The final week of freedom (sort of) and autumn is settling in

Andy had some time off work after we were back from Scotland, so we had some relaxing days, although the weather didn’t really play ball for some of it. We got a takeaway from the Waffle House and ended up sitting in my car in the rain and eating it!

We also played this National Parks game which was fun (easier to play than the Disney Villains game) and had the most gorgeous pieces; carved wooden animals and amazing artwork for all of the USA National Parks.

Of course there were some runs (this one was a few hours after lunch and reminded me how much I prefer morning runs, but they are soon to be for weekends only), and then of course afternoon Disney movies. Big Hero 6 seemed like a great option- couldn’t we all do with a healthcare companion right now?

We had a bit of time in Brighton- often we go down for the final weekend of the holidays, but I didn’t fancy a weekend as I thought it would be super busy (and then we cut it short because it rained and then was super windy before and after…). Anyway, we fit in some things- mainly takeaway iced drinks from Bird&Blend, takeaway cake from Cloud9, takeaway acai bowl from Wolfox cafe (takeaway is the theme here).

The waves were crazily high on the beach and we watched the poor life guard traipse backwards and forwards telling people again and again to get back or get out of the water …

On Saturdays I’ve been going over to my parents and running a 5k with my dad and brother, and then doing a longer run on Sunday (above are some pics from a run through Brocket Hall, plus the most delicious vegan chocolate almond coconut croissant from the Flowerpot Bakery in Brighton).

I’ve been getting into the back to work vibe, sorting out my new diary (and getting this cute diary clip to save the right page from Enchanted Cozy Co), and sorting out my desk. Also, my cheese plant got it’s first leaf with holes!

We did have some good weather for iced drinks in the garden.

I actually went to eat at a restaurant with a couple of friends (my best work pals)- we booked an outside table and thankfully it didn’t rain. I also got a few more waffles- another lot for lunch (collected on my way home from when I went into work) and another time meeting a friend so we sat in the park and ate them. The Trussell Trust did quite well out of us, because we donated the money we had saved each time.

On a side note, the eating out did worry me with regards to the quarantine- eg we couldn’t go to France because we would have to self isolate for 14 days, but if you go out to eat and then are contacted by track and trace, you have to have a test but even if that’s negative you still have to isolate for 14 days because symptoms can take that long to appear. I am not sure going out to eat is worth it, but there doesn’t seem to be that much made of it.

Also got this cute coconut print from Seashells and Magic on Etsy for our hallway.

I’ve been watching a few older Disney films- after listening to a recent Judge John Hodgman podcast where Peter Pan was discussed, I decided to give it a go. I didn’t remember much from watching it as a child- I loved the mermaids and Tiger Lily- but it was really inappropriate (eg all the songs etc around the natives) and Tinkerbell was just horrible. Why is the queue for that ride so long???

As I didn’t run in Scotland (well, on Skye) my August miles were a bit slack, and I fancied a run around Ellenbrook, so once day ran there, did the parkrun course and ran home to make it a half marathon. I had joined a challenge on Strava but didn’t get a badge because they now have to be visible to all whereas I keep my runs only viewable to followers. Ah well.  I think I watched Pocahontas that afternoon- it was OK but Disney needed to up their catchy song game!

Instead of going to Brighton for the Bank Holiday weekend, we got a skip, so after a breakfast of french toast, we loaded the skip up in the rain. A hot chocolate was needed after that, and some evenings I’ve even got out the blanket!

After some less than successful Disney films, I treated myself to Frozen 2 last weekend (if Andy is watching the Grand Prix it means I can watch a Disney movie in the afternoon).

I keep seeing so many mushrooms and fairy circles on my runs now too, and some of the trees have a hint of change about them. I’ve been busy in the garden too and there are lots of autumnal colours appearing there too.

Cinnamon bun with cream cheese and marmalade to imitate a Starbucks one! Plus I harvested our pumpkins.

On the final day of the holidays I’d booked a massage, so walked into town. The weather was beautiful and I was there a bit early (I had to pick up a prescription too, and they were ready straight away whereas sometimes you have to wait or some back later, so I’d left lots of time) so I sat in the park.

A lovely end to a different but still mostly relaxing summer.

Are you worried about having to potentially isolate if you go out to eat or somewhere?

Favourite and least favourite Disney films? I am definitely never watching Pinocchio because it absolutely terrified me when I was little.

