Florida 2019: The Best Bits

Florida 2019: The Best Bits

Before getting back to my usual fitness and wellbeing posts, I thought I’d write a post to share some of my highlights and lessons learned from our Florida trip. It’s also helping to keep me awake and flight off the jet lag!

Packing: travel light. You’ll never need half of the stuff you take with you, so don’t bother. I stuck to shorts and to t shirts that covered my shoulders as I know I’m prone to sunburn there, regardless of how much suncream I use as it rubs off of rides. I found t shirts looser, more comfortable and more cooling. Who knew?

I also had two pairs of combat type shorts from Decathlon that I wore A LOT – I didn’t need a bag or bumbag as they had decent pockets, so I could go hands free.

I wore trainers every day- comfort was more important than anything else, plus I didn’t get sunburned feet from sandals or flip flops.

Best Park Tip: use a retractable ticket holder that clips to your belt loop rather than a lanyard. I found that it was easier to use, convenient and didn’t get in the way. I picked this one up in Universal, but Disney has plenty too. It meant my room key and park tickets were always close to hand:

Best travel tip: we hired a car and it was great, but onsite parking at Universal hotels was expensive. To get to and from the park we walked, or used the frequent bus, but the best way to travel was by water taxi. We could also go through security before getting on, avoiding the crowds at CityWalk

Best off-site travel: The I-Ride trolley that runs up and down International Drive was excellent. The virgin rep in the V Hub gave us a voucher each for a free 14 day pass so it didn’t even cost us anything- but passes are very cheap. It’s a great way to get to and from Orlando International Outlets and Vineyard Outlets- and everywhere in between:

Pocket Essentials: At the parks I carried my pass in my retractable holder, SPF50 lip balm, a small 30ml tube of suncream, and this: a cup from Decathlon that is made of soft water bottle material and scrunches up very, very small, fitting into a pocket very easily. I could then get a cup of water at water fountains to sip while waiting in line for attractions. Honestly, this was the best £3.99 I have ever spent!

For days when we walked longer distances outside of the park, and for on the aircraft we used our Decathlon soft water bottles and they too were perfect. Lots of people asked us about them as they thought they were great!

I also carried my trusty fan most days, but I wouldn’t call it an essential:

Best sunscreen: This was a-ma-zing for me, Neutrogena SPF70 and their specific face sunscreen too. I only put it on in the morning and it lasted all day- and for the first holiday ever I didn’t get any sunburn. It’s a game changer for me. It was easy to apply, soaked in well leaving my skin dry to touch, not oily or sticky. I picked it up in Walmart for around $8 I think.

Here’s the SPF lip balm I carried with me at all times too. It was also ideal:

Best drink: the coconut margarita at Chili’s was the best thing I drank all holiday!🥥🍸

Best meal: Best overall meal was at Toothsome Chocolate Emporium at City Walk. We had their own chocolate stout while waiting for our table. I had a salad, and an amazing s’mores dessert that I couldn’t finish, and a cherry chocolate cocktail. TheWelshWookie had a burger, a banana cream sundae and a whisky flight. It was all so good!

Best Sweet Treat: easy- voodoo doughnuts were immense!

Best Secret Menu Item: a ‘Deathly Hallows’ or ‘Triple’ from the Hogs Head. If you ask for it, the bar staff will deny its very existence so it’s very secretive indeed! We found out about it from a UOAP member in line in front of us:

Favourite Park: definitely both parts of the Harry Potter parks, including the Hogswart Express taking us from Kings Cross to Hogsmeade. (And from HS to IOA). It was amazing, I loved it all!

Best Roller Coaster: Hulk! It was by far my favourite! I also loved Maku at Seaworld and the Rip Ride Rocket at US but Hulk beat them all.

Best Water Ride: this is a toss up between Bluto’s Bilge Barge Rats (you get very, very wet!) and Jurassic Park’s River Adventure. The afternoon spent doing the water rides at IOA was a real highlight.

Best Disney Attraction: I loved Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. I was surprised how much I enjoyed the park overall as I didn’t expect to rate it so highly but it was a great day .

Best ‘awe’ moment: seeing the shuttle Atlantis for the first time at Kennedy Space Center. It was a fab day out and I’d highly recommend a visit.

