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 82

Holidays at last! And not only that, but I went away on an actual break in another country!

When the rules around needing a PCR test to return to the UK from abroad changed, it made my sister and I feel much less cautious about taking a trip (previously we had been worried about testing positive whilst away and what that would entail) so just two weeks before the end of term we made a fairly last minute booking to go to Disneyland Paris. I’ll write separately about the details (and many MANY photos) of our trip, so will stick to a brief outline here and how I kept my run streak going whilst travelling.

Monday – 1 mile
Tuesday – 1 mile
Wednesday – 1 mile
Thursday – 1 mile
Friday – 4 miles + Hatha yoga (recording from Zoom)
Saturday – parkrun sandwich
Sunday – 4.5 miles

In order to maximise our time, we opted for an early flight on the Monday morning. We were going to get the TGV from the airport to Disneyland, put our bags (we had those little cabin-sized cases as we were travelling hand baggage only) into the guest storage and be in the park by about midday. And so just like when we took our trip last August, I invoked my “exceptional circumstances” streak rule which meant running a few laps around the block outside my house in the middle of the night to clock up a mile. I had everything packed bar a couple of things I would need first thing, my clothes and running kit laid out so it was easy to get out of bed and run. It may seem an odd thing to do, but that early mile definitely makes me feel much more alert through the rest of what becomes a very long day.

The airport was unfortunately rather stressful. We had checked in online but for some reason nobody was getting a seat allocation and had to still go to the check-in desk at the airport. We joined the queue at 4:40am (for a 6:10am flight) but the queue was incredibly slow. I have NEVER had to wait so long, particularly given we weren’t checking in any bags and it was 5:30am before we were done. We went directly to security where we were met with another huge queue and to be honest I was convinced we were going to miss the flight (and had no idea what we were supposed to do in that situation). Thankfully by the time it was my turn I was able to get through without any additional checks, but along the way I lost sight of my sister. I had put my phone and Apple Watch in my bag (to avoid setting off the sensors) so decided just to start heading for the gate. As it turns out, she had ended up behind me but made the exact same decision, so when I reached the gate (of course one of the far away ones) and called her, she was right behind me and by some miracle we were still able to board. Ironically we then sat at the gate for ages (they were still loading the checked bags for all the people who had been stuck in that check in queue with us) so we had a chance to settle down. Not the most auspicious start, but at least we were on our flight. Phew!

Despite a couple of further queues to contend with at passport control and to get my park ticket (I was using the reduced price “Privilege Tickets” my sister gets with her annual pass) we still made it into the main Disneyland park around midday as planned.

We took some photos and meandered our way towards Cafe Hyperion for lunch (our original plan was to grab a quick breakfast at the airport but with all the queuing all we had eaten was a snack bar each since my sister had the foresight to pack a couple). We then spent our afternoon going on some of our favourite rides, getting some photos with characters and doing a little shopping before getting the shuttle bus to our hotel (a bit of a scrum since we went at park closing time, but you live and learn).

Since I was using the Privilege Tickets this time (which have to be collected and paid for on the day you are using them) this meant I also had the benefit of the early park entry that comes with the Annual Pass. We had breakfast included with our hotel and knew we needed to be on the first shuttle bus in the morning in order to maximise our time, so I worked out that unless I wanted to get up as if it was a work day, the best thing to do would be to stick to a mile each morning.

On the Tuesday morning I wanted to try and explore the grounds of the hotel a bit. We were staying at the Dream Castle – one of the partner hotels – using the voucher we got when our booking for May 2020 (when we were supposed to go for the inaugural Princess Run Weekend) was cancelled. I could tell from looking out our bedroom window that there were beautiful grounds and a nearby lake, but it was just too dark to explore the way I wanted to. In the end the bulk of my run ended up being in the car park while I attempted to find a lit path around the back. Still, with views like this it’s safe to say there are worse car parks to run around!

I did, however, get a chance to appreciate the views from our bedroom before we headed off for the day. Quite the change from the usual brick wall/car park view!

We had planned to begin our day in the Walt Disney Studios, but they did not have the early entry option so instead we went into the main park, took some photos, rode one of our favourite rides (which always has a long queue) then switched park.

Again, we were checking off favourites, trying some new attractions and going to some character meets. When we were planning the trip we had hoped to book a table for our evening meal but hadn’t been able to get anything. My sister was checking on the DLP app and found something for a late lunch/early dinner that day so we just had a snack around lunchtime then after checking out a couple of our favourite shops we hopped back over to the main park again. This meant a few more rides and character photos before our meal.

We ate at Plaza Gardens which in pre-Covid times operated as a buffet but at the time of our visit was a fixed price three course meal. The highlights for me were definitely the starter and dessert!

After eating we still had some park time, then headed into the Disney Village to go to the shops before heading back to the hotel (much quieter on the bus this time).

On the Wednesday I took my run out onto the main street. Our hotel was the middle one of a strip of 5, so I simply turned left and the end of the road was conveniently half a mile away so a simple out and back gave me my mile for the morning.

And after breakfast I had a moment to nip out onto the patio in the reception area to grab a couple of pictures. What a beautiful sunrise!

Again it was straight to the shuttle, off to get my ticket then into the main park. Since we had been on the majority of the rides we wanted to do, this day was all about repeating some favourites and prioritising some of the character meet and greets we still wanted to do.

Mickey posed for me!

We actually ended up leaving around an hour before park closing as we wanted to get organised for our journey home the following day (packing and filling out our Passenger Locator Forms online) plus our hotel had a pool so we had packed our swimsuits to make sure we could have a dip.

