Boston Marathon

The Boston Marathon means so much to the City of Boston. It’s a sign of the true beginning of spring weather after long, cold snowy winter. It’s the start of the April school vacation week in Massachusetts and it’s also held on Patriots Day which is a holiday only celebrated in Massachusetts and Maine. From the start in Hopkinton to the finish in Copley Square, the route is lined with people cheering on the runners and enjoying the spring weather. This year, the 124th running of the Boston Marathon will not be happening in April on Patriots Day, it has sadly been postponed to September due to the covid-19 pandemic.

The first Boston Marathon took place on April 19, 1897 after the US Olympic team manager saw the marathon in the Olympics and wanted to bring the spirit of that race to the city of Boston. There were 15 runners in the race and the winner had a finishing time of 2:55:10, which is almost an hour slower than recent year’s winners. The fastest Boston Marathon finish time was in 2011, 2:03:02. Now the race has over 30,000 participants and is one of the hardest races to qualify for in the world. People spend years running other marathons to earn their Boston Qualifying time and then hope that they are accepted in the race. Of all the qualifiers that applied for this year’s race, over 3,000 were not able to get in. This speaks volumes to what this race means to the running community.

Did you know that back in 1897, the length of the marathon was not the 26.2 miles that we have all come to associate with a marathon? It was actually only 24.8 miles based on the distance that the Greek soldier, Pheidippides ran from Marathon to Athens with the news of Greece’s victory over the Persian Army. The distance changed numerous times during the first seven Olympics and was changed to 26.2 miles permanently as of the 1924 Olympics.

From 1897 to 1968, the race was held on April 19th unless the 19th fell on a Sunday, then the race was held on Monday the 20th. In 1969, the Patriots Day holiday was moved to the third Monday in April and the marathon has been held on that Monday each year since. If you do not live in Massachusetts or Maine, you may wonder, what exactly is Patriots Day? Patriots Day commemorates the first battles of the Revolutionary war which were fought in Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts in 1775. You may remember from history class, the midnight ride Paul Revere took to Lexington to warn the troops that “the British are coming…” Boston is one of the oldest cities in the country and celebrates it’s history.

There are many events that take place during Marathon weekend. Since 2009, the weekend has started off with the BAA 5K on the Saturday morning. This just so happens to be my favorite race to run each year, I was so sad to not be running it on Saturday for the first time in 12 years. It’s a great race to get the marathon runners family members involved in the weekend. The first few years it was run, it started and ended at the finish line in Copley Square. As the race got more popular and the field expanded, they changed the start and finish line to the Boston Common. You still get to run through the marathon finish line which is so much fun. There’s something about making the right on Hereford, left on Boylston and then seeing that finish line. After the 5K they also host the BAA Invitational Mile for some of the top school aged runners in Massachusetts.

The Boston Red Sox play a part in the Patriots Day activities. Each year, they have their game that Monday with a start time of 11:05am. They timed it so that when the game finishes, the fans are heading out into Kenmore Square, which is a mile from the finish line, right when the bulk of the runners are running through the area.

The Boston Marathon is a great race if you can qualify for it. If not there are numerous charities that have bibs available for the race. Even if you aren’t running the marathon, visiting Boston during this time is highly recommended. The city is alive and spectating the marathon is quite the experience. From the highly competitive runners to the ones finishing their first ever marathon to the ones out there in costume having fun, it’s a great experience to cheer on all these hard working runners. Fingers crossed things improved so runners can take to the streets from Hopkinton to Copley this September for the postponed 124th race! Enjoy the below photos of runners on course from years past and Stay Boston Strong!

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter! This year is very different than years past, people aren’t able to spend the day with their extended family or to attend mass at church. But it is still Easter and hopefully those that do celebrate are able to still enjoy the day.

Easter is a busy time at Disney normally. With many schools having their spring breaks scheduled around the Easter holiday, the parks get very busy.

While not as big of a celebration as Christmas, Disney does do many things to celebrate the holiday. From Easter parades, pictures with the Easter bunny, special Easter brunches and the chocolate Easter eggs on display.

