Christmas Disney!

Last year I was very excited when we went to Magic Kingdom on our penultimate day and found some of the Christmas decorations were already up, so this year I wanted to see the again. We had seen hints of the decorations- Disney Springs had big Happy Holidays posters to stand in front of, and Hollywood Studios had Christmas window displays, and after our anniversary dinner we’d seen the beginning of the gingerbread house.

Due to the final Halloween party being on the Friday, it meant to Saturday was the only option for us to see them. We headed to MK for a bit to go on a few rides, have a giant cinnamon roll, and of course admire the decorations.

By chance I had wanted a final go on Jungle Cruise (side note- have you seen the trailer for this yet? Because you know, Disney needs to make a film for every single ride…) as I love their puns. As we were waiting, I noticed that a candy cane had been put over the u, so it said “Jingle Cruise” instead of “Jungle Cruise”. As we moved through the queue it turned out they had made it all Christmas themed- one of the barrels waiting to go on was full of eggnog, and the boats had been re-named.

The jokes on the ride had all changed too- honestly it made my day!

We walked from MK to the Contemporary hotel, as I had seen online that the gingerbread house had been finished. (I follow Disney Parks Blog and Disney Food Blog on Insta and it cheers me up when I am at home to see all the wondrous things that are happening over there…)

It did not disappoint! There were Hidden Mickeys to find as well as characters from Frozen and Small World, plus the shop was open. We bought a pebble (a roof tile) and a peppermint chocolate cookie to take home, and a little ornament (as we stayed in the hotel last year so it seemed like it was allowed…). They even did vegan gingerbread cake- I am really so impressed with all the options now.

Oh, and after that we got the Monorail to Epcot and guess what? In the first shop we went into, they had the aqua ears in stock (my pink ones were packed)- so now I have two sets of Minnie Ears! We’re off to Disneyland Paris in December so I will have to wear them over my hat!

I also got an Olaf mug- inside it says “I like warm hugs” so I feel it will be perfect for warm wintery drinks- as well as a few scented candles. When you are leaving the sunshine behind to come back to dark and cold days, you need these things to make it a little better!

Look- the aqua ears!

I totally love Christmassy things, although I do feel a bit humbug when mince pies appear in September- I want it to be special so it can’t last that long. But a bonus of going to Disney in October half term has been to see the start of their decorations (without the crazy crowds of actual Christmas in Disney), and now it’s a few weeks later and only maybe 5 weeks until Christmas, I feel like I can start to feel a bit festive.

When do you start to feel all festive? At this time I am all over the Christmas snacks but actual decorations at home need to wait until December. I actually saw a tree up in a house today!

Disney Fall Feast 5K 2019

Happily our trip to Florida also coincided with the Wine and Dine Run Disney weekend. Last year we did the 10k, but decided to do the 5k instead. I was planning on doing the Florida parkrun on the Saturday, as it was a 7.30am start so I could be back for checkout at 11, but when I actually looked it up, although it was 30 mins away (not too far) there were no public transport options and so the Uber was going to be $40 each way- a bit too much to spend in the end. But the Run Disney event was the main attraction. Races in the US seem to be expensive anyway (no £6.50 Festive Five here) but at least with Run Disney you get lots of things around the race.

I loved going to the Expo, not just for the merchandise but for the fun of posing for pictures and meeting characters (without the sweaty hair and face of the actual race day).

Last year we went for breakfast and then to the Expo, and this year we went to a park for a couple of rides before heading there- we were maybe half an hour later but there were big queues and loads of the clothes had already sold out. I really wanted some Disney shoes, but I could not work out how to find them in the app to pre-order, and when I went to the website it kept signing me out and making me reset my password. We picked up our numbers, went to the shop where in the end I got two things- a long sleeved top (the purple one below)- it has thumb holes and I loved the list on the back- and then the black jacket- it’s sort of puffy in the body with thin sleeves. My running club used to do similar branded ones, and I didn’t get one as I didn’t know which size to choose online, and I am always super jelly of the people who have them as they are light but warm. So when I saw they did one, I had to get it (and it was not too expensive- £69 compared to $45 for a vest). We then went to the other building to pick up our race tops- the green one below- these were also long sleeved, so no way would we be wearing them for the actual race! It was 33 degrees outside!