Is it feeling autumnal where you are? 

A little longer in Edinburgh and finishing the Disney castle

I had to google “peely-wally”- it means pale and sickly in appearance, and if you say a hot chocolate will help then I guess I’ll get one. Also, how cute is my new cup cozy? You could choose the colours and even have your initials on it….. from the fab Enchanted Coy co on Etsy.

Ah, Scotland is so lovely. After out trip to DLP had to be cancelled (again….) we decided to add another night in Edinburgh- Andy had the week off anyway as we were due to get the train to Paris on the Wednesday, and it was a lot of driving, so it made sense to have Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday in Edinburgh and drive home on Monday.

There is a Hotel Chocolat cafe there and we managed a visit on both days. After being very cautious at home (the shop I went to before we drove up was the first shop I’d been in since March) and then things were all very wide open and empty in Skye, it felt weird being in a busy city centre. I am sure it doesn’t compare to a usual August in Edinburgh as there was no festival or anything like that. I didn’t fancy eating in a restaurant, so we got with the times and got Deliveroo (we are not really ones for getting a takeaway)- the hotel even had an area for the delivery people to wait, so one night we got a Wagamama’s, and then the other night a burger.

Andy had found Hula Juice Bar via the magic of the internet- they did beautiful acai bowls and it was actually fairly warm, so we got a takeaway for breakfast from there and sat outside. We had booked to go to the botanical gardens as we had been there before and knew they would be good for a walk. I much preferred walking around there to the busier city centre.

I also got rather excited when I found a few VR postboxes and also a gold one for the Olympics. Hooray for visiting old cities.

Before we left on the Monday I went out for a run. I’d packed a set of running gear but where we stayed on Skye wasn’t suitable- twisty one track roads with passing place and no pavements- it just didn’t seem worth it, but before the long drive I quite like to stretch my legs. I was going to run to Holyrood, and that was fine although some of the paths were closed due to rock fall,  but I managed to get a bit lost on the way back.

While I was out running Andy had sorted us lunch (ah how I have missed Pret) and then we headed back- driving through torrential rain, thankfully having no rain (and getting our time slot this time) at Fountain’s Abbey for a good 3 mile walk to stretch the legs, and even seeing some double rainbows as we neared home.

Andy had originally said that we should finish our Disney castle before we went away, but we didn’t have time and had one more stage to get through, so once home we added the finishing touches. It’s been quite fun working through it together, although it is massive and at the moment just living on our dining room table- not quite sure where it’s going to go…

Do you get takeaways very often? I was watching a TV show where a family spent £200 per month on takeaways, that much again on eating out and that much again on groceries….

A week (and a bit) in Scotland (holidays week 4)

On the Friday we drove up to Edinburgh, and had booked a slot at Fountain’s Abbey for a walk, but we got stuck in a lot of traffic due to a road closure, so that didn’t happen, stopping once at the services and once to stretch our legs, and finally getting to our hotel at around 8.30pm. I wasn’t sure how it would feel in the hotel but it felt very safe- you had to wear a mask in the lobby and communal areas, there were hand sanitiser stations everywhere (although I use my own- especially if they are pump ones I always wonder about how many people have touched the pump…) and it was all super clean.

We had brought breakfast with us so we were up early for our drive over to Skye. We chose to take the longer route through the park as it was more scenic.

We had booked an Air BnB (which was wonderful) as we liked the idea of self catering- we took a lot of food with us and only had to stop in a Co-op for a few fresh bits (thankfully small but also very organised with one in, one out and one way policies). The cottage (it was newer build but that’s what I am calling it) sat on the hillside with views across a loch, with sheep wandering past and birds flying by.

We had prepared for rain (we packed rain gear, books and games), but in fact were so lucky with the weather that we were either out for the whole day, or would come back for lunch and then head out again in the afternoon.

On the Sunday we drove down to Plockton and met up with my friend who lived in Inverness- we ended up spending the day there, having a walk along the coast to a castle, finding a place by the sea for a picnic and then heading back in the evening.

Holiday essentials of bug spray, hand sanitiser and wind balm.

On the Monday we headed to the fairy pools and had a walk up alongside the river and all the waterfalls (those stepping stones were big steps for someone with little legs!), and then in the afternoon went to Talisker Bay, which has black sand and black rocks and reminded me of a sunnier version of Vik in Iceland (I mean, we did go to Iceland in October but then we had snow and sideways rain…).