In the end we found the pool to be fairly small. It had a little slide and was packed with noisy children so it wasn’t really possible to swim. HOWEVER we found out that we also had access to the steam room and sauna so passed a very pleasant evening in those. I stuck to the sauna and was pretty comfortable using it since everyone in the hotel had to have a Pass Sanitaire (the French Health Pass which proves you are fully vaccinated/have a negative PCR less than 72 hours old). It was quite a nice way to spend the final evening of our trip.

Although we were leaving on the Thursday, our flight wasn’t until 3:20pm so we didn’t have to get the TGV until just before 1pm. This meant my sister was able to go into the parks for the morning, but I didn’t feel the need to buy a further ticket (even at the significantly reduced rate of the Privilege Ticket) just for a short time. But since we still wanted to be on the first shuttle (with our bags to put into guest storage again) it was still just a mile for me, this time heading in the opposite direction along the street. Once again the end of the road was conveniently half a mile.

Once at the parks, we separated. I wanted to go and check out the revamped Hotel New York which now features The Art of Marvel and just recently reopened. If you’re a Marvel fan, you DEFINITELY need to go and have a look – it’s stunning!

I also spent €15 to go up in the Panoramagique balloon as the weather was really clear and bright so I knew I would get amazing views.

By the time I had done that and wandered around the Village a bit, it was time to meet my sister, get our bags and grab a quick snack before heading for the airport (and thankfully the airport was a far smoother experience this time!).

I actually arrived home around the same time I would if I had been at work and I can tell you the kitties were VERY pleased to see me home. Honestly, you’d think they had been abandoned (despite being at home, with each other and Steve the whole time) the way they carried on!

My day 2 PCR test had beaten me there, but before settling down for my dinner I wanted to quickly use one of my lateral flow kits to make sure I wasn’t going to get any surprises. It was negative.

It was a fairly quiet evening unpacking a bit and catching up with Steve (who is becoming very adept at avoiding seeing my copious holiday snaps haha!) then heading to bed fairly sharp. Going straight from an exhausting term into a few days at Disney is really quite tiring – but totally worth it!

It was good to take my time on the Friday morning with a little longer in bed, some time spent reading and then a run. The 4 miles I did actually doubled my mileage thus far for the week 😂

And when I got home I found that the medal for my Halloween-themed virtual run had arrived:

I had to have it since it’s inspired by a great movie.

I also took my PCR test and got it all packaged up to send off. It was to be done on or before the Saturday, but I just wanted to get it sorted out so I would know I had taken care of everything related to my trip. I then had a quiet day at home, mostly with Smokey plastered to my lap.

And since I wasn’t going anywhere I decided to watch a movie. After a couple of amazing meet and greets with Jack Skellington, this one seemed appropriate.

I then persuaded Smokey to move so I could do some yoga. I had missed my Monday evening class, but since we pay for a block, my teacher had offered me the choice of either joining another of her classes or being sent a recording of the Wednesday morning yoga class. I opted for the recording and it was good to have that to look forward to.

My sister had moved her PT session with Steve from Tuesday to Friday to work around out trip, so this meant we had a takeaway for dinner – quite a rarity for us these days. It was nice to have a treat and catch up on some tv.

Saturday morning meant a little reading in bed again before getting organised for parkrun. I wasn’t sure how my body would respond after a week of much lower mileage but lots of time on my feet. As it turned out, my legs wanted to move and I ended up with my fastest time of the year by 4 seconds. I’ll take that!

Further joy shortly after arriving home when the results of my day 2 PCR test came back: negative as expected. Still a relief though!

Later in the day I decided to catch up with another recent movie release. I had been keen to watch this one since completing my viewing of the previous MCU titles but knew that the holidays would be the best time. I enjoyed it.

Of course, Smokey was all in for another afternoon of cuddles 😻

I rounded my day out with a bath followed by Strictly Come Dancing. Perfect!

Sunday, however, did not go so well running-wise. In the last week of term a muscle around my right hip was a little tight for a day or two, but I was able to resolve the issue and it didn’t bother me at all while I was away. Unfortunately it flared up a bit again on Saturday and although I had done some work on it and it felt fine as I set off on my run, after a couple of miles it started to shout at me a bit so I cut things short to head home. Frustrating, but I also knew it was something I would be able to address fairly easily so long as I was sensible. Steve did some work with me to identify the right course of action and aside form the usual Sunday chores, I had a fairly restful day. Turns out, the combined forces of a school term and several long theme park days had left me pretty tired. Thank goodness for another week off before the new term!

Seen any good movie recently?
Do you try to run when you travel or do you prefer to take a break?

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…

Homemade Run Disney – A (Virtual) Magic Moment

Oh 2020. Remember when I thought I was going to have Disney-filled year? Turns out that wasn’t to be, and although my miracle trip to Disneyland Paris in August was just the pixie dust I needed to assuage some of the sadness and frustration of this year, the opportunity to bring a little homemade Run Disney magic into one of my weekends was a welcome distraction. I summarised my virtual Magic Run Weekend experience in my last Week In Review post, but here are more of the details (and photos – lots and lots of photos!) for those craving a little more.

This was set up by a Facebook group I’m in – Run Disney Paris Fans – and was simply a free bit of fun to inspire those of us who love going to DLP for Run Weekend and were missing t this year. It was great to see how everyone got creative to put together their own events and photos.

The first thing I needed to do was decide on my running costumes. Had I actually been going to DLP I would have spent much more time over the details of this, but since this was just going to be me running around the streets of Perth, it wasn’t quite so important to have the details just so. Besides, there’s only so far I’m prepared to go in what I wear running around town by myself 🤣

Knowing the chosen themes made it a bit easier to decide and I settled on Marie (The Aristocats), Cinderella and Rémy (Ratatouille).

