Orlando Holiday Recap

So here’s the first part of my holiday review. I’m going to recap Orlando and Dallas separately as they were so different and also do a post on food (because it was amazing).

For the Orlando part of our holiday we were spending it with one of my university friends, Kate, and her husband, Jamie. Ben and I get on really well with them but we’ve never been on holiday with them before (I have with Kate but not Jamie as well). There was apprehension I think between both parties beforehand as to how it would go but honestly there were no issues. Jamie is very much like me (hello all the foods) and Kate is like Ben (food is fuel). But we all love roller coasters and have quite crazy senses of humour. We really gelled well and there wasn’t anytime I felt either party had to compromise for the other. In fact sometimes it was Ben and Kate compromising for Jamie and my food choices, or vice versa!

We met up at the airport and all agreed Jamie’s Oliver’s (Jamie’s Italian) restaurant would be perfect for breakfast.

IMG_9038 We all had the mammoth full breakfast and it was deeeeelicious and oh so filling. I also made sure to buy myself some food from Prêt a Manger as well as I detest the microwave plane food so I was sorted.

We arrived in Orlando probably about 10-11pm British time but by the time we got out and got our cars it was very late. We grabbed some food from a brilliant little spot Jamie knew of (side note: Kate and Jamie are like the experts of Orlando having been there quite a few times and Jamie, like me, always does his research on good restaurants so we were set!) and then we crashed at the hotel.

Hotel Cabana Beach Bay Orlando

Our hotel was a Universal hotel called Cabana Beach Bay Resort and it was huge. There were four different buildings, a Starbucks, a bowling alley, arcade, two large pool areas (regular pools, lazy river, water slide and hot tub), a diner, bars, gift shop, an amazing gym and regular shuttle buses to City Walk where Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure are located.

The first day started rather dismally it must be said. It was chilly and raining. We met up to go to IHOP for breakfast which was great but we realised that with the weather being pants it probably wasn’t a good idea to go to the parks. This made us all a bit grumpy.

In the end though Ben and I decided to be really exciting and go to the gym while Kate and Jamie went shopping. Judge away but we didn’t fancy shopping and had planned to go to the gym Sunday morning so just switched it up so we could sleep in the next day. It made sense to us!

IMG_9055Work out selfie – could we be having anymore fun??

I’ll post more on the fitness side of the holidays another day as we did do a lot of running and gym stuff on holiday. It might sound odd but to me it’s part of who I am and to not do it would be weird. Plus I hate coming back from holiday feeling unfit and struggling to get back into the swing of things.

Anyway while we were at the gym the sun came out! Jamie and Kate arrived back and we got ourselves showered and ready to FINALLY hit the parks.

Universal Studios 2015 That’s Jamie photo-bombing behind us – we didn’t even realise!

We went to Universal Studios and it was brilliant. The whole new Harry Potter area (Diagon Alley) was brilliant. It looked so realistic and the new ride was pretty good. The Harry Potter restaurants were hilarious with the American’s take on British food (jacket potato with broccoli and cheese anyone?).

IMG_9088 MIB ride – Kate taught me the tricks of the trade to high score

We went on quite a few different rides and enjoyed ourselves immensely. The best part about our hotel is the location as we could dip into either of the Universal parks so easily (within 15 minutes) so we never felt we had to stay and do everything all at once. We went back to the parks quite a few times over the course of our eight days there.

Sunday we decided to do Sea World. Before the holiday I didn’t want to go. I’ve seen Black Fish and I’m not a fan of watching animals that should be in the wild amuse humans for the sake of making money. It’s not right. That said, we decided to go because Kate and Jamie said the park was great with the rides and our tickets were a combo anyway so the money was going there regardless of whether we actually went or not. Feeble excuse I know. In my defence though I didn’t watch the shows with the others. It’s not something I enjoy so I left them to it while I went on a few rides and wandered around the park (the shows were only 30 minutes). It’s very strange walking round a theme park on your own!

IMG_9129 The rides were brilliant. There was one called Manta and it was basically like Air at Alton Towers but on steroids. So much fun! Because it was so close, like Universal Studios, we were able to pop back in to do the rides again another day.

