Saturday, December 26, 2015

What does 2016 look like for LIVE from the LIDO DECK?

I anticipate 2016 to be a big year! I have a few vacations and race-cations planned for 2016 as I try to fill my race calendar! We also have some exciting guest posts coming in January from my sister!

I can not believe how fast 2015 went by! My first half marathon seems like just yesterday and tomorrow I start my training regiment for my 2nd half! After a whirlwind summer vacation to England I am exciting to be planning for another beach trip in April.

The guests posts from my sister will cover two separate trips she is taking in a couple of weeks. Monday she is leaving a few days in Orlando ending with a NYE spent at Magic Kingdom! I am excited to see her photos of the final year of the Osborne Family Spectacle of Lights as well as the amazing NYE Fireworks Disney will have. The park is open until 2 am so I am sure they will have a fantastic time! A couple of weeks later she will embark on her first solo trip and it is to Italy! What an awesome experience for her! She will keep be giving us snapshots of her days exploring Rome as she takes over my Instagram! Make sure you follow my IG account here.

My first trip of 2016 will be a weekend race-cation to Myrtle Beach for the MB Dasani Half Marathon! I am excited to run this race as it will be my boyfriends first half! This race will be the first weekend in March so I am hoping there will be mild weather and we will be able to experience Broadway at the Beach for some post race celebrations!

Just short of a month later we will be making a trip I am just too excited about!! Is that even possible? We will be staying 6 days in BELIZE! I am sooo excited to visit Central America! The resort we are staying at looks absolutely amazing and has a dive center on site! Ambergris Caye (the island we are lodging on) has such a relaxing atmosphere and we look forward to doing just that. Interestingly enough, this will be my first trip that I do not have a non stop flight! We will be doing two flights to get to Belize City and then we must decide our options to get to the island. There is a 20 minute flight on a small prop plane or a 2 hour ferry. I know what you are thinking, the choice is obvious but with 2 flights already and it being a small plane we are a little nervous. The ferry is a good option and quite possibly we will do one arriving and one leaving. There are definitely pros and cons to both so stay tuned for our decision on that as well as more info on our excursions!

We do have a couple of trips left to plan. My best friend is getting married in October so we will be planning a bachelorette party to either Florida (she has never been, shocking I know!) or to the Bahamas which sounds fabulous. I also need to add another half to my fall race calendar and I am thinking one in Las Vegas?  The Strip at Night race with the Rock n Roll Marathon Series looks like tons of fun from all the posts I saw from this year.

I look forward to 2016 and hope everyone has a fabulous New Years! Anyone have any exciting destination races or amazing vacations? I would love to hear about them!

Comment below or find me on IG or Twitter!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Favorite London Views

New meets old, Tower of London fronting the London Syline

 Cute London side street, seen from Tower Bridge

 View of London, seen from the London Eye

 View of Big Ben & The House of Parliament, seen from a cruise along the River Thames

 Crossing Tower Bridge

 The London Eye

 Tower Bridge at sunset

Tower of London at sunset

Sunday, September 20, 2015


While in London for a long weekend we stayed at Saba Hotel, located in the Hammersmith district. About 5 minute walk to the HS tube station the hotel, located in zone 2, is a great deal for those either not interested in staying in zone 1 or those who want to save a little money in the hotel department.

The room we selected had room for 3 with 1 full size bed and 1 twin size bed. The room was small but we literally were just there to sleep so it did just fine. The bathroom included a wall in shower and the room had a mini fridge as well. The decor was a bit much in our room but the hotel had a classic, older look to it which I liked.The front desk was always helpful and made checking in and out a breeze. Also near the door were coupons for different excursions and maps. 

The hotel included free wifi and breakfast daily. The times changed depending on if it was a weekend or weekday but each day it was packed so get a table early. There is a buffet of sort to get yogurt, cereal and hot beverages. A woman also came around to take your order of their offerings; eggs, baked beans, toast. Breakfast was served quickly as they tried to accommodate as many quests as possible.