For 24 years, the Bakery team at the Grand Floridian Hotel have created hand decorated Easter Eggs that are on display in the lobby each year

They spend over 3 weeks each year creating these edible works of art that weigh between 9 and 12 pounds and can stand 16 to 20 feet tall.

They truly are a work of art. I couldn’t imagine destroying these beauties to eat the chocolate.

Even the display area is edible, the eggs sit atop the Easter favorite candy, jelly beans.

They are so beautiful and definitely worth taking the time to check out. The details on each egg are amazing. This bakery team is truly talented.

While the Grand Floridian is know for their display and has had the largest display for years, many of the other Disney hotels have had smaller displays in the past years.

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Easter and enjoys all the extra time with their immediate family that they live with.

Enjoy the rest of the eggs from the 2019 display below.

Happy Easter Everyone, Stay Healthy!

DC Monuments and Memorials

One of my favorite things to do when visiting Washington DC is seeing the monuments and memorials. There are numerous monuments across the city all in memory of people and events in history. They are free to see and something people of all ages would enjoy. Two of the most visited monuments and memorials are located on either side of the National Mall, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial.

The Washington Monument was completed in 1884 to honor The United States first president, George Washington. At the time of it’s completion, it was the tallest building in the world at 555 feet tall. As of September 2019, the newly modernized elevator opened the monument back up to guests. The elevator takes guests up 500 feet to the observation desk where guests can see for nearly 25 miles in each direction including the White House, US Capitol ad Arlington cemetary.

Across the National Mall from the Washington Monument is my favorite monument, The Lincoln Memorial. Built to honor our 16th President of the United States, Abraham Lincoln, the memorial was completed in 1922. It’s 190 feet long, 119 feet wide and almost 100 feet in height. It includes 36 columns to represent the 36 states that made up the United States at the date of President Lincoln’s death.

The details of the Lincoln statue in the memorial are quite impressive. He looks so real, that walking by the statue, I felt as if his eyes were following me. The size of the memorial is a testament to how much bigger than life President Lincoln was and all he did for this country. Etched into the walls of the memorial is the Gettysburg Address and also Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address.

The Lincoln Memorial is open 24 hours a day and highly recommend visiting it during the day and at night. You definitely get a different perspective with it lit up at night. Viewing the memorial at night is my favorite thing to do, the crowds are less and it’s a rather peaceful experience. And the view of the Washington Monument across the Mall is also beautiful.

Have you visited the memorials at night? There are a number of tours that take you around to see the memorials after dark if you don’t want to be walking around at night.

The Jefferson Memorial is located on the tidal basin. The open air white columned memorial is home to the 19 foot bronze statue in honor of the third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson.

Along one of the walls of the memorial is the famous quote from the Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The memorial is also open 24 hours, another beautiful place to check out after dark.

What are some of your favorite monuments and memorials and DC?

Signs of Spring – DC Cherry Blossoms

I struggled with whether or not to continue to blog in this uncertain time of travel. I’ve decided to continue in hopes of bringing the joys of travel to everyone that isn’t able to travel now through the blog. Reading about travel and enjoying pictures of travel are a great way to keep the love of travel going and a distraction from the stress of our new lives today.

The Cherry Blossoms are in peak bloom in Washington DC right now. Due to the warmer than normal winter, peak bloom happened earlier than normal. Normally it occurs in the last week or March/first week of April.

In 1912, the Mayor of Tokyo gifted 3,000 cherry blossom trees to the United States as a way to celebrate the friendship between the Japanese and American people.

Most of the trees are located around the Tidal Basin and each year in March and April, hundreds of thousands of people come to admire the trees and take part in the Cherry Blossom Festival events. The events include a parade, kite festival and the popular Cherry Blossom 10-miler road race.