Best Example of Hospitality: we went to Tropicana Fields to watch the Rays play the Blue Jays. Little did we know that it’s a cash free stadium and I had left our cards back in the hotel. Oops! We tried to pay for two soft drinks using Apple Pay but couldn’t get it to work- so the cashier just gave us souvenir cups and told us to help ourselves. It was so kind of her! Pity about the result of the game, mind you…

Best Universal Hotel: we didn’t visit them all, but of those that we did we were happy with our choice to stay at the Aventura Hotel. It was stunning. We had an upgraded room so had plenty of space, it was very comfortable with good facilities including the onsite V Hub. Our view over Volcano Bay was stunning!

The views from the rooftop bar, Bar 17, were also fabulous. It was well worth a couple of visits.

Bonus Pro Tip: buy glassware and mugs to use as we found that everywhere (including hotels) relies on disposables and plastics for everything. I wish I’d packed my travel cutlery too so I’d recommend that you bring those too. It’s a real shame- they use paper straws everywhere but use disposable cups, plates and cutlery which seems crazy to me! It also tends to be the black plastic that can’t be recycled. It was definitely the biggest negative I took away from the parks.

Flights: the Virgin flights and their Vera in flight entertainment system was ace, and service was excellent. The food was also great- I was very impressed, considering that airline food gets a (usually justifiable) bad rap. But many people just didn’t seem to care about what they were doing throughout the flight. I was mortified looking around as we disembarked to see the disgusting state that lots and lots of passengers left behind them. I felt heart sorry that the impression we left behind for the clean up crew was so bad. On the return flight, the guy behind me kept sticking his bare feet right down beside my seat- urgh! And he didn’t get the concept of a touch screen- I spent the night flight with what felt like him punching the screen and consequently the back of my seat and head rather than touching it! Perhaps we need a ‘flight etiquette’ guide as well as a safety guide?

It was a fabulous holiday though, from start to finish.

What are your top tips and best moments from your trips to Florida?

Wednesday Wisdom

Wednesday Wisdom

This week I’m really looking forward to getting back to classes, doing some cross training, strength and conditioning- and stretching.

Last week was mostly filled with running, which I’ve been thoroughly enjoying for the past few weeks. I’ve also been eating well most of the time. All this running has made me so hungry!

Here’s how my week went:

Monday: I started off my week with a rest day, making it a record two test days in a row, to keep my hip niggle at bay. I definitely felt the better for it.

Tuesday: I had a lunchtime trail run, by myself as I couldn’t make it later in the week when Alison and Morag has arranged to run. I struggled- my legs were heavy and I didn’t make it all the way up the hill this time without walking. No matter, I enjoyed it anyway!

Wednesday: the weather was absolutely awful, but I went along to JogScotland ready to run. They were short of leaders, so Alison, Gordon and I headed off ourselves, doing a 10 min warm up, lamp post sprints and then a 10 min cool down. We were soaked, but it was amazing!

Thursday: I only had a short window of time to run on Thursday, so I managed to get a quick run done around the harbour.

Friday: it was time for a long, slow run, and as I had a day off that was my plan. But another storm was making its way through, and the wind was ferocious! I was also pelted by hail stones, so it was not the most enjoyable 8 miler I’d ever run.

We’ve had an off-track weekend, I was away in Glasgow on Saturday and when I got home I met TheWelshWookie in the pub, celebrating the Six Nations wins. We may have also gone out for dinner 🤷🏼‍♀️

Here’s your motivation for this coming week:

Make every mile count!

Monday Motivation

Monday Motivation

What a week!

March is off to a flying start, though I wasn’t to happy to see ice and snow yesterday ❄️, I wonder if that will be the last of it for this spring?

Fortunately yesterday was a rest day for me so it didn’t affect my training. You might remember that I finished up the previous week with a 10 mile recce run, so I did head into the new week with a touch of DOMs. Here’s how the past week stacked up:

Monday: we had no classes this week, so I knew I could focus on some running to improve my stamina and build up some mileage without overdoing it. I headed out at dusk to do a recovery run, with no fixed distance in mind. I ran a steady 4 miles, my legs actually felt great afterwards.

