Portland and central Oregon

On Sunday morning we headed to the train station to board our (8 hour) train to Portland. It isn’t that far, but the trains in America go slowly (and give way to the freight trains too). We had big comfy seats and we had brought some food with us (no fresh fruit though as you can’t bring things like that across the border- just packaged snacks). On that point, the border is weird as unlike Eurostar where you go through passport control before getting onto the train (or lovely Europe where you just travel from France to Germany or wherever without restrictions), here the train stops just before getting into the USA, and immigration agents walk the length of the train checking everyone’s passports- seems so slow compared to over here.

The train ride itself was really scenic, mainly hugging the coast- we saw loads of bald eagles and deer. We have done part of that journey before (to Seattle, which is further north than Portland) but the evening one, so it was mostly dark, so it was lovely to see the views. We could see Mount Rainier (a really beautiful mountain and a National Park) and in the cities we passed by big football stadiums. I mainly listened to podcasts and my headphones managed about 7 and a half of the 8 hour journey.

(And back to the upside down photos- I thought I had sorted it, and it worked in the last post- sorry!)- the hotel just loved pineapples!

Once in Portland we dropped our things in our hotel and headed out to see the sights.

We had a lovely wander about, stumbled across an amazing looking cookie sandwich shop- you basically chose your cookie and ice cream flavour and could even have it dipped in chocolate if you wanted to. It was good!

After that we walked along by the water for a bit- there were lots of restaurants and it had a good lively feel .

On Monday we went out for brunch (Portland is apparently a city that does brunch as opposed to having one dish that it is known for)- this place did French toast dipped in cornflakes for a lovely crunchy coating. We shared a bowl of fruit too. Then we headed off on a tram to Washington Park, a huge park with a zoo, arboretum, Japanese garden, rose garden, forestry centre and a children’s museum. Once in the park there was a free shuttle that took you to the part of the park you wanted to visit. We started with the rose test garden (which was free and had loads of roses growing as well as a few statues). From here there were lovely views across the city and into the mountains too.

Then we went into the Japanese garden (you had to pay, and on Mondays they didn’t open until later for the public). It was a gorgeous garden- very calming and beautiful.

Once back in the city we had more of a wander. There was lots of cool street art (even the bins had cartoons on them) and there are scooters everywhere, and by everywhere I mean just laying in the pavements because they all work by an app so people don’t need to return them to a stand, they just leave them on the floor once done). We visited a few quirky shops (including a huge bookstore- Powell’s- an entire block of a book shop), a lovely little shop with local art and products, and then came across Voodoo doughnuts. Now, I am not a bit doughnut fan- I would not normally choose one, but Andy persuaded me to share one with him.

It was a peanut butter and chocolate one, and it was really good, with bits of cookie all over the top too. One to share was definitely plenty!

We finished the day with another walk by the waterfront- lovely.

On Tuesday I went for a run by the water. I had read in the guides that Portland was the best running city in the USA, and I did see loads of runners, but the route I took wasn’t the best. I ran along the river, crossed over a bridge but then ended up running next to a huge highway so it was really noisy. You did have good views of downtown Portland across the river, and the runners were a friendly bunch, all waving or saying hi (some people even reached their arms across to deliberately wave in front of me, which I really liked). I think had we been closer to the big park in Leave No Trace (a brilliant film) then it would have been more my style of running route.

Then we had breakfast in our hotel as we had a voucher. I loved the plate- it suited me perfectly (I have a reputation of getting very grumpy when I am hungry…).

Then we checked out (tip- get a print out of the bill as it turned out our bill had dinners and drinks on it from another person who had clearly given the wrong room number… thankfully the hotel took it  off our bill) and headed to the airport to pick up the hire car.

We spent the day driving along the Columbia river gorge, and it was stunning. Lots of gorgeous views of waterfalls and of course the river. Multnomah Falls was particularly stunning, with the bridge across the middle to really put into context how tall the falls were (189m)- bottom left picture.