It’s a shame that people won’t be able to see these beautiful trees in person this year, but you can see them online. They have created a live “bloom cam” for people to see the cherry blossoms from home.

https://nationalmall.org/bloomcam

These pictures are from when I ran the Cherry Blossom 10-miler back in 2016. It was past peak bloom and there were still many beautiful trees. While it’s hard to predict when the peak bloom will be, planning a trip in late March/early April some future year is definitely worth it. Even if you don’t get to see the cherry blossoms at peak bloom, there is so much to see and do in Washington DC. Keep an eye out for future blogs on DC highlights.

Stay healthy everyone and stay home, we will get through this and be able to travel the world again!

Cancelling Travel During a Pandemic

We have entered unchartered waters with the entire world dealing with the coronavirus pandemic. The coronavirus started late last year in China and has since spread throughout the entire world. At first we all wanted to brush it off as something that would not happen to us here in the United States or that it wasn’t that serious. We wanted to continue with our lives and especially continue traveling the world. Up until this past Thursday I had still planned on going to Disney World next week to celebrate my birthday and to Punta Cana later this month to use a free trip I had won to Club Med. But then things seemed to get much more serious this week….

Travel from Europe was banned, Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive, NBA NHL and MLB all suspended and delayed their seasons, events and races everywhere were cancelled or postponed, including the Boston Marathon and even Disney is closing all of their parks. This is when my attitude changed from, “I’m not letting this virus ruin my birthday fun” to “I’m fine with staying home as long as possible to protect not just me but the older and immune-compromised people around me”

The situation is so serious that most travel companies, whether they are airlines, hotels, tour companies and even Disney World are being incredibly lenient with their cancellation polices, most forgoing them completely and letting people cancel or reschedule without penalty. Some tour companies are even letting people reschedule their cancelled trip to one in 2021 or 2022. As sad as this is and how it’s affecting the travel community, they have really stepped up to help people and hopefully earn customers trust and loyalty so they will continue to travel in the future.

It might be heartbreaking to cancel a trip, you may have saved up for years for the one big trip, your kids may not understand why they can’t go see Mickey for spring break, but sometimes you just need to accept the attitude of “It is what it is”. We may be dealing with this for quite a while, but at some point life will get back to normal and hopefully we can all travel the world again and experience all the wonders it has to offer.

Stay healthy and safe everyone!

Most Fun Character Breakfast Ever!

Earlier this week while visiting Disney World for the Princess Half I went to check out the newest Disney resort, the Riviera Resort, for a delicious and fun character breakfast at Topolino’s Terrace.

The hotel grounds have a very laid back European feel to them. It seems to be the perfect resort for families that don’t want the overly children oriented feel to it but still want the high Disney standards. As someone who loves hotels, it’s exciting to be able to walk around a hotel that has only been open for a couple of months.

The hotel includes two pool areas, a lively family pool and a quieter more relaxing pool area.

There is also a pool bar, a quick service restaurant, a Parisian style cafĂ© and a beautiful restaurant on the top floor of the hotel, Topolino’s Terrace.

Topolino’s Terrace offers both breakfast and dinner.

Dinner is offered nightly from 5pm-9:30pm and the menu includes delicious food inspired by restaurants in the French and Italian Riviera. Enjoy beautiful views and stunning sunsets.

Breakfast is offered from 7:30am – 11am and is one of the few character breakfasts that is not a buffet. It’s called Breakfast a la Art with Mickey and Friends and it just may be the most fun character breakfast I’ve been to.

The meal starts with a bucket of shared pastries for the table, including chocolate chip muffins, croissants and bread. They also provide honey butter, house made jam and chocolate hazelnut spread to enjoy with the pastries. They were all delicious!

The menu includes items like eggs, quiche, hash, waffles, bagels and fruit. I went with the Sour Cream Waffles which came with roasted apples, raspberries, chantilly and a delicious Orange Maple Syrup. It included a choice of meat, either bacon, ham or sausage. I’m getting hungry just looking at the picture below.

The characters were so fun, they danced along to music throughout the restaurant a few times while I was there, it was definitely a fun atmosphere! They were dressed like artists straight out of Europe and were just so cute!

Before you leave, definitely go outside to the terrace to check out the view, it’s absolutely beautiful. The terrace features comfy couches and chairs to sit and take in the atmosphere and views. This would definitely be a great place to sit and have a drink while taking in the sunset. What a great way to relax after a busy day at the parks.

