Hopping over to Bruges for waffles (mainly)

On Sunday morning we drove to Folkstone and onto the train (compared to when I was little and you had to get a ferry to go abroad, it still amazes me that this is possible). I was feeling rather nervous about driving but Andy had said he could drive my car if I needed him to. I think I was mainly worried about forgetting things- Dartford charge paid, insurance checked (it included Europe), European breakdown for 2 days bought, high viz jackets and the bits  you need for France such as the breathalyser all packed…

But all was well, the roads were quiet and I managed to get us into the centre of Bruges- our hotel was by the station, and the station had car parking for 3.50 for 24 hours (bargain), so we were in the centre of town by lunch time- perfect.

It’s a lovely place to wander- I’d only been in the winter before and we had always said we should go back to be outdoors a little more! Of course we had to have a hot chocolate, and a little later a waffle.

This waffle place had a free toppings bar, so I chose a waffle with strawberries and chocolate, and then topped it with some nuts, some dark chocolate curls and Lotus biscuit crumbles. It was good!

We walked all around the park and the centre, up and down canals, past all the pretty buildings (and all the while resisting the urge to quote from In Bruges because it contains lots of swearzies).

As a fan of marzipan I also loved the shops selling slices of marzipan with a range of flavours (pistachio/ hazelnut/ cherry etc)- I bought a few slices for us to take home, as well as a little bag of dark chocolate coated orange peel, because that stuff is gorgeous.

For dinner we opted for a little picnic of some delicious bread and cheese- when in Rome…

On Monday (a Bank Holiday in the UK but not here) we went out for breakfast in The Old Chocolate House, and it was divine.

On the left is the chocolate cup containing the buttons for my drink, with the ganache on top (it looks like a giant stuffed date) and the pot of sprinkles in the white pot. Andy’s pestle and mortar in the background.

The hot chocolate menu was immense, and when they brought our drinks over at first I thought they were taking an afternoon tea to the wrong table. You were given a big mug of warm milk (they did have soya milk there), a chocolate cup filled with chocolate buttons (I had dark milk and Andy had dark) and then the add ones in an extra pot. Andy had chosen dark with peppermint, ginger and lemongrass, and those add ons were in a little pestle and mortar set, so he could grind it himself and add the amount that he wanted. You dropped the chocolate pot into the milk, whisked, and the chocolate melted. I went for speculoos cookie hot chocolate (I love those biscuits) and so mine came with a chocolate ganache and little biscuit crumbs to sprinkle on top. It was super rich but really delicious.

There wasn’t a huge amount of food on the menu (not surprisingly) but as it was brunch we each had a waffle. There were loads of gorgeous sounding chocolatey options, but with the big hot chocolate to drink we both fancied something different, so I had a waffle with raspberry jam, and Andy had one with orange jam. These waffles were my kind of waffle- the one from the day before was good, but in a sweet and puffy way, whereas these ones were thinner and crispier and nuttier.

After more of a wander it was time to head back to the car and drive back to Calais, with a little stop at the supermarket to pick up a few bits. There were big queues for the passport checks (what a contrast from our drive from France into Belgium which just had a sign announcing the border) and so we ended up on a train 10 mins later, but this was forgiven because there were no queues at the Dartford Tunnel- I’m not sure that’s ever happened before!

Have you been to Bruges? Are you a fan of waffles or marzipan or hot chocolate? Are you confident driving abroad? I am very lucky that Andy has always been happy to drive when we’ve been on holiday.

Bristol weekend part 2- Bristol 10K

 

I got my number ready the night before, but totally forgot until the morning that I usually paint my nails- I had packed the nail varnish and everything- so I decided that if I got ready super quickly I could paint my nails before we left for the bus. We had to get the bus at just after 8am, as they were only every 40 mins on a Sunday, and the next busy wouldn’t get me to the centre in time. By the end the bus driver wasn’t letting people on as it was so full, so I think we were lucky that our stop was a long way out.

We had a wander around the race village and then I made my way to the start pen. I had a very precise start time (9:41 I think) and I had to be in the pen by 9.30. It was chilly so I left my top with Andy at the last possible moment, but then I couldn’t get into the pen because all of the entry points seemed to be closed. There was no way I could jump over a fence like some people were doing, but thankfully someone had opened one of the fences so I could get in. I was a bit confused as the warm up was at the opposite end to the start, so half the people were facing a different way. Jo Pavey was on the stage starting the race, which was exciting!

