C25k: Hitting 5k & An Update

Well guys, it’s safe to say I have been slacking on the blogging front recently. I’ve been carried away and preoccupied with other things (good and bad) and I haven’t been very good about remembering to take my camera out and about or making time to edit and upload photos.

But one thing I have been doing is running.

After a couple of times of running my C25k app alongside my Runkeeper, along with a bit of googling and research, I concluded that the timing issue I mentioned previously was definitely not my imagination, and promptly sacked the app off. By that point, I was at the stage where runs were reaching 25 – 30 minutes of solid running, so I figured it wouldn’t make that much difference.

I was pretty pleased with myself when after about 2 runs, I hit the elusive 5k and what’s more, I didn’t feel like I wanted to die. Goal officially reached!

Since then though, I have to say I haven’t been particularly good at heading out three times a week, but I have been making it out twice a week at least. I also haven’t been particularly good at sticking to the targets I set myself. I’ve been switching it up between aiming for a distance and aiming for a time, but I seem to be sticking around the 2.2 miles/20 minute mark.

Going forward, I’m determined to get back into the habit of going out 3 times a week and ideally, I’d like to be doing 5k every time (and more, obviously). I’ve been experimenting with some new routes too, and now that summer is almost officially here, the park is open later so I’ve been trying out going through there which is nice (the time I accidentally ended up heading up super-steep Blackheath Hill was not so fun). I even managed to persuade M to come out with me on a run, which may be the coupliest thing we have ever done!

I’m also gearing up to buy some actual proper running trainers, which is a sign of commitment making me more nervous than it should be! Any recommendations of where to look/how to decide/what to buy?!

Village East, Bermondsey

Bermondsey Street is one of London’s most flourishing food destinations, and certainly a gem of the South London food scene. With Jose Pizarro boasting not just one, but two restaurants on the one street and Zucca doing well for the Italian side of things, it’s easy to see why.

One (slightly) lesser-known Bermondsey Street diamond-in-the-rough is Village East. When we decided upon a last minute trip for a bank holiday Monday brunch, many of the usual suspects were booked up but not taking reservations. Last time I visited Village East was for a wine-fuelled pre-Christmas catch up with the girls, but I remembered reading good things about their brunch menu and a couple of tweets later, we were all booked in.

Inside, Village East basically encompasses the phrase “shabby chic.” The chairs don’t match; the sofa upholstery is all ripped and coming away from the cushions; there is a vintage, 70s-style TV behind the bar. But it’s all so very charming. I perched myself on the sofa while Matthew went for an old school wooden armchair, and we perused the expansive brunch menu while waiting for his sister.

I only had to have a quick glance over the menu before deciding on the campfire breakfast: BBQ beans, pork shoulder, and fried eggs. Um, yes.

The others went a bit more upmarket with lobster eggs benedict (a novel idea if ever I’ve heard one), and steak & eggs.

And as the eagle eyed amongst you may have noticed – yes, we had to order pancakes for the table. I’ve officially adopted this tactic from my dad and to be honest, it’s basically the best idea ever. Nobody gets pancake envy, and nobody gets that gross “oh-my-god-I-just-ate-my-weight-in-pancakes” feeling either.

These particular pancakes were delicious – lighter and thinner than the Breakfast Club’s offering, and with a v. satisfying amount of maple syrup. YUM and a solid decision. Also, I should add that although my portion size was great, both the others’ were definitely on the small side so this “little” side dish was actually needed.

We finished things off with another round of coffee for the others, and a tea for me – I loved the cute little milk bottles.

Although the service wasn’t quite as good this time as last time I visited (it was efficient, but not overly friendly), the vibe in VE was just as laidback, super relaxed and cool as it was last time. It’s only a ten minute walk from London Bridge (which, let’s be honest, is lacking in options other than Borough Market) and it’s well worth a visit, whatever time of day!