Tuesday: I headed out at lunchtime with Alison and Morag for a trail run. Despite the long trail run on Sunday I coped fine with the big hill, so I was really pleased!

Wednesday: Jog Scotland session, and this week we did another 10 minute warm up, 10 minute weave run and 10 minute cool down. It always passes so quickly!

Thursday: 5 days of running in a row- a bit of a run streak for me! Again, I only planned a steady recovery run after Tuesday and Wednesday. I did just over 4 miles and captured the most beautiful pink sky as the sun began to set.

Friday: I forced myself to have a rest day, though I did want to run. Instead I spent some time doing some trigger point pilates at home to help ease out my fascia and muscles. I did feel good afterwards.

Saturday: I had a meeting in the morning, but I was keen to get a long slow run under my belt. But after a days rest and some repair work my legs felt tired, and my piriformis was niggling a little so I listened to my body and cut my run short from the planned 7 miles, finishing up at 4 miles again. I’m happy with that- I’ve been consistent but running a lot and I know I might just be edging it too much. I’ll cut back the number of runs I’m doing in the next week.

I did spend some time stretching and doing some more TPP too.

Sunday: I took my own advice and had another rest day. My body will thank me for it, I’m sure. But when I saw this picture, it did tempt me a little to lace up- but I resisted….

Have a wonderful week!

Race Report: The Tarbert TT10K 2015

Race Report: The Tarbert TT10K 2015

Date: 15th August 2015

Profile: Mostly flat, but with three killer hills

Terrain: Mixed: road and trail

Weather: Warm and sunny, but with short rain showers

Website: https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Tarbert-10km/570186306335004

Positives: Brilliant course, awesome views and the best support. Beats bigger races for organisation!

Negatives: Those flipping hills!

This was the third year of my local race, the Tarbert 10K. If you read my post on Monday, you’ll know that @TheWelshWookie and I tagged along on the 5k and ran it before the 10K, but this report is focussing on the main event we signed up for – the 10K.

I’ll also begin by noting that I didn’t take anywhere near as many pictures before the race started – I think I was just too busy thinking about enjoying the run! 🙂

As I always do, I had my race gear ready to go the night before. I had two tops sorted, road shoes for the 5K and trail shoes for the 10K at the ready. Note the second ‘elite’ race number in a row – after being Number 1 for the Carradale Canter, I was now Number 2 for the TT10K! 😀  

 This race had an 11 am start, but we were up and breakfasted early, and ready to run the earlier 5K at 10am. @TheWelshWookie drove the car into the village so that we had somewhere to stash our change of t shirts and shoes, and some snacks for in between the runs, and then we had a lovely stroll down to the harbour in the sunshine.  

 We were so busy chatting away to other runners, supporters and marshals that we almost missed the start of the 5K! But, we made it, and thoroughly enjoyed the fast, flat course, and the brilliant support. We were done in 33.15, which was a surprise, as we planned to take it really easy.

We had a quick change, and once again made our way to Garvel Road end for the start of the 10K. We mustered at the back, knowing that we’d be amongst the slower runners. We listened to the race briefing, pointing out the mud we could expect at Maggies Cottage and at the Tarbert Castle loop. There had been a couple of changes to the route this year. Instead of entering the first trail section through the main gates of the Heritage Centre, we entered through the gates to the horse paddock, and ran over the rubber surface. That was different! Our return into the village had changed too, and we had to run past our house, along side the astroturf, along the TAWNI path and out at the school where @TheWelshWookie works before heading back out along the harbour. It was great to mix it up!

Here’s a map of the race:  

 The race was started by a countdown and an air horn, and we were off. We didn’t start too fast, and kept to our planned pace, knowing that the first section involved a climb uphill, with a tight turn. It’s always a hard start to a race, and this year was no different! But the views at the top of Lady Ileene Road are worth it, sweeping over the harbour. We could then recover on the downward run back off Lady Ileene Road and towards the Herifage Centre, through the rubber paddock and onto the first trail section up to Maggie’s Cottage. This is a long, slow incline on a muddy trail up to a turning point that gradually gets steeper and steeper. We were warned by Muriel, one of the marshals, to keep to the middle as it was very slippery on the left. Fortunately, as there were no more runners during our descent, we could actually run on the right, and could avoid the slip hazard altogether.

