 100 miler as well. I did not really think much about Spartathlon before Bhatti, as I was not sure how I would be able to do the distance. Once I finished, I realized that my finish time was fast enough to qualify me for Spartathlon.

5. It is in September, less than a month to go, how are you training for it? 

 As of now, being in Faridabad, I am trying to make good use of the hot (high) temperature. I have stupidly hurt my back a little and have been resting for the last few days, but I will get down to business from the weekend again :). I plan to train three times (thrice) a day; run twice a day and cycle in the afternoons, mostly spending a good amount of time in the heat (as I find the heat quite hard), and a good deal of strength training.

6. What is your ‘real target’ and what is your ‘optimistic target’ for Spartathlon? 

 Well, my optimistic target is to finish and real target is to finish well :). I have read a lot and chatted with tons of people who have run the Spartathlon, they all warn me to take it nice and easy till the 81km mark as it has a tight cutoff of 9hrs 30min. So that is what I plan to do, take it easy till there and then try and last the rest of the distance of 145km 🙂

7. It is a race with a lot of sectional cut-offs. Which one looks the most challenging to you?

 Well each one would have its own challenges depending on where I am in the race. 81km in 9hrs 30min is fast, and then you have 246km in 36hrs, which is also fast so all of them are going to be challenging.

8.You have ran so many ultras, both in India and internationally. Which one has been your toughest? 

 Well, the toughest is the one that I am yet to complete, whether it is Spartathlon or a run after that. From what I have done, they all have had their own share of up and downs.

9. During ultras, what is the strategy that you follow? For eg. I run the first half much faster than then second half. I run much well in the sun than at the night. So what is your strategy? 

I have never really thought of these things, I work from race to race and try and keep it simple – make sure you are not hurting at the 10k mark in a 100k race. So I try and start out at a pace I am comfortable with and one I can manage for a long duration. As for the day or night, it depends a lot – both has its pros and cons- the nights are cool, it does get a little boring as you can’t see much but if there is company things get a lot easier. The day brings in some light, it feels much better that I can look at the place I am running through, but then it also gets warmer. I enjoy it both.

10. How do you hydrate yourself? And what do you have for nutrition? 

 A lot depends on the temperatures, if it is cool I drink less, but if it is hot I drink more. I try and keep a simple strategy 1 liter an hour – 500ml of it is water and 500ml is RRUNN PRE/DURING. I have some solid food that is provided at the aid stations, gels from Unived, Unived RRUNN PRE and DURING Drink mixes. When it is hot I definitely take a salt tablet every hour or so.

11. What do you tell yourself when you are feeling low? 

 Hahahah, well I am normally cursing my self why did I not train harder, but then I move on and start focusing on short term race goals about getting to a particular point, or to run for X amount more etc.

12. What is the regime that you follow in the final week of a race like this one? Do you train till the last day? Or do you rest for 10 days before such a race? 

 Pretty much the last week is quite easy, nothing specific maybe a couple of 10km runs in the early part of the week and a few shorter ones closer to the day. I would also do a good deal of walking around. The last day is mostly rest, maybe a bit of walking 3-4kms.

13. Do you worry too much about numbers- pace, heart-rate, etc? Or you follow your body’s natural rhythm and take it forward? 

 Naah, I don’t really worry much, I mostly keep a check on how I am feeling and focus and getting into a good easy pace.

14. At what point in the race do you think the going will get tough? And how do you plan to handle it? 

 I have no clue about when things could get rough. I just hope I am make it at the 81km mark nice and comfortable. I have never done anything more than 160km, so at Spartathlon I am going to have a good 86km more to cover after the 160km mark. Nope, I have no clue as to when it is going to get tough, it could be before the 81km,  getting up the mountain at 160km or maybe after. Well, I like to keep moving during the run and I do not really like to sit much, so that is what I am going to do, focus on putting the next step forward.

15. Every race is a new learning. Can you elaborate with eg. some of the learning from your previous races that you would apply in this one? 

 Oh many-

Make sure I enjoy the parts I am running through (what better way to explore a new place than running through it)

Make sure I get in some food regularly. (Did not eat much during LaUltra, would have been better if I had)

Keep my salt tabs handy.

Ah, I forget this in every race but I definitely need to keep a cap (I had decide to keep a cap for the day bit of La Ultra and conveniently forgot it)

16. Ultra running requires a lot of sacrifice- food, social life, etc. the list is long. What has been your biggest sacrifice? 

 I have None really, I enjoy every bit of it.

17. One thing that you are looking forward to after Spartathlon?

 The next race and training for it :).

