Tokyo Recap – part 2

So to carry on with my Tokyo recap… (read part one HERE and the marathon recap HERE).

Warning: this is rather long post sorry!

The day before the marathon was really jam-packed. Because Chris (my new friend from the tour group) and I were thinking of running the marathon together we thought we’d better test out actually running together before fully committing. Basically to ensure neither of us were “Phoebe runners“. We met up in the hotel lobby in the morning and literally bumped into Wilson Kipsang and a bunch of other elite runners. I had a total fan girl moment by going up to him and asking for a photo.I did feel bad though as I didn’t recognise any of the other elites… so it was just Kipsang I had the photo or spoke with (he was lovely, more than happy to have his photo taken). They were then all herded off to a van with a guy who I assume was their coach/organiser where they were going for their own run.

Our run wasn’t quite as glamorous but still good. I was glad to have Chris with me as, let’s be honest, I could easily have gotten lost on my own or would have ended up doing a really boring out-and-back (with some cheeky undulations). Chris has a good sense of direction so I left the route to him! We were well matched in our pace and kept it nice and comfortable and chatted as we ran. We survived the run and decided we’d run together the next day – with the proviso that either us could ditch the other if the situation arose.

After the run and breakfast we headed out for the day. We started with going up the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building. It’s a super tall high-rise and has a tourist observatory floor (202m high!) that you can go up for free. There are two towers so you can choose either North or South. I actually can’t remember the one we chose but it had a longer queue (as we got there just before it opened) so we figured we’d go with the most popular one.

Photos from Chris’ camera as it was better quality!

The views were amazing. You were behind glass so it wasn’t like the New York Empire State building but it was pretty good regardless. Each window had an explanation of what you could see which was cool. And on a more clear day you could apparently see Mount Fuji (actually on the last day I saw it from my own hotel room).

Then we headed out to walk to Yoyogi Park which is one of Tokyo’s largest parks. It was a really lovely walk and it’s where you can find Meiji Shrine, which we wanted to see.It was really beautiful. I think there was a wedding happening (though to be honest I have no idea I’m that culturally inept). Basically there were people all dressed fancily and there was a woman having her photo taken in a white dress. Though not a typical Western dress…but it was white. Who knows.Then from there we walked to the Shibuya area. I got swindled by a fake Buddhist Monk who gave me a bracelet and then demanded money from me. I gave him some change and then a Japanese woman ran up to us and basically explained that we were being swindled by a fake. It was nice of her to intervene. I got a bracelet out of it and lost some petty change so wasn’t too bad – the bracelet now reminds me to not be so stupid (probably need more than a bracelet tho…).

On the tour the day before we’d heard about cat cafes in Japan. Actually I’d heard about these before from Lily’s blog (always a good read for travel tips and London adventures). So I really wanted to find one. As we came out of the park we saw one straight away. Well we just had to go.It wasn’t really a cafe per se. You could get a drink but it wasn’t the main thing. You pay for the time you’ll spend in there (we paid for 30 minutes) and then you’re given a bit of cat food to entice the cats over and you sit and play with them. Rather odd… but fun! The cats were beautifully groomed and basically queens of their kingdom. They really were living the life.
You got some slippers and cat ears to wear while you were there. Very fun! Though we met a super intelligent American scientist working on the Juno project and I sat there chatting looking like a twat in a pair of fluffy cat ears.

After the cat cafe we were nicely placed to walk around Shibuya, where there were lots of shops. There were Japanese brands but also Western brands like Next, Laura Ashley, Body Shop, Nike, etc. It was great. After doing some shopping we found the nicest Starbucks I’ve ever been to.It was right at the top of one of the smaller high-rise department store and it opened out onto this beautiful roof-top terrace overlooking the city. Beautiful!I also enjoyed their blossom cup, which is apparently unique to Japan during the blossom season, though I found it amusing that I had to pay extra for milk!

We then found the very busy Shibuya crossing (next to the Shibuya Station) and watched the madness of one of the busiest crossings in the world happen over and over. Apparently it’s even more busy at night.Then it was time to hunt out some food. As I mentioned in a previous post we found a very small and cheap pizza/pasta place in the area and got our carbs sorted for the next day. The pizza was cooked just behind the counter in a proper pizza oven and it was delicious.

After more walking around we passed through Harajuku where we found two very brightly dressed girls…Then we meandered back to our hotel. As it was about 5 o’clock it was too early for dinner and we were fed up of walking so we decided to head to a bar in our hotel that we’d heard about. It was on the 45th floor and though rather expensive a lovely place to grab a green tea (mine was infused with apple!) and watch the sunset.Bliss! After 36,000 steps this was definitely a nice way to chill. We’d booked for dinner in the hotel restaurant for that evening so that was nice and easy too.

Then the marathon happened…go check out the recap!

After the marathon it was time to fully relax and enjoy ourselves. Chris and I headed out to find some food and had a meal in a tiny little restaurant in Shinjuku. The only problem was we had no idea really what we were ordering…

There was a salad bar buffet with unlimited miso soup which was nice (below photo). But I ordered chicken and it came raw. The waiter then turned on the grill in the centre of the table (we were wondering what that was…) and with comical sign language directed us to cook the food on there.Though the meal was very tasty (we also had rice with a raw egg on top that the waiter quickly mixed into the rice in front of us to cook it), it didn’t quite hit the spot. Bare in mind we’d only had breakfast, run a marathon and it was now about 5pm (and I have a bottomless pit of a stomach). So we went on the hunt for some more crepes.