Monday we went to Busch Gardens. This park is quite far away as it’s located in Tampa, which is about an hour and a half away. We decided to drive separately (most of the time we drove together) so if one couple fancied leaving early they could.

Busch Gardens 2015Busch Gardens is a fantastic park for adrenaline junkies. It’s literally all just big roller coasters, no messing around. And we loved it! It was very quiet and we went straight to the new ride, Falcon’s Fury, and got on it twice in quick succession.

IMG_9174 I honestly haven’t been that scared on a ride for a long time. It takes you up so high. As we got near the top the bravado I had when I was safely on the ground had disappeared and I said to Ben I wanted to get off. Not much he could do there! The seats then tilt you so you look straight down. If the restraints failed you’re dead, 100%. Then it drops you and you fall straight down. It was AMAZING.

The rest of the day we ran round the park like little kids going from one ride to the next. It was awesome. Kate and Jamie fancied looking around the animal enclosures (of which there were loads: giraffes, cheetahs, hippos, etc.) while we decided to make our way back and get some froyo and then chill in the hot tub.


We also had a fun day of playing crazy golf and bowling which was just such good fun. The golf was brilliant; lots of banter and fighting talk. The good thing was that we could pay for two sessions discounted so we came back one evening for another round. I was appalling at bowling but it was still a good laugh (though I lost by stupid amounts every time).

Games Day 2015 The bowling was at the hotel and the crazy golf was on City Walk

One of the best evenings was seeing the ice hockey. At first I was like “pfft, I’m not that interested but it’ll be an experience”. But WOW it is intense.

IMG_9350 The Amway Center

And there was a fight! Like a proper gloves-down-helmets-off-fists-out FIGHT. While Kate and I were shocked and morally outraged the boys were loving it! OK I know this is a regular thing for ice hockey but to us naive and gentle ‘soccer’ watching Brits (“oh no there’s a ball, I will fall down now”) it was shocking.

IMG_9355 Obviously I tried to catch it on my phone

For me one of the best days by far was the last Saturday in Orlando. It started with Ben and me getting up stupidly early to drive to Clermont (30 minutes away) for the Orlando parkrun (insert stupidly excited dance here). I’ll talk more about this on another post but it was brilliant!

We then found breakfast in a rather dodgy IHOP afterwards (this is what happens when Ben and Anna venture off from their Orlando Experts and fend for themselves). After showering and meeting up with Kate and Jamie we then headed off to Pig Fest. What is Pig Fest I hear you ask? I apologise in advance now to any vegans or vegetarians, this will not be your thing at all.IMG_9559Pig Fest is basically a huge gathering of people who compete in BBQ cooking. BBQ’ing in the States is not as we Brits know it (sausages and burgers) but proper smoking ovens serving things like ribs, brisket, chicken wings and pulled pork. Literally heaven. Look how excited Jamie and me are?? This was an afternoon for Kate and Ben to take one for the team.


Jamie and me with our Pig Bucks

You bought ‘Pig Bucks’ at the entrance (1 dollar = 1 Pig Buck) and then use those bucks to buy from different vendors to eat to your heart’s content. There were also non-selling vendors who were just competing as well. I would say it was 95% American. It wasn’t really a tourist hot spot in the sense that the parks are. And this made it so much more fun!

Pig Fest 2015 It felt very ‘real’ America, you know? The food was awesome…Jamie and I were like children in a sweets shop. Oh the ribs!! Ben isn’t a huge BBQ fan but he fully enjoyed the deep fried sweet treats. But more on that in another post…

We also spent an evening in Downtown Disney and saw the new Hunger Games film. This is something Ben and I would never have thought to have done and when Jamie and Kate suggested it it sounded like a good way to chill out.


The film was pretty dull though…I fell asleep twice! But you have to see it to see the final one *grumble grumble*. I did enjoy the experience though (and naps in such comfy chairs are awesome).

Basically Orlando was a whirlwind of roller coasters, theme parks, all the food and just good fun. It was lovely to spend the time with Jamie and Kate and we just all got on so well and had a laugh together. I would say we definitely missed them in Dallas!

