Pink Panther parkrun!

(Sing to the Pink Panther theme tune) Durham, Durham, Durham-Durham-Durham-Durham, Durhaaaaaaam, etc.

After our late arrival to Durham the night before, I was thankful that Durham parkrun wasn’t too far from the town centre (just over a mile it seemed). However, I left plenty of time because I find Durham confusing as the river bends around in a horse shoe shape, so it just feels like you are spinning around the whole time (plus I didn’t want to be there, but on the other side of the river and no-where near a bridge). I had maps open on my phone (I put in headphones and listen to a podcast, as with the Pocket Cast app it pauses the podcast for each map direction, and means I can listen but not be wandering around looking at my phone making it obvious I am lost). Anyway, I think the satellites were having trouble locating me as I was often off road. I went wrong 3 times before going in the right direction, and then ended up taking the road route and not the riverside path that I had selected…

After running 1.65 miles I arrived!

The start and finish are in different places (see the map below)- the finish is much more central. It started by a running track at the Uni (a proper track- how fancy), and then began with an out and back section alongside the river, then crossed over “the noisy bridge”, went around some rugby fields, then back to the river, along one side, over a bridge and finishing on the other side. The last section (before you crossed over the final bridge) had amazing views of the castle and cathedral.

As I was running the GNR the next day (as were a lot of people judging by the number of tourists), I started near the back and tried to make myself take it gently.  I kept it nice and steady with a royal flush negative split- 10:02, 9:36, 9:12, 8:31 to finish in 29:43. I’ll happily take a sub 30 minute parkrun (and according to the usually nonsense on Strava, it was consistent with my usual efforts!).  The marshals were particularly cheerful, cheering everyone past with loads of energy.

We hadn’t made plans beforehand (I couldn’t decide between stopping on my way back to the hotel for croissants/ cinnamon rolls, or going back for a shower and going out for a proper breakfast), so I messaged Andy when I finished, and as the hotel was around half a mile from the finish, I went back for a shower and we went out to Bill’s for pancakes.

We then had a lovely day wandering around Durham – it’s such a pretty place. I love the river walk, and of course the beautiful weather helped.

A while back there was an interview with a guy on Marathon Talk who runs marathons in big dresses- there was a charity shop in Durham with a display of the dresses, and they are enormous! I had no idea that they were that big!

We didn’t have lunch (the Pret was no longer there) but we came across a lovely tea room so had a pick-me-up. I had some delicious vanilla Earl Grey tea, and a scone. All the cakes were home-made and were really good. The afternoon tea looked fab too- with one slice of cake (which you chose from the front) instead of all the little usual fancy ones.  And how pretty is the teacup wallpaper?

In the evening we went to an Italian for dinner (Prezzo I think?)- in the end I had a vegan pizza (really tasty) as I am not too keen on loads of cheese before a long run. We then headed back to the hotel to watch a bit of TV (we started the new Danish drama)- I’d done over 33,000 steps by then so I did need to put my feet up for a bit!

So, my 67th different parkrun event and a very nice one it was too. I do like a single lap (or point to point) route and the views were very impressive. I wonder how the event team get on with getting to the finish before the first runners though!

How was your weekend? How do you prep before a race?

Vancouver Island- including Clover Point parkrun- I love Canada!

Our 5 and a bit hour flight from Hawaii landed at goodness knows what time on Wednesday morning, and after getting our bags (super quickly) and picking up the hire car, we drove straight to the ferry port to get a boat over to Vancouver Island.

I had slept a little bit on the flight, but standing on the deck in the sunshine with the breeze blowing was just what I needed to wake me up properly. The ferries are brilliant- very scenic and most times we have been on one there has been a naturalist doing a talk – this one was about seagrass and why that habitat is so important for different species. While on the deck we saw a few creatures but they were too far away to identify (dolphins or whales). There were lots of seals on a big rock half way over too. Andy had got something for breakfast at the airport but I was feeling a bit ropey so I just had a little bit of his tea. As we were driving to Victoria we saw a big shopping place (Uptown) so we stopped there for a walk around and to get something to eat, and a few bits as we had a little apartment in Victoria.