Another great thing about the Riviera Resort is that it’s located on the new Skyliner which you can take to both Epcot and Hollywood Studios. This is a great way to get to the parks from the hotel. I will admit the thought of being stuck on it kind of freaks me out but it’s so convenient. I took it from Caribbean Beach Resort to Hollywood Studios and it literally took me 10 minutes from walking out the door of my hotel room to walking into the park, you can’t get to a park much quicker than that

I highly recommend going and checking out this resort and Topolino’s Terrace. I think I’m going to need to check it out for dinner during sunset sometime.

A race fit for a Princess!

Next weekend I’ll be running my third Princess Half Marathon at Walt Disney World. I run a lot of runDisney races each year and this is by far my favorite of all of them! I’ve never been much of a girly girl, but I have always wanted to be a princess so a weekend where I can pretend I’m a princess while running through my favorite place in the world, count me in! This is definitely one of the most popular runDisney weekends and it’s one where most girls start their running journey.

The excitement of this race starts on Thursday when the expo opens. If you are determined to buy a lot of runDisney merchandise, be sure to arrive early on Thursday. The expo opens at 10am but people start lining up well before that. I try not to buy too much merchandise, so I prefer to go on Friday to miss the rush. Along with bib pickup and shopping there are also fun photo opportunities with characters and this fun one with the glass slipper!

Each year they pick a different princess as the theme of the race, this year it’s Cinderella and it coincides with the 70th anniversary of the premiere of the movie this month. They also feature different princesses for the 5K and 10K each year. They announce the princesses in advance which really helps for people that want to plan their costumes around the theme of each race. The race weekend includes a 10K and Half Marathon challenge currently called the Fairy Tale Challenge and formerly called the Glass Slipper Challenge. I may be biased, but I prefer the Glass Slipper Challenge myself.

Being that the race is held in February, the race weather varies every year. Some years it can be hot, humid Florida weather, other years it can be pretty chilly. The first time I ran this race weekend was in 2015. It might have been the coldest race weekend ever. I had left Boston where we had just received an unprecedented 7 feet of snow in a three week period hoping that I would escape the cold weather in Florida. That was not the case. I arrived at Disney on Thursday and the high that day was only 48 degrees and very windy, so the feels like temperature definitely must have been colder than that. While I was glad there was no snow on the ground, walking around Disney with temps in the 40s is just not fun. Friday morning for the 5K, it was in the low 30s with a feels like temp in the 20s, it was definitely well themed to have the 5K theme be Frozen, it was literally a Frozen 5K!

Disney loves to make you feel special, I was so excited to see that they had my name as Princess Susan on the race bib! Proof that I was a Princess for the weekend LOL

The thing that sets Princess Half Marathon weekend apart from other weekends like Wine & Dine Half Marathon weekend is that the course goes through the Magic Kingdom. There truly is something magical about running down Main Street and through Cinderella’s Castle! Have you run a race during Princess Half Marathon weekend? If not, definitely put it on your bucket list, even if you aren’t a runner, the 5K is a great race to take it all in. Enjoy the rest of my photos from my past Princess weekends. Hope to see some of you there next weekend!

The Mardi Gras City – New Orleans

Last week I talked about my visit to the capitol of the state of Louisiana. Now we are on to the most visited city in Louisiana, New Orleans. Mardi Gras is this month and this weekend the Rock n Roll New Orleans Marathon weekend.

Mardi Gras in New Orleans is one big party and the place to party when in New Orleans, no matter the time of year is Bourbon Street.

Even if you aren’t into partying, New Orleans has so much to offer. A stroll down Bourbon Street is a great way to check out the beautiful architecture and also a great people watching opportunity. There are numerous places to listen to some live jazz music along Bourbon Street. Also located on Bourbon Street is the Musical Legends Park which features statues of some of the most famous Jazz artists.

