November 15, 2017

Annapolis Half-Marathon Training: Race Week

Good Morning! 

It's Race Week! 


This Saturday, I'll be toeing the line of the Annapolis Half-Marathon. I'm pretty excited! It's been a while since I've raced and I really miss it. 

I'm not going into this race as well trained as I would have liked. When I signed up, I knew that I had three straight weeks of travel toward the end of training but I backed up my training schedule enough to be able to get all of my training runs in with the idea of having a long taper.

And then I got the flu, which derailed everything.

I did manage to get in an 8-mile long run while I was in Seattle but aside from a couple of 3-mile runs in London and since I've been home, that's the only running I've done in the last two weeks.

At least I'm well rested?

I never had goals for this race. In fact, I needed this race more for the training aspect of it than the finish line. But I'm now realizing that I wish I had been able to train for a PR, or at least a strong finish because I think it will be my last long distance race for a while. I've been thinking a lot about running lately and my goals for next year and I think I want to scale back the long distance running and focus on strength, flexibility, and speed. I've never been a flexible person but lately, it's starting to alarm me just how much flexibility I've lost.

For now, though, I'm just going to toe the line, put one foot in front of the other, try not to be too cold, and have fun out there! There will be oysters at the finish line, so that's a pretty good motivation right there!

Do you have a fall race coming up?


November 3, 2017

London Calling

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about London. I took my first trip there when I was 16, studied abroad there in college, and have been back a few times but this time, it's been five years since my last visit to London (unless you count the 24 hours I spent there in 2015 on a long layover en route to Lisbon). 


If cities could be soul mates, London is mine. I love DC and I say that I never want to leave, but I would pack up everything and leave my life in DC behind for a chance to live in London again.

Next week, The Pilot and I are headed to the UK because, quite frankly, my heart can't take another day without London in it. I'm so excited for this trip, I can't even explain it. It feels like I'm going home. 

This will only be The Pilot's second trip to London, so my agenda for this trip is filled with things I want him to see, things he wants to see, and things that somehow I've never gotten around to in all of the time I've spent in London!

Here's a few things we have in mind: 
  • Camden Market - This is one of my favorite markets in London and The Pilot hasn't been there. Camden is such a cool area of London that I think is a must for anyone to see!
  • Tower of London - I took a tour of the Tower on my first trip to London before I ever read a Philippa Gregory book. Her books are a huge guilty pleasure of mine and I loved The White Queen series! I haven't watched The White Princess yet but I want to go back to the Tower now that I have more of an idea of the history of the Tower!
  • Harry Potter Studio Tour - Obviously. 
  • Afternoon Tea - Likely at Claridge's. The Pilot loves drinking tea and we've both gotten a little obsessed with the BBC show "Inside Claridge's." It's the most famous spot in London for afternoon tea and I've never gone, so I think we'll make it happen!
  • Drinks at the Tate Modern and National Portrait Gallery - These are two of my favorite places to get drinks in London. Both have phenomenal views (of the Millennium Bridge and St. Paul's, and Trafalgar Square, respectively) and are great to stop in for a toddie on a cold day!
  • Drinks at Gordon's Wine Bar - It's London's oldest wine bar and it's basically a cave. Sounds like a perfect place for a nightcap!
  • The London Design Museum or the London Tube Museum - Both are fun, eclectic museums that I've never gotten around to checking out!
I'd also love to do one of these walks from Notting Hill to the Tower of London. We're staying in Notting Hill so weather permitting, it will be a nice way to get through the city!

We only have 5 days in London. If I had it my way, we'd have a month (one day!) and I definitely want this to feel like a vacation, rather than a to-do list, but wandering the markets, drinking tea, and having drinks definitely fit into that relaxing/vacation mode. I don't want to do too much sightseeing because I've done most of that but we really just want to go to London and integrate with the city again, feeling just for a minute like I live there again!

What are your favorite things to do in London? What should we add to this list?

October 31, 2017

October Recap

Good Morning! Happy Halloween!

