What it’s like to run almost 90 miles (AKA sometimes you just do things)

Last week, some of you might remember that I gave you a helpful 10 point guide to planning a long run. Using it, you’ve probably got your own long runs planned, right? I thought so.

My run began on Sunday June 14th and, thankfully on time, I reached Walmer Castle on Thursday 18th. (Sorry, should have said ‘spoiler alert’ there, to let you know that I did actually make it. There was no guarantee of this, you see.)

So what is it like to run almost 90 miles?

Erm. It’s hard to know, really. Mentally, I’m one of the feeblest runners I know. When I cheat at doing press-ups at Project Awesome, I can hear a little voice inside my head going, “You’re only cheating yourself,” and then another one, which goes, “Yes. And I’m fine with that.” I’ve made my peace with my cheating complaining ways because surely if no-one sees you, it’s like it didn’t happen, right? Surely by simply attending Project Awesome sessions, my arms will get stronger?

Given that this is my general state, what on earth did I think I was doing, attempting to run 90 miles by myself to a castle on the coast?! I’m not sure really, other than a quote I’m about to steal from ultramarathoner Scott Jurek, “Sometimes you just do things.”

My levels of preparedness were despairingly low prior to leaving. As mentioned in my last post, I used the bag once and cut my back to pieces so I stopped using it, in order to heal, so that when I hauled it’s heavy bulk onto my back on Sunday 14th, it was the second time that it and I had ever touched. I had not prepared my mind, other than expecting there to be some serious ‘deep thinking’ en route, and perhaps even some ‘midlife crisis’-ing. I had known there would be about 20 miles per day to cover, which would take me about 4 hours, and that there would be all the other daylight hours to fill with my inevitable musings on life. Here’s what actually happened.

Day 1

The big day had arrived! There was no getting away from it now. Shit.

I went to Apsley House, my starting point, where I happened to know that the staff there have bacon sandwiches every Sunday morning before work begins. A bacon sandwich seemed like the very worst way to start a long run as I’d be thirsty as soon as I started running and I knew I had to smash through 23 miles my first day. So of course, I delayed my intended start time by an hour and ate a bacon sandwich.
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I got on my way by 10am and ran into town, to Waterloo station for the photo opportunity.

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Then I headed out of town towards Eltham to meet a work colleague for a coffee. I was half an hour later than we had originally arranged because bacon. He understood. I had been thinking to myself, on the run there, “I’ll get some water first, cause I’ll be thirsty then. And maybe a coffee to perk me up.” It was harder going than I had thought it would be, with the pack weighing quite a lot, causing me to crash into the ground more forcefully than usual on every step and resemble some kind of unstable human train crash about to happen. You know what I mean, you’ve all seen those runners.

When I got there, I obviously ordered a huge strawberry milkshake thing that was full of sugary crap. Good choices you’re making today, Laura. Good choices.

I remember optimistically telling my colleague over milkshake that I only had another 13 miles to do that day, which I could split into two.

“I’ll do six miles from here, which will take just over an hour, then I can stop for a good hour or so then do seven miles when I get going again.”

Haha, the happy naivete of day 1! I chuckle just thinking about it!

The hard lesson that day 1 taught me is that progress with a big heavy pack and legs that have already run double figures is not like running a half marathon with hundreds of other people and carrying only a water bottle! I didn’t actually realise this lesson until I finished my entire run. I continued, for four and a half days, to be baffled by my drearily slow progress across the map. See what I mean, about not having mentally prepared?

My watch recently broke and the pocket on my bag which held my phone was too far around to easily reach so I just stumbled on forwards until I felt like I really must sit down. There was a small grassy bank next to the road so I trotted over and sank down in a heap on the floor, not bothering to take the bag off. I bloody couldn’t anyway! I had strapped it on so tight, to avoid it moving around that the whole procedure of getting it off started to be more trouble than it was worth. I just had to get used to it being there, it was my home, like a snail. There was one pocket on the side that I could reach, the pocket which held the chocolate coffee beans. I would squidge my arm around until it felt like it would surely break, wiggle my fingers slightly in the pocket and, if lucky, dislodge a bean or two which would usually roll onto the floor. I would snatch it up like naughty child and stuff it in my face. I don’t ever remember feeling any effects after eating the beans. I just used needing one as an excuse to stop and sit down. (As though I would need an excuse!)