Instead of crepes we found a fabulous little pudding cafe in Shinjuku (seemingly the only one in Tokyo, they really don’t go for their sweet stuff!). We saw two girls sharing this epic looking bread-pudding thing and immediately knew that was for us. We ordered a chocolate banana one to share and I had a Royal Milk Tea. The tea was basically super milky tea but it was delicious! I’m going to try and recreate at home…so comforting.The pudding looked AMAZING. I mean it was massive. Basically very slightly sweet bread (kind of like iced bun bread? In fact I’m not entirely sure it was sweet…) filled with chunks of toasted bread, a scoop of ice cream, a bit of custard sauce, cream and banana slices.If I’m honest, it looked a lot better than it actually was. Don’t get me wrong, it was tasty and we enjoyed pulling it apart but it wasn’t that sweet – one scoop of vanilla ice cream, a tiny bit of custard and cream… it was more bread than anything. We left most of the sides because it was just bread at that point as we’d eaten the more tasty elements. It was nice to try it but it didn’t satisfy my sweet tooth or the marathon runger within.

[Also, random note, but I love that they give you a warm cloth before meals so you can clean your hands!]

Then we headed back to meet up with others on the tour group to go to an Irish bar for a few drinks. It was nice being on the tour because you instantly had a connection with the other people: everyone loved running, had similar goals of completing the Majors and basically were just nice people. It was nice because you could all chat about how the marathon went. Normally at this point I’d be home and my family would be fed up of talking about it. But everyone wanted to talk about it!

I enjoyed quite a few Coroners and had a really good evening. We stayed until closing and as we walked back, Chris, another guy and me decided to needed a bit more sustenance. McDonald’s it was!

Now I haven’t had a McDonald’s since I was about 14. They’re not really my thing, but honestly it was absolutely necessary. And it absolutely hit the spot.I ordered a chicken burger and fries with a Diet Coke (DIET COKE! I missed this!) and after seeing the other guy (for the life of me I can’t remember his name) eating a Chocolate Triangle Pie I ordered one of those too (“premium cocoa and almond in the crust with a chocolate cream filling” Source). Flaky, warm, deliciousness.

The next morning I woke up at 4am not being able to sleep (I actually sent in my Marathon Talk submission for their Listener Podium, which was probably unwise after hearing my jumbled submission on the show last week…. Though I happily came second on the podium – the first lady was the lady I shared a cabin with at the Run Camp, by the way she’s over 60!).

My roomie also couldn’t sleep so we sat chatting for a bit. I idly checked the BA app to see if I could check in to the flight (we were flying that morning) and spotted that it said the flight was delayed. BY A DAY! What?? Panic and a mad FaceTime conversation with my dad ensued (dad’s always know what to do, Anna’s never do).

After a song and dance we had breakfast, headed to the airport as normal and had BA tell us we were delayed by a day. We were given food vouchers for lunch at the airport, a room at a nearby hotel (with free bus shuttles) and dinner and breakfast taken care of. Not too shabby!

A group of us, led by a very savvy and chirpy American, quickly organised a trip to Tokyo Disney which was about an hour away. About seven us made a mad dash to grab the next bus to the hotel to drop our bags off, to then come back to the airport to grab the Disney shuttle.Whew! We got to Disney just before midday.We were like little kids when we got into the park (we went to Disney Sea as it had more rides and attractions for adults).All the females in the group bought Disney ears and we giggled our way round the place.Tokyo Disney is good fun. It was fairly busy – literally full of kids in school uniform everywhere. Most of the rides had an hour plus to queue for them. But we mastered this by doing the Single Rider queues and managed to get on a fair number of rides. The one ride was couldn’t single riders for was queuing inside which I didn’t mind at all because it was VERY cold outside. It was actually quite fun to be amongst so many Japanese kids – so many cultural differences! So fascinating. And we’d only have been waiting around at the airport anyway so really it didn’t matter to me.However as the day got later and the sun started to disappear, I just got too cold to stay for much longer. Chris kindly said he’d leave with me so we headed back to the hotel together. I fell asleep on the bus back – it had been a long day!

The meals (both dinner and breakfast) were amaaaazing. So much food to choose from. I honestly had about three plates each time. At dinner the pudding was pretty cool – the pink fountain was kind of like strawberry sauce?? There were waffles, pancakes, mousses and cakes as well as Japanese sweets such as Daifukus (I had to google…”a glutinous rice cake stuffed with sweet filling, most commonly anko, sweetened red bean paste made from azuki beans” [Source] – oooh er.).

And another interesting thing in my hotel room (I now had my very own room, thank you British Airways) were a pair of pyjamas left on my bed, apparently complimentary for me to use. How very strange!

The only thing to add is that on the plane back most of us had done the marathon and everyone recognised or knew each other. A super friendly flight 🙂

After that VERY lengthy recap (apologies), I have to say I enjoyed Tokyo far more than I thought I would. I saw far more than I thought I would! I thoroughly enjoyed both the marathon and the trip.

Have you ever been to Tokyo?

