Posted in Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

A saunter to St Ives

I recently took a trip to Cornwall for a weeks training for my new job. I stayed at the beautiful Tregenna Castle which is set in a stunning estate and overlooking St Ives. I was with a group of other girls and none of us had previously met so it was quite an experience to explore the area whilst also getting to know each other. Most of our time was already taken up with training but in the evenings we got to socialise and get out.

As you can see St Ives is quite a distance from the hotel but we were advised by the staff that it was around 20 minutes to walk down there via a scenic pathway through the grounds that we could follow. We only really had the energy to go on a couple of occasions (one of which it was pouring with rain) as although the walk down was pretty enjoyable it wasn’t that pleasurable trying to make it back up again!

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As we exited the Tregenna estate onto a main road there was a lovely view of Porthminster beach which we also paid a visit to. I was surprised that with the glorious weather and the beginning of the holidays already well underway that the beach was so quiet!

To get down to St Ives Harbour we had to pass through the picturesque village which is full of winding roads and quaint, boutique style shops as well as a few high street favourites.

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We made it all the way round to the other side of the harbour and as you can see on the last picture is the view back up the hill, the castle is the building at the top!

The water was out but we didn’t have any intention of taking a dip anyway. One thing I did want to do is buy some souvenirs and I was shocked at the lack of tat shops that you usually see on every corner of beach resorts. We did come across a couple of fudge shops and one of them sold other bits and pieces but there was definitely more room for fridge magnets.

St Ives is actually a lot smaller than I imagined and although it was busy, it was nowhere near as packed as other resorts such as Brighton or Southend but then I suppose they have a different clientele as there are more galleries and art spaces than fairground rides or arcades. I only saw one arcade which I did intend to pop into but didn’t get a chance in the end as we had to escape the rain but not before we indulged in a proper Cornish ice-cream!

I really enjoyed my time in St Ives, even though it was limited. I would happily go back to spend more time on the gorgeous beaches and perusing the little shops if I had the opportunity. Have you ever visited this beautiful part of the UK?

 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

The Imperial Hotel – Brighton

During my recent trip to Brighton for a family wedding I stayed at the Imperial hotel which is situated further down from the hustle and bustle of Brighton seafront but still a stones throw from the beach at Hove.

I stayed with my mum and daughter and we had a room with three single beds. On entering the room we were met with a strange musky smell but were pleased that we were not all cramped into a small space as the room was quite spacious and we quickly opened the windows for some fresh air. The décor seemed to be stuck in the 80’s and I new it needed updating when my mum declared that she liked it and would decorate her front room the same way!

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The beds were comfy and there was a nice little seating area by the window which was lucky because the TV was tiny in comparison to the room and was hard to see from the beds so if we wanted to watch anything it was easier to sit there. The view from the window just overlooked other buildings but if you opened it up and leaned out you could just about see the lapping waves of the sea.

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During my past stays in hotels I have chosen to stay in the more well known chains such as the Sofitel in Paris, The Hilton Garden inn in Manchester and the Crowne Plaza in Amsterdam and I have complained that they don’t seem to have much personality but during this trip I actually missed a lot of the amenities that I have previously experienced and for all around the same price brackets. I wouldn’t say the Imperial was particularly comfortable in the sense of luxury that I had at the Sofitel and when I went to look for the iron (I never usually take advantage of the iron but had a particularly creased dress) I realised there wasn’t one and had to ask at the desk, they bought one to the room with an ironing bored but it was very basic and didn’t do a great job!

I knew that my mum would drink as much coffee as me and I usually use all the little long life milks sachets in one cup (which still doesn’t provide me with my usual milky coffee) so I bought a pint of milk on the way and then realised there was no fridge in the room (even though there was plenty of room for one) so we had to finish it all off before it started to smell. It wasn’t particularly hot in the room and with it being and old building I wasn’t expecting it to have built in air con, like I have had in other hotels, but it would have been a nice touch to have a fan available for the muggy evening air. Another thing missing was a hair dryer which was apparently available at a price!