I had wanted to get some Minnie ears to wear for the race, and I was being a bit fussy- I wanted light coloured ones as the dark ones I wore last year didn’t show up in the photos. I really wanted the Arendelle Aqua ones (a sparkly blue/green colour) but they weren’t in stock anywhere, so on the day before I got some pink/gold sparkly ones. We didn’t stay too late in the parks that day (we chose a 9pm firework show vs the 10pm one) and then got our numbers ready, as it was an early wakeup the next morning.

The hotels all put on buses, and as the race started at 5.30am we were told to be on a busy by 4am at the latest. We set the alarm for 3.45 and had the quickest get up ever, as the bus stop was a 5 min walk from our room.

Once at the start, we had to go through security (neither of us had bags so that was speedy) and then walk to the start. You can see above that it was actually a fair walk (as we got dropped at the finish area)- I am guessing it was a mile? I wished I’d tracked it! We had to stand around for a bit, but there was a DJ playing music and they interviewed people linked to the supporting charities, so it was all fairly entertaining and the time passed quickly. We were in the first wave so once the wheelchair athletes had gone it was our turn to count down and see the fireworks.

After we had been running for about 5 mins we heard the next lot of fireworks for the next wave. The route was pretty flat and seemed to get into the park fairly quickly, which was good. I loved running around the world showcase- all the buildings had their lights sparkling, and there was music playing in some places.  I didn’t stop at any characters (they were not the most famous ones- a bug from Bug’s Life, Chip and Dale). It wasn’t timed but we managed a good negative split with 10:33, 9:48, 9:04 and 8:28. Once we finished and collected our medals and little snack boxes, we queued to meet Minnie and then Mickey, before heading to the bus stop.

The snack pack was pretty good- some hummus, chips to dip, apple sauce, little fruit and nut bar, and a sort of Dime bar.

After a shower and change we had to head out as we had booked breakfast at the Polynesian- my favourite.

We shared a fruit platter (which was full of mango, pineapple, kiwi, dragon fruit, strawberries and plums as well as fresh honeycomb and some of those ball things you get in bubble tea- I didn’t eat those- are you meant to eat them or are they for decoration??), and the banana stuffed French toast which comes with maple syrup and also this amazing strawberry sauce which I poured all over the fruit too!

Of course the other fab thing about a Disney race is posing with your medal after! We went to MK and Epcot so I could get a lot of photos, and then on the Saturday we went back again as I wanted to pose with the Christmas decorations (and Friday was the final Halloween party, so I knew there would be some Christmas things out the next day).

Have you been to a Run Disney or other themed running event? Do you usually run on holiday?

A trip to Florida- running, riding, snacks and sunshine

Some of you may know that this time last year the two of us went to Florida for the week, and while we were out there, got married (in the Botanical Gardens), and as luck would have it my half term was a week later than lots, so we managed to score fairly reasonable flights to go back to celebrate our anniversary.

Dole Whip features a fair bit…

We had to connect via Miami (which was super stressful because although we had 2.5 hours, we had to clear immigration, collect our bags, re-drop the bags and then re-go through security- we made it with 10 mins to spare!). But all the stress was worth it when we got to the parks bright and early the next morning! Although I am not a big Halloween fan (I much prefer the Day of the Dead idea) I do love the “fall” decorations, with the autumnal leaves and coloured banners everywhere.

Plus lots of people were going to the not so scary Mickey Halloween parties (you had to get extra tickets for these) so there were lots of costumes and t-shirts to admire.

And all the hotels had pumpkin carving competitions- how amazing is the Moana one?

Pretty much every day we did 2 parks- playing the fast pass system like pros! In the app you can book a certain number each day (and some are higher tiers than others) but once you have tapped in to the ride, you can then log on and get more, so we had different parks each morning to make sure we’d get on all the big rides, and then would go to a different park for the afternoon/evening to see the fireworks show, and book the fast-passes that day.