Then the next bit of prep was to make my race bibs and medals. We were able to download the designs from the Facebook group, then I set to work laminating the bibs and getting creative with cardboard, tinfoil and ribbon to make my medals. A little fiddly, but I actually found it quite good fun! If I had been taking part in one of the challenges (31k or 36k) in the live event I would have just had one bib for all of the races I was running, but I liked the idea of having all of them since this made it more unique, as well as connecting with my chosen costumes.

As the weekend rolled around, my aim was to recreate as closely as possible the way the event would unfold. That meant 5k on Friday evening, 10k on Saturday morning and a half marathon on Sunday morning. To keep me organised, ahead of each one I gathered together everything I needed for my costumes as well as some additional props for post-run photos of “character meets”. Yes, I was going for it 100%!

Beginning on Friday, my Marie costume was fairly simple: white tech top, white sparkle skirt (with shorts underneath), white compression socks, pink trainers and the Marie headband I bought at DLP.


I actually had great fun running my 5k and even though it was my second run of the day (I had run a super easy 5k in the morning before work) I felt good. Interestingly, nobody seemed to be paying me much attention as I ran around at 5pm on a Friday in my Marie costume (and no, I didn’t wear the ear headband to run) 😹.

After my run I added a couple of additional details to my costume: I put the ears on, tied a pink ribbon around my neck and donned my Marie face covering that I got on Shop Disney. Fully costumed up, it was time for my post-run photo shoot.
















And, of course, no Run Disney event would be complete without some character meets. My observation from previous years is that there aren’t so many in the 5k. For my homemade event I was welcomed to the finish by the Beast, my princess Belle-themed (pre-Duffy) Disney bear and The Big Cheese himself – Mickey Mouse in his running kit.

For my final flourish, I chose one of my Disney T-shirts to act as a “finishers’ top”. Given my theming, my Disney cats one seemed the best choice.

It was such a fun way to start my weekend and definitely made me feel a bit less sad about not being on a flight to France.

For my 10k on Saturday I was going with Cinderella. This costume was probably the least precise to my perfectionist mind, so I think of it more as “Cinderella-inspired”: pale blue (ok, turquoise) tech top, pale blue tutu (with shorts underneath), white compression socks, black trainers and my silver tiara running hairband. It was a little chilly so I ended up adding white arm warmers before I headed out.

This time I did get a little attention as I was running, but it was a friend of mine (who also runs) in her car. I guess when she spotted someone running in a tutu on a Saturday morning she figured it could only be me 😂

Once again there was a little adjustment when I arrived home as I added a homemade black ribbon choker (I hadn’t fancied running with something tight around my neck) before taking my medal pictures.

Getting carried away with the shoe theming!









This time I included a “castle shot” as well:

Character-wise, this time I “met” Minnie Mouse (in her Belle-style gold ballgown) and Mickey, who had a different set of shorts and T-shirt on. Thank goodness, I wouldn’t want him to be whiffy!

And thanks to some Disney magic, Mickey was able to transform to a bigger size in order to give me a post-run hug haha!

This time my choice for the “finishers’ T-shirt” was my Princess Power one since it features Cinderella.

Not quite the Saturday morning I had originally planned, but good fun nonetheless.

The pièce de résistance was my Sunday morning half marathon. The event at DLP is always such a highlight with loads of characters and lots going on (you can read about my previous experiences here and here). I had known the overall theme for the weekend when I was in DLP so when I spotted a hat on sale that would make for an easy (but fun) costume idea, I bought it. For the rest of my Rémy costume I needed: grey tech top, grey capris, pink socks and I even set out a wooden spoon for my post-race photos! Again, it was a little chilly so I added some grey arm warmers at the last minute.

For this one, I had Steve help me out with a “start line” photo, with Mickey Mouse (in his finest Breton stripe) acting as race starter (although I didn’t actually wear my hat for the run itself).

With the hat safely back on my head at the end of my run it was time to take my final “Run Weekend” photos:

An attempt to recreate the post-race picture with all the medals attached to the castle railings. You get the idea!

There are always loads of characters around at the half marathon, so my event was no exception. I was pictured with Rémy (of course!), Duffy Bear in his French outfit and, for reasons best known to himself, Stitch (I mean he has nothing to do with the theming, but he’s a cheeky scamp who likes to invade photos 😂).

I was also pleased to see that Mickey had changed out of his French outfit and was back in his running kit (another set, he must have almost as much kit as me haha!) and we got a few pictures:
















And for my “finishers’ T-shirt”, I stuck to the fact that at DLP the half marathon swag is always Mickey/Minnie themed regardless of the race theme. The “Best Day Ever” T-shirt I got in August seemed perfect.

I was also keen to get a decent “castle shot” and came up with a way to manage just that. Almost believable!

All in all, I had great fun putting this together. No way as much fun as actually going to Disney for a running weekend, but a nice way to add a bit of magic to an otherwise mundane weekend and it gave me something a little different to focus on for a few days. I recommend it!

Fingers crossed that next time we get to run in Disney for real…! 🤞

Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 27

I must admit, this really was a week of two halves – little of note in the working week and then a bit of homemade magic at the weekend. Here’s how it went:

Monday – 3.5 miles + Hatha yoga via Zoom
Tuesday – 4.5  miles + home yoga
Wednesday – 5 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Thursday – 4 miles + home yoga
Friday – 3.2 miles + 5k
Saturday – 10k
Sunday – 13.1 miles

As the week began I was pleased to note that while my body felt a little weary from running 13.1 miles the day before, my legs actually felt perfectly fine. I continue to be fascinated with how my body has adapted to running every day and how well I seem to recover. Probably because generally I run at a fairly easy pace and don’t push things too much. Between my morning run and a walk with Steve when I got home from work, I pretty much wrapped up the bulk of the weekly scavenger hunt and it was nice to relax into my yoga class afterwards.