What cultural differences have surprised you in different countries? If I thought people in America went Disney-mad it was NOTHING compared to the Japanese. Everyone, literally everyone, was wearing something Disney.

Has your flight ever got delayed? This was my first ever delay. It’s nice to know I should get just over £500 in compensation from BA for it.

Tokyo Recap (with the Tokyo Marathon Expo) – part 1

I literally don’t even  where to start with my recap of the Tokyo trip. It definitely exceeding my expectations!

I‘ve decided to write this up in two portions: the first one a few days before the marathon, and then the second the day before the marathon and the after math. Sorry if I’ve waffled too much!

Yes I was looking forward to the trip – it’s Japan after all and I’ve never been to that side of the world. But I was concerned about the marathon and how that would go (no change there then…) and it was only a very short trip with a ridiculous 12 hour plane journey and nine hour time difference.

The plane wasn’t actually too bad. I’d had a nice big meal at Giraffe and had a plan to watch one film, then take a couple of melatonin tablets and then attempt to sleep.Yes it would be late afternoon UK time but I was keen to get into the time zone as soon as possible (it would be very late evening Tokyo time). Well it didn’t quite work out that way and I only managed three hours of disjointed sleep (the tablets did help tho to get me off to sleep gently). It was just too noisy and I was too uncomfortable to sleep long periods.

The plane, by the way, was completely full, which surprised me actually. And I’d say 80-90% we’re going purely for the marathon. Either to run it or to support someone else running it. Honestly you couldn’t move for people discussing their PBs, last races and marathon game plans. There were a lot of skinny people on that flight I can tell you!

It quickly became apparent that most people were doing exactly what I was doing: getting through the Marathon Majors (Chicago, New York, Boston, London, Berlin and Tokyo). I mean I guess it makes sense, it’s a long way to randomly run a marathon. I felt woefully inadequate with “only” having run two of them.

After the long journey, we arrived at Narita airport. I enjoyed my first Japanese toilet experience… I wasn’t brave enough to try the different buttons (yet!) but I did enjoy the heated seat 😉Our tour group met up (by the way, Sports Tours International was absolutely fantastic. I can’t recommend them enough for making everything easy and simple!) and I found I was standing amongst lots of people who had either made friends on the plane or were there with their support person… I had sat with a lady from another tour group on the plane so felt a bit alone. I started chatting to a guy who looked around my age and was also alone. It became apparent that neither of us were psychos and that we got on well so we stuck together. His name is Chris and we spent most of our time together on the trip, which was nice because I had visions of me wandering aimlessly around Tokyo on my own!

The tour company took us via coach straight to the Expo. This was actually perfect as the Expo is quite a way from the centre of Tokyo where we were staying and though the company provided transfers to the Expo on any of the days leading up to the marathon, it was nice to get it done straight away before the rush.I have to say as expos go, this wasn’t the best. It was fairly small and quite a sensory overload. I’m sure this is just a cultural difference but it was a lot Japanese being shouted at you while being handed leaflets you couldn’t read. Everyone was super polite but it was a bit crazy after my lack of sleep.There were a few samples of strange Japanese products (sweets, strange dried food, a nonalcoholic beer, etc.). And a stand of tomatoes…a big thing for aid stations apparently!The clothing section was just ASICS (the sponsor) and asides from the official jacket it wasn’t great. I was a bit disappointed as I remembered Boston and Berlin being amazing with so much to waste/spend your money on. I bought a jacket and that was it.Then Chris and I headed for some food in a food hall as it was lunch time.So my first experience of Japanese food wasn’t exactly the most authentic but it filled a hole and was quite tasty. I had a chicken steak and a burger steak with rice and vegetables. And it quickly became apparent Diet Coke isn’t a thing in Tokyo sadly!

After getting back and having a MUCH needed shower, we headed out to do some exploring. Our hotel (which was lovely! And also where the elites were staying) was really central in Shinjuku.

So we walked to the madness of the main area of Shinjuku which was just a craziness of colours, sounds and busyness. Honestly it was quite overwhelming on such little sleep! But it was fantastic. I didn’t know where to look. There were just so many tiny little restaurants everywhere and arcades screaming multi-colours and sounds. Eventually after walking around just soaking it all in, we found a tiny little restaurant for dinner. I say restaurant but really it was more of a cafe.And the meal was delicious. I found I was quite adept with my chopstick skills but that towards the end of the meal my hand would get tired! It was pork stir-fry with white rice, miso soup and dumplings. Very nice!Thankfully I managed to get a good night sleep that evening – which was good because I’d randomly signed up last minute to the Mount Fuji trip that Sports Tours International had offered and we were off fairly early. After a delicious buffet breakfast (there was a lot to choose from, from more Western options like scrambled egg and bacon, to ratatouille and fish – I went for a mixed bag)…We then headed to the beautiful Lake Ashi to see the mountain in the distance. Unfortunately the clearest views we got were from the coach as we drove alongside it…But the lake was gorgeous and you could still see Fuji in the distance, though with more cloud coverage. I tried my first ever matcha latte which was quite tasty though quite sweet.And then we headed off to a little town where we could do a bit of shopping (lots of little Japanese shops selling traditional Japanese craft work and food). There was also this shop that sold lots of Japanese treats and the best part was that you could try them all as there were tester boxes everywhere!! I was in my element.We then got lunch, which was another buffet – which I love as it means you can try everything!From there we headed to a rather odd but fun pirate boat which took us across a lake so we could see the views from there and then take a cable car to a volcanic valley (called Jigokudani: the Valley of Hell) in Owakudani, Hakone, where there was a huge crater and lots of sulphuric smoke rising up everywhere.The area of the crater was famous for its black chicken eggs, which are basically just normal chicken eggs but boiled for an hour in water containing sulphur and iron. Obviously I had to try it!Yeah they just tasted like regular boiled eggs and they looked exactly like normal eggs inside. But worth a try!

