Amsterdam

I love travelling by train- I find it much less stressful than flying (no need to worry about the size of your bags or liquids, no need to turn up several hours before), and you can just sit and watch the scenery. Plus when you arrive you are usually where you need to be instead of 30 miles away in an airport. Anyway, the Eurostar now goes to Amsterdam (although sadly you can’t get it directly back yet) and that’s how we travelled on a Thursday evening.

Just like everywhere else in Europe, it was baking hot, particularly on the Friday.

We were staying a 5 min train ride from the city centre but as the public transport was fairly expensive we went out for the day and once in the centre, walked everywhere.  It was a lovely city to wander around, but it was so busy (and so hot) that after a few hours of admiring the various canals and pretty buildings (which reminded me of the famous brown stones in New York, and then I was informed that it used to be called New Amsterdam- you learn something every day) we headed to the park to find some shade and cool down for a bit. We’d seen a few rainbow flags about and didn’t think much of it until we went into the main square and saw a stage being build- it was Pride for the weekend (which also explains why the hotels were all so booked up!).

We passed a Starbucks so decided to share a drink and I took a photo as I was so impressed with the calligraphy-style handwriting on the cup.

Coincidentally one of my friends was also there and she recommended a pancake place to us- there are a lot of pancake places but the one we went to was called the Pancake Bakery and all the toppings were baked into the batter. There was a huge menu but in the end I went for a pineapple one and it was really tasty (but personally I felt it was expensive- 9 Euros for a pancake seems a lot to me).

We had booked tickets for Anne Frank’s house and must have spent about an hour and a half in there in the end. It was done very well- you had a little handheld speaker and each room had a little receiver, so once you had pointed it at the receiver you could then listen to the information.  I know these things are important, but I don’t think I could ever visit a concentration camp, and I was a bit worried that it would be really awful, but in fact it was interesting and although it didn’t avoid any of the horrors, it was focused more on their life in hiding.

On the Saturday we headed to the most amazing place for brunch- Bakers and Roasters–  run by a couple from New Zealand and Brazil. They had a very clever system where they took your phone number and gave you an estimated time of your table being ready (45 min wait for us) and they would then text you when it was ready, so we walked around a market while we waited. It is not often that I really have trouble deciding from a menu, but there were so many good things on the menu. I did have my eye on the banana-nut French toast, but it came with bacon and on the menu it said any alterations would cost 2 Euros (and I didn’t want to pay more for less food!), so in the end went for an acai bowl which was perfect for the hot weather.  They did make awesome looking cakes to take away, but we were both too full to even think about cake- next time maybe!

Then we walked around the centre, taking in the tail end of the Pride parade which had taken place on the canals.  The paths were totally rammed and I just marvelled at the boats totally loaded with people dancing and drinking- I was very worried that we would see people fall off into the water!

We had booked tickets for the Van Gogh museum and again probably spent around 90 minutes in there. Again, it was well done, with information about his life as well as his paintings. I am not hugely into art, but when I did art GSCE I did a project on him, but there was still loads I didn’t know (or had forgotten).  I really liked that it emphasised how much work he put into his art, practising over and over again- so often these days we see people with natural talent, but don’t get shown the work behind it.

We went to a burger place for dinner in the end- everywhere was totally chock-full due to the festival, and although I’d seen a lovely sounding beetroot veggie burger on the menu, we were given the Pride menu which had only about 6 things on it (I think they must do this to speed up service a bit) so I had to go for the normal veggie burger. It was nice enough, but again fairly expensive (the burger Andy bought in Copenhagen the previous weekend was cheaper) for what it was. In walking back to the tram stop we saw an ice cream parlour so shared a cup with a scoop of hazelnut and a scoop of almond cookie which was delicious.

On Sunday we were flying home so we headed to the airport after breakfast. Our flight was delayed and we finally got back to Luton airport at around 5pm- we both agreed that we should have just come home on the train as although we would have had to get two trains (one to Brussels and then the Eurostar) that is a lot less hassle and way more relaxed than flying.

Have you been to Amsterdam? What sort of food do you look forward to on holidays? Do you like going to museums? There are loads in Amsterdam but I think one a day was enough for me!

Cream teas, cinnamon rolls and sorting by colour

I am now in the glorious part of the summer holidays where I am not sure what the day is any more- my google calendar is making sure I don’t miss anything!

First up, much to my excitement, the parkrun show podcast is back!! It’s now called “With me now”, but still hosted by Danny and Nicola (fun fact- Danny’s parents both volunteer at Ellenbrook Fields parkrun pretty much every week). I used to listen to the old one, and when it finished I found the parkrun adventurers, which is an Australian one.  I’ve quite enjoyed the official one (Free, Weekly, Timed) although that is more for maybe new parkrunners, whereas the others are maybe more for the parkrun obsessive.

