Back To The Magic!

Last year my sister and I were fortunate amidst a sea of cancelled plans to be able to take one of our planned trips to Disneyland Paris, and when sharing details of the trip I included the above image. Little was I to know at that time that we would have another extended period of Lockdown in Scotland (including a return to working from home and the new skill of teaching live lessons online) that would put paid to much in the way of advance planning for 2021. The bite-sized Disney fix of the Magic at Sea cruise (you can read about that here, here and here) certainly helped me to feel better, but it also whetted my appetite for a more sustained dose of pixie dust. With the rules around travel and testing easing a little bit, we were able to make a pretty last-minute decision to visit Disneyland Paris for a few days at the beginning of my October break from school. As it turns out, it was just what I needed and the sentiment in the above picture remains very much true!

I mentioned a few trip highlights in a recent Week in Review post, but I wanted to take the time to share some more of the details – including the Covid-related measures in place at the time of my trip – and share some photos. If you love Disney then this is the post for you (and if not, I won’t hold it against you if you skip this one!)

At the time of writing only fully vaccinated travellers are allowed to enter France, so our vaccination status was checked at the airport before boarding our flight. It was also checked at passport control once we landed in France. To be honest, it was the removal of the need for a test before returning home and the strict rules around vaccination status that made me feel comfortable to take this trip. We both downloaded the French app Tous Anti Covid, which we were able to use with our NHS Scotland QR code from our vaccination records. Although we could have used paper copies (and no doubt our Scottish Covid Status app) this made everything much easier once in France as the vaccination status was verified at the security check points to enter Disney, at our hotel and at the airport again before boarding our flight back, so having it readily available on our phones meant much less rummaging around for papers.  Entry to so many places in France (including public transport, so there were spot checks on the TGV) required a Pass Sanitaire (Health Pass), which basically means you have a QR code proving full vaccination (or, in the case of those not old enough to have been fully vaccinated, proof of a negative PCR test less than 72 hours old). This meant I felt comfortable being around lots of people – more so than at work since I knew that everybody had a valid Health Pass, had a mask on and a degree of social distancing was still in operation. (You can read more about the current health and safety measures at Disneyland Paris here.)

Beyond the Health Pass, capacity at the Disney parks is still reduced so a reservation continues to be required in addition to your park ticket. My sister still has the world’s longest-lasting Annual Pass (time was added on to make up for the periods of park closure) so she had booked her slots and reserved Privilege Tickets for me. These are 1 day, 2 park tickets at a significantly reduced rate which are associated with an Annual Pass and must be collected and paid for on the day they are reserved for. It meant a brief queue each day to get my tickets, but it was worth it for the price and the fact that it also allowed me to join my sister in entering the parks early for Extra Magic Hours. I will get an Annual Pass of my own when the time is right since that was my plan in 2020, but with such a late decision to go the Privilege Tickets were the best option this time.

We were through the turnstiles and in the main park around midday, which was about what we expected. With the early start and travelling we hadn’t really eaten so knew we should make our way towards our chosen lunch venue (Cafe Hyperion in Discoveryland), but also knew that it might take a bit of time as we would inevitably take lots of photos along the way (and something about seeing the castle and hearing that Main Street music always means I need to pause for a little Disney cry!). Basically we needed food, but we also needed a moment to take in the surroundings of this special place which was all decked out for Halloween.









When we made it over to Cafe Hyperion (a big enough space that we could feel comfortable eating indoors) we found that each restaurant had a QR code to scan which added that location to our Tous Anti Covid app – a but like scanning in/out of venues at home for Test and Trace. If you aren’t using the app, I believe you can simply right down your details much as you would here. Menus were also available via QR code, displayed inside and were in the Disneyland Paris app. We both opted for the Wickedly Delicious Menu (a burger with red cabbage pickles, rocket, tomato and a barbecue sauce all served on a darker bun, fries, a drink and a Wickedly Sweet Apple dessert – an apple mousse with stewed apple filling). It was pretty good.









We also noticed that each table had a large pump bottle of hand sanitiser on it, and we found this to be true of everywhere we ate during our trip (there were still sanitiser stations around each attraction too). And interestingly, the disposable cutlery has been changed from plastic to wooden in a bid to reduce single use plastics.

Stomachs satisfied, we headed off to see how many attractions we could fit in, starting with nearby Mickey’s Philharmagic. I love this 4D show anyway, but a new scene has recently been added which features Coco and I was keen to see it. The colours were so vibrant and I really liked it. I wish we could have found time to fit in a second viewing. Next time!

We also checked off Buzz Lightyear (“broken” gun for me as usual 😂), Snow White, It’s a Small World, Le Pays de Contes de Fées, Casey Jr, and Pirates of the Caribbean.

On our travels we managed to see one of the cavalcades and I was really pleased that it was the one with the fire-breathing Maleficent dragon.

And we visited some of the selfie spots – the Princess Pavilion (currently a photo op with the red throne), the villains by the castle stage and we spotted Mr Smee as we came out of Pirates of the Caribbean.









But by far the best was Jack Skellington who was meeting guests over by the Phantom Manor. Such an amazing interaction with him – “horrible” to meet you too, Jack!

Throughout our trip we also used the Photopass service (my sister added that to her AP) which is still being done in a contactless fashion with guests setting their pass on a stand to be scanned. The difference this year is that at designated outdoor photo spots you may now remove your mask once in position for your photo (and distanced from others) so you will see me maskless in some outdoor photos (although usually I had to be reminded by cast members that this was ok to do!). The Photopass also allowed us to claim our ride photos. Last year if anyone in the picture was maskless then nobody was allowed it, but this year they were digitally adding masks to those who had removed them (tut tut!), so those of us sticking to the rules didn’t miss out on photos. We knew there were a number of Photopass Magic Shots for Halloween so made sure to get all the ones that were available during our visit.

For dinner we went to one of my sister’s favourite spots, Fuente del Oro in Frontierland, where we got a beef burrito, drink and some churros with Nutella. Yum!

It was then time to ride Phantom Manor (the Disneyland Paris version of the Haunted Mansion from the American parks) which is one of my favourites. And since I was wearing my Haunted Mansion ears (yes, I brought a couple of pairs from home this time!) I needed a quick photoshoot outside of the manor afterwards.

By this time we were ready to have a look in the shops on Main Street, say goodnight to Mickey and Minnie who were above us on the train station and head off to find the free shuttle bus to our hotel.

We made sure to arrive early on the Tuesday in order to take advantage of the Extra Magic early entry we had. Our plan for the day was to begin in the Walt Disney Studios then hop on over to the main park later in the day, but there was no early entry to WDS at the time. Instead, we enjoyed seeing the characters greeting us in the main park, headed over to the selfie spot with Max (Goofy’s son) and made sure to ride Big Thunder Mountain while it was quiet (the queues for that one can stay stubbornly long later in the day).

After that, it was time to go over to the Studios and this meant a second greeting of the day, this time from Mickey Mouse.

Attraction-wise we prioritised our favourites – Ratatouille and Tower of Terror. We also went on the new Cars Road Trip ride, went to a drawing class in the Art of Animation building and took photos with the villains and some of the Toy Story stars.









There were also a couple of fun new Toy Story murals which make for some great photos.

By this time we were about ready to head back to the main park, so we got a Photopass picture (which they made look “old time-y”, had a quick snack break (a Halloween cookie) then switched park.

We had a reservation for something to eat later in the afternoon, but there was plenty of time for some attractions before that. We began with a trip around the park on the Railroad since we hadn’t managed to fit it in on our previous trip and prior to that it was closed for a while. This gave some interesting views of the park and I would enjoy doing it again. We also went to a couple of selfie spots, first with the Star Wars characters (my sister had a BB-8 themed outfit on and the reaction of the Stormtroopers was amazing!) and then with Eeyore who happened to be right outside the restaurant we were heading to for dinner.

Our reservation was at Plaza Gardens which would ordinarily be a buffet, but when we visited it was a fixed price three course meal. We were greeted at the door to check in for contact tracing, then moved forward to pay for our meal, order our drinks (included in the price since we chose soft drinks) and wait to be seated. Again, the menu was in the app but we were also given a paper copy which we could take with us or it would be disposed of later. I’m glad we saved ours since the restaurant has since reverted to a buffet so we have a souvenir that captures that time when things were different.

We opted for the selection of starters to share. For the main course I chose the Halloween offering which was pork with a pumpkin stuffing, slightly spicy sauce and served with crispy sweet potato gnocchi. (there was supposed to also be mushrooms, but our reservations was right at the end of service for the day and they had run out). Again, we went with the shared dessert selection which was very photogenic (and delicious!).

It wasn’t quite park closing time when we finished, so we took a walk over to Pirates of the Caribbean. Looking at the wait times we thought we would have enough time to ride that then nip over to Phantom Manor – basically two favourites to round off the day. But it was not to be.

During our ride on Pirates the boats did get a little backed up. This happens sometimes so we weren’t too concerned, but after we had completed the actual ride and were just waiting for our boat to enter the unloading dock, everything stopped and the lights came on. This was when we realised something was definitely wrong. We’re fairly certain they tried the ride equivalent of switching it off, giving it a minute and restarting, but to no avail. Everyone on the ride was going to have to be rescued!

I’m not going to lie, as someone who knows the Disney parks well and has experienced a lot of the rides before, getting rescued from a ride has been on my wish list of experiences for a while now. In some respects it was quite good – we had completed the ride, it was the end of the day so the delay wasn’t really cutting into our park time (it was probably only about half an hour all in from when we got stopped to when we exited the show building) and we were perfectly comfortable passing the time chatting to the group seated in front of us.

I’ll not go too much into the details of the rescue in case anyone doesn’t want to know much of what happens behind the scenes, but it involved a cast member in waders (we were in a boat ride after all, therefore there was water) and the use of a long pole to reach one of the rescue docks which lead into an emergency exit. These docks are well disguised throughout the ride so under normal ride operations you don’t really notice them. We emerged from the building in a backstage area and were directed back into the park by waiting cast members. We then made our way back to Main Street (too late for Phantom Manor now) and out into the Disney Village for a little shopping before heading back to the hotel for the evening. Of course we had been updating family back home throughout our experience so they were all interested to hear more about what had happened.

Our final day in the parks together began in a very similar fashion – greeted by the characters on our way in, a selfie spot (this time with Stitch – love him!) and another ride on Big Thunder Mountain while the wait was short. It is another favourite attraction after all.

Our main aim for the day was to visit as many of the character selfie spots as we could as well as any rides we hadn’t yet been on and repeating a few favourites. The rides we went on included Phantom Manor, Hyperspace Mountain (I’m not a massive fan of rollercoasters with inversions, but the Star Wars theming is so cool!), Star Tours, Buzz Lightyear and Pirates of the Caribbean (this time without incident 😂).

We also had great success with meeting characters: The Queen of Hearts, King Louie, Mickey & Minnie (dressed for a fiesta), Chip ‘n’ Dale (twice!), Tigger, Mickey & Pluto (in their Halloween garb), Jack Skellington (because he had been so good the previous time) and Goofy. Although these were socially distanced meets, all were excellent and I really enjoyed the interactions with these characters who all did such a good job of making it feel like that distance wasn’t there.