The day was fantastic! I’m so pleased I signed up to it. I found out a lot about Japanese culture as well as on the coach the tour guide was a lovely Japanese lady and she explained so much about life in Tokyo and how things were.

We got back about 7pm and so headed out to find some dinner. I was ravenous at this point and unfortunately quickly found out that Friday night in central Tokyo is a busy busy place and despite there being hundreds of restaurants everywhere, to get a seat anywhere was proving to be virtually impossible. Eventually we found a little restaurant. It felt like quite a hipster place (if that exists in Japan!). There were young Japanese guys looking rather fashionable and smoking. It’s so odd (and unpleasant) that people can smoke in restaurants!Unfortunately the waiter spoke limited English and after lots of pointing, hand gestures and facial expressions we were able to order. It was kind of like Tapas… you ordered a bunch of small things, like deep fried sweet potato, pork, a single chicken wing (yep, had to be done), tofu in broth and squid dumplings (in the photo). It was very tasty but it wasn’t quite enough for me. 

Luckily I’d already clocked a pudding spot on our journeys…We enjoyed a very tasty fruit, cream and chocolate sauce crepe. It made me laugh when the server asked if I wanted a spoon… like how would I eat this otherwise?? Then it was off to bed. The next day Chris and I planned to have a shake-out run to test the waters to see how running together would be (we were thinking of running the marathon together as we seemed well matched in pace and goals). Then we had a jam-packed day planned to hit several different tourist sites we wanted to see…

Have you ever been to Tokyo before?

What’s your favourite crepe topping?

Do you like Japanese food?

Orlando food recap and how much weight I gained

Now if you’re anything like me, it’s all about the food on holiday. And when it comes to holiday recaps, I want to know ALL about it. So here we go. Get ready to feel a little bit hungry 😉

I’ll also preface this with saying that I pretty much ate whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted and lots of it. I wanted to include my weight into this post because I want to reassure people that it is completely NORMAL to gain weight on holiday. You’re eating completely different foods and you’re on holiday so there’s lots of treats and eating out.

During a normal week I’ll probably eat out once or twice (usually with pudding). I’ll eat treats through the week but in general I’m quite healthy and routine-based in what I eat Monday to Friday. I like what I eat and I don’t restrict myself any food but in general, yes, I eat fairly healthily.

So going to Orlando and eating everything was bound to have an effect. And I was fully aware of this and quite happy with that eventual outcome. I love food and I didn’t want to come home with any regrets about what I DIDN’T eat, not about what I did eat. Food is a big part of what I love and how I like to spend time with people (as it is for Kate & Jamie who I went with) and it was a major part of why the holiday was AMAZING. And on that note…

Starting with the absolute breakfast must for me before a holiday, the usual fry-up affair at the airport.Gatwick South doesn’t have a great amount of choice (and no Jamie’s Italian, which I think does the best fry-up) but we had a fantastic meal at Grain Store Café & Bar. Though I dislike the baked bean contamination going on!

Anyway, onto actual Orlando food. The first night (being five hours ahead it was like ridiculous o’clock in the morning UK time) we arrived at the hotel from the airport and headed to our respective rooms. I promptly ordered room service as it was dinner time in Orlando and I find it best to get into the swing of the time zone I’m in. Annnnd I was hungry so why not!Not the greatest photo but basically I had a chicken burger with chips though I was a bit disappointed as I really wanted was some overly fried crispy fries. And a huge pickle. God I love America with their love for pickles. And I ate it in my PJs in bed watching TV. BLISS.

One of our first proper meals was at Longhorn Steakhouse. I’m not usually a huge steak lover – though I do enjoy them. I wouldn’t have picked this restaurant myself but Kate and Jay raved about it and I was very relaxed this holiday about where and what we were going to eat that I went with their better judgement. I’m so glad I did!I ordered a fillet steak (rare) with a sweet potato. The sweet potato weirdly came with cinnamon sugar butter which I asked for on the side because it sounded wrong to have it on the potato. I didn’t touch it…just weird. The bread at Longhorn was TO DIE FOR as well. Now I’m fairly ambivalent about bread, but this bread was warm and delicious. So a very simple but a very tasty meal.

We followed this with a trip to Menchies for some fro-yo and I went a bit crazy on the toppings (all the animal cookies, the brownie bites, the cookie dough chunks, the turtle chocolate caramel things). So good.

Another top meal was at a Mexican restaurant called Chuy’s which we went to the last time we went to Orlando together. I had chicken fajitas and it came with all the trimmings.At first I thought I’d need to ask for more tortillas it only came with three. But after piling each one with so much filling that they almost exploded, I really didn’t need anymore! I didn’t need my rice either. The guacamole, sour cream, salsa, cheese, tortillas and chicken with onion and peppers were enough!

