Archive | February 2012

Tea at Laduree, Ginza

I don’t feel so guilty for not going to the gym this morning, because I woke up to sea of snow. The ever-picturesque view from my apartment window:

From Laduree

So that gives me extra time to do a blog post of the first afternoon tea for the year in Tokyo.

From Laduree

After running around watching the Tokyo Marathon on Sunday, I ended up in Ginza where I met a handful of friends for afternoon tea. I had chosen the venue with it’s location in mind – prime real estate in Ginza with views of the Marathon to boot.

From Tokyo Marathon 2012

The building on the corner in the photo above is where we had afternoon tea – on the second level of the Mitsukoshi departo (in the corner of the shoe section) is Laduree French tea salon.

From Laduree
From Laduree

We got there early (before midday) to secure a seat. This place gets busy and reservations not accepted.

From Laduree

It’s a little heavy on the French decor.

From Laduree

The sole reason for doing this venue on this day was to watch the marathon whilst having tea. The L-shaped tea salon has large glass windows with full views over the Ginza intersection, allowing front-row seats to the Tokyo Marathon. Check it out!

From Laduree
From Laduree
From Laduree

So yep, safe to say, that Laduree Tea Salon is the best place to go and watch the Tokyo Marathon with a cup of tea and macaroons in hand.

From Laduree

We we’re in fact here for food and tea. Laduree is both a tea salon and french patisserie. They have lots of beautiful-looking sweets to tempt the tastebuds:

From Laduree

The dessert to the left (in photo below) looked oppai-ish.

From Laduree
From Laduree
From Laduree

I started off with the champagne and macaroon set.

From Laduree

The menu here is quite extensive. They offer a la carte light dishes, the 3-tier afternoon tea set, as well as various lunch sets. We actually all ended up doing the lunch set instead of the afternoon tea set. I went with the omelette lunch set which came with an omelettte, mini bread roll, choice of dessert and choice of tea. I probably wouldn’t recommend the sandwich sets as they looked tiny (half a sandwich only). It was a truffle omlette too.

From Laduree
From Laduree

Had a little bit of food envy because a couple of the others got the hot lunch special – choice of fish or beef. They went the beef which looked delicious.

From Laduree

We could choose one dessert (from a select 4). So a friend and I chose a different one each and shared them.

From Laduree

The desserts here are pretty divine. They really excel in the patisserie department. I got to try the giant raspberry and lychee macaroon sandwich filled with raspberries. The other dessert was insanely delicious – chocolate, hazelnut, crispy goodness. Tasted like nutella. Really clean, sharp flavours. The tea selection here was also impressive. 3 pages of teas to choose from. You can choose any tea with the lunch sets.

From Laduree
From Laduree
From Laduree

The highlight of the day were the macaroons. Laduree is famous for their macaroons. I’m generally not a fan of them. Love looking at them, but I don’t enjoy them so much. The macaroons here won me over. They are totally worth it. And you’ve not had a macaroon until you’ve tried Laduree macaroons. Hands down, they win the best macaroon award in Tokyo (to date). This is their specialty. I got to choose two flavours from the window selection.

From Laduree

I settled on the chocolate madagascar macaroon and the citron macaroon. Simply divine. Totally satisfied with my selection. The chocolate madagascar was yummy and the citron was amazing lemon creamy tartiness. Imagine a lemon meringue pie captured in a macaroon. And the texture of these macaroon were amazing.

From Laduree

Macaroon Tower:

From Laduree

Laduree Tea Salon: Level 2, Mitsukoshi department store, Ginza But there’s a bunch of them around Japan. Also one in Nihonbashi (Tokyo). Afternoon tea and lunch sets vary between 3200-3500yen. Champagne and macaroon set 1800yen A la carte also available.

My first half-marathon

Have just crawled my way through a half marathon race. Show me the chocolate! Stat! And a new pair of legs while you’re at it. I eat. I swim. I walk. I travel. I drink. I work. I poop. I sleep. But ‘run’ is not a verb in my repertoire. So it may surprise you to know that I ran – actually ‘attended’ or ‘participated’ in would be a more accurate description – in my first half marathon. Might be my last as well. Don’t plan on doing that again any time soon.

Don’t know why they call these things “fun runs”. Traumatising, is what it was. Fun is a theme park. Fun is a holiday. A run is not fun. 21.097494 kilometres. 13.1094 miles. A half marathon. The first 21km were fine. It’s those last .097494 kilometres that got to me! Because I didn’t get lucky in the Tokyo Marathon lottery this year (which I think may be a blessing, in light of today’s efforts), I decided last year to do a half marathon in the same month instead.