Strangely, though, I felt more tired and sluggish on Tuesday morning. Perhaps a busy Monday had an impact as I headed into a day featuring lots of admin and meetings. That evening was fairly restful and we began watching the adaptation of Us on tv. For some reason this attracted kitty attention, even if one of them was facing the wrong way!









Wednesday was better as I felt much more awake and was able to have the workout I had postponed from Tuesday. More excitingly, we settled down to watch The Great British Bake Off which had returned to our screens the previous evening. It was so good to watch something that felt “normal” (even if things were a bit different behind the scenes this time to make that possible). Unfortunately we hadn’t had the foresight to sort out a sweet treat in advance and GBBO always makes us crave something sweet so poor Steve had to go out and get some “emergency cake” 😂. We will need to be better prepared in future!

On Thursday morning the weather was much chillier and I had to wear gloves for my run. Back when we first went into Lockdown I wore gloves on all my runs as a reminder to not touch anything (e.g. the button to trigger a pedestrian crossing) while I was out, but as the weather improved it was too warm for gloves and they had been tucked away in the drawer for many weeks. I don’t think I’ll need them all the time just yet, but I think I will need to check the forecast much more carefully in the evening when I lay out my kit to make sure I’m ready for whatever the weather has to throw at me.

An exciting thing on Thursday was that my finisher pack from the virtual Edinburgh half marathon arrived. This is the same swag I would have got in the event of the live event taking place – medal and T-shirt presented in a lovely little box. I got something like this in the 2019 event and it was exciting to get this through the post. The box also contained sample packs of hot/cold gels and an armband that lights up – useful with all the dark mornings ahead.

Friday was pretty productive. Most of my non-teaching time is on a Friday and if I’m not needed to cover a class it allows me a good chance to get caught up on lots of fiddly bits and pieces. My day had started with an easy-paced run of just over 5k – less than I would usually do on a Friday because I was hatching a plan for a second run when I got home from work.

Why the second run? Well, this would have been Magic Run Weekend at Disneyland Paris and much like in May when the cancelled Princess Weekend came around, I was going to take part in a “homemade” version set up by a Facebook group I am part of. This was entirely free as there was no medal or anything like that, it was all about the admins creating a theme for the weekend and those of us who wanted to take part trying to be as creative as we could in pulling together costumes and re-creating aspects of the Run Disney experience. I’m going to publish a separate post with some of the details (and one heck of a lot of photos!) but will include some of the basics here.

The overall theme settled on was “Disney movies associated with France”. It was then sub-divided into the different races and challenges, in the same way it would be in the actual Run Disney event. There was a kids’ race themed to Beauty and the Beast (yes, I was a little put out that my favourite movie was associated with the one race I couldn’t legitimately take part in), the 5k was The Aristocats, 10k Cinderella, half marathon (21k) The Hunchback of Notre Dame, 31k challenge (10k + 21k) Sleeping Beauty and 36k challenge (5k + 10k + 21k) Ratatouille. I had been booked to take part in the 31k challenge (because the 5k would have been on the Friday evening and I can’t get to DLP in time when I’m at work) but since I was making my own fun, I decided to go for the 36k challenge, hence my second run on Friday. I could have just waited to go out in the evening, but I had learned very quickly earlier in the term that I feel much better all day when I get a run in the morning, so a double run day it was!

I had done a little prep the weekend before and back when the theme was announced I had started pulling together some costume ideas from the stuff I already had (and one teeny little purchase which could be used again at future Run Disney events). 

For my Friday 5k I was Marie from The Aristocats:

Then on Saturday morning (after a bit of reading in bed) I headed out in my best Cinderella-inspired outfit:

The top wasn’t quite the right shade (I got this one for my Anna from Frozen costume in the 10k last year, which I recreated for my virtual Princess Run in May) but it was as close as I could get with my existing kit.

I did have to step out of the magic a little for some “regular” Saturday activities (and our appalling 6/15 for the parkrun quiz definitely burst the bubble somewhat) including going for my second haircut since the hairdressers were allowed to open again in July. She styled my hair straight, which was novel for me as I haven’t bothered straightening my hair in ages!

Then I spent a bit of time reading my book. Smokey had been lying on a different chair looking kind of pleased with himself for “catching a mouse” 😹:

But he soon joined me for a little nap:

And we rounded out our evening with our next Marvel MCU movie. This time it was Iron Man 2 – another one we had previously watched but had little memory of.

Sunday began with a little more reading in bed, then it was time for me to run the half marathon distance. This time I was Rémy from Ratatouille and again, stuff I had (the hat I got on a super-cheap deal when I was in DLP in August). It’s not very obvious from the picture, but the capris are actually grey:

It was a bit weird wearing capris since I normally wear shorts unless it’s really cold, but it was all really comfortable kit for the distance. And of course, I was probably about an hour quicker than I would have been at DLP since I wasn’t stopping all the time 🤣

When I got back I had “completed” my 36k challenge so did my best to take a photo with all my homemade medals (look out for my separate post on my homemade challenge to see more photos). Not as easy as with actual Run Disney medals since my cardboard-based ones lacked the weight to help me separate them out along my arm, but you get the idea.

Th weekend finished in fairly standard fashion with food shopping, a bit of tv and my evening bath, but a bit pf Disney magic, albeit homemade, was just the boost I needed to see me into the last couple of weeks of term.

Do you have a favourite Disney movie/character associated with France?
How easily could you pull together a themed running outfit from stuff you have about the house?

Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 21

I know, I know.  A whole school term has gone by and I haven’t updated my weekly running and (somewhat limited) life goings on. The demands of Covid-safe school life, getting back into the swing of things and preparing for an even more unknown future than normal took up so much time, and something had to give. But I still want to share what I’ve been up to, so my half term mission is to catch up on my blog posts, starting in mid-August right before school began when I was still in my happy place.

