A weekend in Wales

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A New Year Double parkrun (NYDD)

(New Year’s Day Double)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third green one along!

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

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

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

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

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

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

Frohe Weihnachten!

So our trip to Berlin wasn’t quite as planned, but we managed to fit a lot into the few days that we ended up with. We flew out on Sunday in the end, and as we landed at lunch time we had time to check in to our hotel and then wander around a couple of Christmas markets close to our hotel.

On the Monday (Christmas Eve) shops were open first thing, so we got a few picnic foods, but then everything seemed to close down (apart from the markets thankfully). We had popped into a shopping centre to warm up (it was snowing at one point and so so cold) and Andy spotted a Mozart cake (Mozart seemed to love marzipan because all of the things named after him seem to have marzipan in them)- so we bought it to share later in the hotel. We also bought a stollen (with a gold seal on it) for my parents and some marzipan chocolates. There was a bit of a theme!

Everywhere was beautifully decorated, and felt very festive. We walked a lot as although the trains and trams were running, it was nice to take our time and see the sights again.

We walked to the Brandenburg gate (via a few markets), through the park to a couple more markets.  To continue the marzipan theme I found that a few of the markets did marzipan crepes- I’d had one in Cologne once and it was pretty amazing, so I may have had one one 3 out of the 4 days! All the markets had the gingerbread stall, gluhwien stalls, bratwurst and so on, as well as some local things that we’d not seen anywhere else. Lots of places did these quarkballchen things which seemed to be a bit like doughnuts  but I assume with quark in the dough (one place had a clear window so you could see the baker rolling the dough).

After walking around all day on Christmas Eve and taking in several markets, we headed back to an evening of Christmas movies in the hotel room.

To make up for not going to a German parkrun, I did my own run on Christmas day. I could run from our hotel to the Brandenburg Gate and back again (out and back minimises the chance of me getting lost)- it was around 2 miles each way so a good start to the morning. Our hotel had breakfast which is always a nice treat- they even had little slices of stollen out with the ham (as you do).

We did more walking on Christmas day (ending up at Checkpoint Charlie which was a bit surreal with the Christmas tree marking the spot where lots of people would have been shot for trying to cross the wall) and then got the train out to Charlottenburg Palace for the Christmas market there. It was so pretty and very busy, with lots of locals eating and drinking together.

Andy was enjoying the Gluhwein, and lots of the places did variations on hot apple juice with spices, so I had one to warm up (I think it had bits of orange peel and ginger in it too). I bought a new decoration for our tree (a little moose one) so at least we didn’t spend all of our money on food!

Side note- I have emailed both Bath and St Albans Christmas markets asking if they could consider using the cup deposit scheme that every single European market seems to have- you pay a few Euros for your cup, and then when you are finished you get the money back. I was shocked at Bath this year how overflowing the bins were, but it is no surprise when the stalls are not giving anyone the option of washable ones.

After heading back to the hotel to warm up for a bit, we headed out as we were off to a concert at the concert hall. The Philharmonic Orchestra were playing music from movies, and it was just brilliant. I love seeing orchestras play as I just find it fascinating, and it was great to hear classics like Indiana Jones, Star Wars (they did a good few songs from Star Wars), ET, the music from the Great Movie Ride (Gone with the Wind), Game of Thrones (not strictly a movie but an impressive piece of music) and finishing with Soul Bossa Nova from Austin Powers.

On Boxing Day we had the morning and early afternoon before we needed to get to the airport. It was drizzling so we got the train instead of walking, and ended up at another market. This one was by a huge church that had been badly damaged in the war, but they had decided to not repair it (but with a lot of preservation work). I think the last time we were in Berlin it must have been undergoing the renovations because the building was surrounded in perspex so it looked like a normal office building (there were photos of the work inside). It was an interesting place to visit.

We also spotted a few of the brass plaques (stumbling stones) which show the last address of each victim of the holocaust- there is a little article here which explains them. My cousin had mentioned them to me before we went, and I think if I hadn’t looked out for them I would have seem them out of the corner of my eye and assumed they were the normal street furniture of water main hatches and so on.

The rain got heavier so after a final market treat (marzipan crepe) we got our bags and headed to the bus for the airport.

Time to put the new decorations on the tree and the treats in the cupboard!

Do you like visiting Christmas market? Do you know of any in the UK that have the cup deposit scheme? 

Did you have a good Christmas?

Bath Christmas market trip (and of course more of a catch up)

I do keep on getting behind with posts at the moment, so before Bath I shall rewind to the week before.

My November tea club came a while back as the Christmas theme- Snowball ( a classic and now all vegan instead of having to get the one without gelatin- black tea with chocolate, coconut and marshmallows), Fairytale of New York (not so much my kind of tea as it’s rooibos with coffee beans) and then Mint Choc Rooibos, which I do like, but I was a teeny bit miffed because on their facebook page they’d posted it and the tea club contained Mince Pie tea- I’d had a sample last year and it was so good- black tea with almond and orange peel. Anyway, I commented on their page and they replied that some tea club subscriptions were different, and I was worried that the mince pie tea wasn’t vegetarian (some of their teas used to not be veggie, but since last year they had changed them all over so they were)-  it turned out that as I was down for a veggie one, that was linked to an allergy one, so I didn’t get the tea containing nuts. They then offered to send some mince pie tea to me, which was just so kind of them (and it is super delicious).

