Week In Review – Vive La France!

Bonjour! I’m back home from France. It was a great trip, but definitely tiring!

As usual, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL, but since last week’s post didn’t cover the full week thanks to my travel commitments (and lack of wifi to update the weekend’s events) I thought I’d begin this week’s post by filling in the gaps. Unsurprisingly, I have plenty of photos to share – this might be one to enjoy over a cup of tea!

The trip began in Normandy then we headed to Paris. Once home, it was time to get back to my regular routine (whilst also making sure to rest from the demands of a full-on itinerary and 40 pupils to keep an eye on!). Here’s the itinerary:

Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy
Monday – explore Bayeux then travel to Paris
Tuesday – Paris
Wednesday – Paris
Thursday – travel home
Friday – rest(!)
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – easy run

Saturday was a travelling day. While France is not really that far away, we had an early start to ensure we were at the airport in plenty of time (45 people to get checked in and through security!), then once in France we had a coach journey north to Normandy. An early highlight for the pupils was the presence of the Scotland football team in the departure lounge (a few were able to get photos). For me, arriving at Charles de Gaulle airport felt really familiar – I’m losing count of how many times I’ve been there now! – and I was pleased to find we had a great coach driver who not only drove us north, but provided some commentary and information about various things we passed as we left Paris, including the Stade de France.

IMG_4015Once in Normandy we headed to our base for the first couple of nights which is a youth centre opposite the most beautiful church tower.

IMG_4024We were hustled right in to dinner as we were a little later arriving that usual. The teachers had a most welcome arrival drink awaiting them, but I found the food a little strange – edible, but an odd combination. Fortunately, the meal was rescued by dessert which was these delicious pastries:

IMG_4017Our knowledgeable coach driver, who had stayed for dinner, told us they are known as Paris-Brest. Shaped like a bicycle wheel, they were created to commemorate the cycle race of the same name which began in 1891. I can confirm that they are delicious!

By the time we’d finished eating and been shown to our rooms, there was really only time to unpack the things we would need then start getting ready for bed. Of course the pupils were excited, and many had slept on the coach so felt wide awake, but I know how busy and tiring the trip is so was keen to get everyone to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday was all about Normandy. We began the day in the beautiful town of Caen exploring the Sunday market and the castle which was built for William the Conqueror. We had our packed lunch in the castle grounds then headed on to Arromanches, at the heart of the D-Day landing sites (Jour-J in French). We were there to visit the 360 cinema which has a powerful 20 minute film which gives a real flavour of events in June 1944. The cinema is above the town and from the elevated position we could see the remains of the Mulberry harbour which was created to bring cargo ashore during the D-Day landings. We then took the short walk down to the town and had a look around for a short time before heading on to our next port of call: the American cemetery at Colleville.

IMG_4036The cemetery sits above Omaha beach and was featured at the start of the movie Saving Private Ryan (two of the brothers whose story inspired the film are buried at this cemetery). We didn’t have much time there, but I found time to watch a short film in the museum which I had not previously seen, before having a look around the cemetery itself. It’s a very sombre place and the mood can be felt in the air. It always really brings home the scale of the sacrifice made by allied forces as over 10,000 crosses are in this location alone.

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IMG_4043We began Monday still in Normandy with a visit to Bayeux and the famous tapestry which depicts the events around the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It’s quite spectacular and intricate, 70 metres long and 50 cm high. I remember learning about the tapestry at primary school, and always remember the part where Harold is killed with an arrow through the eye. Ouch!

IMG_4065After the tapestry there was some time to explore Bayeux before our packed lunches. There’s a beautiful cathedral in Bayeux and overall it’s a very attractive town.

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IMG_4079After lunch we were back on the road and heading to Paris for the remainder of the trip. Again, staying in a youth centre but more modern than the one in Normandy. We arrived in time to have a little time to relax before dinner, then it was time to head out.

Our first evening was spent in the Notre Dame area. We allowed the pupils some time to explore in their groups, so I opted to pay a visit to the nearby bookshop Shakespeare & Co. It’s a famous independent bookshop, traditionally English-language. Its location is close to Kilometer Zéro, the point from which all French road distances are measured. The shop is part of the rich history of ex-pat literary Paris in the 1920s and was a meeting place for the likes of Joyce, Hemingway, Fitzgerald and Eliot. Today it’s still full of nooks and crannies inviting visitors to get comfortable and read. There’s even a resident cat whose favourite sleeping place is well defined!

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IMG_4124I absolutely adore this place and could easily spend hours (days?) there, but contented myself with a couple of books. You can ask to have your purchases stamped with the store logo, which is a nice touch and something I recommend if you ever visit.

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fullsizeoutput_229cTuesday was probably the most tiring day as we had no coach so were both walking and using the metro. It was also a day when there were public sector strikes, which ended up affecting our itinerary.

The first visit on the agenda was the Musée d’Orsay, a one-time railway station now home to a number of exhibits including Impressionist art. In the past we have visited the Louvre, so this was new. Unfortunately, just as we got there the museum was in the process of closing as the strikes meant they did not have enough staff. We gave our pupils some time to themselves to look around, take photos, buy food, etc while we made alternative plans and I drew on what turned out to be far more impressive knowledge of Paris than I realised I had as I was able to look at my map and come up with a plan almost immediately. All those Paris marathons were good for something!

IMG_4172We needed to do something that would not incur a cost (including additional metro tickets) so I created a tour of the area we were in. From the Musée d’Orsay we walked along the Rive Gauche past the bouquinistes to the Pont des Arts. This is the pedestrian bridge which attracted controversy due to the number of “love locks” attached to it. The locks have now been removed due to safety concerns, but it’s still a great bridge to cross as it’s quite spacious and there’s no traffic so you can take some time for photos.

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IMG_4231The bridge leads into the Louvre courtyard so we spent some time there taking photos around the iconic pyramid (and I decided this would be the the ideal location for some yoga photos!). I had thought of maybe heading into the Tuileries gardens next, perhaps even along to the Place de la Concorde to see the obelisk, however we needed to start heading to our lunch at a quick service restaurant close to the Pompidou centre so we made our way along Rue de Rivoli to get there.