Along the way we stopped for one of my favourite snacks  – a Mickey waffle with Nutella and bottle of Tropico. I just love these! It’s fast becoming one of my rules (alongside wearing Minnie ears) to have a Mickey-shaped food at least once on every trip.









We also had time to take some photos around the park, starting in Frontierland with it’s Coco-inspired decor for Halloween.

And we got the remaining Halloween Photopass Magic Shots we wanted:









We also had a stroke of luck whilst waiting to see Chip ‘n’ Dale in Fantasyland. The characters left and a cast member let us know that it was only for a few minutes as the Princess cavalcade was about to come through – and the cavalcades come out precisely where we were standing in our roped off queue so we were in the perfect spot to see it!

We ate in the early evening at another of our favourite quick service locations, Hakuna Matata. It’s got plenty of seating so we were able to remain well away from other parties while we ate. I chose a meal deal of beef meatballs in a tomato sauce served with rice, another Tropico and a mini Magnum ice cream. I may also have helped my sister to finish her sweet corn fries 😳

By this point in the day we were ready to finish up the last of our shopping and head out. But another stroke of luck occurred whilst we were in the Emporium on Main Street. I had been lamenting the fact that we had not caught the other Halloween cavalcade, Illusion Manor, but as we browsed the store we heard music from outside on Main Street. My sister nipped out to see what was happening and came back to beckon me out, exclaiming that there was a huuuuge float coming along the street. I set down the items I had picked up and dashed out in time to catch the very cavalcade I had hoped to see! I couldn’t believe my luck that I saw it right as my time in the park was coming to an end – perfect timing.









Fortunately the items I had set down were still waiting when we went back inside a moment later (and it appeared we were not the only ones who had ditched stuff to run outside!) so we were able to make our purchases and begin heading back to the hotel. As usual, I had a few new bits and pieces to get packed in my bag!

Yet again this was a fantastic trip. For me, Disney continues to be a place of fantasy and escapism, thus fulfilling Walt’s original vision for the parks, and I need it more than ever these days.. The real world continues to be a difficult place, but once in that magical bubble it’s easy to forget these things and focus on fun. Some aspects were a little different to last time – the Health Pass, for example – but in the main the safety measures in place were very similar: hand sanitiser, the wearing of face masks (I saw this being enforced by cast members), and reminders about social distancing. I did notice that many people were less vigilant about social distancing in attraction queues, but there was always enough room that I could take responsibility for myself and leave some space in front. I’m sure other guests would have given me more space if I had asked, but in all honesty the Health Pass made me feel much more confident than last time about having people a little closer. In actual fact, the week after we were there the French regulations eased enough that social distancing is no longer required in the same way, and the distancing markers are now being removed around the parks, so I guess we were there in the final week that it was still part of the measures. For similar reasons, I was also more comfortable with indoor dining this time, but did make sure to choose a table reasonably far from others – baby steps!

If you have a trip planned (or are thinking of booking) then I can still recommend going just now. Things are changing all the time and as they do, more and more of the “old” ways can return. An example would be that we now have dates for the return of parades and fireworks for the first time since the parks closed in March 2020 and I can’t wait to see them. I would definitely recommend that you do your homework in order to have a stress-free trip: watch vlogs, join relevant Facebook groups to chat to others about their recent experiences and, above all, keep a close eye on relevant government advice around travel, testing and any admin you need to do such as the current Sworn Statement to enter France and Passenger Locator Form to return to the UK. None of these things are difficult, but I can vouch for the fact that they can cause a little anxiety when dealing with them for the first time – I lost count of the number of times we checked and double-checked that we had done everything! I think some of these measures will be around for a while yet, so we just need to get used to that being part of our planning alongside having a valid passport, EHIC/GHIC and insurance if we want to travel. In time it will just be part of the routine.

Who knows how things will go with Covid over the winter, but I’m really hoping to get back to DLP in the first half of 2022. I’ve got to have something to dream about, right? I’ll be keeping my fingers crossed that I can see my favourite Mouse again real soon.

Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 72

The arrival of August usually heralds the final countdown to the new school year, but this year it brought a bit of excitement as I was FINALLY going away for a little trip. You might remember that on the very first day of the school holidays I spent some time with my sister making a booking, but I kept the details of what we were planning very much under wraps as any travel right now carries an element of “peril” in terms of the impact Covid might have and we knew that our plans could very easily be derailed. If you happen to follow me on instagram then you might already know what we got up to and I’ll share more in the course of this post. Never fear, the running streak is still very much alive, but being away meant limited workouts and yoga in this particular week – totally worth it!

Monday – 4.5 miles + Hatha yoga via Zoom
Tuesday – 6.5 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Wednesday – 1 mile
Thursday – 3.3(ish) miles
Friday – 3.3(ish) miles
Saturday – (not)parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 8 miles

Before any of the excitement started, I had a couple of days of the normal routine (and a little bit of getting organised). Monday began with some reading in bed then I made sure to check over the weekly scavenger hunt list before heading out for my run. I was keen to get this wrapped up over Monday and Tuesday as I wouldn’t get another chance to hunt until Saturday. I actually got quite a lot of it done on my run and Steve found a couple more items when he was out and about later in the morning.

After my run I had some bits and pieces to do around the house then after lunch I had an appointment. I took the chance while I was out to run a couple of errands in town, pick up my free coffee with my Vitality voucher and fill my car up with petrol. I had planned a few chores around the house in the afternoon, but my sister popped round on her way home from some errands of her own and I was perfectly happy to abandon doing housework in favour of talking to her haha!

By the time we were done I needed to get ready for yoga and get set up on Zoom for the class. Relaxing and grounding as ever. And my day was rounded off nicely by finishing up Behind The Attraction on Disney+. If you enjoyed The Imagineering Story then you should definitely watch this one, especially if you’re a Disney parks fan. I had heard some of the attraction facts and history before, but I enjoy being reminded of them and it was very entertaining (even if it did make me want to get to a Disney park!).

I set my alarm sharp for Tuesday morning as part of a grand plan to make sure I felt tired enough to fall asleep that night ahead of a SUPER early start on Wednesday. I also wanted to give myself plenty of time to do all the things I needed/wanted to before going away – method in my madness!

I did read a bit of my book while enjoying a cup of tea, but was out the door for my run about an hour earlier than has been my holiday habit. I have been doing the Running For Real Together Runs on Wednesdays of late, but decided to listen during this run otherwise I didn’t think I would manage to fit it in. Once again, we began by touching something in the natural world and were also encouraged to do this at the end of our run. I actually ran on a bit to touch a tree since as I came to the end of the podcast the only way I could have touched nature would have been to put my hand into somebody’s garden and that would definitely have been a bit weird!

Next up, getting organised to go away. No matter how long/short a trip, it always takes me longer than I think it will as I make decisions about what I need and check everything off my list. Although I was only going to be away for two nights, I knew I would need clothes for during the day and a change for evening, plus the weather was looking a bit iffy so I needed a couple of options just in case. At least I knew my luggage was being kept secure until I left 😹

I also wanted to take an at-home lateral flow (antigen) test before I set off to make sure that I was testing negative. Taking them twice weekly when school resumes in the middle of the month will continue to be encouraged and I will also want to take tests after my trip so at this point I was basically committing to twice weekly testing again for the foreseeable future – bleurgh!

We took advantage of the dry weather to have a workout in the garden with the good old TRX and press up bars. I could feel my deep core muscles were still weary from the week before, so I guess it must be making a difference. I also had time for some yoga (back indoors) before dinner. We watched a little tv then I made sure to get to bed early so I could try and get some sleep before my middle of the night alarm call!

As it turned out, I had a hard time sleeping. I wasn’t actually nervous about being away from home, but my head was spinning with all the things that were going to happen the following day, so when my alarm went off (ridiculously early) I truly only had been asleep for a couple of hours.

When we went on our miracle trip to Disneyland Paris last August, I ran a mile (around the block) before setting off and although it seems a little crazy, I actually found that it made me feel awake and probably helped me keep on going through the day. This time I did something very similar, running early enough for Strava to designate my activity a “night run” haha!

I was due to pick my sister up at 3:45am (!!) and the first hurdle was discovering that nobody was up. Cue me trying to wake my sister without waking my parents (and I didn’t have a key to their house with me). Thankfully I managed and our departure did not turn into scenes reminiscent of Home Alone 😂

But where were we off to? I hear you ask. Well in the first instance, a very empty Edinburgh airport where we were getting a 6:45am flight to Southampton. Once there, we had a bit of time to kill before boarding the Disney Magic for one of their UK Staycation cruises (please note: I am still irritated by this new usage of “staycation”, which seems to imply that only foreign trips can be considered a holiday/vacation, thus devaluing all my childhood holidays spent in the UK, but this was the official title of these cruises so I feel obliged to use it). We had jumped through all of the hoops we had to in advance with regard to online check-in and health requirements (as you know, i have been super cautious but I was very comfortable with the measures put in place here), and had been following the countdown in the Disney Cruise Line app. It was so satisfying to see it reach zero and thought it was really cure that they used characters in place of the digit!

Our flight was soooooo empty! We flew with Loganair, a regional airline, on a teeny tiny aircraft with about 14 people total (plus one cabin attendant). Their modified in-flight service meant a small carton of water and a caramel wafer (jackpot!) so I’m assuming that in normal times we would have been offered tea/coffee with our biscuit.

Once reunited with our suitcases, we headed into the station (next door to the airport in Southampton) to catch a train into town, a journey of less than 10 minutes. We had been debating whether or not we would need a taxi to the port or whether we would be able to walk (our research suggested it was about 2 miles and we had LOADS of time) but when we stepped out of the station and crossed over the road to join the path for the short walk along to the shopping centre (we needed breakfast!) we spotted this:

Definitely walking then!

Of course it was still fairly early, but the shops were beginning to open so we checked out our options for breakfast. We fancied something filling since we had been up for ages (and an early start ALWAYS makes you really hungry!) but the place we wanted wasn’t opening for a while yet. We decided to wait and found ourselves a place to sit and relax for a while.

We went to a place called Ed’s Diner to eat. It was new to me but my sister had been to one before. Personally, I was sold on the idea of an American-style breakfast so true to form opted for a stack of pancakes, bacon and maple syrup along with a cup of coffee. Perfect!

It was actually really good and I knew that would keep me full until I got on board the ship (where our food was included and I intended to take full advantage!).

Hunger satisfied we set off, luggage in tow, to explore the centre of Southampton a bit. I had no idea what to expect but I really liked it. I got the impression that it was a very historic place, particularly when it came to maritime history, but I also found some Jane Austen references which really interested me. It’s a place I’d love to return to again in future to explore a bit more.

It was quite a warm day and we soon tired of wandering around with our suitcases so we grabbed some drinks and found a nice spot outside to sit and wait until it was time to head for the port. This meant we could take it in turns to go off for a little wander or go back into the shopping centre for the toilets.

When at long last it was time to head for the port, we set off. It was actually a fairly easy walk but my sister’s maps app was a little misleading, causing me to abandon it and try to navigate simply through sight of the ship. It wasn’t perfect (turns out there was only one way to enter the terminal building we wanted so we came up against a rather inconvenient fence at one point) but we were still there in good time.

I’m going to write separately about the cruise itself so I get can into more detail (and share LOADS of photos) but I will include an outline here in case that’s all you’re looking for.