I had been really looking forward to my first London fog- it’s a tea latte made with steamed vanilla milk and Earl grey, and it’s gorgeous. The Wholefoods had a little cafe in it, so I got one there and it didn’t disappoint! As we couldn’t check in until 3pm, we parked by the coast and walked along, seeing loads of kites and looking across the sea to Olympic National Park in Washington State.

I was planning on going to Clover Point parkrun but it looked a bit far from where we were staying and I thought I was going to have to look up bus timetables etc, but we realised that we had walked around the parkrun start, and it was only 3km away, so I could comfortably run there and back- phew.

We checked in to our airBnB, had a wander, went to a build your own burger place for dinner (and in case you wondered, yes a veggie burger with pineapple, avocado and pickles is very delicious), and walked by the docks and along the main Government street.

We had bought a couple of cakes from a cupcake place in the Uptown shopping place, so shared one later on too (it was pineapple with coconut frosting), and saved the other one (red velvet) for another day.

On Thursday we decided to have a day in Victoria, as we’d only been there for a day before. We walked to Beacon Hill park in Victoria and had a lovely wander. It was full of flowers, lots of paths to walk around, had interesting features such as the biggest totem pole in the world (although it was having some construction work done around it so was next to a big crane). We saw a snake on the path, and loads of black squirrels.

I had to get my London fog fix, so we went to Murchie’s which is a tea shop, cafe and also retail store. We shared a scone too, and Andy tried a maple latte which was their black maple tea made into a latte (I tried some and it was good- surprisingly not too sweet). They wrote on the cups so we could tell which was which! We did a bit of shopping- David’s tea and also a tea shop called Silk Road which seemed to be a bit of a cult favourite.

 On Friday I went on a run to the coast, mainly to suss out my route to parkrun. I didn’t get roaming in Canada (on my phone), and although I had downloaded the map, the walking directions didn’t work once I was away from the wifi, so I was glad I had worked that out before.

It was a beautiful day, blue skies and a calm looking sea.

We drove up to the shopping centre (why is it called Uptown though, as of course I got that song stuck in my head) as we both fancied getting a few bits from Roots (they do super warm cosy hoodies)- they were having a sale and so we each bought a couple of things and I did have a slight panic about fitting it all in our suitcases when the lady said she would go and get a bigger bag!

We then drove out to Goldstream Provincial park, a little north of Victoria. We had a walk through the woods, a mooch around the information centre, and then tried to find the parking for the waterfall hike (apparently on the other side of the highway) but couldn’t, so headed back to Victoria.

In the evening we had another wander around Victoria, walking around the edge of the harbour as the sun was going down.

When we got back to the centre there was a lot going on, with a little market and some live singers and musicians. We couldn’t hang about for ages as we had to get back to pack.

We did pop in to the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory for a giant peanut butter cup- we shared this once we had done our packing (a good incentive to do it quickly). Thankfully even with the late purchases of bulky hoodies our cases closed!

On Saturday I was up early to get to parkrun, as Clover Point started at 8am (I checked that so many times)- the run there was great and once at the start I chatted to a few tourists and local runners. It was a really friendly event- their tail walker had a home-made t-shirt with parkrun advertised on it (free weekly 5k + the address) and he was so friendly, welcoming everyone and taking photos of people with the selfie frame.  The main briefing began with an acknowledgement that we were on First Nations land, and then went on to be the typical parkrun. It is a fairly small event (the week before was their first birthday and they ad a record 77 runners- one week they had 6 runners!) which did surprise me as I saw loads of runners in Victoria, and there is a Running Room (a running shop) which offered free runs each week. Maybe it just takes a while for the word of mouth to spread, and where it starts is not next to lots of shops or cafes so I suppose people won’t happen to see it. 

