A week in the Dordogne

The week leading up to the August Bank holiday was spent in the Dordogne, in France. Although a small bit of it didn’t go quite to plan, it was a lovely relaxing week. Andy had the Friday afternoon off work so we drove to the tunnel (got on an hour earlier which is always good) and then after a quick stop in the supermarket for food, had around a 4 hour drive to our travel lodge style hotel. The next morning we were up early and had around a 7 hour drive to get to our cottage. Lots of podcasts were listened to (Judge John Hodgman is my favourite at the moment).

The cottage gardens and surrounding countryside

Our cottage was gorgeous- it was an old barn that had been renovated by an English couple – and was set in really pretty countryside full of fields of sunflowers and plum orchards. We would head out for a walk in the evening once it was cooler, and even saw some deer one evening by a little reservoir.

I’d packed some running kit with me, aiming to run early in the mornings before it got too hot. However on the first evening whilst out on a walk, I stupidly decided to jump over a ditch (we were walking along the roads which were very quiet, but we saw a path on the other side of the ditch)- anyway, as I landed I jarred my hip/leg, which then made the muscle seize up. For the rest of that evening I couldn’t even sit on a chair as my leg wouldn’t bend at all- that put my running plans back a bit!

On the Sunday we headed to a nearby town as they had a famous Sunday market- the town was bustling and I knew moving would help my leg (so it would not get more stiff) but we didn’t stay too long. We did find a local bakery that sold chocolate almond croissants (the king of the croissant) so that was a good addition to breakfast.

It was hot hot hot until the Friday!

The hammock in the shade, breakfast of fresh fruit + croissant, and the decking area (had to move each time the shadows moved as it was way too hot to be in direct sunlight)

On Monday after chilling out in the morning (lots of reading in the shade) we drove to some gardens on the edge of a cliff (this was fun because I could go downstairs and slopes fine, but as I could not bend my leg in front of me, I had to go up stairs one at a time, and the gardens were at the top of cliff-side stairs). There were beautiful views across the valley to the river and beyond so it was worth it.

They had a really cool beehive with a sort of chimney entrance- apparently bees need free space around the hive so they can fly directly into it, and so the chimney on the top of the hive meant that no people were in the flight path of the bees. It had little flaps you could open and see the various parts of the inner workings which was very interesting too.

There were some amazing clouds in the evening when we headed out for a walk.

On the Tuesday we headed to a nearby town, Bergerac, and had a lovely wander around the streets as well as a walk by the river.

The Wednesday saw us head further afield, visiting some more cliff-side gardens (and as it was the hottest day it was great to find a trail through woodland with lots of paintings hidden in the forest to admire), wandering around a couple of little towns and spending the afternoon at a chateaux.

And then hooray!

On the Thursday my leg felt good enough to try a short run-  I could walk up stairs normally and it seemed to be bending OK so I did a very gentle not-quite-3 miles and all was good. Although I did have a panic when I got back to the cottage as there was a dog half way down the drive (something that looked like a husky- big and wolf-like)- I usually stop if I come across a dog, but there was no-one around so it wasn’t like the owner would call it. I slowed down a bit and kept looking back- it walked around the corner and watched me- my hands were shaking a lot and it took a while for me to unlock the door but it didn’t chase me thankfully. After yet more reading in the shade (I managed to read two and a half books in the week we were away) we went to another local medieval town in the afternoon for another wander.

On Friday we got up early to see some caves- there are loads of caves in this part of France, some with amazing rock formations and some with prehistoric paintings. I was very keen to see some paintings, and after a bit of research (some of the caves are replicas because the originals were being damaged by light/ algae or something) we found one, Rouffignac, but there were only a limited amount of tickets per day, as you were shown around by a guide in a little train, so we wanted to be there first thing.

It was much cooler on the Friday so the hour drive wasn’t too bad. We got there at about 8.40am, along with a group of other early birds. I had read stories of people turning up at 10.30 and being given a 4.30pm time slot which we really didn’t want, but we got on the first train. You were not allowed to take photos inside the caves, and although the guide spoke French (some would speak English but it was down to the luck of the draw) you could use a little tablet with information on it. The paintings were fascinating to see, and I was really pleased we had made the effort to get over there.

As it was more overcast, I’d decided to have a run in the afternoon, but as we went out for a walk after lunch it got very hot indeed, so I left it until a bit later in the day. A 4 mile run done (with only a tiny scare when seeing a dog sat at the end of a driveway) and I was pretty pleased with that. I was also excited to get an email from my yoga teacher (Josie) who had put a short video on you tube– I followed it when I got back from my run (and several times since)- it’s only 15 mins long but I have appreciated following along as I just can’t remember all the poses on my own.

On the Saturday we checked out and drove to Orleans for an overnight stop en route to the tunnel. The city was a great place to stop, right on the river with lots of little streets to wander around. Then on Sunday it was another long drive to the tunnel and home (in the pouring rain I might add).