Need a break from walking, you can take horse drawn carriage ride down Bourbon Street or take a ride aboard the Steamboat Natchez down the Mississippi river. There are also numerous tours that you can take, including walking tours and food tours. New Orleans is a big foodie city known for such dishes as Jambalya, Gumbo and Po Boys.

New Orleans is also the home of Pat O’Brien’s where the famous cocktail Hurricane was invented. This bar has a beautiful outdoor seating area with a flaming fountain. The perfect atmosphere to enjoy a cocktail on a nice day or in the heat of summer, it’s a great place to check out after the sun goes down.

Looking to check out some history, Jackson Square is located in the heart of the French Quarter and is the site where Louisiana was made a United States territory back in 1803 pursuant to the Louisiana Purchase. This is such a beautiful area of the city, it’s definitely a great place to take some photos.

Another historic place to check out is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar. It’s one of the oldest bars in the United States as it’s been serving drinks since the 1700s. Since I love history, it was definitely one of my favorite places in New Orleans. When sitting in there I felt like I was transported back in time. They have done a great job in preserving the building. Even if you aren’t a big drinker, it’s definitely worth going in a checking it out especially if you love history.

While visiting New Orleans, I took a city tour to see the area outside of the French Quarter. I visited in the summer and was amazed as we drove down the street and there were still

Mardi Gras beads hanging in the trees from earlier in the year. The tour also took us by one of the Levee’s they have to stop the flooding during storms. After seeing just how large the Levee was, it gave me a new perspective as to just how much flooding they had during Hurricane Katrina. The highlight of the tour was when we stopped at one of the cemeteries. Due to the low lying land and risk of flooding, the cemeteries features graves that are built above ground, it’s definitely different than the cemeteries most of us are used to.

Have a sweet tooth? A visit to Cafe Du Monde is a must! They are known for their Beignets and they are by far the best Beignets I’ve ever had anywhere. A great place for an afternoon treat or to start your day with a coffee and some beignets for breakfast.

I definitely recommend New Orleans as a great long weekend trip. The summer month’s can get quite warm and there are the chance of afternoon storms and of course hurricane season is from June – November. So keep that in mind when planning the tim

Beach to Bayou

In my last post I talked about the Mississippi Gulf Coast Half Marathon. That race was part of the Beach to Bayou challenge. The final race in this challenge was the Louisiana Half Marathon which brought me to the Louisiana capitol, Baton Rouge. I unfortunately was dealing with a pretty bad case of hip bursitis so I wasn’t sure how I’d manage running the race, but I was excited to check out a new city, so I was off to Baton Rouge.

Baton Rouge has a beautiful downtown area along the Mississippi River. One of the highlights is the Old State Capitol Building pictured here. The architecture of the building is beautiful, it looks so much like a castle and each angle offers a different perspective. Inside the building is a museum dedicated to Louisiana’s history and it is absolutely free.

Along the Mississippi River there is a beautiful riverfront area complete with walking path and places to sit and take in the view. Also nearby are the USS Kidd war ship and also the Louisiana Art and Science Museum. There is definitely no shortage on things to do for the whole family.

The new capitol building is equally as impressive as the old one. It’s actually the tallest capitol building in the U.S. It was also the sight of the start and finish lines of the marathon and half marathon that Sunday. It was such a gorgeous area, I’m glad I went over there on Saturday to check out the area while it was empty. On Saturday the high was in the 70s and after leaving the 20 degrees in Boston, it felt beautiful. But all good things come to an end. Saturday night a cold front came through with some heavy rain and it was in the 40s/50s and very windy Sunday morning. The races started in front of the capitol and then headed through downtown.

From downtown it headed over to Louisiana State University, LSU, This was a pretty exciting year to be running through LSU. Earlier that week, their football team won the National Championship. On Saturday they had a big championship parade and celebration. The campus was full of National Champions Banners and their stadium looked very impressive, I’d actually really love to see a game there some day. The highlight of the campus is their mascot Mike the Tiger who unfortunately must have been napping or hiding somewhere trying to keep warm when I ran by. I would have loved to have seen him, not many colleges have a live animal as their mascot.

