parkrun tourism: Tymon

Serial parkrun tourists set themselves various challenges: all the events in certain geographical location, for instance, or run times ending with each of the number of seconds 0-59.  A popular goal is to become an “alphabeteer”, to have a run a parkrun begining with each letter of the alphabet.  There’s not (at time of writing…..) an X, so St Andrews, or anything with a “Cross” in its name is acceptable.  Z is elusive, but managable (there’s one in Poland).

Even having completed all the Norn Irn events, and a few others in London, Manchester and Scotland, my alphabet collection is pretty sparse.  Currently on 36 different events, I still need 8 more letters!  Maybe I’ll be able to coincide completing the alpha-set with my half-cowell of 50 different parkruns.

Anyway, with my husband doing more work in Dublin and the south of Ireland, I’m finding the opportunity to run more of the Irish events.  “I need a G and T!” I am often heard to cry, and so I was delighted to get the chance to earn my T, at Tymon Park.

Access:

We stayed at the Louis Fitzgerald Hotel, which has handy access to the M50, the busy Dublin ring-road.  I’d travelled down by the Enterprise train, and managed to book early enough to get a return for £30.  If you don’t book at least 3 days in advance, a single fare is £34, so it pays to plan ahead.  I took the LUAS tram out to Red Cow, and a single fare is e2.90.  The tram is clean, and the service very frequent, with stops right beside Conolly station, or for a more frequent service walk round the corner to the Busaras (bus depot).  The hotel is short walk from Red Cow, though I managed to get lost!  The directions given to me were “cross the bridge and turn left”, when they should have been “cross the bridge and then take a HARD left doubling back on yourself down a wee alleyway until you are beside the main road”.  Anyhoo, I’ll know for next time.

We used sat-nav to get to the car park at Tymon, which is right beside the M50.  The start and finish are both beside the car park, on the Limekiln Road entrance.

Facilities:

There are no loos in the park, but the GAA huts sometimes open in time to allow runners to have that all important pre-run pee.

There’s no nearby cafe afterwards, but volunteers bring along flasks of hot water, tea, coffee and biscuts, and this makes for a very convivial post-run atmosphere. Car parking is free.

Crowd:

There were 117 runners on the day I visited, which is pretty close to the average attendance.

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My husband remarked that there seemed to be more women than men, though I think that was just cos the men all arrive at 9.29. One or two dogs, and a buggy which I slipstreamed behind at the start. There was a warm and friendly welcome from the volunteers, who were happy to pose for a photo with Cracker.

Course:

It’s a 2 lap course on flat tarmac paths, past some lovely little ponds and handsome trees.  There’s an almost imperceptible gradual rise on the first km, which my calves certainly registered on the second lap.

Gear:

I had to choose between my genuine 100 shirt, or my jokey 150 one, in the end going for an all black ensemble set off with cow leggings and cow cowl.

My Garmin has started to play up, and the screen went completely blank a few minutes before the starting whistle, so I couldn’t rely on it.

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When I examined my splits later my pace was extremely erratic – I’m not sure if that was me, or the watch playing silly beggars.

Time:

My running times are really poor at the minute, and I didn’t even manage to sub-30. But hey, that leaves me the possibility of re-visiting to catch a PB whenever I’m back on form.

P1890093 I’m carrying about an extra stone  (14 pounds, 5 kg) after an indulgent Christmas period, and I need to up my miles and down my calorie intake.

Strangely Appropriate Song on Shuffle:

It’s always good to listen to local boys U2, and I smiled when “Sleep Like A Baby Tonight” came on, as after my whistle-stop 24 hour trip to the city I’m sure I would be quite tired.

And the rest:

I was booked on the 15.20 train home, so after a leisurely shower, I bought a tea from the garage shop at the front of the hotel and took the LUAS back into town.

The sunshine was glorious, and I was trialling some new travel clothes from Like Mary.

I strolled along the side of the river, acheieved my goal of obtaining a bus fare refund, found the new Harley Davidson shop in Temple Bar, and had lunch in Mexico To Rome (great value at 9.95 for a starter of bruschetta, main of chicken and mushroom pasta, and a glass of wine), with a ringside view of all the shenanigans outside.