We also stopped at a dam which had a really interesting visitor centre, inside viewing of the salmon ladder and even some ospreys nesting. Once we arrived at our hotel (in Hood River) I had a bit of a headache so we made a cup of tea in our room and then popped out to a lovely local supermarket and picked up some bread and hummus for a simple dinner, as I didn’t fancy eating out anywhere.

The next morning we went to the amazing Pine Street bakery as we had seen their amazing looking cinnamon buns, and then we drove into the mountains on our way to Bend.

We had a stop mid-way in a place called Government Town, which looked big on the map but was actually rather tiny, and then closer to Bend found a lovely lake to walk around, with views of the mountains (Mount Hood).

And then we had a long drive to Bend. We saw the aftermath of a couple of horrific car crashes (a few cars had driven head on into trees) but as we passed the ambulances, fire trucks and police cars were all arriving. It’s horrible to see, and a reminder to keep your eyes on the road even with all that amazing scenery.

Once in Bend we had a little walk in the centre, by the river, before checking into our Air BnB- a lovely apartment close to the centre. It was nice to spread out for a bit instead of living in one hotel room.

Bend had an art trail- including art on many of the roundabouts- in fact roundabouts are so unusual in America that they had a guide on how to drive on them in the welcome magazine!

Bend was a really great place to stay- it seemed to be a bit of a hub for people heading out to do various activities in the day.

The next morning (Thursday) I went out for a run along the river. There were loads of people out and about and the path went on for ages- I could have run much further than the 5 miles that I ended up doing.

After breakfast we drove to Smith Rock state park, a canyon in the high desert. It was very impressive (but sweltering)- a huge canyon with a river running through the bottom. Lots of people were rock climbing, and there was some information about how it was one of the first places that people started rock climbing without ropes (or free climbing maybe). We saw a sign warning of a cougar sighting- eek!

On driving back to town we saw a Trader Joe’s and had to stop by for some bits. We’d been listening to the Off Menu podcast (if you don’t listen to it, then give it a go- each week someone is interviewed about their dream meal, and it goes off on lovely tangents about travel and food)- they were raving about Trader Joe’s dark chocolate almonds with sea salt and turbinado (no idea?) sugar, and so of course we had to pick some up. They are delicious. They also did mini pb cups with a fruity filling, sort of like a chocolate pb&j. Good stuff.

My mainly peanut butter based snack and breakfast items

We then walked along the river to the old town part of Bend, enjoying an iced chai latte (they make them super spicy in Oregon) and then some ice cream. As we walked back through the park, there was a little festival going on, with music playing and lots of stalls- it had such a great atmosphere and we mooched around some of the stalls for a bit.

There were people tubing on the river (floating along in big inflatable rings) and we were tempted to give it a go. I was looking at the river and saw the head of an animal poke out of the water, duck under and then pop up again. I got excited thinking it was either an otter or a beaver, when a guy floating closer shouted “look at that snake!”- erm, nope I was not going in the water after that- if that was how big the head was, how long was the snake??

On Friday we checked out and drove to Crater Lake- the main point of our Oregon trip. We love going to the US National Parks and this one had been on our list (particularly Andy’s) for a long time.

Would you go in the river if you’d seen a big snake? 

The start of our holiday- Vancouver and Central parkrun (Burnaby)

So I’m home now from a wonderful holiday in the USA and Canada. I’m going to recap in several parts in the aim to keep each post a readable length!

Our trip started on a Thursday night with a train up to Manchester. This was on one of the hottest days, and of course the trains were delayed- we ended up waiting for a couple of hours at Milton Keynes, and even looking up Manchester airport parking options in case the train was cancelled. Thankfully it turned up in the end and we got to our hotel at about midnight.