I remember the place names running through my head. Swanley, I need to head toward Swanley, then Eynsford. Look for signs to Eynsford. From Eynsford, it’s only 4 miles to Otford. At Otford, we stop. I can’t wait to stop. I should stop for a break now. No, go a little further. There are still 9 more miles in this day before we finish. It’s 3pm….! Wait, what?! It’s 3pm! Am I moving forwards or backwards? I left Eltham two hours ago. How have I only moved 4 miles?! O god. Am I lost? What if I’m lost? No, I’m not lost. I know I’m not. I should probably stop to check though. 

And thus, the habit of stopping at any available opportunity was thoroughly embedded into my days. Mentally, I never tackled that, that need to stop all the time. If I had to make it somewhere with a deadline, I wouldn’t. But if I was left to my own devices? Bloody useless. (But I NEEEEEEED some chocolate coffee beans!)

When I finally chugged into Eynsford, I yelped unexpectedly and felt the odd kind of liberation that comes from making loud noises when you’ve mainly spent the day inside your own head chanting town names and mileages to yourself over and over. This feeling would see me through many a long mile the next few days. There was a little canal and some children with rolled up trousers playing in it and I immediately went over, stripped off my shoes and socks and sunk my little red feet in, ankle deep. It was divine.
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It was getting on for 5pm and, in the general spirit of the trip, I hadn’t booked a place to stay in Otford. Obviously I hadn’t. As I ran into Otford, I felt totally elated. 23 miles! Aaaaamazing! I rule the world. I RULE THE WORLD!

I saw a country pub and, counting my blessings, went inside to inquire about how much rooms cost.

“We don’t have rooms, love. I’m sorry.”

“Ok, no problem. Where’s the nearest place?”

“Oo…. um….” the barman looked at the men standing at the bar and they all looked a little bit puzzled. “A lot of places have stopped doing accommodation recently. O, there is a little place called Michael’s Diner. It’s about three miles up the road.”

That’s when another thing which seemed to happen a lot on the run happened for the first time. My little eyes welled up and I croaked out, “Whereabouts is that, please?”

He proceeded to tell me the directions to the place which was three miles in the wrong direction from where I wanted to be the next day so I thanked him, went outside, sat down on a wall and cried while googling towns in the right direction for tomorrow’s run. The next town along was called Kemsing so, for lack of other options, I headed in that direction, adding another two miles on to my day and wondering if my body might just give up and I might die of exhaustion halfway between the two, in someone’s front garden.

On the way, I called the only B&B in Kemsing that I could find on Google. Obviously they were full so I couldn’t stay with them. So now I’m running down a country lane as the light is fading, I’m crying (quite audibly) and I’m thoroughly exhausted. I just want someone to FEED ME and let me SLEEP. Surely there’s SOMEONE who can rescue me, sniffle sniffle, loud gulps and gasps. That’s when I remember that the full up B&B had mentioned another place in Kemsing called…. what was it called? I was too busy trying to get off the phone so that I could indulge in some hardcore crying that I forgot to listen. From somewhere deep in my brain I remembered. Park Lane B&B.

Google gave me the phone number and a woman told me that yes, I could stay with her for the night.

Cue violin playing and angels flying down and bright rays of sunlight as I float along to her house and arrive at the doorstep. I was much more composed by the time I got there and just couldn’t wait to sit down. Sonja opened the door, said hi, asked me if I wanted a cup of tea and suddenly…. lump, throat, gone again.

She put the kettle on and I sloped into my room for the night to try and hurry on the tears. After a cup of tea and a good long natter about my day, in which I made myself sound a lot more heroic than I was, I headed to the nearby country pub to grab something to eat and read my book. Thus ended day 1.

Day 2

Day 2 was different to day 1. Very different. Despite the many stops and my confusion at my slowness on day 1, there was still a kind of underlying knowledge that I would actually get there if I kept moving. Day 2 contained none of those assurances.

