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.

Kingdom parkrun, gardens and Aladdin

At the start of half term on Friday after dinner we drove around to Maidstone in Kent. We’ve been to this hotel before (the Village hotel- thankfully no see-through bathroom doors for this one), and I’ve run Maidstone parkrun twice. It’s a perfectly nice one, but it’s out and back on a canal towpath, narrow and very busy, so I fancied going somewhere different. A few weeks ago on the parkrun tourist facebook page I’d seen some photos from Kingdom parkrun, a new one for Kent. Handily I needed a K for the alphabet challenge, so I decided I’d head there. This did come with added stress, as we were going to Bruges from Kent, and I’ve never driven abroad before. The parkrun was too far away (20 miles ish) to have anything other than driving as an option, as it wasn’t close to any public transport options. Andy did offer to drive his car in France, but then I’d have to drive his car to parkrun, and I decided that I’d rather drive my car in France rather than his car in the UK.

On my Friday commute I was listening to With Me Now, a podcast about parkrun and tourism, and I heard that the host, Danny Norman, would also be heading to Kingdom. This filled me with excitement but also nerves, as I would want to say hi but be nervous about it. (Years ago I saw him at the Herts parkrun celebration evening, but at that point the parkrun podcast had ended, and he was with his family so it felt a bit intrusive).

The journey there didn’t go quite so smoothly, as there were some roadworks that slowed me down, and lots of twisty small country roads, and by the time I got there the main car park was full, so I was directed to park by the side of the steep entry road (I hate parking on hills) so I was a bit flustered. I had got out, found the start and was just wondering if I should go back to my car and get my sunglasses, and double check my handbrake, when the new runner briefing was announced, so I decided to stay.

As I was stood there, I realised that the tall person next to me in his blue 500 t-shirt was in fact Danny from the podcast, so I just said to him “can I just say that I really love the podcast” (I do- the sort of official free weekly timed one is OK, but WMN is really aimed at people who go to parkrun regularly and are passionate about it- it’s more in depth and understands the passions of the audience- their interviews with ED’s etc are also very interesting). Anyway, he was very friendly and put me at ease. I had on my Ellenbrook Fields vest as it was too hot for a t-shirt, and as his parents are regular volunteers there, he told me it made him happy (it was EF’s third birthday that day which I was sad to miss). I was even introduced to Chauffeur Ramek! We of course listened to the briefing, and then Danny headed off for a warm up and I just tried to tell myself that my car would not roll down the hill while I was running, as it was about to begin and I didn’t think I had time to head back.

The course was fun. It’s an old mountain cycling place (lots of info available on the excellent blog7t) and it was 3 laps, with each lap being half a mile down, then half a mile back up. At the half way point of the lap was ran around the outside and then turned back and through the inside of a field, and in parts of the out and back section you could see the other runners through the trees. I love courses like this- it reminded me a bit of East Brighton parkrun- because wherever you look you can see other runners ahead or behind, and it just emphasises that it’s a collective experience. On my second lap I could see Danny through the trees on his final section, so I shouted through the trees “Go Danny” (I was clearly feeling very brave), and when I finished he was sat near the finish line and gave me a cheer in which was lovely.  I was catching my breath and doing some stretches and wondering if I had the courage to ask for a photo (and hoping my red face would calm down a bit- one marshal put it in a lovely way, telling me I looked “sparkly”), but then the two of them headed off for their cool down .

The views at Kingdom were lovely too with sweeping views across the valley. There were lots of rhododendrons in the woods looking very colourful. I went into the cafe to see if they had a smoothie or something (I was so hot) but it seemed more like a sit down place, so I did a few more stretches and then headed back to the hotel, as it took a lot longer than I thought (more like 40 mins away) and we had bought some breakfast to have in the room.

Another lovely parkrun visited, and another letter ticked off! Just I and Z to go now- not sure when I will get around to those though…

As a side point I was happy to get a text from my dad as he was off on a cruise around the Baltic, and they had docked in Copenhagen at 8am, so he had made it to a Danish parkrun (Fælledparken- not the same one that I had done)- he was very pleased to have been to his first international parkrun.

Then we had a lovely day in Kent, going to a few NT places, walking around some lovely gardens, having some tea and cake (we shared a slice of lemon, lime and orange cake which was gorgeous), and then heading to Tunbridge Wells in the late afternoon for a Bird&Blend iced tea and dinner before the cinema.

We went to see Aladdin, which I did enjoy, but I still find all of these remakes weird. Well, apart from The Jungle Book which was an excellent film but wasn’t a scene-by-scene remake. I loved the original Aladdin, so I am not even sure if I am the target audience? (I am not a huge fan of the original Beauty and the Beast for example, and so the remake wasn’t really for me, and felt rather pointless as if I wanted to watch it, I could just watch the animated one..). With Aladdin I did enjoy the slight changes that they had made, and I thought Will Smith was funny, the dance scenes were good. It was a bit frustrating though because they hinted at a slightly different story (for example, with Jasmin’s story) but it felt like they could have gone a lot further in that direction. Her song was weird too- it felt like they were trying to get a catching Frozen-style song going but it didn’t seem to fit with the film. Anyway, it was a fun evening, but probably if I had the choice I’d watch the animated one again instead of this one.

Have you seen Aladdin? What do you think about the Disney remakes? The Lion King is coming soon, and I don’t even understand the difference because all of the animals will be CGI, and there aren’t any human characters….

How are you with meeting famous people? Andy still finds it hilarious when we meet characters like Mickey Mouse because I get a bit star struck…

Late to the speed camera challenge train

My fave parkrun podcast, With Me Now, signposted me to a new -to-me running podcast, Running is BS, (one of the hosts was interviewed on there) and I have been quite enjoying it. Clearly I love running, but the hosts talk about the things that annoy them (for example, female runners being told to run in groups so they won’t get attacked- victim blaming anyone?).

Anyway, recently they talked about the speed camera challenge, which coincidentally my running club had done on one of their runs (I don’t go because it’s yoga night, but I’d seen the photos on our closed facebook group page). Basically you run past one of those smiley/sad face cameras and try to take a photo as it shows your speed. I did this in the Hitchin 10k last year while I was running as the constant stream of runners meant it was always showing a number (6 or 7 mph) and a smiley face. The week before last, when looking for the other Panshanger entrance, I found one of them on a road near me, so to add some fun to my run I was trying to take a photo of the number as I ran past. Ideally someone else takes the picture I think, as then you are in it too, but still..

On Tuesday I went that way and took a few photos, but when I got home and looked none of them showed anything, not even a smiley! Ah well, when I got back I did a bit more weeding in the garden- it’s so lovely that it is light so late now, as then you can get outside more.

Wednesday was yoga and we had a big focus on breathing, holding poses for longer and doing some de-stressing breathing- I quite liked the 3,4,5 breathing (or maybe 4,5,6, where you inhale for 3, hold for 4, then exhale for 5-nice and calming). Soon we will be able to do some yoga outside which is always wonderful.

On Thursday when I went back to the same place and took photos, I was very excited to see that I got a smiley and a number 7 both captured on film!

The patio was looking a right mess after all our weeding and planting, so to cool down I did a lot of sweeping and putting things away (before-after)- very satisfying.

I won’t try and take photos again, but it does amuse me when I run past it now to see the number. The highest I’ve got is a 7 but it is right before a side road joins, so it isn’t really safe to do a full on sprint.

Have you ever tried the speed camera challenge?