October has surprisingly been an ok month, which is saying a lot for me right now. I've been running more,  I started going to acupuncture. Work slowed down for the first time in over a year, and I've been reading a ton. Overall, things are starting to feel normal again.


I'm not a fan of October. Autumn is usually my least favorite season. We've seen temperatures close to 90 and as low as 43. Weather like that makes me sleepy and I always get sick. Last week, I was sidelined with the flu which threw off my training for two weeks but I'm getting back into it...just in time for a few weeks of travel!

Here's how my month shaped up:

Miles Run: 36

Books Read: 7 (same number as last month!)

Blog Posts Written: 8 (the most I've written since March!)

Trips Taken: 1.5

  • We had our company retreat on the Eastern Shore of Maryland last week. It was an overnight camping trip and we had a lot of fun! The picture above is from the trip. 
  • Today, I'm headed to Seattle!

Highlights: Tons of exploring DC - checking out new-to-me museums, scoping out some new DC mural, doing yoga at the Kennedy Center, etc!

Lowlights: Getting the flu.

The Month Ahead: I'm in Seattle today and The Pilot and I are headed to London in November for vacation! I'm also planning a trip to TX to visit my little sister and then my mom is coming to DC for Thanksgiving. It'll be a busy month but it'll be great!

How did your month of October shape up?

October 30, 2017

Annapolis Half-Marathon Training: On Getting Sidelined

My last post about my training for the Annapolis Half Marathon was all about making time to run. In a way, I almost feel like I jinxed myself by writing that post because, that week, it seemed almost impossible to make time to run. I also just felt really tired all week and by Friday, I was down and out with the flu.


I was supposed to run 8 miles that weekend but instead, I spent half the weekend sleeping and trying to recover. I even missed a work trip to Indianapolis that I had been looking forward to for months. On Thursday, I was feeling a little bit better and my colleagues and I headed deep into the Eastern Shore of Maryland for an overnight retreat. It was a lot of fun, but it was pretty exhausting.

I got home Friday night and decided to see how my lungs were feeling for a run on Saturday. I managed 3.5 miles and planned for 8-10 early yesterday morning but I was exhausted and slept in. I had an acupuncture appointment and brunch plans with a friend and by the time I got home, I was exhausted and my knee was bothering me. I opted for some at-home yoga which seemed to be exactly what I needed.

With three weeks until Race Day, I'm a little bit nervous that I haven't gotten in these key runs but at the same time, I feel like I've been sidelined by something like this almost every time I've trained for a race. I'll be traveling a lot over the next two weeks so it'll be super important to make time to get those runs in but I do still think I'll be in good shape on Race Day! I just need to stay focused to get there!

What do you do when you get sidelined from training?

October 27, 2017

Everything I Read in October

 I definitely think I've come out of my reading rut after heading the library the last few weeks armed with my Goodreads To Read list (which I never seem to read anything off of) and heading home with giant stacks of books! I've read more books this month than I think I have all year!


Here's a look at everything I've read this month:


"I'll See You in Paris" by Michelle Gable - This book was wildly disappointing. The premise sounded interesting - a young woman finds herself in a small English hamlet to uncover the true story of the Duchess of Marlborough while in search of answers about who her father is. I was 190 pages into the book and had almost given up on trying to figure out why the book had "Paris" in the title when the story finally ended up in Paris. Maybe I just felt deceived by the title but I found the ending to be predictable and the whole book to be underwhelming. I gave it two stars.

"Etta and Otto and Russell and James" by Emma Hooper - I didn't like this book. Told from different perspectives - an 83-year-old woman who decides to walk across Canada, her husband she leaves behind, and their childhood friend, Russell - the book was hard to read and didn't use quotation marks. I actually liked the premise of the story, especially Emma's and Otto's backstories, but I didn't like the way the book was written.

