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Europe, Travel, UK

Visiting Myrtle Farm – The Home of Thatchers Cider

October 21, 2018

Thatchers cider.

Those two words bring back countless happy memories of sitting in a beer garden in the summer, sipping on a cold pint.

Being a west country girl, I’ve always preferred cider to beer so imagine my delight when I got a chance to visit Myrtle Farm, the actual home of Thatchers! I’d always known that the Thatchers farm wasn’t that far from Bristol but it’s one of those things that you never get around to doing, isn’t it? But on a cold, rainy Saturday, I made the half an hour journey with a group of other Bristol bloggers who were all equally excited to look around the farm and drink some cider.

We were greeted by the Thatchers team in The Railway Inn – a beautiful pub next door to the farm and factory. We warmed up with some hot drinks (tea & coffee only, apparently 10am is too early for a Haze!) and got to pick our three courses for our meal later. The whole menu looked amazing so this took a while!

Food ordered, it was time to get our high vis and wellies on and head out to the orchards. It may have been miserable but I’m still glad we got to go out and see where the apples are grown. I’ve never really given much thought to the process of how cider is made so it was good to hear about the different types of apples and the harvesting process. We were really lucky to be able to visit during harvest season so got to see some apples being delivered. The sight of 30 tons of apples falling is something I won’t forget!

The process of making Thatchers cider was very secretive and we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside most of the factory but we could in the giant room filled with huge oak barrels. I always find it interesting to learn about how something is made. We got to follow the process from the orchards to the cider being bottled and canned.

With our brains full of information, it was time for tasters – yay! Before my visit I’d tried Gold, Haze, Katy and Family Reserve before. These are usually available in local pubs, especially Thatchers Gold but Thatchers have tons of other options which are only available at the farmshop or in The Railway Inn. These vary from the extra strong Redstreak to the delicate Rosé. It was great to try some different ciders and learn how they’re made – it’s amazing what tweaking a few apples will do!

With plenty of cider inside us, it was time to line our stomachs. Now, I don’t know what I was expecting from a meal at Thatchers but I definitely wasn’t expecting food of the standard I got. It. Was. Beautiful. Nearly every meal was influenced by cider or apples and looked and tasted incredible. I had the scotch eggs with Thatchers ketchup to start, followed by the gnocchi and the Haze sorbet (obviously) to finish.

It’s safe to say that a visit to Myrtle Farm wouldn’t be complete without a meal at The Railway Inn.

Thank you to everyone involved in the visit. Thatchers is a family company and it’s clear everyone loves working there. You were all friendly and full of information. It was great to meet the people behind one of my favourite drinks!

My visit to Myrtle Farm included a complimentary tour, tasters and meal at The Railway Inn. The free cider did not influence my views, promise! 

Europe, Italy, Travel

Can you see Venice in just one day?

September 2, 2018

I’ve always thought of Venice as somewhere that I’d visit for a weekend with Stu. One day surely isn’t enough to see Venice? A whole city in one day? I’d never suggest that someone could see Paris or Amsterdam in one day so why should Venice be any different?

However, during our holiday to Croatia this year, one of the trips available was a day trip to Venice. It seemed a good price (about £70 each) and I’d never been to Italy before so it was too good an opportunity to miss.

Our visit to Venice was only the second full day of our holiday so we’d barely seen any of Croatia yet. We were staying near Pula which is why Italy was so easy to get to. Pula to Venice is only a 3 hour ferry trip. Now 3 hours may seem like a long time, especially when you’re coming back later that same day. If 6 hours of your day are spent travelling, how much time do you actually get in Venice? Well the trip we were on gave us 6 hours in Venice. And I’m here to say that I think 6 hours was just about enough for a first trip to this city.

We travelled with Venezia Lines who try and sell you a load of extras like lunch, transfers to Piazza San Marco (the central point of Venice) and gondola rides. My advice is to ignore all the extras and explore Venice yourself. You don’t need to pay for transfers, the square is about a 20 minute walk and you get to see more of this beautiful city. The reviews on TripAdvisor reveal that the lunch is awful and there’s no excuse to have awful food in Italy when there are so many wonderful options out there.

