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?

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The Gin Thing

The Gin Thing

I’m sure you all know by now that included in the long list of things I love are running, eating, vino and gin.

For our first wedding anniversary, we were able to indulge in most!

On the day of our anniversary, we were celebrating with family, as it was also the Saturday closest to my brother in law, Andrew’s, 40th Birthday. His two eldest sons, Kieran and Aidan, were to be player escorts that day at the Partick Thistle v Motherwell game, and so we went along to see them – and to show support of course!

It was a gloriously sunny day, and we were able to sit in the sunshine, soaking up the fun and the atmosphere. When the boys came out onto the pitch, we couldn’t see Aidan, who is 4. He was escort for Scott Fox, the goalie, and Scott had scooped Aidan up and carried him onto the pitch! Too cute!

Here’s some pics, just to illustrate 😉

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After the game, the boys were able to head back to a meet and greet with the players, and one of my other nephews, Liam, was able to go with them. I think they had a ball!

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Afterwords, it was back to the Donnelly’s house for a bit of a party. As @TheWelshWookie and I were heading to Edinburgh the next day, we went to our hotel and celebrated with a bottle of fizz, overlooking George Square.

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And yes. That’s not an optical illusion. This 4 star hotel in the city centre really DID give us hugely different glass sizes to enjoy our fizz with. And @TheWookie had to open it himself 😮 . And no, we won’t be back.

Sunday arrived with heavy rain 😦 but we headed to Edinburgh, excited for our short trip. We made our way to 56 North, where my friends, Pauline and Gavin, had treated us to an afternoon tea with gin tasting 😀 Hurrah!

We were greeted with a really friendly welcome, and with the fab news that Pauline & Gavin had treated us to a bottle of fizz! Yay!

We settled down with around 20 or so others, eager to get started. This was the joyous sight in front of us….

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The two guys hosting the session took us through the first four gins which were all strikingly different. The pace was relaxed, and there was no rush at all. We had a selection of different mixers to try, and the whole session was interactive – we could ask questions, and add comments – good or bad!

We then had a short break, with afternoon tea of sandwiches and small cakes, before starting again with the final four gins. I won’t spoil it for anyone by telling you which gins we tried, what we found out about them, or which were my favourites. You can try for yourselves!

After the session, we bagged a great window table, with the sun – newly surfaced through the rain – beating in. The bar is stocked with around 300 different gins, so I chatted with the barman, telling him what I liked in a gin so that he could recommend a gin for me. I had a Daffy’s, which is a small batch gin made in Edinburgh, while @TheWelshWookie had a Hoxton grapefruit and coconut gin. Yummy! They serve their gins in gorgeous continental style goblets with ice, a suggested tonic, and a garnish designed to compliment the flavours.

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We had some lunch with our fizz- @TheWookie had a burger, I had a gorgeous chicken caesar salad with a poached egg. It was delish!

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We finished off with another gin each – @TheWookie had a Brecon Welsh gin, while I had a Rock Rose, which may well be my new favourite – it, too, is a small batch Scottish gin. We then headed to our hotel, to get ready for our evening in the city – with the ghosts!

Disneyland Paris – In Pictures

Disneyland Paris – In Pictures

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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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tasty Tuesday

Tasty Tuesday

It’s been a couple of weeks since my last foodie post, so I thought I’d share some of my tasty treats from the last week. My excuse for eating such big portions is:

1. I LOOOVE food

2. I’m back in training, so I need fuel 😉

3. Did I say that I just loveeee food?

I’ve had some lovely, homely and filling mid week dinners, courtesy of @TheWelshWookie. There included his delish turkey chilli with brown rice:

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Malay chicken salad:

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And turkey pesto wholegrain pasta. Yes, I love turkey 😉

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On Saturday, we had soup for lunch. Usually, TheWookie would make his own soup, but we tried out Glorious fresh soup. It was good, I’d definitely recommend it:

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But we did have some home made roasted onion bread with it:

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And here’s my post-long run snack from Saturday:

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I’m hungry just posting the pics! And now I’m off to find out what’s on the menu tonight…

What’s on the menu with you tonight?

Foodie Friday

Foodie Friday

Welcome to the weekend, y’all!

Today, I’ve been thinking about all of those lucky ducks in Orlando, running the various Run Disney races! In particular, I was thinking about PirateBobcat who is half way through the Dopey Challenge.

I’d love to run that! Maybe next year! 😉

This week, I tried had to climb back onto the healthy eating bandwagon, I really did. And I’ve been only partially successful! Here’s some of my eats from this week, and last week:

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Here’s the seafood starter we had at the New Year Gala Dinner. It was awesome!
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We enjoyed some lovely treats: marinated sun dried tomatoes and mozzarella. Yum!
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Here’s an attempt at some healthier eating. It as like a healthy pot noodle, and was delish!
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Aren’t these mini hot dogs soooo cute?
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Posh chocolate…
Maybe next week I’ll get back on track…. 😉
Foodie (and drinkie) Friday

Foodie (and drinkie) Friday

Happy Friday everyone!

TGIF

It’s Friday the Thirteenth: anyone superstitious out there? If you are, pretend you’re Spanish: they’re fine with Friday the Thirteenth, but not Tuesday the Thirteenth 😮

What have you been up to today? I’ve kicked off a week’s holiday! Woop!

And what better way to spend the day than shopping, eating and drinking with my mum?

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We had a great mooch around Glasgow, picking up the final pieces we needed for Christmas. We also had a make up session at Clinique, which was fun! The selfie above is BEFORE the makeover, in case you were wondering!

In keeping with yesterday’s ‘Season’s Eatings’ post, the festive feasting continues. We had tapas for lunch, at Barca in Princes Square: it was delish!

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We then had a lil’ refreshment at the Concert Hall before heading home.

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I’ve had a lovely day!

Did you all have a good Friday?

Season’s Eatings!

Season’s Eatings!

Happy mic check day!

1-2; 1-2: get it?

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no, not that….. never mind…..

I’m sorry, I seem to be overdosing on Christmas posts: I promise I’ll do my best to throw some running into the blog mix soon! 😮

Tonight, we had our first festive dinner. It was delish. I tried my best to fill my plate with veggies, and I limited my pigs-in-blanket to two, and I only had one stuffing ball. Sprouts are my absolute favourite. I’d happily eat them all the time.

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I did add gravy after this, though 😉

I was stuffed. It was a big plate! But still, that didn’t stop me from polishing off this too:

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White chocolate, raspberry & marshmallow cheesecake. Just a small slice!

Now I plan to be good. Ish. Until I hit Glasgow for lunch with my mum tomorrow, that is……

Have you begun your Christmas feasting early?

Movember Round Up

Movember Round Up

Well, now that we’re at the end of Movember, and staring down the barrel of December (yay!) I thought I’d do a quick Movember round-up.

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Favourite run this month?

@TheWelshWookie and I really enjoyed the MoRun earlier this month:

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And @TheWelshWookie has been sporting his Mo all month:

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All in the name of charity 😉

I was delighted to find out that my MoRun race report was mentioned on the Mo Running website’s MoBlog!

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Favourite food this month? Well, it’s been a toss-up between a bag of metcalfe’s popcorn and my pizza and salad last week:

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What has been your Movember highlight?