DFYB and passport!

The course was a simple out and back along the coast, at one point dipping down  before we looped back on ourselves (back uphill)- nothing too steep.

I love the out and back nature because everyone was saying “hi”/ “nice work” etc as they passed each other. One of the people I’d spoken to at the start was from the UK but was living over there for a few months and was introducing some friends to parkrun. We chatted briefly as we ran before she sped off, and I was coming in to finish she cheered me in and then ran back to run in with her friends. I didn’t have too long as we had to check out at 11, so I ran back after getting my barcode scanned.

I realised that I was also a parkrun pirate! (7 C’s and an R)- both my Canadian parkruns counted towards the total, and what better place to become a pirate than by one of the seven seas (Pacific)?

While I was running back, Andy texted to say he was walking along to an amazing looking bakery that we’d seen the day before, so I met him there instead.

It was a tough choice, and in the end we got this delicious custard slice thing with raspberries, pistachio and rosewater (alongside the rest of our cereal and apples).

Originally we had thought of  driving up the coast a little to Nanaimo, and getting the ferry back from there, but we could not book on (they were standby only) and as our flight was the same day, we didn’t want to take any chances, so we drove to the ferry terminal in Victoria. On the way back the naturalist on the boat talked about clam gardens, which was really interesting and something I’d never heard about before.

Once back on the mainland we stopped in an outlet mall, (Tsawwassen Mills) and I ended up getting a couple of pairs of leggings in the Lululemon outlet- the slightly cropped ones are ankle length on me and have the stretchy side pockets that I love.

We went to Queen Elizabeth park, a park on an old quarry on a hill overlooking Vancouver. It had a big eco dome thing (a bit like the Eden project) and lots of different styles of gardens to wander around. A quick pop to Wholefoods for a pre-flight sandwich, and then it was time to drive to the airport.

Our flight overnight to New York wasn’t the best, but it was OK and I slept a little. I did worry because we had packed a couple of Clif bars in case we wanted a snack, and although I stay awake for the safety briefing, once that was finished I put on my eye mask and headphones, loaded up a sleep story on the Calm app, and tried to sleep. A little later we were told on the PA system that someone on the plane had an allergy to peanuts and so we should refrain from eating anything containing nuts. I could have already been asleep and missed the announcement.

We landed in NY after 5 and a bit hours, and thankfully immigration wasn’t as long as before (partly because I could go into the queue for previously used ESTA’s). When we first booked the flights we thought we would head into the city for the day, but we thought the airline would keep the luggage and it didn’t, and as our next flight wasn’t until late on Sunday night we couldn’t check it in for that one just yet. We got a shuttle to an airport hotel as we’d hired a day room. This turned out to be a very good idea- when we arrived they were still serving breakfast so we got to have something to eat, could then have a proper sleep and a shower, and just relax before getting the final overnight flight back to Manchester. These were much better seats- we were upstairs at the  front of the main section so we had lots of leg room, no-one in front and it was fairly quiet as there are less people up there. I slept a bit, alternating between the calm sleep stories, music and podcasts. Then all we had to do was get the train back to Milton Keynes and drive the rest of the way home.


Maui for both an active and relaxing holiday

(This is the penultimate recap from the holiday- normal service will resume soon!)

On Tuesday we flew from Portland to Kahului, on Maui, for a more relaxing week and a more traditional honeymoon destination. We are lucky in that we have travelled to Hawaii twice before- the first time we visited Oahu (the island with Honolulu), Maui and Big Island (the one with the active volcano), and the second time we had been to Oahu, Maui and Kauai- for both those previous trips we were over there for a couple of weeks, as you have to fly between each island and so need to allow time to travel. For this holiday we only had a week, so decided we would go to one island, and stay there.  In the end Maui was the choice, as it has lots of things to do, but it’s not covered in huge highways (the ones by Honolulu are crazy), and we would be able to relax after a week and a bit of constantly travelling.