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IMG_4196The afternoon was devoted to some shopping so we walked the group along to the Forum des Halles, a huge underground shopping mall. There has been a lot of work going on remodelling the area and it was fascinating to see how much it has changed. I didn’t really do much shopping, but did enjoy the chance to slow down a bit and spend some time in a nearby café.

Unfortunately, our evening was also affected by the strikes. We had been due to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, but it was also closed. We had a bit longer to think about alternative activities and I suggested going along anyway to see the monument from ground level and spend some time on the Champs Elysées before walking along to the Trocadéro to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up. This turned out to be an ideal solution – another score for all that time I’ve spent exploring Paris on foot!

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IMG_4219The pupils were pleased to see the coach again on Wednesday morning as they were so tired from the day before. Wednesday began with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. I ended up waiting at the bottom with a pupil who was unable to go up because of a fear of heights. I amused myself with a coffee and pain au chocolat for second breakfast!

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IMG_4241Once the group was back on the ground we walked across the road to the Port de la Bourdonnais where we had a one hour cruise on the Seine. I’ve done this a few times so didn’t bother listening to the commentary and instead just enjoyed the Parisian scenery and chance to relax for a while.

Back at the coach we had a quick packed lunch (it was a little chilly) before heading off again. We asked our coach driver to go around the Arc de Triomphe, which he did, then took a fairly scenic route to our next port of call all the while keeping up his very knowledgeable and interesting commentary.

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IMG_4255Soon, we passed the Moulin Rouge and got off the coach to make our way up the 270 (I think) steps to the Sacré Cœur. I had to go up them fairly briskly as some of the boys raced up and a member of staff needed to be up there to keep everyone together as they arrived. After a pause at the view point, we walked around to the Place du Tertre to enjoy the artists, cafés and souvenir shops. The staff sat at a café by our meeting point and I ordered a delicious bowl of soupe à l’oignon gratinée.

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IMG_4397Our evening activity was a visit to the Montparnasse tower and its panoramic observation deck. We made our way there on foot, and it was well worth it for the stunning views of Paris by night.

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IMG_4297Thursday was, sadly, the day we had to go home. I was up early to take one of our pupils to the airport as a family funeral required her to be on an earlier flight than ours. It was actually quite nice to have a couple of hours to myself and not constantly hear my “teacher name” followed by Are we…? Can we…? When are we…? Where is…? etc.

IMG_4307Back in Scotland our journey home took us over the new Queensferry Crossing (my first time) which was exciting, but by the time I finally got home I was exhausted so Steve treated me to a Chinese takeaway for dinner before I went to bed.

IMG_4320Unsurprisingly, Friday was a very quiet day. I slept a little later then usual, got unpacked and paid a visit to my parents before going out to eat with Steve. Even better, my favourite special was on so I had a lovely steak dinner 🙂

IMG_4335By Saturday I was ready for business as usual. What with my recovery weeks and the trip, I hadn’t trained since the Loch Ness marathon and was keen to get started again with a parkrun.

IMG_4336It was a lovely autumnal day, perfect for running. I had no expectations of time, but enjoyed moving my legs and pushing my body again. I ended up running really evenly and was quite surprised to finish in 24:41. Not too shabby after three weeks off!

IMG_4343The rest of the day was pretty relaxing as Steve was away, so I chilled out with the cat and caught up on some TV.

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IMG_4409Sunday was another return to the usual routine as I headed out for my second run of the weekend. Nowhere near as long as my marathon training runs, but a nice 5.5 mile loop at an easy pace to start reminding my body of how to run again. I felt sluggish at first, but by the end I could feel everything clicking into place.

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IMG_4408What a week! So strange to think that I started the week in France and ended it on my usual running route. Life is so funny sometimes! It was great to have some time in Paris, but now I’m ready to re-focus and get back to some regular training again.

Have you been on any trips recently?
How is your training going?

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Week In Review – Bon Voyage!

All of a sudden it’s October and the end of term. I’m not entirely sure what happened to the last 8 weeks (although I suspect it was all just focused on reaching that start line at Loch Ness!). As you read this, I will be escorting 40 teenagers around Normandy and Paris, so look out for next week’s update with more details. For now, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my roundup of the last week.

Since this was the second of my usual two post-marathon recovery weeks, and I was getting ready to head off on a trip, things remained pretty gentle this week:

Monday – Hatha yoga
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – rest
Thursday – Ashtanga yoga
Friday – rest
Saturday – travel to France
Sunday – explore Normandy

I felt much better on this Monday than I had the previous one, thanks to a restful weekend. Since I knew I would miss my Hatha yoga class on Saturday (and had paid for it as part of the block) I decided to go to the Monday evening class instead. It meant I didn’t have a huge amount of time to do anything else, but to be honest the time out to calm my mind and focus on me was just what I needed. Interestingly, I felt a little residual weariness in my legs when we held one of the postures for a long time, but I suppose that shouldn’t really be a surprise so soon after a marathon!

Tuesday was busy so “rest” may not be quite accurate. I had to dash out of school at the end of the day to make it back in time for my hair appointment. I usually get this done at the weekend, but thanks to a number of obstacles in recent weeks (including, but not limited to, my trip to Inverness) there had just not been a way to fit it in and I really needed a trim before going away. At least sitting in the chair chatting and reading my book was nice and relaxing.

Tuesday was also the day my rejection from the London marathon arrived. Luckily, I had a Plan B and got my entry in for the Stirling marathon as soon as I got home!

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Another rest day on Wednesday, but again not exactly resting on my laurels. This week I FINALLY made it back to orchestra (rehearsals began a few weeks ago) as I want to be part of the forthcoming concert. I was a little worried as I haven’t really played since the concert last November, but it was so nice to see my orchestra friends again, and I even made a decent job of sight-reading the symphony we were playing!

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Thursday was, of course, my Ashtanga yoga class. Definitely something I needed in the last week of term! There were only three of us this week, but I felt so much better in the postures than last week when my legs were still so weary – I even managed to work on Wheel a little more which is one of my goals.

By Friday I was probably running out of “oomph” but luckily it was the last day of term. It still ended up a rather busy day as I got everything sorted out for the two week break. Once home, I had scheduled a checkup at the vet for my cat (Steve’s in charge of making sure she has all her medicines while I’m away!), after which I had to get stuck into packing. I always feel like I take far too much on this trip, but the weather in France can be so changeable at this time of year, and with the regimented timetable of a school visit, going to buy new clothes (as I would if I was caught out on a holiday) just isn’t possible. Add to that all the additional bits and pieces I need with 40 teenagers in my charge and suddenly I need more than usual, but by some miracle I got it all done in time to head out to eat – starting with a celebratory end of term pint!

