Birthday celebrations – friends, running and ALL the food

This weekend was a scorcher! I was so pleased the weather was good as I was off to London on Friday afternoon to see my friends to celebrate my birthday (which is today…booo! On a Monday!).

I headed up to London on the train and met my lovely friend, Charlotte, for dinner. We decided to go for a Mexican meal and it fully hit the spot! Charlotte’s just changed from being a veggie to eating meat, and this still blows my mind. She ordered a chicken skewer and chicken tacos, while I ordered chicken wings and chicken fajitas.It was SO good. It fully hit the spot of what I wanted that evening. I even got to finish off Charlotte’s skewer as it was just a bit “too meaty” for her (she’s still adjusting to being non-veggie) and she’s also a normal person who doesn’t eat stupid amounts like I do! And of course, a cheeky frozen margarita was in order.

And what finishes dinner perfectly? Some pudding of course! I was on the hunt for something tasty…and found a lovely little waffle and dessert cafe to satisfy my cravings.From there we headed to some bars for drinks and then met our other friend Laura, who lives in London, and headed to Camden for some dancing. It was such a fun evening. I’ve been feeling a bit stressed and a bit frustrated with a few things so this was EXACTLY what I needed. We got to Laura’s, where we were to be staying overnight, at 2.30am. Pooped!

Now being the running-obsessed person I am, I had my alarm set for 7.30am to head to Wormwood Scrubs to meet our other friend, Kate, for some parkrun tourism. She’d driven down from Bristol and had found Wormwood Scrubs parkrun was the easiest for her to get to and a good spot for her to leave her car without paying a fortune. Also, she spec’ed out the place and found that the local running clubhouse had showers! So she brought me a towel and some shower gel to use, bless her.

When my alarm went off at 7.30am I was a little worse for wear but got myself together to leave by 7.45am and onto the tube. I was a bit of a walking zombie but got there on time and with no issues. Have I finally become a real adult!?Wormwood Scrubs is next to a huge prison (you can see it in the bottom left photo above). I had no idea but it was literally right next to the park. Interesting!Wormwood Scrubs parkrun is all run on grass and is 2.5 laps. It’s a bit uneven underfoot and though it appears flat, does actually have some deceptively sneaky inclines. I was having some serious hay fever issues that morning (damn Stingy Anna for buying Tesco’s own hay fever tablet) so this was giving me problems. Lots of sneezing and my eyes were SO itchy. Being in the middle of a field didn’t help.Nothing huge or could be called a hill, but it does increase the effort level. Considering I was feeling a bit, er, tender and the temperature was already at 23 degrees I made the sensible decision to go easy. Actually, that’s a lie; I couldn’t have gone faster even if I tried!!

I finished drenched in sweat and glad to stop. That was a tough one! I got 23:07 and was happy with that!

Sadly my friend Kate lost her footing a bit and hurt her calf. She had to walk a fair bit of it. But she powered through. Hopefully it’ll heal up quickly – we have another obstacle race soon!Wormwood is a really small parkrun. They regularly get less than 100 people there each week (it was actually a course attendance record on Saturday with 107 people). It was very friendly and felt very welcoming. It was nice to go to such a small one. It gives it a nice community spirit feel.

Thankfully we were able to find and use the showers in the nearby sports area. They were very basic but they did the job! Very grateful for Kate bringing her shower stuff as otherwise we’d have had to have been sweaty all day because we weren’t going back to Laura’s. Instead, after showering, we headed to Covent Garden to meet Laura and Charlotte again. They had had a lie-in (very jealous) and were feeling a bit more refreshed than I did when I woke!

We then headed away from the main Covent Garden area to look for somewhere for brunch. It was now past 11 and we were all hungry. I spotted a nice looking place but it was heaving and had no seats so we headed to a pub across the road. It was empty. I was dubious. But with no other nearby options we decided to go for it. I am SO pleased we did. And, to be fair, it wasn’t exactly peak pub time so you can’t really blame it for not being busy!

I ordered a Full English (of course) and honestly it ranks as one of my top three Full Englishes, EVER.It came with home-made hash browns. Normally I’m not a hash brown fan but home-made? I thought I’d give them a go. And I’m so glad I did!

