WDW Summer 2022

I usually love the anticipation of a holiday- looking forward to it is a huge part of the enjoyment. However this time I wasn’t convinced that we would actually manage to get there, so it was only when the plane arrived that I really felt excited. A combination of covid restrictions, risks of catching germs at work, strikes, flights being changed and Heathrow being told to limit passenger numbers just meant I felt like it might not happen.

In the end we flew to New York one evening, stayed in a hotel near the airport that night and then on to Tampa the next morning (immigration queues at NY have been horrendous in the past and we have nearly missed connecting flights as you have to go back through security once you have passed through immigration, so this way meant we would not worry about missed connections).

Spoiler- it did happen! Here I am at Clermont Waterfront parkrun close to Orlando

First up we stayed a little outside of WDW (we hired a car to drive up from Tampa), and then half way through took the car back and stayed in a Disney hotel for the remainder. While off Disney property we went to Universal a few times- we’d not been there for maybe 15 years, and Andy was keen to go. There are not many rides that I enjoy there as I’m not a rollercoaster fan, but I could appreciate the attention to detail that they had in the Harry Potter lands, and still go on the ET ride- such a classic! They had good vegan food options there- we often had a meal to share in one of the Harry Potter restaurants which was a sort of pie with beetroot and apple salad.  Of course we also went to Voodoo Doughnuts at City walk.

The weather was as you would expect in August- blue skies, hot and humid, and then crazy thunderstorms. We had a particularly bad one driving back from Universal one night, where at one point the motorway was at a standstill because you could not see anything, and it was flashing lightning every second or two. As lots of the Disney rides are inside it was usually OK (sometimes we’d go into a ride and then by the time we came out it had clearly rained and stopped), but the Skyliner (a cable car linking some of the hotels including where we stayed to Epcot and Hollywood Studios) would stop if lightning was anywhere nearby, meaning we’d have to get a bus which took a lot longer.

Kona Café and Ale&Compass breakfasts

The food at Disney was plentiful and tasty as always. I think Disney are really upping their game with veggie and vegan items. We had a few breakfasts out (including my favourite, Kona Café in the Polynesian hotel- their banana stuffed French toast is amazing and they do a vegan version, hooray!).

Slider and meatballs from the Earth Eats stall plus hummus, pitta, salad from a Star Wars restaurant

EPCOT have a food and wine festival that has been on when we’ve been in October, but it started super early this year so was on while we were there too. Lots of the stalls had vegan options but they also had an Earth Eats stall, with all vegan options.

Salad in the Sam Eagle restaurant, amazing pineapple upside down cake from Erin McKenna’s bakery at Disney Springs, delicious Mexican salad and the guava mousse.

The guava mousse from the Shimmering Sips stall was my favourite- it was more like a cheesecake with a biscuit base, guava topping and then toasted coconuts. Perfect and tropical tasting, and way cheaper than desserts in the restaurants (it was $6 I think, and we shared each time as it was pretty big).

Vegan tacos from the Carribean Beach resort, vegan pizza from Blaze at Disney Springs, vegan doughnut from Voodoo Doughnuts at Universal City Walk and lemon cake from Erin McKenna.

The beauty of WDW is that there are loads of restaurants at each resort (counter service and sit down), and anyone can go to them, not just guests of those hotels, so we spent a bit of time wandering around other resorts and sampling the food there. Those tacos were really good although a bit weird that they came with fries!

Mickey food

Of course there had to be Mickey shaped food (pretzels and waffles). I also tried a dill pickle and I have to say it was really good but a bit too much (we did share it).

And saving the best ’til last, of course there were Dole Whips. They are available in so many places now, and there are lots of alternatives to the pineapple (which is still the best).

One thing I was really impressed with was their move to reusable plates. In all of the newer counter service places, they had reusable plates and cutlery rather than disposable, with places to sort them when you tidied your table plus staff to help. They have a long way to go with this (look at the Dole Whip cups- just plastic…) but it’s a good move.

WDW was celebrating it’s 50th anniversary so there was lots going on for that, with parades, a new Epcot show (not as good as Illuminations, but still enjoyable) and all of these gold statues around the parks. It was good fun spotting them, and even on our final day I found a couple more. I wasn’t so keen on the Magic Kingdom fireworks show, so we tended to head to Epcot in the evenings more.