We headed out of the heritage centre, back onto the road and towards our house. Hazel caught a great photo of us at this point:  

 Thanks Hazel! And @TheWelshWookie half joked about popping home for a cuppa 😉

Next we ran a route we do most days – along past the astroturf, so it was a very comfortable run for us. We then made our way up the TAWNI trail path (TAWNI stands for Tarbert Academy Wildlife & Nature Initiative) towards the school, and then downhill to the harbour. We then ran our usual route along the front, past the 5K mark, all the way to the turning circle at the end, known locally as The Concrete. There, we were met by Jacqui and some others, with water and some much needed jelly babies!

We headed off again, back along the harbour, and up to the killer hill at Big Brae. We did not even attempt to run this – it’s a definite walk, with its steep incline and twists and turns! We also had faster runners hurtling past us heading back downhill, so it was easier for them if we walked, tucking ourselves into the left hand side. Then, we were at the muddy, boggy, Castle Loop, with its hills. But, like other parts of the course, it’s well worth it for the stunning views. I’m pleased to report that we didn’t see any adders this time!

Already we had reached the five mile mark, at the top of the final, big hill. We made our way back around the remainder of the loop, back down big brae, and along the harbour to the finish line.

As every other year, the support was fantastic, with plenty of cheering and support. I haven’t mentioned how well marshalled this event is, with plenty of guidance and help, and cheers along the way. It really does knock the socks off other events.

We gratefully received our hand made, pottery medals which were white this year, and our goody bags – turquoise gym bags with the TT10K logo on them. They were fab! And the neon orange T shirt is great for running on roads, like we do around here.

The Fisherman’s Mission were supporting the event, and there was copious amounts of tea, coffee, home baking and most especially tablet! This was manned by my friend and colleague Sheena, who snuck me a piece of tablet as I waited in the queue. Thanks, Sheena!

There was enough food to feed three villages – we could help ourselves to the home baking, as well as to water, apples, bananas, Tunnock’s caramel wafers, mars bars and a wide selection of pre-packed sandwiches. I grabbed a mars bar, water and a tuna & sweet corn sandwich – a perfect take away lunch!

We waited around, chatting with other runners, comparing times and tales from the run. We then watched the prize giving, with winners receiving bespoke acrylic plaques from Midton Acrylics. They were really unusual and brilliant!

Before we left, I popped over to have a quick chat with Lorraine, one of the organisers, and congratulated her on a job well done – and thanked her for yet another brilliant event. 

Our stats: 1:16:27. 10 minutes slower than the first year; but 2 minutes faster than last year, which is fantastic, given we had just run a 5K and last year was on fresh legs 🙂

The Medal: A locally made pottery medal, with the Tarbert Castle logo embossed on it.  

 Goody Bag: A fab gym bag with the logo on it, T shirt, trolley coin, air freshener, water and mars bar. I didn’t know these were in there before I took another of each, along with my sandwich too!  

 T-shirt: Bright neon orange this year, with silver writing and logo, with the local slogan ‘Run, Jeck, Run’ on the back 😀

 
   
I now feel ready for the Great North Run, and just need to keep on track over the next few weeks. This race is a must in my calendar, it’s been very highly rated in Runner’s World, so please check it out. Even better, come and join us next year!

Disneyland Paris – In Pictures

Disneyland Paris – In Pictures

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A Break from the Games, Back to the Village

A Break from the Games, Back to the Village

I thought you might appreciate a little break from my posts about the Commonwealth Games. While I’m watching the gymnastics, including another gold for Team Scotland, I thought I’d share a local Tarbert festival, which I missed this year.

While @TheWelshWookie and I were sunning ourselves in Tenerife, my family were at our house, enjoying Tarbert Seafood Festival! I enjoyed last year’s festival so much that I split my review into two posts, which you can read here and also here.