IMG_9597Just chilling with Decepticon (like I know who that is…)

Ben would kill me if I didn’t mention one final awesome thing about Orlando…the cars:

IMG_9663 Both couples got Mustang convertibles…*sighs*. Having the roof down was cool but it did mess my hair up (I know, such a girl comment).

Have you been to Orlando before?

Do you enjoy roller coasters?

Do you ever watch live sports on holiday? We’ve never done so before but Ben is now addicted. We only saw a very minor league team but he wants to see the big guns now (NHL? Is that right??)

So much food and a re-think

And we have a full house once again! Ben is back from his adventures to Hong Kong and China. He got back Saturday morning and I was more than happy to be woken up! As was Alfie who just went mental.

Poor Ben though suffered so badly from jet lag, as you can imagine. He didn’t feel well and he was exhausted (he had started his journey home on Thursday at 11pm London time and arrived home on Saturday 7am-ish!).

And oh the washing…So much washing. Joy. But anyway we decided to go to Nando’s for lunch (well, what do you expect?) with my dad as my mum was in London with Ben’s mum for a girlie trip. I was amused when the waiter tried to give my whole chicken to my dad though assuming he was having it and not me. He seemed a bit bemused that I could eat it. How very dare him. I’m a chicken eating machine!

By the end of the meal though (2pm?) Ben was really starting to fade (his body was thinking it was 10pm). We didn’t do much else for the day and I had to keep waking Ben up. I felt like a horrible person but we’d agreed he needed to stay awake at least until 8pm so he would be getting back, sort of, into the swing of UK times.

Sunday was spent getting bits and pieces done and then we were off for a lovely Christmas meal lunch at Jamie’s Italian with my parents and Ben’s mum. A three-course meal with a glass of Prosecco! I’d seen an offer online (I think it was £27.95 per person?) and had arranged it a while ago. It was quite good for everyone to get together to catch up with Ben.

IMG_8551Ben and the mums 

IMG_8552My dad and me 

The amount of food though! Oh my life. The started was MASSIVE. Two huge planks of antipasti bits and pieces (meats, cheese, roasted vegetables, olives, bread), cheese balls covered in breadcrumb and deep-fried gnocchi. There was just too much I think for all of us. We were all feeling a bit full afterwards and dubious about two more courses to come.

Starter planks Jamie's ItalianFor mains, I had a Venetian fish stew (as did Ben’s mum), my parents had steak and Ben had turkey. There were polenta chips and roasted vegetables as sides as well. It was absolutely delicious. I thought I’d taken a photo but alas I had not. It was basically a tomato stew with lots of clams, mussels and fish and a piece of toasted bread with a delicious cream cheese spread. I could have easily gobbled up all the roasted vegetables and polenta chips as well but I had limited capacity in my stomach by now! This does not happen often.

For pudding it was a brownie with salted caramel ice cream.


Ohhhh it was so good. Pretty much the same as I’d had the other time I went to Jamie’s a few weeks ago. But honestly, just as tasty. Stomach space was not a problem now.

I did require a long walk with Alfie when I got home as the food was sitting rather uncomfortably in my tummy. Sometimes I find a good walk can help digestion!!

And then it was another evening of me poking and prodding Ben to keep him awake, bless him. One day at a time!

Sadly I’m still not running. I won’t lie, I do feel down about it. I don’t mind about speed or PBs or anything like that, I just want to run. I’m so glad Ben is home as it makes things so much better though! Like I said before, I don’t need to panic just yet as London is so far away. I just wish I understood why I always seem to get injured.

I’m pretty sure running six days a week wasn’t good for me. When my coach gave me that plan I should have spoken up and said no this isn’t going to work. I just got excited about running so much and convinced myself that it was fine because I was running slowly and not very far each time. And at the time everything felt fine during each run. I suppose it just topped out on that 11 miler.

I think my body at the moment needs more rest days in between, regardless of how far or how fast I run. And incorporating more specific strength training. I do do strength training but I guess I need to challenge my body in other ways than what I’ve been doing and Kyle’s going to help with that which is brilliant.

So he’s readdressed the plan going forward so things won’t be so full-on and more strength training…but first I have to get back into running again! Oh the ever cycle of running and me…

Have you got any Christmas meals planned other than the big day?