Copenhagen: Day 2

It seemed a sin that we’d been in Denmark for over 24 hours and not yet had a pastry, so that was our mission Saturday morning. We were a bit too ravenous to hunt properly, so we grabbed enormous cinnamon rolls from 7-11 (2 for £2.50…you can’t beat it) and ate them in the hotel room while we got ready for the day.

It seems bizarre but one of the things we’d both been most excited about visiting was the Lego Shop. As soon as we located it amongst Copenhagen’s maze of shopping streets, we knew we’d been right; its guarded by huge Lego soldiers, contains some seriously impressive Lego works, and has some of hthe friendliest staff I’ve come across.

Matthew was in his element nerding out over all the Star Wars stuff, but I was more interested in building tiny Lego people from the endless array of heads, hats, accessories and outfits available. Possibly the most fun I’ve ever had.

After more time than I care to admit, we decided it was time for something a tad more cultural and headed off on a sunny walk towards the library.

This is where Copenhagen’s more contemporary side comes into play and the building is gorgeous (and there was a cool greenhouse-like pop up/event space outside, too). We ventured inside and sat for a while, and it was so cool and peaceful and productive-feeling it almost made me want to write an essay.

We couldn’t visit Copenhagen without paying a visit to Tivoli Gardens, one of the world’s oldest theme parks and apparently the place that inspired Walt Disney to build Disneyland, so that was our next stop.

Located right in the middle of the city, Tivoli is like a mini city in itself and is crammed with something like 41 restaurants. It’s whimsical and old fashioned in a typically, Scandi-cool way and everyone seemed in very high spirits as we made our way around admiring the scenery and old fashioned fairground games & rides.

We couldn’t stay for too long, though, because we’d made dinner reservations at one of Copenhagen’s most recommend restaurants – Madklubben. Known for their devotion to good value, great food, Madklubben have several restaurants throughout the city and we were headed for the Bistro-de-Luxe, which is a kind of French/Danish “fusion.” The idea is that their menu is small, simple, cheap but delicious, and they have hit the nail on the head if you ask me.

As the restaurant filled up around us, we kicked things off with a £5 glass of cava and some delicious bread that I can only describe as malt loaf.

Foodwise, we went for beef brisket with sides of salad and smashed potatoes. The beef was perfectly cooked and fell apart as soon as you touched it with a fork. Excuse the yellowness of these photos!

We lingered over our wine before moving onto dessert, where I had a delicious baked rhubarb with liquorice panna cotta and Matthew had this marzipan cake, which was also delicious.

If you’re visiting Copenhagen, any and all of the Madklubben restaurants are well worth a visit – Copenhagen as a city isn’t that cheap to eat out in but Madklubben strike the perfect balance and was well worth the money. I am keeping all my fingers crossed that they will come to the UK eventually!

How to eat your way around London in 3 days

Last weekend, I did some things I’m ashamed of. Namely, I ate out for almost every single meal and this is how I did it:

After some very bad news and the resulting rollercoaster of a week, I kickstarted the long weekend with Dominos & Hummingbird Cupcakes at work, followed by a very brief trip to Pizza Express with one of my lovely little cousins and aunt for dough balls and a large glass of wine.

Saturday lunchtime saw a little trip to Covent Garden, where I met my long-lost friend Mae. Both starving, we ended up at The Diner, where I had an absurdly enormous hot dog topped with pulled pork. For £7.50 this was SERIOUSLY good – it was so large, I had to leave half (! – needless to say I did eat all the pulled pork). Also, any restaurant that serves ice tea is a tick in my book.

Saturday afternoon saw a brief stop at Starbucks for fuel to show off my beloved Greenwich Park to Mae, and later that evening it was on to Davy’sI have been wanting to eat here since we moved in seven months ago, and it seriously lived up to my expectations (at > 2 mins walk from my flat, it would be hard not to). Service was super efficient and super friendly, the wine list is as extensive as you would expect, and I had a delicious steak sandwich. The decor inside is as cosy and old-timey as you would expect from maritime Greenwich – it feels more like a country pub than zone 2, in the nicest possible way. Turns out Davy’s actually have a whole string of restaurants & wine bars all over London, so if you see one, I’d highly recommend.