So, what have I been up to these past couple of weeks since getting back from Copenhagen?

The garden has been keeping my busy, although with the heat it’s been restricted to late evening when it’s cooler. I finally moved the pots off the drive (they were creating a buffer zone between the leak and the house, but now the leak has been stopped temporarily they didn’t need to be there)- they add a bit of colour to our front garden.

After an 8 mile run in the morning I met up with some friends from work for a cream tea at Bill’s.

Although that turned into a bit of a panic as I had booked one local to me (because St Albans had no availability), and they phoned a few hours before saying they had no water so had to cancel. After a few messages back and forth on whatsapp, we decided to risk the St Albans one- it turned out they don’t take bookings for the afternoon so there was loads of space! I was planning on walking into town anyway, so I drove to the edge of St Albans and walked in- 24,000 steps by the end of the day wasn’t too shabby!

On the Tuesday I went into work and organised my new classroom (all the furniture was moved to one part of the room as the floors get cleaned)- I took some time out to put all my story books in colour order. You have no idea how much this pleases me to look at!

On the Wednesday I did a 4.5 mile run and then a bit of yoga when I got back. Later I walked to town and enjoyed my free Starbucks, taking the time to sit in the cafe and watch the world go by.  I then walked in again in the afternoon because I had ordered a new phone and it was ready to collect, so I ended up doing just over 22,000 steps and the second walk was not so enjoyable as it was just boiling.

We did cool down in the evening by going to the cinema to see the Skyscraper film which was fairly easy going and quite funny in places, although I can’t watch any of the bits where people dangle off buildings.

I heart my new phone case

On Thursday I did a 5 mile run in the morning, and then we were off to catch the Eurostar to Amsterdam in the evening (I’ll do a separate post about that at some point)- we got back on Sunday.

As I didn’t run over the weekend, I went out for 10 miles on Monday morning.

When I got back I made myself French toast for breakfast and watched the birds in the garden.

On Tuesday I met a friend at the Rickmansworth Aquadrome (a bit like a lake or reservoir) for a walk, before heading to Cinnamon Square for what she informed me were amazing cinnamon rolls. I was not disappointed- these were so good. I took home one cinnamon square and one sticky bun (covered in pecans) for us to share at a later date. Andy could not wait and had his half of the cinnamon bun before I could even take a photo!

Later we popped over to see our niece and nephew as he was turning 1.

On Wednesday I did a 5 mile run first thing and then I met my parents, sister and niece at Shenley tea rooms where we had a cream tea before having a bit of a walk. When I got home I spent a while in the garden, clearing away more dead branches (we still have things left from the autumn) and cutting back a few plants that were struggling with the heat. I also started to sort out a bag of clothes for the charity shop- I need to go through the wardrobe and finish this as I only managed to finish a couple of drawers.

On Thursday after seeing some family (we went to the park in the rain for a bit) I went a bit stir crazy at home with all the rain (not helped by our internet being down, so I couldn’t do any work, and could not watch any of the things I’ve been saving on netflix for said rainy day…)I worked by way through a pile of magazines, had many cups of tea and in the end I went out on a walk and got rather drenched, and then tried to make jam (I say tried, because even though the bit I tested was fine, the stuff in jars didn’t set so I ended up doing it again on Friday- more on that another time as that could be an essay in itself!).

Which podcasts do you enjoy?  Do you like to organise things by colour or any other ways? How do you occupy yourself on rainy days?

A long weekend in Copenhagen

On the Thursday my dad kindly drove us to Heathrow, where we stayed overnight in a hotel as our flight was at 7am, which even staying in the airport meant a lovely 4.45am wake up. Once we landed, we got the train to the station by our hotel (the 2 day ticket we had bought in advance covered the airport too) and amazingly could check in (we thought we would be dropping off our bags and coming back later), so we put on sun cream and then headed out to explore. (This was also a relief to me because in my infinite wisdom I had packed the charging anchor thing but only with the continental plug, forgetting that we were in a UK hotel on the Thursday night, and this would usually be OK but I wanted to listen to some podcasts on the plane and also needed my phone for the text message train ticket- as soon as I realised I turned it off but I’d used it lots in the day for podcasts/ phone calls, and it kept on crashing anyway which used more battery to turn back on again so it meant I could charge it a bit in the hotel before we went out).

It was baking hot. I don’t want to sound like a broken record here, but like the rest of Europe it was having a bit of a heatwave.

We had to go about 4 stops on the metro (no AC on there of course as this weather is rather unusual) to the centre, where we walked around, saw the pretty colourful houses by the water (and then the same ones in the Lego store).