After a cooked breakfast, loads of cereal and toast and four cups of tea, I set out on what was to be my planned route, following the North Downs Way for the next 65 miles. It didn’t take me long to realise that although the countryside is very pretty, extra mileage is not. So I scrimped. I ditched the North Downs Way and opted for more direct roads where I risked nettle stings every time I jumped aside to let a car past but didn’t have to deal with foot-level brambley nonsense the whole time. It was a payoff I was ok with, because it meant less mileage.

Day 2 was really one long moanfest, if I’m honest. Everything made me feel like moaning.

Shut up, cars! Shut up. Can’t you see I’m trying to listen to an audiobook here? I can’t hear a thing cause you’re all driving and shit. Cars should be banned. Or made quieter. It should be the law that all cars can only be a certain volume so that runners can hear their audiobooks while they’re out running. And what’s with there being no pavement? Who decided that? At least don’t have two steep inclines on the no-pavement sections. I’m too LAZY to climb them to get out the way when cars come. Bloody fence thing, why isn’t it made with bigger sections so that people with backpacks can climb through it easier? Don’t they realise that I need to illegally enter this field in order to cut this corner off and save myself fifty steps?! And what’s with this bloody backpack anyway, hey?! Bloody backpack thing. It’s just like the most heavy thing anyone has ever carried ever. What’s that about? And my collarbones! Why does this bag not allow for people to have collarbones? I’m sure there’s actually less padding there than all the other places on the strap. Who designed this? Who designed this BLOODY backpack? They’ve given me collarbone bruises. I’m going to write to them. I’m going to bloody write to them. Yeh. That’ll learn them. And the ‘air flow’ mesh section on the back which is supposed to keep my back cool? Useless. There is NO airflow to my back, no air flow, people! None. The only thing on my back is a ton of sweat and bruises from this back pack! Bloody…. grr…. grumble… 

And so passed day 2. I remember thinking that if I didn’t get out of the way of a car in time and it hit me so that I had to go to hospital, I would at least have a valid excuse to not finish the run. Yep. That was where my brain was at on day 2.

I arrived in Maidstone eventually, after only a 14 mile day but feeling rougher than the previous day. As was fast becoming tradition at the end of the day, I found a place to sit down and cried. Once that task was completed, I stood up, saw a Travelodge nearby and headed straight there. After checking in, I headed to the room and, unexpectedly, sat down and cried again. And thus ended day 2.

(Running makes me emotionally unstable, is that what you’re getting from the story so far?)

Day 3

Day 3 was a good day in my brain. I had 18 miles to cover to get to a cutesy little farm I had found on Google the night before (Google rocks my world, clearly). My legs felt fine and I had made a formal decision to stop hating on the backpack. The backpack was my life, my freedom. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to do the run. It contained everything I needed. Don’t hate, embrace, Laura. Embrace the backpack. So off we went, backpack and I, to find Hollingbourne. Hollingbourne was four miles away and the first place in my never-ending mental list of the places I had to pass through to reach my evening destination.

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Hollingbourne was essentially three pubs so took me two seconds to pass through. Then I was aiming for Doddington. I was feeling so jolly that I took up greeting horses and sheep aloud. “Hello horse!” I’d yell across a field and the horse would run over and I’d get a bit scared and scurry off. “Hello sheep!” I also took up singing at this point. My biggest ‘hit’ of the trip was the song I made up at this point on day 3. The lyrics go like this:

“I’m looking for Doddington. It’s the next on my right.” *repeat in time to your steps for the next two hours ish*

I sung this aloud until my throat was sore and it kept my thoughts from being too loud. At some point on the way to Doddington, I had a rash situation on my lower back/bum area from the bag that needed dealing with so I ran into some foresty thickety bit, whipped my pants down, slathered the Vaseline on and went on.

Remembering this is how I know that day 3 was not the best, bodywise, and so the explanation for my mind feeling better can’t be that my body was doing well cause it kind of wasn’t. The more I ran, the stinkier I got, even when I rinsed my clothes out overnight. My left boob was dealing with some serious boob rash issues and my second toe on my right foot was getting steadily more swollen each day. My knees were kind of stiff in the evening and morning unless I walked an awful lot after stopping running and let’s face it, I didn’t want to move even an inch once I’d finished running. So I mainly didn’t.