What’s the worst jetlag you’ve had? How do you recover ?

Do you enjoy a ‘proper’ starter or a sharing starter with lots of little things?

parkrun, Jamie’s and lots of sleep

I do love weekends. Extra sleep, nice food, bit of running and hanging out with good friends and family. What more could you want?

On Friday night Ben, Alfie and me headed to my parent’s for an Indian takeaway. I had had such a rubbish commute home and was feeling so stressed out and tired so this was a perfect evening. I ate lots of chicken and was a happy Anna.

Saturday I was up early to go set-up for parkrun. I tried to be quiet but did manage to wake up Ben accidentally who was feeling slightly hung over after having a few beers and wine with my dad. He managed to get cajoled into going by a few friendly Tweets from the parkrun guys as they needed some more volunteers. Ben’s just too nice to say no, bless him.

Parkrun Nov 14 (2) I took it fairly easy as I’m still just base building at the moment – no speed work or heavy-going sessions for now, which I’m quite happy about to be honest! So I chatted to one of my friends from the running club. Always nice to have an easy social parkrun 🙂 I’m also highly conscious that I’m out of shape and nowhere near hitting PBs any time soon. But that’s actually OK because I need to look at the bigger picture of what I’m training for, i.e. London.

Parkrun Nov 14 (5) Ben marshalled like a rock star and saved the day when a lady fainted mid-run (she’s OK, she just had a moment of dizziness and Ben looked after her in the cafe with a hot mug of sugary coffee).

After parkrun we did the boring household chores, got ready and headed out with our friend Nathan to enjoy a bit of Jamie’s Italian and do some shopping.

Jamie's Italian selfie

As you’re probably already aware, when I like a restaurant we tend to do it to death (Nando’s & Zippers for example). And Jamie’s is no different. I’ve been sooo many times, whether for lunch or breakfast before going on holiday. When we go for lunch I always have the same meal. It’s probably my favourite meal at any restaurant. It’s consistently good.

Jamie's Italian meal For starters I had the vegetable plank which was really good. Loads of random bits and pieces, like roasted veg, mozzarella, bruschetta with salsa. Very nice. And then my standard Turkey Milanese (turkey and mozzarella with a breadcrumb coating) and a fried egg. Oh my life it was still just as good as always.

For pudding the boys went for lemon meringue whereas I went for a a chocolate brownie, caramelised popcorn and vanilla ice cream.

Jamie's Italian meal (1)Seriously one of the best brownies I’ve ever had. Crispy on the outside, soft and squidgy in the middle. I could have left the popcorn if I’m honest. It didn’t add much. But the sauce and ice cream complimented it perfectly. I’m already working out when we can next go back…

Suitably brimming with food, we did a bit of shopping.Silly hats

We had a little fun with some furry hats in Mountain Warehouse and I picked up a couple of items from O’Neil and Nike. but we were put off by the rubbish weather and how busy it was so we left. The boys went to the pub and I went home. I watched the brilliant film The Blind Side (so so good) and fell asleep at 9pm. I’m not even joking. I had every ambition to stay up late (like 10pm…) but it didn’t happen. I woke up just before 8am the next morning – 11 hours sleep! Bliss.

I was raring to go for my 10 mile run. It went really well. The weather was beautiful: cold, crispy and sunny. Perfect for running! Unfortunately it rained later on and I got soaked walking Alfie… Anyway I think I’ve pretty much decided to not run the half marathon next weekend. There’s really no point. I wouldn’t be aiming for a time, there’s no medal (yes I’m that materialistic) and it’s all a bit of a faff. My coach said it’s better I remain consistent and run 10 miles instead rather than trying to push things too soon. Sensible words – especially as no doubt though I’ll aim for an easy pace it’ll be faster than what I’d run on my own. Plus it means I get another lovely lie-in…maybe aim for a PB of 12 hours? 😉

Is there a meal at a particular restaurant that you will always order? I once ordered something different at Jamie’s and though it was nice I just missed the turkey the whole time!

What shops do you usually go to? I have such a range: New Look, Dorothy Perkins, Fat Face and more sporty ones.