We then popped into Coldstone Creamery. Jay and Kate had a crazy ice cream concoction but I went for a candy apple because, well, see blog name.I had a rocky road one and it was covered with caramel, chocolate, nuts and marshmallow. Ahh it was so good. I’m not a huge ice cream fan so the apple was always the way forward for me.

After doing Busche Gardens one day we had a late lunch/early dinner at a lovely little Italian pizza place called Giovanni’s. Again, this is one we’ve been to before and we all loved it. I shared chicken wings with Jamie and had a gyro salad with pita bread. The chicken wings. Good God. They were amazing. Possibly the best of the holiday? It’s hard to say. You know me, I love chicken wings and would eat them every day if I could (I did when I went to Boston) so this is high praise indeed. Buffalo sauce and blue cheese dip. I can’t even.We followed this by going to the ice cream parlour next door and I had seven bars flavour and birthday cake flavour. The seven bars flavour is basically seven different chocolate bars within the ice cream – it literally rocked my world. The birthday cake (which was underneath) sadly didn’t compare but was still good.

And something I always get when I go to Orlando… the turkey leg. It’s one of my favourite things. It brings out the true carnivore in me. And why my friends call me a hyena. When we went to Disney we decided to have a more ‘snacky lunch’ as we were going to Chuy’s that evening (see above).I sniffed out where the turkey legs were and settled myself on a bench with the above view while Kate and Jamie headed off to find what they wanted for lunch. Kate, being the pudding pro, went for an ice cream sandwich while Jamie had a hot dog. They had to wait a bit in a queue so I sat on my own started munching away. Jamie said from a distance it looked like I hadn’t been fed for a week and had finally been shown food… smallish girl with giant turkey leg eating like a hyena. I was in my own little happy world, what can I say!What we tended to do is if we were planning a big lunch, then we’d skip breakfast. I would get a fruit salad and a coffee from the Hard Rock Hotel mini-shop and that would tide me over until lunch. We usually also timed this with the previous night having had a huge dinner so I didn’t really wake up that hungry. So most days we’d have one really big main meal (with pudding) and probably snacks either side. I will say though on the days we didn’t have breakfast by midday I was SO ready to eat. But then so were Kate and Jay. We had very similar stomach clocks so this worked nicely. They’re very food-focused so I knew I’d never be without 😉

One of my favourite restaurants we went to (which we went to twice as it was just so good) was a restaurant about 30 minutes from the tourist area called 4 Rivers Smokehouse.Now I know I eat a lot of ribs, but honestly this was PHENOMENAL. I had a full rack of St. Louis ribs (my favourite style of ribs) and it rocked my world a million times over (OK how often will I use this phrase??). I got two chicken wings on the side because as part of the meal you got a load of sides with it (like cornbread, BBQ beans and Mac & Cheese, Southern greens…things like that) but I just wanted the biscuit and wings. The biscuit was ridiculously soft and delicious. The ribs…so good. If you ever go to Orlando, look this place up. Seriously.

We also went to Cheesecake Factory one day. We don’t really have anything similar to this in the UK. The menu is ridiculous. PAGES upon pages of options. Basically we went purely for the cheesecake. I shared some chicken wings with Kate (see, addicted) and then had a chicken and guacamole salad (so much avocado…) followed by the white chocolate macadamia nut cheesecake (not as good as the Ultimate Red Velvet though).For a giggle I worked out how many calories I ate in this mealThat’s pretty insane, right?? I have honestly never felt so full in my life. Yes I ate all of it. While I was eating the cheesecake I was thinking, “I’m a bit full but I’m OK” and then suddenly within the last bite of it I hit the fullest I’ve ever been. We were all stuffed. I literally needed to lie down and curl up in the fetal position. I think in my future full scale in life that Cheesecake Factory moment will be right at the top.

Another day when I literally ate more than I really should have was one of the best meals of my life. MY ENTIRE LIFE. This is a bold, bold statement I know. I went to Orlando knowing I wanted this meal after seeing a YouTuber eating it. This was brunch after the Orlando parkrun (another post to come) at Hash House A Go Go.Fried chicken on BACON-FILLED waffles covered with fried leeks (random but it worked) and hot maple reduction. It was ENORMOUS. But I was in food heaven. I dream about this meal even now.Best meal of the holiday. Best meal of my life. I pretty much ate it all bar maybe one of the waffles and the two random cherry tomatoes they served it with (weird). Jay ate those.It said it came with eggs but I honestly can’t remember eggs being in there. Anyway I felt ridiculously full. We ate about 9.30am? I didn’t eat again (absolutely nothing – not even coffee) until after 7pm (and that was a salad). What do you do after you’ve eaten a ridiculous big meal and feel a bit ill? Go to SeaWorld and do the roller coasters. Ooof. Especially when we went on Manta which holds you horizontal and we got held there at the end for a good 5 minutes as they took ages boarding the next people. I’ve never been sick on a ride but honestly I was THIS close. Stupid, stupid idea.