If you are looking for a quiet hotel that is not in the heart of London, I do recommend Saba Hotel. The walk to the tube was easy but we also made the 20 or so minute walk to the Kensington area from there which was also a breeze.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Top 5 things to see and do on a weekend trip to London

We arrived in London on Saturday settling into our hotel just around 2 pm. With a departing flight from Heathrow on Tuesday, we only had a few short days to see as much as we could in a city with tons to do! Here is my top 5 things to see or do when you are in London for a weekend trip!

The London Eye

The views from any position on the London Eye are phenomenal but as you edge closer to the top they get more and more breathtaking! Each pod (there are 32) hold about 25 people. If you arent too keen on heights but want the experience, there is seating in the middle of the pod. With the entire thing being glass (except the floor), you can see any direction for miles. We had amazing weather while in London and the clarity we had was extraordinary.

Big Ben

Before seeing Big Ben & the Parliament Building in person, I never realized how humongous they were. Looking at Big Ben from across the River Thames, you see the beauty but not the grandness. Head across Westminster Bridge and cross the street to view from the rear side of Westminster Abbey. The gold sparkles in the sun, looking completely exquisite. Coming down Whitehall and seeing Big Ben for the for the first time is an experience I will never forget.

                                                                      Tower Bridge

This affordable tour gives you the luxury of spending as much or as little time as you want exploring the details. Take either the stairs or elevator up to an area with a 5 minute film explaining the history of the contest to design the bridge. Afterwards follow to the left to head to the glass floor viewing area. This area allows you to go to both sides of the bridge, with another short history film in between. The entire length of both sides has facts about how much the bridge cost to build, the types of marine life that live in the River Thames and compares other bridges around the world. After you finish the tower, head outside, follow the blue line and make your way to the engine rooms that lift the bridge up and down. Once you complete this part of the tour (optional) you can also head into the gift shop.

Buckingham Palace

By far the neatest tour I have ever taken, from the end of July to mid September you are able to tour the staterooms at HRH The Queens official residence. At the beginning of the tour you are given a headset with a handheld audio/ video guide. Each room or section has a corresponding number to the guide. In this tour you see some of the royal families massive art collection, the different areas that HRH meets Presidents & diplomats, where official state dinners are held. You also get an inside look into how the staff prepares for such large events from the invitations, the menu, as well as different outfits she has worn. The tour takes about an hour or so and ends in the gardens where you can get coffee, tea, ice cream, etc. The garden area and the walk along the exit path is absolutely gorgeous.

                                                           Westminster Abbey

IMO you can not come to London without experiencing all history housed inside Westminster Abbey. Like Buckingham Palace, you are given an audio set to take around at your own pace. Each are is numbered but some of this is a better harder to follow than the Buckingham Palace tour.  You could easily spend the entire day looking at the different leaders, both political and artistic, buried here. The coronations have taken place here since the 1500's as have many weddings, Prince William & Duchess Catherine, and funerals, such as Princess Diana's. There is absolutely no photography allowed inside the abbey which definitely keeps people moving. Some of the spaces are rather tight and some dark. Take your time on this tour, it is worth experiencing as much as you can.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Live From The Lido Deck Does London: Big Bus Tours!

**Prior to our visit to London we were given complimentary passes for the Big Bus London Hop On Hop Off Bus Tours. As always, my opinions are my own. No other compensation was received.

Visiting as much of London as possible in a short 3 day time frame was our goal. The obvious must see attractions were Big Ben, Tower Bridge, and the London Eye. The best way, we thought, to see as much as possible was with a hop on hop off tour so that we could get off at whichever landmark we wanted to see. Both day and night tours are available with over 40 total stops. They offer multiple types of buses, some were fully enclosed on top, some were partially enclosed and others were completely open on top. How do you tell what line the bus you are getting on is? As the bus approaches, take a look at the electronic screen. It will read across red line, blue line, etc. if you have any questions, ask the driver as you get on the bus.  All drivers we encountered were extremely friendly and made sure you were getting to where you needed to go.

                                               An example of the completely open top bus.

