Friday, 29 August 2014

Summer holiday

Well it's that time of year again when I get ready to go back to work and return to my normal routine. Before the holidays you plan to do lots, thinking you'll have lots of time to do lots of things when the reality is you don't do half the things you want to do and I always end up at this stage thinking what have I done with the last 7 weeks! 
But I suppose I have done quite a lot. Of course the beginning of the 7 weeks started with my holiday to Kefalonia. 
For my birthday, 2 days after we got back I got very spoilt, with some lovely presents and we went to see 'around the world in 80 days' at the royal exchange theatre which was brilliant, unfortunately I'd been ill after I got back from holiday so I didn't feel up to going out for a meal. I baked a cake for my nephew Joshua's birthday the following weekend, on Saturday went to Joshua's party had a play on the bouncy castle, it was a lovely day and we basically had a picnic party at the park near Susanna's house. The day after we all went back around to Susanna's for Joshua's actually birthday, we went back out to the park to play with the rocket Christiana had bought him and then played rounders with the cricket set Rebekah had got him. It was great fun. 
That week I also went to Manchester for a lovely afternoon tea at 47 King Street West with my friend Kimberley from work, I made up for not having anything to drink on my actual birthday by having a few glasses of prosecco! 
I have done some crafting, I got a felting kit for my birthday so I did that. I decided to try and sell some of my crafts on eBay ( seller name abbiefh) and Etsy (shop name Abigail makes) I'd had a little bit of success with my Facebook page last year but after the holidays, funds were low and we need to start saving for our next holiday in October too so I gave this a try. I had thought that etsy would be better because it is primarilly for handmade items but so far I have only sold two things on there, on eBay I have sold about 4 things, I'm currently making christmas things to sell, so I hope these will sell as it gets closer to christmas and hopefully will help to fund more holidays! 
I have started foraging for this year picking lots of blackberries at 7 acres and me and my mum went to pick winberries at Entwistle reservoir. I also bought a jam pan so I'll be making some jams soon.
I spent sometime with my nephews eating egg butties and watching Lego movie which Josh had got for his birthday. 
I also had some lovely news that my younger sister Susanna, Josh's mum had got engaged, the wedding won't be for a while but I'm going to be a bridesmaid! Yey! I love a good wedding! 
went on a helicopter flight from Kenyon hall farm, Matthew bought it me for my birthday. The flight conditions weren't great it was windy and wet but we were determined to do it and it was really good.
We also did a horse riding lesson and an hours trek at a place called matchmoor riding school in Horwich I bought it ages ago from amazon local, it was £28 for us both and it was really good we learnt the basic and how to trot then we went on a hours trek up to near rivington pike so it was really good value for money. 
I went for another meal in Manchester to Artisan with another friend Sandra from work, they do lovely food there especially the garlic flatbread! We had a lovely afternoon. 
Finally our bank holiday was spent on our (possibly) last camping trip of the year to Staithes, I hadn't even heard of this place before this year but it's a really beautiful place it's near Whitby, we went for 2 nights and stayed at a campsite called trig point 49 and although very basic and in some parts not very clean it was a very handy location just 5mins walk from the harbour (and the pubs!). We had a lovely relaxing weekend, Max loved it on the beach and there was a lovely craft shop and a vintage shop there too. 
We have finally started decorating our bedroom but decorating is never easy in our house, our wardrobe is set into the wall with sliding doors in front so I've had to empty all our clothes out whilst we decorate so they are all in the spare bedroom in boxes, it's taking a while so unfortunately they are still there. Hopefully it will be done soon, decorating is my least favourite thing! 
Oh well back to the work on Monday and it's all change at work too so I'm a little anxious about it. I know I'll be fine and it's just a case of getting back into routine, by Friday the summer holidays will feel like a long time ago! 

Thanks for reading! 
Abigail x 

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Kefalonia holiday

This years summer holiday was to Kefalonia a Greek island in the Ionian Sea, we had never been there but we knew people who had and said it was lovely. We were staying in Skala a resort on the southern tip of Kefalonia.