"Children of the Jacaranda Tree" by Sahar Delijani - I love reading books about the Middle East and this book didn't disappoint. Sahar Delijani was, herself, born in a women's prison in Iran during the war with Iraq and this book starts in a prison in Iran where a woman is giving birth to her daughter, Neda. The subsequent chapters are all told from different perspectives of children who grew up during the war and how it impacted their lives just as the same political unrest begins to impact their lives.

"Here Comes the Sun" by Nicole Dennis-Benn - I have never read a book where I hated all of the characters so much. The book tells the story of Margo, taught to sell sex in exchange for money to support her family at a young age, who is determined to keep her sister from the same fate. The main characters, Margo, her sister, Thandi, and her mother are all equally unlikeable and while I expected some kind of story of self-revelation, I really hated the plot of this book and all of the characters in it. It was disturbing and the characters were horrid toward one another. I had been looking forward to this book for awhile and was disappointed.


"The Truth According to Us" by Annie Barrows - This book started off slowly but once it picked up, I couldn't put it down and I loved the way it ended. Written by one of the authors of "The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society," one of my all-time favorite books, this story follows Layla beck, daughter of a US Senator and recently disowned by her father after turning down an engagement in Macedonia, West Virginia on the Federal Writer's Project working for her money for the first time. She expects a dreary, dull town where she'll die of boredom but ends up entangling herself in the storied history of the Romeyn family who she boards with. At the same time, 12-year-old Willa Romeyn decides to do some sleuthing of her own to learn a little bit more about her father's frequent business trips. I loved this book and absolutely recommend it!

"The Dust that Falls from Dreams" by Louis de Bernieres - I read this book so that you don't have to. Over 500 pages of what felt like a WWI era "War and Peace," this book dragged on and on and on. At times, I loved the story, and at other times, I was just skimming the page waiting to get to something better. It reminded me a lot of "War and Peace," which I enjoyed, as I did with this book, but I definitely would have preferred someone to sum it up for me!

This month's Book Club pick was "All the Ugly and Wonderful Things," which I sadly didn't get from the library until Wednesday so I just started it but I hope you enjoyed it!
Don't forget to link up!




October 26, 2017

Croatia: Trogir & Split

We knew when we planned our trip to Croatia that we wanted to visit Split but when it came time to plan our trip, I found Split to be really expensive and the Airbnb options didn't seem worth the expense, so we set our sights on Trogir, which a short trip from Split by bus or boat and ended up being well worth it!


Our first morning in Trogir, we woke up to a flooded apartment! The Pilot was the first out of bed and stepped into about an inch of water that covered the entire bedroom! That wasn't pleasant!

We got in touch with our hosts and tried to clean everything up as best as we could and get ready - thank goodness none of our suitcases or anything got wet since they were on the other side of the room that didn't get wet!

Trogir feels a lot like Dubrovnik except much smaller and more condensed. We had gotten in late the night before and everything was so dark and quiet. It was really refreshing to wake up to an abundance of light and the sun shining off all of the stone walkways!



Our first stop in Trogir was to St. Lawrence Church, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. We explored the church and then made an attempt to climb the bell tower. Here's a confession: I don't love heights. Neither does The Pilot. We were halfway up the bell tower and I completely chickened out! Nice views are nice views but sometimes, when your stomach is in your throat, it just isn't worth it!



We spent the morning and early afternoon wandering in and out of all of the little shops in Trogir and quickly realized that this village is really small, but super cute!

 

We had probably walked the entire city three or four times before noon! We walked to the Kamerlengo Castle, a fortress at the edge of the village that was built when Croatia was under Venetian rule.


The views from the Castle were stunning and definitely satisfied my desire for good views without the death-defying climb up an 800-year-old tower!


Having seen all of Trogir, we were a little bit lost for what to do next and decided to head into Split, which we hadn't planned until the next day. We took the bus, which took about 35 minutes and was really easy. I have to say though - our first impression of Split was not a good one. The waterfront is a mess and smelled awful! There was tons of traffic and congestion and I was really starting to be confused as to why so many people recommend Split! There were a bunch of commercial retail stores like Mac, United Colors of Benetton, and Birkenstock, which we hadn't seen anywhere else in Croatia.