We took a lovely walk from our hotel in the Hammersmith District through Kensington and got on at the Kensington Gardens stop (Blue Line). We rode this a couple of stops to the Marble Arch so that we could meet with a BBT employee who could process our vouchers. There are plenty of people here as well as throughout different stops throughout the tour to answer any questions. Our vouchers were for the 48-hour hop on hop off tour which included the night tour, 3 walking tours as well as a free cruise along with River Thames with City Cruises. Once our tickets were processed we hopped on a red line bus, which we rode in its entirety. 

The Red Line tour has less total stops and shares many stops with the Blue Line but I think that the live commentary really added a lot to the tour. Our tour guide was able to tell us small tidbits and funny stories that helped break up some of the historical information. For anyone who doesn’t speak English, they offer a recorded commentary in 12 languages on both the red and blue line. The entire red line loop took about 2 hours.  We also rode the entire blue line, however it was hop on and off over a couple of days. When on the blue line, make sure you pick up your free pack of ear buds as you make your way past the driver and plug into the audio box for your seat to begin listening to the commentary.  Some of the most notable stops are Buckingham Palace, Picadilly Circus, driving through multiple historic districts, crossing London Bridge for your first view of the Tower Bridge and coming up to see Big Ben for first sighting of Big Ben as you approach Westminster Bridge.

                                                  These are the ear buds provided by Big Bus Tours.

Another thing to check of my London Bucket list was to see London at night. Tower Bridge, The London Eye and Big Ben look beautiful all lit up. After a day of sightseeing and shopping we decided to catch the night tour. We were in Picadilly Circus but towards the end so we walked down to the Trafalgar Square stop which is stop #6 on the night tour. This was a mistake. The first bus starts its route at 7:30 and they run every 15-20 minutes. The first bus came and it was packed and by packed I mean there wasn't even standing room. We opted to wait for the next bus and it was unfortunately the same thing. As my goal was to take pictures of everything this was not ideal. From the bottom of the bus the glass reflected so none of my pictures are good. The bus never really thinned out but towards the end we were able to head upstairs. I was disappointed that my pictures did not turn out but I am glad I got to see it. A lot of the time, my boyfriend or whoever I am traveling with, has to remind me to put the camera down and experience what I am taking photographs of.  

On Sunday afternoon we walked down to the Tower Pier after our tour of Tower Bridge. There are two companies that sell river cruises from this pier but you do not have to wait in the queue. Walk to the area where they are checking tickets and the person will highlight your free cruise ticket (found attached to your bus voucher) so that it cannot be used more than once. The boats come by every 30 or so minutes and offer seating up or down stairs. We chose to sit upstairs and member of the crew gave a commentary of the buildings we passed, which was nice and helped pass the time. The boat heads down towards Big Ben, stopping at Westminster Pier before heading across the River Thames to stop at The London Eye Pier. This was our stop, as we wanted to get in the queue for the eye. Had we stayed on however, we would have headed back up the River to the Greenwich Pier and then returned to Tower Pier. Our ride lasted about 20 minutes or so. The tour was nice, the river was not rolling and neither was the boat. If you tend to experience motion sickness with the slightest of movement, consider staying at the bottom. The only disappointment is that they do not go down pass the Parliament Building although they do not advertise that they do so that is not something I can hold against them. I would recommend City Cruises and would like to go back for a night cruise on my next trip. 

For a list of all stops on each type of tour, info on the walking tours, pricing, etc visit their website.
Big Bus Tours offers hop on hop off tours in multiple cities across the world, including many large cities in the United States. Check out their website for all locations and keep a look out for future reviews from me on other cities I visit with them!

For more information on taking a River Thames cruise with City Cruises, check out their website.

Tips for having a successful tour with Big Bus Tours

*If considering the night tour I recommend doing it during the week. We did ours on a Sunday. Also consider starting at the first bus stop for one of the first couple of buses. You can also just take the bus to the area you want to see and get off to take pictures if that is what you are interested in doing. Catch another bus or the tube back to your hotel.

*Look at the map before your trip and have a plan of what you want to see. This is also helpful if you plan to take the BBT buses to get around London as opposed to the Underground. If your hotel is close enough to a stop, this is a good option as there is no limit to the number of times you can hop on or off.  The map is also great because it also shows the closest underground stations, which helped us tremendously with planning our daily activities. 