Talisker Bay

Tuesday was the only time we had rain (hence the mermaid t-shirt), but by the time we headed out it had cleared up. As we were taking most of our food with us I’d mixed up some oats and seeds so we could soak them overnight- are you even in Scotland if you don’t have oats for breakfast?

We drove over to Neist Point Lighthouse- a rather steep path up and down to the end. Once at the lighthouse and looking out to sea we could see movement in the water and realised we could see some whales, so we wandered closer to the shore. We also saw dolphins later on. We heard that other people had seen seals and ferrets (?) but we didn’t see those.

We could walk down to the village (Carbost) close to where we stayed and there was a very cute little coffee shop that sold rather nice baked goods, so we shared a few goodies from there (that is half the caramel shortbread as we shared and it was an enormous slice).

Yes we packed a jar of peanut butter.

I was keen to see some otters, so on Wednesday we drove over to an otter hide at Kylerhea (along around a 6 mile road of narrow single track with infrequent passing places- I was glad Andy was driving!). The actual hide was closed but you could still do the walk by the coast and up to the building, and we spotted lots of seals along the shore.

There was a walk fairly close by that ended up in Armadale Castle, so we parked there and paid to go into the grounds and then did the walk from there.

It was really hot so we were glad to walk in the shade of the woods for most of the walk, and the grounds of the castle had really pretty gardens with so many tropical looking flowers.

As we got home in the afternoon we decided to give one of our games a go- this one was a Disney villains game and it seemed rather complicated (it did have cool playing pieces). I chose Ursula from The Little Mermaid, but that turned out to be a mistake because her challenge in the game was harder than the other villains. I think if we play it a few times we will get the hang of it.

On Thursday we drove over to the Old Man of Storr to see the rock formations. The car park was being expanded and the path was being worked on too, so it was closed in places. It was very windy and felt very dramatic as the clouds swirled around the rocks, so you could see them for a moment and then they would disappear. Some of the walk was very steep, and although we could have walked further (the main path was closed but people were scrambling up the side and it seemed to be allowed) I didn’t fancy it, plus I wanted to try and see some otters so we headed down to the coast.

At An Corran Beach we looked for (and found) some dinosaur footprints, but sadly no otters.

On Friday we drove over to a causeway (well we parked on the island and then walked across to the causeway) via the Tattie Bogle (a sort of friendly scarecrow to welcome people into the village).

The walk was very boggy and there were midgies everywhere. I’d put my lovely Wideye spray on and by the end my legs were covered in bugs that had stuck to the spray (it’s a bit oily).  We saw plenty of sheep, and a rabbit, but no otters. Ah well.

I had read about a coral beach and we were not too far (Claigan), so I persuaded Andy to go there before heading back. It was another single track road to get there, and then the car park was totally full and also full of gigantic pot holes. While we were waiting someone was leaving, but I was worried the car would get stuck in one of the holes and the car was making all sorts of banging sounds as it drove into the holes.

Once parked we had a good walk along the path, first next to beaches with black pebbles and finally to the “coral” one (actually made up of fossilised sun-bleached skeletons of seaweed).

Once back we wandered down to the village, because Andy wanted to look in the distillery shop and it had been closed all week, but the queue was so long he couldn’t go in.

As we were checking out on the Saturday we had the usual packing and sorting to do. We also had to cancel our Disneyland Paris trip, as they announced a 14 day quarantine (and I would only have 10 days when we got back before starting work), so we decided to add another day in Edinburgh on our way home.

On Saturday morning it was so misty that we could not even see the other side of the loch! It did burn off as we were driving back to the mainland. We stopped at Manuela`s Wee Bakery because they had amazing looking pastries but also the buildings looked like a fairy village! They did a marzipan croissant which was as delicious as it sounds.

The drive to Edinburgh was around 5 hours, so we stopped part of the way to have the croissant. I shall save Edinburgh for a separate post as this is quite long already!

Have you been to Scotland or Skye? 

Irchester Country parkrun- UK alphabet completed!

I wrote this last weekend before everything started shutting down…

Irchester Country parkrun was probably Plan C for the weekend. Originally we were going to Norwich for the weekend as Andy had tickets for the match (Southampton were playing there), so I was going to head to a parkrun near Norwich. I’d had a conversation with my dad, and as he had football tickets too (to Watford) he’d said he would go to Ellenbrook Fields (Jersey Farm is off for the next few weeks to allow the paths to recover) so he could get back in time.