From the LSU campus, we then ran around University Lake which was just gorgeous. What a great path for the locals to enjoy running and walking. Not only the lake was beautiful, but the homes along the lake were beautiful as well. After running around the lake for a few miles, the race went back through the LSU campus on it’s way back to downtown.

My favorite thing about this race and the Mississippi gulf coast race was that the medals were the shape of the state, what a great way to celebrate finishing those states. The Beach to Bayou medal was huge, a good three to four times the size of the half marathon medal. This race also had one of the best finish line festivals of all the races I’ve done, which helped me somewhat forget that my hip was screaming at me and that I was freezing cold. They had vendors giving out free coffee, which I helped myself to two of those just to warm up. We each also got 6 tickets with our bib for food and beer. The food choices were amazing! Louisiana classics like Gumbo and Jambalaya. I just can’t say enough about how good the food was and my pictures definitely don’t do it justice

I would definitely recommend this race. Very well run, beautiful course, great finish line festival and such a great city to visit! I stayed at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center which was within walking distance to the start. They also offered a 3pm check out for runners which is key if checking out on race day. And they have an airport shuttle which was convenient and a money saver for people that don’t want to rent a car. And they were either still celebrating Christmas or gearing up for Mardi Gras with this Mardi Gras themed tree. Great hotel, great race, great food and great city!

Mississippi Gulf Coast

Running in all 50 states brings you to some places you never even thought to go. Believe it or not Biloxi, Mississippi was actually somewhere I had always wanted to visit. Years ago when I lived in Tampa, I remember constantly seeing commercials for the Beau Rivage Casino that was opening in Biloxi, MS. Well that commercial did it’s job because I have always wanted to stay there. So when I saw that was the hotel for the Mississippi Gulf Coast half marathon, I was sold on that race.

I arrived late on a Friday night and was dealing with the lingering effects of a cold, so I slept in a bit and then left the hotel to pick up my bib and explore. The casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast are pretty spread out, The Beau Rivage and the Hard Rock were both located in the heart of Biloxi. The bib pickup was located at the MGM Park which is home to the minor league Biloxi Shuckers. This was located just across the street from the Beau Rivage which is part of MGM Resorts International.

With the race being in December, the weather in Biloxi was a welcome change from the cold December weather of Boston. I enjoyed taking a walk down the street and checking out the sites along the way, with a quick stop in the Hard Rock casino to throw some money in a slot machine. Walking by the Gulf of Mexico had it’s typical calming effects on me, a perfect way to start a weekend.

I decided to have a late lunch as my carb loading meal and found this delicious restaurant called Sal and Mookie’s which specializes in Pizza. It’s a great restaurant to take a large group or family. I opted to sit at the bar which was in a separate room from the main restaurant. The servers were all great and the pizza and beer were delicious, I definitely recommend checking this place out.

The next morning I headed over to MGM Park for the race shuttle to the start of the race which was in Gulfport, MS. The race course was absolutely beautiful, 12 flat miles along the beach and then the last mile went up an on ramp onto a highway with and out and back and then off the highway with a finish in MGM Park.

Being a big baseball fan, I enjoyed finishing inside a baseball stadium, it made up for the hill of the highway ramp during the last mile. They had a great finish line festival with food from local restaurants and of course everyone’s favorite post race treat, beer. I had a pulled pork sandwich that was really delicious.

Some of the things to do in Biloxi include the beach (in warmer weather), the casinos, walking along the gulf, Biloxi lighthouse and for history buffs there’s the civil war era home, Beauvoir to explore. I’d definitely like to come back here in the warmer weather to enjoy the beach a little, I’ve always been a fan of Gulf Coast beaches.

Visiting in December though was a great time to check out the holiday decorations. The Beau Rivage Hotel really went all out on their decorations and they had a fun holiday show in their theater. Gulfport, MS also has the Harbor Lights Winter Festival every December.

I highly recommend a visit to Biloxi and definitely running the Mississippi Gulf Coast Marathon or Half Marathon to knock off the state of Mississippi. I mean who wouldn’t want to celebrate their race by having some beignets while overlooking this view?