IMG_4011My other Friday news is that the medal for my Hogwarts Running Club virtual race arrived – year 4 of the Platform 9 3/4k. I’ve taken part in this every year and this year, the medal has a light so it looks like the front of the Hogwarts Express. Cool!

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Saturday was travelling day. We gathered in the school car park while it was still dark to head to the airport, and fly to Paris. From there, a coach transfer to our Normandy base for the first couple of days. However since all this took place AFTER I wrote and scheduled this post, I’ll need to fill you in on the details next week! For now, it’s au revoir from me…

How has your week been?
Are your training just now or enjoying some down time?

Tips For Travelling Abroad For A Race

Earlier this year I shared my tips for making your first race day experience go smoothly, however what about preparing for a race a little further away from home? One of the many wonderful things about running is that it’s something you can do wherever you are, and these days more and more runners are taking advantage of the opportunity to race abroad. Regular readers know that I’ve now run the Paris marathon 5 times (4 of those in consecutive years) and have become used to racing 5ks during my summer trip to Florida. Not only does racing abroad offer a fantastic way to see a new place, but it can also form the basis of a holiday or short break. Ideal!

But just as racing closer to home needs a bit of advance preparation, travelling abroad for a race brings with it a few additional steps to make sure that everything goes smoothly. Based on my own experiences, here are some tips to make sure you have an enjoyable time:

  1. Check if there are any additional requirements in order to race. In some countries, including France, runners must provide a medical certificate signed by their doctor before they are allowed to race. Perhaps you’re travelling even further afield and need to check visa or health requirements. Taking care of such things in good time means you can relax in the lead up to your trip.

 

  1. Confirm all bookings such as flights and hotels. Print out anything you need such as booking references, boarding passes and race entries and pack them in your carry-on along with other essentials like your passport (and while you’re at it, check your passport is still valid – you don’t want an emergency trip to the passport office when you should be on your flight!)

 

  1. Remember travel insurance and any health requirements such as an EHIC card.

 

  1. Make sure you have all the usual travel essentials – guide book, travel adaptor, phone charger, currency – as well as race-specific ones like your race pack or any other details you’ve been sent. If you have to visit an expo to collect your race pack, make sure you know how to get there and what you will need in order to collect your pack – some races require a confirmation document and/or photo ID.

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  1. Check the weather forecast and plan the kit you are going to need. Make sure you have a couple of options in case that forecast changes. Remember not to wear anything new, and make sure you have something to keep you warm/dry before the race as well as something to put on afterwards if you have a bit of a journey back to your hotel. If you’re going somewhere warm, make sure you pack your sunscreen otherwise you’ll have “interesting” tan lines to show off! I ALWAYS pack my race day kit in my carry-on so I know I have all my essentials safely by my side. If you’re travelling for a marathon, I recommend compression socks or leggings for the day after, especially if you’ll be flying, as they always help my legs to recover.

  1. Think about food. Ok, I know as runners we’re always thinking about food, but what I mean is to think about what you’re going to eat before the race. If you have a meal you always like to have e.g. porridge, it may be best to bring your own in case your hotel doesn’t have what you need. Likewise, you may not be able to buy your preferred race fuel (gels, drinks, etc) at your destination, so pack whatever you need. I usually carry a few snacks for the flight as well, since you never know what food options there will be on a travelling day.

 

  1. If you’re taking any tech like a running watch or smartphone, make sure you have any chargers you might need (and the appropriate adaptor to plug them in!)

 

  1. Pack a few first aid essentials like blister plasters and painkillers in case you need them after the race. It’s not a bad idea to have some safety pins for your race number either, just in case!

 

  1. Be sensible ahead of race day. It’s easy to notch up 10+ miles simply walking around a big city and ideally you want to turn up at the start line with reasonably fresh legs. That said, if you have the chance then it’s worth checking out the start and finish areas to make sure you know your travel arrangements for race day.

  1. The night before your race, do exactly as you would at home – read over your race pack, lay out everything you need and try to get a good night’s sleep. And make sure you eat well – I wouldn’t be trying any unusual or spicy foods the day before. Stick to something familiar and save the local delicacy for your post-race celebration!

A little planning will help remove some of the stress that can come with travelling and you will be able to relax, get the most out of your trip and, crucially, enjoy your race.

Have a great racecation!

Week In Review – Squeezing Out Every Last Drop!

What a strange week! I’ve gone from living it up in Florida to a wee Scottish drowned rat in the blink of an eye! I still have plenty of photos to share from the last days of our trip as I link up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL as usual.

Since much of the week was still either part of our holiday or dominated by the demands of travelling home, my schedule was a little different again. I don’t generally plan so much when we’re away, but there’s always room for a morning workout somewhere along the line!

Monday – Magic Kingdom
Tuesday – 5k
Wednesday – workout @ park then flight home
Thursday – walk
Friday – rest
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – 10k

We definitely got the week off to a great start with a visit to the Magic Kingdom. My dad has decided that everyone’s birthday now takes place in July (the only one of us actually born in July is my mum!) and we are all now being presented with a Disney gift card when we’re in Florida. It’s totally up to us how we use the card but Steve and I like to have an experience rather than buy something, so we decided to have a day at MK since it’s been a couple of years since we visited there. My sister came too and decided we should be there for rope drop so we could get on plenty of rides before it got too busy. I’d actually never been in as early as that before but it worked out well as Steve and I scored a ride on the first Seven Dwarves Mine Train of the day (there were no Fastpasses left by the time we had our tickets to plan the day and the line for this one is always ENORMOUS!!).

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IMG_2973Much like our day at Epcot last week, we had a great time revisiting old favourites like Big Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and The Haunted Mansion whilst keeping the Photopass photographers occupied (my sister has an annual pass so gets the photos included). And yes, I did do some novelty shots of my own by the castle!

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IMG_3019There was some pretty heavy rain later in the day but it cleared up in time for the fireworks. I’m so glad we stayed because the new show is incredible – a combination of fireworks and projections onto the castle itself. Awesome!