Our hotel was San Giorgio just outside the resort of Skala, it had 3 pools, a restaurant, a bar, a shop and a cafe.  The hotel room was fantastic with a balcony with views across the Ionion sea, the shower was powerful and the king size bed was comfortable, the air conditioning was very effective! Sometimes I would wake up shivering!  
We were on bed and breakfast board. The breakfast was good, not really what I am used to, it was more a continental breakfast, everyday they would have cereals, yoghurt, honey, fruit, toast, ham and cheese, then one hot item either scrambled eggs, boiled eggs or sausage and beans, they also had croissant some days or a honey sponge cake which was delicious. I do usually like a cooked breakfast whilst I'm on holiday but it was so hot I don't think I would've managed it and there enough of a selection to keep me happy. We ate at the cafe for our lunch a few times and was very impressed, the food was lovely we had chicken souvlaki on pittas, salad from the salad bar thiswas a self service and we were given a tub to fill up, we shared one and it was plenty and sandwiches, huge baguettes which was really enough to share, food and the drinks were resonably priced. We went to the restaurant twice it was really lovely and the food was as good as any you would find in the resort, on the first day I had Bekre Meze my husband had pork souvlaki which was lovely too. The second time we went I had another traditional Greek dish, Lamb Kleftiko, my husband had Beef Stifado, again both delicious. The meals cost about 23€ with drinks each time! We got bread the first night 4 big slices which was lovely and it came with garlic butter when we looked on our bill the bread was only 1€! It's also a lovely location you can sit on the balcony to three sides, either looking out to the sea, looking towards skala beach or to the hotel pool. The hotel was immaculate inside and out the gardens were beautiful  and pools were lovely and good sizes. There were beautiful little coves and beaches just a sort walk from the hotel and also a few restaurants within walking distance I can recommend 'Old Times' a lovely family restaurant nearby. There is a free shuttle service to Skala that you could book on but it stops at 9pm and there weren't many shuttles in the afternoon. One afternoon we walked it once it took about 40 mins, hard work in the heat of the sun. There are also taxis from skala that cost 5€ we quite often took the shuttle bus down to town then got the taxi back. There were several themed nights a fun Karaoke on one night and on some nights there was a singer, singing well known mainstream songs earlier on then later, more traditional Greek songs and eventually ending the night with getting everyone up dancing, one of the hotel staff also did some very impressive belly dancing. On the Saturday our last night there were lanterns in the pool and fireworks and even I succumbed to the dancing but it didn't half go on I was shattered by the end! The clientele of the hotel is British people but from all over UK I heard a lot of different accents and a lot were people who had been before. 
The only downsides I would say is the wifi was very weak and hit and miss, I know you don't go on your holidays to use the internet but on this occasion we needed to transfer money and we couldn't because of the wifi. Also I decided not to take my hair dryer because of recent electrical restrictions on the plane but I wished I had brought it because the one in the hotel was so weak. 
All in all the hotel far exceeded our expectations and we had a lovely stay here.


As you've probably guessed from my blog posts I love food so I was excited to see what Greek food was and I wanted to try all the traditional dishes. We had quite a selection some of which I'd tried before some I hadn't. The thing about kefalonia is that because it's an island it produces lots of its own food, everything was amazingly fresh where ever we went and we didn't have a bad meal anywhere.
Here are some of the food we tried:

Bekre Meze- it was delicious it was like a stew made with beef I think it was and garlic and red wine it had pieces of feta and another Greek cheese which I can't remember the name of melted into it.

Lamb Kleftiko - lamb, potatoes, veg, herbs and feta cheese cooked in a parcel 

Beef Stifado - tomato based stew with shallots

Pork souvlaki - a marinated pork kebab served with pitta and tzatziki ( a cucumber yoghurt dip)

Kefalonian meat pie - traditionally made with goat in but in most restaurants it's made with lamb, potatoes and herbs with a very thin pastry.

Calamari - fried squid

Moussaka - mince with aubergines layered on top then topped with a bechamel sauce

Olive tapenade - a olive and garlic paste which you spread on bread.

Everything was as delicious as it sounds! Of course I also had lots of feta and olives. I am going to research home to make the dishes now I'm back.

We ate out at The Flamingo, The Pines, Old times, Mikelatos Family and Akrogialli Taverna. We also had lunch at Apagio in Fiscardo. Everywhere was lovely and we mainly got two main meals, bread and an alcoholic drink and it was never more than 25€ so it was really good value too.