How many hours sleep do you work best on? I think 7-8 hours are good for me, though I can do 6 without much issue. But I do like a good stretch at the weekend just because I can!

Running and supporting

Happy Monday! And congratulations to all you amazing people who ran in the London marathon.

I definitely felt I was crawling by Friday. I was so tired. Normally when my alarm goes off I’m bang awake. But last week’s mornings were a big struggle. On Friday night Ben and me went out for an Indian with friends for a charity evening. But by 9.30pm I was shattered and we just had to go home. I was in bed fast asleep by 10pm.

Saturday morning Ben and me were up early to help setup our local Parkrun.

Netley Abbey Parkrun setup It was a lovely morning. Crisp, sunny and clear. I had no plans for the Parkrun. Just take it as I fancy. I was stood next to Ben and some other guys from the running club at the start and as soon as we started BOOM Ben was off. I was doing 6.30ish min a mile (not for long!) so I was happy to let him go.

Ben has come on in leaps and bounds with his running (his 10k PB is only a minute off mine currently – though I haven’t run one since June ;-)) I’m so pleased for him. He’s chipped away at his Parkrun time each week which is a clear indication that his speed is really improving.

Anyway, I was happy to sit nicely at 7.10min miles and didn’t feel like I was 100% blasting it, which made me feel really happy! I ran on Thursday evening as my first post-marathon run and though it was more tiring than usual, my speed was there surprisingly. I’m very pleased but I also know to take things easy and not go crazy while I’m still recovering.

In the end I finished Parkrun with a time of 21:40 and third woman, and Ben got 22:28. Not too shabby at all!

We helped clear away, had a quick cup of tea with the guys form the club and then dashed home for breakfast, showers and housework. At lunchtime we headed to my favourite restaurant…Jamie’s Italian to have a nice lunch with my parents.

Jamies Italian PortsmouthI’m not even going to post a photo of my main because I had what I always have (Turkey Milanese). If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But my starter was something new.

IMG_6459 Vegetable crudités on ice with a delicious lemon yogurt dip.

We had a nice quiet evening where we chilled out on the sofa watching Jerry McGuire (never seen it before – bit of a classic) and then an early night.

Sunday morning we got up early to get a run in before the TV coverage of the London marathon. I went for a solo 10 miles listening to my film review podcast. It was so lovely. I just ran how I felt and though it felt more tiring than usual everything felt good. The sun was shining and I was in the comfort of knowing that if I didn’t fancy 10 miles I could run 8 or 6 or whatever really. No training plan, no pressures, no stress. Just easy, enjoyable running.


In the coming weeks I’m aiming to improve my speed, keep my long runs under 13 miles and just tick over nicely.

I got back in time to quickly jump in the shower and then watch the London marathon.

London marathon supporting 2014 I had my crib sheet next to me of the elite runners: their PBs and accolades, and my two British flags. I was ready to go. The women’s race was more exciting than the men’s I must say. I was really rooting for Tirunesh Dibaba as it was her debut and I was devastated when she dropped her water bottle. A nice tense finish though for the Kiplagats at the end.

I think we all knew Mo Farah wouldn’t win the marathon but I did think he’d break the British record. Sadly I think he made some mistakes (not being in the front group at the start for example). BUT that being said, he did amazingly for his debut. The commentator really needed a slap for what he said (“stick to the track, Mo”). Who judges someone on one race? Jeeze give the guy a break. It was good to watch and I’m pleased for Wilson Kipsang – he just looked so comfortable the whole time.

We were also tracking a lot of different people, either from the club, friends, bloggers… everyone did fantastically. Well done! You guys made me so jealous 🙂

Anywho, the rest of the day we spent seeing my sister, brother-in-law and nieces, having a long walk with Alfie and then just relaxing. Perfect!

Did you run or watch the London marathon? I desperately want to run it now!

Did you make the most of the lovely weather (if it was lovely for you)?

If you know there’s a meal in a restaurant you love, do you stick to that or try something new? I’m so boring but at least I know I’m guaranteed a good meal.

Inspiring runners and lots of food

Good morning! Well I’m nice and recovered from Sunday’s half marathon and feeling strong thankfully.