 

 

17 types of people you encounter during a Marathon

runner's sigh

I love observing people and I am always at it even when I am running a marathon. Yes, I am always excited and nervous about a race. But, I am also excited to meet a lot of people on the route, during a race, well, sometimes not. You like it or not, you will definitely meet one of these characters during a race. I have listed them into 17 different types. One may have a list longer than this. So, on your mats, go!!!

17 types of people you encounter during a race:

  1. The Storyteller– when I began running…..my nutrition plan, my future race—–zzzzzzz ‘my last race’, ‘the race before that’………ZZZZZZZZ (wake me up when it’s all over!!!!!!!)    9TzoGz48c
  2. The conversation striker: ‘Is this your first race?’ (like seriously, you can come up with a better line than that)
  3. The coach: you should drink this before the…

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17 types of people you encounter during a Marathon

I love observing people and I am always at it even when I am running a marathon. Yes, I am always excited and nervous about a race. But, I am also excited to meet a lot of people on the route, during a race, well, sometimes not. You like it or not, you will definitely meet one of these characters during a race. I have listed them into 17 different types. One may have a list longer than this. So, on your mats, go!!!

17 types of people you encounter during a race:

  1. The Storyteller– when I began running…..my nutrition plan, my future race—–zzzzzzz ‘my last race’, ‘the race before that’………ZZZZZZZZ (wake me up when it’s all over!!!!!!!)    9TzoGz48c
  2. The conversation striker: ‘Is this your first race?’ (like seriously, you can come up with a better line than that)
  3. The coach: you should drink this before the race, you should tie your laces like this, you should put powder in your t-shirt (Race se pehele kyon nahi mila??????)
  4. The finding faults in every thing : ‘not enough Enerzal points, there is a water station at every 1 km only (abhi pani se naha kar, Enerzal se moisturize karoge kya mere bhai?) oh, wait for it ‘The race started exactly 5 seconds later- this is crap, bad organisation!!!!!!’ (bhaaag lo) shouting
  5. The one who thinks your are the organizer: Do you know the route? Is there a turn here? What is there for breakfast? Where is the finish line? Is it going to be exact 21 km or more or less? Where is the next aid station? Where is the loo? ‘(ek raat pehele booklet, kyon nahi padhi, meri ammma?- PACE BADHAO)
  6. The one who wants to tell the answer (speak about his knowledge) through a question: What is your VO2 MAX? What is your resting heart-rate? What is your pulse? What pace is this? (Don’t worry if you don’t know, he/she will tell you)
  7. The selfie expert: at start, with you, ahead of you, everywhere, they just never stop taking the selfie. (smile and move) toonvectors-18087-140
  8. The gossip monger– ‘do you know….haaaawww and do you know ‘ooohhhh’
  9. The flatterer: you form-waaah (arey!!!! but, I am dying), your shorts, your breathing style, oooooohhhh (race course se seedhe, I have reached atop World Towers!!!!!)
  10. Disapproving of everything  you do types: This one is finding fault in everything that you do: ‘Your stride, your shoulders, your hand, your leg!’ (Seriously, my mother will be more optimistic about me than this guy)
  11. The excessively competitive: His/ her race depends on your pace. Chutney test: if this person is running next to you during a race, try increasing the pace, he/ she will follow the same, then go easy-there!!! your test is successful.
  12. The excessively patriotic: Having an Indian flag at the finish line or on the jersey at every event, whether it is Republic/ Independence Day or not.’ Has loud music and songs such as ‘kandho se miltein hain kandhe’ playing right next to you, yes on speaker. (Thane marathon hain dude, aur hum India mein hi hain! Relax.) patriot
  13. The enthu cutlet: If this person is running next to you, then you better have ear plugs or at least cotton in your ears. As this type will cheer for everyone on the route. The sweetest of the kind, actually and the nicest to run next to. But you don’t want to get deaf during your long run. 6ip6RzLAT
  14. The speed-breaker: A person who wants to run ahead of you for a few seconds but will come to an abrupt stop right in front of you, not just hampering his or her pace, but yours too.
  15. The popular one: He/ She has a cheer at every step he/she takes, sometimes runner next to you will cheer right in your ears for this runner. Their hands are always in the air too, obviously acknowledging the shouts from the crowd.
  16. The happy go lucky: doesn’t care about who has organized the race, or about the route, distance, time, pace, nothing rocks his boat. ‘We are too cool for this’. The focus is straight ‘Omlette and beer post run’ throw in some wada pav too.  eating-spaghetti-clip-art-black-and-white-boy-eating-spaghetti-image-P3UKSh-clipart
  17. The winner: Who doesn’t indulge in any of these luxuries of meeting interesting people on the route and is straight seen on the podium.  big-prize-clip-art-gallery-ObEr4Z-clipart

 

 

 

 

 

17 Reasons why I will run for 36 Hours, yet again.

I recently participated in a marathon, where the challenge was to run for 36 hours. YES, 36 HOURS AT A STRETCH. Now, I have participated in many events where the duration of the run lasted for about 20 hours. But, I have definitely have not run even a minute more than that.