We made our way into Diocletian's Palace and found a spot for dinner that was recommended by some friends. It was a great family-owned place! Our waitress told us that her parents owned the restaurant. Her mom does all of the cooking and her dad fishes for all of the seafood himself every morning. She and her best friend wait the tables together and the family makes their own wine! I ordered shrimp scampi complete with heads and antennae and I thought my husband was going to leave me when I ripped off a shrimp head and it flew out of my buttery fingers and flew into his drink! He doesn't eat seafood and is really grossed out by it.


Even though we didn't love Split, we wanted to give it another shot though so we booked a tour of Diocletian's Palace the next morning and took the boat from Trogir to Split. This was so much more pleasant than the bus! The boat was insanely slow but it was a beautiful trip!


Our tour was fascinating. We were the only people on it too, which was awesome! We learned all about how the Diocletian's Palace is the oldest living city in the world, built by the Romans and inhabited ever since. Despite its name, it's not a palace, but a city. It was built as the palace grounds with the idea that the city would service the palace. The palace residence no longer stands, but you definitely still get a feel for what it was like in Roman times! It was really interesting to see how much has changed, especially in areas where you can actually see how things shifted from Roman rule to Medieval rule (they kind of ruined it) to the present day.



We bought a pass to all of the historical sites in Diocletian's Palace, from the Cathedral of Saint Dominus (which we again tried to climb and again chickened out) to Jupiter's Temple.



By the time we finished our tour, it was sweltering outside. We went to lunch at another family-owned restaurant called Konoba kod sfinge. We were drawn in by the air conditioning and were not disappointed. This was true Dalmatian food, unlike anywhere else we had been. We had octopus drenched in a red wine sauce, squid ink pasta, and a flourless chocolate almond cake that was absolutely incredible. I mentioned that the restaurant we stopped at on the Peljesac Peninsula was my favorite meal in Croatia but this was a very close second!


After lunch, we left the Palace and wandered around an awesome flea market right outside that had old passports from Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, as well as old European currency - dinar, marks, francs, lira, etc. It was really cool! I definitely liked Split much better the second time around. Our first impression really wasn't great! And while Trogir was tiny, I'm definitely glad we chose to base ourselves there instead of in Split!


It was about 4pm when we left Split to head back to Trogir. It was probably the hottest day we had seen in Croatia, so we decided to take a trip to Okrug to visit Ciovo Island (about a 15-minute boat ride from Trogir) and check out the beach. Unlike what we had seen in Dubrovnik, Ciovo Island had a true pebble beach that was smooth and easy to walk on. The water was also surprisingly warm and we dove right in! We spent some time cooling down in the water (which was insanely salty) and then laid out on the pebbles and watched the sun set on our last night in Croatia.



Just lie that, it was time to head home. We flew out of Split back to Munich and made our way back to DC.

Croatia was very different than what I expected but it was a really great trip and I'm so glad we went! I would definitely recommend the same trip we took, just maybe at a different time of year! As someone who thinks winter is anything below 60 degrees, I was surprised at how uncomfortably hot I found it to be in July!

There you have it!
Is Croatia on your list?

October 24, 2017

Croatia: The Road to Krka Falls

When we were planning our trip to Croatia, I really wanted to see the waterfalls at Plitvice. Unfortunately, it was going to be roughly a 12-hour trip from just about anywhere we were going and I really didn't want to do that. Doing some research, I learned that Krka National Park also has beautiful waterfalls, and is only an hour and a half drive north of Trogir, where we were spending our last few days in Croatia!


We decided to rent a car in Dubrovnik and drive up to Krka and then turn around and head back toward Trogir. We left Dubrovnik around 10 am. Our first stop was on the Peljesac Peninsula, about 45 minutes outside Dubrovnik. All along the Peninsula, you could see the oyster farms in the water!

See all those black things in the water? That's the oyster farm!