Star Wars things

Star Wars land in the studios had been further expanded with a new ride (Rise of the Resistance- we’d been on Smugglers Run back in 2019 and I love that ride). I found the new ride rather immersive (I am not a fan of actual people doing role-play) but it was also good fun and I could just about handle the little drop- I do not do rollercoasters or anything that drops, but I did manage it 3 times on the holiday so it is OK. Our tickets included the photo pass so we got lots of pics of the two of us- usually we manage a selfie or two on holiday but it was nice to have some more professional ones. I also loved the magic shots- especially the Baby Yoda one!

There were some other new rides including Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway, with the catchiest song, and a Guardian’s ride which Andy went on several times but I didn’t (as I’ve mentioned, I don’t like rollercoasters). That one was so new you had to join a virtual queue via the app and then you were given a time later in the day, which worked pretty well.

Porg mug and in Trader Sam’s

We also went to a few fun places including the Star Wars bar in the land (Oga’s Canteen?) where we had our drinks in Porg mugs (so cute) and DJ Rex plays tunes, and Trader Sam’s Grotto (based on Jungle Cruise, one of my favourite rides for all the puns). This was my favourite as fun things happened all the time. If someone ordered a certain drink, the volcano you could see through the windows erupted, and one of the drinks was zombie themed and so the server came over with googly eye glasses on. Hard to explain but it was really enjoyable.

Frozen ride, meeting Olaf, Norway ears on in Norway land and the snow at the sing along Frozen

Of course we had traditional Disney fun too- lots of Frozen action including sing a long Frozen, meeting Olaf and going on the Frozen ride every time we went to Epcot! Sing along Frozen sounds better than it is as there are two “historians” who talk you through it in a very funny way. I bought some Norway ears from Epcot, as I had packed my Frozen ones but they have sequins on the band and at one point a photographer asked me to take them off for a photo and they were so very tangled in my hair.

We were not sure how the new fastpass system would work (Genie+), but it was OK. You now have to select your park in advance, and can only hop after 2pm. You had to log on to the app at 7am to see what was available in the park you were going to, but every 2 hours you could get a new one, or when you went into the queue for the one you had booked. You could only do one of each ride each day, so if we did Frozen at 10am we could not book another lightning lane for that ride that day, but as we tended to go to a different park in the afternoon it meant we pretty much didn’t queue (apart from for Rise and Avatar which you had to).

I also had fun posing with the various images and statues around the parks. When we first arrived a few of the Pride things were still up- I loved those rainbow balloons.

In our final few days, the autumn decorations started appearing in the parks too, as they would be hosting the first of their Halloween parties (they start those in August!). I love seeing all the pumpkins- they were all so themed with where they were, for example ice creams carved into the one above the ice cream shop.

And of course I had to get a few cups for my collection. I was happy to see the Epcot Starbucks one as in Paris they had been out of stock, although I’m glad I bought it when I did as by the end of our trip they had sold out.

Once we were staying in Disney I did a few runs each week, around the lake by the hotel, and parkrun wasn’t an option by then as we didn’t have the car. But it was good to have a cut back on mileage I am sure, and running in that humidity wasn’t easy.

As always, it went by in a flash, but as always it was a brilliant holiday.

Clermont Waterfront parkrun- reclaiming my USA flag!

Back in 2015 I ran at Crissy Fields parkrun in San Francisco (my first parkrun tourism as I’d only run at St Albans and Panshanger before then), but sadly it has since closed, and this meant that on the fab parkrun challenges chrome extension I lost my USA flag, as only current events show there.

I’ve wanted to run at Clermont Waterfront for years, but have never managed to sort the logistics (our last 2 Florida holidays were for one week and so the only Saturday was the Saturday that we were leaving, and one of those was spent with us taking part in a Run Disney event). But this time, it all worked out! We flew into Tampa on the Tuesday morning, and had a hire car for the first week, and Andy had agreed to drive me.

So, logistics first. There’s not public transport available, and it was around a 35/40 minute drive from where we were staying (just to the west of the WDW gates). WDW covers a huge area so depending on where you are staying it could take much longer. I had looked at ubers before, but I don’t have roaming so would not be able to get one for the way back. Car seems to be the only real way of getting there. It starts at 7:30am due to the heat, so something else to remember!