On Sunday morning, we whipped up avocado & poached egg bagels and waved goodbye to Mae, before jumping on the DLR, Spitalfields bound. This was supposed to be a rare, non-food-oriented outing, but obviously as soon as we got to the food part, we failed. We did at least go for one of the healthier options, one that Matthew informs me his office raves about – Pilpel. Now we all know I am a falafel fanatic, and Pilpel is definitely amongst the best I have ever had. It was so fresh and crunchy, and  you can have guac in your falafel pita. Sold!

By this point in the weekend we thought we might as well throw caution to the wind and so we made our way over to Boxpark so I could introduce Matthew to Dum Dum Donutterie. Yes, we could have had a regular sized donut, but where’s the fun in that when you can have a tarte tatin cronut the size of your face? Exactly. Safe to say, it was delicious – and, actually quite light enough that we didn’t feel nearly as disgusting and full as we should have done by this point.

We had my sister and her boyfriend staying with us on Sunday night ’cause they’d been to the O2. When I heard that the new Breakfast Club at Crossrail Place was having its soft launch and taking reservations over the weekend, it seemed too good to be true so we snapped up a table and the four of us headed down for my first ever BC experience (I don’t queue for breakfast).

I was going to do a whole post on this, but my photos are shocking, so I’ll do a quick run down. The whole point of soft launches is so that staff can work out the kinks, and I have to say that there were quite a lot of kinks – every dish we ordered was delivered to the table behind us, and every one of theirs was delivered to us. But the staff were more than friendly everyone was in bank-holiday-high spirits, and the food was good.

Just in case we didn’t have enough food, we also followed a family tradition of ours with “pancakes for the table” – the best decision ever as they were SERIOUSLY delicious. We left stuffed and happy, and suitably smug when we saw the huge queue building out of the door!

Crossrail Place, by the way, is ridiculously impressive and futuristic, and after breakfast we took the opportunity to explore its roof garden, which is actually very similar to the Sky Garden.

With a Big Easy, a Sticks & Sushi and many others soon to open, it is set to become one of my favourite foodie destinations – so I’m sure there will be plenty more visits to feature on here!

SO there you have it – a month’s worth of naughty treats crammed into one crazy busy bank holiday weekend. What did you guys get up to?!

An Evening in Copenhagen: Neighbourhood & Mother

So, we continue. After a much-needed rest in our sun-drenched hotel room, we headed out into the streets of Copenhagen armed with a list of restaurant recommendations (anyone that knows me know that I never, ever go anywhere without researching dinner options in great depth). Our destination of choice: Vesterbro, formerly the meatpacking district and now one of Copenhagen’s coolest districts.

Despite the sunny day, we left the hotel to a light shower that resulted in some pretty spectacular skies and an impressive double rainbow over Tivoli Gardens and the train station. Definitely one of the more pleasurable rain showers I’ve ever been caught in, and our spirits were in no way dampened (lolol).

What we had not considered, though, was the fact that it was Friday night, and all the restaurants in Copenhagen’s answer to Shoreditch were jam-packed. After trying in vain at a couple of places, we decided to put our names on the hour-long waiting list at Mother, and headed off to our original choice Neighbourhood for pre-dinner drinks. On our way, we spotted this seriously cool street/rock art:

Neighbourhood offers gourmet pizzas and organic cocktails, and the menu was filled with interesting natural ingredients – it actually reminds me a bit of Dandelyan’s cocktail list. Predictably, I went for a gin/elderflower/pear concoction, while Matthew played it less safe with a spiced pumpkin affair. They were both delicious and we were pleased to get to experience some of Copenhagen’s surprisingly buzzy Friday-night cocktail scene (even if the bar was packed!).