I can officially say I have completed my first half marathon today – the Tokyo-Akabane half marathon. That’s 2 hours and 45 minutes of my life I will never get back. So yes, a PB! Should be pretty easy to beat, coz I doubt I could ever run this slow again. My form was neither fast nor pretty but I did make it across the finish line in one piece…barely. That wise guy Confucius said: “It does not matter how slowly you go, so long as you do not stop”. Yeah, I bet Confucius never ran a half marathon in his damn life! Talk to the hand, brother. I mean, what kind of name is Confucius anyway.

It was a race which almost didn’t happen. I made it to the race in the nick of time. For some reason I thought it started at 11:30am, so I figured I should get there around 11am. Fark me. It started at 11:10am! I had to run from the train station to the start point. I arrived with barely five minutes to spare, and was at the back of the pack coz I had arrived so late. It was a brisk 8 degrees but at least the sun was out. No rain. No snow. But there was plenty of wind and chill factor. And then the torture began. First 10km was bearable. By no means enjoyable. It was a hairpin course along the Arakawa River which meant that we ran the 10.5 something k’s and then looped back around the exact way we came.

I had my runkeeper app going to keep track of my pace whilst listening to my half marathon music playlist. And then at the 17km mark my iPhone battery died. And with it my music and my spirits. At least I know that ‘I’ can last a half marathon. Sadly, the iPhone can not. I had anticipated that this would happen. I had done a 20km practice run two weeks prior, and the battery didn’t last then either. The last 4 kilometres therefore were music-less. A fate worse than death. 15km in, and things started to go downhill. Body system shutdown. My legs were starting to cave. There’s a fine line between a ridiculously slow jog and a fast walk. At what point does a walk become a jog and vice versa?

The second part of the course was also super windy as we were running right into it for the last 10km. Also had girly stomach cramps. And feeling cold. No fun at all. The run/walk turned into a crawl. Was feeling really drained and slightly nauseous. Kept thinking that I would need to puke like those people on Biggest Loser at the slightest physical exertion. Thankfully, that never happened. Just counting down the k’s to end this misery. For the last 5km’s, the only thing that consumed my thoughts was ‘sugar’. Wanted sugar. Needed sugar. Stat. I hadn’t eaten enough before the race because I was running so late. Two hard-boiled eggs for breakfast were the only things I had consumed pre-race and are what got me to the finish line. I had packed bananas and had planned on eating them prior to the race but with barely enough time to get to the start line to begin with there was no time for bananas before the starting gun. I desperately wanted some sports drink during the race course, but they were only offering water. “Sugar. Chocolate. Sports drink.” Anything. Needed energy.

I don’t recommend running a half marathon on very little training. Do not try this at home, kiddies. Should’ve trained more. Should have trained. Full stop. Made it to the finish line just within the 3-hour race limit. Official time was an officially embarrassing 2 hours, 45 minutes and 6 seconds. Safe to say, I ain’t a runner. I really should stick to swimming. By some sheer miracle I did not come last. That title went to some other poor soul (with poor soles).

Here is a breakdown of my pace/km splits up until the 17km mark when my iPhone battery died. Times are indicative only. The start time I pressed on my iPhone may differ from the official time on my run chip.

From Half marathon
From Half marathon

After the 10km mark, my times got slower…

From Half marathon

and slower…

From Half marathon

From the 18km to the finish line, I think I was doing 11-12min plus/km as I was half walking, half jogging, praying that my legs wouldn’t break off. I almost thought about getting on all fours, except damn pride stopped me. Crossed the finish mat and was ready to keel over. They finally offered us that sugary sports drink that I had been yearning for. They made us run 21km to earn it. Was really cold at the end of the race. Sat on the grass to rest my weary legs and wrapped myself up in my trackpants, jacket and scarf. Wolfed down two chocolate bars and a banana. A banana has never tasted so freaking delicious. That was a 3 Michelin star banana, to be sure. It was that amazing. All I needed now was a drip to intravenously inject sugar into my bloodstream. Race done and dusted.

Next hurdle…to walk/limp all the way back to the train station. The walk back was somewhat worthwhile. There’s a Mister Donut right next to Akabane station. Just the man I wanted to see. And there was a donut sale (100yen donuts). I bought two. I had earnt them! As if to add insult to injury, I had to stand up on the trains all the way back home. As if running a half marathon wasn’t tiring enough for my feet. Those train courtesy seats should not only be extended to pregnant women and handicapable peoples, but to those who have also run 21km.

Home, a bath and a cup of tea never felt so good. I am now going to have be surgically removed from my bed. I am exhausted. I feel like a broken woman. My knees are shattered. Some minor toe blisters as well. And to think that a full marathon is double that!!! The thought of doing that all over again is enough to make me run walk crawl for the hills. The first of my sporting goals for 2012 is done. Another three to go! For details of my training or lack thereof, you can check out the running blog I’ve been keeping for a while, over here.

And finally, now I ain’t no Confucius, but some sage words of wisdom would be: “One who is foolish enough to enter a half-marathon must be willing to punish themselves, and get their training on!”