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IMG_3099In the end we were in the park for the FULL DAY. Yup, all the way from “all are welcome in this magical place” to “we thank you for joining us today“! Needless to say, we were pretty tired so Tuesday was a bit more relaxing. We still got up and joined dad for our last “running club” 5k of the trip, safe in the knowledge that we could snooze in the sun later on, and this time he chose a different route a bit more like the one Steve and I had done ourselves the previous week. Knowing there was a Strava segment I wanted to improve on, I set off at a pretty steady pace then ramped it up for the section where I hit the segment. Once I knew I had completed it I actually stopped for a moment to catch my breath and get a decent drink before carrying on. It was worth it though as I ran the segment 30 seconds faster than the last time and set a new PR there. Also notable from this run, the 4 cranes which flew in formation across the road in front of me (Steve was quite far ahead by this point and dad didn’t see me pointing at them so you’ll just have to take my word for it!).

IMG_3102After enjoying the last of the sunshine we got showered and changed to take mum and dad out for dinner. We always do this on our last night as a thank you for looking after putting up with us for two weeks. Mum loves snow crab legs so we went to Red Lobster. We all had lobster bisque to start then I opted for a New York strip steak (a cut we don’t tend to see in the UK) which was delicious.

IMG_3133Steve and I decided to get up on Wednesday for one last workout in the morning sun. We were conscious that we would be travelling for quite a long time and cramped up in a plane so wanted a bit of movement before that happened. We ran down to the park and worked through a circuit of exercises including the two exercises we did last week and adding on some curl ups on the monkey bars (we had to do these in fives as our hands kept slipping off the wet bars!). We did 3 rounds of the circuit – 10 reps, 15 reps and 20 reps. We then ran home by a longer route than last time and promptly got in the pool to cool off!

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IMG_3171Mum was conscious that we would likely be eating at funny times for the next few hours so made us scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast.

IMG_8526Then there was nothing for it but to get showered, dressed and finalise our packing ready to leave 😦

Once checked in we had a ginormous slice of pizza to keep us going then made our way through security to the gate. Sadly there was a bit of a delay on our flight up to Newark Liberty which meant we had very little time to connect to our transatlantic flight. Fortunately the gates were close together so we were able to grab a really quick snack (a ridiculously overpriced sandwich for me) before boarding.

IMG_3186Unfortunately there was another delay due to a problem with the baggage scales so we sat for an hour before pushing back. I actually slept a bit and only woke up when they brought dinner round. As soon as I’d eaten I promptly fell asleep again (it was probably 11pm by then) but my eyes snapped open when I heard someone say “ice cream”. Actually, I caused Steve a great deal of amusement as I woke up and said, “did I hear ice cream?” Which he understood as me hearing the actual ice cream lol! It turned out to be a lemon sorbet but it was delicious and I went to sleep right after, sleeping right through until they brought breakfast thanks to us having 3 seats between the 2 of us: Steve sat on the aisle so I could lift the armrest, curl up in a ball and lie flat on the other 2 seats. A bit cramped but a much better sleep than bolt upright in my seat!

By some miracle our luggage actually arrived in Edinburgh with us (I had been doubtful thanks to a rather odd woman at the bag drop in Orlando, two flights and assorted delays, including to baggage) and we were back on the road quite soon (with a coffee stop half way to keep us alert). This, of course, was Thursday as we flew overnight and we were home around lunchtime. Knowing it was best to try and keep going rather than nap, we unpacked a bit then headed out to get some essential food shopping to see us through to our normal shop at the weekend. Steve actually went out to teach a class in the early evening and I decided to take a walk to keep moving and stop me falling asleep!

IMG_3188Sleep was a little disrupted on Thursday night (I was awake for a couple of hours at random during the night, but just read my book until I dozed off again). I had my alarm set for the all-important job of going to collect the cat from the cattery. With her health conditions and long list of meds I was a bit apprehensive about how she would be but was relieved to find there had been no problems at all and she was clearly very well looked after. She was in fine voice on the way home as she told me all about her holiday and spent a good chunk of time patrolling the house to check everything was how she wanted it. She also wouldn’t let me out of her sight. Anyone would think she missed me!

IMG_3196In a bid to keep moving I decided to walk down to my gym in the afternoon simply to sit in the hot tub and sauna. I knew if I stayed home I would fall asleep and really wanted to get back into the right sleep pattern for the time zone I’m in. The walk did the trick and I was feeling refreshed ready for our usual Friday night meal at our “local” (with a wee draft Bud Light for a  taste of “home”!)

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IMG_3199Although still tired, we got up on Saturday for parkrun as we know a run helps to reset the body clock.  Unlike Clermont last week it was a wet and windy morning to welcome us home but it was so nice to see lots of familiar faces once more. I wasn’t sure how well I would run as despite lots of running (in the heat, which boosts fitness in cooler weather) I was still jet lagged so was rather surprised to finish in exactly 24 minutes. That’s my fastest parkrun since late May and great motivation to try and get sub-24 again soon.

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What a difference a week makes!

To really reset our usual routine it was back to a longer run on Sunday. My alarm went off at 8am but I felt like I wanted to doze a little longer. When I opened my eyes what felt like 5 minutes later it was 10am – oops! Must have needed that!

I got organised and planned out a 10k route. No pressure on splits or time, just running to feel and getting my body use to running a little longer again (not only was I sticking to shorter distances in Florida, but I cut back in the last two weeks of term when my right leg was niggling a bit so have not run more than 5 miles since mid-June). It was pretty damp again and within the first mile the heavens opened and I got drenched. It then dried up and I finished my run looking like a scarecrow with hair sticking out all over the place, Thanks Scotland! Still, it was nice to be out and settling into the rhythm of a longer run. I was still a bit sleepy and felt sluggish in the middle of my run as I didn’t eat before heading out and was really running at lunchtime, but soon enough my body remembered how to fuel itself and I felt good.

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Summer in Scotland means the rain is warmer 😉

After a weekend of normal routine it seems hard to believe that I began the week festooned in sparkly mouse ears waving to assorted Disney characters in the shows and parades. Life can be rather funny at times. Still, it was a brilliant trip and I can’t wait to do it all again next summer. For now, time to get into training mode and get ready for the Loch Ness Marathon which is now creeping closer!