By this point we were actually past the hour mark at Mother, so we hurried back in the hope that we wouldn’t have lost our table. Luckily, we hadn’t and we were led through the (still packed) restaurant to a table by the window. Mother is situated in an old meatpacking warehouse (in a strip of other, similar restaurants) and also serves pizza, with a huge pizza oven just opposite the door and an open kitchen.

The tables were packed in pretty tightly, so we squeezed in and ordered a beer each. They arrived in moments and they were quite large.

Pizza-wise, I went for the Porcella, which was basically sausage and mushroom. Now I’m not sure if I didn’t notice the mushroom part or if I consciously decided to ignore it, but either way this proved to be a bad choice. Fresh and delicious looking as it was, I do not like mushrooms and I also don’t like cheese, and this was one cheesy pizza. I ended up giving most of it to Matthew – BUT the crust was absolutely perfect!

Neither of us can remember which one Matthew went for, because he ordered in a panic, but it had some really delicious salami on it and he claimed it was possibly the best pizza he’d ever eaten.

Service was speedy, efficient and friendly (by this point we were coming to realise that efficient & friendly are standard everywhere in Copenhagen) and Mother definitely felt like a local haunt – always my aim in visiting new cities. I’d definitely recommend it if you’re a pizza fan!

We headed back to our hotel tired and very, very happy – Copenhagen was already more than exceeding my expectations and the following days would only get better!

Falling In Love with Copenhagen (Part 1)

Have you ever visited a city and fallen completely, head-over-heels in love with it?

I have, a couple of times, but none more so than this weekend. My trip to Copenhagen was EVERYTHING. I could honestly probably talk about it for the next 5 years, but I’ll spare you that and I’ll try to keep it to just a few posts.

We arrived late on Thursday and after a 15 minute train ride from the airport, we checked into the First Hotel Kong Frederik and tucked ourselves up ready for a full day of exploring the city.

Friday morning saw bright sunshine, which was a very pleasant surprise as I’d been expecting grey skies, cold, and rain. In search of breakfast, we followed our noses to the end of the road where we came across Cafe Lillebror.

As it turns out, this is one of the city’s best reviewed breakfast spots, but we didn’t know that at the time. As all the tables were taken by chatting locals (always a good sign), we hopped up to the counter seating by the windows and ordered coffee and eggs on toast from the absurdly friendly staff. The bread was definitely not like the toast I’m used to, but it made a deliciously salty contrast to the egg!

We both could have sat there for hours, people watching and admiring everyone’s perfect cycling posture and supercool monochrome (and the staff seemed perfectly happy for us to do so) but there was a whole city to explore. We didn’t have any set plans, so off we set in the direction of the Rosenborg Palace.

The palace and its gardens were picture-perfect beautiful, with daffodils and…other flowers in bloom everywhere and bright, bright blue skies. And of course, a huge statue of a grandfather-esque Hans Christian Andersen. Doesn’t he look friendly?!

Not only are the people in Denmark super nice – even their lions are happy:

We wandered through the city until we stumbled across Nyhavn, Copenhagen’s most famous and arguably most picturesque street. It is jampacked full of buzzy restaurants and pubs, but it was only just midday so we continued on our stroll (we went back and I’ll put pictures in another post!)

Copenhagen is really the most gorgeous combination of ancient, fairytale buildings and clean lines, and round every corner we found new stunning views. We even found one spot where there were 4 trampolines planted in the ground – can you think of anything cooler?!

All this walking made us pretty hungry and Copenhagen has no shortage of coffee shops & bakeries, so we picked at random and landed on Emmery’s. I had the best chai latte I have ever tasted, one of the very best, most pecan-y brownies ever, and we also shared a delicious chocolate muffin.

We sat there for a while, soaking up the super-relaxed atmosphere – it was exactly the sort of place I would love to settle myself down in for a few hours with a fab book and an endless stream of those chai lattes. But we had places to visit – namely, Christiania.