Monday – 5k
Tuesday – 5k
Wednesday – 3.5 miles
Thursday – 4 miles + garden workout
Friday – 4 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Saturday – 5 miles + SUP yoga
Sunday – 8 miles

As the week began, I was still in France enjoying my break at Disneyland Paris, something that seems so inconceivable now given the rapidly rising case numbers everywhere and restrictions on travel/need to quarantine. If you missed it, I did write a stand-alone post on my time in DLP, so I won’t get into too much of the detail here.

Monday began with a run. Having run just a mile on the Sunday morning, I was keen to go a little further to explore in the same direction and see where the road went, so headed off around the Val d’Europe shopping centre and out beside a road which would eventually lead the traffic to Disney. It was good to get my bearings and gain a better understanding of what was out there, but I think I had exhausted that part of the area now.

I then got organised and joined my sister back in the main park where we ticked off loads of attractions we hadn’t managed on Saturday and got loads of Photopass pictures.

Our flight home was early afternoon on the Tuesday so we were due to leave the hotel mid-morning for the RER/TGV trip back to the airport. Since she has Extra Magic Time on her annual pass, my sister headed into the Studios for an hour or so to go on one or two rides and do a little last minute shopping. It wasn’t worth me buying a ticket for that day, so I set off to explore in the opposite direction as I was convinced I could run to one of the Disney entrances and back for about 5k total. I was right.

All the permits for work at Disney are displayed at the side of the road. I found this really interesting.

Tower of Terror from the road

The “Earful Tower” from the road

My route went past the road entrance to the Newport Bay hotel and brought me in at the back of the Disney Village

It was a really nice run and one I would be happy to do again in future. It was also good to know that it would be an easy walk to/from Disney if necessary. It would save about €2 but would probably take about the same amount of time as waiting the full 15 minutes for a train then making the journey. With all the walking involved in a Disney day the train is probably a bit more appealing!

Once home (the cats were pretty pleased to see me!) I took some time to catch up on work emails ahead of my return to the building the following day.

After a magical long weekend, Wednesday was a bit of a shock as I was back at work. I had been allowed to miss the inset days since our holidays were changed when the Scottish Government standardised the start of term across the country and my trip had been booked as far back as January (on dates that were, at that time IN the holidays) so a number of staff were affected. Fortunately, it wasn’t a full-on teaching day as we were using the three pupil days in this week as induction days, with just 2 year groups in on each day. That did make things a little easier and it was great to see pupils again, but there was a lot to get my head around behind the scenes. I was feeling a bit “off” since I had woken to really stormy weather (proper thunderstorms and heavy downpours which had been going on all night) so had opted to delay my run until after work. After running every single morning since 24th March, it felt really strange not to have been out, but it was definitely the right decision when the main road out of where we stay was closed due to the water which had gouged a huge chunk out of the grass banking beside the pub!

When I did get out after work, it was good to clear my head a bit after my first “proper” work day in ages.

With the weather improved, Thursday had me back on early running. This was definitely a bit strange as the last time I ran so early was March and back then there was only just daylight at the end of the run. In August, it was fully light. I missed one of my favourite times of year for early runs – around May/June – when it’s light but still cool, with the promise of a nice day ahead, so it was nice to be out before the world was really awake.

Work was an induction day for junior pupils, including our new first years, then when I got home we needed to go and get some food shopping in since my trip away meant we hadn’t done it at the weekend as usual. After that, I fancied a boxing workout in the garden. I hadn’t done any boxing in ages, but had come across Steve’s pads so suggested doing a little.

I was out early again on Friday morning to set me up for the final induction day of the week. It was drizzly and grey, but I knew I would feel better for starting my day with a run. I have to say, I had kind of forgotten just how exhausting a school day is and was worn out by the time I got home. Fortunately Smokey was on hand to make sure I sat down for a bit  before my workout. I suspect he was pleased to have me back after a weekend away then returning to work. He rather got used to me being around through all the Lockdown weeks!

I shortened my Saturday run a little (still with a (not)parkrun) since I had a SUP yoga session in the morning. It was lovely to be out on the water again and I felt quite happy out on the board and with the additional Covid-related safety measures in place. It did, however, mean a slight delay to our usual Saturday morning of the parkrun quiz (we did the one from the previous week which we had missed with me being away) and a bacon roll, but it wasn’t much of a delay. I then spent the rest of the day trying to relax a bit as I knew that a weekend away and a return to work would catch up with me pretty quickly!

Sunday had a more leisurely start to the day as before my run I lay in bed and finished up the book I had been reading. If you’re a Disney fan, this is another one I recommend. I always got the impression that Bob Iger was a “good guy” and it was fascinating to learn more about him and his time with Disney. This book made me like him even more.

Post-run, it was all the usual Sunday stuff with food shopping, an afternoon treat alongside a little tv, and an evening bath. I also discovered a blogging milestone (don’t worry, I did work on a post that day):

And that brought the week to a close. Starting in Disney and ending back in school definitely made it a weird one after weeks and weeks of everything being the same, but it was good to feel a sense of “normality” again.

Have you managed to take any trips this year?
What “normal” things have you been able to bring back into your life, even if briefly?

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…

Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 20

This was a really exciting (and a little anxiety-inducing) week for me as it culminated in my sister and I travelling to Disneyland Paris for the weekend. You may remember that I had grand plans at the start of the year for lots of Disney trips, but 2020 had other ideas for us all. By a real stroke of fortune and timing, this trip was able to go ahead (the same would not be true at time of writing!) and after carefully weighing up the risks and benefits (not least the fact that I was due to start work again – more on that later), we decided to go. Spoiler alert: I’m glad that I did.