IMG_3023What’s the strangest week you’ve had recently?
What event are you training for?

A Parkrunner Abroad

One of the brilliant things about parkrun is that when you travel, certainly within the UK, you should be able to find an event near you and be welcomed to run. There aren’t so many events in the US (yet) but there is a well-established parkrun in Clermont, Florida and this year we finally got a chance to head down there and join a run.

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Originally the event took place on near enough the same route as the Cool Summer Mornings 5k that we have taken part in so many times at Clermont Waterfront Park, however they recently made a slight move within the park (about a mile or so further along the path) to avoid further cancellations due to the frequent other events in the park and some construction work that’s happening.

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We set off around 6:30am so we would have plenty of time to get there, with a little margin for error, and get parked. It all turned out to be really easy and we parked right by the start line where there were also some toilets. It actually reminded me a little of Al Lopez Park in Tampa where we previously did the Run Thru Hell 5k as there were covered shelters with picnic tables under them which were set up as event HQ.

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The start was all set up and there was a guest book for international visitors to sign. We then had a few minutes before the briefing to watch everyone arriving.

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As is standard, there was a briefing right before the start at 7:30am. What was unusual was that the briefing was split between a visitor (who is a run director at a parkrun in Northern Ireland) and the run director for the event. It was a nice touch and fun to hear a different accent. It certainly drew lots of cheers!

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Photo Credit: Kate Castleman on Clermont parkrun facebook page

After that, the run. There was a moment of confusion as the RD said “3-2-1 go!” To be honest, I’m still not 100% sure what happened. I was near the front, heard the countdown and, like those ahead of me, began running. Next thing everyone stopped (dad ran into my back!) then we were waved on again. Clearly a false start of some description but not worth getting upset about as it was only a couple of seconds.

The route at Clermont is an out and back along part of the same path we’ve run on for Cool Summer Mornings, but heading in the opposite direction so those two routes do overlap. The first part of the route was in shade and felt quite pleasant as we were also heading into a breeze, but all too soon we were out in the glaring sun all the way to the turn. Dad was quite literally breathing down my neck for the first half of the run but got past me at the turn and sped off just as my legs began to turn to lead!

I actually ran pretty well for the first half, but the heat got to me in the second half and all I could think about was getting back to that shade for the final part of the run. When it finally came into sight I managed to up the pace a bit to cross the line in 25:28. That’s about 5 seconds slower than the previous week’s 5k, but the route was slightly longer and we were running a little later so that’s fair enough. My average pace was actually a bit faster and I held my speed for longer before succumbing to the heat. Any run in Florida in July is always going to be hard work (and it was particularly hot that morning apparently!).

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Photo credit: Hector Clamente on Clermont parkrun flickr group

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Once over the line I was handed my finish token and made my way over to the shelter which had been set up for barcode scanning. There was also a cooler with some bottles of water which had been provided by a very generous person – a great touch in the summer heat.

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I found Steve and dad, who had enjoyed his first ever parkrun, and we milled around for a bit cooling down, chatting to others and getting some photos. Like with my home parkrun, everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming, chatting easily and taking photos for us.

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Then it was back in the car for the half hour journey home to get showered and cleaned up. We had offered to take mum and dad out for breakfast so a short time later we were off again to head round to IHOP. We had coupons for free pancakes but added some sides and may have got carried away as each side came on a separate plate and we ended up with FOUR plates each. That’s some serious refuelling! Steve and I walked it off by heading home on foot as mum and dad had some errands to run.

UntitledThe parkrun results were pretty speedy and we actually had our emails before we left for breakfast. I was happy with mine in the conditions (despite several sub-24 times at home, I’ve NEVER managed to run even sub-25 in a 5k in Florida. It’s something I’d love to achieve one day) and now have an event PB to try and beat in future!
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Clermont parkrun was a fantastic parkrun tourism experience. If you’re ever in the area (not too far away if you’re staying somewhere handy for Disney World) then I recommend heading down there on a Saturday morning. We definitely plan to be back next time.

Are you a parkrun tourist?
What parkrun would you really like to do?

Week In Review – Having a Magical Time

It’s been a full week of holiday fun, but there’s still been some room for running and working out. As ever, I’m linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL to share my week. I hope you like lots of photos as this week’s post has loads! Of course with being on holiday the pattern was a little different again. Here’s how it broke down:

Monday – 5k
Tuesday – short workout @ park
Wednesday – Epcot
Thursday – 3 miles
Friday – shopping!
Saturday – parkrun
Sunday – Disney Springs