The bathroom lacked any sort of décor, it was pretty basic and could have done with having a fan as it was particularly stuffy and hot after a shower and needed to be aired out a bit before the next person could use it, but it had clean towels and running hot water.

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The rest of the hotel was pretty much the same as the room, lots of clashing colours and patterns but quite spacious if you wanted to hang out. We didn’t really make use of the bar or restaurant available as we were out most of the time but as we were on the third floor we did have the pleasure of using what can only be described as the worlds smallest and slowest lift.

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We didn’t particularly find our stay sumptuous and there was no grandeur to the Imperial hotel but we did sleep well and the staff were very friendly and helpful. There do seem to be hundreds of hotels in the Brighton area and would probably look for somewhere a bit more contemporary should I visit Brighton in the future.

If you are visiting Brighton at any point, check out my post on 13 things to do along the beachfront.

 

Posted in London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

A visit to Parliament

I had never thought of visiting parliament before, in fact I wasn’t aware that it was open to the public so when I was invited to take a tour I was quite intrigued.

I’m not really much of a fan of politics and was a bit worried that I would find it boring if I didn’t know what they were talking about but there was actually so much more to it than just politics. For a start the actual building is amazing, from floor to ceiling it is full of intricate details, ornate decoration and historical paintings.

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I never normally opt to join in with tours as I like to just explore by myself but our tour guide Daniella was full of information, facts and amusing anecdotes. She really brought the subjects to life so as you are walking through you could imagine the queen in her robing room sitting on a sofa by the window rather than on the throne that has been sun damaged over many years.

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The Royal family play a big role in Parliament and since watching The Crown and Victoria on Netflix I have become much more interested in the history so found it all really interesting.

It felt very strange going into the house of commons after seeing it on TV for so long, it looks so much smaller in real life! I was really impressed with how much you get to see on the tour – not so impressed that I wasn’t able to photograph it all though! (you can only use a camera in the main hall and St Stephens hall) I mean have you even visited somewhere if you don’t have photographic evidence? I was going to request images of parts of the building that I wasn’t allowed to photograph but I think it is nice to leave it to you all to visit yourself as it is so much better in real life!

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Westminster hall is the oldest of the parliamentary estate and has played a central role in British history. There seems to be a lot of work going on so we couldn’t really appreciate its magnificence and many smaller details were covered up.

I would definitely recommend a visit to anyone interested in architecture, art, history or politics and you can finish off the tour with a trip to Voice and Vote: Women’s place in Parliament exhibition which features unseen historic objects, pictures and archives from the parliamentary collections, this will be on until 6th October.

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For quite a small exhibition tucked away in the corner of Westminster hall, there is loads to see about such an important subject. Although the tour of Parliament has a fee, this exhibition is free entry so great to take the kids over summer, especially all those budding politicians!

Have you ever visited Parliament before?


 

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized

13 Things to do on Brighton sea front

As one of the closest beach resorts to London and with so much to see and do in Brighton, it is no surprise that it is such a popular hot spot for visitors, particularly on a nice summers day!

After my recent visit to attend a family wedding I thought I would put together a list of things to do should you be planning a visit in the future.

Relax and take in the views

I love a bit of people watching or just the serenity of watching the sea gently rumbling to the shore so it is perfect to just pull up a deckchair and enjoy the surroundings. Deckchairs are available for a rental charge on the beach but are free to sit on halfway down the pier. You can also enjoy the view in close up by using one of the telescopes on the pier.

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Visit the attractions

The Sealife centre is right opposite the pier and the newer British airways i360 is a replacement to the wheel that used to be pride and place on the beach. The i360 is further down the beach towards Hove and is the worlds tallest moving observation tower at 450ft high. There are also many museums dotted around with the Fishing museum actually along the seafront.

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Sunbathe on the beach

Brighton is not really known for it’s sandy beach as it is actually a very stony beach but this doesn’t stop people laying out their towels and having a sunbathe. if you are brave enough you can even take your shoes off and walk down to have a paddle and if you are lucky you will find some sand. Although I did find sand on the first day I visited, it seemed to have disappeared when I returned to dip my toes in!