There was a free exhibition in the imposing Custom House, which I found fascinating from both a historical and architectural viewpoint.

I was especially taken by the Riverine heads of the various river gods, each decorated with motifs relevant to their location.  Apples for the Blackwater, a chain for the Foyle, and leafy vegetation for the Liffey and Shannon.

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There were plenty of seats on the train, and I had a relaxed journey finishing my Pratchett, “Monstrous Regiment”.

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All my parkruns

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I’ve long been a fan of Eurovision, ever since Dana, who went to the same ballet school as me, won with All Kinds of Everything. But would I ever get the chance to attend an actual contest?
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When Austria won last year, thanks to the lovely Conchita with her Bond-theme “Rise Like A Phoenix”, there was an inkling of possibility. Phoenixes are very significant to me, and I knew not one but two people living in Vienna. I made tentative enquires about flights, and discovered that Ryanair fly Dublin-Bratislava, only an hour away, and that the cost for the dates I needed was very affordable. All I needed was a ticket. The online sales were impossible to use, but thankfully one of my Viennese peeps popped round to the Stadthalle in their lunch hour and managed to get 2 tickets for the Thursday semi-final, at which Ireland would be performing.
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As May approached I was getting very excited. Not only was all this going to be a reality, I was also going to manage to tick off two more European capitals!
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The flight from Dublin was leaving at an early hour, so I opted to stay on the Tuesday night with a friend in Donabate, where we watched the Tuesday semi-final (most of which was pronounced “shoite” by another companion.)

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The flight itself was very pleasant, Ryanair have upped their game and it shows.
The bus to Vienna (via Brat centre and Vienna airport) was late, but I got chatting to a few other Euroviz fans. The cost one way is €7, which is remarkable value. For travellers wishing just to go into the Slovakian capital, there’s a no 61 bus which costs 90 cents and operates a very frequent service.

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1hr 20 mins later I alighted in Erdberg, where the main bus terminal is. G, my man in Vienna, texted that he’d meet me there in 20 mins, so I found a little bar and enjoyed a white wine for €2, all the while double-taking the smokers around me. It seems so odd, these days, but the Viennese are stubborn about giving up their rights to smoke wherever they please.

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The metro system is pretty straightforward, and there is a stop very close to G’s rather lovely apartment – big rooms, wooden floors, plenty of space. Dropped my bags and we went on a short orientation tour, past the Stephansdom and the main square. Had a pizza in the cafe opposite, and an early night.
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On Thursday, I strolled back to Stephansplatz, and had a coffee in Do & Co overlooking the Dom, very civilised, a stunning view and only €4.
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There were little wooden stalls around the platz, one even selling Eurovision wine. To be honest, Eurovision fever had taken over the whole city – there were cakes…..

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taxis…..

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flags on the trams…..

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special green and red lights at pedestrian crossings…..

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and posters on the metro showing how to get to the hall.
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A Eurovision village had set up shop in front of the Rathaus. There were stalls from most of the participating countries, and I entered a few competitions and picked up a pink Union flag from the UK tent. A large screen was showing related programmes, and a multi-national chilled party ambiance pervaded.
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It was rainy and wet, and Vienna’s wide tree-lined avenues do nothing to protect one from inclement weather, the trees and colonnades facades merely acting as repeater stations for the raindrops. So I boarded a hop-on-hop-off bus and let it show me the sights.
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We dined in on ham and salad, before dressing for the semi-final show. I opted for burgundy leather trousers and a multi coloured top, while G declared his allegiances in a Munster rugby shirt. We had acquired a tricolour from the Embassy offices, and suitably geared up we set out for the Stadthalle! The atmosphere was electric, crowds from every competing nation waving their flags and cheering, some singing the songs they already knew. There was no big queue for the metro, for security, for ticket check, for the loos, or for the bar (though I had to content myself with white wine spritzers, as there was limited choice).
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The Irish entry was very gentle compared to the other songs, and didn’t get a great reception from the crowd. THAT was reserved for Mans from Sweden, with the upbeat David Guetta- styled “Heroes”, and the very clever technical light projection. The crowd went wild.