Any trip to Disney also includes a list of must-eat snacks (more on those later).

I loved my Minnie-Mouse themed Magic Band- these work as your room key, park ticket and fastpass ticket, and as they can be reused I got a patterned one.

I went out for a run around the lake on a couple of mornings- it always looked beautiful as the sun was just coming up.

We stayed in Art of Animation, which is across the lake from Pop Century, and you can run the entire lap (just over a mile for one lap).

Lots of them had very cool “wraps” on the outside- I particularly liked the Olaf one.

Now the Skyliner (the little cable cars) run from there to Epcot and Hollywood Studios so it’s a pretty good location. One day I timed the journey (to compare it to the hotel bus or driving) and it was 18 minutes from the park to our hotel- you had to change at Caribbean Beach but that was maybe a 20m walk from getting off one to getting on the next one). I was a bit sceptical about them, as they have no air-con, but when moving there is a nice breeze coming in through the air vents and they are tinted. When they stopped it was another thing, and I am not sure I’d be happy inside a stopped one in August.

Our block was Little Mermaid themed- even the shower tiles were made to look like Ariel’s grotto!

At this time of year Epcot hosts the Food and Wine festival which is really fantastic.

I love the guacamole from the Mexico place in Epcot

All around the world showcase are extra mini buildings themed to different places (eg the Alps/ Mexico) and each one serves 3 or 4 small dishes (for around $4) and a range of wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks. You can get a little leaflet with all the menus, and although we heard some people complaining that the portion sizes were small, we shared them and they were pretty good to try- a bit like tapas or something.

Epcot also do Dole Whip during the festival so of course we had one (no float though- boo).

Some of the stands even had little recipes so you could recreate it at home.

I bought a strawberry smoothie as Andy had bought a frozen lemonade with whisky, and my drink came with a mini doughnut in the top!

The other reason we had gone was because the new Star Wars land had opened in Hollywood Studios. Andy is a huge Star Wars fan and he had been really looking forward to it. One evening we went to the Cantina, where they served themed cocktails (mine was a fruity mocktail) and the DJ was the robot from the old Star Tours rides! Pretty fun!

The land was impressively themed, with huge (life size?) models of the various spaceships and lots of extra bits going on. The new ride was also so much fun, although when we first went on it I didn’t realise that the pilots actually controlled the simulator!  Before you went in you were given a little card (pull joystick left to turn left, forward to go down etc) and as you are in there, voices come on saying “left pilot, follow the bus”, buttons light up to launch various things and you can even pull the lever to jump to light speed!

Delicious Mexican bowl of rice, beans, salsa, corn, vegan cheese, guacamole, tomatoes and crunchy tortilla chips

At the end of our first turn I realised that my joystick only went forwards or back, and Andy’s only went left or right- which is why I was having trouble using it! But it was such good fun, we went on it twice more during the holiday (once being engineers- sitting further back and pressing lots of buttons when they flashed, and then being pilots so we swapped so Andy could be on the right and jump to light speed).

Highlights from each park:

Magic Kingdom: Our snacks of choice; Dole Whip float (Dole Whip on pineapple juice), ice-cream cookie sandwich from Main Street, this year with added peanut butter sauce which improves it 100%, and the giant cinnamon roll from Gaston’s Bakery (yes you need to share, and no you don’t need extra icing despite what you read on the internet). So. Good. 

Philharmagic is one of my favourite rides (shows?), the Buzz Lightyear ride is always fun (although not as clever as the Toy Story one in Hollywood Studios), the classics such as Small World and Carousel of Progress will never get old, The Little Mermaid ride is a good gentle one, Haunted Mansion is always funny (and is never busy at other times of year but at Halloween it’s crazy popular!), the Enchanted Tiki room is always quite funny (and right by the Dole Whip stand), Pirates is a classic and I shall never tire of the hilarious/ awful puns on the Jungle Cruise. Andy did persuade me to try the Mine Train ride, because I don’t like drops (I can just about manage the drop on Pirates) but don’t mind fast or side-to-side, but I didn’t enjoy it so I won’t be going on it again! He goes on Space Mountain and sometimes Splash Mountain, but those are the only rides I avoid. I also loved the new fireworks and projection show there, and the park is so pretty at night (I love the Tangled lantern bit).