 *Big Bus Tours also offers an App with all the bus details and route info. I did not use the App as I was on a limited international data plan but more information is available on their website.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Live From The Lido Deck Does Blackpool

I am back from our two week adventure to England. While I wont go into much detail of our time in Manchester, as we spent that time visting with family, I will go over our 2 day stay in Blackpool. Blackpool is a neat seaside town about an hour or so north of Manchester via train. Arriving  mid week, we were able to experience the area without a large group of tourists. Our first day we mostly went shopping at a local garden center and an outlet mall. It was interesting to walk around and compare pricing for similar items at home especially stores we have in the States like the Gap.

For dinner we headed to Harry Ramsdens, known for their fish and chips, they have been on the Blackpool Promenade for years and have been serving the UK for over 75 years! Although I am not a fish fan, I tried my sisters and the cod was great. The chips were delicious as well. I had the Jumbo Prawn Shrimp Cocktail, which was a mistake. It took a while for me to realize, that although similar, England is different food wise than America. The Prawns, to me, tasted as if they were straight out of the ocean and there were very few of the large shrimp. Most of the dish was made up of the small salad shrimp and despite it being shrimp cocktail, they did not serve with cocktail sauce. In fact, the waitress didn't even know what I was talking about. Something I am just not used but must adapt to as I travel. On future trips, I hope to make a better effort to try things out of my comfort zone.

After dinner, we walked it off along the shops next to the Restaurant. The following day we came back for a visit to see what Blackpool is all about. First stop, a fortune teller on the beach! I have never had my palm read so it was an interesting experience and the woman had been there for decades. We continued to walk along to our destination: Blackpool Tower! They offered a multitude of ticket options if you combined different events. They offer a circus,  the dungeons tour, Madame Tussaud's, etc. Tickets are cheaper online vs buying day of so consider that if you are planning a trip to Blackpool.

Once tickets have been purchased, you move your way along the queue stopping to take some green screen photos you can purchase in the gift shop afterwards. Once your group photo has been taken, you head into a small auditorium (standing room only) and watch a 4D movie on the history of the tower. I enjoy 4D experiences at theme parks and thought this was a cute idea. After the 10 minute show you head into a waiting area where they have more in depth historical facts. There are two sets of glass elevators used to take you both up and down the tower from the first of three viewing areas.

The first viewing area is completely enclosed with windows all the way around. There is a penny press for anyone who collects those (they were all over England) as well as the glass bottom floor viewing area. I am not usually afraid of heights but the glass bottom floor was a no go for me. The first viewing area I was 100% comfortable in but as we took the stairs up to the second area I got a little sketched out. Unfortunately,  the stairs were one way up one way down so I had to make it half way around the tower before I could head down. My sister, Nana, & cousins headed up to the third viewing area so I gave them my camera and headed back down with my great aunt. The tower did offer amazing views of Blackpool and the coast so I definitely recommend going up to at least the first viewing area.

                                     My sister showing off the view from the third level viewing area.

We walked around and shopped a bit more before heading back to our cousins to have a quick dinner and then made our way to the train station towards Manchester. The trains both ways were nice and seemed pretty popular with the locals, many I am sure travel via train as they commute into Manchester for work as there are multiple stops along the route.Arriving late Thursday night, we had one more day to spend in Manchester before we excitedly headed to LONDON!

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Sisterhood of the World Blogging Award

I am so excited to be nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award! Thanks to Marian, @travelshopgirl , who always has amazing destinations on her blog whether visiting by land or sea! She is always headed somewhere new so check her out for travel inspiration!

The Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award is a way to connect fellow bloggers and encourage ladies who love to travel! I am excited to nominate some myself down below but first the rules!

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you!
  • Answer the 10 questions generated by the blogger that nominated you!
  • Create 10 new questions for the bloggers you nominate!
  • Nominate female travel bloggers that inspire you!
  • Proudly put the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award Logo on your blog!

 Here are Marian's questions!!

What makes you get up every day and want to have a blog?