Having 6 hours to ourselves in Venice was absolute bliss. We wandered the streets, crossed countless bridges and became captivated by this stunning city. I think the fact that Venice doesn’t have dozens of landmarks that you feel you HAVE to see goes in it’s favour. You’re not rushing from place to place and have the time to take in all of the pretty coloured buildings and watch Venetians and tourists go about their days. In fact one of my favourite parts of the day was when we stumbled across a little bar and sat outside with an Aperol Spritz and a beer and just watched the world go by. The free bar snacks probably helped as well.

So our day trip to Venice consisted of lots of walking, a gorgeous lunch (walk away from Piazza San Marco to save yourself some money), plenty of photos and even more people watching. Neither of us fancied a gondola ride which look nowhere near as romantic as you’d expect them to be – too many gondolas competing for space – but there would have been plenty of time for one if we did want one. Oh, and I can’t forget that we even managed to squeeze in the most delicious Italian gelato! I went for a peanut butter flavoured one and it was INCREDIBLE!

Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure there’s plenty more of Venice to see and lots more restaurants and bars that we would have loved to have checked out, but our little day trip was enough for now. It gave me a taste of Italy and although I now don’t feel the need to rush to Venice, I definitely want to see more of the country.

Europe, Travel, UK

Escape Hunt Bristol – The Last Samurai Review

April 16, 2018

Okay so escape rooms are my new favourite thing. A few weeks ago I headed to Bristol’s newest escape room in Cabot Circus not really knowing what to expect and I honestly think I could do one every week now.

I’ve wanted to try an escape room for ages so when I was invited to try out ‘The Last Samurai’ themed room at Escape Hunt Bristol, I jumped at the chance. So I armed myself with 3 others and headed to Cabot Circus with a mix of nerves and excitement.

We were all escape room virgins and had no idea what to expect. How hard would it be? Would it be scary? Would we get trapped in the room forever?

We were greeted by our games master, Cody who sat us down and explained all the rules and regulations and then got us hyped and ready to play! Before we knew it we were being led into the room and had 60 minutes to escape!

It’s no phones in the room, you’ve just got your mind and your team mates to help you escape. Obviously I won’t give anything away here as I wouldn’t want to spoil your experience but it’s SO MUCH FUN. There’s lots of different types of clues and challenges which play to different people’s strengths so you’re forced to work together.

After 48 minutes, we made it out! We were absolutely buzzing afterwards and could have gone straight in to a different room if we had a chance, I didn’t want the experience to end! Cody calmed us down with a glass of prosecco each and let us take some pictures with the Samurai props which was fun.

We all had such a good time and can’t wait to come back in May to try out the WW2 themed room. Thanks for the invite Escape Hunt!

Myself and 3 guests received free entry to Escape Hunt Bristol in return for a blog post – but it was so much fun and you really really need to go!

Europe, Travel, UK

Being Brunel – Bristol’s Newest Attraction

April 7, 2018

If you’re local to Bristol, you would have heard about the new Being Brunel museum that has recently opened next to the SS Great Britain. I was lucky enough to visit the day after it opened and had a chance to explore with a group of bloggers and their families. Being a proud Bristolian (without the accent though haha), I was so excited to visit. I went to the SS Great Britain on a primary school trip years ago and my only memory is of low ceilings and scary wax work people.

The new museum is a great mix of interactive displays and personal artefacts from Brunel and his family and work colleagues. There were plenty of families with young children visiting and with actors dressed up and a moving train carriage, they’ll definitely be entertained. I loved that there were so many artefacts hidden away in drawers that you were encouraged to open. You can see why your ticket price includes unlimited revisits for a year because there is so much to see!

The huge Brunel in the main room houses a gateway into Brunel’s ‘mind’ so you can experience life in the 1800s. You can also explore Brunel’s office which has been fully restored so you can see where he designed the SS Great Britain.

I was so surprised at just how much I learnt about Brunel. I didn’t even know that the Clifton Suspension Bridge was finished after Brunel died! The team at the SS Great Britain Trust have done a great job and I’m sure Being Brunel will soon become one of Bristol’s biggest attractions.

After walking around the Being Brunel museum, we decided to explore the SS Great Britain for the first time in years. I don’t remember being able to walk under the ship before so that was quite cool but the ship itself is still full of the scary wax work people. In fact, now that they’re 15 years older, they’re probably even scarier!