Once at the port we handed over our cases and began making our way through the embarkation process: rapid Covid tests, check in, then a short wait for our boarding group to be called. All in, with a port arrival time of 2pm it took just over an hour to reach the departure lounge and we were on board around 3:25pm. It was only when I saw this that I finally relaxed, knowing we were DEFINITELY doing this!

We made it to our stateroom fairly quickly then headed off to explore the ship a bit.

We were on second sitting for dinner so at 6pm we watched the show, then got changed and freshened up to eat. It was a super long day and by the time we ate dinner, headed out on deck to watch a show there then returned to our stateroom to go to bed, my Apple Watch had recorded 20 hours in which I had stood up and moved around for at least a minute (and 2 I missed – one on the flight and one in the evening show). I had pulled a 22 hour day – no wonder I was exhausted!

Despite the long day, I still woke up before my alarm on the Thursday morning. My understanding was that the best way to maximise the cruise experience was to wake up early and go to bed late. Tiring, but I figured I could manage it for this short space of time.

But first things first: a run. By a quirk of timing (fate? pixie dust?) this was actually day 500 of my run streak. I only realised this after we had booked our trip, but it made me really happy to know that I could mark the occasion in such a special place.

Deck 4 of the ship is designated as a walking/running track and I was excited to take my Minnie-inspired kit on deck to run. I knew the forward progress of the ship would mess up the distance recorded by Strava (I cut down on “stuff” by leaving my Garmin at home and just using the Strava app on my Apple Watch) so I simply decided on 10 laps. I’m pretty certain I did 10, but counting laps is actually quite hard!

I was curious about how it would feel to run on a moving vessel, but I hardly noticed it at all. There were one or two others out using the deck but I mostly had it to myself and it was so peaceful. Probably one of the more unusual places I have ever run!

If you’re interested, my GPS track ended up looking like this. Definitely further and faster than I actually did thanks to the fact we were moving!

While I was running my sister used the gym, then we met up again for a light breakfast (we had a brunch booking later that morning so although we needed to eat something, we didn’t want to be too full). Then our day was mostly spent trying to take in as many activities as we could: character encounters, quiz, shopping, eating, generally exploring the ship and taking photos.

In the evening we once again had a show, dinner (in a different dining room) and we rounded off our day with a drink in the piano bar. It was the sort of place that put me in mind of the bar frequented by Karen in Will and Grace haha!

We managed to stay up so late that it was after midnight before we went to bed, yet once again I was awake before my alarm and ready to head out to the running deck again. We were back in port at Southampton by this point so I knew my GPS would be a bit better in keeping track of the distance, but I pretty much repeated my 10 laps from the morning before.

Turns out my watch still had some bother locking in the GPS, so my identical run looked completely different. It reminds me of Mr Messy haha!

Sadly after that it was time to finalise our packing then head off for breakfast prior to debarkation. A real whirlwind trip but I thoroughly enjoyed it.

We actually had a fairly late debark time, probably because the onward travel details we provided showed that our fight back wasn’t until later in the afternoon, so no rush. I did keep letting our servers bring us more food and refill my coffee so as to squeeze out a little longer on board, but eventually we had to leave.

“Sea” ya real soon, Disney!

It was about 10am when we left the ship but we didn’t have to make our way to the airport until around 1pm, so we headed back to the shopping centre where we found a comfortable seat for a while then went for a coffee to pass the time. It was a bit of a pain waiting around, but on the plus side I did complete an experience from last year…

You may remember me doing some “postbox bingo” and I had crossed off all the postbox cyphers available to me. On the way back to the shopping centre from the ship, I spotted a postbox with the Elizabeth II cypher (the one we don’t have in Scotland) so grabbed a picture. Postbox bingo? Completed it! 😂

I arrived home in time for my dinner, whereupon poor Steve was regaled with my tales from the ship, then I needed to get some sleep.

After my adventures at sea Saturday was a real return to reality. I began with a (not)parkrun, but with an air of excitement since this was probably the last (not)parkrun for now. The Scottish Government confirmed our move to “beyond level zero”  from the Monday, thus giving us the final go-ahead for parkrun to return in Scotland. Our home event already had permission in place, so this was the news we were waiting for after 73 Saturdays (73!!!) with no parkrun.

Unsurprisingly, I was pretty tired from my exploits over the previous couple of days, so had a really easy day otherwise, including finishing up my reading from the trip. I do like to theme my reading!

Something fun was opening up a package which had arrived while I was away. I had ordered this mystery box a while back but had been notified that there was a delay because the company wasn’t happy with one of the items. I didn’t mind as this meant they were taking pride in their product and I was happy to wait. I was really pleased with what I got and it was beautifully packaged:

It certainly took the edge off coming home!

Since this fell easily as a cutback week in my mileage, I was happy to keep my Sunday run to 8 miles since I was still feeling tired (I guess a 22 hour day will do that to you!). Having been out at sea I was craving a water view so I opted to run down to the river and follow a route which would take in our parkrun route (I was clearly getting excited about our imminent return!).

I stopped by the noticeboard as I passed back through the park and spotted this, which made me smile.

Other than food shopping (and a lateral flow test – best to make sure after travelling) I had another easy day and finished up the book I had been reading before heading off. Not my usual genre but an interesting idea and I really enjoyed it.

With that, the most exciting week of the entire summer drew to a close. I may have only had a short trip, but it was just what I needed to recharge and feel that Disney magic flowing in my veins once more. If you’d like to read more about my cruise adventure, look out for a separate post soon!

Have you ever been on a cruise or is it something you would like to do?
What’s the most unusual place you have ever run?

Answering Some Disney Parks Questions

Something a little different from me today. I regularly listen to several podcasts on The After Dark Podcast Network including Disney Parks & Beyond, Discover DLP, Mickey Waffles and Disney Dream Girls – got to get my Disney fix somehow in these strange times! Recently several shows on the network had episodes where the hosts discussed their answers to a list of 10 Disney parks questions. I really enjoyed hearing the different answers and discussions, so since listeners were encouraged to think about their own answers, I thought I would use the questions as the basis for a post.

  1. How many times have you visited “the parks” (any Disney parks)?
    For the purposes of this question, a visit was taken to be a trip which incorporated one of the Disney resorts (since counting up visits to individual parks could be pretty tricky!). I’ve been lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World in Florida, Disneyland in California and Disneyland Paris. I needed a little help from my photo albums, but I think my numbers look like this:
    WDW = 17 (1992-1995 with my family; 1999, 2003, 2004, 2006 with my ex; 2008 solo but joining my family once I arrived; 2010 for our honeymoon; 2012-19 with Steve, except 2015. We did visit Florida in 2015 but had a super relaxing trip where we did next to nothing other than hang out by the pool and run, so no park visits). And as a result, a lot of great memories of special moments and things that were only around for a short time/have since been removed:

    Our first visit caught the end of the 20th Anniversary celebrations. I remember watching a daytime spectacular called ‘Surprise in the Skies’ at Epcot.

    Mickey’s Starland became Mickey’s Toontown and is now simply part of the Fantasyland expansion

    River Country. Now abandoned (but perhaps destined to be a DVC resort).

    The millennium decor on Spaceship Earth

    The controversial ear hat at Disney MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios)

    I once made it to MNSSHP.

    The rotating castle display on the front of Cinderella Castle was there for the 50th anniversary of Disneyland and showed images of all the Disney castles.

    Getting to experience lots of new (to me) things when my sister was a CM.


    Mickey and Minnie’s 90th birthday

    Disneyland = 1 (1996, before Disney’s California Adventure existed).

    DLP = 5 (2005 with my ex; 2018&2019 for RunDisney; 2019 with the school, 2020 with my sister).

    Ooft, that’s a lot of Disney park visits!

  2. First time you visited each of the parks?
    WDW 1992. This was supposed to be a “once in a lifetime” trip, one and done. But we had such a good time that no sooner were we back than my parents were booking again for the following year, and the rest is history. Eventually they bought property in the area, hence the frequency of trips.

    Disneyland 1996. I’m not sure what prompted the trip to California after several Florida trips, but I suspect a key driver was the fact that my mum has family out there and wanted to visit. She could remember her grandmother making the trip many many years ago and she wanted to see some of the places she had talked about. My memories of this trip are a little dim now, but I hope one day to visit again.

    DLP 2005. At this point in my life a trip to Florida just wasn’t a possibility, so instead a trip to DLP was on the cards. I remember it was July and the weather was super hot. I really enjoyed my visit but it was a good few years before I visited again as I was going to Florida so often.
  3. Last time you visited a Disney park?
    2020. An absolute miracle! I don’t think any of the podcast hosts had a 2020 visit in their discussion since the parks closed so early in the year and we have been unable to travel to the US for over a year now. Although a number of my Disney plans for 2020 were cancelled, my sister and I did have a long weekend at DLP booked in August which slipped nicely into a brief period of time when we could travel without having to quarantine, so I was able to get my Disney parks fix.
  4. Favourite resort you’ve stayed at, or if you haven’t stayed on property where would you like to stay?
    I’ve only stayed in some of the “budget” resorts. As a family we stayed in the All-Star Music resort at WDW for a few nights some time back in the 90s.

    And for my two RunDisney experiences at DLP we stayed at the Hotel Cheyenne and Hotel Santa Fe respectively.
    I also stayed at the Santa Fe on my very first visit in 2005, but this was before it was Cars-themed.

    I don’t remember much about the WDW resort other than the theming around it and we spent little time at our DLP resorts, so I don’t think I can really choose one of those. Instead, I’m going to tell you about some of the resorts I would like to stay at:
    At WDW I’d love to stay in one of the monorail resorts to have easy access to the Magic Kingdom and ever since my first trip I’ve been fascinated by the Contemporary Resort because of the monorail going right through the middle. I know it wouldn’t be everyone’s first choice and there are certainly “better” resorts, but one day I’d love to have the chance to stay there.
    It’s definitely a dream of mine to return to Disneyland one day – I mean, there’s a whole other theme park I’ve not visited – and while there are fewer hotels there, I think the Grand Californian looks AMAZING!
    Finally, although I’m leaning towards off-site hotels to make DLP trips accessible and budget-friendly, I’d love to stay at the Disneyland Hotel. I would have picked Sequoia Lodge, but I think it’s probably fairly similar to the Grand Californian, so I went with something different to mix things up. I’d never afford a park view room, but being right at the entrance would be a real advantage.
  5. Favourite ride at EACH PARK you’ve visited?
    Oh, this one is hard but at least I’m allowed to break it down to each individual park to make it a tiny bit easier!
    Magic Kingdom: I think I’m going to go for the Haunted Mansion. It’s one of my absolute favourites and I’ll never forgive myself if I don’t pick it somewhere on my list!

    Epcot: Here it’s a toss up between Frozen Ever After and Soarin’ Around the World but I think I’m going to pick Frozen. I love the themed queue line with Wandering Oaken, ride elements such as Sven with his tongue stuck to the ice and, of course, having a boat full of complete strangers all belting out Let it Go!

    Hollywood Studios: I’ve not yet had the opportunity to experience Smugglers Run, Rise of the Resistance or Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway and one of these will almost certainly be my favourite just as soon as I do. In the meantime, I’ll pick the Tower of Terror. It’s a ride that always gives me the fear whilst waiting in the queue, but as soon as I’m on there the adrenalin rush makes me want to go right back around again!