We stopped in a village called Mali Ston for lunch right on the water at a restaurant called Bota Sare.  We had a pretty leisurely lunch - fish pate, oysters, and seafood risotto - which was incredible. This was easily my favorite meal in Croatia!


After lunch, we got back on the road. The drive from Dubrovnik to Krka is interesting because you have to cross the border into Bosnia and then cross the border back into Croatia about five minutes later. Crossing the border is really easy, it's like driving through a toll booth and having your passport inspected, but it was funny to have to do it twice in such a short period of time!


Once we were back in Croatia, we stopped at a rest stop, even though we didn't really need a rest. Why did we stop?


Yea. That was the rest stop! A vineyard dug into the side of the mountain! Perfect reason for stopping if you ask me! Croatia knows how to do rest stops!


We made it to Krka National Park shortly after 3:00. We were told that if we waited to enter until after 4, there would be a discount, but we didn't want to wait that long. I was a little disappointed that we did because I wanted to take a boat ride along the falls but they had all stopped for the day by the time we got there, so there really wasn't any advantage to paying more to get in a little bit earlier.


The waterfalls are everywhere. We spent a few hours wandering all of the paths and seeing different waterfalls from different areas. You're in the middle of this enormous, mountainous park, but it's a really easy walk since everything is paved.



There are a few areas where you can get out and swim, which we would have done but I didn't want to get back in the car soaking wet!


I had been worried that we wouldn't have enough time to see everything at Krka but since all of the boats had stopped running for the day, there wasn't much to do besides see the falls. It took us about 2  1/2 hours to do that, and once we did, we left.

Krka was beautiful. I can't say whether it's better than Plitvice but if you want to see waterfalls and don't want to trek 12 hours from the West Coast of Croatia to the Eastern border, I would definitely recommend Krka! It was well worth the trip, but I am disappointed that we missed out on a boat tour!

With a few more hours of daylight, we decided to stop off in Sibenica, another small town on the way back to Trogir. Sibenica is a sleepy little medieval town right on the water.



We stopped for gelato (I had lemon speculoos, which was to die for!) and wandered around, exploring. We went into the Cathedral of St. James - a UNESCO World Heritage Site, with a lot of history, and explored the shops and laneways.



The sun was started to set so we decided to make our way back to our car, return our rental car, and head into Trogir for the night.


We checked into another Airbnb in Trogir and then headed to the Promenade for dinner. I loved the Promenade! It was full of boats and people and made you feel like you were on the beach! Truffles are used quite a bit in Croatian cuisine and I opted for a delicious truffle risotto for dinner that night.
We walked off our food by getting lost in and out of all of the wandering little alleys that make up the city of Trogir.


We had opted for Trogir for a few reasons. It's really close to Split but more off the beaten path and therefore a little quieter. I was worried what that might mean but I loved Trogir right away! It was mostly locals, rather than tourists, which definitely made me feel like we picked a good base for this part of our trip. Stay tuned for how we spent our time in Trogir!

October 23, 2017

Exploring Dubrovnik, Croatia

When we decided to go to Croatia, I knew I wanted to start our trip in Dubrovnik. I wanted to be on the water and see Mediterranean Croatia. If you missed my last post on Croatia, you'll see that it wasn't quite what I expected but that doesn't mean I didn't love our time there.


We originally planned for two nights in Dubrovnik but our plans got derailed when we missed our connecting flight from Munich. I have another post on this planned for another day but Airbnb doesn't have the most flexible policies so we had no option to change our travel plans, which was really disappointing.

Our flight landed at 4 pm and we had booked a 6 pm food tour so we were definitely in a time crunch! We deplaned, got our bags, and took a taxi to where we were staying. We checked in, freshened up, and ran to Old Town to catch our tour! I went on my first food tour in Paris on our honeymoon and since then, food tours are my absolute favorite way to explore a city!


We booked the Old Town Food Tour with Dubrovnik Food Tours, which was a great experience! Our guide, Hamo, was born and raised in Dubrovnik but spent some time living in the U.S. We started with wine, cheese, and prosciutto at a fantastic little wine bar right in the Old Town.