The whole meal was incredible. Te beans were homemade and had a slightly spicy kick. Everything tasted amazing. I was definitely well refuelled!

We then walked to Green Park (with iced Starbucks, it was SO hot) and relaxed. We passed through Leicester Square and saw them setting up the premier for the new Transformers film. Very cool (though I don’t actually like the films. Urgh Michael Bay).It was such a beautiful day and so nice to catch up and chat with my friends. We weren’t a full group as one of our friends has just recently had a baby (this blows my mind) but it was nice to see the other girls.

Then we headed back to Covent Garden to indulge in a very tasty treat. This was my only request for our time in London, having seen these bad boys on Instagram and heard about how tasty they are. Freakshakes from Maxwell’s. Oh. My. God.A salted caramel milkshake with a salted caramel donut on top. My gawwwwwwd it was So good.I mean, I was covered in stickiness trying to eat this but it was phenomenal. And yes, I finished it! A perfect end to what was a really lovely, lovely birthday celebration. Even without all the amazing food, it was just so nice to have a beautifully sunny weekend chilling (and dancing!) with my friends. I went home very happy (and possibly in a deep sugar coma).

Have you ever had a freakshake?

If you had good weather, how did you enjoy it?

Have you ever seen a film premier?

Rants and Raves #35

One more cheeky Rants and Raves before Christmas? Go on then… Though I do have some choice rants, in general I’m very happy at the moment. Life seems to be going quite well, if I do say so myself 🙂

Rant: Idiots who can’t park. Ahh parking and car-related moans. They really do bring out the best in us, right? I have to say, I don’t swear that much being the polite young lady I am (hi, mum!), but get me into a car on my own and some choice words can be known to fly out of my mouth during my commute when people don’t seem to know how to drive. And likewise, when people don’t seem to know how to park. Case in point in the village where my parent’s live.

I just don’t understand how anyone can walk away from a parking like that? Bizarre. That didn’t necessarily annoy me more than baffle me. What did annoy me was after going to the gym one morning and driving back into the enclosed shared parking area I noticed some knob idiot had decided to park two cars rather than one. We only have one allocated car parking space per flat and have our own designated space with our number on it. The way this person had parked – diagonally behind their first car (not a legitimate space) – meant I couldn’t get into my space.

It really annoyed me. How selfish. Before I calmed down and thought a bit more rationally I was about to do one of two things: start beeping my horn until they came out, but thought best not as it was before 7am, or park behind them and block both their cars in. But that seemed childish and I didn’t want to get keyed.

So I did the next best thing. I wrote a passive aggressive note which I slapped on their windscreen. How very British of me.It made me feel a lot better I must say. There have been no more stupid parking. My work here is done.

Rave: I’ve been mixing things up on the porridge front (crazy, I know ;-)) by continuing to add protein powder to it. Protein is always important for me as I find it fills me up a lot more than just carbs and in general my porridge was a lot higher in the carb to protein ration. So I add about 15g of protein powder to my normal amount of oats and almond milk and it feels a lot more filling.

My current protein powder set-up that I’m loving is about half and half of a flavoured powder with an unflavoured as I don’t really like my porridge overly sweet. I have the PEScience Select Frosted Cupcake and the MuscleFood unflavoured whey. I definitely need the unflavoured variety to tone down the PEScience one as otherwise it’s incredibly sweet (but FYI great for protein pancakes). I’m loving my breakfast even more now – and you know how much I love my porridge if you’re a long-time reader! (No affiliation with either product, I just like them).

Rave: I pay the monthly fee for Audible which gives me one book a month for “free” (if you count paying £8 a month free…) and recently I’ve listened to some really good ones.

The Girl With All The Gifts  – M. R. Carey

I love an “end of the world” style story and this had me gripped. It slowly draws you in and you’re constantly wondering what’s going on, but in a good way not in a Lost series kind of way (i.e. here’s a polar bear in Series One that we’ll do vague some hand-waving explanation about in Series 8). And I loved how unpredictable (at least to me) the ending was.