    Animal Kingdom: Flight of Passage. Hands down one of the best rides there is. I didn’t know what to expect given I’ve only seen Avatar once and didn’t know a great deal about it, but it’s an amazing experience not to be missed.

    Disneyland (California): I considered picking Pirates of the Caribbean here (I love Pirates and this is the OG version) but one of my strongest memories from our mid-90s Disneyland visit is my sister and I LOVING the Matterhorn Bobsleds. I know we rode several times and squealed with glee as we rode those sleds down the mountain. For that reason, and the fact it’s unique to this park, it’s going to be my pick here.

    Disneyland Park (Paris): It could easily have been Pirates of the Caribbean or Phantom Manor, but I think my pick here is Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. I love Big Thunder and the DLP version is by far the best.

    Walt Disney Studios: Not so many to choose from here so it absolutely has to be Ratatouille. A version of this is opening at Epcot later this year, but until now this one has been unique to DLP and is a fantastic ride.
  6. Last ride you actually rode at a Disney park?
    Phew, finally a reasonably easy one to work out. For our August 2020 Disneyland Paris trip my sister and I were on a mission to go on as many rides/attractions as we possibly could since there was limited park capacity. To keep track, I took a picture at each attraction so that it would be easier to remember later on. Looking back at those pictures the last ride I went on in DLP was Star Tours. I like Star Tours so I’m happy with that. Imagine if it had been something really silly like the Flying Carpets of Agrabah!
  7. Guilty pleasure snack?
    This question is rather open to interpretation. “Guilty pleasure” is a little different to “favourite” and rather suggests something that isn’t one of the more popular Disney snack foods. If I was picking my favourite then I’d probably opt for a Mickey pretzel (let’s face it, any food shaped like Mickey Mouse is automatically better!) but often when I buy a Mickey pretzel I also buy a pickle in a bag. As in, one of those ginormous dill pickles that’s about the circumference of a cucumber and fairly sizeable. They are individually packaged (which I’m less keen on because of all that packaging) and there’s always lots of pickle juice in the bag as well. They can normally be picked up at snack locations that have big ice chests with drink bottles and fruit buried in them. It’s not a Disney trip until I get one (and the salt is a good way to replace the salts lost in all the Florida sweating!), so this is my guilty pleasure.
  8. Favourite country at Epcot?
    Hmmm. This one I found hard to narrow down. Mexico is good for a frozen maragarita, the character meet & greet with Mexican Donald Duck and that amazing pyramid where it’s always twilight (and cool!) inside. Norway has the fantastic Akershus restaurant (the “taste of Norway” buffet is totally worth it), meet & greet with Anna and Elsa and, of course, the Frozen ride. And France is, well, France! Attractions there are expanding to include Ratatouille and further dining locations so I suspect the next time I visit Epcot the France pavilion will easily take my number one spot, but what about right now? I think on balance I’m going to go with Norway. I have so many wonderful memories from there and look forward to more in future.
  9. Favourite sit down restaurant at a park?
    We don’t often go for sit-down dining on park days as this kind of meal can take up quite a lot of time. I think for this I’m going to choose Bistrot Chez Remy at the Walt Disney Studios in Paris. My sister and I were able to get a booking there back in August (we had both been keen to visit after watching a vlog of the experience) and it was a really good meal. The theming in the restaurant is so detailed – I love that diners are “shrunk” to the size of a rat – and the food was delicious. I’d love to go again with Steve as I think he would really like it.
  10. Favourite character meet & greet
    I’ve had so many character meet & greets across the years, going right back to when they were a real free-for-all rather than an orderly queue, but one in particular springs to mind when I think about my answer to this question. When we went to Florida in 2019 we spent a few days visiting WDW thanks to a bargain ticket offer, and I bought Steve a pair of “ears” colloquially known as “duck butts”. Basically the rear end of Donald Duck, this particular headgear tended to attract attention, most memorably when we visited Mickey and Minnie in the Magic Kingdom. The celebrations for Mickey’s 90th birthday were continuing and we popped in to see them towards the end of the day when it was quiet. Steve’s “duck butts” led to much hilarity and we have so many pictures of all of us (including Mickey and Minnie) doubled up with laughter with all the larking about. It was such a good meet & greet as there was no rush to get through so the characters had time to create a really fun experience. For similar reasons, meeting Donald Duck in the Mexico pavilion at Epcot was also great fun, but this one was in the middle of the day so there was less time for the interaction.

So there you have it. I was definitely thinking about some of my answers as I listened to the various podcast discussions, and it was such fun to reminisce about my Disney park adventures. I know I’m really lucky to have had so many opportunities to visit the parks and hopefully it won’t be too long until I can go again.

Have you visited any Disney parks? I’d love to know your answers to these questions…

Just Checking In!

Hello there!

You’ve probably noticed things have been a bit quiet over here in Running Princess Land for the past few weeks. No need to worry, I’m absolutely fine but this school term has been super busy and my brain has been feeling fried! I have just one more week of this current term (I know – how has it managed to simultaneously fly by yet feel endless???) and then I have grand plans to get up to date when we break up for the holidays – not like I have much else planned right now 😂

Once I feel back on track it will hopefully be easier for me to get back into a regular posting routine again. Right now it just feels a bit much to sort out, even though all the post outlines are set up and taunting me from my drafts folder – eek! It’s sure to feel different when I’m feeling a bit fresher and better rested.

So look out soon for more running, more garden workouts, more home yoga and a few fun bits and bobs like the rest of my DLP trip, our latest movie mission and my virtual racing exploits.

For now, I’ll leave you not with goodbye but with the preferred farewell of a certain Mr W Disney: See ya real soon!

A Touch of (Disney) Magic in 2020!

In a recent Week in Review post I touched on my trip to Disneyland Paris with my sister, including my very mixed feelings about travelling under the current circumstances and the decision-making process that led to me committing to going. Things are changing rapidly all the time and I’m very conscious that you might be reading this having been disappointed at the cancellation of a trip (or trips) away this year. I get it. Yes I went on this trip, but I did have far more planned (and booked!) for this year and this particular trip is now looking like the sole survivor of my 2020 plans.

Cancelled trips are certainly not the worst thing to have happened given the global situation right now and I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to go anywhere at all. Through the months stuck at home in a weird limbo, one of the things that kept me going was Disney content. I had to believe that one day I would be back in a Disney park and everything else would fade away. I’m not going to get anywhere near Walt Disney World in Florida any time soon, but have still enjoyed following content coming out of WDW as it has allowed me to live vicariously through other people’s experiences, reflect on my own memories of trips there and plan the experiences I would like to have in the future. In the build up to my own DLP trip I appreciated seeing updates from those who had visited in the month or so between the resort re-opening and my arrival. And so I thought I would write a post with more of the details around my trip – including the safety measures in place and operational changes due to Covid – so that those who need a little Disney fix can live vicariously and those who want to learn a little more about what it’s like in DLP right now can perhaps have some of their questions answered. Here we go…!

Very briefly, our travel to DLP involved an early morning easyJet flight from Glasgow airport to Paris Charles de Gaulle (face masks required throughout and enforced), a 9 minute TGV transfer to Marne la Vallée (I couldn’t believe how smooth and swift it was!) and a 2 minute RER connection to Val d’Europe (face masks required again at all stages of the journey) where we were staying in the Ibis hotel right beside the station. This meant that having begun my day in Scotland, I was actually IN Disneyland by lunchtime when the parks had been open for less than 3 hours. Not bad!

To gain access to DLP right now, you need to have both a valid ticket and a park reservation since park capacity is restricted. It was easy enough to sort out – I bought a 3 day ticket online (you can print your own ticket to take with you) then followed the instructions to link it to my DIsney account and make my reservation. The reservation has to be shown either on paper or on a device before you reach the turnstiles, so needs to be available alongside your ticket when you arrive. It is also a requirement for all guests aged 11 and over to wear a face covering at all times on DLP property (except when eating/drinking), so it’s worth making sure you have enough for the duration of your trip, especially if you won’t have facilities to wash reusable ones. I made the assumption that I would want to change my mask during the day so always had spares in my bag. Security checkpoints were, at the time of our visit, exactly the same as they have always been, other than management of queues to ensure physical distancing. Unlike in the US, no temperature checks were required.

You can read more about the enhanced health and safety measures at Disneyland Paris on their official website.

Of course me being me, there was no way I could be in a Disney park without a pair of Minnie Mouse ears, so I was barely through the turnstiles before making a pit stop. I chose Ariel’s Grotto Coral ears (which had been discounted – bonus!) then made sure to get lots of photos at the entrance, on Main Street and by Sleeping Beauty castle before doing anything else. Being in a Disney park (especially a castle park) pretty much always makes me cry with happiness and I was already feeling overwhelmed with emotion at FINALLY being in Disney again, so I was glad of my sunglasses as I shed a few tears behind the shades.









Feeling more composed, we headed straight for Hyperspace Mountain since it’s a ride I’d not had the opportunity to experience on previous trips. Having watched all of the Star Wars movies in the early part of Lockdown, I found it really cool to feel a bit like I was in a galactic battle. There were certainly parts of the ride where I’m not entirely sure what way up I was, but it was pretty cool overall.

Ride done, we figured it was time to eat since our airport breakfast had been super early. We headed over to Bella Notte in Fantasyland for pizza and since I was still feeling pretty cautious about eating indoors where there might be crowds, we got our food and headed to an outdoor table to enjoy it. On entering any restaurant, you can scan a QR code which takes you directly to the menu. That makes it much easier to make your decision as you wait for your turn to order. Contactless payments are preferred right now (I use a pre-paid currency card which has contactless facility but did have to use chip and pin for a couple of larger purchases) but I believe cash will be accepted if this isn’t possible. Just another way to limit the handling of items.

Our afternoon was pretty packed as our main mission on this trip was to get on as many rides as we possibly could since lower capacity meant shorter queue lines and a greater chance of getting on more rides. I had added pretty much every attraction possible to my wish list on the DLP app and was checking them off as we went.

In addition to Hyperspace Mountain we were also able to get on It’s A Small World, Casey Jr Circus Train, Lancelot’s Carousel, Snow White And The Seven Dwarves, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Mad Hatter’s Teacups, Pirates of the Caribbean, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and The Phantom Manor.

We also prioritised getting photos since a number of new photo ops, character selfie spots and Photopass magic shots were being offered (my sister has Photopass added to her Annual Pass so we were able to get digital copies of all our official pictures). This started by the castle where Photopass photographers were waiting in roughly the same area they are during Magic Run Weekend. Photo points were set up to reduce handling of items: you place your Photopass on a stand which has been set up, after the shoot the photographer scans it without touching it, then you can collect your pass to move on. This also allows for physical distancing to continue. It’s also worth noting that cast members are not allowed to take guests’ phones to take pictures for them right now, although of course someone else in your party can if you wish.   Masks must be kept on for photos (and cast members will enforce this if they spot you without a mask) as well as on rides. We claimed our ride photos since they can be added to the Photopass but if anyone in the picture has their mask off, you will not be allowed to have your photo. Thankfully ours were all fine.

And right after lunch we headed into the Princess Pavilion where rather than meet princesses, you could be photographed on a huge red throne.

Before grabbing another in Fantasyland close to Dumbo the Flying Elephant.