Whenever I decided to stop under a tree and eat some chocolate coffee beans, getting going again was kind of embarrassing cause my knees would’ve stiffened up so when I started moving again, it would look like I was doing the robot dance for the first ten steps, a kind of jerky uncomfortable straight-legged stumble thing. Then my legs would remember what running was and off we’d go. But always the robot dance first.

At about 4pm, a friend who has recently moved to Kent sent a text that she would meet me after my day’s running. It was unexpected and totally exciting so I text back I’d be in Faversham in an hour and got my run on…. in the wrong direction. The only time I ever went the wrong way was on this one day, when I actually needed to be somewhere. I blame the town of Eastling for having a road named after it which does not actually head towards it. After having a little fuck-up on Eastling Road, I got my groove on and sped up so that I was moving at least as fast as a tortoise and arrived much later than my friend.

This did kind of interrupt the flow of my evenings, which consisted of having a good cry before doing anything else so I was a bit put out. But I showered, put on unflattering shorts and compression socks and my friend and I wandered about the farm looking at the ducks and horses and talking the face off the other poor innocent holidaymakers who couldn’t give two hoots about my nonsensical run to a castle they’d never heard of.

My friend promised to come and meet me the following day as well then left me to my own devices, at which point I put on some music and stomped around the room in time to it, in what I think was supposed to be dancing but I can’t be sure. Once that strange episode finished, day 3 was done.

Day 4

Day 4 started with uncertainty. Having a time constraint (I had told my friend I would be in Eastry about 5pm) and coming off the back of a good day, mentally, I worried that I would have another day 2. I needn’t have worried. Although I didn’t feel as strong, I cut back on the breaks, in order not to be late, and found myself somehow making excellent time. Instead of collapsing down onto grass verges every twenty minutes cause I just neeeeeeded another of the chocolate coffee beans, I instead swung my bag round onto my front and took walking breaks, giving myself sixty seconds to swig some water, munch something, then get going again. It worked a treat.

Midday on day 4, Canterbury taught me an important lesson on the road. It taught me about the necessity of wearing black t-shirts if you will be around people. I had unwisely chosen to wear a turquoise coloured t-shirt. When I went into a Subway to use their toilet and buy some water, I took my backpack off to get money to pay and looked down to see that backpack was still on me…. in sweat marks. And the section between the two across-body straps was just a solid block of sweat because of the lack of air to that section. People looked. They were shocked. I acted cool and calm despite the disgust in their eyes. And then I fled back to the hills and fields where the horses and sheep did not judge me.

By 2pm, I was well within sight of Eastry so started taking the piss, stopping under every tree, eating almost all of the supplies in my bag, finishing my water (o, the confidence!) and taking an actual nap in a field. I arrived at the country pub where I was spending the night at 3.30pm, showered and swaggered about the place like I was a million dollars, with my sunburn, nettle stings, rashy bum, toe blister and ridiculous compression socks.

A lovely evening with my friend completed day 4 and I only had 6 miles to go!

Day 5

Day 5 was a bit of a nothing day really. It was only 6 miles so I didn’t have to gear my brain up or anything. I just turned on my audiobook, put on my least stinky running clothes and did it. One amusing highlight was that I passed a place called Great Mongeham but essentially I just chanted place names through my mind again until, instead of being in front of me, they were behind me and, as I rounded a corner and the audiobook I had been listening to since day 1 finished exactly on time, I saw the sign for Walmer Castle and sank to my knees in front of it.

I had made it. From some madcap idea in January that I told people to impress them, I had actually really done it.

First thing was to post a photo on Facebook because, as we all know, real life is only validated when it is posted on Facebook.
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The residual glory which resulted made the whole bumbling affair seem like something quite fantastical and, as I waited for Danda to arrive to pick me up, I basked in the glow. I did go inside the castle to look around and, on introducing myself to the man behind the till, I did my usual crying thing then went and got some lemonade and cake.