And the best pudding of the holiday? The chocolate brownie milkshake I got from the new City Walk restaurant, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium. After *cough* chicken wings for starters (with an insanely good chocolate ale sauce) and a chicken salad, I had the best milkshake (and pudding) of the holiday.The brownie milkshake came with chocolate ice cream as the base of the milkshake but I changed to vanilla as I thought it would be a bit too chocolatey. They blend up a brownie in there too so this was a very wise choice. I was in heaven. I dipped the brownie in the milkshake and just floated away to heaven. Kate got the peanut butter one (far right) and Jamie got the Dulche Leche (middle). We all agreed it was AMAZING. My one regret of the holiday is not going back for the red velvet milkshake (they put a red velvet cupcake on top). But a reason to go back…

Other puddings worthy of a shout-out were the slices of red velvet and carrot cake at the bakery in 4 Rivers Smokehouse (can that place get any better?).Kate and I shared the slices as we couldn’t make our minds up. It worked out nicely as I found I preferred the carrot cake and she preferred the red velvet.

And then another candy apple that I got to choose the toppings for in the Disney Springs candy shop.It was a caramel base, a white chocolate covering, Butterfingers and Graham Cracker sprinkled all over and then a dark chocolate drizzle. Oh it was so good. But I felt incredibly sick that evening. Way too much sugar.

This obviously isn’t everything I ate on holiday, but it’s the real highlights. And the reason why I gained half a stone (7lbs)! I weighed myself before going on holiday and then after making a prediction with Kate and Jamie about how much I’d have put on, I weighed myself as soon as I got back from the airport. Half a stone! I mean to be honest I’m surprised I didn’t put more on but we did walk over 25,000 steps a day, I did lots of running and a few gym visits so really I came out quite well I think. I’m quite proud of myself 😉

But having weighed myself today (a week and a half later) I’m pretty much back to my pre-holiday weight. I DID NOT go on a ridiculous starvation diet. I just went back to my usual eating, running and gym visits (no more than usual). Honestly, I didn’t feel guilty or awful about what I ate or how much weight I put on. I knew when I got home things would readjust back. And they have done. I mean if I’m honest, I was craving my normal food and healthier ways of eating when I got back so it wasn’t that hard. Though I miss that milkshake and chicken and waffles every day. EVERY DAY.

So there we go. Go on holiday, eat all the foods, relax and think about the memories you make not the calories you’re eating!

Do you eat lots of holiday?

Best meal of your life?

What’s your favourite pudding you’ve ever had?

Orlando Recap – part 1

So Orlando was pretty damn fun. I’d even go as far to say one of the best holidays I’ve ever had.

It was just such a non-stop fun time. I’m a huge fan of roller coasters and being “active” on holiday. When I say active I mean doing stuff, not lying on beach. There’s a place for that and I fully appreciate sometimes people need a holiday where they do nothing, but for me I need to be out and about. I can’t lie on a sun lounger or the beach for hours at end.

Anyway I won’t recap the entire holiday because I think that would be a bit self-indulgent of me and boring for you guys. But I’ll give you the highlights  (though it’s quite long, sorry!) – and I’ll do a separate post on the food because it was amaaaazing. And I have a bit to say about that!

So basically I went with my two friends, Kate and Jamie (they’re married). I get on so well with them and I’ve been on holiday with them before though I was with Ben at the time, so I guess this time there was a danger of me being their third wheeling friend. Thankfully they never made me feel like that for which I was super grateful.

The Hotel

We stayed in the Hard Rock Hotel, which was incredible. Ridiculously expensive but so cool. They have their own scent. I kid you not, the entire hotel smells AMAZING. Like an actual perfume – kind of masculine and not over-powering, just subtle and nice.All around the hotel they had music memorabilia – like pop star’s outfits displayed from different events. We were on the Tom Jones floor which was cool.

The great thing about the Hard Rock (asides from the smell) is that it is literally an eight minute walk to City Walk, where there are lots of cool restaurants, shops, crazy golf and an IMAX cinema. It’s also where you go to get into Universal Studios and Islands of Adventures. So extremely handy. There was also a lovely little boat you could get for a more scenic, albeit slightly longer, route.

The hotel itself has it’s own mini shop with a Starbucks and an amazing pool (which includes a slide, and an adult’s only hot tub – and water dispensers that are full of ice cold water with fruit in).

The Parks

We had tickets to a number of the main parks: all the Disneys, Universal Studios, Busch Gardens and Sea World. It’s an expensive holiday I’ll admit. The tickets alone to all those parks were £720. Yep. I was there for ten days (my friends for 14) and we went to all of them except the water parks. I’m not fussed with water parks as it’s all a bit too much of a faff for me. I prefer the roller coasters and attractions. In the end we went to eight parks (Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Hollywood Studios, Animal Kingdom, Universal Studios, Islands of Adventures, Busche Gardens and Sea World). I loved them all for different reasons.Magic Kingdom is good for the experience. The rides aren’t amazing but they’re fun (it’s obviously a great place for young kids). The themes all around the parks are fantastic. Characters are walking around and it seems every little detail has been thought of. Thought we didn’t have to queue much because we were in the off-season and Disney have a fast pass system (which is free, you use an app – not as great as Universal but you pay for Universal…unless you stay in the Hard Rock and that comes with your room!), but the newest ride, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train, we waited about 40 minutes and the whole queue was cooly themed to be like a mine shaft.