Portland had a rule that nothing at the airport could cost more than it would elsewhere in the city, which was a great thing. We had a few things to finish up for a random breakfast of apples and almonds (as you can’t take certain things into Hawaii), and then we picked up lunch at the airport. I found a place that did a super spicy chai, plus a vegan wrap with veggies and an amazing peanut sauce, and some vegan banana bread for us to share. The flight was about 6 hours, and we flew with Alaskan Air which really impressed me- there was food to buy and no entertainment (I had a load of podcasts to listen to) but they brought around tea and biscuits, and you were actually given the hot water and teabag of your choice- loads better than the BA coffee-coloured tea!

Once we’d picked up the car, we popped to Walmart (thinking it would be the best place to pick up some bits- in fact Wholefoods was cheaper and had a better selection) and then drove up to where we were staying, Ka’apanali, on the west of the island (where we had stayed before).

Once checked in we walked the 2 miles along the coast to Whalers Village, a shopping and dining village close to lots of hotels. It has a Vintage Island Coffee shop- first stop, acai bowls!

We walked back along the coast as the sun was going down- beautiful.

Wednesday- Due to jetlag (it’s another 3 hours from the west coast) I was awake early so headed out for a run down the coast. I did 5 miles to Whalers Village and back.  Look at the size of the hibiscus flowers! I cannot resist taking photos of them- they are so pretty and colourful.

We then walked to Duke’s (a beachfront bar/restaurant) and had breakfast there as a first day treat.

We shared banana macadamia nut pancakes and French toast with lilikoi (a bit like passionfruit) syrup, plus little glasses of POG (pineapple, orange, guava) juice. Sitting there with views of the sea is pretty much perfect.

Later we drove down to Lahaina, a big town slightly south of where we were staying. It’s a lovely place to wander- it used to be the capital and a port for lots of whalers (thankfully the only whale-based industry there now is for watching and not killing). There is an old jail, lots of art galleries, a huge banyan tree, lots of quirky shops and views of the sea.

We were both looking forward to a Dole Whip- we love these at Disney  and the only other place we’d seen them before was the Dole pineapple plantation on Oahu (so wrong island for this trip), but last time we were here we found a place that did them- this one was topped with Maui gold pineapple – so delicious. I ended up with a bit of a headache which was probably from being out in the sun and maybe not drinking enough after the run (and maybe being a bit dehydrated after the flight the day before), so once back we sat in the shade and read our books, had a game of mini-golf once the course was in the shade, and then had a swim in the pool as the sun was going down.

Thursday- Due to having zero acai bowls the day before, we made up for it by going back to the cafe for lunch (we bought some cereal to have for breakfast as our room had a little kitchenette)- they also make an amazing sandwich with peanut butter and mango, in cranberry and walnut bread, so we shared a sandwich and an acai bowl.

Super delicious.

Then we headed down to the Maui Ocean Centre, an aquarium by the ocean. They had a huge dome showing a 3D film all about the whales of Maui (filmed off the coast) which was pretty spectacular. We listened to a talk about turtles- one fact that I found so interesting was because turtles are not reared by their parents, hatchlings raised in captivity can usually be released back into the wild because a lot of their behaviour is based on instinct rather than being taught. That may be obvious to some but it hadn’t occurred to me before.

There was also lots of information about projects going on across Hawaii to make the habits more natural and remove non native species. I also didn’t know anything about the military using one of the islands for testing bombs, (until some time in the 90’s) but that has ended now and they are gradually replanting and repairing the land.

Oh, and guess what? They also sold Dole Whip- it was our lucky week!

We made sure we were back in time to walk along the beach at sunset and take more photos.

Friday- I was up early for a 6 mile run along the coast (more stopping to take photos of flowers of course).

I was so sweaty when I got back! I think when you are running you don’t notice it as much because the breeze sort of cools you, and then once you stop it just pours out. Just me?