Looking out from the windows in the castle, I realised I was on the beach and so went down to the water’s edge and dipped my tired feet into the freezing cold water. When Danda got there, we wandered about the town for a while then walked out onto the pier to eat fish and chips before driving back.
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So there you go. That’s what it’s like to run almost 90 miles. It only took me a day of being back and thinking I’d ‘never do anything like it ever again’ before I was stewing over where my next run can go. I think that means that in some odd peripheral way, in among all the ranting and raving and rashes, I enjoyed it, sort of.

Sometimes you just do things.

My 10 point plan for preparing a long run

On Sunday, I am going on a long run. A very long run. About 90 miles actually. It will take me about four days, I reckon. The reason behind it is that I thought I’d give it a go to see if I can.

I quite like a good theme too. I like to theme things. So this run is Wellington themed. My starting point is Apsley House, the Duke of Wellington’s London residence, and my end point is Walmer Castle, the residence on the coast where he held the position of Lord Warden of the Cinque Points and where he later died.

Now having never done anything of the sort, I’m clearly well placed to share my preparation plan with others, in case you want to pick up any little tips for adventures of your own.

Ok, listen up. This advice is like golddust.

1. Make a plan for a 90 mile run after you have been running for a mere six weeks.
I took up running in mid November. By January I had invented the Wellington run and given myself five months to be ready, the idea being that I finish on the day of the 200 year anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo (18 June).
The naive confidence that you have at this stage leads you to believe it is a brilliant plan and to hurtle on ahead with the idea.

2. Do a few organised races
After running for just six weeks, I then went to my first 5k Parkrun. A month later I did my first 10k. Then I ran a half marathon the following month.
This is a good way to build your stamina and the race situation of the day means you’ll really test yourself. 

3. Proceed to work every waking hour without a single day off for an entire month
This is a good way to prepare as it means the time until your run arrives before you’ve really had chance to comprehend what on earth you’ve signed yourself up for and therefore a heightened feeling of unpreparedness and idiocy surround everything and you get quite distracted and clumsy.

4. Plan long runs but do shorter ones then nap in the garden
When eventually you get a day off to do a long run, it is a good idea to plan two shorter runs with a break at home in the middle. That means that when you had planned to go out for your second run, you can instead sleep through the afternoon, resulting in some mild sunburn and a cold cup of tea with small bugs in it. By doing this, you can realise that you haven’t yet attempted to hit the mileage you’ll be doing on your run and so become quite nervous about the run’s chances of success.

5. Do something to get you in the mood
When you find a few hours spare to get some running in, my advice is instead to go along to a historical reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo with horses and cannons and military bands and sit grinning and cheering like a teenager seeing One Direction.

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Here’s the first band playing Uptown Funk. Aaaamazing.

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German military band leaving while horses enter. They were so so good, even doing a little running dance thing. Fab.

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Highland dancers and people dressed like they were at the Duchess of Richmond’s ball the night before the battle.

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CANNONS! Very nearly wet myself, they were so loud.

6. Run to and from work one day
A week before you are due to leave, run to and from work, if it is far enough, to help you realise what the running will be like. Make sure you do this without the bag you’ll be taking on your adventure and include fighting through some foliage to find a place to go for a wee.

7. Buy the bag you’ll be using, four days before your leaving date
Yeh, I reckon it’s better to do it right before you leave, to give you almost no chance to get used to running with it on. Then do a 10k run and notice that it gives you huge red welts across your back, meaning you don’t use the bag for three days, to give them time to heal. This adds to the whole haphazard feel of the preparations and really puts you on edge, which is fab.

8. Do an intense yoga class after your first run with the new bag
Just to make your legs feel even more broken and unable to take on the long run, do a leg-intensive yoga class that makes you feel thoroughly mashed in.

9. Bash your legs on bike pedals then drop a metal cash box on your foot
This is the best advice on here actually as it has been the icing on the cake of my well-thought-out plan. Because of the heightened awareness of one’s own idiocy, a new level of clumsiness may start to appear in your life in the week leading up to departure. Hopefully you can channel this clumsiness to cause some real damage to your body and cast major doubt over the success of your trip.
Crashing your shins into bike pedals is most effective in this respect. As is misplacing a heavy cash box on the edge of a table so that it plummets down and lands exactly on the part of your foot where your big toe connects in. You know, the part that will be constantly moving while you run. The resulting blueish bruise is a sight to behold, with only 30 hours until you start your big run and no hope that it will have gone in time.