Scrappy Little Nobody – Anna Kendrick

It’s always great getting an autobiography on audible as they’re usually read by the author, so you can really feel a connection with what they’re saying. I saw some good reviews from this book and while I didn’t know a huge amount about Anna Kendrick I’ve quite enjoyed some of her films and thought, “eh why not”. Initially I thought I was going to hate it as she has quite the nasal American accent (no offence to any Americans reading this, I’m almost certain my stupid posh British accent would annoy the hell out of you guys!) and she had one of those “I was unattractive and was never popular” kind of backstories which you struggle to believe because, well, she’s Anna Kendrick. HOWEVER, within a few chapters I was laughing out-loud and fully wanting her to be my best friend. She’s got a great self-deprecating and dry sense of humour it’s really difficult to not like her (damn it). It’s also got some great “behind the scenes” stories from her different films and some realities of trying to break it in Hollywood.

Rave: I was given some flowers and chocolates at work for doing well this month and it really made my day. I obviously don’t talk much about work on my blog but I’m really enjoying work-life at the moment and seem to be doing a good job, which can’t be a bad thing 😉 Those chocolates didn’t last long. I might have consumed a good number on the way home after the Christmas party.

Rave: It’s taken me a year to realise I haven’t been receiving my RunnersWorld magazine subscription every month. And I’m still paying for it! So I emailed them and they changed my address and gave me last three months, which is good of them considering it was my stupid mistake for not telling them.So I have some good stuff to read over the holidays 😉

Rave: Proud daughter alert. Both my parents are doing incredibly well at Slimming World.

My dad has lost almost 2.5 stone now (the above picture was for when he’d reached two stone – so 20% of his body weight). He seems to be steadily losing between 1-3 lbs a week. Obviously this will slow down the more and more he loses, but he’s doing it in a very measured and sensible approach. He still has treats and meals out, but he plans them in now and makes sure to eat healthily around those days. Though I feel incredibly uncomfortable when my parents talk about “Body Magic” when they’re referring to exercise…Slimming World has some weird terminology.

How Christmassy are you feeling?

Are you a good parker?

Do you have any good books to recommend?

Good things making me happy

Apart from the dark mornings and evenings, the cold and rain, things are quite happy in my neck of the woods! It’s always nice to take stock of a few things that are making me a happy Anna.

The ‘C’ word: What is this madness? Christmas stuff already out in supermarkets. This photo was actually take two or three weeks ago as well.img_4888Christmas cakes, mince pies, stollen… yep. It’s October. That said, I love all things Christmas, especially food-related items) so I’m happy with this state of affairs. More mince pies in my life can only be a good thing.

Tesco encouraging kids to eat more fruit: They’re offering a free piece of fruit to children coming into the supermarket. img_3917So they can chomp on something healthy as they walk round with their parents. What a great idea! Nice one, Tesco. We’ll let you off for your Christmas products 😉

New shoes: I bought some new shoes. They were really cheap as they’re of an older seasons but I really needed a pair of simple comfy shoes I could easily slip into and wear for quick errands or walking Alfie. img_5954I tend to have a lot of trainers, pumps, boots and then my gym shoes (Vans & Converses – ideal because they have flat soles for squatting and deadlifting which help me be more “in tune” with the ground and lifting) but nothing that I’d be happy to get a bit mucky. I had a previous pair of Skechers and I wore them to the ground. These were only £25 which I thought was a steal.

Unusual gel flavours: A lovely friend of mine (a triathlon legend it must be said – his training cycles make mine look very amateur indeed) sent me some gels as a good luck present for my marathon (though with strict instruction NOT to use them during the marathon if I hadn’t tried them first).img_5972Maple Bacon flavoured gels!! I know some (many?) of you will be thinking “that’s so gross” but I’m genuinely looking forward to trying them out. I quite like the GU gels (I still remember that salted caramel one I had once…so good. And the lemon flavoured one that tasted like a zesty pudding) so I expect good things 😉

Protein Porridge: I got a packet of this Mornflake Go! High Portein Porridge in my goodie bag from the Chester Marathon. Normally I will never use porridge packets because they always contain some form of sugar or flavouring and I can’t stand sweet porridge. For me the only sweetness I like is from the milk, so it’s very subtle.fullsizerenderBut this was different. It’s a pack of oats containing soya protein isolate and (other than a stabiliser) that’s it. No sugar, no fruit, no seeds…just oats and protein. One packet though wouldn’t be enough for me for breakfast as it was around 130 calories. So I used two with almond milk and it tasted almost identical to my normal porridge.img_5953Basically the same texture and it was really filling. I’m still regularly having scrambled eggs (with cheese, kale and olives – love it) for breakfast but I miss my porridge. The reason I swapped was because the porridge was quite low in protein but this is a great compromise. Though it is more expensive, so I’m looking into getting some unflavoured protein powder and playing around with that.