The centre is very easily walkable, although you can hire bikes too. We found a shop by Tivoli gardens selling amazing looking vegan ice creams, so I had the most refreshing raspberry ice cream covered in dark chocolate (on a stick, like a magnum, which turned into a race against time as it melted very quickly!).

After looking at the impressive buildings/ palaces (including seeing the poor guards marching back and forwards looking blisteringly lot) we walked out to see the Little Mermaid statue. The last time we were in Copenhagen was several years ago in December where it was the total opposite- lots of rain, freezing cold and getting dark early. This time the sea breeze was lovely and cooling so we stayed there for a while, being amused by the lengths some people were going to to get their selfie by her.

I opted for a photo from the path instead- much safer!

To escape the heat we found a lovely park to sit in for a while, and then headed back to the centre. We had re-watched the Copenhagen Travel Man episode, and had put the Round Tower on our list of things to do, but we thought we would be closer to it on the Saturday. However, we got to the end of a street and it was right in front of us, so we went up it. It was built in the 17th century as an observatory, and according to Travel Man, has a sloping spiral floor instead of steps so the king could ride his horse to the top. It only cost 25K (around £3 each), and as well as stunning views across the city, had an art gallery inside.

After that it was time to head back to the hotel- 28,000 steps isn’t bad for a day of sightseeing! We did try and see the blood moon, but it was too low in the sky.

By the lift in the hotel it had this table with mini towels and also lemon iced water, although sadly when I got back from parkrun the water had run out…

On Saturday after I did the parkrun, we went out for a breakfast of cinnamon rolls before heading into the centre again, this time heading towards the botanical gardens. It was even hotter than Friday, so we spent a while sitting in the shade, people and duck watching.

After walking around some more of the palaces and big buildings, we headed to a big park (the King’s garden)- full of hen parties and people chilling out in the shade.

Then we walked back to Tivoli gardens- we didn’t go in there as we went last time, but outside was a new sort of food court (much nicer than a shopping centre one) with all sorts of food stalls- pizza places, salad bars, bakeries, bars- you could then sit outside with views into Tivoli gardens. I must have spent half an hour wandering around choosing what to have as there were so many options.

In the end the need for something salty won over, so I opted for a grilled avocado and black bean sandwich, and I didn’t even know it came with pickles! The best bit of a veggie burger is the pickles so I was very excited to see this big pile. Andy got a burger and some salt and vinegar chips for us to share, and we sat outside enjoying the atmosphere. We’d seen a tasty looking cake in one of the bakeries, and after wondering whether we should get it as a take away decided it wouldn’t hold up to the heat, so shared a slice- it was some sort of raspberry open tart with dark chocolate and marzipan crumbles, served cold from the fridge which sounds weird but it was perfect.

Slightly less walking with 29,000 steps in total (which included my parkrun).

On Sunday we had to be at the airport early in the afternoon, so we walked up to the park near our hotel (the one that I had been to for parkrun) and walked around there for a while.

During parkrun I had seen a fenced off area with those special gates that are on a lean so always close, and wondered what was inside. My question was answered as we came across some Highland coos!

We also found a lake/reservoir, and sat for a while watching a heron catch some fish. It was all very peaceful.

It was such a great place to revisit in the summer with so many parks. The metro system was easy to navigate (even for me), the city is so clean and everyone is so helpful there. Of course parkrun was a bit of a bonus too, but it has reminded me how much I love this part of the world- Scandinavia/ Iceland…

Did you see the blood moon? Where do you like to go on weekend breaks? Do you like to watch Travel Man?

Amager Fælled parkrun! Danish parkrun tourism!

I’ll get to the rest of Copenhagen in another post (we arrived early on Friday morning and came back on Sunday). We stayed a few metro stops from the city centre (the Crowne Plaze Towers hotel opposite Ørestad station and right by the huge Field’s shopping mall), handily placed around 3km from the start of Amager Fælled parkrun.  The directions looked fairly simple as all I had to do was either run up the straight road and then turn left into the park, or get off at the university metro stop and head into the park.

(Our hotel was by the mall on the map so you can see it looked relatively simple). It was super hot so in the end I decided to get the metro, although this added to the stress a bit (not because of navigating the metro, as that was super simple with either a north or south-going metro, every 5 or so minutes) but because my phone was playing up and not always unlocking and the metro ticket was a 48 hour pass purchased online, so if I had been asked for a ticket I would have needed to show the text message.