But, the real catch was to run for 36 hours in a 400 meter stadium. Sree Kanteerava Stadium in Bangalore.

My mother thought my daughter has definitely lost her mind. And for the longest time she thought I was joking about the fact that I am going to run for 36 hours. Knowing me well, she knew I can not, absolutely cannot let go of my sleep. So she asked, ‘Can you rest?’ I said, oh yes for some time. And this is how it all began.  It began by telling my mind to not sleep for my usual 7 hours in the night and maybe cut it to a smaller time. 🙂

I was treating it as if running was that long was ‘ok, whatever, secondary’! In reality, it wasn’t.

So the drill was this: the run started on August 6 at 6 am and it ended on August 7, 6 pm. You had 36 hours and you had to go round and round on the 400 meter track for 36 hours. Every one hour is change in direction- clockwise or anti-clockwise. Hydration, nutrition, toilets, beds to rest, a team of docs, every one is right there. Every 6 hours was your medical check.

But coming back to the biggest question mark on my mother’s forehead that said ‘WHY??’ in CAPS. Here is my ‘WHY’ and ‘WHY’ will I do it again with 17 reasons:

  1. It is an experience that you will not get on any ultra marathon. Now, typically most of the marathons (and I am speaking ultras) have a distance to cover in the given time. It could be any distance above 42 km. 46 km, 86 km, 101 km, 220 km, etc. Here, you choose your own distance within the time given to you and keep it as a target and then tell your mind ‘one foot ahead of the other, sweetheart and repeat’. That is exactly what I did. Having run not a km more than 100 km, I was targeting 180 km, managed 184 km in 36 hours (I  am glad)
  2. Everything is under your control. Since you are moving in circles of 400 meters, you have easy access to hydration and nutrition, every 400 meters. The organisers NEB sports and Nagaraj Adiga and his team had done an excellent job and we were given whatever we asked for. The list included the most bizarre food requests including ice-creams (seriously, who eats ice-cream during a run?) This hydration/ nutrition point was kept inside the innermost circle of the track and we just had to stop by to do the carb loading.
  3. There is no need to run with money to buy stuff on the road, no backpacks or hydration belts needed.
  4. there is no better test of your mental endurance than something like this- going round and round in circles, for 36 hours -again, SERIOUSLY!
  5. Ultra running community is like a family. We are these bunch of runners who run for long hours, share each other’s problems, running related experiences, etc. Essentially, we talk a lot. But the conversations are bound to inspire and make you a better runner.
  6. You can carry as many clothes you want and change clothes as many times you want. The track is your ramp. And the baggage counter, your dressing room.
  7. You get the best running pictures as there is someone or the other clicking you from some point in the stadium.
  8. You can learn a lot about other’s running style, their diet, etc. to take the best and leave the not so suitable. Hence, it is a fantastic learning experience.
  9. You get to know so much about your own running style, at what point in time do you need food, when do you need to hydrate, what makes you run better, which shoe is helping you, which shoe is making you slow, etc. It is a great time to experiment with your own body to understand it better.
  10. If you have been considering for a long time to run barefoot but couldn’t muster the guts to do so considering the dirt, dust, broken glasses and nails on Indian roads, this could be your time to do barefoot. I ran about 40 km barefoot and loved it. The track is super conducive for a barefoot run.
  11. You understand a lot about your sleep pattern during such a run. So typically, at times you would sleep to rest or even if you are not sleepy you want to just lie down and then gradually fall asleep. Or then at times your eyes are shutting and you really really have to sleep. Either which ways, sleep or rest is as important as your run.
  12. You know how to use your energy in a more conservative way. This will happen only by experience and knowing your body well. Your body will tell you when can you build a rhythm and run well without spending too much energy and when can you conserve a bit of energy to spend it in the forthcoming hours. For example, I can run really well in the sun. But, as soon as it is cold, I simply can’t run.
  13. You start appreciating the time spent with yourself, without phone much better on such run.
  14. you will not get the crowd support or cheer for any other ultra spanning over 36 hours time as you will get for the one happening in the stadium. This really helps. When you hear your name in the crowd suddenly your form improves (well, it has to).
  15. You get to know a quality about you other than discipline. This quality is persistence. You you were disciplined enough to wake up in  the morning, on weekdays and weekends for those long runs. But, it is nothing if you are not persistent enough to continue and go on and on for those 36 hours at a stretch.
  16. In case you are planning a long run in the near future, this can form a good well supported training run. If you haven’t planned, then you should within a month or 40 days of a run like this. Your training mileage will be easily taken care of.
  17. Your appreciation of time and what can you do with it is way higher. Suddenly, one hour more of work seems like a cake walk, when earlier it used to feel like a lot of time. And you understand the importance of what you have done only after 36 hours and one minute.