When we left (about 3 hours after we arrived) there was a queue to get in so I hope the opening weekend was a success. It’s an ideal way to spend a few hours learning more about the man who shaped Bristol.

Have you visited the SS Great Britain or the Being Brunel museum yet? What did you think?

I received 2 free tickets for the Being Brunel museum in exchange for a review. Adult tickets are usually £16.50 and provide unlimited revisits for 12 months. 

Europe, Travel, UK

Bristol Airport – AspirePlus Lounge – An Honest Review

March 10, 2018

If you’re thinking of paying to use the AspirePlus Lounge at Bristol Airport, then I  suggest you have a read of my review first. I paid to use the AspirePlus Lounge myself, so this is an honest and unbiased review.

Unless you’re flying for work purposes, usually the airport is the first chance to treat yourself as your holiday begins. Whatever the time is, OF COURSE you’re going to have a drink. Bar snacks? Stack them up! This is what me and Stu tend to get up to before we go away but the day we flew to Iceland was actually Stu’s birthday so I wanted to do something a little extra as a surprise. So when I got the email from Bristol airport recommending I book one of the lounges, it seemed like the perfect birthday treat.

First of all, you have the choice of the Aspire Lounge or AspirePlus. The main difference is that kids aren’t allowed in the AspirePlus lounge and this was probably the main reason I paid a bit extra and went for the Plus option which came to about £30 each. It also sounded like a wider selection of food and drink and when you consider that Stu and I love food, it was a no-brainer. Booking through the website is really simple, you just select what time you’ll be arriving and then print off the booking confirmation. The confirmation also comes with clear instructions on actually finding AspirePlus once you’re through to the departure lounge.

We were flying to Iceland fairly early (about 8 am) so got to AspirePlus about 6 am. The perfect time for a cooked breakfast and a cheeky pint or prosecco before our flight! We walked into the lounge and there was no one else there. I don’t just mean any other guests, there didn’t seem to be anyone working there. We kind of hovered in the entrance for a moment or two and then decided to just go and take a seat. Once we sat down, a member of staff appeared and asked to see our booking confirmation. They then pointed us towards the bar where the food was laid out ready for us to help ourselves. The staff member then asked if we’d like any drinks from the bar (obviously we said yes). I noticed when we were at the bar that we weren’t going to be having many alcoholic drinks this morning. They have a sign stating that your first drink will be served as normal. On your second drink, you will be reminded that you won’t be admitted on to an aircraft drunk and your third drink will be your last. Admittedly, we probably wouldn’t have had 3 drinks anyway but it just felt like a bit of a killjoy. I guess it needs to be there though as some people will take full advantage of ‘free’ alcohol.

So, the food. Like most ‘all you can eat’/help yourself restaurants, the plates are much smaller than you’d like. This is obviously a tactic to stop people eating a ridiculous amount but it never deters me or Stu. If we have to go up 3 or 4 times until we feel full, so be it. I can see why some people would feel bad for going up this many times though and that’s how these sort of places make their money.

There was a fairly good selection of hot and cold food and we both had a bit of both. As it was a buffet style, you don’t know how long the food has been sat there and a lot of the hot food had pieces of kitchen roll laid over the top. It’s not that appealing to have to peel back the kitchen roll to get to your beans but it all tasted fine. There was a sign that advised that pancakes could be ordered from a member of staff but neither of us got any. I did the standard thing you do at a buffet and chose an array of items that don’t quite go together on one plate. I’m talking bacon and sausages next to a croissant and some shortbread. It’s a great way to start a holiday haha.

As I mentioned before, all the food was fine. Not mind blowing but good enough. Should somewhere called AspirePlus serve more than ‘good enough’ food? It doesn’t quite meet expectations. There’s a few nice places to eat in Bristol Airport which offer much nicer food, just not in a private lounge.

One thing we found was that it wasn’t the easiest to eat your food because the tables are much lower than the seats so you have to kind of hunch over. It didn’t bother us too much but isn’t the best for your back.

After a bit of peace and quiet? This may be the perfect place for you to start your trip. But for me, there’s a difference between somewhere being peaceful and somewhere having zero atmosphere. It felt awkward to talk in a normal speaking voice for god’s sake!

