The Scribbler

8 April 2012

Bits and bobs and a welcome break

Filed under: run,travel — The Scribbler @ 19:19
Tags: , , , , ,

A few random thoughts to record before they’re forgotten as I find myself reliving and re-remembering the Olympic Park Run, trying to make it real.

Me in the Olympic StadiumWe were either incredibly lucky or something special was happening in London. It felt like everyone had been on a great customer services training course. I’ve never experienced that before. I like the city and its myriad opportunities, the fruit and veg stalls on the streets and the fact that you can taste a different cuisine every day of the year. But it’s not the city for me. It’s too fast. Too impersonal. Too cold and sharp and ambitious.

But last weekend I got a glimpse of its warmer side. Maybe it was the previous weeks’ sunshine. Maybe it was the Olympic spirit. Maybe it was just chance.

The mainly young people whose job was just to be there, with their foam hands directing traffic, they were smiling, relaxed, like it was the best job in the world. The guy who told us to look out for the people in ‘salmon vests’ laughed when we said they were pink and insisted they were salmon with a wry smile.

Inside the park there were signs of home. A runner with a sign saying Geordie racer on her back. A banner for Sunderland Strollers running club.

And on the way out, the guy with his walkie-talkie directing crowds, admitting they need a bit more practise at it, but thanking us for helping them test things out. And across the road, heading towards the tube station, another man in a pink vest, spotting me saying,”There’s no need to ask you how it went, look at you smiling! And look at your medal. That’s some nice bling!”

I waved like a loon and blew kisses to the crowds, enjoying my ‘victory’ lap before I hit the sprint button for the last 100m on the track. There was never any chance I was going to come out of that stadium without a smile on my face, but those little touches absolutely made my day.

Hold on to whatever that magic was and show that face to the people who will be flocking in their thousands to the games. When it’s busy and crowded and people don’t know where they’re going, keep your tempers and show those smiles and you’ll do the same for thousands of others.

The Swan Suite at Maison de Plumes

Our stunning room at Maison de Plumes

After our weekend in London, we took advantage of being so far south that popping over to France in the car wasn’t such a long haul drive. We found an amazingly stylish boutique B&B called Maison de Plumes and stayed there for a couple of nights, exploring the local area.

It’s an area we’ve driven through as quickly as possible in the past, hitting the autoroute to get further south into France or branching out to the beaches of Normandy and Brittany. The rolling pastures and windfarms didn’t seem like French countryside, but the space and time just to be and explore was a welcome break. Not to mention no chores, no cooking, no cleaning.

We were warmly welcomed by Richard and Vanessa at Maison de Plumes and made to feel very at home in their lovingly renovated house. It is an absolute masterpiece of elegant art deco style. Each room is very different, with its own character, but all are sumptuous, luxurious and incredibly stylish.

On one night we were treated to a fabulous five course meal, cooked by Richard. Great local food served with the same flair and elegance that Vanessa has lavished on this wonderful, relaxing place to stay. Highly recommended.

We explored some good museums and learned more about life under occupation during WW2 in a bunker used to launch V2 bombs. The films, footage and particularly the drawings of the prisoners of war really made me understand the war machine, the industrialisation of the processes and the human labour involved. Next time I read Tolkein, it will paint an even more vivid picture.

I ran too. Just a little bimble for a couple of miles around the local village one evening, frightening the locals with my Fetch top.

And we ate very well. Local, seasonal food. Mussels and chips served within sight of the sea. Smelly cheese and sausages. But although the French pastry is world renowned, and I enjoyed it while I was there, I don’t think I could take any more bread. Dear me, but I was craving porridge for breakfast!

It was quiet too. Unnervingly so. It’s early in the season and we stayed mainly in the Nord pas de Calais region, which is not really a top tourist destination, but we were often the only people eating in the local bistro and one of only a handful staying in the hotel in Montreuil the night before we came back.

It was a long drive back, broken up with a stop off to see our friends Bob, Carol, Sophie and William for an hour before ploughing our way North. Gary drove all the way, so I drifted into a doze and daydreamed.

And so now, here I am, back home and glad to be back, enjoying the long weekend. And getting ready for another race. My home race, my first race and a familiar 10k course along beside the sea.

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