Then the football was called off, so a weekend at home beckoned.  I fancied some tourism but knew Dad needed to be home early, and then realised that he didn’t, because his football was also called off. Quite late on Friday I persuaded him to go with me to Irchester Country parkun, as I have been trying to tick off my alphabet for ages now, and it is just about within touring range. I wrote down the directions and saw about the £1 for parking, but that was about it for prep!

I got to Dad’s at around 7.30, and then he drove us the rest of the way (in his electric car so we are minimising our tourism impact!).

We parked up at around 8.45, paid the £1 for parking and then followed the stream of people down the hill to the start. It seemed like such a lovely park, but no time to look around, because as we got to the start area we realised the new runner briefing was already going on. Thankfully the course was simple (out, 1km loop and then back) so it was fairly quick to understand. There were loads of new runners, and we heard in the main briefing that there was a 5k graduation for Running Buddies (hence all the first timers).

After waiting for a few people heading up to the start area (the same thing happens at Ellenbrook) we were off. Dad was running ahead, and so I just enjoyed being out in the woods. The country park is so pretty- loads of huge trees and so many paths through the woods. The route seemed to go gently uphill for a bit, with smaller steeper sections (but nothing terrible) in the loop. There were loads of marshals and they were all very cheerful and enthusiastic. On the way back, there were people heading out in the other direction and that is always fun as you can cheer each other on.

The final part was gently downhill so made for a strong finish. After scanning we heard someone bang the gong so went to have a look – it even had the parkrun symbol in the middle. We were trying (and failing) to get a selfie with the gong in the background, and someone offered to take our photo. I recognised her, and she turned out to be Liz, a bit of a parkrun uber tourist who I’ve bumped into a few times (including at Heartwood Forest) and follow on Strava. As we were chatting I suddenly recognised Mary as the RD, and she had come over. It was lovely to chat in real life, and had I been more organised I would have looked on the volunteer roster to see, as I knew she had worked to set it up.  I then saw the parkrun sign, and decided that a photo in front of it would commemorate the occasion properly- UK parkrun alphabet complete, now all I need is a Z!  (I need another I for my name badge though!) We drove back home where Mum cooked us pancakes. I had offered to go straight home as I am a bit worried about my mum getting the virus (she ticks a few of the at risk boxes) but she was OK with me coming over, so we made sure to stay a long way apart. (Added later- my parents are now isolating themselves so my brother is living with us as he still has to go to work).

Not sure when the Z will happen, especially with all the parkrun countries being cancelled due to the virus. We were looking at booking the Eurostar for the Easter holidays so I could do Zuiderpark (in The Hague- meant to start at the end of March) but I don’t think that will be happening any time soon.

If you need an I, or are fairly near then I would say head to this parkrun – three laps of a cricket pitch/football fields is still a good parkrun, but I am a sucker for one laps, and getting out into the woods just feels so good for the mind.

Are you chasing any challenges at the moment? 

And what do other people do on a Saturday morning?

Plan A/B/C for parkrun! (A visit to lovely Netley Abbey)

For the first weekend of half term, Andy suggested heading down to Southampton. He would get a ticket for the football, I could go to a parkrun, and we could visit his grandma. Sounded good to me. What with parents evening the week before, I hadn’t been out much (3 miles in the tail end of storm Ciara on Monday, and 4 miles on Tuesday) and hadn’t even had yoga as I didn’t get home in time, so I was really looking forward to parkrun on Saturday.  We were staying in the centre of Southampton, so my plan was to run to Southampton common- I’d done that before, so I knew it was doable, and would save faffing with the car and so on. However with another storm on the way (and I am sorry, but Dennis is the Dennis from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to me) I drove, so that if for any reason Southampton was cancelled, I could look at other options.

That turned out to be the right call. On Friday night the cancellations were coming thick and fast, and my list of potential ones was getting shorter and shorter (cancelled: Eastleigh- which would have been by Plan B, Mountbatten School, QE2, Brockenhurst, Havant, Moors Valley, Chichester, Winchester, Lymington Woodside…) and Southampton cancelled too. With the kick off being an early one at 12.30, I didn’t want to head too far away as we needed to check out and get breakfast beforehand. Netley Abbey was my Plan C, and then I think the tourist tool listed as the closest ones after that Whitely, Lee on the Solent and then Fareham. I wasn’t sure if I had time to get to the further ones, so charged up my headphones and decided that if all the closer ones were called off, I’d jut have a run by myself instead. But at 8am Netley Abbey posted that they were on!