We were standing quite close to the green room area, where all the acts waited before and after their performances, being interviewed by Conchita. I couldn’t believe how tiny she is.
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The results were announced, and Ireland hadn’t made the cut. No surprises. We found ourselves joining in with the Swedish fans on the metro on the way home.
On Friday, the weather was still miserable, but my bus ticket was for 24 hours, so I continued to explore. I rode the Riesenrad wheel at the Prater pleasure park, and had lunch in the revolving restaurant up the Donauturm, watching the not-very-blue Danube glide serenely below me.
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I had sachertorte in the oldest coffee house in Vienna,

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Went out for dinner so I could try the other must-have culinary delight, Wiener schnitzel. And as it was that time of year, I had it mit spargel. It had been a big day for Ireland with the gay marriage referendum results coming in.
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Saturday morning – there’s no parkrun in Vienna, but I ran along the side of the canal almost to the point where it joins the main river, crossed over and ran back the other side. A beautiful space to walk, cycle, exercise dogs etc, and apparently there are beavers and other wildlife surviving on the banks.
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As Vienna is famous for its museums and galleries, I thought I’d better visit one, and chose the Albertina, full of lovely Klees and Picassos. Also a moving exhibition of Lee Miller’s photographs, showing stark images of the concentration camps just after liberation.
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On my way home I stopped by the Eurovision village to see if I could find a hat, since we’d be outdoors watching the final via big screen. I had a selfie taken with Conchita….and bought an EDR cowboy hat.
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Dinner was salmon and salad, and then a troop to the Rathaus to join the massive crowd for the final. It was like the best party ever, everyone was very good natured, and there was no booing of rival countries. Australia was taking part this year, as a special 60th anniversary gesture. No, don’t try to make sense of it, it’s Eurovision.

20150523_215833 The crowd thinned out after all the performances and the voting started. It was pretty intense : Russia took an early lead – nice song, many agreed, but they didn’t want Russia to win. Laughs and guesses at the usual political voting for neighbours – but it doesn’t affect the overall result. The contest has been won by 10 different countries in as many years, and last year’s runaway winner, Austria, this year scored the ignominious nul points.
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But as the voting continued, our man Mans moved into first place and stayed that way till the finish. Hurrah!
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We walked home in a state of elation.

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Next morning I packed and we wandered down to the boat terminal,

20150521_125849 where I’d booked my return trip to Brat by river. I was thrilled to discover that I’d actually booked the superfast hydrofoil, which was a wonderful experience. The elegant modern craft sped along the huge waterway, under bridges, and past countless little fishing huts, until we reached the Slovakian capital.
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At the port, I asked for a quote from a waiting taxi driver who wanted 15 euros to go to my hotel, the Austria Trend. I knew that sounded way too expensive, so I set off towards the old town myself, knowing it was pretty close to there. Found another taxi rank in the square who quoted me 12-13, so I thought sod it. As I entered the hotel, I recognised another pair of Euroviz fans from the boat, who were asking the receptionist if she thought that 15 euros from the port was a rip off. I laughed and said if I’d known they were coming here we could have shared, and that yes, I’d been quoted the same figure, and only saved a couple of euro by walking to the centre. So they calmed down a little after that. Turns out they were with the Portuguese press, and we compared our experiences of the contest.