But before the weekend rolled around, there were several days of running, workouts and yoga first:

Monday – 5k + garden workout + Hatha yoga via Zoom
Tuesday – 4.5 miles + living room workout + home yoga
Wednesday – 6 miles + home yoga
Thursday – 5 miles + home yoga
Friday – 4 miles + home yoga
Saturday – 1 mile
Sunday – 1 mile

The Monday was one of those days where I felt like I did an awful lot, but none of it was anything where there was something concrete to show for it. A success was that I finally managed to sort out the watch face on my new Garmin to a custom design (the gradual restart of Garmin services after the outage slowed things down there). I guess nobody will be surprised with my choice!

And since the weather was reasonable, I was able to take my morning coffee in the garden. I wish I could do that more often!

I then spent a good chunk of the day faffing about and going through some old stuff. First I went in search of all my Disney badges/buttons to see what I had. Most of them are the more recent celebration ones you get at WDW, but there are a few older gems in there too, including from the character meal we had at the Disneyland hotel on my one trip there (with my family) in 1996! This led to me browsing through some old photo albums form the “old days” when you could go places. Good times!

I also looked more closely at the box of old books my sister had delivered and found some old favourites. I wonder if you remember any of these from your childhood?

Then finished my afternoon with a Disney drawing tutorial. This one was tricky in places, but I think it turned out ok.

My Tuesday run was another of those soaking wet ones where I didn’t bother taking a picture until after I was showered. I then had the “pleasure” of taking the kitties to the vet for their booster vaccinations. They had really good systems in place to protect everyone – I had to phone reception from the car park to say I had arrived then wait in my car. The vet called me to discuss the kitties’ health then I delivered them to the front door (they opened up and I put the baskets inside the door for the waiting vet to pick up) and returned to my car to await a second call after they had been vaccinated and checked over to bring me up to date. It was then a reverse of the delivery as I collected them from the front door. Had there been anything to pay, that would have been done over the phone but I have them on a health plan so everything that was done at this visit was covered. I was a little worried about my fur babies going in by themselves, but they were fine and the drive home was much quieter than the journey there – who knew kitties could harmonise!

The rest of the day was fairly quiet, but I did manage another drawing tutorial:

The Wednesday was also eventful…I went to a cafe! Other than the supermarket and my parents’ house, I hadn’t actually been anywhere but Steve needed a couple of things at the farm shop and suggested a visit to the cafe there (we used to go fairly often) since they were part of the Eat Out To Help Out scheme. I thought it would be ok since it was a familiar location, and actually it felt very safe. They had altered the layout so there were separate entrances to the shop and the cafe (ordinarily you can walk through the shop to get to the cafe), distancing markers while you waited to be seated and hand sanitiser available. Since the tables had been distanced from each other, I think I would probably have felt ok with an inside table, but as it happened an outside one was available first so we took that. They were encouraging everyone to use the QR code on the table to order online rather than have someone come to the table, so we did that. I had a slice of their delicious Malteser cake and a pot of tea.









We also had to give our details for contact tracing, but that is very much the norm anywhere you go now. Overall it was a nice, gentle step back into “normal” activities.

But if you think that was an exciting excursion, we topped it on Thursday with a visit to Steve’s brother and his family. Other than crossing paths in the supermarket car park, I hadn’t seen them since pre-lockdown times (Steve has continued to have coffee with his brother every Saturday, initially via video call and more recently in person) but nice as it was to see them, I was more interested in meeting their new Maltipoo puppy. She was only about 8/9 weeks old at this point and just a wee sausage!

So adorable! She had only arrived home on the Monday so was really still settling in and I can’t wait to see her again and see her gain confidence and personality as she grows.

I began the Friday with some reading in bed and not only did I finish my book (this one – I really enjoyed it):

I also reached another of my 2020 goals by hitting the target I set on Goodreads for the year. Definitely way ahead of schedule as my goal was in line with previous years and usually I just manage to reach it!

The rest of the day, however, I found quite hard. I definitely had mixed feelings about going to DLP (I suspect I would have felt quite relieved if it was cancelled) and this was the week when the news was beginning to report rising Covid cases in France. The idea of flying troubled me a little, but I knew it was a short flight and having read reports from others who had visited DLP (and felt similar anxieties to me) had been comforted to hear that they felt very safe once they were at Disney. I knew the measures that were in place and was confident that I would be fine in the parks, but the threat of quarantine when I returned was a big worry, particularly since I had to go straight back to work the following week (actually I was going to miss the inset days but this was approved since my trip was booked prior to the new school year being brought forward by a week. I felt a little weird about it, but all my colleagues were encouraging me to go on the trip). The last thing I wanted was to be working from home rather than back in the school building with everyone else, plus I knew I would go crazy stuck at home and not allowed out for 14 days if I had to quarantine! I felt a little better when France was not included on the list of countries quarantine would be required from at the announcement on the Thursday of that week (the restrictions for those countries would be in place from the Saturday) and while I fully expected that to change by the following weekend, felt as confident as I could reasonably be that I could be safely home before anything changed. I definitely wouldn’t have gone if a quarantine announcement had been made before we left.

So I got organised. I nipped out for a few things I needed to a take with me (mainly travel sized packs of anti-bac wipes and a small box of disposable gloves!), got petrol for the drive to the airport and packed my bag (we were flying with hand luggage only). It was clear to Steve that I was feeling on edge and anxious, but he wisely pointed out that a lot of my anxieties were bound up with my impending return to work and being surrounded by lots of people again after months at home sheltered from the world. He basically insisted that I NEEDED to go on the trip in order to feel better about everything and told me there was no point in worrying about things outside of my control, like possible quarantine. He took me out for a walk to calm me down before bed and I did manage to get some sleep.