Did you have a good Bank Holiday weekend?


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!

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…

Sunny Scotland!

For half term we headed up to Scotland for a bit of a whistle-stop tour. We could not have been any luckier with the weather. My theory is that if you go to Scotland (or the Lake District, or pretty much anywhere north of where we live) then if you get rain, then that’s what you expected, and anything better is a bonus. After work on Friday we had dinner, packed up the car and headed up north.

Andy had diligently researched hotels close to parkruns – originally we were going to stay in Leeds on the Friday night so I could go to Temple Newsam, but our route in Scotland changed so we stayed in Warrington. A few weeks ago they announced on their facebook page that the event wouldn’t go ahead on Saturday due to a community event taking part in the park- annoying, but I was glad I knew in advance. It meant we set off fairly early the next morning. We stopped in Sizergh castle (a NT place) to stretch our legs and of course sample some cake- we shared a piece of sticky toffee cake (a local speciality apparently) and it was so good although I think if you had a piece to yourself the sugar crash would be epic.

I enjoyed watching the goslings, and we had a good wander around the grounds before heading to Glasgow.

All the sunshine!

It was such gorgeous weather, and so after dropping off our bags we walked through the town centre out to one of the parks (Glasgow Green) and along by the river. I was also very excited to find that the Hotel Chocolat had a cafe, so we had to share a hazelnut hot chocolate.

On the Sunday morning I went on a run, to the same park,enjoying the somewhat quieter streets.

After breakfast we walked along the river in the opposite direction to where we went on Saturday, then drove to the botanical gardens for a walk and picnic lunch. The park was rammed!

Then it was time to head off to Loch Lomond- another place crowded with people out enjoying the spectacular sunshine.

We walked along the lake for a bit, and then also through a loop in some woodland.

Our hotel was on the shore of the loch with more amazing views. It was light until so late in the evening too.

On Monday we had a longer drive to Inverness. We broke it up by stopping in Aviemore for lunch- we’d been to the amazing Mountain Cafe last year (possibly the same day) so we were keen to go there again. I had a delicious falafel and hummus sandwich, but the slices of bread were about a thick as two normal pieces of bread- we didn’t need dinner that day!

We did however have room to share a piece of caramel shortbread- it had the thickest caramel ever- so good.

One of my friends lives in Inverness, so I had asked her for recomendations- she told us about the Ness Island Walks, basically paths linked by bridges going over the river, up to the town. Again, beautiful weather and such a fantastic place for an evening walk.

On Tuesday we had arranged to meet up with my friend and her two little children. We went to middle school together, and by a weird coincidence moved up to Scotland the same week that my family moved to St Albans. Despite only knowing each other for three and a half years, we kept in touch and often used to visit each other in the holidays, although as we have got older it has become harder to meet up. We had arranged to meet in Nairn (apparently the Brighton of the north) but the sea mist (I forget the Scottish word for it) had rolled in, so after a walk up and down the prom, we headed to Logie Steading, a farm with a cafe, shops and art gallery in the old stables, next to a river with lots of marked footpaths, where we had lunch in the cafe, a long walk by the river to the canyon, and then back to the cafe for ice cream. It was so lovely to catch up- of course we are in touch via social media and all of that, but in person it is different.

From there we drove to Aberdeen, although we didn’t end up seeing much of the town. We parked in the centre and went for dinner, but our hotel was on the outskirts and as we were headed to Edinburgh the next day, we didn’t go back into the centre in the morning.

In Edinburgh we visited the botanical gardens before heading to the centre. It was a bit overcast that day, but still warm.

As it was rather overcast, of course we went to the Hotel Chocolat cafe, this time for a mint one (we shared a large each time but I am very sure that the Edinburgh large was bigger than the Glasgow large).

On Wednesday morning I had a run in Edinburgh- stupidly I was remembering my run in Glasgow, thinking I’d be out before it got busy, but of course forgetting it was a work day. The run had a lot of stop-starts as I had to wait to cross roads, but I still managed to do around 4 miles looping around the city centre. It was so misty that morning that I could hardly see the castle, although it did clear during the morning.

Then it was time for my favourite- breakfast (well, brunch really by the time I’d had a shower, we’d checked out and left our bags in the car and walked there..) at Loudon’s.

I love French toast, and so of course had to have it- I went for banana, salted caramel and toasted coconut. They do special blends of tea too, so I had one with black tea, cocoa nibs and coconut, which was delicious.

After a final walk around the park, it was time to head south and leave Scotland behind. We stopped off in Alnwick for a bit of a walk, and then drove to Newscastle for our penultimate stop.

The blue skies were out in force, and it was enjoyable to wander around by the river, remembering when we were last here (for the Great North Run).

I’ll save our final stop for another blog post as it involved some parkrun tourism.

Have you ever been to Scotland? I suppose having a friend living there meant I had a reason to visit, but I have been a fair few times. It always surprises me when people haven’t been when it’s so close (and easy with options for going by plane, rail, even bus).