10. And finally, have a broken phone
I find that this is really helpful as it adds the element of uncertainty about whether you’ll be able to use the MapApp if lost, whether the battery will drain after 20 minutes or whether the sound will work so you can listen to audiobooks, which may be the only thing that can keep you going.

And so, my lovelies, go forth into the world and create your own adventures! I have MORE than equipped you for them so you have no excuses.

Tune back in next week to see if I made it or if I broke all my legs and arms on the way instead.

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Hanging out with Gracie Fields’ speedboat driver

Our last day on Capri was supposed to be mega relaxing as Danda was in charge and refused to do more walking. Of course I managed to sneak a bit of walking in anyway!

We woke late ish and ate breakfast, during which I poured some coffee into my espresso cup and put a mini croissant next to it and felt like a giant.

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Breakfast of champions

While walking around Anacapri a bit, we decided to go and see the Chiesa san Michele, as we’d seen signs to it a few times. We totally weren’t prepared for the awesomeness of this place. Check it out.

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Amazing painted floor!

After looking around the church for a while, we then pottered off to Capri town (by bus!) then headed out of the main square in search of a 14th century monastery which is hidden down a side street among the gardens and gardenia. There was about twenty minutes of walking to get there. Just twenty minutes this time.

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I was all over walking out to the Arco Naturale but Danda vetoed more walking so we got on the funicolare down to the Marina Grande to take a boat trip but we had missed the one we had our eye on by fifteen minutes. While standing bemoaning our misfortune, a small and very tanned older man approached us and asked if we wanted to go on a boat trip. After a bit of chitchat, he told us the price, at which we recoiled a little and said we wanted to go and get coffee and think about it.

As we sat, wondering what to do, we saw the man and I had this feeling that I wanted to make friends with him, that I wanted him to take us to his house to eat homegrown tomatoes and homemade foccaccia with olive oil. And so we threw caution to the wind, finished our coffees and went to find him, which we almost couldn’t!

So off we went for a sunny blue dreamy boat trip where we zipped in and out of caves and grottos and listened to Gerry’s stories about the years he spent working for Gracie Fields.

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At the top of this photo, slightly to the left, you can see the Arco Naturale. Nearby is a cave and built inside it is a Roman villa.

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The Green Grotto

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The Villa Malaparte

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Looking out from another little grotto we’ve squeezed into!

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Danda enjoying the boat ride

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Me enjoying the boat ride

After Gerry had dropped us off at the Grotta Azzura (the infamous Blue Grotto), we got the bus back to Anacapri and decided to take another trip up to the Monte Solara on the chair lift, as we had had good coffee the first time we went up.

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Unbelievable views over Capri from my little chair in the sky

After a leisurely espresso and gelato, we hurried onto the chair lift as it was almost closing time and headed back to our hotel.

At this point, I took my last run on the island, hatching a plan as I ran of how to live on Capri permanently. I also made a little video while running but I don’t seem to be able to put it on here. Never mind.

To finish our last evening on the island, we went to a restaurant recommended to us by Gerry, our boatman.  It was called Virginiello and seemed to be very popular with locals. I ate linguine with seafood, which had an amazingly tasty sauce on it.

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And thus, we ended our fabulous trip to Capri. The next morning is not worth reporting as we simply woke up and left on a boat to Naples and were sad. I’m still a bit sad. I’m keeping it at bay by cooking Italian food, learning to speak Italian and reading about Capri.

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So, basically, pretending I’m still there!

Napoleonic forts and being “walked to death”

Yesterday it was my birthday, people! I am now 30! Ta daaaaaa! Goodbye 20s. I enjoyed you but I can honestly say I’m looking forward to whatever my 30s will bring.

To commemorate entering a new decade, Danda and I had wanted to spend the day on Ischia but for various reasons, it wouldn’t really have worked so we went for a walk instead. A really really long walk. Danda actually said he thought I was trying to “walk him to death”.

We headed down to the lighthouse where we had watched the sunset on our first day and found the beginning of the Sentiero dei Fortini, the walk of the old forts. The walk stops at five of the Roman forts that were rebuilt during the Napoleonic wars and finishes at the Grotta Azzura, the infamous Blue Grotto.