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Take a selfie

Do you need an excuse to take a selfie? I personally don’t take many selfies but I certainly caught lots of others doing it and who can blame them with such a lovely backdrop. There are also lots of comical seaside face cut out boards that you can use as a prop for your holiday pics as well.

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Eat

There are plenty of places to eat but fish and chips seem to be a firm favourite and there are no shortage of shops to pick up this seaside must have. There are also lots of hot dog, donuts and crepe pop ups and we personally like the Chinese hut at the end of the pier to get noodles and fried rice followed by an ice cream on the beach.

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Fairground rides

The fair is situated right at the end of the pier and you purchase a wrist band in order to go on all the rides, there is a nice selection for all ages and it is a great way to keep youngsters entertained.

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Soft play

You may not want to spend a day trip having to watch your kids in soft play but it is an alternative to the fairground, probably easier if you have little ones. It is also at the end of the pier but is inside the arcade and surrounds the restaurant seating area so you could give yourself a well earned rest while the kids wear themselves out.

Arcades

You cannot visit a seaside resort without a little trip to the arcades! My personal favourites are the 2p machines (one day I’ll be rich enough to move to the 10p machines) and I have amassed quite a collection of tat that I have won on them. I like to put them on my book shelf as they are all quite cute and remind me of family day trips whenever I see them on there.

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Get sporty

Whether you are a keen kayaker or prefer to just watch sport on the TV you can do either in Brighton. The water had a few surfers and jet skiers and there were some fisherman down by the water but on the pier one of the bars have set up a large screen to watch the tennis which is slightly less strenuous and you can enjoy a drink or two while there.

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Get married

Brighton may not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of a beach side wedding but the bandstand is the perfect intimate setting to get hitched and that is exactly what my aunt chose to do. I thought it would be far from private as it is out in the open and there are people walking past but actually as it is further down the seafront towards Hove it is less busy and passers by didn’t seem to bat an eyelid.

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Cool the kids off

If you are reluctant to let the kids get in the sea in Brighton they can still cool off in the outdoor pool a short walk from the bandstand. There is also a playground next to it so plenty to keep them entertained.

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Instagram the huts

I have been to Brighton on many occasions and had never seen the beach huts before but on this visit our hotel was further down the beach at Hove and the huts were right opposite. From the back they are all one colour but the owners are allowed to paint the doors any colour they like and they look really pretty so I couldn’t resist an Instagram pic. They are also available to rent if you want to use one on your visit.

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Pick up some souvenirs

Have you even been to the seaside if you haven’t come home with a bag full of magnets, keyrings or sweet treats? We personally love a selection of sticks of rock so I always bring them back for the kids.

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I definitely made the most of my trip to Brighton, have you ever visited? What would you add to the list?

 

 

 

Posted in Lifestyle, London, Photography, Travel, Uncategorized

Love is Love – Pride 2018

I have never been to a Pride parade before, they do look so much fun but I tend to avoid anything that is overcrowded as I had a bad experience at the Notting Hill carnival back in the 90s. As I was attending a tour of Parliament in the early afternoon and I knew that there would be people milling around Trafalgar square I decided to take a stroll towards there and see if I could get some photos of the festivities.

I didn’t realise as I approached that actually the parade would be passing through at the same time and I managed to see all the emergency services and floats from lots of different companies all in support of the day. Trafalgar Square itself was so full I didn’t attempt to go all the way up there but Whitehall was full of people but not too congested.

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I am so glad I took a walk to see the parade, it was such a joy to photograph so much colour and happiness and the atmosphere was truly electric. To top off the afternoon England won their game against Sweden and the jubilance continued on!

Posted in Food, Lifestyle, London, Travel, Uncategorized

A spa day at The Montcalm Hotel – Marble Arch

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As a London and Travel blogger, my friends and family know that I like nothing more than to get out and experience new things (when I’m not lying in bed reading a good book) so when it comes to buying me presents they usually opt for the physical type, a meal out, a trip away or an experience voucher… just don’t make it skydiving because I would never do it!