Kefalonia is by no means a lively island like its neighbour Zante. Skala is a popular and busy resort, with huge pebble beaches with crystal clear water but it's not as traditional and quaint as some resorts in Kefalonia . There are plenty of bars, restaurants and taverns but I wouldn't say it's lively. We especially liked to spend the evenings at Metaxa beach bar, this was right on the beach and as well as serving snacks and desserts, they had really good cocktails and there happy hour(s) was 8 till 10. Most places have happy hours when the cocktails are half price but they are 7 till 9. We tend to eat late so we had only finished our meal at 9, so Metaxa was perfect for us. There is an archeological site of a roman villa with mosaics set into the floor, but after walking to skala in the searing heat we walked down to see it only to find it was closed Mondays, we didn't get a chance to go again.


Kefalonian island tour - we booked this through Panem tours which is on Skala high street 31€ Each( much cheaper than getting it through thomson which was 45€ each) 
Places we visited: 
Assos - a beautiful traditional harbour town with a castle above it. 
Fiscardo - another traditional harbour which buildings have Venetian influence these predate all the other villages as Fiscardo was the only village which remained largely unaffected by the 1953 earthquake which destroyed 90% of Islands building 
A photo stop looking down from a layby to myrtos beach, the beach that was used in the filming of 'Captain Corellis Mandolin' 
Mellisanni lake- a underground lake you go in small rowing boats around it and when the sun shines in it reveals amazing blue colours in the water. This had an additional cost of 6€ each
Dragorati caves-a huge cave with massive stalagmites and stalagtites. Additional cost 4€ each.
Robola wine tour and tasting.
We really enjoyed this trip, the only downside was we got picked up from hotel first at 7.45am and they only started the tour really at 10am after we'd picked up more people from other resorts, this meant we were also the last ones back to our hotel at 7pm. Also Assos is beautiful but we didn't have a lot of time there at all, about 40 mins it's such a beautiful place I would've liked longer here. I think this was because the coastal road was closed due to an earthquake in February which damaged the road so we had to do a detour through the mountains instead.
 It was a long day but it was an enjoyable, the British guide was very knowledgable and the Greek driver drove expertly around some pretty hairy roads. The coach was comfortable with good air conditioning.

Zante cruise -booked through Thomson 35€ each
This was a 1hr cruise across to Zante (also known as Zakynthos) to the shipwreck beach, then to the blue caves for a swim stop then cruise around to Alykanas where we spent 2hrs before heading back to Kefalonia for another swim stop before heading back to Skala beach.
I had wanted to go to the shipwreck beach ever since I had first seen a picture of it years ago so this was a must, unfortunately I sometimes suffer from seasickness and this was no exception I was ok for about 20 mins then but then spent the rest of the time in the loos! By the time we got to the shipwreck beach I was just glad to be on dry land, so I didn't really make the most of the time here, it's a stunningly beautiful place, I have never seen sea as blue as here I wouldn't have missed it for the world I just wish there was another way to get there! The blue caves were equally impressive but because of feeling ill we didn't do the swim stop. Alykanas was really lovely, it had a sandy beach it was ideal for taking a dip because it was quite shallow until quite far out. Despite our illness it was a nice day and the way back on the boat was much better, even so we didn't do the final swim stop either which was a shame, but I just still didn't feel up to it. 

I would like to go back to Kefalonia one day, but maybe to a different part of the island and we would probably hire a car as the roads were quite quiet and we'd be able to visit more small villages on the island. 

Thank you for reading, 
Abigail x

Monday, 30 June 2014

Wild camp

It was Matthew's birthday on 22nd June and he wanted to do a wild camp. He had done it before in May last year with his friend but they had done a rather adventurous one , wild camping beside red tarn then walking complete with huge rucksacks over striding edge ( a scrambling path with sheer drops either side) up to Hellvelyn . To make matters worse it was raining and misty and looked terribly dangerous. I said I would do a wild camp with him but I needed something a little more sedate! I also made it clear that I would only go if it was good weather! 

It's something I really have wanted to do but it also scared me, what if something happened and we were miles away from anywhere or what if someone came and told us off for camping there! So we picked the destination of our wild camp carefully, although neither of us had ever been up to the top of the old man of Coniston we knew it was fairly easy to get to and not too far out of the town for if we did find ourselves in trouble, we also saw on youtube that other people had camped there and what it was like. 