We also got a selfie with Geppetto and took pictures later by Skull Island and Aladdin’s lamp.


France was experiencing a heatwave over this weekend so it was super hot, but I quite liked getting some proper heat and actually found it ok to be wearing a mask all the time. I really only noticed AFTER taking it off that it made a difference, rather than while I was wearing it, but I think it was just so warm that I just felt hot anyway. It felt reassuring to know that everyone was playing their part to keep each other safe by wearing a mask, following physical distancing guidelines (clearly marked throughout the park and in queue lines) and using the readily available hand sanitiser frequently.

With quite a big lunch and feeling hot and tired from a long day, neither of us felt like any dinner so as the park closed we headed back to the hotel (by RER since the journey was so short and cost less than 2€, but our hotel was only about a mile and a half from Disney with an easy walking route, so that was always an option) to grab a shower and pretty much get straight into bed so we would be refreshed for day 2: The Walt Disney Studios.

The hotel also felt very safe. We had checked in online so simply had to collect our room keys when we arrived (reception staff were protected by Perspex screens). We declined housekeeping in order to limit the people entering our room but were still able to get extras of things like towels and toilet paper if we needed them. I also noticed hand sanitiser at reception and by the lifts on each floor (these were the only public areas of the hotel we were in). The two lifts had been designated separately for guests going up or guests going down, so there would be no head-on encounters when the doors opened. I also spotted disposable gloves and rolls of paper towels next to the sanitiser by the lifts so we could limit our contact with surfaces.

We entered the park separately in the morning since my sister has an Annual Pass so can go in for Extra Magic time between 8:30 and 9:30am. The official opening time for the parks was 10am, however I was let into the Studios a little after 9:30 and, like the day before, I needed to soak up the atmosphere (and shed a few tears) in Studio 1 as I got my first experience of being welcomed by the characters and listening to the catchy “welcome back” song (which was in my head for days afterwards and it only takes a few notes for me to be humming it for hours at a stretch!).

I found my sister and we got some photos, grabbed some breakfast and, of course, got a new set of ears for the day.

Like in the main park the day before, we were able to do so much, starting with some magical selfies in the Mickey & the Magician theatre and some of the Photopass spots in the same area.

Ride-wise we checked off Cars Quatre Roues Rallye, Ratatouille (one of my favourites), Stitch Live (my first time catching it and it was so cute!), The Tower of Terror, Crush’s Coaster (not necessarily an experience I need to repeat, but it’s checked off my list!), Toy Story Parachute Drop, a second ride on ToT since the wait dropped to just FIVE minutes (and we got a different sequence to our first ride of the day) and the Flying Carpets. Quite a few of those were new experiences for me as I had only ever spent limited time in that park, so it was nice to explore a bit further.

We also spotted Mr Incredible on his “hover scooter” and got selfies with Jessie, Olaf, Goofy, Minnie and the Marvel characters. We had hoped to also get selfies with Anna and Elsa from Frozen, but had no luck getting a time slot for the attraction. We did, however, get some fun photos with Rex from Toy Story.








A big highlight was dinner at Bistrot Chez Rémy. We booked this way back in January/February when we organised our trip but all such reservations were cancelled with the park closures. Luckily a visit to guest services when we arrived in the parks the day before allowed us to rebook the same slot (5pm so it was super quiet for an indoor dining experience) and we both really enjoyed it. There was plenty of space, the server was suitably attentive whilst keeping a safe distance and the food delicious – we even treated ourselves to a kir as we were calling this our “birthday dinner” (we both had birthdays later in the month)!

The restaurant is designed so that as you step over the threshold you are shrunk to the size of a rat:

From that point on, all the furnishings and decor are made from the kinds of things a rat in Paris might be able to come across, like wine corks, jar lids and cocktail umbrellas:

Along with our kir, we both chose the mixed greens followed by the steak. There was also bread for the table. We both said we would love to eat here again and I know Steve would enjoy it.

After dinner we made our way back out of the park, waving to the characters who were back in Studio 1 to say goodbye, and headed into the Disney Village for a little shopping at World of Disney and the Fashion Store before getting the train back to the hotel to shower and head to bed. Although there were lots of people in the Village, capacity in the shops was managed with separate entrance and exit doors (the same was true of shops in the parks) and if it was busy then you would be asked to wait until someone else had exited before you could go in. There was also hand sanitiser at both the entrances and exits to limit the spread of the virus, although you were discouraged from handling anything unless you intended to buy it. Not always easy since you may need to pick something up to check the price or make a decision about buying, but idle handling of products should be avoided right now.

For our last park day we planned a full day in the main park. While my sister went in early for Extra Magic, I headed off for a run then got myself ready and to the main gates for about 9:30am. I was able to get straight in and spent some time enjoying the welcome from the characters up on the station platform then took the chance to grab a quick selfie with Daisy and Donald. I strolled up to the castle and my sister joined me there for some pictures before we headed off for some rides.








Our aim was to check off the attractions we hadn’t managed on Saturday and I think we pretty much did it – Autopia, Storybook Canal, Alice’s Curious Labyrinth, the Molly Brown, Mickey’s Philharmagique, La Tanière du Dragon, Peter Pan’s Flight, Star Tours, the Nautilus and a return to our favourites – Pirates of the Caribbean and The Phantom Manor – before the park closed. I also hadn’t realised you could explore the platforms above Frontierland where there’s a kind of “town” so had my first walk around up there to see the views and the “jail cell”.

We also went to any Magic Shot sites we found, including Pocahontas and the Phantom Manor, and managed selfies with Mickey & the Chipmunks, the Tweedles, Minnie Mouse, Pooh & Eeyore, Snow White & Prince Charming, Pinocchio and Darth Vader. We also managed to catch one of the impromptu fountain shows and a mini cavalcade featuring Mickey, Minnie, Pluto and Stitch. Such fun!









I had been insisting since I arrived that I NEEDED a Mickey-shaped food (not so prevalent as at WDW) so got myself a  Mickey waffle with Nutella for breakfast at the Old Mill and it was delicious. Lunch was from Cafe Hyperion but I just had some nuggets and fries as it was so warm that I didn’t want much. We just grabbed some snacks later on to take back to our hotel room since again we weren’t really feeling the need for dinner as it was so hot.

We were there long enough to see the characters waving goodbye from the station again on our way out and it was such a lovely end to our time in the parks. We did, however, nip quickly to a couple of shops in the Disney Village again before getting the train back to our hotel to start getting packed and organised ready to head home the next day. I had quite the haul to fit in my cabin bag – mainly Mouse Ears and 2020 merch!









Overall we had a fantastic time and I’m glad I overcame my anxieties (stemming from living such a sheltered existence for most of this year) about being away from home and around people right now in order to go. I felt very safe in Disney, perhaps safer than that time I went to a large supermarket in the earliest days of the UK lockdown and felt incredibly uncomfortable. I also noticed that even while things were a little different and I was conscious of safety, being in Disney also felt like I was removed from the constant cycle of Covid-related news and refreshing of feeds that have become so much a part of my life in 2020. In that respect, the parks fulfilled their role of being a place where we can leave our cares behind and have fun. I would even go so far as to say that some of the changes – Magic Shots, selfie spots, impromptu surprises such as mini parades, characters welcoming us in and us bidding goodnight, low crowd levels and safety measures – are things I would happily see stay. Ordinarily I love the parade and fireworks, but if I’m honest there was so much to fill my days that I didn’t actually miss them this time!

I’ve mentioned my anxieties about travelling during Covid-19 and have been super careful and risk-averse throughout lockdown, venturing out very little. I’ve previously noticed myself backing away from people and actively avoiding others having been conditioned to consider everyone I meet as potentially “toxic”, so how come I felt so comfortable in Disney?  For me, it was the attention to promoting safety measures such as having hand sanitiser at the entrance and exit of all rides, attractions and shopping locations, mask wearing being reinforced by cast members (and disposable masks available for sale, just in case!), cast members directing the flow of traffic and reinforcing distancing where possible, and the option to ask cast members in shops for “fresh” merchandise to cut down on any handling of products on display. Yes, some places could get a little busier, but there was always room to move into more space so it felt ok. In this respect this trip was probably one of the best things I could do to prepare myself for being back in school and surrounded by people again. I have turned down invitations to pubs and restaurants – especially unfamiliar ones – but in a location I knew well, with plenty of outdoor space and numerous protections in place, I felt ok and my anxiety lifted as soon as I could see Disney!

Of course when people come together there will always be things that don’t run absolutely perfectly and it would be unreasonable to expect that cast members can watch everyone in every queue all the time, but if you are planning to visit DLP while we are living in the shadow of Covid, there are one or two things to be aware of so that you can take steps to protect your own health and safety.

For starters, not everyone is great at social distancing (in France 1m compared to the 2m we have been following here in Scotland) and when groups are together, people don’t always pay attention to the floor markings in queue spaces. I found it best to take responsibility for my own distancing and if a group behind me was getting too close, left extra space in front of me so I felt like I had room. It’s not always easy in DLP to know what language to address other guests in, but I did on one occasion ask a guest behind me to step back a bit. A bit of a “look” also did the trick on some occasions! Often it was simple lack of attention or confusion about whether to stand ON or OFF the markers (the answer is off – you should stand in the spaces between the floor markings, not directly on them, although the French instruction doesn’t read quite the same as the English version).

Also, while I didn’t actually mind wearing my mask all day, even on the weekend of the heatwave, I did, however, have to be careful to drink plenty as it’s easy to forget when your face is covered. I made sure to get drinks often and would just find a quiet bench to sit on so I could remove my mask and drink. That makes for a nice moment of respite from being on your feet as well!

That’s all I can think of right now. I’m so pleased we went and have some great memories to keep me going for a while. Disney is still magical, even if some of that magic is delivered in a different way right now, so if you have a trip booked (and it’s still possible for you to go) I think you will have fun. My best advice is to do your homework so you know what to expect and what the guidelines/safety measures are (especially if, like me, you also consume a lot of content coming from WDW as it’s not exactly the same); download the official app to help you plan your trip and access things like wait times and menus; be conscious of physical distancing and hand hygiene, and be mindful of cast members – they are there to not only help you have a magical time, but to reinforce messages to keep you safe.

Right now I have no idea when I’ll get back to Disney again, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I’ll be able to book a trip sooner rather than later (quarantine requirements are a big factor here). Actually getting a Disney fix at all this year still feels like a miracle to me and will give me something lovely to remember as winter inevitably takes hold. Hopefully things are brighter in 2021.

Disney, I’ll see ya real soon…

The Year Of The Mouse!

In the Chinese calendar, 2020 is the Year of the Rat, but did you know that “the Chinese word shǔ​ (鼠) may refer to rat, mouse, or other muroid-type animals”? (Thanks Wikipedia!). And as any regular reader, or person who actually knows me in real life, is aware, I am a BIG fan of a certain famous (fa-mouse? 🙄) mouse. THE Mouse. The Big Cheese. A certain Mr M Mouse and the theme parks associated with his image. Every year I take at least one pilgrimage to the House of Mouse (more since I joined the fun at the Disneyland Paris Magic Run weekend – if you missed it you can read about my experiences here, here and here) and with the plans I have afoot this year, I will most definitely be thinking of 2020 as my Year of the Mouse!