We began the week with our second “club run” (dad calls us a running club when we have our holiday runs together!). It was the same 5k route that we did on our first morning last week, but I was feeling a little sluggish so took it at a steadier, more even pace. UntitledAfter a dip in the pool to cool off we had breakfast then I got myself spruced up for an excursion. There were a few errands along the way, but our destination was Dsney’s Grand Floridian where Steve and I had reservations for afternoon tea in the Garden View Lounge. We parked at the Transportation & Ticket Center (TTC) to use the resort transportation. Mum and dad were heading to the Magic Kingdom for a couple of hours (they have annual passes) while we went to the GF. Since we had plenty of time we decided to get the ferry over to the MK together, then Steve and I took a resort launch to the GF. Untitled UntitledWe had a bit of a walk around the resort then checked in for our reservations. Not long after we ordered, there was an announcement that Cinderella and Prince Charming were going to come down the grand staircase and our server told us we could head on out to see them. Untitled Untitled UntitledOnce back at our table, our champagne had arrived (along with my rose from Princess Aurora’s rose garden), followed by our first course – fruits and cheeses – and our tea. My chosen blend was Perfect Afternoon. Untitled Untitled UntitledAfter that we were brought sandwiches and the tier with the scones and our chosen desserts – pastries. If you ever get the chance to do this, I definitely recommend it as the food is amazing. Needless to say, we just opted for a snack that evening as we were pretty full of delicious treats! Untitled Untitled Untitled Untitled So as not to “overdo” things, we had a much quieter day planned for Tuesday. Steve and I decided to get up and head out for an early workout – a jog of just under a mile down to the playpark where we used the equipment there to create a workout. UntitledWe started with some core work in press-up position but with one leg raised on the step up to the slide. A bit like a one-legged mountain climber to work on knee drive. Untitled UntitledWe also used our old favourite the seesaw for some balance. It certainly makes squats interesting! Untitled UntitledThen we ran home by a different route which took us around the development rather than back the way we had come. It’s about 1.5 miles and provides a bit of variety. UntitledOnce home I spread my yoga mat by the pool again and happily worked through some of the Ashtanga sequence in the morning stillness before breakfast, then it was a relaxing day reading and snoozing by the pool until it was time for dinner. Chicken salad. UntitledWednesday had us back to the excitement of Disney. Ages ago dad pointed out that it was 25 years ago this month that we had our first family holiday to Florida. 25 years? I surely can’t be that old! At the time, it was billed as a “once in a lifetime” trip, never to be repeated, but I don’t think there’s been a year since that my parents haven’t been in Florida at some point, and of course now they have a home here which makes it much easier for all of us. To mark the occasion, it was decided that we would have a family day at the first ever Disney park we visited – Epcot. Thinking back, it sure has changed in 25 years!  To really go for it, my sister organised reunion-style tops for us all to wear as we walked around the park and we wore those “I’m celebrating” buttons  as well. Obviously this meant we had to get some group photos to remember the day. UntitledHighlights included FINALLY getting on the Frozen-themed ride not just once, but TWICE, enjoying some adult beverages (prosecco in Italy and a frozen margarita in Mexico) and re-visiting old favourites like Test Track (where my hair seemed to have a mind of its own in our ride photo!) and Soarin’. I, of course, couldn’t resist my signature jumping shot with Spaceship Earth as the backdrop, as well as a couple of yoga poses. Anything goes in Disney, right? UntitledUntitledUntitledUntitledThursday was a little more sedate after such a long day. Steve and I got up for a run, but dad needed a lie-in so our running club was down a member. We created our own route – an out and back along a route where we knew there was a Strava segment! – which totalled 3 miles. I had woken up with some tightness in my upper back and although it was ok running, 3 miles was enough for me at that point. UntitledWe spent the rest of our day relaxing by the pool, reading and snoozing on a sun lounger before a dinner of my mum’s slow cooker mince. Lovely! Untitled

Friday started a little sharper as mum and dad had appointments with their hairdresser so Steve and I were dropped off at the nearby outlet mall for some shopping. We probably went round all the shops about 3 times (with refreshment breaks along the way!) and came away with a few bargains. Untitled

Since we were out all day, dinner was leftovers from Thursday.

On Saturday we had another early start as we were going for our first ever bit of international parkrun tourism. That’s right, we FINALLY made it to Clermont waterfront parkrun. We even got dad to register for his barcode and join us in the run. It was a great experience and I’ll write a separate post about it as soon as I get time. UntitledPost-parkrun we treated mum and dad to breakfast at IHOP then we had plans with my sister. First we headed off for a little more shopping. There’s a small nearby complex with some shops we’d not so far visited and were keen to go. After that, we were Disney-bound. First, some mini golf at Winter Summerland, a festive/beach-themed place. We played the winter course first then stopped for a quick refreshment before going around the summer course. Despite my beer I was super-consistent and got the same score on both courses. Maybe my golf is improving at last! UntitledUntitledUntitledWe then headed over to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. It’s not a resort I’ve visited before but my sister’s friend spent a couple of nights there last week so she had been over to use the pool and have dinner. I was fascinated by the fact there were animals right outside the hotel windows! UntitledWe also toasted marshmallows over the campfire and had a poke around the gift shop (it is Disney after all!) before our dinner reservations at Boma, an African/Indian inspired buffet.

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I was hungry, but was conscious of the huge breakfast that morning. I still managed soup, salad, ribs with sides and a selection of the amazing desserts, along with seemingly endless glasses of Jungle Juice. It was brilliant! Untitled UntitledUntitled

I was so tired when I got home that I was pleased to have a chance to sleep a little later on Sunday morning. We did have Disney plans though, and late morning we piled into the car to head to Disney Springs where they were having a “Christmas in July” theme. I never get to see Disney at Christmas so was super excited for this! Untitled

Apart from some shopping, the real highlight was meeting summer Santa – red shorts, Hawaiian shirt and red Converse high tops. It was great!

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We also enjoyed a Snowflake Margarita as our afternoon refreshment.

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And took advantage of some Photopass opportunities.

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Once the money was spent (you’re welcome America!) it was home for dinner. This time mum had some pork sitting in a marinade all day so it was delicious. Note the sprouts – Christmas in July lol!

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What a brilliant week! Only a few more days of the trip left, but you can expect another update on our adventures in next week’s post.

Christmas in July: yes or no?
What would be your ideal Disney day?

Friday Finds – 14th July

Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/health/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.

Since I’m on holiday (or vacation for my American friends) I thought this week’s Friday Finds could be devoted to one of my favourite holiday pastimes…running!

If running whilst on a trip is new to you, Women’s Running weighs up the pros and cons of some of the common tips given to travelling runners. I’m lucky that I’m not the only runner in the family so it’s easy to set time aside, but being in a hot, humid climate means I do switch from my usual evening runs or leisurely starts to pretty much rolling out of bed into my trainers to avoid the harsh conditions later on.

If you’d like to take things further and turn your trip into a runcation, then Runner’s World is here with some great tips to help you get the most out of your trip. After several trips involving running or racing, I can definitely recommend the idea.

Inevitably, sometimes we have to travel right after an event, leading to muscles seizing up (I’ve definitely thought longingly of the emergency slide when faced with a set of airline steps!). To help, Triathlete magazine has assembled some tips to help with recovery whilst stuck in a car or plane.

One of the difficulties I face in heading to Florida is the huge difference in temperature and humidity. Running in hot weather can slow you by up to a minute a mile as your body has to work harder to keep you cool. Studies have shown that becoming better acclimatised makes more of a difference than pre-cooling the skin, leading to the suggestion of a hot bath before a hot weather workout. Now that sounds just about crazy enough to work!

And finally, travelling to run or race can lead to some great stories to tell afterwards. A rather disconcerting incident involving a Paris marathon portable toilet and some raisins springs to mind, as does the additional security check I was once treated to thanks to my suspicious looking HRM! If you want more like that, Women’s Running has gathered together a few. Do you have any to add?

Happy reading,
The Running Princess

Week In Review – We’re All Going on a Summer Holiday!