Hollywood Studios: This is usually the worst park for good snacks, so often when we went there we would eat elsewhere (one morning we went in early for Star Wars, then headed over to Epcot for a late breakfast in Norway), but we did love the vegan Mexican bowl from one of the counter places, and had that a couple of times.

The new Star Wars ride (Smuggler’s Run) was so much fun– I loved it! I’m not a rollercoaster fan, but it’s a fun simulator and the fact that you get to actually control what goes on and work as a team just added to it so much. The Toy Story ride there is just genius (you get whizzed around an arcade and get to throw plates, fire darts, throw hoops and all sorts (with 3D glasses on, not really) and it’s always good for some friendly competition! The Muppets is always a classic, as well as the original Star Wars (Star Tours) and Little Mermaid. The Star Wars fireworks and projection show was brilliant too. I don’t go on Tower of Terror or Rock n Rollercoaster, but as Andy is a single rider it doesn’t take long for him to go on them while I sit in the sunshine or mooch around a shop.

Animal Kingdom: One bakery did a “colossal cinnamon bun” which we shared- it was good, but not as squishy and gooey as the Gaston one.

As for rides, the new Avatar themed rides are brilliant. Last year I was really nervous before going on Flights of Passage, as I didn’t really understand what it was from reading the description. It’s a simulator, but you sit on a sort of bike thing (that is meant to be a dragon- you can feel it breathing and everything), wearing 3D glasses, and are flown around the Avatar land. On one of our goes a kid next to Andy said to his dad “this is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen”- and it is really stunning. It swoops about a bit, and did make my stomach drop but it was just on the OK side for me. The other ride is a gentle boat ride. The whole theming of the land is impressive- in the dark the floor glows.

Andy enjoyed the Everest ride, and we both love the Lion King show, but after getting too wet on the river rapids ride once, we avoid that one.

Epcot: School bread is now one of the top foods to have- from the Norway bakery. It’s the best selling pastry in the park and no wonder- a delicious cardamom spiced bun filled with custard and topped with toasted coconut. It’s so good and not super sweet like a lot of things- we had them for breakfast on a couple of days. We had a few little things from the Food and Wine stands including a carrot cake, a vegan almond and fruit frozen parfait thing, a chai chocolate ice cream shake and of course Dole whip.

 

Soarin’ was always my favourite ride, but they have changed it from “over California” to “around the world” and added in a load of CGI which it just didn’t need. These places are beautiful without needing fake animals leaping about. Plus it jumps from place to place without any pattern or sense. It’s still a clever ride (you sit in swinging seats and are lifted up in front of a big screen and moved gently as the video moves around the world), but even the music isn’t as good now. I love the Frozen ride- just a log ride really but the animatronics are so clever and life-like, and the movement of the ride fits with the music from the film. The teeny snowmen are so cute too! Lots of in-jokes to be had on Spaceship Earth (even if Judy Dench does say “math” and not “maths”, the Nemo ride is always fun and I love seeing the rescued manatees. There was an interesting exhibition about how Epcot will be changing (something inspired by Moana, and a Mary Poppins something in the UK section). It did make me miss Ellen’s Energy Adventure- so many funny quotes from that ride. Their fireworks show was a stop-gap between Illuminations finishing (sad face- that was my favourite fireworks show ever) and the new one beginning, and it was a bit weird in places,  but had some clever flying glowing dragon kite things.

We popped to Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney) on a few occasions- to get an Earl of Sandwich for a late lunch/ early dinner (what is the brunch equivalent?) and to do a spot of shopping, and one day we sped to a park for a couple of fastpasses, and then headed out to some actual shops (Bath & Bodyworks, Skechers, Old Navy and Lululemon) before heading back to another park. We did also go to the race Expo but I will keep the Run Disney bits in another post as this one is already super long!