The race started like clockwork- I was very impressed as often the big events get delayed for one reason or another.

I really enjoyed this race- a lot more than I expected to. I am not always a big fan of the big races- I find the crowds stressful and I would rather have nice scenery than run through a load of streets. The route took us quickly through the city and along a gorge next to a river, with beautiful views. There were loads of bands en route, and I just felt immensely happy as I was running- some cheesy thoughts running through my head but happy that I am healthy enough to run, happy that even though Andy didn’t want to run it with me, he knew I’d enjoy it and suggested it for my birthday weekend, happy that so many people were out enjoying the run and enjoying spectating.

The route doubled back along the gorge at about 2.5 miles, and then at around 4 miles we were back in the city again.  We passed a water station in the out and back bit, but I didn’t need to stop. Side point- they were using plastic bottles and the number of runners that just took one sip and then flung the bottle to the side was ridiculous- it’s not only a waste of water and plastic, but think of all the fuel used to transport this heavy water around- it’s so bad for the environment on so many levels. I just don’t understand why races don’t use cups as not many people will be drinking 500ml water while running a 10k. Rant over.

I wasn’t aiming for a time and I had no idea it was actually flat, and I was feeling good with a couple of miles to go so decided to increase my pace a little. I didn’t quite manage the royal flush negative split- my mile splits were 9.33, 9.11, 9.03, 9.06, 8.55 and 8.46, with the final bit at 7.52. Not too shabby!

I was waiting for a text to come through, but in the end I had to look up my time on the internet- 56:40. This is a little bit of a shame as it must be so easy to do- so many times now you get a text almost as you cross the line, and this race wasn’t cheap. They did have a fantastic way to get pedestrians to cross the race route- the run route was split in half with fencing, and marshals would hold up tape and direct runners to one side only, and then the pedestrians would cross to half way, and then they would move the tape to the other side, directing runners to the other side of the track- very clever.

The finish area was packed- I picked up my finisher pack and enjoyed some water, before picking up my t-shirt. Mini rant alert- the smallest size available was a unisex small- it’s massive and there are plenty of runners slimmer than me. It’s such a nice colour but it feels so lazy to just have unisex sizing. Plus if I wore it on a run it’s a free advert for the race- I am not likely to wear it much when it’s so big.

I met Andy at Bill’s where we had breakfast, and then popped to Bird&Blend for an Earl Grey latte.

The t-shirt that is way too flappy to run in- not so good for the expensive entry fee

We then got the bus back to the hotel, had a shower and headed over to Bath for the afternoon- another one of my favourite places to visit.

Of course we stopped for tea and cake after a bit of a wander (we shared some delicious carrot cake) and then in the evening headed to the cinema to see Long Shot. I’d not been to the cinema for ages- we only get free tickets every two weeks now, as Vitality have changed the rules, and Andy has been using them for all the comic/ Marvel films recently, but they don’t interest me so I’ve not been. I took some sweets as a snack (the peach fizz Candy Kittens which are gelatin-free are so tasty), and really enjoyed the film. I’m not a huge rom-com fan, but it was funny enough without being all soppy.

On Monday we made our way back home via a couple of National Trust places. I tried my medal out on a wooden squirrel, and of course we visited a tearoom. All in all a lovely weekend.

Do you prefer big city races or smaller events? Did you enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend?

A weekend in Bristol- round 1, Eastville parkrun

We were staying in a Village hotel (which turned out to be a carbon copy of the Portsmouth one, complete with transparent bathroom doors- I don’t get it!) and I’d looked up the nearest parkrun, obviously (Eastville- we were actually very close to where Little Stoke used to be). Anyway, I am not sure if I used the postcode for the car park, or something else, but when I looked it up it was 3 miles away, which didn’t seem too bad for walking there, running the parkrun and running back. Thankfully I left a load of time, as when I left the hotel it told me it was 5 miles, but then it wanted me to go up the road and double back on myself (I am not sure if the maps knew  where the pavements were) so it would have been shorter, although me being confused looking at my phone meant that I did a complete circuit of the roads around the hotel (adding on nearly half a mile) before getting to the road and getting on my way.