My sister and I were booked on a 7am flight out of Glasgow so it was an early start whatever way you sliced it. I had already given some consideration to my run streak and what I wanted to do. I wasn’t ready to end it, but also wasn’t sure how sustainable it would be once I was back at work. Steve and I discussed it and I decided it was time to invoke my emergency rule change – rather than a 30 minute/5k run each day, it would be ok in exceptional circumstances to run just 1 mile to keep the streak going. This allows me to slot in a really quick run if time is an issue during the school term, but sustain a run streak which has become central to my wellbeing. It was also a solution to how I would fit in a run on the Saturday as we travelled to DLP and spent the day in the parks. I left some kit out and got up slightly earlier so I could get straight out the door (in the dark!) to run laps around the block right outside my front door until I reached a mile. I then got myself organised and was in my parents’ driveway to collect my sister a couple of minutes early! In actual fact, it was probably quite a good idea to run then as it settled me down but also made me feel much more alert for a long day.

It actually felt really strange being in such an empty airport. It also felt weird because it was my first experience of travelling without a checked bag so the fact that we didn’t have to go to a check-in desk but instead went right through security was odd to me. I felt perfectly safe in the airport (everyone in masks, loads of space and distanced tables in the place we went for breakfast) and although there were a good number of people on our flight, the only other people in your row were those in your party so everyone was spaced out and had to wear masks unless they were actively eating/drinking. I wouldn’t fancy a longer flight right now, but the short hop to France was ok.

To stop this post being too long (and photo heavy!) I plan to write a separate post with more of the details of the weekend, but the short version is that after a flight, quick TGV transfer and even quicker RER ride to our hotel (which was right by the station) we were in the main park just after 12:30 and looking at this:

Yes, I was welling up already!

We spent the rest of the day in the park, going on as many rides as we could and taking lots of pictures.

On the Sunday, I opted for another 1 mile run since I had been up so early the day before and been busy all day. It was interesting to head out and start to get my bearings in Val d’Europe where we were staying. I then joined my sister (who had headed in ahead of me thanks to the 1 hour of Extra Magic Time she gets with her annual pass) and we spent the day in the Walt Disney Studios. The whole day! I had previously thought of this as a half day park, but this trip offered a unique opportunity to do some different things and go on some rides I had never done before, so we stayed there notching up experiences.

One of the reasons for staying was that we had managed to get a booking for a restaurant we both really wanted to try – Bistrot chez Rémy which is based on Ratatouille – and were considering this a birthday treat since we both have August birthdays.

We were in fairly early at 5pm so it was really quiet, the tables were distanced (although there really wasn’t anyone else near us) and the staff were attentive enough without having to come near us very often. The food was great too so I would love to eat there again with Steve.

By this point I was definitely feeling much more settled and much less anxious. The measures in place made me feel confident that my health and safety was important and I knew how to take responsibility for myself by washing/sanitising my hands, maintaining social distance and avoiding touching any surfaces – all without significant detraction from the magic of Disney. We also, apart from Chez Rémy, had all of our meals outside in order to further mitigate any risks. Right now everyone has their own opinions and boundaries around safety and whether or not to venture far from home, but having been VERY risk averse for months, I quickly found that being around people in the “Disney bubble” was ok for me and although I was conscious of Covid, I also felt more removed from the constant news checking and updates which have plagued me for most of the year. Clearly a break I needed and it really did make a difference to my mindset about returning to school.

With the parks closing early, our day pretty much ended after the meal as we left the park to quickly nip to a couple of shops in the Disney Village before heading back to our hotel to shower, relax and get some sleep. After all the days of feeling tense about travelling, I was definitely happy to be back in the magic – it could be a while before I get there again!

Have you been out and about to cafes/restaurants/on trips now that some of the restrictions have eased?
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done to fit in a run?

Week In Review – The Corona Chronicles Part 9

It was another rather “blah” week. I’m trying super hard to stay cheerful and positive, but when every day is the same as the day before, with no hint of a change, it can get pretty tough. That’s not to say the week was awful – there were certainly plenty of fun/satisfying moments – but my goodness it’s getting hard to find a new way to write about how I’m spending my days! Still, the streak continued, training continued, and I achieved a couple more things from my “Lockdown List”.

Monday – 5k + garden workout + home yoga
Tuesday – 4 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Wednesday – 5 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Thursday – 4.5 miles + garden workout + home yoga
Friday – 4 miles + home yoga
Saturday – 6.3 miles
Sunday – 8.2 miles

I actually didn’t have a theme for my running tops this week – unless the theme was “random tops I pulled from my drawer”! I did, however, take this as a kind of recovery week. Normally a training cycle would build for 3 weeks then cut back for a week to allow the body to adapt to the training. Now while I’m not training for anything (who is right now!) I am running more frequently and my average weekly mileage has risen, so it felt like a sensible idea to give my body a bit of a break while still maintaining my run streak. Not that I’ve been running hard by any stretch of the imagination, but to consciously slow it down and take things easy did feel good and I do feel more refreshed as a result.

I also kept up with my weekday yoga and had a workout on 4 out of the 5 days (it was super windy on Friday and there was some rain in the afternoon so a garden workout wasn’t really possible, and a living room workout just didn’t fit with how we have been structuring those workouts, so we just gave that one a miss).

In a week of the same old Groundhog Day existence, there were a few other things to mention.

There wasn’t much of note on Monday. I usually have my Hatha yoga class (currently via Zoom) but my teacher was having a week off so I did a Yoga with Adriene video instead.

Tuesday was far more interesting. I ordered myself a little present which arrived around lunchtime:

I have been wanting these for ages and decided now was the time to splurge and treat myself. So far I love them. The quality is so much better than the wired EarPods that come with iPhones and they are great for listening to podcasts and things around the house. I know some people wear them to run but I have no plans to do that as I prefer the open-ear experience of wearing my Aftershokz for that.