I understand that they need to make money, but the lounge didn’t seem to be designed to do what people go there for. You feel awkward for drinking, awkward for asking for the additional food and when you have the food, it’s awkward to eat. In all honesty, I wouldn’t hurry back. I’m much happier having my breakfast in the Brunel bar with the masses.

Have you ever used a private lounge in an Airport? What was your experience like?

Europe, Iceland, Travel

A Long Weekend in Iceland

January 13, 2018

December 2017 saw me and Stu finally tick a destination off our bucket list which has been on there for years… ICELAND! We were there from Thursday to Sunday and it was absolutely brilliant. Everything we wanted and more.

Here’s what we managed to do on our 3 day/4 night trip.

Day 1

We arrived about midday after flying from Bristol with Easyjet. After collecting our luggage (and saying hello to the puffin hanging from the ceiling) we headed outside to get our transfer coach to the hotel. We both had our warm coats on and a couple of other layers but no hats, scarves or gloves at this point. Our initial thoughts were, “This isn’t that bad” and then suddenly the cold hits you. My hands felt like they were going to drop off and I huddled into Stu to try and keep warm. Luckily there wasn’t much of a queue and we were on the coach within minutes. All the coaches we went on during the trip were nice and warm so there was never any problems staying warm when travelling.

It was about a 45 minute journey from the airport to central Reykjavik and the views on the journey are amazing. It’s totally different landscape to anywhere I’ve been before and I was completely awestruck and couldn’t wait to explore.

We couldn’t check in to our hotel until 3pm so had a few hours to walk around Reykjavik. The first thing on our mind was food so we walked down the main road keeping an eye out for places to eat. We kept getting distracted though because Reykjavik is full of quirky colourful buildings and it’s right next to more amazing scenery. Being winter, the sun was low and this made the surrounding mountains look almost purple. Pictures just can’t do it justice. In fact, it’s hard to get a picture because you risk frost bite when you take your gloves off to get a picture.

For lunch we went to SÆTA SVÍNIÐ, a small pub by Ingólfur Square. We both went for a lamb sandwich which came with waffle chips. It was absolutely gorgeous! We found out afterwards that lamb is a favourite for Iceland and it definitely didn’t disappoint. The portion sizes were huge as well!  This was our first experience of Icelandic prices and two meals, a beer and a coffee came to £65. So, not cheap. Stu’s pint was about £10 and this did turn out to be his most expensive one of the trip. When I had wine, it tended to be about £8-£10 for a glass. So yes, Iceland is expensive but you can find cheaper food if you don’t want a sit down meal every time and there’s plenty of happy hours to take advantage of for drinks.

Night 1 – Northern Lights tour with Grayline.

Having the chance to see the Northern Lights are probably one of the main attractions to Iceland. We’ve all seen those fantastic images of the green lights shooting across the skies. I booked all of our tours with Grayline before we left because I found a discount code online (See5 if it still works!).

We were picked up about 8pm and then headed out of the city to chase the lights. We had a brilliant tour guide who told us loads of interesting facts and kept the excitement high in the group. Now, most people me and Stu know who had been to Iceland before, hadn’t seen the Northern Lights so we had low expectations. In fact, our expectations were at an all time low because the nightly forecast put our chances at a 2 on a scale of 1 to 9.

However…

About half an hour in to the trip, the coach driver turned off all the interior lights and we were asked to look to our left. Above the mountains, the tour guide pointed out something that looked like a strange cloud formation. This was what the Northern Lights looked like as they were developing. We couldn’t believe it, we were going to see them!

We pulled over shortly after this in the middle of the National Park and our tour guide showed us how to set our cameras to get the best possible pictures. This is the thing that no one really tells you about the lights. All the vibrant colours are invisible to the human eye and only your camera can capture them. What you see is very pale green colours in the sky. We were extra lucky and the lights decided to dance on this night so we got to see all the different movements as well as the static formation. I was probably the coldest I’ve ever been, and ever will be, despite lots of layers but it was so worth it! I can’t describe how special the experience was. Our photos seriously don’t do it justice. We probably spent about an hour and a half watching them and then it was time to head back to the hotel.