Sunrise on arrival and the flags at the finish funnel

The directions on the website were excellent. I had read that they had two different routes, and was slightly worried after reading a post on the UK parkrun tourist facebook page where the people ended up on the wrong side of the lake, but I needn’t have worried. They use the same car park for both routes, and the Lake Hiawatha Preserve car park was easy to find via google maps. We double checked that the route matched up with their directions (West on HWY 50/ Turn right onto 12th Street) and all was good. I wanted to get there in plenty of time, so we left at around 6.30am and arrived just after 7am, as the sun was rising over the lake. Beautiful.

With regards to facilities, there was a big car park opposite the start, and just down from the start was a block containing toilets, as well as drinking water fountains. These blocks were repeated along the lake shore too.

There were no worries about finding the start- I could see the parkrun flag from the turning into the car park and the finish funnel had already been set up, decorated with flags from all over the world.

Run briefing, sign on the path and a few views from the start

So, onto the morning! As the sun was just coming up, we walked to the lake to watch it (and look for alligators), and then I wandered over to the start area. I chatted to a few people who turned out to be locals, and then listened to the new runners welcome. It was a simple out and back route, with a downward slope before the turnaround point to help you work out where it would be.

I decided to have a quick dash to the toilets before it started, as I had more water than usual before we left (because it was just so hot and humid there)- at around 7:23 am I was deciding if I had enough time, but the blocks were so close and no queues so it was all fine and I was back before the main briefing started.

It was lovely to have lots of tourists as it felt like a holiday event, but equally there were lots of locals there too- a nice balance. There were lots of runners from the Clermont triathlon club and from Clermont runners listed on the results. Fun fact- someone in my running club did a triathlon there. I asked her about alligators and she said that they had put food on the bank on the other side to tempt them over, and also there were trained marksmen in boats while they swam (a few km- not just a dash in the water either)- I do not think that would convince me!

Leading up to this, we’d been in Florida for a few days but I am not sure how well I ever adjust to the heat. It was mid to high 30’s with such high humidity (average is 80% but it had been much higher that week) that I knew I just had to run gently to finish it. This was a run to enjoy the scenery and not a run to go for a specific time. One of the regular runners asked me if I had run in Florida before- I think they were worried about Brits abroad struggling and underestimating the heat/ humidity combo.

Anyway, we were soon off and I was just loving the scenery. Running by water is always fantastic, and this was no different. The path was wide, with 4 lanes marked on it- the outside two for walkers/runners and the inside two for cyclists. It was busy with other people as well as parkrunners, but it soon thinned out.

Look how beautiful! 

I kept the steady pace, and took a few photos while I was running. The path started off being shady, but then the trees disappeared and I was thankful of my sunglasses (and wishing I’d remembered my visor). I didn’t see any marshals on the way, and at one point felt slightly lost as there were a few paths to choose from, with runners and walkers on all of them. I chose to keep closest to the lake, which turned out to be correct, and I soon saw the 2 mile sign pointed in the opposite direction so I knew I was still in the correct place. There was a marshal at the turnaround point (a very enthusiastic one it must be said) and there were more signs on the way back. Near to the part where I nearly got lost was a sign with an arrow showing parkrunners to go straight one. I could have done with that on the way!

As it was an out and back, lots of the faster runners were heading back before I reached the turnaround point, and lots of them were waving and being very friendly – it had a good atmosphere. I was feeling the humidity by that point so made myself stop and take a few photos every now and then. I didn’t want to get to the point where I just wanted it to be over, because I’d looked forward to it for so long.

Coming towards the finish funnel was brilliant, as lots of people who had finished were hanging about and cheering the runners in. There was a board to hold (rather than a selfie frame) saying “I completed Clermont Waterfront parkrun”- I took the photo for someone else and then asked if the next person would take mine for me- it turned into a little queue!

So, that was my 87th different location, parkrun number 282, and as mentioned previously, I have reclaimed my USA flag!

I was absolutely drenched in sweat- I’ve never seen my top so wet through. I had worn a buff on my wrist which I used to frequently wipe my face, but I had to sit on it on the car journey back! My time was 33:58, which for a flat course is on the slow side for me, but I think I was sensible because I was not used to running in that heat. We had packed some rehydration tabs to take with us anyway, so I’d put one in a bottle of water and put that in the car so I could drink it on the way back to the hotel.

Do you have any parkruns on your bucket list?

July – junior parkruns, the vegan market and trying to keep cool!