Woofins: These are adorable…even if I was disappointed when I first saw them as I thought “oooh cake” and then realised they’re actually for dogs.img_5987

Alfie isn’t a huge treat lover or chewer. For example, if I give him a dentist stick to chew on he puts it in his mouth then wanders around whimpering until I take it off him and cut it into four pieces for him (what a princess…). Although he will easily eat them normally when he’s around my parent’s dogs – but I think this is due to the fear that if he doesn’t they’ll eat it for him. Anyway, I digress, he wolfed down this mini cake – he loved it!

New car: OK it’s pretty much identical to my old car, just new.img_5968I love the Fiat 500 and wanted to stay with them. Unfortunately I did want a different colour (I quite like the mint) but they didn’t have it in stock for when I wanted it so I had red again. As someone who is rubbish with adulting, having a brand new car with no MOT or service to worry about for a while is a huge weight off my mind (especially as I was late with my last service by about 10,000 miles as I got confused <– story of my life).

But things making me nervous: A 10k obstacle course race (Chepstow Stampede) with my friends, Kate and Jamie, that’s happening Saturday. I did that obstacle course in Spain but I don’t think it can quite compare to a muddy obstacle course race in Britain during a rather wet autumn. I’m stressing a bit with what to wear as I don’t really have anything I’d happy to never see again if it got ruined… and I’m scared about being really cold and wet. But other than that, it should be a laugh. We’ll see…

Have you ever done an obstacle course race?

What kind of car do you have?

What non-workout shoes do you normally wear?

Shrewsbury parkrun – number 20 parkrun tourism

I finished work on Thursday night and was on holiday for a week and a day, woohoo! On Friday I was driving up to Bishop’s Castle with my parents (it’s just under an hour from Shrewsbury). One of the reasons Chester Marathon worked so well for me was because my parents were going to see my grandparents for the week and stay in a holiday cottage (they had the upstairs apartment and my parents had the downstairs one) and they’d invited me to join. The locations and timings worked perfectly.

What also worked perfectly was the fact that I could do another new-to-me parkrun as well on the Saturday. Though there wasn’t one in very close proximity to Bishop’s Castle, Shrewsbury wasn’t too far away. My dad was happy to drive and support me (as always, bless him). It wasn’t too early a morning either which was nice. Up at 7am and on the road by 7.30am. We got to Shrewsbury in enough time to find a car park just across the road from Quarry Park where the parkrun was located.

In my head I assumed it would look like an actual quarry but it was actually a really beautiful park with lots of trees, grass, lovely winding paths and right next to River Severn.

shrewsbury-parkrun-1The top left picture is where we parked the car just outside the church hall

It was raining and cold. Distinctly autumnal morning. I reminded myself to warm-up and did a few loops round the park. This was mainly because I was so cold and wanted to feel human again.shrewsbury-parkrun-2The parkrun crew were setting everything up and I was getting slowly more wet. I had no time goals but I wasn’t going to hold myself back. A faster paced parkrun has helped previously the day before races so I’m happy to stretch my legs, knowing I won’t be going anywhere near those paces the next day!img_0811

The course sounded a little confusing but better than a five lapper! It was one lap of the top of the park and then an out and back along the river before doing the first lap again and then back along the river to the finishing funnel. Nice and varied I thought.

The first part of the course went down a fairly steep decline which with the wet ground was a little precarious… I was slightly worried I’d slip.shrewsbury-parkrun

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

Then it was off along the flat. I felt quite comfortable with the pace I was going though annoyingly my calf was a bit tight. It seems a recurring thing for me when it gets to high mileage that my left calf starts to grumble. But it was just a mild discomfort rather than pain so I wasn’t panicking (OK that’s a lie, I will always panic when some part of my body feels anything but perfect when I near a big race but I was confident it wasn’t serious).