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I was most impressed with the hotel, which at £40 for one night was a bargain. It’s right on the edge of old town, which is small enough to explore on foot. I found a place for lunch, and to my delight discovered my favourite fish, Zander, on the menu. Of course, it’s a river fish, and that’s what all those fishing huts were doing! With a glass of wine, and the annoyingly unnecessary cover charge, it came to 24 euros, but I WAS sitting in the main square, and I HAD ordered one of the most expensive dishes on the menu.
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I was aware there were several options for tourist buses, and asked at the “wee train” stop if I needed to buy tickets somewhere else, or if they could be bought on board. She ushered my into the one remaining seat, beside another party of Irish tourists, and 10 euros lighter we set off on one of the maddest wee train tours I’ve ever taken. The narrow streets are barely big enough to let the machine past, and tourists had to flatten themselves against the wall or find a doorway to avoid being run down. In retrospect I really should have continued my search and gone for a bus that went further afield, there’s no need to take a train round the very small old town.
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The sun was shining, and decided to walk up to the castle, Hrad, to enjoy the view. It’s a steep enough climb, if you weren’t very fit I’d suggest an alternative method to shanks mare. Not a taxi, though. 80 cents to use the loo seemed a bit extortionate as well, but the view was spectacular. (Not from the loos). As I rounded the back of the castle I discovered that a sort of local food festival was underway, with stalls offering wine and local food delicacies in exchange for tokens (doxx). I duly bought 10 doxx, and proceeded to work my way along the stalls, enjoying olive tapenade, cheese, and the rather lovely Slovakian white wine.
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I wisely avoided the palinka, from experience.

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For dinner, I went a bit away from the main square, and enjoyed a cocktail, veggie burger, chips and white wine for a mere 15 euro. I found that the tourist office was open to 7 pm, even on a Sunday, and decided to check with them about my journey to the airport the next day. They showed me where the bus went from, and did say “you could take a cab, but you know what Bratislavan taxi drivers are like”.
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The breakfast buffet selection was superb, any amount of cheese, meats and bread, as well as a special muesli-yoghurt dish. I walked through the gardens behind the Presidential palace up to the main station, where it was pretty simple to work out what ticket I needed. 90 cents is a single, make sure you validate the ticket on the bus.
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Bratislava airport is a gleaming glass cavern, with (currently) very few flights each day. Signs of its stag-party status were clear – the group of blokes taking selfies enjoying a beer with breakfast, the poor chap asleep on the chairs by the boarding gate.
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My journey home was uneventful – flight on time, bit of a wait for the bus at Dublin, but was picked up by my wonderful husband at Sprucefield just after 6, and he had dinner waiting for me.
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Around Britain: Bellingham

In the Tontine, Peebles, we slept well, though the pillows were too soft. The toiletries provided were rather nice bee potions and lotions, after which we went for a morning stroll by the Tweed, and tried to find a squidgy camping pillow.  Such a thing was not to be found, but I kept with my personal souvenir tradtions and  bought a copper necklace instead. I was struck by the names callants and Gutterbluids, which I had to research later. Callants is a Scottish term for a youth, and there are local Callant associations. Gutterbluid is a term to describe a native of Peebles.
We had breakfast in the Coultham deli – woodland mushrooms on toast, and a poached duck egg with black pudding and pancetta. Gorgeous goodies were available to buy, and I chose some amaretti and pistachietti for later. There was a sickly and overpowering scent from the woman at the next table, who then kept coming closer to us to select a drink from the chill cabinet, and to stand up and complain about some foreign body in her tea. There ought to be a law….

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We bought some cards, a Tweed manbag, Loch Lomond whiskey, and some Peebles pepperies. I enjoyed a ginger ice cream before we set off for Jedburgh. The countryside was beautiful rolling and green, though we encountered a few roadworks along the way. We parked right beside the very substantial remains of the abbey, but our National trust cards wouldn’t cover the £5.50 entrance fee, so we did aimless wandering instead, around the steep streets and little alleyways, closes and wynds. It started to rain, and I bought a puffy gilet before we visited Mary Queen of Scots House, which was free! As was the parking, and wifi throughout the town – they are obviously keen to attract visitors.

Jedburgh Abbey
We crossed the border at Carter Bar, and tried to remember when we’d been here before, from the other direction. I always get confused as the border doesn’t run from east to west, so that parts of England can still be north of you. I noticed each town had different coloured bunting – red and blue in Jedburgh, blue and white in Inner?, and red and black somewhere else. Is it a sporting thing?

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We arrived low on fuel at the Cheviot Hotel, Bellingham (not Hexham, Roger, and yes it does matter.) A lovely little village with a quirky hotel, we had a walk around before settling down with the NT book, maps and satnav to see what might be possible over the next few days. Dinner was sea bass with a pea and tomato risotto – individually quite nice, but I didn’t feel it worked as a whole. But the local cheeses afterwards were marvellous.