“But what’s so different?” I hear you ask. Surely I mean I’ll be taking my usual trip to Florida in July and popping over to Paris in September for Magic Run Weekend again? Yes, quite right. But as an added bonus, this year I’ll be squeezing in some extra visits to my happy place.

Last year Run Disney France announced the inaugural Princess Run Weekend taking place in May 2020. With the early May bank holiday falling that weekend, the dates worked out perfectly for us to fly out during the day on the Friday (rather than arrive late at night after I finish work and we get on an evening flight), run on the Saturday and Sunday (more on that in a moment) then fly home that evening as we have previously done on the September run weekends. The only fly in the ointment was that with it being a holiday weekend across Europe, the price of a package (Disney hotel, park passes, race bibs) was going to be so much more than we have paid in the past for September weekends, so we took a risk and booked with one of the off-site partner hotels and booked our flights before they got prohibitively expensive. This meant we were waiting for the bib only sales to get our race places. An agonising wait as French systems tend to be a bit laid back about the specifics of when things might actually happen!

While we were waiting, the themes for the races were announced and if anything this added to my desire to be part of the event (although let’s face it, having got flights and accommodation I was going to DLP that weekend, I just hoped it would be for the runs!). On the Saturday there will be a 5k themed to Ariel from The Little Mermaid (you know, the one with my near-permanent ear worm song and general mermaid-y feeling) and on Sunday there will be an 8k themed to Belle from Beauty and the Beast (my absolute favourite and the princess I relate to the most!). Basically, they announced two themes absolutely made for me and the option to take on both as the Cinderella Challenge (because it’s the 70th anniversary of Cinderella) for a third medal. I already knew I would be disappointed not to get a place, and with the theming it became my mission to get that challenge bib!

Finally we got the word that the bibs would go on sale the first Monday in February. I would be at work but Steve and my sister were primed to get on the case – Steve had space in his diary and my sister booked the afternoon off work to make sure she was available as we had heard so many tales of website crashes and lots of stress with people trying to book bibs for the September races in the past. They were keeping in close contact with each other and updating me with how they were getting on as I sat anxiously at work, keeping my fingers firmly crossed. As it turned out, there had been some improvements to the booking system, and although there were one or two hitches along the way, it wasn’t too long before my sister sent me this:

Getting this actually made a big difference to me, coming so soon after the news of a school inspection. I realised last year that not only does Disney make me happy, but knowing that I have trips to a Disney park to look forward to does wonders for my mental health. You would think that the crowds etc might stress me out, but I noticed last summer that being in Disney World made all the stresses of the year and struggles with various illnesses learning up to that point just melt away. I felt refreshed and renewed, happier than I had been in months. Clearly Walt’s original vision was working for me!

And with that in mind, I knew that having the May weekend races to look forward to would really give me a much-needed mental distraction through what is by far the busiest and most stressful time in the school year. Since getting that confirmation of our places, I’ve had great fun turning my attention to what I plan to wear for those runs (I prefer not to reveal those until race day) and making some plans for our time in the theme parks.

But that’s not all. A few days later I discovered that my sister was planning a weekend at DLP in August, towards the end of my summer break. With flights coming in quite cheaply and the cost of a hotel room (off-site) much less when it’s shared, I decided to go with her for a long weekend in the parks. Ever since my first trip there for Magic Run Weekend in 2018 I’ve had it in mind to do something like that since realistically it’s not too far away and although I LOVE taking part in the races there, I thought it might be fun to have a couple of days of dedicated time in the parks without worrying about getting enough sleep before a run, being tired from having just done a run and just generally building all of our plans around the races. August will be that time.

I know not everyone will understand my desire to do this, but it feels like the right thing for me just now. I’ve not entered any other races, nor do I have plans to, so won’t have those entry fees or travel costs to consider. It’s also going to be much more cost effective for me to join my sister in buying an annual pass for DLP so my park entry will be much less overall and I’ll get some food and merch discounts with it too (because obviously I will want to buy All The Things!). I’m fortunate that I earn enough to have the odd weekend away, but it’s not something I often actually do. Yet with budget flights (booked early) and the option of non-Disney hotels shared between two/three of us, it becomes remarkably affordable. It’s something my sister often does as solo trips, and now I’m seeing the opportunity to join her if the timing is right (which saves her some money too as we’ll share the hotel cost). Frankly, I’m much happier spending my money on trips like this than on lots of nights out, meals out, UK mini-breaks, etc. Don’t get me wrong, those are all fun, but I know time in spent in Disney feels much healthier for me and the memories I create are far more vivid and long-lasting than some of these other ways I might spend my time/money. Given the choice between a night away and a fancy meal or a weekend at Disney, I know what my choice would be!

So to summarise that’s:

  • DLP in May for Princess Run Weekend
  • A couple of days at WDW in July as part of our trip to Florida
  • A long weekend at DLP in August with my sister
  • DLP in September for Magic Run Weekend (we booked our package for that one towards the end of last year so bibs etc are already taken care of).

As if that wasn’t enough, it looks like my sister is also heading to DLP in October when I have school holidays, and with no other plans for that time of year, chances are I’ll join her. It would only annoy me knowing I was sitting at home when she was away having some Disney fun!

And THAT is why 2020 will be my Year of the Mouse. The only question is, how many new pairs of Minnie Mouse ears can I add to my collection? 🤔

Clearly false! 😂

Anyone else planning some Disney fun this year?

Week In Review – The Start Of A New Decade!

Happy New Year! I know this isn’t the first post I’ve published in 2020, but it is the first Week In Review and maybe you only stop by to read these ones. Anyway, I hope your year has started well. I’m here today with my usual weekly roundup, and of course it’s a week that spans two years since New Year was in the middle of the week – a fact which amuses me as it means my mileage for the week is, for this one moment, higher than my cumulative mileage for the year haha!

After some indulgence around Christmas Eve/Christmas Day/Boxing Day I was keen to get back to a more regular eating pattern to support my exercise plans – I definitely felt a little sluggish the previous weekend since nothing I had eaten made for the best running fuel! Here’s how my week ended up (it was a busy one!):

Monday – Advent window run + home yoga
Tuesday – PT session with Steve + home yoga
Wednesday – New Year Triple!
Thursday – home yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve + home yoga
Saturday – parkrun pacing + home yoga
Sunday – 10 miles + home yoga

Probably the most unusual week of the year as there was a bit of moving around of workouts and some different things going on. In fact, the week began rather differently to normal with a run. And an evening run at that. With Steve! Normally I run on my own and have been running in the mornings since the tail end of 2018, but I was keen to run a route around the Advent Windows we had popped along to a couple of times, and since the organisers had walked/run them all on Boxing Day (we couldn’t go that time) there was a route that although not consecutive, created a route around them all with very little doubling back. So I suggested to Steve that we move our Tuesday morning run to Monday evening and run around them together. It did feel a bit odd to be out running in the evening, but it was the only time the windows would be lit and it was nice to run together. It was also a bit different to have a focus for the run as we were looking for specific things, a bit like a treasure hunt. To be honest, I felt a little like Anneka Rice haha! (Although that reference firmly dates me 😮).

(Photo Credit: Jaime Lidstone for the Advent Window Facebook Group)

Prior to the run I made sure to do some home yoga. I was really feeling like I needed to do some yoga again so as not to feel stiff and inflexible when classes start back and I had a couple of sequences in an old 30 day series I had been working through so it seemed like a good idea to finish those off ahead of the New Year and the new 30 day series I wanted to start as part of my goal to renew my commitment to a home yoga practice.

Tuesday was a better fit for Steve this week for my PT session so I headed down to the studio mid-morning for my workout. Of course he had another challenging circuit for me, this time the gym ball walkouts on my forearms, the bear crawls with press ups, the bar bell, star crumps, weight, a sort of walk out/squat thrust press up and squat crumps. Phew! I definitely felt like I had worked, making some home yoga later in the day a great idea to stretch it out ahead of what I had planned for the following day.

That day was New Year’s Day, alternatively known as Wednesday, and as has now become our tradition, we were once again going for the triple run challenge. This meant we had eaten well the night before and eschewed staying up for the bells in favour of an early night.

The day began at Camperdown parkrun in Dundee which was going off at the usual (Scottish) parkrun time of 9:30. We were there in good time to get a parking space close to the start/finish line (rather than a trek across the park) and chatted to a few other Perth runners/exchanged New Year greetings while we waited. I knew that this course would be trail, with some muddy patches and there’s a fairly steep hill about half way round, so with two further runs to go I was taking it fairly easy. But as the run progressed I realised that I was on for a pretty good time (I had checked my previous times from Camperdown, all as part of NYDD, in the car on the way through) so probably upped my effort level a tiny bit. And it paid off, because my time of 26:42 was a PB for me on this course (the nature of this course means they tell you you can expect to add a couple of minutes to your time in Perth). I do sometimes wonder how I would get on at this one if it was the only run I was doing that day, so maybe one Saturday we’ll head down there to find out.

After a very quick pit stop at home to change shoes (trail shoes were needed at Camperdown but road shoes were fine for the rest of the day) and go to the loo, we arrived at our home parkrun in Perth ready to run again. One of the big challenges in the NYDD is getting access to a toilet as everything is generally closed that day, but since we near enough drive past our house travelling between the runs we can have a very swift comfort break.

The run in Perth was at 11am and again we were there with a bit of time to spare for a quick chat. I have to say, it did feel strange arriving by car and parking so close to the start since normally we run down, or on the odd occasion that we need a car it’s parked a bit further out where we can park for free.

We were repeating the reverse loop that we had done on our previous parkrunday, and I found myself a starting position ready to go. It was REALLY busy (turned out we had 395 which, outside of a couple of occasions when we have hosted charity events which brought a huge turnout, this is our highest in Perth). I set off thinking I would run fairly steadily, but my legs seemed to have other ideas and as the first mile ticked by I did wonder at what point in the day I was going to regret my recklessness in not running more conservatively. I clocked 24:36 for this one – about a minute outside my recent best but only about 15 seconds slower than on the Saturday just gone. Having checked my stats, it’s the fastest I’ve run in Perth on a New Year’s Day run.

Some kind soul had brought some flapjacks and it was good to get a little something to eat while we chatted to some of our Perth friends who hadn’t been with us in Dundee earlier that morning. And then it was time to get back in the car and head to Blairgowrie for the final run of the day.

The Blairgowrie New Year Fun Run has been going for over 30 years without ever missing a year. That’s pretty impressive! Last year was the last one under the original organiser, but the local running group who had taken it over had kept the exact same model – a 6k route with walkers going out about half an hour before the runners, for a mere £2 entrance fee.

We got ourselves parked and registered, enjoyed access to toilets once again and spent some time catching up with a combination of those who had been on the same circuit as us that morning and those who were arriving to start their 2020 running. The run itself started at 1pm and it was nice to see the original organiser had been asked back as starter.

I have to say, my legs didn’t feel too bad. Yes a bit weary, but it was fine. The thing about this challenge is not the distance – 10 miles is really comfortable for me right now – but the fact that it’s in three bits and I had been running a bit harder than if I had been out for a regular 10 mile run. There’s a short hill about half way round the course and that’s the point at which the legs tend to protest a bit, but I had been running so well in the morning that I was determined to see what I could do around this course (my 5th time at the Blairgowrie event and 4th as part of the NYD challenge). I kept digging in and stopped my watch at 30:08 – my fastest around this route by over 45 seconds! (This run is untimed except for the prize winners, but of course I was using my Garmin).