And even though the route was basically go straight for a couple of miles, turn left and then run until you see the Shell garage, I’d not taken elevation into consideration and it turns out Bristol is quite hilly!

The way back would have been worse but I had decided at that point that I’d be getting an uber back to the hotel! I only just got to the parkrun in time- at about 8.52- I asked a marshal where the start was as some people were going clockwise and some anticlockwise from the park entrance, and he helpfully pointed out the start where I could see the new runner briefing just ending- gah! No matter, I know I can follow the person in front, and I had read the course description so I knew it was one small lap, one big lap and one small lap.

It was May the 4th, so a few people were dressed up as Star Wars characters. I could not hear the main briefing though because people near me kept talking. This drives me mad- it is so rude to all the volunteers, inconsiderate to those around you who want to hear, and also dangerous because even if this is your regular parkrun, there can be important safety announcements about course changes and so on. Grrr.

Anyway, we were soon off and around the park- the small lap meant running down, along the bottom, up a hill and then back past the start/finish area. There were handily placed signs with arrows for first, second and third laps, so no chance of going wrong. The second lap was lovely as it went around a lake- I did wonder why it wasn’t just two laps of that, but I suppose with narrow paths it isn’t easy with the big number of runners (477 on the day I ran it). There was a short steep section to get away from the lake and then you were back on the uphill again, and then the third lap went around the top section of the park (to avoid the start/finish area I imagine) before going down and up that hill for a third time. I didn’t feel the hill was too bad, but if it was my local perhaps I’d feel differently! I was running slowly too, conscious of my race the next day as well as the fact I’d just run 5 miles already. I finished in 31:20 and then wandered about trying to find a car park or somewhere that an uber could pick me up from- in the end I went to the petrol station opposite.

Once back at the hotel I was very happy to see that Andy had made me a cup of tea and popped to the Starbucks in the hotel lobby and got us cinnamon rolls for breakfast- I was feeling fairly hungry by that time.

Then it was time to head into Bristol. We had got a travel app which meant we could get an all day bus pass for £4, as the bus stop was right by our hotel, and the park and ride car parks were all on the other side of the city.

We had a lovely day wandering around the shops (stopping for lunch in Pret), walking out to the docks and then up to a park. I was very excited to visit my fave tea shop, Bird and Blend- for a chai latte.

Later in the afternoon we left in need of a cake break, and came across Pinkmans Bakery which promised a whole host of goodies including sourdough doughnuts. Neither of us are huge doughnut fans, but it seemed rude to not try their speciality, so we shared a honeycomb doughnut (filled with some sort of custard thing) along with some much-needed tea. It was pretty tasty.

For dinner we went out for a pizza (no idea which restaurant but it was a traditional Italian place with a wood-fired oven)- I had a vegan one in the end as I wan’t sure if their cheese was suitable for veggies and it was really delicious.

After an “interesting” bus journey back (first up was a lovely drunk lady shouting at everyone, but we would have had her back in exchange for the 3 guys who sat in front of us eating kebabs and sharing their drugs amongst themselves- especially as one kept turning around and staring at me but he clearly couldn’t even focus his eyes properly) we decided we were in need of some light relief and attempted to watch the Baywatch film. Not even the charisma of The Rock could save this film and I think we didn’t even last an hour. Dire.

 

Then it was time to get my number ready on my vest and set the alarm for the morning.

Have you been to Bristol? When is the latest that you have arrived for a parkrun? Are you a doughnut fan?

A weekend in Wales

We were off to Wales for the long Easter weekend, so on Thursday night we drove up to somewhere near Birmingham (Walsall?), stayed overnight in a hotel with a bed possibly made of concrete (a Village hotel- they aren’t normally too bad so I think we were just unlucky) and then spent the Friday stopping off at a few places on the way to our B&B in Betys-y-Coed (no idea how you say it still).

We stopped off at a couple of lovely places en route, having nice long walks through woods.

National Trust places were doing Hot Cross Bun scones for Easter- had to be done! Their scones are always good anyway, so with added spices and raisins- a pretty tasty alternative.

The weather was pretty amazing- it was forecast to be warm but I didn’t think it would be that warm- I didn’t pack shorts or cropped trousers, only very dark jeans and waterproof trousers. Thankfully I had packed suncream.