Anyway, I thought I had prepared well, by emailing myself a link to the map (on the parkrun course page, if you look at the map, you can select the “share” icon and email it to yourself, which means when you then open the map via the link on your phone, both the  parkrun route and your location show up), but my phone then started zooming out so much that I could see the whole of Europe on my screen- argh! I’d read that it was very much a last-minute parkrun, in that people would appear at 8.55 and set it up. Fine, but if I was in the wrong part of the park that  would be no good. It wasn’t a flat grassy park where you could see across, it was full of bushes and trees, with paths between them, meaning no last minute dashes across to the right place.

The entrance to the park

Thankfully as I was wandering in, clearly looking confused and probably talking to myself, a runner overtook me, turned and saw my top, and pointed the way for me. I waved a thanks to her, as she then turned off left, but had indicated that I needed to go straight on. A little later I came across a cross-roads of paths, and could not decide (and again the phone wasn’t working), but after seeing a few people up ahead decided to go that way. As I got closer to the group of people, one person came up to me (seeing my parkrun apricot top I suppose) and asked me if this was where it started.  I admitted that I didn’t know, and she told me it was a lot of English tourists plus some locals that were new to parkrun, so no-one knew so far where the start was. Fingers crossed we were in the right place! At around 8.50 the crowd of people moved a little further down the track to a clearing, where someone got out a tarp (for water bottles etc) and someone else put down cones for the finish funnel- phew!

The briefing at the start

The run briefing began in Danish, and seeing as all I can remember from my time in Denmark was how to count to ten, I worked out the 5k, 2 laps part, and then there were some claps (someone waved so we knew that was a milestone of some sort). A guy sidled over and said to me and someone else that he would translate for us if they said anything important, but then the guy doing the briefing switched to English and said “any tourists here today? From England?” Lots of people put their hands up, and then one lady said she was from Australia. “You win” he told her. He explained that there would not be marshals out on the course, but it was signposted and you could just follow the person in front. He then quickly ran through the route, told us it was the first parkrun outside of the UK and was coming up to being 10 years old, before showing us to the start line (back along the path where we first waited). A line had been created (it looked like flour) on the floor to show the start line, and then it was a quick countdown and we were off.

From their facebook page- one of the volunteers must know a short cut as he was waiting on the first lap with his camera taking pictures of everyone.

It was absolutely baking. On Friday the temperature had got to over 30C, and the Saturday was meant to peak at 29, but there was little shade and a breeze only appeared in a couple of places.

I had seen on the results that it was a fairly speedy one, with final finishers coming in before 40 minutes, and I think I tried to keep up with the pack at first but it soon thinned out and I ended up mainly by myself. I ran behind this guy in the blue top (you can see a bit of him in the photo) and it had 50 and the parkrun logo on it. I wondered for a while if the milestone tops were a different colour in Denmark, and then realised that it seemed the same shade as the 500 top, so perhaps one of the 0’s came off. However when I looked at the results there was no-one with that many runs (438 was the highest I found) so I am not sure. Any ideas?

I enjoyed running the route- every now and then you had to look out for arrows on the floor and at one point during the second lap (when we were all further apart) I did wonder if I had missed an arrow, but then I noticed the fenced off field and remembered running by it before. When I ran past the start/finish area on my first lap, there were loads of people cheering (RD/ timer/ scanners etc)- they had these little hand held clapper things and were cheering in both English and Danish, including the lovely but very not true chant of “you look beautiful”.

Follow the arrows…

I was so hot by the end- my face seems to radiate the heat- so I wasn’t really putting in a fast finish. It was one of my highest placings though (47/67 runners- it was my 6th best finishing position). As soon as I finished I got my barcode scanned. The lady told me she was very happy that my wrist band scanned, and I told her I had a backup on me too. She showed me a notepad, and explained that they were ready for anything. As I stood in the shade to cool down, she was writing down the barcode for someone who had it up on their phone (DFYB people).

Although there was no cafe nearby, people were hanging around, sitting in the small patches of shade and cheering everyone else in. I chatted briefly to the lady who came up to me at the start (and her husband)- they were from Cumbria and here on holiday. I was surprised to see in the results that they had only done a couple of parkruns before this one as when I was chatting to the lady she was raving about how brilliant parkrun was (I’m not saying you can’t love it from the start, but seeking one out on holiday seems like something you would do once Saturday morning is always a parkrunday for you).

Anyway, I was hot and thirsty so I headed back to the metro, getting back to the hotel for about 10am. I had lots of water and a cool shower and then we headed to the shopping centre to get a cinnamon roll for breakfast- what else can you do in Denmark?

That was my 160th run, a nice number to do my 3rd country with.

I do like the badges on the tourist running challenges– now I have a new flag!

Where would your ideal parkrun holiday be?  They are in so many countries now- how about Germany combined with a Christmas market trip? Or they posted about a potential NYD double with Copenhagen and then Malmo…