We went to Epcot one evening for the fireworks and they were pretty good. We did a couple of the rides there beforehand (the Test Track was surprisingly really good!) but mainly just went for the fireworks. Epcot isn’t really a ride-focused place, it’s a great place for food and walking around looking at things if that makes sense.Hollywood Studios is good. You can’t beat the Tower of Terror (a lift/elevator that drops really quickly). The entire experience, from queuing, to the ‘cast’ who guide you to your elevator seats and the actual ride are just fantastic. I’m glad they haven’t got rid of such a classic as they did in the California version of the park.And the Aerosmith ride is really good too – you zoom forward so quickly in the first part and the set-up for the ride is really fun too with the band and where you queue. But in terms of other major rides it does lack a little bit. It’s probably the Disney park most needed to be given a bit of an uplift if I’m honest. But we saw the Beauty and the Beast show, the Indiana Jones stunt show and a herd (?) of Storm Troopers march past us so it was a pretty good day! And met Woody and Buzz 😉Animal Kingdom was my favourite Disney park I think. I’ve never been there before and it really outdid my expectations. The entire park was so well done. The different areas themed so well, from Alaska to the Far East. The rides were really good (not scary, just thrilling) and the safari was really good fun. We saw loads of animals like elephants (and a baby elephant!), lions, hyenas (apparently my spirit animal my friends say…), zebras, etc.I’m a huge fan of dinosaurs (weird, I know) so I was totally in my element in the dinosaur themed area and the dinosaur ride. We also saw the Lion King show which was so good! I can’t believe how good all the Disney shows are (OK that’s probably a silly statement but I was expecting something fairly half-hearted). Though I have to say, there is something slightly scary and manic about the people who work at Disney. They seem to have this full-on Disney mega-watt smile 24/7 and they’re all super super enthusiastic. Jamie said they probably go home each night and scream into pillows. I think I’m inclined to agree. No one can be that happy all the time.

One of the best roller coaster parks is definitely Busch Gardens. If you don’t like the whole ‘adrenaline enthused throw you all about the place’ kind of experience, then this park isn’t for you.

Busch is about 1.5 hours away from the main Orlando area but if you like your roller coasters this is the place to go. I was gutted that their newest ride was closed for maintenance but it still didn’t take away how good the other rides were. And it was great for Jamie who has since lost SIX STONE since last coming so he could sit at the front each time instead of the designated ‘larger person’ seats.

The park was so quiet. Well, no that’s a lie. The queues were basically empty for the roller coasters (which meant we went on each ride twice, sometimes three times) but the park itself wasn’t empty. It was actually full of, well, older people. Like really old people. Apparently it’s quite the destination spot for a day out – there are shows and music events that suit their tastes. It was quite bizarre as we sat on the little train that takes you from the car park to the park realising we were the youngest ones on there by quite some years… Though it was hilarious to see two very old chaps getting off the Cheetah ride (a very fast coaster) before we got on looking like they were having a whale of a time!

My favourite ride is Falcon’s Fury and it literally scares the hell out of me. You sit in a seat and are taken vertically up and then right at the top (so high!) they rotate you over so you’re looking face down, and then they drop you. I’ve never sworn so much in my whole life. I had to apologise to the older lady next to me for the language I was using… But it’s such a thrill!

Though I still have huge reservations about Sea World and their shows, I do like they’ve moved to more conservation focuses and it’s clear from the park that they’re moving more towards rides. Their newest ride, Mako, was AMAZING. I mean, super scary but really good. The scariest part was the fact that the only restraint you have is a lap bar. OK it’s quite thick and you don’t go upside down, but STILL. You feel very, well, unsecured as you’re being zoomed around Orlando’s tallest, fastest and longest roller coaster. The other rides at Sea World are really good too.I have to say I do prefer Universal Studios and Island of Adventures over Disney. I just love the mix of good roller coasters, thrills rides and what the parks look like with all the themes.And the two different Harry Potter areas in each park are just brilliant (And Jurrasic Park ride is a firm classic favourite for me). The new King Kong ride was quite good as well – more of a thrill ride. My favourite ride is by far Rip Ride Rockit which is great as it’s a proper roller coaster but you get to choose what music you’ll listen to on the way round.

While we were there it was the Mardi Gras celebration as well so on that evening we headed to watch a parade and collected lots of beads that were thrown from the floats. It was really good fun! Though the entertainment was a country and western singer who we really didn’t know (Trace Adkins?) so we didn’t stay to watch him.

Basketball Match

We didn’t just go to the theme parks though. We also went and saw a basketball match to see Orlando Magic play against the Toronto Raptors. I’ve seen an ice hockey match before but never basketball.

If you have the choice, go and watch a basketball game because honestly it was so much fun and so much happens! From the outside of the stadium where there is music, face painting free food and samples and a general party atmosphere…I’m a real sucker for face paint so to be honest it was a good job I had it done here otherwise I might have had a tiger done at Animal Kingdom 😉At the match I had a Bud Light (love Bud Lights) and a Mexican rice and chiptole pork meal, which was delicious. There were lots of cheerleaders, back flippers and of course a huge dressed up mascot (think it was a dragon?). The Orlando Magic won which was great! Though what wasn’t so great was when these “Dad dancers” came out and did a crazy little dance which was quite funny. However at the end of it when they headed off one of them literally just fell flat on his back. We thought it was part of the routine so we laughed… Until we saw someone race over and check him when he didn’t get back up. Then medics ran over. Honestly it was all a bit bewildering. We were just stunned and no one really knew what was happening. Eventually though he was taken off in a stretcher and raised his arm to give a thumbs up. I mean, I know it’s not funny but it kind of is – the dad dance was just too much for him!