We went on the Saturday 21st which was summer solstice -the longest day of the year and gorgeous weather. We got to Coniston for about 5.30 and set of steadily up to the Old Man, it's a lovely walk there are great views to Lake Coniston below, you walk through a disused slate mine and then eventually get to a low tarn just below the summit, we stopped to fill up our water bottles. Matthew had this nifty bit of kit a filter thar fit on the top of a platypus bottle then as you pour the water through it filters it making the water from rivers, stream, lakes and tarns drinkable. The last bit of the walk was a killer, quite steep with our heavy bags and feeling hungry the only thing that kept me going was knowing that  we had a container full of chilli that I'd made in the morning for our tea.

We got to the summit at about 8 and it was lovely the sun was low in the sky and the views were amazing, we put up our tent facing east so that we could watch the sunrise in the morning, there was already a couple camping on the other side facing the sunset the summit is big enough that neither one of us would be disturbing the other.

We had our tea of chilli con carne and rice which tasted great and filled us up nicely. Max had his tea too, he was behaving really well considering there were sheep roaming about up there too.
After tea we watched the sunset and Matthew used his birthday present, an action camera similar to a GoPro to take a time lapse of the sunset. 

And I have to say it felt magical being up there and watching the sunset and getting in my pyjamas on the top of a mountain, it felt good. I was a convert! We had chocolate and a hot drink and I had a hipflask with Baileys in and Matthew had one with brandy in. It was perfect I even had phone reception so I could post my photos on Instagram! 

We went to bed very content and hoping to get up at about 4 to watch the sunrise. I was woken later by the sound of voices near our tent, loud voices, I assumed they had come to watch the sunrise so I asked Matthew what time it was, but it was only half 2! They walked away and I tried to get back to sleep, I was just about to doze off when they came back, one man in particular was so loud and kept singing and I couldn't get back to sleep so at 4 we got up. But as soon as we got up they left! It was so strange they hadn't even watched the sun come up, it was like they'd just come to annoy us! 
But the sunrise was beautiful and again it felt like such a magical experience.

We had a walk planned for the Sunday which took us along the ridge to another couple of mountains then down to another tarn then back to the path we came up. It was hard going, our bags were very heavy and it was very warm, the paths were also very rocky. We set off at about 8 and only get back to the car at about 12 then went for a drink in Coniston before heading back. 
I would definitely do it again although I wish I'd been able to sleep more and would probably do a shorter walk on the way back. 

Plus it's two more things to tick off my wish list  - Wildcamp ✔️ Watch sunrise✔️

Thanks for reading 

Abigail x

Friday, 30 May 2014

Spring watch in my back garden.

Look what I found in my garden this month...
My mum was helping me tidy my back garden when she noticed this nest in the top of my green recycle bin as she was about to put grass cuttings in. The lid of the bin was propped open slightly from some branches that I'd cut off the trees a few weeks before. I'd seen a robin in the garden picking up bits of moss and twigs from the grass in the garden so I guessed the nest had been by her. A few days later I looked again and there she was...
She had also laid 3 more eggs, I kept watching throughout the week and saw two robins coming and going, about a week later I went to check on them when we were having a bbq and was amazed to see 6 little skinny birds with there beaks open wide!
I continued to watch mummy and daddy robin coming and going with insects and every couple of days I checked on their progress - they changed so quickly , from this...
To this...
To this...
This was the last photo I took last Friday it was looking very cosy and slightly cramped when I went to check on Saturday they had gone.
I must admit to feeling a bit sad when they had gone but I was extremely priviledged to have been able to witness their progress up close. 

Thanks for reading x

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

A weekend in the Lakes

The easter holidays have started many firsts for the year, for example; first picnic, first barbecue and of course, first camping trip of the year. 

We have never been camping at Easter, always opting to go in the May bank holidays instead. Last Easter- which was earlier, at the end of March was a definite no no, there had still been snow in many places around the country and very cold even where there wasn't snow. This year, however Easter was almost a full month later than it was last year and Matthew had his heart set on camping and in the Lake District. I was a bit more warey we had had odd days of sunshine but nothing too warm and the past weeks it had been drizzling on and off.