Most of the tour operators offer you the chance to return and try again the next night if you don’t see the lights so don’t worry if you miss out the first time.

Day 2

As we knew the previous night was going to be a late one, we decided to book the blue lagoon for our second day. There’s no better way to relax than in a lagoon right? We weren’t due at the lagoon until 1pm so had a little stroll into the centre in the morning for breakfast. As it doesn’t get light until 11am it felt strange trying to find somewhere to eat in the pitch black. The streets were really quiet as well so we felt like we’d got out of bed at the wrong time. We decided to try out The Laundromat Cafe which had nice interiors and was decorated for Christmas. The prices in here were a lot more reasonable as well. We could have probably picked anything from the breakfast menu but eventually decided on the banana and blueberry pancakes and scrambled eggs and bacon on rye bread. We even shared because we both wanted to try more than one dish!

It was getting light when we left so we got to appreciate all the cute coloured houses and street art on our walk back to the hotel. It’s weird visiting a country and not getting many chances to see it in daylight!

So, the blue lagoon. We went for the Premium package which gave you a few extras on top of the standard ticket. These included a drink at the swim up bar, a dressing gown and an extra face mask. You can upgrade on the day so don’t worry if you’re not sure what to go for just yet. Once we’d changed in to our swim stuff, we decided to take a few photos before getting in the lagoon. Unfortunately our GoPro ran out of battery and we didn’t bring the charger so had to make do with our phones. Once we were happy with our shots, we had our first dip! The outside temperature was about -7 and the water 37 degrees so it was absolute bliss. It’s really, really steamy so you can’t see that far in front of you but that just adds to the experience. You feel like you’re exploring the whole lagoon and keep coming across new areas.

We decided to have our free drinks first so headed over to the bar area. It was amazing to have a glass of wine and just people watch for a bit. Everyone looked so happy! Well, everyone apart from the lifeguards who looked bloody freezing. I would not want their jobs!

After a little swim and explore we went to try out the face masks. Stu was a bit tentative at first but soon immersed himself in the experience when he realised that everyone was using the masks. I completely caked it on so probably looked more scary than relaxed.

There’s absolutely loads to see at the blue lagoon. There’s a little cave with a voiceover telling you the history of the lagoon, there’s a steam room and a sauna and there’s a waterfall! We spent about 3 and a half hours there and could have stayed longer really. All the tickets let you stay until close so you can truly relax and enjoy yourself.

For our second night we decided to go to the Hard Rock Café which only opened in 2016. Yes we are those people that visit chain restaurants when on holiday. I’m sorry but the nachos are just too good. We also had a walk around the town as it was lit up for Christmas and had an ice rink in the square. Another reason we were so glad to see the Northern Lights on our first night was because it meant we had some evenings to ourselves and not on a tour. I would have felt that we hadn’t spent enough time in Reykjavik if we’d spent every night on a coach trying to see the lights again.

Day 3

Our third day was spent on an all day trip with Grayline on the Golden Circle classic tour. The Golden Circle is basically the name of the trip which shows you all the main natural landmarks in the area. Along with the blue lagoon and the northern lights, it’s probably one of the most popular attractions for those visiting Iceland. We were really excited for this trip so we could see all the amazing scenery up close and feel like an extra on Game of Thrones.

Again, our Grayline tour guide and driver were fantastic in keeping the group entertained with stories about Iceland. I was especially impressed that our guide quizzed us on what he’d told us with Mars bars for prizes! Miss Competitive over here obviously won one!

So the Golden Circle tour takes you to Þingvellir National Park, the Geysir geothermal area and the Gullfoss Waterfall. We also stopped off at another waterfall and to see some Icelandic horses!

The first stop at the National Park was very pretty as the sun was just coming up. Now when you’re at this National Park, you actually get to visit two continents… sort of. This is the point where the tectonic plates of North America and Europe meet. Little geography lesson for you there. Þingvellir is also where the old Icelandic leaders used to meet to make important decisions so it’s quite a cool landmark to visit. You’ll also get some amazing photos here.