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The Hotel’s breakfasts are rightly famous and fabulous – fresh fruit and yoghurt with granola, followed by a mountain of smoked salmon and scrambled egg. I managed to pile some salmon into a croissant, and keep that for lunch – Roger did something similar with a sausage and toast. A quick call into Just for Ewe, for darning needles – great little wool and craft shop!

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And off we set to find Hadrians Wall. Last time we’d tried to do this we’d been on the bike, the weather had been awful, and I learned that I’d have to both walk some distance, AND pay for the privilege – not something I wanted to do in damp bike gear and heavy boots. This time we were warm and dry in the car, had plenty of time to spare, had decent shoes on, and our NT membership gave us access to Houseteads Fort. We paused en route to admire Broccolitia Temple, though the access to the Temple to Mithras itself wasn’t very clear. Rog threw his leg over a barbed wire fence, while I braved some recumbent cows.

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We dutifully paid our £4 parking fee, as that gave us the option to park at a number of other Wall sites around, and left an offering to Mithras as well. Fabulous vistas and lots of walkers.

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Housesteads itself was fascinating – a nicely done visitors centre, reached by a steep climb, lots of goodies in the gift shop, though I resisted the mead and the ginger curd, and I was delighted to finally see a chunky bit of yer actual wall! I loved pottering among the substantial remnants of the fort itself, admiring the sheep (they’re ewes to me by now). We enjoyed our picnic lunch, and decided to spend the Afternoon in Hexham.

We found a space right by the Abbey, and got a car parking disk from the shop, which specialised in many Beatrix Potter items, so I got a few Jemima Puddleduck things for my daughter’s impending 21st birthday.

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The church was wonderfully welcoming – a friendly chap in a wheelchair handed out guide leaflets, while a transvestite showed us the crypt. I loved the many little chapels, the new stained glass window, and a well worn staircase.

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We dandered around the cobbled streets, found camping accessories including the essential pillow in Millets, and relaxed in the Wetherspoons near the jail, which was a converted cinema retaining a very art deco feel and decor.

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I’d been planning to have a week off running, but when I discovered that there was a little carved wooden bridge nearby, the next morning I ran. Over lots of lovely wooden bridges, criss-crossing a river with waterfalls dotted along it, and some uneven stone slabs, which slowed me down a bit. So I didn’t get right to the top where bridge #7 is elaborately carved, which means  I’ll have to go back again some time.

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Photohunt Clean

On our last visit to London we stayed in Moorgate, and were very taken with this modern glass building across from teh hotel. When we ventured closer, we discovered the window cleaners hard at work.
window cleaners in a glass buidling

I suspect that’s a full time job a City Point!

Photohunt: texture

This is the Millennium stone in Delamont Park, Killyleagh.

I love the way it invites you to reach out and touch that warm textured stone.

Photohunt Reflect

The modern buildings in the City of London are constructed of lots of glass, which then show strange reflections of each other.

Photohunt Symbolic

Belfast is certainly not short of examples of symbolism – flags, murals, peacewalls, painted kerbstones, they’re everywhere you look!

But in recent years there have been more positive changes.  And one of the themes that Belfast has found to come together behind is the Titanic.  Quite why a maritime disaster engenders such a response worldwide is a bit of a mystery, but the Belfast shipyard where she was built has realised rather late in the day that there is a tourism potential to be exploited.

The 100th anniversary of her launch was last year (31 May, my son’s birthday so I always remember it) but it is the 100th anniversary of the sinking in April which is being prepared for.

The area of the city around the shipyard has been named the Titanic Quarter, and this new visitors centre is almost ready to receive the hordes of tourists expected to visit.

It’s a stunning looking building: The 4 pointy corners represent the prows of the ships built here, and from above its a star shape for the White Star Line.  The metal cladding reflects the light in such a way that it looks like shimmering water.

The race is on to have it completed in time for the anniversary on 12 April!