They had fabulous weather, and they told me that there were even more stalls than there were last year. They enjoyed sampling the seafood delights:

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Enjoyed a little beer:
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and basked in glorious sunshine.
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Stacey was a winner this year: she won a fishcake! No, not a fishcake, but a Fish Cake! Nom nom nom.
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And on the Sunday, they enjoyed the music at Beer on the Pier. They took the boys over to the outdoor gym, and were able to enjoy the music from the other side of the harbour. Smart thinking, guys!
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There is no way we’ll be missing the festival in 2015 😀

Celebrating World Gin Day!

Celebrating World Gin Day!

I  mentioned yesterday that @TheWelshWookie and I had been to one of our very favourite places on Saturday: Portavadie Marina.

We were looking for any excuse, really, to take a trip on the new hybrid ferry, MV Lochinvar 😉 What better excuse than to go for lunch – and celebrate World Gin Day – at Portavadie!

The weather was absolutely beautiful: it was gloriously sunny as we strolled down to the ferry terminal. We popped into a few shops on the way, buying  bottle of white grape & elderflower presse for adding to gin later on in the evening.

The first thing we noticed about the new ferry was how quiet she was! The engine, being a hybrid, merely purred, making for such a pleasant journey. The interior lounge has much more seating than before, and there are two observation areas with seating on the upper decks. Impressive!

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We arrived at Portavadie, and walked around to the marina. We saw that construction is now under way on the leisure complex: I can’t wait until the pool and its facilities are built!

As we entered the restaurant, we were greeted by Chris, who’s service is always fantastic. We took a seat on the sofas while we perused the lunch menu, and ordered a Botanist gin each. Oh, my. It’s definitely my absolute favourite gin of the moment: it’s from Islay, which is much more famous for its whisky. We had a chat with Ian, the General Manager, and it was so great to hear of the future plans for Portavadie: it’s exciting times ahead!

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When we were ready we were seated for lunch. Most of the other guests had opted to sit outside, but I much prefer to eat indoors (I’m weird, I know). I had the smoked haddock with mustard potato salad and pancetta crisp; @TheWelshWookie had Tarbert scallops with black pudding and roasted potatoes. Both were -ma-zing!

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Of course, we also had dessert. I had a white chocolate mousse with mini toffee apples and raspberry sorbet; @TheWookie had pineapple crumble with coconut ice cream. Yum.

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After taking a stroll around the marina, having a look in the shop (of course), we had another G&T before heading home on the ferry.

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We had a fabulous day, as ever!

Did you celebrate World Gin Day on Saturday? Do you prefer to eat indoors or outdoors?

Great British Menu

Great British Menu

Are any of my fellow UK-based bloggers (or BBCWorldwide watchers)  fans of the Great British Menu?

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You all know how much I love to eat. I love to watch programmes about delish food too! I watch loads: Masterchef in all its forms, Hells’ Kitchen. The Great British Bake Off, Saturday Kitchen…. I could go on and on……

Well, this week is the Scottish heat of GBM, and I’m fully supporting Jacqueline O’Donnell 🙂

I LOVE her pink apron:

source: jacquelineodonnell.co.uk
source: jacquelineodonnell.co.uk

You may remember that back in January I wrote this post about The Sisters Restaurant? I had the sea bass in a lobster cream sauce:

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It was absolutely delish!

Well, Jacqueline runs The Sisters along side her sister, Pauline. I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed for Jacqueline, and all will be revealed tonight in some areas, and tomorrow in Scotland.

What’s your favourite foodie show?

What we did in Madrid

What we did in Madrid

Now, I don’t need to recap on some of the things we did in Madrid.

You already know that we ran the RnR Madrid Half Marathon: I’ll be posting my race review over the weekend 🙂

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And I posted earlier this week about our main activities: eating and drinking 😉

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But we did see some other sights too.

First, we spent a lot of time walking around the city, admiring the wide range of architecture. It is a really beautiful city. My favourite building was the Metropolis:

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Top of  @TheWelshWookie’s to-do list was a visit to Bernbau Stadium, the home of Real Madrid football team, the team that was crowned Team of the 20th Century. The trophy rooms were stunning: I’ve never seen so many trophies in one place before!

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The stadium tour was great: we were able to visit various areas of the stadium, including seeing the pitch from various vantage points, sitting in the dugout, visiting the home & away changing rooms, the press room and of course, the trophy rooms. It was great!