We headed to the Gullfoss waterfall next which is a huge double waterfall. When my Dad and Stepmum visited, it was completely frozen but it was still flowing for us. It was bitterly cold here with the wind and spray but it’s an impressive sight. I know I keep going on about how amazing the landscape is in Iceland but it really is. I felt like I was on another planet, not just a 3 hour flight away from Bristol.

The last main stop was the Geysir area. This was cool. Every 5 minutes or so, one of the hot springs blasts out a huge column of water into the air and Stu took a great picture of it. Everyone gathers around the spring and watches it bubble away and then suddenly a huge bubble grows and then the water shoots out! Just writing about it is making me want to go again!

On the way back, we made one last little stop to a cute church. The sun was setting as we were there and it made for a great end to the day. This was a fantastic trip and one I would highly recommend. I can’t even pick a favourite stop of the day it was all that good.

Our final night arrived far too quickly. How could our bucketlist trip be almost over? We couldn’t decide where to go to eat on this night. In fact, we even bought a hot dog from a stall to eat whilst walking up and down the streets trying to decide on a restaurant. In fairness, it was a nice hot dog. Eventually, we decided on a cosy Italian restaurant which I can’t remember the name of. If I can find it on google maps, I’ll add the link as it was lovely food and a great atmosphere in there. As it was our last night, we decided to ignore Iceland prices and just eat and drink as much as we wanted. The way it should be on holiday! After having some bruschetta each to start, Stu decided to try some Icelandic cuisine and went for a salted cod pizza for his main and I had a pasta dish. Delicious!

Day 4

Our last day was basically travelling home because our flight was at midday. We had breakfast at the airport and then had one last look at this beautiful country from the window of the plane. It’s just phenomenal. It’s only a 3 hour flight to Bristol so we were soon back home and actually got greeted by even more snow. My car was covered by a few inches at the airport and it was nice to have a pretty landscape at home as well.

As you can see it was a lot to fit in to one trip. If we hadn’t seen the Northern Lights on our first night, we would have spent potentially the next two nights on that trip again. That would have left us with very little time to explore Reykjavik. We barely saw it in daylight as it was so had to get all our daytime pictures on the first day. 3 days/4 nights is enough time for your first trip to Iceland but only just. It will leave you wanting more, especially if you miss out on seeing the lights.

If I was to go again (which I’d love to!), I’d definitely go in the Summer to experience the 24 hours of sunshine and see the icy landscape transformed. There’s also so much more of the island to explore, like the glaciers and ice caves. We’re both big Game of Thrones fans so that tour was tempting but we didn’t have long enough this time.

Iceland, you were great.

Health & Fitness, Travel, UK

HarSpa at Bristol Harbour Hotel

December 18, 2017

Christmas may be the time of giving but I’m a big believer in looking after yourself so when I was invited to Bristol Harbour Hotel‘s spa facilities, I made sure I could attend.

I’d had a busy day at work and then rushed to the Harbour Hotel. Recently opened, this was my first visit so I had no idea what to expect. The entrance was fairly standard of a nice hotel but the spa is the hidden gem of this building.

The building used to be a bank and the spa has been built within the original bank vaults. It’s so cool! I’m talking curved ceilings, big vault doors and lots of twists and turns. It’s worth a visit just to see the vault doors to be honest!

I was greeted by the spa manager Kayley who booked me in for my treatment later in the evening and I then got to catch up with the other Bristol bloggers with a glass of prosecco. To get us in the Christmas spirit, we were soon given Christmas pudding cocktails. I had no idea what this would taste like and it was basically very very strong. I’m still not sure what the main flavour was…

Kayley then told us more about the spa and the express spa treatments that have been introduced recently. Kayley is so passionate about the Harbour Spa and it’s clearly got a very exciting future. It’s a beautiful hotel in a great location so I’m sure the new spa will be very popular in the area.

Before long it was time for my treatment! I decided to go for a head and scalp massage. Walking to my treatment room, I got a sneak peek of the pool area and other relaxation spaces. It looked incredible and somewhere I’d love to spend a few hours. My massage was an absolute dream and I’m pretty sure I did almost start dreaming at one point… I felt so relaxed and my masseuse clearly explained all the products and what she would be doing. I love that feeling after a massage when you feel completely rejuvenated and even this little taster gave me that feeling. I can’t wait to return for a longer spa visit.