Stanborough lakes as seen on my run, a cinnamon roll from the local vegan market, iced tea and the Euro’s, Starbucks plant based cheese toastie.

July was hot! I don’t think you need me to remind you of that. Climate change is real and it is awful.

So, how did I try to keep cool during July? Mainly, running first thing before it got too hot, or in the week of the crazy 40C, not running at all. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke is dangerous, and I saw no point in going for a run when it was already over 20C at 6am as I would not have a chance to cool down at work. I did go on a few early morning walks but that was enough.

Of course iced tea was good for cooling down too. We often cold-brew fruity tea (basically add fruit tea and cold water to a bottle, pop into the fridge and leave to infuse during the day)- and this was a lovely refreshing drink to have in the evenings.

I kept seeing that Starbucks now do a plant based toastie (cheese and tomato) and I really love a toastie and it is something I miss since being vegan. (A cold falafel wrap just doesn’t seem like as much as a treat as a hot toastie, although if they could replicate the delicious Pret hummus chipotle wrap then I would choose that over anything else). One Sunday I decided to walk into town and treat myself to one to see what they were like. It was really good, but of course it was a baking hot day so I got really hot on the walk home!

One weekend the vegan market was in town- we missed it last time, so I was keen to get there. There were loads of amazing looking food stalls, but I could not resist a cinnamon roll. It was more of a pastry than a dough-like roll, but very delicious. And let me remind you that if you convert to a vegan diet you will reduce your carbon footprint by around 40%. Even if you don’t care about the ethics of animal agriculture, it really is so important to look at the bigger picture of how we can limit climate change. 51 per cent of worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions can be attributed to animal agriculture. So maybe give it a go…

Early run/walk scenes, foot soak and ridiculous temperatures

I was given this Tropic foot soak a while back and discovered that sitting with your feet in cold water (plus some of the soak) was another good way to cool down in the evenings.

Haircut, end of term flowers, trying my tea blend and junior parkrun course

I’ve been a fairly regular visitor to our local junior parkrun too- our niece and nephew have been enjoying it and as it’s less than a mile from home it’s been easy to head down and meet them. Typically I’ve gone out on a run first (before it got too hot) and Andy has walked down and we’ve all met at the start. In the winter I may opt to have my run after as then it would at least be light.

Burgess parkrun- a last minute decision and a panic jog

Burgess parkrun scenes including the lake that you run around

On the 15th July I was in London and so of course looked for a new parkrun to go to. Initially I had pencilled in Highbury Fields because it was fairly easy to get to (tube to Angel and then a mile walk up the high street), however due to the heat there were loads of issues with the trains and on Friday night when I checked, Angel station was closed and had been all day. I was also fairly near to Burgess (a couple of tube stops to Elephant and Castle, then a mile walk along Walworth Road), so opted for that. The journey planner said that the tube would only take 3 minutes, so I left later than I should have done. By the time I had walked through London Bridge station to the tube, time was getting on, and I came out at E&C at nearly quarter to 9! That didn’t give me a long time to get to the park and I was starting to panic about missing it. I thought I knew which way I needed to go as I’d looked at a map, but to be certain I looked at the maps on my phone but it was directing me to go a different way, so rather than risking running in the wrong direction I ran into a Sainsbury’s and asked a very helpful member of staff. Thankfully she pointed me in the right direction (the way I thought I needed to go until I checked my phone) and I made it to the park just as they called for the new runners welcome. Phew.

The route looked a little complicated online, and I had read on the excellent Blog 7t (amazing if you are a parkrun tourist) that you could get lost, but in the welcome they specifically said that you could not get lost on this course. Here’s hoping!

In fact it was pretty simple- basically a lollipop course, so out, around the lake, then back again. There were lots of marshals and I have to say that they were so enthusiastic (it reminded me of Ellenbrook Fields in that sense)- some of them were stood on benches but they were all whooping and cheering- not easy as some of them were in the full sun too.

As I got close to the lake the faster runners were heading back, but it didn’t ever feel congested (there were 322 runners that day to fairly busy). It was very hot that day, and the RD had warned everyone to take it easy. Some of the course had shade, but some was across open grassland so it was baking hot there. It is very flat though so on a cooler day it would be good for chasing a fast time. I somehow managed to finish in under 30 minutes which for a hot day was good for me.