Now I love camping, I love the cooking and eating outside, the peaceful beautiful surroundings and waking up to birdsong and the glow of sunlight hitting the tent in the morning I don't even mind the sound of wind and drizzle on the tent through the night, what I do mind is being so cold you can't sleep, getting drenched when you need to go out to the loos but most of all I hate putting the tent up or down in rain, I have done it before you end up as muddy and wet as the tent and very very miserable, also what would we do if it was raining? we had our dog Max so we couldn't take him any indoor attractions like the pencil museum ( I kid you not this is an actual museum in the Lakes! ) so we would end up in a pub all day everyday. I kept trying gentle persuasion to try and get Matthew to change his mind, 'the Lake District isn't known for its good weather maybe we could try somewhere down south!' But he was having none of it, and I must say on this very very rare occasion, Matthew was right! 

The weather for the easter weekend was good, Friday and Saturday being the best days and the best part of the country was the Lake District, Isle of Man and Northern Ireland. 
We had decided to stay in a place called Wasdale I hadn't heard of it before but we had talked about walking up Scafell Pike, England's tallest mountain so we did a google search to find out where was near, we found a walk that started and ended in Wasdale so we decided to go to the campsite there which was owned by the National Trust. 
Wasdale itself is stunning, the only way I can describe it and this probably does it no justice whatsoever to the village is its like a cul de sac but instead of houses blocking the road through there are mountains! The village itself doesn't have a through road, just a road that leads you to a pub, a small church, a shop and few houses, a campsite, a car park and a farm, and surrounding them to three sides there are stunning mountains. We didn't stay at the campsite that was in the village purely because we didn't know about it, ours was about a mile out of the village near Wast water, England's deepest lake. 

The campsite was in a great location you could walk to and from Scafell Pike direct from the campsite. It felt quite sheltered in the valley with lovely views of the mountains. It had a good shop on site, you could pitch up wherever you liked and even though the campsite was full you didn't feel like crammed in, all the pitches were nicely spaced out, the facilities were ok, although the showers weren't very warm. There were a couple of downside, you had to park your car away from the pitches and carry all your things, lots of which were very heavy to your pitch,  when it came to putting the tent up the air was blue and about a 4 of our tent pegs were bent so much they had to be thrown away, the ground was unbelievably hard it felt like there was a thin layer of grass and then underneath hard gravel, eventually Matthew went to the shop and found some stronger longer tent pegs which made light work of it, he got four and used the stronger ones to make the holes for the normal tent pegs, the ground also was too hard to screw in the dog lead tether so Max kept pulling it loose. Imagine getting the stuff out of the boot and carry it over to the pitch, then trying to put up a tent in rock hard ground as well as trying to pig wrangle a extremely restless Max after being in a car for hours, who'd managed to pull his lead free! It was a challenge!

On the Saturday we decided to do Scafell Pike, last year we did Snowdon and that is higher so I thought this would be fine but I really found it hard tough, especially since Matthew added on a mile walking down to Wasdale to start from there when everybody else was setting off in the other direction going straight up, he had a different walk loaded into his gps so we had to do that, I did sulk for a bit! What I hadn't taken into consideration was Snowdon was a straight path up to the top, Scafell Pike was not! It was very steep and rocky with lots of turns and a few false summits, we kept walking and passing people, then resting and they passed us again, there was 2 families doing it together with 4 adults and about 5 kids ranging from about 6 to 12 years old, they kept stopping and stroking and saying hello to Max, the sometimes waning children would be spurred on by the promise of being able to stroke Max when they got to the top! The children actually put us to shame they got to the summit before us, we saw them again a few times on the way down and later on in the pub, one of the dad's thanked us and said that they doubted they would have got to the top without Max to spur them on! He's a little mountain pooch! 

It took us about 4 hours to get to the top and then about 3 hours back down, it was a brilliant sense of achievement, the weather stayed nice although very cool on the top - there was a patch of snow that had not yet melted, and the views were fantastic. I had jelly legs on the way down and the rocky paths meant if you didn't watch were you put your feet you would slip, we soaked our feet in the stream at the end which was freezing but felt great on our tired feet. I enjoyed the walk but it was hard work and I'm not in a rush to do it again! Or Ben Nevis to make it a hat trick! 