After my treatment I got to have a little look around the rest of the hotel. If you’re ever in the area then you need to check out the incredible Gold Bar. Ideal for some Christmas cocktails!

As always, I’m incredibly grateful that this blog offers me the chance to review beautiful places like this and this taster evening reminded me how much I love a spa day. You don’t always think of visiting somewhere so close to home but I’ll definitely be booking a visit in early next year!

Whether you’re after a last minute Christmas gift or want to get 2018 off to a relaxing start, make sure you check out the treatments available at the Harbour Spa!

 

Belgium, Europe, Travel

24 (ish) Hours in Bruges

August 9, 2017

Before we went to Amsterdam the other week, we stayed in Bruges for 1 night so had a bit of time to explore the city and some of the surrounding area. This was very much a stopover on our way to our main destination so there is plenty more to see and see in Bruges but it was a good little introduction to this beautiful place.

This wasn’t my first trip to Belgium but I was quite young the first time and my overriding memory of my visit is getting horrifically seasick on the ferry over. So not the best memory to associate with Belgium. We did the ferry this time as well but I was armed with travel sickness tablets and felt absolutely fine. Phew! The weatherman had promised us a bit of sunshine so we decided to drive to a beach in Belgium on the way to Bruges.


The beach was in Niewpoort and we were all pleasantly surprised. With no idea what to expect, Niewport beach turned out to be a really pretty beach surrounded by sand dunes. Being able to feel the sand between my toes always makes me happy and this time was no different. One day I’d love to live close enough to the beach to be able to do this more often. Anyway, we found a sheltered area between the dunes and spread our towels out so we could have a sit down and look out to sea. Our friends who we were travelling with, Nath and Tash, are getting married later this month so there was plenty of wedding talk whilst we relaxed. The sun soon made its promised appearance and we decided to walk down to the shore. Nath decided to have a proper dip in the sea but the rest of us settled for rolling up our jeans and going in about ankle deep. The sea air soon made us thirsty and we walked a bit further along the beach and came across this cute little bar behind some sand dunes. We bagsied the swinging bed and made ourselves comfy with a pint. Stu and Tash went for a local 8% beer which actually turned out to be the weakest beer we’d try in Belgium. We love Belgium.


After our pint and swing session we got back in the car and drove to our accommodation in Bruges. We were staying within the city walls in the old town so were surrounded by picturesque bridges and buildings.


So, what is there to do in Bruges? I had done zero research but Tash was super organised and had lots of ideas of what we could see and do. When I think of Belgium I think of beer and chocolate but Bruges has a lot more to offer. We decided to head out and aim for some of the main sights and then just see how the day goes.


Our first stop was The Basilica of the Holy Blood which is a chapel which is home to a phial which apparently contains some of Jesus’ blood. Unfortunately it wasn’t on display when we were there but we’ve seen where it is kept which is practically the same thing right? The chapel itself was really impressive with huge stained glass windows and intricate displays. I love visiting religious buildings as you usually have to be silent and it’s nice to be able to take in your surroundings peacefully.


From the chapel we walked to the historic centre of Bruges which is surrounded by impressive buildings in the traditional architecture.  A lot of these buildings including the bell tower are in the film, In Bruges, which I haven’t seen but feel like I should now. We had a little mooch around a chocolate shop near here but didn’t buy anything. We must be one of the only people to visit Belgium and not try and chocolate. Next time!


However, what we lacked in chocolate, we definitely made up for in beer. The 8% beer on the beach was followed up by an 11% one called Garre Tripel served in a tiny pub called De Garre which is nestled down a tiny alley way off the main square. This beer is only available here and is well worth the visit. It may be strong but as a non-beer drinker, I can promise you that it’s nice. It came served with some cubes of local cheese and we ordered some chopped cured sausage as well. Perfection!


We wandered around the canals for the rest of the afternoon/evening, popping in to local pubs and sampling more Belgium beer. I never drink beer and surprised myself how much I enjoyed it. I quickly learnt that a strong blonde beer would be fine for me so I’ll have to keep an eye out for these in future. In one of these pubs we stopped for some food. The waitress recommended some simple Italian dishes which turned out to be huge portions covered in cheese. My mouth is watering just thinking of them again. Before long, we headed back to our accommodation feeling very content with our time in Bruges.