We then had more time reading (I was reading a book about a guy cycling around the world and it was very relaxing), popped to a plantation to have a wander around the garden, and then headed over to Ioa State Park to view the beautiful valley and rock needle.

We shared a pineapple and coconut smoothie in the plantation gardens

Beautiful Iao State Park- so Hawaiian with the lush green slopes

I had a look on the parkrun tourist tool to see where my nearest one was- over 2000 miles away! (If you have not used it before, just google tourist tool and it pops up- it tells you your closest parkun and you can move the point to where you will be, say for a weekend away, and also if you add your barcode it can show you only events you haven’t been to before).

Saturday- we decided to try somewhere new for an acai bowl, and walked along to Whalers Village, but although this one was good (topped with papaya and coconut) it wasn’t as good as our favourite.

More hibiscus flowers on our walk back…

Another day, another sandwich- this time with a ginger chai alongside…

We drove to Paia to have a wander- we’d not been here before but it was another lovely place with lots of art galleries and little independent shops. There is an artist called Heather Brown who we love, and have bought a few of her prints before. One art shop was selling them, so we picked up a couple more to take home as souvenirs.

It was a baking hot day, and as we walked past a  shave ice store Andy decided to get one. I am not usually a big fan, as I find it very syrupy, and then end up with brain freeze from eating the plain ice at the bottom, but this store made the syrups with fruit juice, and the ice was really shaved so thinly, and it was actually really good- probably the best shaved ice I’ve had. We had a tropical mix with pineapple, mango and coconut.

Then we headed to Ho‘okipa beach as we had read that giant turtles go onto the beach in the afternoon to sleep there overnight. Sure enough, there were already lots on the beach. The section of the beach was roped off, although one turtle was actually laying on the rope and some people didn’t notice it. Sadly some people were going into the sea and wading over to the turtles, even though you have to stay away from them.

(Bottom left picture- all those mounds on the beach are more giant turtles)

Our plan was then to drive up to Haleakalā National Park to watch the sunset, as the last few times we have been to watch the sunrise, but now that is so popular that you have to book a slot. Anyway, there was a crater cam and it was just surrounded by clouds, so we decided to skip the long drive and head back instead. The drive back should have taken maybe an hour, but the traffic was so bad I think it took close to 3 hours in the end. There is only one road which goes to that part of the island, and there had been a couple of accidents. By the time we got to Lahaina it was dark (and late) so we bought a picnic from the Safeway store to have once we got back.

On Sunday I went out for a longer run (8 miles in the end)- I decided to see how far the path went south of Whalers Village- I think in fact I could have run all the way to Lahaina if I wanted to go further. I found this cool Aloha sign by one of the hotels (a little further south of Whalers Village) and a lovely lady offered to take my photo for me.

I was OK running- slowly and taking breaks to take photos, but when I got home and looked in the mirror I looked a right state- it looked as if my top had been dipped in water as it was totally drenched in sweat.

Thankfully I had bought some coconut water (with lime- this was gorgeous) and a papaya to have for breakfast alongside our delicious pb puffins.

After cooling down, reading in the shade, we popped to get our standard lunch (share an acai bowl and pb mango sandwich), and then headed to Lahaina to buy a few souvenirs and gifts. We had seen Leoda’s Pie shop on our trips before, but never been- there was always a huge queue so we decided on this trip we would make sure, so on our way back we stopped off to get a pie to share- we went for key lime as it would be tropical and we were not disappointed.

We ended the day with a walk along the beach (and in the sea) at sunset.

On Monday we were moving hotels  to a different part of the island for the final night, so after checking out and having a final acai bowl, we drove to the more resort-y part of the island (Wailea). There we were welcomed with the proper lei’s (flower ones as opposed to shell ones at the other place).

We were planning on doing some snorkelling here, but the red flag was out at the beach (meaning dangerous currents) so we couldn’t do it.