On Easter Sunday it was a little overcast at times but we went out for the day to the nearby coastal towns of Whitehaven and St. Bees, with it being Easter Sunday there wasn't many places open in Whitehaven we walked around the harbour where we had a picnic and the pier and we took Max on a small stretch of beach. Next we went to St. Bees which was lovely it has a pebbly beach and I collected lots of driftwood to use on crafts in the future. 

On the second and third nights we went to the Wasdale head pub, as I said before it was about a mile to Wasdale from the campsite but there was a really lovely path you could go along next to the stream which brought you out behind the pub, the Wasdale head was split into a part for hotel residents and a bar / restaurant for the public there was a sheltered outside area and a beer garden behind by the stream. The pub was very busy both nights we went, not surprisingly considering it's the only pub for miles because of this they could have charged an extortionate amount and not really bothered too much about the quality, but it was reasonably priced for food and drink, lots of items In the menu were locally sourced and everything we had was delicious I recommend the lamb cobbler just the thing to warm you up as the night got cool, dogs were allowed in the bar and welcomed. It was a very lovely pub but don't forget your torch for walking back along the road to the campsite! As we walked back, because there is very little light pollution we could see the night sky in all it's glory, you can see all the different constellations. It was beautiful! 

We had a really lovely time camping and also had time to relax and read and doze. Our legs were a bit achy after the walk but we are full of lovely memories and are ready for our next camping adventure! Only 4 more days to go..! 

Thanks for reading, 
Abigail x

Friday, 14 March 2014

Meat feast

Last weekend my sister and her boyfriend were staying with us and we decided to go into Manchester and check out a new restaurant that I'd heard about that sounded amazing, Christiana shares my love of food and I knew that she would love it too, the place in question was Red's True Barbecue on Lloyd street, Manchester.

Red's is a American style barbecue grill restaurant, think 'man v food'! This is not the place to go if your a vegeterian-  it's meat, meat and more meat on the menu!
It sounded as though it could be popular and you couldn't book so we decided to go on an earlyish into Manchester. We got there at about 7 and it was already very busy as we'd expected but we were told they could fit us in for 9.30 and took our number so if they could call us if they could fit us in earlier. We had a little wander around some pubs and bars nearby for some drinks and they called us at about 9.10pm to tell us our table was ready. 
We'd already been looking at the menu online so I had a fair idea of what I wanted, at first we'd agreed we'd probably just have the mains but we were so hungry and the starters sounded so good we had to try them. We ordered one each but shared them out between us, we had jalapeño poppers, pork crackling, homemade beef jerky and something called hush puppies which were a kind of a sweetcorn and jalapeño fritter with a warm chilli cheese dip. I really enjoyed them all, there was loads but we managed to eat it all! 

The mains were lovely too, I had pulled pork, with coleslaw and macaroni cheese, Christiana and Luke got sandwiches and shared them - the texas smoked sausage sandwich with barbecue pit beans and huge onion rings and the smoked brisket sandwich with bbq gravy with grits, then Matthew had a burger with fries, everyone enjoyed their food but Matthew said that if he was to go again he wouldn't have had the burger it was nice enough but he would've tried something a bit different. The trouble was that by this time it was about 10pm and we were all getting quite full , so I'm afraid we didn't eat it all. 

The style of the restaurant was quite cool, grungy with neon lights, you can see right through to the kitchens through wire fencing to the grills. It works on the idea of bbq food as a religion, the menus are like bibles and the toilets are even like confessionals, there is also a selection of sauces on the table to use with suggestions of what they work best with. It's a good atmosphere and there was a lot of good r'n'b and soul tunes playing, the only negatives I found were that the music was a bit too loud it makes that hard to hear one another or the waitress, and also I wasn't really keen on the cocktail I had but apart from that it was great. The meal cost about £80 for 4 people including drinks and tips so not too bad.
We will definitely be returning although next time we will go earlier to book in so we wouldn't be waiting so late to eat, also we probably would share two starters instead of four.
All in all it was a really lovely night! 
Thanks for reading, 
Abigail x 

Friday, 21 February 2014

Cocktail Masterclass at the Alchemist, Manchester.