On mothers day I received a Virgin voucher for a trip to a spa with a champagne meal for two…oooh. It took me a while to get round to booking it but the process was quite easy and one thing I liked about it was that it gave you the option of swapping your experience for something different if that particular activity didn’t take your fancy, for instance if I received a skydive I would have swapped it for an afternoon tea perhaps! I knew my eldest daughter would also appreciate a spa day so she accompanied me to The Montcalm.

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The Montcalm is a short walk from Marble arch and has a five star rating. It seems quite small from the outside but as you enter you are met with a light, spacious lobby area that is filled with little seating nooks with mismatched furniture in neutral warm tones.

We were shown down to the spa in the basement which was divided into different spaces and were given a pair of slippers and a towel each. I didn’t particularly want to use the gym but wanted to try out everything that was on offer so we brought our gym clothes for a quick workout. There were a couple of people in there when we arrived but they were just finishing up their session and we soon had the place to ourselves. I tried out all the machines but left well away from the contraption that was full of weights, it was supposed to be a relaxing morning after all!

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After the workout we had a quick change into our swimming costumes to visit the spa room. It consisted of a sauna and steam room that had a shower in between. Next to that was the Jacuzzi that had the option of the bubble machine, this switched itself off every so often and you had to wait a while for it to be reactivated. The small pool was also similar to the Jacuzzi, the water was warm and although it had buttons to get the same jet stream effect as the Jacuzzi, these did not work. To be honest the pool was nice just to relax in but wasn’t big enough to actually make use of if you wanted to have a proper swim and as we found out a few minutes after entering the space can quickly feel crowded.

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While we were in the pool there were two guys in the Jacuzzi, it would have felt a bit awkward to get in there with them so we went to try out the sauna instead. As we both suffer from panic attacks and there was a big red panic button on the wall it kind of made us a bit apprehensive so we just tried it out with the doors open… I know you would think this defeats the purpose but it was still really hot in there!

As we left the sauna, the two guys had moved over to the pool so we went into the Jacuzzi but then another two ladies came in and it felt even more awkward, I mean there are lots of chairs around and a snug little area with magazines but nobody wants to go to the spa to sit around on chairs do they? After a while it was approaching our lunch time and we felt very hot and sweaty so we departed to cool off in the showers and get changed.

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The changing rooms were clean with lots of space to keep your stuff but only had two showers and two toilets so luckily we were the only ones in there, especially as the showers are not very private with see through glass doors!

Before our visit to the spa we tried to check out what food would be served with the virgin voucher but couldn’t find any information other than the fact that it was a one course meal. I mean I don’t know how much the voucher costs because I don’t like to check these things as it was a present but I thought a one course meal was a bit miserly and if they want to make it a special day they should at least add a dessert, even if they charge a few pounds extra.

The restaurant, which is just beyond the lobby, was a lovely big room with skylights to provide extra light. I liked that the artwork on the wall matched the furniture.

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We were a bit confused as to why they gave us a menu with all three courses on it if we were only to choose one meal and although I assume we could have purchased more had we wanted to, we were not offered their normal menu with the prices of anything on. There were only three main meals on offer unless we wanted to pay a supplement and if you are a vegetarian then you better be a fan of eggplant as that is all your getting! This did just remind me of Hard rock café all over again and I think that when Virgin make these deals with restaurants that they should be more upfront with what they are offering!

We both went for the Corn-fed chicken supreme with thyme and truffle although it didn’t mention any sides and we were left wondering if it would just be a bit of chicken on a plate. Luckily it was accompanied with a creamy mash, vegetables and half a roasted garlic and it was absolutely delicious, I ate everything including the garlic which surprisingly didn’t taste very garlicky. We also enjoyed a nice glass of prosecco (for some reason the small print states that you only get champagne if you attend the other hotel outside of London) which I had to finish for Jasmin as she didn’t particularly like the taste.

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Overall we had a really lovely morning, although it would be nice if the vouchers from Virgin experience were more transparent so you know exactly what to expect.

Have you ever visited a hotel spa or used a Virgin voucher, what was your experience like?