To be honest, I’m still not 100% sure what day it is – being away from your normal routine will do that to you! – but thought it would be fun to continue my week in review posts while I’m on holiday so I can share what I’m up to. As usual, linking up with Jessie @ The Right Fits and Jess @ Jess Runs ATL.

I didn’t leave for my trip until mid-week, but the preparations for going and a different routine away from home meant this week’s schedule looked a little different:

Monday – swim
Tuesday – rest
Wednesday – flight
Thursday – 5k run
Friday – rest
Saturday – 5k race
Sunday – rest

Monday went pretty much as normal workout-wise.There was no work so I took a walk to the gym for my usual swim and had one or two errands to get ready for going away. Most importantly I had my nails done so they were “holiday ready”!

UntitledTuesday was a bit busier so “rest” really is a bit inaccurate! The day began with a trip to the cattery with The Boss so that she is looked after while I’m away. A bit harder for me this time due to her health conditions, but I know the owner will look after her very well and she’s in the best possible hands away from home. Once she was safely delivered, I did some tidying around the house and got my suitcase packed ready for an early start on Wednesday.

UntitledWe were away around 5am on Wednesday to give us plenty of time to park the car, transfer to the airport, check in and make our way through security. Once in the departure lounge we had plenty of time so got some breakfast and wandered around a bit until it was time for our flight.

UntitledWe were flying first to Newark Liberty, clearing immigration there then connecting to our flight to Orlando where mum and dad were waiting to collect us and take us to the house. It was a pretty long day and mum had one of my favourites – bolognese – ready in the slow cooker so we could eat almost as soon as we got in. After that we pretty much headed to bed and enjoyed being in a horizontal rather than seated position after all the hours of flying!

UntitledOf course we awoke quite early on Thursday but had already organised with dad that we would go for a 5k run around 7:30 am (while the temperature is still comparatively “cool”). What with dad just returning from running after his recent op and Steve still weary from his half Ironman on Sunday, I soon found myself running ahead by myself. It’s hard to maintain a fast pace in the Florida humidity and the hours of travel soon caught up to see me fade in the last mile where Steve, whose legs had apparently woken up, passed me. It was good to get my legs moving again and set me up for the rest of the day.

UntitledThe first day of the holiday is always a run followed by heading out for breakfast. We went to a nearby IHOP for some pancakes which were amazing! After that mum and I always go to the day spa for pedicures while Steve amuses himself with catching up on news etc in Panera next door.

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Toes ready for public consumption, we then hit a nearby outlet mall for a bit of shopping until it was time to head home for dinner – leftover bolognese 🙂

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Friday was much more restful. I began the day by spreading my yoga mat out by the pool for some sun salutations, then largely lay by the pool reading, snoozing and soaking up the sun for the rest of the day. I did, however, head out for some walks to make sure I moved a bit and wasn’t completely sedentary! Dinner that night was some delicious chicken with lemon and capers. I do love my mum’s cooking!

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UntitledWe were up early again on Saturday to head over to Clermont for the Cool Summer Mornings 5k, which I already wrote about. Again, the afternoon was spent lazing by the pool and reading until a late afternoon storm forced us in. Dinner was ribs with baked potatoes (I’m going to share a lot of my meals while I’m away, partly so I have a record of them and partly because who doesn’t love a bit of their mum’s cooking?).

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UntitledSunday was another restful day. Steve and I took a walk in the morning before breakfast (pretty much always watermelon, toast and coffee when we’re here) then settled by the pool to read and snooze. This is how I like to reset and recharge after a busy school year, and although we have some plans in the days ahead, beginning with some lazy, restful days really helps. Oh, and dinner was turkey. Mum plans her meals well and cooks a lot from scratch. Yum!

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UntitledAfter the first few days of my holiday being kind of busy at the end of last week, it’s been great to spend a few days relaxing. I’m ready to do a few more interesting things in the week ahead, which I’ll share (along with some food photos!) in next week’s review.

What’s your favourite thing to do on holiday?
Any book recommendations for my lazy, poolside days?

Race Report – Cool Summer Mornings 5k July 2017

Locals are describing the Central Florida weather as “steamy” right now, but that didn’t stop us from heading off on our now-annual trip to Clermont for the July race in the Cool Summer Mornings series. (You can read about my previous experiences of this race: 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016)

Cool Summer Mornings 5k

The race begins at 7:15 am so it was a 5:15am alarm so we could be on the road at 5:45 – “we” being your Running Princess, Steve and my parents. My sister was supposed to be joining is but ducked out as she had managed to get a fastpass for one of the new Avatar attractions at Disney and didn’t want to miss out.

We arrived around 6:30am and got a parking spot not too far from packet pickup then as usual we headed along to get our race packs and took them back to the car to get organised. We got stuck in a long queue to get our packets this year which was odd as normally it’s a quick in and out. Once organised there was enough time for a “comfort break” before heading over to the start line. I was standing with dad and just before the race start they played a version of the national anthem suitable for a race with the theme Rock’n the USA, then it was time to race.

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The route is an out and back along the shores of Lake Minneola and the setting really is beautiful. Unfortunately I don’t really notice it too much while I’m running as the humid air saps all my energy! The start was a little crowded so I hugged the side and set off rather quickly in order to get some space then maintained what I knew to be far too fast a pace for the conditions. When my Garmin bleeped to tell me my first mile had been completed in less than 8 minutes, I knew I would pay for it in the last mile!

Cool Summer Mornings 5kI knew Steve was ahead of me and was able to see him at the turnaround. I then gave dad a wave as he was a little behind me this year (this was just his third run since he had an op a few weeks ago). I saw mum a bit further on as she was enjoying her walk, something that really seems to be encouraged here as a way of getting more people active.

There was a water station and since it was so hot I grabbed a cup to take a quick mouthful then pour the rest of the icy water down my neck to cool me down. My pace had slowed to a more sensible 8:19 in the second mile, but I knew the last mile was going to be a tough one as it’s into direct sun with very little shade or shelter. After working hard to that point, increasing my heart rate and getting warmer, I knew this would be the point I would have to dig in.

And that’s exactly how it was.