I think I now need to go and watch ‘In Bruges’ and get planning a longer trip to this great city.

Have you been to Bruges? What else would you recommend to see or do?

Europe, The Netherlands, Travel

The Restaurant in Amsterdam that you NEED to know about.

August 7, 2017

When you visit a new city it’s sometimes hard to know where to eat. Especially in a place like Amsterdam where all the streets look the same and it’s difficult to tell one pub from another. If you’re after somewhere a bit different outside of the main city then read on.

Introducing Plekk.


Plekk is a short ferry ride from Central Station in North Amsterdam. The ferry is free and only takes about 15 minutes. When you get across the water don’t be put off by your surroundings. It may seem a bit deserted but you’re only a 5 minute walk away from Plekk. You can’t miss it either as it’s built from colourful shipping containers.


So what’s so special about Plekk? Well, it’s right on the beach for one. You can sit inside but the best seats are the long benches outside. Expect to share with other people but this just adds to the friendly atmosphere of the place. Sit down and look across the water at Amsterdam. We went on our last night in Amsterdam so it was great to look at where we had spent a great few days with friends.


Food wise, everything looked good but we went for some tapas options. We pretty much went for one of everything from the menu and shared 7 dishes between four of us. It’s always difficult to know how much tapas to order but our waitress thought 7 would be enough and it was perfect for us.


Every dish looked and tasted amazing. We had olives, flat breads, chorizo, a cheese platter, padron peppers, boar croquettes and roasted mushrooms. The chorizo was all of our favourites and we managed to leave a piece each to finish with. Because your last mouthful has to be the best, right?


After eating, we took our drinks on to the beach and sat on one of the many huge cushions. The sun was just starting to set so it made for a great view. There was also a silent disco going on and they are always fun to watch. It was great just to chill out and enjoy a drink at the end of our holiday.


We decided to head back to central Amsterdam for some more drinks and managed to catch the ferry back during a fantastic sunset. I hadn’t heard of Plekk before but I’ll definitely be recommending it now to everyone visiting this beautiful city.

 

Europe, Travel, UK

Bristol Zoo Twilights

July 16, 2017

The zoo is a great day out in Bristol but like all things these days can be ridiculously expensive, especially if you’re taking the whole family. Luckily Bristol Zoo open the doors on certain Friday evenings throughout the Summer and for just £5 each, you get to visit all your favourite enclosures, enjoy some live music and visit the newly refurbished restaurant, The Hide.


When I visited a couple of weeks ago with a group of other Bristol bloggers, it was my first visit to Bristol Zoo in years. We were lucky enough to have a quick private tour of the Zoo before the doors were opened to the public. If I’m being honest, I’m not 100% sure if I like zoos. The conservation work that they do is great and goes someway to make up for the slightly sketchy history that many zoos have, but I still find it a bit uncomfortable to see birds restricted to netted areas and to stare at a gorilla behind a pane of glass when they’re so similar to us. Bristol Zoo are doing the best they can and it’s clear that the staff are really passionate about their areas and want the best for all the animals.


That aside, the seals seemed to be having a whale of a time (see what I did there?) and I did let out a little squeal when I saw the red panda. I swear it’s the first time I’ve seen a red panda awake. They’re definitely my spirit animal!


Bristol Zoo is currently home to the Dinomania exhibition. As you walk around the Zoo, you’ll spot these huge interactive dinosaurs nestled between the animal enclosures. They look so impressive and the kids in our group loved them. Watch out for the one that sprays water though…


After our tour, we got to visit the Zoo’s restaurant, The Hide. If you’ve visited Bristol Zoo before, you probably remember a large canteen area with no personality which sold expensive junk food. It’s been completely refurbished and is now beautiful inside. Modern interiors are paired with an updated menu. It’s still a bit pricey but is actually worth the money now. We got to try a few of the sharing boards which included pizza, sausages, tortilla chips and bread and dips. We all agreed that the food was really good and would visit just for lunch if we could.




The next Friday Twilights session is on the 4th August and I might be going again with some work pals. Don’t miss out on visiting the Zoo for just £5!

I was given a complimentary ticket to the zoo but all views are my own!