Now, Christiana is officially one of my new favourite places in the world. It’s a self-confessed “freetown” and it has a fascinating history that I’ve been swotting up on since returning – but basically, it’s a whole town of hippies that exists almost entirely independently of the rest of Copenhagen. Known primarily for its stance against hard drugs (but very, very pro marijuana – it used to be sold openly on Pusher St), it is also one of the city’s most visited spots but it retains its hippie-cool authenticity.

The “green light district” (central Christiania, if you will) has three rules: don’t run, have fun, and no pictures. That means I can’t really share much, but trust me, it is worth a visit and I wish we could have stayed longer!

Having explored the city far and wide, we headed back to the hotel for a couple of hours’ recuperation before heading out for dinner. However, I think I’m going to leave it there for now and cover the evening’s activities in another post – we tried some great spots and they definitely deserve their own spotlight.

Huge congratulations if you’ve managed to get even this far…I promise the other days were (a little) less action-packed!

Couch to 5k: Week 5

Picture stolen from week 6…soz!

Week 5 had been looming over me for weeks. On the app, they describe it as “where the fun really begins” but, having flicked through each day’s description a few weeks back, I was inclined to disagree. After weeks of merrily jogging about for 3 mins at a time, during week 5 my pal Laura threw a series of 3 different runs upon me.

The first was easy enough, with 3 x 5 minutes of running punctuated by 3 mins of walking. I managed that no problems.

The second, I attempted to do on a sunny Friday. On the news that morning, there had been a warning of record pollution and advice to exercise inside, in air conditioning, especially if you knew you would be affected. Now I have recently developed mild asthma, so in my infinite wisdom, off I headed just before midday to complete run number 2: 8 minutes run, 5 mins walk, 8 minute run.

Needless to say, I failed. I made it about 5 minutes down the road, feeling pretty good, but as soon as I turned away from the river I basically thought I was going to die. I decided to quit while I was ahead (or at least still breathing), and slunk back home to the safety of my flat. It was the first time I’ve failed a run on the plan and it did not feel good!

In a weird way though, this spurred me back on. I’d been getting kind of complacent, I guess – I hadn’t found anything that hard so I figured I’d just meander my way to 5k. Nope! I nursed my wounded pride for a day or two and then (more sensibly, on an evening, when I know I like to run) I headed out to complete it for real. The first 8 minutes were a bit of a struggle, to be honest; I think I panicked myself a bit. But after the 5 min recovery walk, I found the second 8 minutes much easier and felt much more satisfied on my route home (the fact that Matthew lapped me during this time was not so satisfying, however!)

The final run of week five featured a solid 20 minute run and marked the first run that didn’t include a walk. Needless to say, after the ups and downs of the week so far I was basically terrified and put it off for a few more days (at this point I gave up on the “week” aspect of the plan). Finally, the night before Copenhagen I could put it off no longer and so off I went.

Now, first things first I’m proud to say that I managed it no problem at all. However, time seemed to be going by awfully slowly. After running a fair distance and far further than I usually run in an effort to match my route to the running time, I checked the app to see that, apparently, I had been running for a grand total of 3 minutes.

Suspicious, I started taking note of the time on my phone each time Laura popped up to update me on my progress. Long story short, according to the clock on my phone, I ran for 35 minutes straight. What was supposed to be 5 mins walk + 20 mins run + 5 mins cool down took 50 minutes to complete.

Now obviously I am not complaining that I was able to run for that amount of time, and my indignance was definitely mixed with a sense of pride that I’d managed it at all. But there was definitely something fishy going on. I felt almost manipulated by the app (not to mention annoyed that my quick 30 minute run, crammed in between packing for Copenhagen, had taken up SO MUCH TIME!).

Now that I’m more or less in the habit of going out for runs and I’ve started to feel sluggish and gross if I don’t, I’m debating switching off the plan altogether and using a regular running app, but another part of me really wants to “officially” complete the program. I don’t know whether it’s just a weird problem with the timer on my app or what, but I’ve definitely lost a bit of faith in C25K; has anyone else had any similar problems?