We went for dinner at a gorgeous pizzeria in town- I had a mild panic as we’d chosen and Andy was going to the counter to order, and I then read that their mozzarella wasn’t suitable for veggies- luckily he saw my message and I could order a vegan one instead (which was amazing).

Our B&B was lovely- beautiful views of the countryside, with armchairs by the big bay window and bird feeders on the front lawn. It served breakfast between 8 and 9am and initially when we booked the weekend I was kind of hoping for a welsh parkrun, but the nearest one was about a half an hour drive away, and the logistics of that combined with the breakfast time meant I gave it a miss.  On Saturday we headed up to Anglesey to look for red squirrels- we didn’t see any of those but we did see loads of bluebells, heard woodpeckers and also saw “Easter egg rolling” which turned out to be children log-rolling down a hill in return for an Easter egg (I was picturing something more horrific, like the cheese-rolling).

We headed to Conwy, had delicious ice-cream (where we were warned by the shop keeper to be aware of the seagulls because they just fly down and eat it out of your hands), and walked on the castle walls for brilliant views of the water.

For dinner with had a rather weird picnic of chips and hummus (actual chip shop chips, not crisps being called chips in that fancy way) and some fruit salad.

On Sunday we started to make our way home- stopping at a couple of National Trust places to break up the journey. I had started to get a bit of a sore back, and after going to this beautiful castle (which was interesting on the inside as it was used as a school for children evacuated during WW2) it was really sore and I had to do some yoga in the car park to try and stretch it out a bit. That and then rolling up a jumper to sit on seemed to help and it wasn’t so bad for the rest of the journey.

I love our road trips- we caught up on loads of podcasts as we’d been falling behind in things like the Radio 5 film podcast. We’ve recently got into Off Menu, which is where James Acaster and Ed Gamble interview people about their favourite meals- it doesn’t sound that great but they have funny conversations revolving around their various opinions. I was super excited to see that a new Buckles podcast was out (Adam Buxton)- he always has interesting guests on. We heard Tina Fey on David Tennant’s podcast (again, very interesting) and then regular favourites like Judge John Hodgman and Athletico Mince (which is a really weird and at times hilarious sketch show by Bob Mortimer).

It was such a great trip, even though it was only for a couple of days. I’d not been to that part of Wales before and really loved it (the place we stayed reminded me a lot of Aviemore in Scotland), so we shall definitely have to go back another time and visit a few more places.

Where do you like to visit for a weekend in the UK?

Any recommendations for things to do in Bristol? (We are heading there next)

A New Year Double parkrun (NYDD)

(New Year’s Day Double)

After a pretty chilled out weekend with an 8.5 mile run on Sunday morning and a little walk in the afternoon (followed by watching one of my Christmas presents, Whisper of the Heart) we packed up on Monday to head up to Nottingham. We’d not been for a few years and had a free night to use up, and it meant I could do some parkrun tourism to make up for missing out on Berlin!

On the Monday afternoon we had a nice wander around the centre- they have a Bird&Blend (they shall always be Bluebird to me) so we got a delicious tea latte each while we walked around the city centre, and later on a dinner at Bill’s, and then we had booked to see Mary Poppins Returns (which I really enjoyed- it felt like slipping under a cosy warm blanket and snuggling up with a cup of tea- all very soothing and relaxing because you know it will be alright in the end).

For a while I was just going to do one parkrun on NYD, and had looked at the later starts so Andy could pick me up after. Forest Rec (which I have been to before) wasn’t on, but it would have been the easiest to get to because it was on the main tram line. The trams were running on NYD but the buses weren’t, so the later start would mean Andy could pick me up after and we’d just head home.  However, when I started looking to find out which ones were on, I was using the double finder and of course got tempted by a double. Added to that was that Gedling (9am start) would mean I’d get my Stayin’ Alive badge and I soon decided to attempt the double.

The two runs didn’t seem that far apart (3 or 4 miles) and as one was 9 and the other 10.30, theoretically I’d have lots of time. As no buses were running I got an uber out to the park, having left it rather late (I never want to call it before I leave in case there is one right there, but of course there never is) so only arrived at 8:50am. Thankfully the start is right by the car park and so as I walked up I heard the call for the new runners briefing. I was hoping to find some people running between the two, as I’d asked a question about it on the tourist facebook group (as to whether it was all pavements as I couldn’t tell on google maps) and was told lots of people ran it last  year. Anyway, the only people I spoke to were doing the double but driving. Ah well.