I also did a bit of life admin on Tuesday. I had received a reminder letter than my driving licence was going to expire soon, so I went through the process to renew it online, which was pretty easy. I needed my passport to do this (since I can’t go and get a new photo I had the option to renew using my passport details) and when I got my passport out I noticed that my EHIC card had expired. Since technically I still have trips booked for later this year (although I’m not very hopeful) I thought I had better renew it as it’s still needed throughout the Brexit transition period. I suspect this might be the most optimistic thing I’ve done since we went into lockdown!

After all that adulting (bleugh!) I finished up the craft project I had started at the weekend:

Can you guess?

That’s right, a stand to hold my Disney ears. My sister made me something like this a while back but I needed more so after gathering together the supplies and interrogating her about how she did it, I decided it fell within my capabilities and had a go. I’m quite pleased with the result.

And I enjoyed some snuggles with my boy.

In all honesty the most exciting thing to happen on Wednesday was that I found a four leafed clover in our back garden. In fact, we found a patch of them growing! When I was little I used to always look for these but never found any and was convinced they were just made up, so this was quite a surprise!

I also prepped a big pot of chilli ready to slow cook for our dinner the following evening.

I’m glad I was so organised as I actually found Thursday a bit stressful. The First Minister announced the Scottish Government plans for easing out of lockdown, all of which seem perfectly sensible to me. We won’t be opening our schools up until the new school year in August, but staff will likely be in schools at some point in June in order to plan for a blended approach to teaching from August. What caused me some stress was not knowing the detail of all of that yet as some of it comes from a local level, such as when we might be required back in school. The other thing stressing me out was the fact that the start of the new academic year was standardised so that ALL schools will go back on the same day. Our new school year was not due to start until the following week and initially I was concerned that we would lose holiday time (I know, I know, it’s not like I’m getting away, but after dealing with a school fire, an inspection and a global pandemic I’m needing a bit of time off!) especially since one of the trips I don’t think I’m actually going on coincides with that date! But after getting a little more detail I felt much better. I think I felt anxious because a degree of uncertainty was re-introduced to my safe and stable little world.

On the plus side, the chilli was good and Steve experimented with making rice in the steamer. I think we’ll be doing our rice that way from now on rather than using those packets that you microwave.

Friday was day a better day. A fun highlight was Steve and I finding our photos had been shared in a post marking what should have been the Edinburgh marathon weekend. These pictures bring back great memories of Steve’s 2014 adventure and my challenge from 2015 (which I wrote about here and here if you missed it).

And to keep the kitty balance, here’s Sooty in one of her favourite places to snuggle:

On Saturday it was time to debut my new parkrun apricot top. It’s a good thing it was a nice run as my parkrun quiz score wasn’t much better than last week at just 6/15 (too many complete guesses again!). At least it tells me what day it is and retains a connection to the parkrun world.

The afternoon was spent in high glamour (ha!) dusting and tidying the house. At least having my AirPods meant I could easily listen to some podcasts while I did it. I also got a second holder for my remaining Disney ears underway. I’ll not finish it for a couple of days though, as it involves some air-dry clay which needs a chance to set.

And in the evening we watched the first episode of Little Fires Everywhere on Amazon Prime. I read the book a couple of summers ago so have been keen to see it since I started to see ads for it on YouTube videos.

Sunday’s run was the only one in the week with a particular focus to it. I had been aware of loads of discussion of “postbox bingo” on podcasts and social media posts and I decided to have a go. With a bit of planning, I was able to “collect” all the postbox ciphers available here in Perth, and actually found it quite good fun – a bit like having a quest to go on! If you had told me a few months ago that not only would I have gone out for a run with the express purpose of photographing a range of postboxes, but that I would conduct RESEARCH into where to find certain ones (and learn some interesting historical facts along the way) I would have thought you mad. And yet, here I am about to tell you that I found a Victoria, Edward 7th, George 5th, George 6th and the Scottish Crown (which is in place of Elizabeth 2nd here in Scotland following what has been dubbed The Postbox Wars in the 1950s). My research also told me of a super-rare Edward 8th about 10 miles away (a bit far as it would be a 20 mile round trip on foot!) but I also learned of a much more accessible one which bears the cipher of George 6th but is believed to have originally been intended as an Edward 8th and was hastily altered upon his abdication (it’s the one in the bottom left of my collage below). I really had no idea there was so much history in the simple postbox, such a common piece of street furniture that I hardly notice them any more, although I do have a recollection of being told about the royal ciphers when I was in primary school.

After all that excitement we ate lunch, did the food shopping, watched an episode of The Mandalorian while eating our Sunday afternoon hot cross buns and then I carried on with the housework by conducting a VERY thorough vacuuming of all the rooms – tools used and everything! Life is just a non-stop whirlwind right now!

I had my bath as usual, but by the time I was getting ready for bed I was starting to feel a bit fed up and done with lockdown. My emotions are really torn right now: on the one hand I just want things to go back to normal, but on the other hand I’m wary and anxious about being around lots of people and potentially exposed to lots of germs again. Hopefully the gradual approach here in Scotland will ease me back in, but it’s so hard to know when is the right time to do a bit more. I suspect all the things that have been cancelled/postponed are becoming more and more noticeable to me now as well. Absolutely right not to have them happen, but there’s still a lot of disappointment attached to missing out on something you have been looking forward to and I think it’s ok to acknowledge that as part of a process of moving forward.

For now, I just keep on keeping on.

How are you feeling about the easing of restrictions and some things beginning to open up again?
Have you had a go at postbox bingo yet?

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?