Following on from the Brighton 10k I had a rest day on Monday with a walk around town in the evening (after a much needed back and shoulder massage) to stretch out the legs a bit. My legs were a bit stiff but sometimes a run helps with this, so I had  3 mile run after work on Tuesday- it was freezing out there! Wednesday was lovely yoga, and then on Thursday although I’d planned a run, I just felt so tired and had lots of work to do, so we went on a walk before dinner instead. On the Friday as soon as I got home from work it was time to pack, quickly have dinner and then drive to Reading (on the way to Bath).

After doing Dinton Pastures parkrun it was time to head to the station. I love a bit of a train journey- chilling out to podcasts and watching the scenery. We arrived in Bath around lunch time so we headed to Pret and shared a wrap and a drink before going on a walk around the markets. Often we go to the spa but decided to give it a miss this year as last year the queues were so huge that we felt like we wasted a bit of time there.

The markets were all around the city centre, and there was also an ice rink and glow in the dark mini golf in a park close by. The markets were pretty rammed (with a one way system going on) so we had a general look from afar and decided which ones we’d visit again later. It was fairly cold, although luckily the rain from the morning had stopped, so we went for tea and cake in a cafe to warm up for a bit. We sat by the window upstairs so had a great view of everyone wandering past and perusing the stalls. I braved a few shops to tick off a few items on my list, but we saved the markets for after dinner.

We’d booked a meal at The Ivy (which had a separate vegetarian menu with lots of options)- I went for a delicious sweet potato dish with aubergine, coconut yoghurt, grains and a spicy tomato sauce- it was very warming for a wintery day.

Then we visited some of the stalls- I couldn’t resist some gingerbread brownies from a stall (3 for £3 which didn’t seem too expensive compared to what you would usually pay), maple butter and syrup, and also some chocolate peanut butter from a Cornish company (we’d bought some of theirs before at the Eden Project).

Our train wasn’t until just before 9pm, so we had a long time to wander around and the markets were much quieter by then. I do love wandering around and seeing everything lit up. I managed to get a few gifts (Secret Santa type ones) so I was pleased to start ticking things off the list (someone at work had already finished all of her Christmas shopping-I mean, what???). After getting the train and then driving home it was pretty late, and quite cold at home (even though we did switch the heating on once we were on the train).

On the Sunday I headed out on a run (6 miles) but when I got home Andy told me that there was some sort of problem with the pressure due to a burst water main, so I couldn’t have a shower. We could at least get water from the tap but the pressure wasn’t high enough for the boiler to work. I changed into some un-sweaty clothes and had breakfast and tried to warm up by making some mini pumpkin pies (the oven always warms  up the kitchen pretty well), but it didn’t start working until well into the afternoon. We went to see Andy’s parents for a bit but I still hadn’t properly warmed up so when we got home we put the fire on, ready for Escape to the Chateau (if you don’t watch this, then why not???).

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This turned out to be funny because I posted a pic on facebook and I thought everyone knew about our wedding by now, but clearly some people didn’t, but they spotted the Mr and Mrs cards on the mantle piece!

I was feeling pretty festive (or maybe hygge) by the end of the weekend.

Have you started (or I dread to ask, finished) your Christmas shopping yet? 

And the other reason for our Florida holiday

In my recap I mentioned that we had somewhere to be on the Tuesday morning. Well, it was a trip out to the Botanical gardens because we had our wedding to get to.

It was our 20th anniversary in the week, so everything just fell into place- we looked at a few places abroad but this just seemed the best option (it was legal in the UK, we wouldn’t need to go anywhere to pick up the license first, sunshine, a Disney race…).

All we had to do was sort out what we would be wearing, and bring the rings with us. (We also had to get some paperwork signed by a notary in the UK so that the licence was ready). In the end I had decided to have someone come to the hotel room and do my hair for me, and the person I chose included makeup (although I never wear makeup, I decided that some light makeup might be a good idea for the photos), and to be on the safe side they suggested allowing a couple of hours, so Andy went off to Magic Kingdom while I was sorted.

(This was quite funny because I had told her that I have quite thick hair, and when she arrived she said something about how it did look fairly thick, and we looked at a few hairstyle ideas, and then when she started to pin it up she went “woah, there is so much- it doesn’t look that thick”. Luckily we’d left plenty of time for everything and she even finished early.)

I even got a little touch up kit which I suppose I would have used had I been at an all day event.

We then got an uber from the hotel to the botanical gardens (we did hire a car but didn’t fancy navigating into downtown Orlando and the people who organised it said most couples get one down there) and then met the couple who organised it. They had my bouquet (I’d chosen them in advance) and a flower for Andy, and then we walked into the gardens to the gazebo where we met the officiant.

The couple who organised it for us also took photos, so after the ceremony we then had around an hour walking around the botanical gardens for various photos with one of them taking more posed photos, and one of them sort of hiding and taking the more natural ones.  They have all been sent to us electronically so we can decide which ones we might print out.

After that, we headed back to the hotel (another Uber), changed into  normal clothes (and I wiped the makeup off and just kept my hair) and we were off to Magic Kingdom!

We hadn’t told anyone, so from then on we had to be super careful about any photos in whatsapp in case our rings were on show (that’s not a good way for family to find out). We told our parents when we got back on Sunday, and then gradually started letting people know- that’s been the hardest bit in a way, because we did it abroad because I didn’t want a fuss and really could not imagine getting married in front of even a few people, but it seems to have created more excitement in a way.