As it was out wedding anniversary, we had booked dinner on that day at the California Grill, a restaurant at the top of the Contemporary Hotel. It looks down onto Magic Kingdom, and we went fairly early (5.30 I think?) so the sun was beginning to go down to add to the good views. Their menu has a few veggie options anyway, but they also have a separate plant (vegan) menu where you could choose 4 items and have 4 mini-plates, so I did that and had a rather eclectic but delicious meal of a mini tomato calzone, heirloom tomato  salad, creamed spinach and an avocado and sesame sushi roll. It’s all served with their warm sourdough bread and it was such a lovely meal. Afterwards we wandered downstairs to see the construction of the giant gingerbread house in the lobby- it was already looking impressive.

The view as the sun was going down.

We were lucky with the weather- last year was warm in the day and cool at night, but this year was the warmest October in a long time. Driving from the airport we had torrential rain, and then on the Sunday we got stuck in a downpour at Animal Kingdom (while Andy was on Everest, so we had to shelter in separate places and meet up for our Avatar fast-pass once the rain had eased).

(Before and then during the crazy rain). Apart from that, we had sunny and hot days, and it cooled off to more normal levels literally as we were waiting to start the 5K race.

Last year we did the 10k race on the morning we came home, meaning a 3.30am wakeup. This year we did the 5k which was on the Friday, which meant we could enjoy our final day in the parks a little more. Our flight was a bit stressful as we had a connection in Charlotte of 50 minutes-eek! Thankfully a lot of people on the first plane were connecting, and there was no security or immigration to get through, so we basically got off our plane, walked along the corridor to the next section of gates and found ours- they were boarding Group 8 (and we were Group 7) when we got to the gate, but at least we made it before the final call! I’m getting the hang of overnight flights now- I have some aromatherapy spray to put on my neck pillow and eye mask, and basically as soon as the plane has taken off I put all that on, put on my headphones (they are noise cancelling ones) and either listen to a sleep story on calm, or some music, and don’t take my eye mask off until we are close to landing.

As you can see, we packed a lot in the week, and I certainly don’t go on holiday to sit around!  Most days we were doing close to 30,000 steps

Do you prefer active or relaxing holidays? If you have been to Disney, which is your favourite park, and more importantly what is your favourite holiday snack?

Wimpole 10 miles 2019

In 2018 I ran the Wimpole half marathon, and I really enjoyed it, but there was a 10 mile race on the same route, only at 9 miles all the 10 milers headed off to the finish, whereas the half runners ran down (another) big hill, through some woods and back up the hill. This year I decided to opt for the 10 miles instead as I found that psychologically tough, particularly as I was in a pack of runners but once doing the final miles I was pretty much on my own.

The weather was forecast to be awful this year, but thankfully it wasn’t raining when we arrived. It’s a laid back race, where you pick up your pack on the morning. They’d asked for donations for a local food bank, so we dropped some things off, got my number and left my bag in the tent, all in about 10 minutes. They’d emailed out the race instructions because they didn’t want people standing around in the cold and rain for ages at the start- how sensible.

I kept my long sleeved top on until the last possible moment before the start! I did like that they had asked people to walk over the start line as there were huge deep puddles, so they played Chariots of Fire, which I think you have to run in slow motion to?

The race is rather up and down- as you can see it was very muddy and in some places you had to walk because it was so steep and the thick mud made it so hard to get purchase. At about 2 miles I was running along a ridge-line and it started raining quite hard- it was then that I remembered my visor safely in my bag in the bag drop…

The route kept looping near to the main house- from the three loops above we did the top/left one first, then the top right one, and then the lower loop, so some roads or tracks were repeated but in different directions. One part was so steep and claggy from the mud that I had to walk downhill which was really annoying!

On a few of the uphill bits I walked and took a few photos, as trying to run just seemed pointless as it was the kind of running where you were not going any faster but just tiring yourself out. The final mile had an out and back in a field with deep grass and bumpy ground- no chance of speeding up here as I didn’t want to twist an ankle, and when you turned back around you were running into the wind.