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No one can visit the city of Madrid without spending time inside some of the fabulous churches. We visited the Catedral de la Almudena, which was stunning. I’ve visited many, many cathedrals, but this was huge, and beautiful.

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We also visited the Basilica de San Miguel, which we accidentally stumbled across:

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No trip to Madrid would be complete without a visit to Palace Real Madrid. It too was beautiful, with fantastic views across Campo del Moro. Of course, we weren’t permitted to take any photos inside the palace, but I loved the throne room, the chapel and Stradivarius room, which housed a viola, two violins and two cellos. Wow.

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The city is also home to many museums and galleries. We visited Museo del Prado, which houses works by Goya, Botticelli, Raphael, Rubens, and many others. There was an exhibition of paintings of ‘The Furies’ from Titian, Ribera and others, which I really loved.

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One thing we didn’t know was that Friday, 2nd May is an important holiday in Madrid, where the city celebrates their uprising against Napoleon. We watched a military parade in Puerto del Sol, which was really interesting.

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And the city celebrates with various cultural and sporting events, including one that they consider as both: bullfighting. Now, we did go to see this, and it was something I had never experienced before. I know that not everyone will support or appreciate that, so I’ll only post a couple of pics which I hope doesn’t offend anyone too much:

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Finally, we also spent time doing MY favourite  (aside from eating and running): shopping! Madrid is home of the original El Corte Ingles department store, and it was awesome! It was also very, very close to our hotel 😉

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I think we managed to squeeze in quite a lot!

The Delectable Delights of Downtown Madrid

The Delectable Delights of Downtown Madrid

You all know how much I LOVE my food. Well, Madrid far surpassed my foodie expectations!

They definitely have a sweet tooth; even savoury dishes are often sweet, especially sides like coleslaw.

Here are some of the highlights. I apologise now for the quality of the pics: it may or may not be related to the amount of alcohol consumed 😉

We did the RnR half on the Sunday morning. And, in keeping with previous RnRs, we refuelled at Hard Rock Cafe. We tested out a few of the cocktails, and I carb loaded on the brisket with fries. Yum!

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On Monday, we spent lots of time in various tapas bars. As I’m sure you know, if you order a drink, you’re given a lovely, tasty snack.

We tried out Alhambra, and were treated to chicken wings. We supplemented these with a meat platter, pork loin with peppers and goats cheese in a blueberry sauce. Yum!

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Stuffed to the gills, we headed onto La Torre del Oro on Plaza Mayor, where we had beetroot and onion, and a potato salad. We also had olives but by that point I could not fit in any more food! This bar is a favourite with celebrities including Bruce Springsteen, and it has been visited by President Carter and several Kennedys.

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Tuesday, I had a proper Iberican jamon pizza. Yummy!

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And on Wednesday, we were back to tapas during the day, including these dainty smoked salmon, cream cheese & dill sandwiches, and cheeses in Cafe del Oriente. Yes, as you can tell, we had some vino to go with it…..

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In the evening, we visited Botin, which is the oldest restaurant in the world. Goya, Ernest Hemingway, F Scott Fitzgerald, Graham Greene and Frederick Forsyth were all frequent visitors. It was amazing: we had the suckling pig, as recommended and mentioned by Hemingway in his novel ‘The Sun Also Rises’. I then had Bartolillos de Madrid, which are little pastry parcels filled with a lovely, sweet custardy cream. Oh, my!

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Thursday saw us visit Mercado de San Miguel. It was so busy, with locals and tourists feasting on all kinds of delights.

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There was lovely seafood and savoury snacks:

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These are not cakes – they’re buffalo mozzarella:

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And, of course, sweet treats:

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For lunch, we tried another local speciality: bocadillo con calamares. Amazing!

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And, of course, we had yet more tapas….. these are little breads topped with cheese and a spicy sausage, and of course, patatas bravas:

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Here’s one of the final dishes I had on Friday: it was fried sardines with padrons de pimentos. It tasted amazing!

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We also had churros, frozen yoghurt and lots of beer and wine 😉

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If I’m not at least 15 pounds heaver, I’ll be very surprised!