It’s strange how a distance I’m so familiar with, that I run every week can feel so hard, yet in hot and humid weather the energy is just sapped as your body works harder to keep you cool. I was conscious that I was getting slower and slower, but did manage to find a last spurt of speed when I saw the finish gantry come into sight to finish with 25:23. I was about 20 seconds faster last year, but was in slightly better form so I’m happy enough with that.

Cool Summer Mornings 5kOnce over the line I was handed my medal and an ice cold bottle of water, while my timing chip was taken. I then headed straight for the cooling tent to get my temperature back down while I sipped my water.

Cool Summer Mornings 5kOnce we were all finished we headed over to the food tent where I collected a hotdog, watermelon, banana, pastry, granola bar, crisps, a can of soda and a beer. We then enjoyed sitting on a bench in the sun until it was time for the awards.

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Cool Summer Mornings 5k
Cool Summer Mornings 5k

Sadly no award for me this year as my category turned out to be super competitive and I came 5th. In order to place I would have needed my best 5k time of the year – not happening in this humidity! However Steve won the masters prize and dad, despite not being in his best form, took second in his age group.

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Despite not winning a prize, I was rather intrigued by my study of the results later on. Out of 514 finishers, a whopping 336 (65%) were female, which supports all I’ve read about the growth of female participation in the US. In my category alone there were 54 women (the biggest field in any of the age groups) and I was 5th (56th finisher overall, 18th female). Even the oldest participant was female – a sprightly 80 years old – and as the only one in her age group, she left with a prize. Awesome! It’s fantastic to see such huge participation from women and definitely something I want to see continue. Everyone was really friendly and several participants chatted to me as we milled around waiting for the awards.

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This will be our only race during our trip this year (next week we’re going back to Clermont for a bit of parkrun tourism!) and it made for an enjoyable morning.

Cool Summer Mornings 5k
Cool Summer Mornings 5k

I Love Paris When it Sizzles

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Who needs an excuse to go to Paris? I certainly don’t, but a marathon is definitely a very good reason to make the trip! Long-time readers will already know that I’m a big fan of la plus belle ville du monde and, like the 1964 film starring Audrey Hepburn, the titles of my posts this week have been inspired by the words of Cole Porter:

“Every time I look down on this timeless town
Whether blue or gray be her skies.
Whether loud be her cheers or soft be her tears,
More and more do I realize:

I love Paris in the springtime.
I love Paris in the fall.
I love Paris in the winter when it drizzles,
I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.”

Last weekend most definitely sizzled, providing less than ideal conditions for a marathon (you can read about that experience here) but ideal conditions to enjoy a weekend break. While we didn’t want to tire ourselves out walking miles and miles around the city (so easily done!) when we had a marathon to run, that doesn’t mean we didn’t take advantage of our time in Paris to enjoy some of the other things the city has to offer, so like last year I thought I’d share one or two of the non-running highlights (aka The One Where I Bore You With My Holiday Photos 😉 )

Cuisine
France, of course, is synonymous with fine dining, however some of the more traditional french fare probably wouldn’t sit very well on race day (anyone for steak tartare?!?) so we tended to structure our eating around what we knew would work for us. Our hotel had a great breakfast buffet, but I for one stuck to yoghurt, toast and pastries until after the marathon, then indulged in some sausages and pancakes the day after (but I was so hungry I forgot to photograph it!)

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For lunch the day before the marathon we had a slice of pizza, followed by reliving the joy we discovered last year: the Nutellino. Basically this is Nutella, a shot of coffee and some frothy milk, finished off with an extra teaspoon of Nutella sitting on top. Delicious!

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Dinner that night was onion soup (my favourite) and tagliatelle bolognese in a lovely Italian place we found last year. It’s on the Champs Élysées which can be pricey, but this one is reasonable and always really busy. Proximity to our hotel is another big draw!

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Post-marathon, anything goes! We had our free pint at Frog XVI (they have their own microbrewery and I chose Baba Boom!) and ordered one of their burgers. This one was barbecue, and to be honest I have no idea what it tastes like as I didn’t exactly savour every mouthful (and yes, I did cut the burger and take a bite before I remembered to take a photo -> runger!)

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IMG_1399We rounded off the trip with one last al fresco coffee on the Champs Élysées on Monday morning before heading to the airport (which I followed with an onion soup chaser. What can I say? I was hungry!).

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Well it would be rude not to! We paid a visit to one or two shops in the Carrousel du Louvre, including one of my favourites, Pylones. In the window they had a poster that seemed to be of me living my Paris dream life – I even had a wee cat! I bought myself a replacement for the mug I broke at the end of term with the same design on it which should cheer me up as the new term begins!

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History
Right across from our hotel we spotted these high walls which were clearly much older than the other architecture in the area. Intrigued, I checked my map to find these walls marked the Reservoir de Passy. Further searching online revealed some very interesting information about this reservoir. Built between 1858-66, it’s fed by the Seine and is not drinking water, but it does feed the fountains and parks of the city. Unusually, the reservoir itself sits five storeys above ground (it’s described as being like a series of swimming pools) and is open to the elements. There is a network of tunnels below the reservoir which were used as torture chambers by the French Gestapo during the Occupation.

IMG_1362By way of further intrigue, we also learned that the headquarters of the French Gestapo were nearby, on the very same street as our hotel, so we couldn’t resist a little walk to go and check it out.

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IMG_1363Maybe it puts a firm stamp on our vintage, but all Steve and I could think about was popular ’80s sitcom ‘Allo ‘Allo and couldn’t help wondering if we were on the brink of locating the painting of The Fallen Madonna!

Sightseeing
You can’t go to a city and not take in the sights. To be honest, most of ours was covered by the Breakfast Run and Marathon, but we still managed to fit in a bit of larking about for the camera!

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That blue line on the road marks where the marathon started. Apart from that there’s no sign that a race took place there just 24hrs before!

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I don’t know what all the fuss is about. The Eiffel Tower is quite small 😉

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Having my selfies infiltrated again!

I’ll leave you with the words of T.S. Eliot, who captures my feelings about Paris beautifully. The marathon may have proved tougher than expected this time, but we still had a fantastic weekend.

“Yet with these April sunsets, that somehow recall

My buried life, and Paris in the spring,

I feel immeasurably at peace, and find the world

To be wonderful and youthful after all”

From Collected Poems 1909-1962

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Where is your favourite place in the world and why?
How would you spend a weekend in Paris?