Ahead of this day I had mentioned to Steve that I was really interested to see how I would perform. In 2018 and 2019 I had suffered chesty coughs in December which set my running back, so I was comparing my times with 2017, the first year I took on this challenge and the last time I ran it off the back of decent training. Three years down the line and I scored 2x PBs, one NY best and thus my fastest cumulative time for the challenge. That’s incredibly satisfying and gives me a real sense of how much I have benefitted from consistent training even without really running more than 10 miles in any one run for several weeks. Clearly I have a sound base to build on now.

Post-run there’s always soup/juice/biscuits available back at the hall and it was nice to warm up with some soup and have conversations with others about how they had done. There were prizes for the top finishers (never going to be me when it’s my third run of the day!) but there were some spot prizes and I actually won something!

By this time we were starving so it was time to head home for some food, starting with an “appetiser” of bacon rolls since I had bought an extra pack of that delicious Christmas spiced bacon for us to have.

And fairly soon after, our New Year dinner of French Onion Soup followed by steak pie, homemade chips and steamed veg.









We did have another of Steve’s sherry trifles for dessert, but were actually full by this point so saved it until the next day.

I was feeling really tired – not helped by us finally toasting the New Year with a couple of glasses of Prosecco – so headed to bed pretty early.

Thursday was a super lazy day – I barely passed 1000 steps! I had a long lie, reading my book with a cup of tea, watched some vlogs, had a bath and did the first day of the new Yoga with Adriene 30 day journey while Steve met up with his brother for a couple of drinks (it was his brother’s birthday). I basically spent the entire day in my pyjamas. Uncharacteristically lazy, but nice for a change and I kind of feel like the Christmas holidays are the only time I can be so indulgent.

But on Friday I needed a bit more activity – or at least to go outside – so had another workout down at the studio around lunchtime (after sending the morning taking down the Christmas decorations 😢). This time Steve gave me walk in/out press ups in the pike position, bear crawls with press ups, the weight and squat crumps. Apparently not going easy for the New Year 😂

And day 2 of the YWA journey in the afternoon before heading out for some food.

Then it was parkrunday. Again! They sure do come around quickly at this time of year! Following the exertions of Wednesday I was happy to take it easy so volunteered as the 28 minute pacer. I still ran my parkrun sandwich, but there was no pressure – internal or external – to run fast and it was nice to have an easy run around the route. Hopefully I helped someone to a time goal.

In the afternoon I treated myself to a bath, then did YWA day 3 before settling down for a relaxing evening of homemade pizza and a bit of tv.

Sunday felt much more back to the normal routine, although I confess to a pretty lazy start to the day as Smokey cuddled in beside me on the bed so I lay there for longer than intended reading my book. When I did eventually get up and organised, I headed out for 10 miles on a fairly staple route where I can just zone out and run without really having to think about where I’m going. I felt really comfortable despite a fairly decent pace for a longer run, so I think it’s probably time I began increasing my long run mileage a bit again to boost my endurance and fitness. Incidentally, it was mild enough for shorts again. In January. Unheard of!

And then a relaxing afternoon of coffee, a bit of food shopping, tv and a bath. With day 4 of YWA squeezed in as well.

A busy week but quite a lot of running which felt good. Now it’s time to go back to work for the new term.

Did you stay up for the New Year or head to bed?
Did you take part in parkrun (or the double) on New Year’s Day?

I’ve Got 2020 Vision…

It’s that time of year when everyone is setting out their big goals for the months ahead. The indulgence of the festive season has given way to the punishment of January, when everyone seems to feel the need to make the most miserable month of the year even more miserable through a regime of living off lettuce leaves and treating exercise as some kind of penance for the “sins” of Christmas, ably aided and abetted by the media switching seamlessly from “buy this mountain of food” to “here’s how you can be the slimmest/most toned/best version of yourself” overnight. Funnily enough, this is never a recipe for success!

I just can’t buy into all that “New Year, New You” stuff and don’t set resolutions as largely they are doomed to failure. Frankly if I think I need to make a change in my life, the best thing to do is make that change immediately rather than wait for some arbitrary date to make sweeping and unsustainable changes. I do, however, like to set myself goals that build on the things I do anyway: I run, so I set a mileage goal to see how my year measures up; I read, so I join the annual Goodreads reading challenge and set myself a reading target so I can see how different years compare by tracking my reading; and I look to other regular habits in my life and try to renew my commitment to them and/or refresh my approach. In 2019 I didn’t write a post about my goals as I had no intention of writing about my progress and just wasn’t in that kind of headspace, but this year I have decided to come back to writing a post setting out my goals as there will be elements of this I refer to in my regular posts throughout the year.

So this, dear reader, is my 2020 vision:

1. Having reached the 1000 mile mark for the first time EVER in my running in 2019, I have set my running goal as 1000 miles (or more) for 2020. I’ve been running really consistently since the summer and really hope this will continue into 2020.

My 2019 total

2. I read 36 books in 2019, so have set this as my 2020 target. I actually read much more than this in 2018 so it will be interesting to see how this year compares to previous challenges, especially if I make some other slight alterations in my day, like trying to pick up my book for a few minutes rather than mindlessly scrolling through random rubbish on my phone.

Which brings me to…

3. Rather than getting caught up in “stuff” on my phone, I’m setting an intention of being much more purposeful in my phone use. Cutting off my phone use or setting limits doesn’t seem realistic right now, so instead my intention is to use social media to genuinely engage. If I’m on Facebook, I want it to be for active engagement in groups or actually posting rather than lurking or scrolling through mindlessly. If I visit Instagram, it should be to share a moment, catch up with a story or react to posts. If I can eliminate the real time-suck of scrolling for no purpose, maybe I’ll read more books!

4. Another way I intend to use my phone more purposefully is to to use an app to record moments each day that bring me joy or simply make me smile. My thinking is that I take pictures most days, so why not develop this habit to have a more concrete reminder of something that made me happy. I’ve already downloaded a journaling app and have been choosing a picture every day (and hopefully I can mix these up a bit so it’s not too repetitive) to save alongside a short summary of what I found joyful or enjoyable in that day. It’s something I’ve meant to do before but never really sorted out, so it will be interesting to see how this one goes. I’m thinking of it as my way of practising gratitude each day, and since I find it hard to commit to a daily written journal, hopefully this approach will suit me better and I’ve set the app to give me a reminder every evening to complete my entry. Watch this space!

5. Finally, I’m taking the opportunity presented by the annual Yoga With Adriene 30 day yoga journey to refresh my home yoga practice. Although I go to two yoga classes most weeks throughout the year, my home practice has rather dwindled of late and committing to this 30 day series is an ideal way to bring my focus back to it. I won’t actually complete the series in 30 days as I will carry forward the videos published on days I have a yoga class anyway, but on the days when there is no class it will make committing to a home practice much easier as there will be no decision-making as to what video or sequence I will complete. Hopefully by the time I reach the end, my home practice will have been re-established and I will be able to continue with the positive habit I build. I know I run better and feel better when yoga is a more prominent part of my day, so this will be part of my self-care routine (alongside reading, watching Disney vlogs and having relaxing baths) throughout the year. To help keep me accountable, you will notice that “home yoga” will now be listed as part of my roundup in my Week In Review posts so you will see if I’m actually keeping up with this one or not!

So that’s it. Five goals for 2020 which draw on the habits and activities that are part of my life anyway. No sweeping changes or unsustainable new habits, just achievable goals within established parts of my life. None of these are designed to be onerous, simply to help focus me on the things that are important to me and avoid distractions that may fill an idle moment, but don’t really bring any joy or fulfilment to my life. I will try to check in with these later in the year to see how I’m getting on.

What are your goals or intentions for the year?
How do you decide what those goals/intentions will be?

Week In Review – A Very Merry Christmastime!

And just like that, the festivities are done. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t leave me feeling a bit sad as Christmas really is the highlight of my winter. I LOVE all the build up, Christmas movies, delicious food and opportunity to spend copious amounts of time in my PJs, but I know it can’t last forever. Yet even though I enjoy the celebrations, I do keep up my running and other training as I just wouldn’t feel like myself without them, so today I’m sharing how I spent Christmas week (and how I fitted some training around the festive fun!).

Monday – PT session with Steve
Tuesday – 4 miles
Wednesday – Christmas turkey parkrun sandwich
Thursday – rest
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 8 miles

My usual routine when it’s the school holidays is to switch to three PT sessions in a week, but with Christmas falling on a Wednesday this wasn’t going to work out so I just stuck with two, switching my Tuesday session to Monday as this suited Steve better in terms of the hours he was working. As a Christmas “treat” he mixed things up again so I had forearm rollouts on the gym ball (my poor abs!), those bear crawls with the press up, the bar bell and a finisher which involved something a bit like boat pose on the Bosu. Given that this is a posture I do reasonably easily on my yoga mat, whilst on the Bosu I did a fantastic job of making it look like I’d never tried it before in my life, and when Steve asked me to move my legs and arms, I inevitably fell off the back. Oh well! 😂









In the afternoon we had to go out to the farm shop for a couple of things and since one of Steve’s clients had given him a gift card for there, we treated ourselves to a salted caramel hot chocolate and warm mince pie in the cafe there. They were both delicious!









Then spent the remainder of the day snuggled in at home watching Christmas movies.

Tuesday was Christmas Eve and after a leisurely start to the day (a cup of tea in bed whilst reading a bit of my book) I headed out for a run. It was so nice to be out in daylight after all those dark runs during the school term!

My sister was coming to us that evening for our usual Christmas Eve party food and board game fun, so I finished getting the house tidied up then had a nice bath to relax for a bit. As well as switching on my Christmas lights, I popped a fireplace app on my tv screen and was amused to then have one cat position himself in front of the “fire” while the other opted for a spot under the tree!

Our board game of choice was Frozen 2 Monopoly (well of course I was going to buy that!) and I jumped at the chance to dip into my collection of Minnie Mouse ears for an appropriately themed pair to wear. Well, it was Christmas after all!

Wednesday began with Christmas Day parkrun. As is now our habit, we ran there and back so we would get a decent length of run. And in case you haven’t seen it on social media, I was dressed like this:

We were on the lap course again but this time some of the path was pretty icy so I took it easy so as not to fall over. Then at the finish there were flasks of hot chocolate and a dish of marshmallows to add to it. With one of our bigger turnouts (338 Christmas Day parkrunners!) there was only a little left by the time I was ready for mine, but I still enjoyed having a hot drink before running back up the road again.

While I grabbed a shower to warm up, Steve organised our Christmas Day brunch – bacon rolls made with Christmas spiced bacon and a glass of clementine and cranberry Buck’s Fizz. Yum!