After a little walk around Manchester first thing on Friday, we got the train to the airport and flew to New York (due to catch a flight to Vancouver later that day). Luckily we got to the airport nice and early because although we had checked in, when we got to drop off our bags we were told (very nicely) that we also needed the Canadian version of an ESTA (these didn’t exist the last time we went to Canada)- we applied over our phones (fiddly doing the long form on a small screen) and could show the email as proof so we were OK to fly. The flight was fine- we were upstairs on the plane in a sort of exit row, and I had an empty seat next to me so we felt like we could spread out. I watched a film (the one about Ted Bundy), and started watching the new Mary Poppins but the time went quickly and we soon landed. Then, because I had changed my name after getting married, I had to have a new USA ESTA, and so we had to join that queue (vs returning ESTA which was a far shorter queue), and I am not kidding you we were in that queue for well over 2 hours. Luckily our connection was a long one, and after finally getting our bags, re-dropping them  off and re-going through security (my most hated part of travel) we walked up and down by the gates to make sure we were tired for the second flight. I had a slight panic because before boarding they called out my name, saying they needed to see me at the  desk, but it turned out they were checking the Canadian ESTA (so lucky I could show them the email on my phone) and were checking every single person- I just happened to be one of the first names they called. As someone who gets easily panicked this didn’t really help any pre-flight worries!

For the NY-Vancouver flight, as soon as the flight had taken off I put on my headphones and eye mask, and loaded up some sleep stories from Calm, and although I woke up each time the story ended, I could just put on a new one and then drift off.  Immigration in Canada was far quicker, and after getting our bags and a taxi we were in our hotel at about 1am (which I think was 9am UK time)- as I was setting my alarm I heard that my dad was on his way to parkrun at home which was a weird thought!

When we booked our trip I had planned to go to Richmond Olympic parkrun, which is near to Vancouver airport and would have meant a 40 min Skytrain ride, but a few weeks before then I had seen (on the parkrun Canada facebook page) that a new one was launching (Central parkrun in Burnaby, a suburb of Vancouver) and this was only a 20 min Skytrain ride away result! Luckily they don’t mind people turning up to inaugurals in Canada, so I was OK to head there. Although I’d set my alarm, we both woke up before and Andy walked with me to the train station (he knows I have a terrible sense  of direction, and I had no data on my phone for Canada, and I had downloaded the Vancouver map but directions don’t work when the map is offline).

I was slightly apprehensive about finding the start, but I needn’t have worried because I could see the parkrun flag from the platform!

Me with my tired and slightly nervous face on the way, with my watch, train ticket and barcode- DFYB.

I chatted to a few tourists including one from Bristol who had been to a parkrun in Seattle the previous week, and the core team chatted too. They were worried that not many people would turn up, but they had 116 runners in the end.

The park was gorgeous and I was so glad that I chose to go there. (Despite it’s cool name, a few locals said that Richmond Olympic parkrun was like running up a gulley? and not particularly shaded- it’s out and back and possibly not so scenic). The park was filled with huge redwood trees, so it was lovely and shaded. There were black squirrels which I’d never seen before (despite looking out for them in Letchworth as there are some there). The route was two laps, and it went past ponds, clearings in the trees where loads of people were doing tai chi- with every turning there was a new view. Towards the end of each lap there was a slight incline, but nothing that you could call a hill. It was just beautiful.

(A few blurry photos from while I was running)

From their facebook page- I’m there in my apricot Ellenbrook Fields vest – too hot for t-shirts!

The two lap nature meant that you ran through the start/finish area which meant lots of lovely cheers from the teams. Lots of people were thanking marshals on the way around, which always makes me very happy.

After finishing and scanning my barcode, I chatted to a few other tourists for a little bit. I was trying to do a selfie with the sign in the background, and failing miserably (I still can’t get the hang of it, and always move the wrong way to where I need to move to get the right bit of background in) so someone offered to take my photo very kindly. I had sent Andy a text (no data in Canada for me) but it hadn’t sent so I didn’t want to hang about too much in case he worried, and of course we wanted a day in Vancouver so I got the train back. (My time was 28:31- this came through on email later in the day)

Yay- a new flag on Running Challenges!