I write my blog because I hope it could inspire someone to step outside of their comfort zone. I mostly write about cruise based travel and cruising scares many people. I know plenty of people that I tell "I love to cruise!" whose eyes get real big and tell me I am crazy. For some it is the fact that you are on such a large ship in the middle of the water, some are definitely afraid that it will sink and others just think cruising is a boring thing that older people do.

If you weren’t blogging, would you still write?

I would love to be a professional travel writer at some point and I think my blogging helps me become a better writer.  I am not sure if that will ever happen but if not, I would like to still write small pieces here and there. It is just so fun to tell a story from your view.

At what point while doing your blog did you realize that blogging was something more than writing for yourself?

When I joined twitter I started to get a lot of great feedback from other writers and realized that people do read and appreciate my writing. Even if they didn't, I love writing about my travels as a way to remember amazing moments that I have spent with friends or family.

If you couldn’t write about travel, what would your new blog be about?

Ooooooh such a great question. I think I would write about home decor and design. I am about a month out from my house being finished and I love to go on Pinterest and read different articles about how to style each room.

What is your all time favorite destination?

London. I just got back from a 2 week trip to England and I absolutely fell in love with London. There is something for everyone and it is just stunning. I think it is so neat to walk down the River Thames and see an old, amazing building and have a skyscraper right next to it. It opened my eyes to European destinations.

Do you have a favorite dining experience from your travels?

On my first cruise we tried escargot. It was delicious! It taught me to at least try things, you don't have to like them but it may turn out that you do!

Best cup of coffee you ever had was where?

I am not a huge coffee drinker but on cruises I love to get up early in the morning and grab a cup of coffee as we pull into port. The views of the island with the sun rising are beautiful.

Where are you off to next and why?

My girls and I are taking a mini race-cation weekend in October to run the Baltimore Marathon Relay! So excited to get back into running! Other than that I don't have anything official yet for 2016. Considering an Eastern Caribbean cruise in late April for my anniversary and trying to find the perfect destination for my BFF's bachelorette party at the end of the summer!

What one item is a must have in your travel bag?
 Zip lock bags. Seriously I bring them on every trip. They are great for toiletries but also for little things you don't want to lose or don't want to touch your other stuff. I have used mine to store a still slightly wet bathing suit on the flight home, some sand or sea shells from the beach or to keep track of small souvenirs that I don't want to get lost in my bag.

Do you have any special tips or tricks on social media that you’d like to share?

My only tip is to use it and use it often. Social Media is a great way to reach out to others. I love to spend about 30 minutes at the end of each day going through Instagram posts. Liking and commenting on other peoples posts is a great way to get other people to interact with your page.

My 10 questions for my nominated bloggers!!

  • What destination did you visit that inspired you the most?
  • Is there a destination that you would not travel to again?
  • What is one thing you tried while traveling that you never pictured yourself doing?
  • Have you ever traveled solo? If so, how did it affect your travel experience? 
  • Was there a particular trip that made you want to start travel writing?
  • What is your most successful/ popular blog post to date?
  • Do you tend to pack light or over pack?
  • Have you ever traveled without a round trip ticket or an exact date that you would be returning home?
  • Do you have any travel rituals?
  • Would you ever consider moving to another country for an extended period or becoming a citizen of somewhere else for good?

Now to my nominees :) I cant wait to read you ladies answers!






Sunday, July 12, 2015

LivefromtheLidoDeck goes across the Pond!

Get ready for England overload!!! We are traveling across the pond at the end of July for two weeks! We includes my twin sister and Nana in addition to myself as we go to visit family. Our trip includes 8 days in Manchester (where my Nana is from), 2 days in Blackpool and 4 days in London at the conclusion of our trip. We are very excited as this is my sister & I's first trip to Europe!

This trip has been on our mind for years and we cant wait to dive right in to everything. Our time in London is going to be jam packed as we travel via train on a Saturday morning and leave Tuesday afternoon! Our do not miss stops include Westminster Abbey, a River Thames cruise, tour of Buckingham Palace, ride on the London Eye and a Big Bus London Hop on & off bus tour!