If you have visited anywhere in London then feel free to join in with my new linky #thelondonlink to add any of your blog posts, old or new!

 

 

Posted in Food, Travel, Uncategorized

Hard Rock Café – Manchester

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Whenever I go away I like to prepare myself for the trip by looking up places to visit in the area and maybe even which restaurants to eat at but the Mr gets very excited and wants to plan everything. When he came across a Hard Rock Café Virgin experience voucher on offer for the branch in Manchester he had to buy it before our journey, I guess that was one less thing to worry about.

We arrived in Manchester City centre on a very sunny Saturday evening, after dropping our bags at the Hilton Garden Inn hotel, and it was heaving with people, mostly groups of hen parties, like literally loads of them, is this hen party central or what?

We noticed that as in many city centres there was lots of choices of where to eat and we were glad we had booked in advance so we didn’t have to decide where to go. Although the Hard Rock café is somewhere that I have been meaning to visit for ages and was close to booking it on our girls holiday to Tenerife but we ended up going to a steakhouse instead.

The Hard Rock Café started out as a themed restaurant in London in 1971 and has since expanded across 75 countries as hotels, casinos and the famous cafes. The Manchester branch is really large with a bar and shop at the bottom, a dining area up a few steps and then another dining area above that with a balcony looking over.

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The restaurant was busy when we arrived and we admired the décor with walls full of rock and roll memorabilia on our way up to our table. We were sat next to a large window which probably could have done with some sort of blind as the sun was directly in my face, although I tried not to let it bother me as I was just grateful that we had some nice weather.

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We thought we were quite lucky that the upstairs was a lot emptier than the rest of the restaurant and was looking forward to a nice peaceful meal, that was until one of the hen parties arrived for a cocktail making session and took over the bar at the end. To their credit they were not very rowdy, I’m sure they were saving that until after the cocktails and they gave the place a nice party atmosphere.

We explained to our waiter that we had pre booked with a virgin experience voucher and he said that there was a separate menu for this booking called the gold group menu but we had a browse through the normal one while he was getting it for us.

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The normal menu is really large with loads of pages and lots of options to choose from so when we received the little piece of card that we could choose our two course meal from, we were really disappointed.

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For a start there was no option of a starter. I personally am more of a dessert person so would happily miss the starter but the Mr isn’t a dessert fan, it would have been nice that if we had already paid for a two course meal that he would have the option of what two courses he wanted. The next thing is that there were only five options for a main course when there are over twenty in the normal menu that wouldn’t have varied much in price to these and if you were a vegetarian then you’re basically just stuck with the veggie burger. And not a chocolate cake fan? well that would be unfortunate because there was no other option than a chocolate brownie for dessert… OK I probably would have chosen it myself had I had the chance but that is not the point!

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I went for the cheese pasta with the grilled chicken breast served with garlic bread. The food was filling and tasty although it had a bit of a kick to it even though it didn’t mention any chilli in the description.

The Mr went for the legendary burger but without the bacon as he doesn’t eat pork. He was left disappointed with the portion size, although the burger was big the chips served with it were not and there was no sort of salad as you would normally see as a dressing on the side, he was also disappointed with the taste as he said there just wasn’t much of a taste to it at all.

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The dessert probably made up for the main meal as it is described as a lil brownie and the portion size was more than I could finish. It was served with both cream and ice cream which I found weird as it would normally be one or the other.

The only good thing about the Virgin experience voucher was that when we were finished we were free to just get up and leave without worrying what the bill had come to and waiting around to get the waiters attention before we could pay.

It is understandable that if you use a certain deal then you are given a separate menu to coincide with what you have paid (The virgin voucher costs £42 for a two course meal for two with a bottomless soft drink) and there was the option to purchase extra food or drink from the main menu if we wanted but I think it should be made clear what you are expected to receive before you buy the voucher as they don’t mention this gold menu anywhere when you make the purchase.

Although The Hard Rock Café is a restaurant I am glad I have visited because it is quite iconic, it is probably not somewhere I would go out of my way to visit again as we were not that impressed with our experience.

Have you ever visited the Hard Rock Café? What did you think?