The lady at the front desk was very friendly and asked if it was our honeymoon- although I do not like a fuss and felt rather awkward being asked about it. Once in our room there was a knock at the door and a bottle of fizz was delivered to us- I asked Andy if he had ordered it (I didn’t think he would have) and was told that it was a wedding gift- how kind! A shame I don’t drink though!

This (for some reason) really unsettled me- I am not sure why but I think I felt a bit out of place in the hotel anyway (it was a more expensive place-we used a free night from but filled with families with kids so not a really exclusive place by any stretch of the imagination) and I really don’t like a fuss so I just felt like I was being stared at (stupid I know).

Anyway we walked along the sea at sunset and I felt a lot better after that!

Tuesday was our last day in Hawaii- we had a swim in the hotel pool (the waves were too big for snorkelling still), and then went for breakfast. We thought it would be an end of Maui treat, but it was so overpriced and nothing special ($23 for one portion of French toast!). We went over to Kihei and had a little walk along the beach, but it was very quiet and the tide was high so we couldn’t walk far, so we drove to Big Beach instead. You couldn’t go in the water there because the waves were so huge and dangerous (some people still were) but it was amazing to watch.

(No, the beach wasn’t in Australia..) The waves come in sets and there would suddenly be the most enormous wave- it was very hypnotic.

You can see below a few people going near the water in the picture below- we saw a few people get knocked over and apparently this beach has the most broken bones because people underestimate the strength of the waves. There were lifeguards but also signs saying do not go in the water/ do not stand with your back to the water but of course you also see people ignoring the signs because they want the perfect photo.

The plus point of the resort hotel was that you could use a courtesy room after checking out, so we used the room to have a shower and change clothes as we had an overnight flight. There’s a Wholefoods near the airport so we went there for a quick dinner before getting our night flight.

And then it was farewell to another amazing time in Hawaii- the perfect mixture of relaxing, sightseeing, visiting new places and old favourites.

Do you like to go back to the same holiday destination or do you like to always visit new places?

Crater Lake National Park and the Oregon coast

So after a couple of days in Bend we drove to Crater Lake National Park.  This had been on our list to visit for years, and the main reason for our Oregon trip.

It took a bit of time (maybe a couple of hours?) to get there from Bend, with lovely scenery on the way. At one point we had to drive slowly along the road as there were runners heading along it- it was organised as they had numbers on, but I couldn’t find the race when I tried googling later. It was pretty hot to be running.

Once at the park we drove to the village, had a walk around and then did the drive around the rim of the crater, stopping at plenty of places for photos (Interesting to note that they hold some weekends where cars are banned so that people can cycle the whole way around without traffic). Later we hiked up to the Watchman Tower- I think it was 1.6 miles out and back (well up and back)- there was even some snow by the path! The tower was for staff to look out for forest fires- you had a pretty spectacular view.

Basically the crater was formed thousands of year ago when a volcano erupted and the peak collapsed. Interestingly it was witnessed by Native Americans, so there are accounts of it happening. The lake is the deepest in the USA, and it doesn’t have any rivers running into it.

We had decided to stay in the hotel in the park, as we knew we’d only be there for the day and after going to Yellowstone and seeing how much quieter it was once the coaches and tour buses left for the day, decided it was worth it. This did mean that we were limited with things like meals, as there was a small cafe in the village and a restaurant in our hotel. We booked for dinner (the veggie options are usually pretty good in the National Parks) and went for a little walk at sunset before our table was ready. We saw lots of deer clambering up and down the steep slopes, and beautiful colours of the sky, water and mountains.

Just as our food arrived, the fire alarm started to go off. At first none of the staff seemed fussed, so we figured it was an accident and someone would turn it off, but then they told us to all get outside. I was thankful that I was wearing jeans and a jumper, but poor Andy was in shorts and a t-shirt. It was dark by that point, and after we waited for a bit, the sheriff turned up, then the fire truck, and then we were all moved away from the building. Someone walked through the crowd asking for people in room 109 (?), which was close to our room, so the I started to have a slight panic because literally everything we needed (mainly passports) was in our room- hopefully it wouldn’t actually burn.