I cant wait to share this experience with you! Make sure you are following on Instagram and Twitter as to not miss our day to day adventures! I will be posting with the #LiveFromTheLidoInLondon

Thursday, June 11, 2015

My runDisney Experience:Disney Princess Half Race Recap

The Run Disney experience is set apart by all other race events by one thing: the runDisney family. Go on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc and you will find tons of #runDisney photos as well as a large amount of support. The runDisney races range from 5K events to the Dopey Challenge which is 48.6 miles over 4 days. Yes you read that right. There are people who love to run so much, they run a 5k, 10k, half and full marathon earning themselves 6 medals and immense pride along the way.

My runDisney experience is a 100% positive one. I began training for the 2015 Disney Princess Half the week after the 2014 Princess Half weekend. I saw some posts on social media and thought "That looks like fun!" I had never ever once before then thought about running being fun or even entertained the idea of running a race let alone a half marathon. As I did more research on the race I encountered the sweetest, most encouraging and inspirational people. This helped me gain steam on creating a game plan. I signed up for the gym, set a reminder for registration and I started running!

Signing for event was stressful! The site was crashing and it took multiple times for me to get all the way through registration but when I did there was no turning back! As I continued to train, I signed up for smaller events to track my pace and see how my body held up to long distance running. Throughout the year, I posted to twitter and instagram and received so much awesome advice, both in general about running as well as how things work at a runDisney event. Being part of the runDisney family helped me stay positive and accountable for the half marathon.

Finally, after a year of training, it was time! We flew down to Orlando Friday night landing just after midnight. After picking up our rental car we headed to our hotel, Grande Villas Resorts (read my review here). Saturday morning we were headed to the Race Expo at ESPN World Wide of Sports!!! I was just too excited to go past those Welcome to Disney World signs!!! The expo was packed and was held in two different areas. One of the indoor areas was for packet pickup, chEAR squad pickup and some minor souvenir items as well as a couple of character meet and greets. The next building was where you picked up your clear runDisney bag for race day bag check as well as your race shirt and there were TONS of vendors. This area was packed and I was only interested in a few of the Disney licensed merchandise so we skipped most of the vendors. Unfortunately, being that we arrived on day 3 of the expo most of the items were picked through already. After the expo we ran some errands, got some groceries, dinner and went to Downtown Disney. DTD was packed so we didn't do much but I had an early bed time so that was fine with me.
Welcome to Walt Disney World!

Expo craziness

After going to bed decently early (read before dark), I ended up waking up around 1 am and getting ready for RACE DAY. It was finally here, I just couldn't believe it. We left our hotel around 3 to head to the starting area. I am glad we left early, we had ZERO traffic but I did speak to others in my corral who had a lot of traffic so runDisney tip: LEAVE EARLY! They had some areas to buy drinks, some leftover merchandise, a DJ and some character meet and greets. The lines for these were soooooo long, I wish I had realized earlier. I was in line for Cinderella but she was done with her time frame and in came Merida. Brave has a cool story but I was too old when it came out, had never seen the whole thing and really love Cinderelly so I was a bit disappointed. I stayed in line because who doesn't love a character meet and greet, especially when  you have nothing better to do! It was a bit chilly this morning but not as cold as for the 5K and 10K thank goodness. runDisney tip #2 bring a throwaway hoodie to keep you warm until your corral starts. The jackets thrown to the side of the road are collected and donated to a good cause!
Meeting Merida from Brave before the race

As it got closer to race time I started to get a bit nervous! I said goodbye to my sister and BF who were there to cheer me on and headed through bag check (didn't use it) to the porta potty line. I must say there were a ton but they were disgusting, as in the worst that I had ever seen in my life. After that episode I headed to Corral I. I was pleasantly surprised that I was up so high (corrals are assigned based on previous races). Once in my corral I stretched, watched the screen of the announcers and met with some fun ladies I would be running with! While waiting, I noticed a woman in our corral holding a balloon with a time of 2:45 on it. Intrigued, I learned that she was a pace leader for people who wanted to finish around 2 hours and 45 minutes.