I’d got into my running gear and so I could leave straight away. I knew I had to drive over a toll bridge to get there, and had made sure I had enough change to go both ways. However, when I got to the toll booth, I put the money in and nothing happened- a thing was spinning around, but the barrier was down and the charge was still displaying as if I hadn’t paid. I could see my 20p coin in the wheel, but there were no coins in the rejected coins slot, so I put some more money in and again nothing happened. I pressed the help button, but nothing happened there either. I only had enough money with my for one more try, so I reversed out (luckily it was very quiet) and went to the next booth, and thankfully that worked. I was feeling rather stressed out- it is cash only so I am not sure what would have happened if the payment hadn’t worked then.

Driving into the park I saw a fair bit of flooding, but the actual park was fine. I’d been there before with Andy for a lovely walk by the sea (back in 2018), so I knew a little of where to park.

It was very windy at this point, but thankfully no rain. I was only there about 15 mins before the start, and fancied doing a bit of a jog to warm up but didn’t want to miss the first timers briefing ( I think it has lots of different routes) so I just stood around instead. I expected it to be busy at Southampton has around 1000 runners so I thought some of them would head over.

The first timers briefing was nice and brief (3 laps- the important bit!) and it was hard to heard the RD because the mic was broken, so they had to shout- not easy in all that wind! They did mention that one of the golden batons was being passed on, but I couldn’t see it, or hear where it had come from. Anyway, soon we were off and running along, avoiding the puddles.

I noticed once back at the hotel that I had splashes of mud on my face, and looking at the picture I could see one on my nose and chin!

You can see from my Strava screenshot that GPS does not like wind or trees, and I am keeping this as proof that if anyone moans that a course is inaccurate because their GPS was short or long, remember that the only accurate way to measure a route is physically measure it with a wheel. This parkrun was 3 identical laps, and I am very sure I did not veer off at any point! The first bit of each lap felt busy because it was fairly narrow paths with runners further ahead going back on the same path (keep left) and then in the next lap the faster runners were lapping in the same direction, with other runners passing in the opposite direction. The bit by the water seemed wider (and was just one way) but it was so windy, my legs were being blown into each other! I wasn’t fussed about time, but somehow managed mile 2 and 3 with the exact same pace (9:19), finishing with token 203 for a time of 29:30.

I ran back down to the water to take a few photos, and then headed to the cafe where I needed to buy something to get change for the toll bridge (as I’d used up my change on the way).

After buying some tiffin and running back to the car, it turned out that the pay machines were by the cafe. As I was running back to the car the first time a group of runners commented that I had some cake in a box, and as I ran past them the second time (after paying) they asked me what I was doing- I think they thought I had gone back to buy more cake! So I had to explain that I needed to pay and didn’t realise the machines were by the cafe. Although to be fair, there were lots of lovely looking cakes so I could have easily bought more!

On driving back to the hotel I had another fail- I just typed in the shopping centre into Google Maps, because that is where we had parked, but it actually took me into the high street and to the pedestrian entrance, and with no-where to pull over I had to just drive in the general direction and try to work it out. I was doing so well for time, but it ended up being a bit rushed – we walked to Bill’s but they had a long wait, so we went back to the hotel, I had a shower and we checked out, and then went back to Bill’s. Thankfully they had a table, so we had a nice brunch before Andy was off to the football. Their pancakes were huge- normally they are more like scotch pancake sized, but these ones were like side plates! I couldn’t eat all of mine. I went for a juice (carrot, apple and ginger) which was so refreshing and delicious.

While Andy was at the football I wandered around the shops for a bit- I got a few birthday cards and gifts, and I had a John Lewis voucher so bought this cute puffin jumper (makes a change from penguin jumpers). Then I sat in Pret with a cup of tea and listened to some podcasts- much nicer than walking around busy shops!

Once the football was finished we went to see Andy’s grandma before the drive home (which was horrendous- so much rain and wind and wet roads- urgh)- I needed that tea and tiffin when we got home (I shared the tiffin).

Anyway, what a lovely start to half term, with another parkrun visited and brunch out.

Did your local parkrun cancel due to the storms?