Before heading out, we had a coffee and it’s probably the prettiest place I’ve ever had a coffee!

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The views on the walk were literally amazing. I was loving every second of being out under the huge sky, no-one else around, the wild rock faces and vegetation refusing to bow to the human desire to tame it. The carved steps and paths were the most the island would allow.

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The majority of the walk was just steps up and down! At this point, Danda described it as an “endurance test” that was “not fun anymore.”

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Napoleonic forts en route

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Steps…

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More steps…

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Danda had resigned himself to his fate of being “walked to death” and was resolutely marching on ahead by this point.

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Steps to nowhere

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Taking a break in the last fort

A few hours later, we reached the Grotta Azzura and decided to do the tourist thing and look inside. It was quite pretty, I’ll admit, but why it is the most famous sight on the island, I’m not sure.

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Distinctly knackered after all the walking, we then headed back to Anacapri and changed for dinner at my favourite restaurant from our last visit, Aurora.

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A little pre-dinner nibble of a kind of parmigiana bite

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Danda’s tomato soup and my parmigiana

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Danda’s shrimp three ways

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My linguine with lobster and asparagus

My dessert at Aurora was an absolute triumph. It was described as a “sphere of chocolate” which I immediately ordered because it said chocolate but I had no actual idea what was about to happen.

The waitress arrived and told me to get my camera ready. Obediently I watched and waited while this happened.

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She poured chocolate sauce over a gold and white ball….

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…and I realised that the sauce was warm and it was melting the gold ball! It. Was. Amazing. Inside was a hazelnut ice cream and soft meringue and chocolate crunchy balls. It was fabulous. I stuffed it in my face faster than I thought possible!

Bursting at the seams, we made our way back up to Anacapri and collapsed into a long-trek-and-chocolate-dessert induced coma.

Pretty good birthday, as birthdays go.

The long road to Tiberius’ palace

The road to Tiberius’ palace has taken us a long time. Two years ago, Danda and I decided to walk to Tiberius’ palace and then have dinner at a restaurant called Ristorante Savardina da Eduorda that was up on the hill near the palace. Without placing blame anywhere specific, one of us (not me) wanted to watch the football so we didn’t set out til very late afternoon. By the time we got near the ruins, a friendly local told us they were closed so we climbed up to a nearby viewpoint, took pictures then headed to the restaurant. The restaurant was obviously closed. We then found what is now my favourite restaurant in the world, Aurora, and ate maybe the best meal I’ve ever had.

Finding Aurora was amazing but we’ve always felt the loss of not getting to Tiberius’ palace. So today was the day.

I woke a little earlier than Danda and went for a run to explore.

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I followed a little path which skirted round the edge of the cliffs then went inland and climbed a few really steep hills til I was in amongst the beautiful sloping vineyards.

When I returned, no-one was about so I pottered amongst the lemon and orange trees and did a bit of yoga in the morning sun. Once I had woken Danda, he wanted to get moving too so we went for a swim.

By the time we went for breakfast, an hour and a half after waking, I was ravenous! We had one of everything, even the lemon cake with nutella spread on it, cause everyone knows you need one of those for breakfast.

We were fuelled up and ready to go for our first adventure, a chairlift ride up to Monte Solara, the highest point on this side of the island. It was eerily quiet, swinging quite low above the gardens and villas of the local Caprese people, who were gardening or eating bread and olives on their patios. Before Danda’s vertigo made him too nervous, we were at the top and found a chair swing to lounge in whilst drinking cappuccino and doing absolutely nothing.

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Once this mission was complete, it was time to right the wrong of two years ago and go to Tiberius’ ruined palace. After returning down the mountainside in the chairlift, we headed toward the main square to get the bus to Capri town. We walked for about ten minutes before we realised we must have gone the wrong way. We figured we’d just keep going til we saw a bus stop.

Forty five minutes later, we arrived in Capri town, having realised that there were no bus stops! We headed straight for our favourite cafe from our last trip, only to see that it was shut down so we kept walking past it, on the road to the ruins.