runDisney tip #3 join a pace group. This group saved my life, seriously. The pace leader used a run 5 minute, walk 1 minute pace and watched the time to ensure we were right where we needed to be. Once the fireworks go off(yes, for every corral!) you walk through the starting area and it is very congested off and on until you get to the Magic Kindgdom entrance around mile 3 or 3.5. Being that the beginning of the race is entirely on the highway and you have to share on ramps with thousands of runners, it gets a little cramped. Once you make it to MK it gets much better. I kept pace with the leader most of the time until I realized I would need to tinkle soon. At this point the porta potties were out of the question for me so I headed to Tomorrowland (I think) by the Buzz Lightyear area so that I could use a real potty. The ladies line was a little long so runDisney tip #4 use the mens room! I wish I would have done this. There were seriously such a small number of men running you most likely would have only run into 2 or 3. While waiting in line my pace group passed me so I tried to catch up as best I could.

Map of the Disney Princess Half course

Soon I was running through the castle! This part was so amazing and pretty emotional! By the way, be sure to have your camera out as you first approach the castle. Many Princesses were taking selfies with the castle! Around the 10K marker I saw @pinkcupcakegirl which was exciting. After this area I needed to regain my focus since I had lost my pace group. I kept my eyes out for her balloons and finally spotted the group around mile 8 or so. The girls in my group were awesome so I was happy to get back and gain motivation from them. Ending up back on the highway was rough, again getting kind of congested. From here on it never really thinned out but it was pretty easy to maneuver around people. Once you get to mile 10, 11 the overpasses really start to get you although there is really only one large one.

Passing now to mile 12 you start to head into Epcot passing Spaceship Earth which was almost as exciting as seeing the Castle! Here you really start to get excited that you are going to make it and I deviated from my pace group to head around to the finish line. As I am going around who do I see but @bamagirlruns and Carrie Burrows! Pause for me to tell you that these runDisney runners are AMAZING, so very inspiring (remember that 48.6 challenge I was telling you about? Yeah, they do that). Once my fangirl moment was over, I was racing as fast as I could to the finish. So fast and focused that I didn't even realize there was a Prince Mickey at the finish line to take photos with. I didn't stop for any of the character stops at each mile since I was focused on my time but I would have gone back for Prince Mickey.

Once you finish (which was a bit emotional again for me) you head through this never ending area of people. There are race finishers as well as the amazing volunteers who give you your medal, some Gatorade, your snack box, Mylar blanket etc. I finally met up with my sister and BF and mistakenly ate what was in my snack box, fast. I felt sick around mile 9 which never really went away and unfortunately eating made it worse. I embarrassingly got sick with tons of people around but who cares I just ran a HALF MARATHON!!!! My time was 2:42:58 seconds. I was thrilled! I dreamed of being around 3 hours so the pace group was amazing.
Running past Prince Mickey to the finish

Crossing the Disney Princess Half finish line

My medal and race shirt (both beautiful)

The race was just an amazing experience and I couldn't have asked to run my first half marathon in a more magical place. runDisney tip #5 if you arent worried about a PR, do the character meet and greets. There were some really neat ones like the Army soldier from Toy Story who was making people do push ups, you can see all the Villains, or all the Princes. runDisney tip #6 DO STOP at the water stations, some had snack areas, some had cliff bars and gels. This is a very important need for runners and runDisney provides tons of stations like this as well as first aid areas. I already have some race plans in mind for the rest of 2015 and 2016 but I will be back to runDisney again!

runDisney tip #7 find a runDisney event for you! There are tons events throughout the year at both Disney World and Disneyland as well as a inaugural Half Marathon at Disneyland Paris next September!  Go to to check out the race schedule, see when registration opens for your event and for great training guides.

Are you signed up for an event, runDisney or otherwise? Get on social media for great motivation and tips from fellow runners!  Read @bamagirlruns blog to follow her training for the 2016 Dopey Challenge. Another favorite running blog of mine is WeRunDisney! Follow Mom & Daughter duo Pam & Christine as they run Disney as well as other major races like the Boston Marathon!