This past weekend was all of a bit of a whirlwind. I do love weekends where lots goes on, but it can be a bit stressful because you have to cram everything you need to do around everything you want to do.

On the Saturday Ben and me got up less early than usual as we weren’t helping set up Parkrun. My plan for the run was to just run a nice easy run without pushing it so I would be fresh for Sunday. Because it was the five laps around the cricket pitch again, they’d decided to do it in reverse to mix things up a bit. This blew my mind a bit 😉

Anyway it was nice to just take it easy and not worry about paces and times. Though I did get a little bored with the five laps. But I was running near one of the younger guys at our running club who was desperate for a PB so we were all encouraging him and pushing him on as we ran so that was nice. He got his PB in the end which was brilliant – and with such a great sprint finish.


A few posts ago I mentioned that my lovely pregnant running friend (Karen) was still running. She really is an inspiration.

IMG_6025Twenty-six weeks pregnant (I think – I’m not very good at remembering these sorts of things, sorry Karen if I’m wrong!!) and smashing out very respectable times.

I was very cheeky and got her to stand sideways because in the above photo (^^) she doesn’t look pregnant at all!


Honestly, when I’m pregnant (not for a few years) then I really hope I can follow her example. She has a very healthy attitude towards running as well in that she is listening to her body and will only continue running if she feels she can without causing herself or her baby issues.

After getting home and doing the boring housework bits and pieces I then headed off to see another pregnant friend. It was her baby shower. She had no idea about it and we were all at her sister’s house ready to surprise her. Her sister got her over and honestly her face was a picture. She was so shocked.

We played lots of games (like guess how many sweets in the bottle) and ate lots of cake. I really wish I hadn’t but you know what my will power is like around cake. In retrospect I probably shouldn’t have eaten two cupcakes, a slice of lemon meringue and a lot of chocolate fondue. I don’t think this helped particularly well for the next day’s race. Duly noted for Paris 😉

Then I had to eat a pizza in the evening before the race. Jeeze I did not fancy it.

Pre-half marathon pizza

Hey ho. I ate it regardless.

Anyway so the race happened on Sunday. Check my recap out HERE.

After running the half marathon, Ben, my parents, Ben’s mum and me stumbled back to car in that ‘post-race walk’ (the parents were stiff themselves from walking out a few miles and then standing in the cold). After getting changed we headed off to Jamie’s Italian – exactly the same thing we did last year.

Jamie's Italian post-half marathon

It was a little bit of a nightmare as I have a Gold members card for Jamie’s (I go there so often…) and as a Gold member I get certain benefits. I once got £10 off the bill! However, I’d left my card in the car and the waitress needed the number on it in order for us to qualify for the perks.

So I had to trek back to the car to get it. To be fair, everyone did offer to go for me but it was my fault I left it so I felt I was the one to retrieve it. The multi-storey car park was very close but the car was on floor three and I optimistically took the stairs. After getting to the first level I then waited for the lift. My legs basically just said “no, Anna. Just no”.

Finally after getting back to Jamie’s I fully enjoyed my peppermint tea as I was so cold and tired by this point. For my Gold membership, we each got a free little courgette thing that had been rolled in some tasty breadcrumb thing with a zesty dip (top right-hand picture).

We also got a cocktail each – Prosecco and some berry fizz thing. I opted for a non-alcoholic one as my stomach wasn’t feeling great.Post-half Jamie's Italian Obviously I got my Turkey Milanese meal which was HUGE. I swear it was never that big before. And I got a side of cabbage with prosciutto and parmesan breadcrumbs. Like I said, my stomach didn’t feel good though. I ate the turkey but Ben got my egg and I took the cabbage home with me.

I think the cakes the day before really didn’t do good things to me. I felt rough when we got home. I was fine the next day thankfully. I just think sometimes a race can hit you badly and mess things up a bit.

But there we go, apart from the dodgy tummy, it was a great weekend! Next race for me is the Paris marathon…

Have you ever felt a bit ‘off’ after a race?

Do you know any inspiring runners?

If you’re female and considering (or have had) children, will you/did you exercise during pregnancy?