Gedling is a lovely one lap undulating course (they described it as a figure of 8 as you repeated the belt bit). We were warned about the two hills, called The Beast and The Cobra (it rises up and bites you) but as I was taking it steady I didn’t find them too hard. Maybe similar to Wimpole if you’ve been there? Anyway it had the most gorgeous views as it was right on top of the hills looking across the countryside- the sky was incredible with light beaming down between gaps in the clouds. I would have stayed and taken a lot more photos had I not been pressed for time!

I did snap a few mid-run and am impressed with how they turned out. I finished with token 372 / 466 with a time of 33:20 (argh so close to 17 or 18 for the stopwatch bingo!).

I’d seen lots of these lovely wooden carvings around the route, and the fox was right by the finish area so I allowed myself a picture before loading up google maps and a podcast for the run between.

When I’d looked the other day, I had found a 4 mile route, and I’d written down the road names on a post it note so I knew that google maps was taking me the same way. There was one section on a country road without pavement, but thankfully not many cars were around and it had a fairly wide verge to hop onto when needed.  I had a bit of a panic when I thought I would need to cross the railway line but the directions (and my post-it) were sending me down a dead end road and I was cutting it fine with time and knew I wouldn’t have time to double back on myself if it was a proper dead end- the main road curved away from the park so in the end I followed the directions and found a pedestrian bridge further along. I was starting to worry a little bit by that point as it was getting closer to half 10 and I hadn’t seen anyone out running, and normally when you get close to a parkrun you start coming across people running. Just then a lady ran past me- I asked her if she was going to the parkrun, and she said something like she was, but didn’t think I was going the right way, so I asked if I could follow her. She nodded but then sprinted off so I had to up the speed to try and keep her in sight. I got to the park but then it turned out that the parkrun did not start on the edge, but in the middle of the park- basically another mile away!

The lady I had been following was long gone, but I ended up running with someone else for a bit, only she didn’t know where the start was either. We found a sign (a proper parkrun one) and then came across a marshal, who told us “just keep going around, you can’t miss it”. I made it to the start at about 10:29am in the end, and I really needed to sort out my shoe laces as one shoe felt a bit loose. Thankfully there were lots of milestones to be announced which meant the start was a little delayed (10.37 according to my Strava).

Colwick was another lovely course- starting out around the little lake, going around the big lake and then back around the little lake again. All very flat with gorgeous views. I was feeling tired by that point though, and the short stop before the second parkrun had made my legs a little stiff. What did cheer me up was the amount of people saying “aye up” to each other- it is always such a friendly-sounding saying.

Again I took a few pictures on the way around- I loved seeing all the changing views.  For my second one I finished in position 409/ 573 with a time of 33:25- a few seconds slower than the hillier but first one of the day.

The plan at the end was that Andy would drive out to meet me, but he messaged me while I was running to say he was in the car park and would see me soon. This turned out to be the car park at the entrance to the lakes, another mile away from where I was! I didn’t bother putting my watch on again, and half ran and half walked back. 12 miles done for the day- I was pretty shattered as I’ve not run that far in ages (and I was expecting more like 10 miles in total).

Anyway, a G meant that I had earned my Stayin’ Alive badge!

Third green one along!

Another C means I am one step closer to the pirates one too and I now have one R and 5 C’s so only need 2 more.

I’d packed a jumper, face wipes and coconut water, and Andy had got some almond croissants so I had breakfast as we drove back home, stopping to buy a cup of tea when we were a little closer.

There were some cool graphics on the internet showing all of the different NYDD options- as they were two of the closest in that area it is no surprise that more people did that double than other local ones (279 did the same double as me). If you are interested to look at ones local to you, the link is here.

A different NYDD from last year where I ran my two home events, but good to see two new courses- I’ve now run at 55 different parkrun locations.

Once home I had a shower and watched some TV, and then we headed out on a walk before it got dark. I felt pretty shattered but when I looked back at Strava my mileage had really dipped in the past 3 months- since doing Wimpole half marathon back in October I’ve only run over 8 miles 3 times, and then I ended up running 12 miles, so it isn’t a surprise that I felt it a bit. Brighton Half Marathon training has begun!

How did you spend New Years Day? Would you be tempted by a double parkrun? Which races are you looking forward to this year?