Monday, June 1, 2015

ORLANDO: Universal Studios- Diagon Alley

Upon visiting for Diagon Alley for the first time, you cant help but feel how Harry felt on his first visit with Hagrid for his first year robes. Every Harry Potter fan that has been to Universal Studios Diagon Alley has been captivated by Gringotts Bank as soon as they enter through the brick wall. Throughout my visit to Harry Potter World, I was awed by the infinite detail that was put into every inch of the two areas. Although both areas were done phenomenally, Diagon Alley (IMO) was the better of the two. With the exception of the Three Broomsticks and Olivanders, Hogsmeade lacked the ability to make you feel as if you were a character in the Harry Potter series. The stores, the restaurants and Knock Turn Alley were as if you were shopping along with Harry, Ron, and Hermoine. The signage is all so vintage looking, the cobble stone path perfect; everything simply worked. I can show you better than I can tell you....

Sunday, March 22, 2015

ORLANDO: Universal IOA Hogsmeade

We opted out of Disney while in Orlando for the Disney Princess Half and instead took in a day at each Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We purchased the buy 2 day Park Hopper get a 3rd day free option but just spent 2 days at the parks. I had never been to Universal Studios but I had visited IOA about 8 years ago, before the Harry Potter World addition.

Harry Potter World was the center of our visit so we headed to Hogsmeade when we first arrived at IOA. It was a Monday so the park wasn't too crowded but it was definitely busier in the HPW sections of both parks. We went to the Three Broomsticks to eat and of course to try a Butter Beer! The Butter Beer reminded me a lot of cream soda. It was good but not something I wanted more than one of.

Next stop was Olivanders, my boyfriend wanted to get one of the interactive wands that could be used to perform spells throughout HPW. They only let a small number of people into the shop at a time, about 15-20. They go through a small skit and then you are taken to the shop to choose from souvenirs and of course wands. A non interactive wand cost about $40 while an interactive one cost $50.How do you tell the difference in the shop? Wands with the gold label (see below) are interactive wands. You can select from a variety of characters wands, each coming in interactive and non interactive. Each interactive wand comes with a map showing the spell locations throughout both Hogsmeade and Diagon Alley.

Follow the map to areas on the ground (mostly in front of shop windows) with gold letters and numbers as seen below. You wave your wand following the spell and usually something in the window moves. For what it is worth, some (read most) of the spell areas were congested. It takes more than once and sometimes about 10 times before the spell you "cast" works. You have to be in just the right spot and follow the spell to the T. There were HPW cast members at most of these areas to help out with your technique but it was somewhat frustrating getting it exactly right. None of the spots do anything spectacular except for one in Diagon Alley in which your spell makes rain come out of an umbrella.

Wanting to get in line for the rides before the lines got really long we headed to the Forbidden Journey ride. Once you enter the castle there is an area for you to rent a locker for free until an extended period of time(these can be found throughout the park and were extremely beneficial). Once all bags and loose belongings are locked up you can proceed to the line area which weaves around the back of the castle and then into the castle. Once inside the castle, the line moves throughout different areas which are sections you would recognize from the book, including the famous moving/ talking portraits in the hallways. The way Universal does their themes for both parks is very well thought out and makes standing in line much more enjoyable.

The Forbidden Journey is a 4D experience which starts as soon as you hop on the moving sidewalk of sorts to hurriedly get to your seat (4 people per car). The ride whisks you along inside and along the outside of the castle as you follow the characters through different adventures.  I do have to mention that some portions of the ride had me a little jumpy so keep that in mind if you have younger kids and maybe consider an alternative ride if you think it may freak them out. If alternate reality is hard for you to enjoy, I would also recommend skipping the ride. With that being said, it was one of my favorite rides in both parks as I prefer these type of rides to actual roller coasters.

After walking around the stores and doing some spells, we headed to the Dragon Challenge. This ride is not new to the park and used to be called the Dueling Dragons. I had rode this on my last visit and enjoyed it so we rode it again. The ride no longer races the red and blue dragon against each other. The ride was still fun, a little fast and a little high for me but I am no roller coaster fanatic.

We moved on throughout IOA later coming back to take the Hogswarts Express over to Diagon Alley. Overall I liked Hogsmeade but it is very congested. There are some areas with carts, lots of people practicing their spells in front of shops and a lot of people stopping to take plenty of photos (like me). The decor is amazing and as mentioned early Universal does a great job of making the different park themes come to life.