In the out and back portion you ran through an underpass, and it had some interesting artworks, so once I had finished I walk/jogged back to take a look before heading back to the station. It had all these boats to commemorate the canal that was there (but had been filled in), some had things like wooden bottles carved into them (there used to be an R Whites warehouse in this location so it commemorated that too). I could also see The Shard across the park too- it really is quite central.

I was so pleasantly surprised by the park in general- I hadn’t been there before and didn’t know what to expect, but it had lots of interesting features including lots of wildflower meadows and flower beds, tennis courts, and a very nice looking café.  Check out Blog 7t if you want to find out more about the history of the park.

That was my 280th parkrun and my 86th different venue- ever so slowly creeping towards the next milestone!

A weekend in London- tea blending, Hamilton and Reasons to Be Cheerful pod

For Christmas, Andy gave me a voucher for a tea blending workshop from Bird and Blend Tea co (my fave tea shop), and one Friday in July I went to one of the events. (They have them fairly often at their shops but as we are not that local to one it involved travelling into London after work so logistically was a bit tricky to sort).

For Andy’s birthday I had booked tickets for Hamilton, and that was on the Saturday, so we opted to stay in a hotel for the Friday.

The workshop was at 6:30 so I had to head to the train station straight from work, and Andy met me having ordered an early dinner of pizza. (He had also been to the Crosstown cart close to the station and got us a doughnut to share later, and some of their cinnamon scroll almond butter which I have been keen to try). We had time for a short walk around Borough Market before I went in to the shop.

I was a little apprehensive as I was going there on my own, and when I got there everyone else was in pairs/ couples, but it was all so friendly and welcoming that I didn’t feel odd being by myself. During the evening you can have tea cocktails (or mocktails) or any of the teas they make, so I went for an iced chai (because theirs is amazing). There was a little warm up matching game to play when we arrived, matching up samples of tea to their type, and we impressed them by getting them all correct!

When we arrived each person had their name tag given to them, along with a tote bag containing some samples (including a pouch of their Bucks Fizz tea because a couple of people were celebrating birthdays), paper to make notes on and the empty pouches for blending.

Throughout  the evening we were given samples (one of each type of tea, eg one fruity  tea, one green tea), some were hot,  some cold brewed in water or lemonade, and even had a proper matcha demo, whisking it up first before letting us try one pure matcha and one flavoured topped with coconut milk.

Finally, we got to make our  own blends. They had tins of base tea (black, green, rooibos, white etc) and then add ins (rose petals, chai spices, lemon peel- all sorts).

I decided I would do one black tea, one rooibos and one fruity, as those are my favourite types. I really love their Belle’s Breakfast tea (black tea with rose petals) so I made my own even more floral version with rose, lavender and cocoa shells. I added chai spices and cardamom to my rooibos base, and then did a mix for hopefully cold-brew tea with hibiscus, chamomile, rose, orange peel, lemon thyme and lemongrass.

Special cinnamon scroll almond butter plus the tote bag and my tea blends

At the very end we could also purchase anything from the shop with a discount, and handily we needed some top ups so I bought a few too- the tote bag was very handy then!

I thoroughly enjoyed it and would happily do another one at some point too.

It was super hot that weekend (it was just before the ridiculous climate change heatwave) so the air con in the hotel room was very much enjoyed as we shared our doughnut!

Saturday morning was of course parkrun day, but I will get to that on another post as this will be too long otherwise. After checking out of the hotel we had a wander around the centre, getting sandwiches from Pret and eating them by the river before walking  to the theatre to see Hamilton. This was our third time of seeing it and it is still just as impressive- the energy from the performers is intense and it was just fantastic to see a live show.

London in the sunshine, cool sculpture at Kings Place, junior parkrun and Hamilton set

Sunday started at junior parkrun. I was going to meet my niece and nephew there again (they’ve been enjoying it) but they were not well, so I offered to volunteer. I ended up doing the funnel manager job, which I’d not done before. We only had 39 runners and not many coming in at the same time so it was not too tricky to keep track, but I think I’d find it very stressful at a busier event.

Then we were off to London in the afternoon again, this time to go to see Reasons to be Cheerful podcast at Kings Place (right by Kings Cross station). It’s a really nice venue- we’ve seen a few podcasts there- and the discussion was really interesting (it’s called Cabinet of Chaos if you are interested)- a range of guests in the first part and then Sadiq Khan in the second part.

What is your favourite show to go and see?