After breakfast (in fact, second breakfast as I’d eaten a brioche roll when I’d first woken up as I already felt pretty hungry and hadn’t eaten anything since before the flight to NY, a good while ago by that point) we headed out for a wonderful day in Vancouver. It really is such a beautiful city. I think anywhere with water is vastly improved (lakes, rivers, oceans) and combined with the mountains in the background and the masses of green trees it is a perfect combination. We walked to Stanley Park and watched seaplanes taking off, watched for cormorants, seagulls and starfish on the beach, headed into the park for a bit to admire the collection of totem poles, and then walked back to the centre. I thought I would feel more tired, as the time difference is so huge, and we did sit down on a bench for a bit, but other than that we kept walking.

Once in the centre we had to stop by a David’s tea for an iced peach tea (so good), and then went to get an early dinner in a pasta place. I could not resist popping into a Bath and Bodyworks (I love their hand sanitisers) so I picked up a few bits for the holiday. We had seen this amazing bakery close to our hotel, so on our way back we stopped to get an evening snack- pretzel for Andy and a dark chocolate and cherry scone for me- so good.

We didn’t stay up too late as we had an early start- our train to Portland was leaving at 6.30am- I’ll save that for next time.

Are you a fan of flights?  Where is the furthest you have travelled to a parkrun?

Tell me about your favourite city…

Limping around RHS Wisley and seeing Rocketman

Two weeks ago on Saturday I didn’t go to parkrun as I’d fallen over and was limping around (when you have to go up the stairs one at a time, going to a running event isn’t a good idea). We’d planned to head to RHS Wisley on the Saturday anyway, so we drove down late morning.

It was a lovely place to wander (limp) around, with beautiful flowers, some amazing carvings, and some test beds where they try out different types of the same plant to see how they cope with various weather conditions.

After a few hours of walking my knee was really throbbing so we went to the cafe. Andy wanted a piece of cake and I fancied a scone, and after paying for all of our bits, the lady told me they had no cream, but she had charged me for it. I thought she’d ask me to put my card back in and refund it to me, but she told me to “hurry up and choose” and it turned out she was giving me another cake instead. I clearly dithered too much, so she put a brownie in a paper bag and told me it was the best thing there. Something to save for later.

We walked around the big glasshouse, and along by the river to the bird hide (had a great view of a woodpecker feeding), and then headed to our hotel for a bit of a rest before walking over to the cinema to see Rocketman. I really loved this film- I found it very emotional, but I thought it was done really well- no rose tinted spectacles looking back on the past.

As we’d gone to an early evening screening, we then watched a bit of TV (the Isle of Wight festival, and then some Friends) while I propped my knee on a cushion to try and make it feel better.

On the Sunday morning we drove to Windsor for a wander in the sunshine.

Windsor, Gail’s cinnamon roll for breakfast, using a shower cap to keep my hand dry in the shower)

It turned out there was some sort of triathlon event going on, so we saw loads of people wandering around in wet suits. It was a beautiful day, although as soon as the sun went in the breeze made it chilly, and you’d put your coat on and then the sun would come out and it would be baking!

That week I would have had a few runs in the evening, but I was not even walking properly on it until the Wednesday so that of course was not a good idea. I had signed up for yoga and nearly didn’t go, as my hand was still a little weepy (I was keeping it covered at work to stop germs getting in), but in the end I decided to go and see how I got on. It was a summer solstice special, so we started off outside, focusing on our connection to the ground (rather damp and muddy- the teacher had brought a towel so we could wipe our feet when we went back inside). We didn’t do too many downward dogs and I could stay on my fingertips on my left hand for the ones we did, so it was OK. The most uncomfortable pose was child’s pose as my knee was still a little swollen.

I went out on a few gentle walks in the evenings (got to keep the 10,000 step per day streak going) as I didn’t want to stiffen up. I thought I’d manage a run on Thursday but it was still sore, so I decided to tail walk at parkrun on the Saturday and then I could see how I got on and give it the extra few days off.

I spent a few evenings pottering in the garden. We have a rose and it really appears as if it is luminous- I think it must have some sort of pigment that reflects UV light (or something similar) because especially as dusk it just appears to glow, and is so much brighter than any of the other flowers of a similar colour.

Which films have you enjoyed lately?

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?