17 reasons why I will come back to Cannes again

Why do I love Cannes over and over again?

I have visited Cannes on multiple occasions for work and each time I visit, I fall in love with this place.

It is small and charming. It is an ideal place to let your hair down and take a dip in that Mediterranean sea. The water is superbly azure.

Yes, it was brought into spotlight for Cannes Film Festival but even the gorgeous celebs and movie stars can steal Cannes’ thunder when it comes to beauty

 

Here are my 17 reasons why I will come back to Cannes again:

 

  1. I love to stroll up the winding cobbled streets of Le Suquet to see the castle, the Notre-Dame de l’Esperance church. This is also the place where you get spectacular view of the city.
  2. It has an amazing seafront which is your Promenade De la Croisette where one can run/ walk in the morning. I would go running each day or sometimes night. Also, long evening walks at Promenade de la croisette are extremely addictive.
  3. Inviting water front to take a dip. In Cannes there is someone always swimming at the sea in the day. Cannes has both public and private beaches-the latter belonging to the luxury hotels, although many allow non-residents access these for a fee.
  4. Cannes houses one of my favorite Seafood restaurant Chez Astoux or Astoux et Brun as it is known.
  5. If you are staying at Cannes Centre, then the Cannes train station is a few mins away from your hotel
  6. Nice airport is not too far and there are convenient airport buses that one can take to travel to this place.  If you have a little bit more cash handy then you can afford the convenience of a cab. It would cost you approx 100 Euros (or more if you have luggage).
  7. Rue d’antibes at Cannes has a neat line of shops. It houses brands such as Mango Zara, United Colours of Benetton, Undiz, Sephora, Mac, etc. If you want to splurge a bit more then there is always an array of shops off the promenade and you can choose from brands such as Dior to Armani.
  8. In case you want to be in a little quieter place than the nosier Cannescentre then La Bocca is a short walk away by the seaside.
  9. The quaint Lérins Islands are a few minutes away by boat.  It is a quieter alternative. Iles de Lérins are made up of twin islands Saint-Honorat which is home to a monastery and castle, and the much larger Sainte-Marguerite. The sea water here is crystal clear.
  10. Delicious French desserts at various bake shops are to die for. My favourite- Laduree
  11. Le Suquet is a beautiful narrow lane full of awesome local places to shop and really old restaurants to eat at. Along with this there are dozens of charming little bistros along Rue Saint Antoine.
  12. The posh towns of Monte Carlo and Saint Tropez are just a ferry ride or a train ride away from Cannes.  I would recommend a boat tour that goes from Cannes to Monaco or Saint Tropez. You will see the entire coastline and it’s only a 45-50-minute ride. You can spend the  whole day there.  The boat typically leaves Cannes around9:30 am or 10 am and pick you up at Monaco/ Saint Tropez around 4 pm/ 4:30 pm.
  13. All through Cannes one is spoilt for choice when it comes to food. There are plenty of options to eat from posh to cheap.
  14. The people here are way too friendly as compared to the rest of France(and yes, a bit less rude)
  15. If you go to this place at right time of the year when the celebrities arrive you might be brushing shoulders with a few of them while walking down the streets.
  16. Go to the fancy dinners. But don’t miss the Gutter Bar, at the end of the Croisette.
  17. Grasse, a place where there are perfumeries is just a short train ride away from Cannes Station. There is also an Antibes to visit which as about a quick 10 min train ride away.
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Clear water and watermelon ice-cream

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Just a few minutes by boat from Cannes, Sainte-Marguerite Island is a must visit

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Plenty of eateries

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Macroons at Laduree on Rue de antibes

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Neatly lined boats captured during morning run

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La Piazza serves fresh delicious Pizzas

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walling up Le Suquet

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Food

Relishing the Delicious See food at Astoux in Cannes

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View of Le vieux port cannes

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Escargot at Chez Astoux

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View from the top

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View from opposite the Palais