Then we curved back up to go past the start again. There was a fairly nasty incline (to match the previous decline I suppose) but it wasn’t too bad. It was still raining but I was feeling warmer, though my hands weren’t.img_5517My dad cheered me on and it was back down the decline and off along the river. This was lovely and flat and I gained some speed. It was a nice pace actually. Surprisingly I didn’t feel the “Omg how much longer?” pain but rather a comfortable tolerance of the pain.

It was nice knowing exactly what I had left as I came back down the path from the out-and-back. I really enjoyed the variety of the course.img_5522I’m really pleased with how I felt during this run. Albeit a slightly niggling calf, I enjoyed the burst of speed and didn’t feel like I was dying. Always a plus!img_5425

My time was 21:41 which blew my mind as I haven’t broken 22 minutes since March. The course was good it must be said but I can’t believe how comfortable it felt. A photographer was standing at the end of the finisher’s funnel so the photo he got of me was literally just after I’d finished.photo-credit-colin-williamson

Photo credit: Colin Williamson

The finishing area next to the River Severn was so picturesque, even in the rain.img_5501Then we made quick haste to get back to the car and then to find somewhere for brunch to warm-up.img_5503We found a lovely little cafe/restaurant called The Loopy Shrew (love that name) and we both ordered a English breakfast (subbing the hasbrowns for extra tomatoes because we’re so healthy ;-)).img_5526It was honestly one of the best fry-ups I’ve ever had. I love that they separated the baked beans in a little bowl as I hate beans touching my eggs. The black pudding was to die for. And the service was fantastic. The bacon was super crispy and it wasn’t swimming in a pool of grease. Lovely.

The rest of the day was fairly relaxed. We wandered around Bishop’s Castle, despite it being rather drizzly and cold. I couldn’t believe it was forecasted to be lovely and sunny the next day!img_5529And in the evening we had a nice meal in another pub (I didn’t need lunch after my mammoth breakfast!). I had a very taste starter of sardines (random I know but nice) and a goat’s cheese and sun-dried tomato salad with a side of sweet potato fries because #carbs 😉pre-marathon-mealAnd because I needed more carbs I had a brownie with ice cream for pudding. SO good.

And then it was off to bed for an early-ish night before the marathon the next day!

What’s your favourite restaurant starter?

Do you like running in the rain?

Favourite brunch foods?

London fun and Gladstone parkrun

Friday night I headed to the Big Smoke (aka London) once again. This time for pleasure not business and to see two good friends of mine from university.

The train and tube journey were easy peasy (i.e. I didn’t get lost – who even am I??). My friend, Laura, lives in the very cool St. John’s Wood location which was home to that famous zebra crossing on Abbey Road near the Abbey Road Studios (where the Beatles, amongst others, recorded a lot of their albums). To be honest, I would never have known had my friend, Charlotte, not pointed this out to me. I obviously had to get a photo, though sadly I was walking the wrong way to recreate the iconic Beatles crossing! But with cars waiting, I did the best I could!

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That evening we went to a fantastic Lebanese restaurant, called Yalla Yalla (self-described as a “hip West End restaurant”). It felt very hip. In fact, the entire time I was in London (and this is always the case) I feel so uncool. Londoners seem to exude this effortless coolness that I can only admire from a distance.

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It was a great pick of a restaurant because Charlotte is veggie and they had such a range of vegetarian and meat-based dishes that everyone was happy. The two others went for three small plates each which looked delicious.

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Halloumi, falafels, salad and chicken and feta in filo pastries. Whereas I went for pomegranate and honey roasted chicken wings followed by a mixed grill.

Yalla Yalla

It was all divine. And I even got to help out Charlotte and Laura when their normal-sized stomachs became too full. I’m literally the dustbin of my group of friends.

From there we meandered around Soho, China Town and other very cool parts of London.

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It was incredible busy (as you can imagine, it being Friday night) and every pub was spilling out people.

IMG_5013I wish!

We were hunting for a bar where we could have a nice drink and chat. After walking a fair way I got the rumbles for something sweet… and lo! and behold a crêpe cafe appeared. I mean, what a find! It’s called Scoop and honestly I was in heaven.