As we headed up, we saw the restaurant we had tried to visit last time and would you believe it? Chiuso, again! Always closed.

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We’re smiling but we’re crying inside. One day this bloody restaurant will be open!

On we went, navigating a rocky path among the forest of eucalyptus, strawberry trees and asparagus until we saw some bricks looming up out of the vegetation ahead.

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We had finally reached Tiberius’ palace! It was obviously amazing to walk around, knowing that Tiberius, in 27AD had walked around here too, running the Roman empire from this island and throwing his enemies from the highest point, known as Tiberius’ Leap.

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After walking the length of the island, we were pretty knackered so headed back into Capri town for a lunch of parmigiana and Caprese salad with a view over the Marina Grande.

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Tastiest tomatoes ever.

The rest of the day consisted of lazing about reading a book about the Villa San Michele that we visited yesterday and napping before dinner at a nearby restaurant, of sea bream caught this morning in an amazing white wine sauce with potatoes and basil.

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The waiter brought us the dish of potatoes and the fish cooked whole and proceeded to debone and portion it up and plate it for us. Fabulous.

It was the best meal we’ve eaten so far. Stuffed and ready for bed, we returned to the hotel and sat out looking at the stars to finish off our wonderful but tiring day!

Plane. Bus. Boat. Funicolare. Bus. AKA the best present ever in the world ever

Yesterday morning, at the crack of dawn, instead of waking up and getting ready for work, as I had expected to be doing, Danda told me that we were running away for a week to Capri!

Best. Surprise. Present. Ever.

When we went to Italy two years ago, we spent a few short days on Capri and, when we left, I left a bit of my heart there and took with me a daydream of returning to live out my days in the fashion of Gracie Fields, in a villa on Capri.

Unfortunately we were not returning forever, just for a week. So after a flight to Naples, a bus across Naples to the port, a boat to Capri, a funicolare up the hill and a bus out to Anacapri, we were in our new home for the week.

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View of lemon and orange trees from the patio outside our room

Anacapri is the town on the other side of the island that we never got to when we last came to Capri. I’d heard loads about a place called the Villa San Michele in Anacapri so after putting our bags down in the room, we headed straight there.

There’s quite an interesting story behind it which basically goes like this…. when Tiberius was using the island as his base from which to rule the Roman Empire, he had 12 imperial palaces. The Villa San Michele was one of these but fell into disrepair in later years. A Swedish doctor called Axel Munthe bought the land and, while building the house that currently stands there, found all kinds of Roman ruins and paraphernalia. These bits and pieces now adorn the house. His long-standing relationship with the Swedish queen Victoria mostly took place here and his book, The Story of San Michele, was an international bestseller. (I now have a copy of this book and can’t wait to read it.)

The house is a wonder and the gardens even more so.

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Me, pretending it is my garden!

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Phenomenal views on a walk through the gardens

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Random Eygptian sphinx overlooking Capri from the Villa San Michele

After all the travelling and walking, we decided it was time to have our first meal in Italy and went for the obvious, pizza.

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It was pretty epic pizza, as pizza goes. Made in a wood fired oven and covered generously with oregano, my favourite ingredient to cook with.

Then, obviously, a helping of gelato while wandered around Anacapri.

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After returning to the nine-roomed boutique hotel we’re staying in, for a quick swim, we dressed warmly and walked to the furthest out point on this side of the island, the lighthouse, to watch the sunset.

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After killing a bit of time pottering about on the rocks looking at the sea, we headed to a little wine bar near to the lighthouse for a spot of dinner with a view….

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…and waited for the sun to set over the sea.

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Thus concludes day number one of the surprise holiday.

Apart from this….

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…a chip pizza. Make of it what you will.

More lunchbreak adventures

Yes, I know! Another post two seconds later! I figured I might as well keep going if I’m in the moment.

This blue plaque I managed to find on my lunch break during a shift at Eltham Palace which, by the way, is looking amazing after its refurbishment.

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It is the plaque for Richard Jeffries, a naturalist and author, who’s childrens books are still read today (there is, in fact, a society dedicated to the appreciation of his books).

STATS
BLUE PLAQUE COUNT – 33
TOTAL MILES RUN – 16.8

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