Extras

As well as the parks we had two-ish days where we didn’t really do theme parks (I say ‘ish’ as one of those mornings we did go into Universal Studios just to try a few rides out in the morning before moving on elsewhere).

We did some shopping in the outlet mall and Florida Mall, which was great. I didn’t spend a huge amount at all. Just picked up some *cough* leggings…and had a mosey round Victoria’s Secret/Pink shop (love those shop). And a whole shop dedicated to jerky!We also went to Cirque du Soleil one evening and it was so good. I’ve never seen it before so I was really enthralled by the talent of the performers! So good, but very random and I wasn’t entirely sure of the story-line…

On the first day we went to Pig Fest again (a non-touristy BBQ festival about an hour away from the main area). We did this the last time we went and as big fans of BBQ food and meat, this was like a dream for us.

You swap dollars for ‘Pig Bucks’ and then go round buying little samples of ribs, wings, brisket, pulled pork… and lots more. I filled up on different kinds of smoked ribs, with different BBQ sauces and individual chicken wings and butter dipped corn. Oh it was amazing. My friend, Kate, who was the certified pudding pro held back a little on the meat and went to town on the more sweet options, such as a deep fried Oreo and a deep fried Pop Tart. I tried a bit of the Pop Tart but you honestly couldn’t tell it was an actual Pop Tart – it was more just a very sweet and mushy blend of everything good in the world. But I couldn’t have eaten a whole one, even me! Far too sweet.

Deep fried S’mores Pop Tart with chocolate sauce

On my last night we went to Twin Peaks (kind of like Hooters where the girls basically wear no clothes and are overly flirtatious) and had some dirty bar snacks and Bud Light while watching the Super Bowl.I had 12 (!) Buffalo chicken wings with that heavenly blue cheese dip (God I could bathe in that stuff) and we shared a plate of nachos. It was so good.

So basically it was a really jam-packed holiday. I ate far too much but loved every single bite. And every day was just amazing. The weather was great (lows of 22C and highs of 27C) and it was blissfully quiet. Take me back!

Have you ever been to Orlando?

What’s your favourite theme park?

Are you more of a thrill-seeker of an adrenaline junkie, or something a bit more peaceful?

FYI: If you wanted any more information regarding going to Orlando as a holiday, please email me. This was my fourth time going and I have a lot of tips and advice that I didn’t want to bombard this post with (anymore than I have done)!

Back to reality

Hello! I’m back from my holiday to Orlando. I do love going on holiday but eeeeesh is it a bitch getting over jet lag!

Luckily Orlando is only (only!) a five hour time difference so things could be a lot worse but it still significantly messes with your system. I flew back Monday evening, watched one film on the flight (Hell or High Water – very good) and then promptly fell asleep but was woken up regularly due to turbulence and the fact you’re in no way comfortable. I’m a very light sleeper so it was pretty much hourly I woke up. I think I got four hours sleep so that’s not too bad but you land Orlando time at 2am and suddenly have to acclimatise to reality rather sharply.

My parkrun friend, Geoff, is a taxi driver so he picked me up and he was lovely in bearing with my sleep deprived crazy chatter. Though I fell asleep for the last stretch of the journey which definitely helped pep me up a bit.

Then it was a case of just focus on the big jobs needing doing: washing, food shop and showering. I cooked a large chicken so that’s sorted out a lot of meals for this week. My parents still have Alfie as they’re on holiday in Wales and took their dogs and him with them so although it was sad to not see my furry little friend, I was glad to just have to sort me out.

I enjoyed a very large salad for lunch. My system is definitely crying out for some more ‘natural’ food after an onslaught of processed food, sugar and fatty meats. I’ll obviously do a holiday recap post soon (all the food…ommmmm so good).But I definitely appreciated something more simple on my return!

And then I was back at work the next day. The night before I went to bed and fell asleep very quickly at 8pm and though my alarm woke me at 7am (quite a lie-in for me on a work day) I still felt like I was spaced out and exhausted. At work I felt hot and cold, sick and shattered. I wish I’d have taken another day off but with my next holiday approaching very quickly (two weeks until I go to Tokyo!) I couldn’t really take the mic’. Plus I reckon I’d have just slept and delayed the jet lag another day…

Speaking of Tokyo, my race information has come. A nice little bit of post on my return. I won’t lie, it has made me very nervous. Only two weeks left. I fly on the Wednesday night and arrive Thursday, and then the race is Sunday 26th. Hopefully that’s enough time to get over the jet lag – which will feel the same as the jet lag I’ve felt post-Orlando (as it’s going the same direction across the world). Finger’s crossed, eh!

I really have planned things very badly as I also have the MarathonTalk Run Camp this weekend. I must be mad. MAD I tell you. It’s not like I needed the weekend to recover properly from Orlando and sort myself out for Tokyo. But hey, you only live once! I love the Run Camp and this will be my third time 🙂 I might not stay for the whole thing as I really do need some time. I might leave Saturday night, I haven’t decided yet. It’ll be a shame to miss the “informal” 10 mile race on the Sunday but we’ll see.

How do you recover from a holiday?

What’s the worst jet lag you’ve had?

What holidays do you have coming up?