We sat down for a full Croatian meal at a restaurant, Lucin Kantun, owned by a young couple, and not a single thing on the menu disappointed! We learned about the history of Dubrovnik, namely, how much it has changed since the war (for better and for worse) and I tried so many different foods that I had never had before, like octopus and cuttlefish to name a few!

We ended our evening with a stop at another wine bar, Matusko, and dessert at Pupica Patisserie, which is the only bakery left in Dubrovnik that makes authentic Croatian desserts, none of which disappointed!


Along the way, we explored all different parts of the city and got some great recommendations for restaurants and shops to check out while we were there.




When we woke up the next morning, I was excited to really get to dive into the city. I love starting a trip off with a food tour, usually within the first day or two, but I also like having some time on my own to explore beforehand!

This was the view we woke up to from our Airbnb.


We started our only full day in Dubrovnik back in Old Town to walk the walls! Dubrovnik is an old fort city and walking the walls is an absolute must! I recommend going early, we were one of the first people there and by the time we finished, it really started to get crowded! From the walls, not only do you get incredible views of the sea, but you can see all of Old Town while channeling your inner medieval sentry!




When we finished walking the walls, we took a ferry to Lokrum Island, which everyone had told us was worth seeing. The ferry ride was short but was definitely beautiful but once we got to the Island, I didn't really understand why it was so highly recommended.


There were a few restaurants, all of which were wildly overpriced, and the places where you could get to the water weren't exactly easy to access, especially the beach. We spent maybe an hour on the island before heading back to Old Town for lunch.

This was one of the beaches on Lokrum
I mentioned this in my last post, but I was really surprised that the food in Croatia was so different than in Bosnia! So when we found a Bosnian restaurant (ironically called Taj Mahal), we opted to go there so I could get my fix of one of my favorite cuisines!


After lunch, we wandered the city for a bit, exploring all of the (literal) ups and downs of the alleyways and side streets before heading to the War Photo Limited.


War Photo Unlimited is a photo gallery that chronicles the war in the Balkans in the 90s, which I really wanted to see and highly recommend. When I was in graduate school, I went to Bosnia and Serbia on a trip to understand the aftermath of the breakup of the former Yugoslavia. I was disappointed that I missed Croatia on that trip but I thought this museum would give a powerful insight into the Croatian side of the story, which it did. It was heartbreaking but also really informative and very well done. I highly recommend this Exhibit if you're visiting Dubrovnik. I think it's important to learn about a place you're visiting, especially given how recent the conflict in Croatia was and that some of the very buildings we were eating in or visiting, had been burned down during the war. 

It was super hot when we left the museum, so we made a pitstop at Dolce Vita for a repeat of the gelato we had had the night before on our tour. I'm telling you guys - this gelato is the best I've ever had! We took our gelato and headed to the beach.

Banje Beach was just a short stroll from our place but when we got there, it was mobbed and the beach was way too hot and stony to walk on without water shoes! The Pilot and I tried to go into the water which was ice cold. As hot as it was, it didn't even feel good how cold it was! He stayed in for a bit while I sat on a rock for a few minutes and read. When his lips turned blue, we headed back to our place to change for dinner.


For dinner, we went to a place that was highly recommended by some friends who had just left Croatia called Lady PiPi. If you make it to Dubrovnik, I'll leave it to you to find out why it's called that! The restaurant is tiny and only has about a dozen tables so we waited outside for quite a bit before being seated but it was well worth it - for both the views and the mussels!



When we left dinner, it was getting dark out but we headed to Mala Buza for a nightcap. This bar is amazing! It's literally built into the side of the wall and is a series of cliffs looking out onto the water. We listened to the waves crashing, watched the boats going by, and enjoyed a round of drinks before calling it a night!


Sadly, it was our last night in Dubrovnik. I'm disappointed that we were there for such a short time and didn't get the chance to leave the Old Town. While I wish we had been given the extra day we planned for, I still think we made the most of our time there!  
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