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My only predicament was whether to have just scoops of gelato in a funky cone, a brownie and gelato, a slice of red velvet or a crêpe (pancakes and waffles were also available but not really my cup of tea).

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Not normally a crêpe person I quickly changed my mind having seen someone order one. I went for a white chocolate filled crêpe with a scoop of salted caramel gelato. I could have gone with multiple toppings and more than one scoop, but I decided to reign in the beast within and be sensible seen as how it was 10pm and I did have parkrun in the morning.

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Dear God, what have I been missing all these years of believing crêpes weren’t my thing? (I’m not a Nutella fan so this is probably why as you can’t move for Nutella crêpes). The gooey, oozy, sweet and moist (yes, moist) deliciousness sent me to heaven and back. And I cleaned up that bad boy easily.

We then headed to a bar across the road for more normal adult endeavours (me now floating along on a sugar high). It was a lovely evening and made me realise a) how very uncool I am by London standards (who am I kidding, by any standards!) and b) how much more ‘happening’ London is than Southampton. OK I knew this already but it just blew my mind how easy it was and just how much stuff there was to see (and eat). But, still, I would never like to live near or in London…as good as that all is, I’m a hermit by nature and think I’d be overwhelmed (and broke) if it was long-term. Plus I love the friendliness and greenness of the more country-based suburbs.

parkrun the next morning was going to be at Hampstead Heath but after (luckily) checking Twitter on Friday I realised they’d cancelled for some reason. The next best location was Gladstone parkrun which was really easy to get to via the tube.

From the tube station (Dollis Hill) it’s literally about 0.5 miles down one road (Anna-proof!) to get to the park. The park is actually quite big though (and hilly) so I did have to hike around for a fair while to find the start (mainly because I hadn’t actually researched further than “it’s in Gladstone Park”).

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Having arrived fairly early (8.20am) and the fact that it was cold and overcast meant me walking around a park for a fair while was actually quite good!

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The views were lovely and the park was very peaceful. There was a small pond with ducks and lots of interesting carvings of animals in tree logs about the place. It really was a very good location for a parkrun – besides the hills Winking smile

When I got to the start area I happily chatted away to the few runners there. It amazes me how in this sort of situation I can easily walk up to people I don’t know and just start talking and be at ease. But in any other scenario? That would terrify me and I’d stand to one side awkwardly. I met some lovely people. I also heard from some people who usually do the Hampstead Heath parkrun that Hampstead Heath is very hilly so I was quite glad not to have gone (that’s where Parliament Hill is sooo…bullet dodged!)

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The course was a two lapped course (which, by the way, is now my favourite type of course. Not quite as repetitive as a three lap course and seems to go a lot quicker!). There were some nasty short inclines and some long gradual inclines but also some declines. It was actually a very enjoyable course as it was so varied.

Gladstone

 

 

 

How’s that for a negative split?? I got a new lease of life half-way through and felt far more at ease. The temperature was perfect (very chilly to start!) and I really got into it by the end. I really should do more of a warm-up…starting straight from nothing is not a great idea *sighs*. One day.

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I asked the event director to take a photo of me and he was more than happy to. He then turned it to selfie mode and said “but of course you also need one with the event director in it!”

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He was so friendly and funny – really made me feel welcome and he demanded I come back at some point: “you don’t get a PB unless you come back!”.

I got back to Laura’s flat, showered and we headed off for brunch (Charlotte had gone home last night). It actually worked out really well me going to parkrun as Laura likes a lie-in whereas I’m not great with sleeping in too late! She took me to the Maida Vale area which was also very cool (and where they did all the BBC music stuff!). We went to The Elgin which was the epitome of hipster.

The Elgin

Anywhere that uses a teapot to hold cutlery is far too cool Winking smile I had Bavette steak and eggs for my brunch and it was DELICIOUS.

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And then it was time for home! I had a fantastic time in London (guided carefully around by friends to make sure I didn’t wander off and get lost). And ticked off number 19 on my parkrun tourism list!

How many laps do you prefer for parkrun?

What would you choose: Crêpes, waffles, pancakes, cake or just gelato?

Do you like visiting London much?