The pace of the firefighters led us to believe it would be OK (they took about 10 mins to put on all their gear) and we stood outside for about an hour before we were allowed back inside. There were loads of people with kids, and we saw some really kind people pop to their cars and lend people blankets and things like that as it was really cold.

The next morning we headed to another part of the park, to watch a little information video. Now, I always find it funny that in the USA people often think we are Australian when they hear our accents. This video cracked me up because it had subtitles, and at one point there was an English person speaking and it said “Australian:…”- honestly why are they muddled?

Then we walked to a waterfall, which was very impressive. Close to the waterfall were loads of wildflowers and so many butterflies- I tried to video a few of them as they were all drinking the water on the path and were so pretty and delicate.

Then we drove to the coast- this was a long old drive (we did see loads of elk in a valley and lots of seals by the sea) and despite only stopping a couple of times to stretch the legs (and get a drink in Starbucks so we could use the bathroom) we didn’t arrive in Newport Beach until the evening.

Our hotel had a lovely view of the beach, so we got a takeaway pizza to share, and then walked along the beach as the sun was going down.

The next day we had a walk along the beach in the morning (and found lots of starfish) and the rest of the day was spent driving up the Oregon coast, stopping at various places en route.

The Devil’s Punchbowl was very impressive with a huge cave where the water filled and then splashed out. As we were looking out to sea we noticed whale blows (when they blow air out of their blowholes) and realised we could see some whales!

Our next stop was Depot Bay, apparently a whale spotting capital, as they have some resident grey (gray) whales that don’t migrate. We found a whale information centre, manned by staff who had binoculars to borrow and film cameras trained on the whales out in the bay, so we spent a while there watching them- at one point we could see two pairs of whales in different parts of the bay.

The coast here was a lot like northern California (no surprise as it’s fairly close)- like Big Sur. Very rugged cliffs and beaches, with very changeable weather (one minute blue skies, the next a lot of mist rolling in).

We arrived at Seaside and had a bit of a wander. It seemed more of a place for families or maybe teenagers, with lots of arcades, fast food places and a big aquarium on the seafront. It did have a 2 mile prom, so in the morning I went out for my longest run of the holiday so far (6 miles) going out and back along the prom.

I really wanted to go to Cannon’s Beach as it had the famous haystack rock on it, and also puffins live there. We drove to the town (which was a gorgeous place full of art shops and cafes- much more our style) and then along the beach. We saw some huge starfish (in the picture below I am crouched next to one to show the size)- beautiful purple and orange ones. One looked just like CJ from Nemo.

When we got to the haystack rock, there was a van set up with binoculars you could borrow and a telescope trained on the puffins. We queued up and had a look, then walked closer to the rock.

We started to see the puffins which really made me happy!

(I’m pointing at them here)- they were too far away to photograph but we could see their little wings and round bodies flying, and through the telescope you could see them on the rocks.

On the way back through town we passed an art shop with some gorgeous prints in the window, so popped in and ended up buying a picture of Mount Hood (where we had been a few days earlier) as a souvenir.

We then drove back to Portland. Our route took us briefly into Washington state and it amused me that the satnav said “Welcome to Washington” so I took a photo when we went back into Oregon. Also, no-one in the USA could get Andy’s name right when he ordered a drink- after the third or so time I took a photo and then we decided that I would always do the ordering. (Here he asked for an iced chai with almond milk, and ended up with a coconut milk one for “Andrei“- close!

After checking in to the hotel close to Portland airport we popped to Wholefoods for an easy dinner, and then it was time to properly pack the cases as we were off to Hawaii the next morning.

Have you been to any of the National Parks?

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?