As runners finished, they were announcing their names, which is always a nice touch- someone close to the line was calling out the race bib numbers. I was handed a piece of home-made flapjack as I was given my medal- yes please! And water in a can (recyclable- thumbs up).

I changed in the toilets and then we went to the tea room- after being outside in the wind, rain and cold, that pot of tea was just perfect, and I got the last fruit scone!

I didn’t have any idea on my finish time- it was chip timed but we didn’t get a text or anything, and really it was about the run and not about the time. I guessed about 1 hr 45, so I was pretty impressed when I looked on the results and it was 1:46:36.

Baking and Biking!

So at the end of the summer holidays I got my bike out of the Shed of Doom (basically the shed that was in the garden when we moved in, we filled it with things that were in our old garage and then didn’t open it again for 3 years…) and took it to the local shop for a service. Remarkably it was OK, and we have a proper bike shed now (Andy sometimes cycles to work) so it’s been in there for a bit, with me waiting to pluck up the courage to ride it. I needed to get a new helmet (my old one was home to many many slugs and snails and no matter what Holland and Barrett say, snail slime is not going anywhere near my face), and I happened to mention this to my mum the other week. She disappeared for a bit, came back downstairs with a brand new helmet in a box. She’d seen it in Aldi and could not resist the bargain apparently, even though she can’t ride a bike.

It was parkrun’s 15th birthday, and originally my brother was going to go to parkrun, and he usually cycles to Ellenbrook, so I said I’d meet him there, but in the end he couldn’t go, which meant I could go to Panshanger which is nearer to home and also a nicer bike ride. I was a bit apprehensive about it, and left plenty of time, but I really really enjoyed the bike ride- it was so peaceful and it’s much quieter than running!

I’d painted my nails (with my lovely five-free Wideye nail polish) ready for my Sunday race, and it matched well with my new flatband too.

I was very pleased when running to see the long horned cattle- they have been moved so we had a slight course change (which is why you have to be quiet during the run brief even if you go all the time….) to avoid them.

My legs felt quite tired for the first mile or so- the bike ride was only 4 and a bit miles, so not that far but seeing as I hadn’t cycled in years I was using some muscles that had lain dormant for some time!

I took a few photos on the way home to slow things down a bit.  At one point I was running next to a guy who I am pretty sure was wearing a carrier bag under his top as he was rustling along and also absolutely dripping in sweat.

I finished in 31:06, and headed home fairly promptly as I didn’t want to get too cold (I had worn a jacket over my running kit). I also changed gear in the way home (I used to have trouble with the chain coming off, and I didn’t want to faff around with that and risk missing parkrun)- it was all going smoothly.

I do need to work out how to reset my records on my Garmin though, as I tracked it as a run at first (sort it out later on Strava) and so I got a record of my fastest mile (5 mins- er, that is never happening!).  Once home and showered I had breakfast in front of An Extra Slice.

I had to help Andy take down the shed of doom (it was a bit rotten and it turned out that foxes had bashed a hole in the back so we don’t want to encourage that) before walking into town for a haircut.

I also got rather excited because we now have a Hotel Chocolat in WGC! No cafe though (boo). I went to Starbucks to get my free drink and Andy came to meet me for the walk home.

I then did a spot of baking. I’d seen these lovely “Monster workout Cookies” on The Runner Beans Instagram page, and they are just as tasty as they look  (cookies with oats, peanut butter, raisins, chocolate chips and m n m’s).

As I had a race the next morning I got all my kit out, plus a change of clothes as it was forecast to be horrible weather. I also got myself a bike lock (I just left it by the fence at parkrun but sort of hidden in a ditch, but I wouldn’t do that in many places), so I am ready to cycle to more places.

I must credit the lovely Tess @ Fitbits, because her enthusiasm for cycling has been the nudge that I have needed to get my bike out of the old shed, to the repair shop and back on the road.

Do you ride a bike at all? I used to ride all the time when I was at school and uni, as I only learnt to drive in my final year at uni, but since working a bit too far from where I live I have just got out of the habit.