By which time the kitties were making it very clear that they wanted to start opening presents so there ensued a rather entertaining stretch of time while they pounced on wrapping appear, attempted to wrestle their new toys out of their packaging, jumped in empty boxes and ran around like a couple of utter lunatics! They were hilarious and, between mum and I, totally spoiled with toys, food, treats, a new bed and a play tunnel. Not to mention the wrapping paper and cardboard boxes which they saw as a bonus 😹









Since it was just the two of us for dinner, we opted once again for steaks rather than turkey as it’s so hard to get an appropriately sized bit of turkey, of decent quality, for two people (or two people plus two kitties!). I think we both prefer steak anyway and tracked down a couple of really nice ones. So to start we had a bowl of my French Onion soup (which I had made the day before so the flavours would be nicely matured), followed by beautifully tender steaks with peppercorn sauce, homemade chips, tenderstem broccoli and asparagus. To finish, it was Steve’s infamous sherry trifle – when you hit a sherry well in that stuff, you definitely know about it!

That evening there was one last window being lit as part of the advent window walk and this one was being hosted by our friends who had been organising it all. Walking over there seemed like a nice idea to help digest our dinner so we got changed into “proper” clothes (we’d basically been in our pyjamas since parkrun) and set off.

There were a few people there when we arrived, but by the time the window was revealed there were about 80 people squeezed into the front garden! We enjoyed a hot drink, some festive cakes and nibbles and, once most of the people had drifted away, we toasted Christmas with our friends and gathered around the fire pit to sing some Christmas songs, accompanied by the guitar. It wasn’t how I expected to spend my evening, yet it just felt like the perfect thing to do. So Christmassy and so lovely to see a different group of people who, like at parkrun in the morning, had come together to share part of their Christmas Day in a different way.

After all that excitement, Thursday became a rest day, at least from exercise! We both enjoyed a lazy morning – tea and a book in bed then I had a nice bubble bath whilst watching the Strictly Christmas special. We had some soup for lunch then set off to walk over to Steve’s brother’s house. They had invited us over for drinks, party food and, of course, we ended up playing games, including the maddest came of charades I’ve ever known! It was a great way to spend the afternoon/evening and so nice to catch up with Steve’s nephew. He’s undertaking postgraduate study at the Guildhall in London and is often away performing as well so I suspect I probably haven’t seen him since last Christmas!

Steve was back at work on Friday morning as he had a few clients lined up, but he managed to fit me in later in the morning for another go at the circuit he had set up on Monday. The only difference was that this time he added what he calls “star crumps”. A kind of press up type thing where you jump your hands and feet out and in. All I know is that they are exhausting when added onto the rest of that circuit!

I also devoted a bit of time to tidying out my chest of drawers. To entertain me whilst re-folding running tops, I popped a Disney Christmas parade video on and then this happened:

That’s right, a cat sitting in an open drawer, transfixed by the moving colours on the screen 😹

After a lunch of leftover onion soup I headed into town to spend my Christmas money from my parents (the Pandora shop was calling my name!) then I treated Steve to a coffee before we settled ourselves down for the evening. We still had some party food left in the freezer, which makes for the perfect Twixtmas dinner!

Unsurprisingly, party food left me feeling a little sluggish on Saturday morning, but parkrun was an ideal way to blow the cobwebs away. To mix things up whilst on the lap course, this time we went in the opposite direction. At one point I thought it felt quite hard work, despite the warm up of running down, but then realised that on the most exposed section of the course we were running into a headwind and as soon as we turned the corner it was much easier again. Despite feeling a bit tired and sluggish (I had been awake for a bit in the night for no real reason) I was pleased to finish in 24:11. It may be slower than the previous week, but was faster than I thought I would be on that occasion.

And mild enough for shorts!

Fortunately, the cafe we have been going to was open so after our run home to change we were still able to meet Steve’s brother for our Saturday morning bacon roll.

Sunday was the last longer run of the year and it was still really mild. I had my shorts on and a super-thin long-sleeved top but soon ended up with the sleeves rolled up, wishing I had chosen a T-shirt instead! With plans afoot for our usual New Year’s Day running challenge, it seemed sensible to stick to an 8 mile run so that my legs will feel reasonably fresh come Wednesday. This gave me an ideal opportunity to run out to the woodland park and back (once I’d had a lazy morning, drinking 2 cups of tea in bed and finishing my book – I do love holidays!).

And when I got back I had a bit of time so generated my Instagram top nine for the year. Obviously running features quite prominently (and that time I met Sir Ian McKellen) but what happened to all my Disney pictures and photos of the cats? Sometimes algorithms bamboozle me!

So that wraps up the final full week of 2019. All being well I’ll manage to post something a bit more reflective in the next few days, but the next time I publish a Week in Review post it will be 2020 – how weird does that sound?!?

Did you run/parkrun on Christmas Day?
What was the highlight of your Christmas week?

Week In Review – New Term, New Attitude

After a fairly quiet week at home to finish my October break I was actually feeling ready for my return to work for the start of the new term. Don’t get me wrong, I know it’s going to be a busy one, but I got a lot done when I was off so felt ready to tackle things head on. It was also important that I now sustain the training routine I have created, despite the fact that I have absolutely nothing to train for right now…and I am perfectly happy with that! I very much feel like I just want to run, be consistent and feel like I could happily jump in a half marathon at any point or begin to up my training for something bigger without having to start at the beginning. I’ve never been in this situation before and I kind of like it! It’s nice not having the pressure of an impending race, performance goals or expectations from others. Instead, I’m just enjoying running for what it’s all about – getting out in the fresh air and moving. I know this wouldn’t have worked for me in the past, but right now it’s ideal. So with that in mind, here’s what I got up to this past week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles + PT session with Steve
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – drills + Ashtanga yoga
Friday – PT session with Steve
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – accidental half marathon 😂

Most of that is very much as per the pattern I established last term, but what I really noticed was my performance at the weekend. More on that later.

We actually began the term with an inservice day. We don’t usually have one at this point, but there are a couple of additional ones this year and right after a holiday is a good place to have one. It gives you a day to get your head around what needs to be done and have plans in place for the weeks ahead. There was a bit less sitting in one place at this one, but still a bit less active than a teaching day so I was ready to stretch out on my yoga mat at the end of the day. This was the last session in the current block and we now have a two week break before the next block starts so I will have to make time for some home practice over the next two weeks. I left the class feeling really relaxed and ready for the teaching day to come.

That day started early as I was up for my morning run. Not going to lie, it’s quite a shock to have a 5am alarm call when you’ve just had a week off, and I really noticed how dark it had become in the short time since last term. Darkness for the entire run, with not even a glimmer of daylight as I finished, so I think I’m just going to have to accept that it’s going to be dark morning runs from here on in. I don’t mind, but it’s so nice in the summer months to be up and enjoying the early morning light when most other people are still in bed. Apart from that, it was just my usual Tuesday run – 4 miles at an easy pace as a recovery run from my longer one a couple of days before. It was a windy morning, but my legs and body felt good so I enjoyed the run.

That evening after work I headed down to the studio and this time Steve was ready with the resistance band, TRX and weights for my arm workout. I’m really starting to notice the change in the definition of my arms and feeling strong so focusing on this since we got back form our summer holiday has definitely been the right decision for me, even if the TRX parts are getting tougher!

I’m keeping Wednesday as my rest day, which meant I had time to go and get my nails done. My “French Trip manicure” was off and I wasn’t feeling totally put together without my nail polish, so having that done made me feel much better. Sometimes it’s the simple things. And yes, I am a total puzzle – I need to have my nails done but really push it on how long I can get away with not washing my hair!

Another early alarm call on Thursday to get out for a run. Despite not having anything specific to train for, I decided that I wanted to get back to some form drills again as Steve had noted at parkun last week that my form was good and I want to maintain that. I think running with good form is one reason I’ve felt much more robust over the past year or so and not really had much time out of running with any issues, so it’s obviously worth doing. It had been a few weeks though (I did some drills in my preparations for the Disneyland Paris runs) so I went back to the beginning with a mile warm up then 6x 500m drills with a minute recovery between each. I always start off thinking it’s going to be a bit of a chore but then quite enjoy the “work” intervals of the drills.

And then there was Ashtanga that evening. I’m now in the habit of keeping my yoga stuff in the car on a Thursday so that I’m less likely to miss the class if I get held up at work, but I still had time to nip home and change. It was a really good class as it was all the regulars and a couple of interesting things happened. First, I managed to take a bind in Marichyasana B, a posture we have begun working towards in recent months. It basically involves folding yourself up like a pretzel a bit like this:

At first I could barely bend the leg not in half lotus in much at all, but gradually got there and have been working towards taking the bind. I hadn’t really expected to get there just yet – even recently it hasn’t felt possible for me – but for some reason it just felt right to have a go and I managed it. I was so pleased with my progress!

We also tried a different back bend which I enjoyed as I like the challenge of new postures. And when we reached headstand I asked for support, but once I was in position my teacher was able to move away leaving me holding the headstand independently for a few breaths. I was pleased with this as it marked progress towards being able to do it completely independently again, but I’ll not rush and instead get used to being in the posture more often and hopefully get to a stage when I can move into it and find balance without support once again.

Friday was a pretty busy day at work as I had some things I needed to get done, but I was productive so didn’t have to stay too long after classes finished. That gave me plenty of time to get down to the studio – resistance band, dumbbells, press ups, weights and TRX this time. Phew!

After that first week of the new term I was ready for the weekend and kicked it off with the parkrun sandwich. I had actually managed to stick to my shorts for my midweek runs but Saturday morning was pretty chilly so I opted for my new leggings which had arrived on Friday. Any excuse!

Those leggings must have had super powers as I ran so well, finishing in under 24 minutes for the first time since March (and only the second time for the current parkrun year which began in late November!). In actual fact, it was only 6 seconds away from the time listed as my fastest for the parkrun year and since we’re still running on an alternative course which is a little longer than our regular course, I would argue that it might even represent a comparably faster time. After lots of setbacks with illness in the first half of the year, I’m so pleased to have clocked a 23:55 as we get to the tail end of the year.

Interestingly, although we still had a high number of runners, my finish position both overall and by gender are unusually high (2nd female – whaaaa?). I think a lot of the speedy people at the front end of the pack were away taking part in a cross country competition, leaving me the opportunity for a higher placing. Whatever the reason, I’ll take it – pretty sure that’s my highest gender placing ever at parkrun, and with the numbers we get these days it’s been a long time since I’ve seen anything lower than about 70 for my position. Brilliant!

I think I was still buzzing on the way home as I found myself racing against Steve, who admittedly was taking it easy since his back was bothering him, and taking the chance to catch and pass him on the way up the road. Yes, I am competitive!

My Sunday plan was to run 12 miles. I did a few bits and pieces around the house (what a way to take advantage of the extra hour thanks to the clocks going back!) before heading out and decided I wanted to run basically the same route as my 10 miler last week, but add a lap of the North Inch park to bring it closer to 12. But the North Inch is only 1.5 miles so I needed to add a bit more. I ended up getting carried away and adding on too much, resulting in an accidental Sunday morning half marathon. Oops! #runnerproblems. In my defense, it was a lovely, bright autumnal morning, the shorts were back on and I was just enjoying the run. Once again my performance was better than my average time for the distance when I’ve actually been training for something, suggesting that I’m running better without that pressure. I’m all about the process rather than the end goal right now, so seeing that confirms that I’m doing the right things. I was pretty hungry for the rest of the day though and happily ate all the food!

So there you have it. Back to work, back to the routine, but a bigger focus on process and enjoyment than striving for a goal. I’m finding it rather refreshing.

Do you prefer having a goal to strive for or focusing on the process?
In what way have you surprised yourself with your performance in something lately?