I've looked into doing cocktail masterclasses before but this is the best value one  I've seen by far, you need to have at least 6 people to book a cocktail masterclass here, it is £25 each and for that you get to make and drink 3 cocktails. The cocktails themselves are about £7.50 so for not much more you get to make them yourself. I managed to get 8 work friends to come but we didn't really know what to expect. We thought maybe we'd be in a room separate from the bar, other cocktail making classes I've heard of are just done at the table and the measures of alcohol are poured out for you ready and you just assemble it but when we got there we were told we'd be doing it at the bar.
 We all sat at bar stools down one end of the bar and Ben the barman made the first cocktail that we'd be doing - the French martini apparently the only reason it's called martini is because of the martini glasses this had vodka, chambord (which is a blackberry liqueur) cranberry juice and sugar syrup topped with a pineapple foam and raspberry dust. We all had a taste so that we know what it's supposed to taste like, It sort of tastes a bit like rhubarb and custard sweets it's delicious, very quaffable! So he talked us through how we'd be making it, using the cocktail shaker and using counting to measure out the liquids - which lead to some differences in measures from one person to the next I think some people were intentionally counting slowly!! Next we each got to go around behind the bar two at a time to make the drinks, I was a bit nervous actually I was convinced that I'd drop it or spill it everywhere but it was such good fun, first measuring it out, then then shaking it, then straining it and the last bit you carefully squirt the pineapple foam out of the pressurised container you had to do it carefully, Ben said I had a good technique at that! I was very proud especially when it looked and tasted just as it should and it was great watching the others take turns at doing it whilst we drank our cocktails.
The next one was a passionfruit mojito, Ben told us all about the origins of the drink and the history behind this cocktail. This was one we made it in the glass with crushed ice, it had Bacardi, lime juice, passionfruit sugar syrup, a dash of soda, mint leaves and passion fruit. Then you use a swizzle stick/ spoon to mix the ingredients around the glass then top with more ice and a passionfruit half. I didn't use as much mint leaves in mine because I'm not that keen. It was really nice and refreshing. It would be great for summer.
The last one, 'Smokey Old Fashioned' we didn't really get to make this one, it's prepared for you and then you just pour it into the glass but it's very impressive. It's made using wild turkey bourbon, maple syrup, Jerry Thomas' bitters, oak smoke poured onto an ice ball. The oak smoke is administered by a really cool appliance it's called a smoking gun you put oak chips in the top and smoke comes out of the end. Obviously we weren't allowed to use it but apparently you can buy them (they are around £60). The cocktail was ok, I'm not a lover of whiskey but it was drinkable and I really liked the smokey flavour and it was actually really nice when I had coca cola put in it for me! 

We were so impressed with the cocktail masterclass, the fact that you got to go behind the bar to do it like a professional!, that you get to do a few different techniques, also that Ben spent so much time with us it was about 2hrs in all and it was very informative.

When the cocktail masterclass finished we decided to have a meal there. I had never had food there before but it was really nice and reasonable too. I had a steak sandwich with salt and pepper fries which was delicious and everyone else's food looked really good too and then I finished off the night with another two cocktails ...a Peach Bellini and a Strawberry Bellini, needless to say I was a bit tipsy by the end of it! 

It was a good night had by all and I would definitely recommend it,

Thanks for reading! 

Abigail x 

Monday, 17 February 2014

36 hours in Belfast

When looking for a city break Belfast didn't spring straight to mind. Many of my recent choices of travel have been based on how cheap the flights are by searching on sky scanner. After finding a cheap flight to Belfast I had a look into it and it sounded really good.

The flights from Liverpool to Belfast were good arriving at about 8am Saturday morning and leaving at about 8pm Sunday. The flights were with easyjet and cost us £100 for 2 return tickets.
On arrival at belfast international airport we needed to get the 300 airport express bus to and from Belfast which was about 30 mins and cost £10.50 return each. All in all the entire travel took about 4hr including our drive to Liverpool, dropping the car at the skypark car park ( I booked these using my tesco clubcard vouchers to get £10 off so that cost £15.99) flights and transfers. 

The prices for hotels were a little bit more expensive than normal because of it being half term and valentines weekend, we wanted to stay central but we didn't want to pay too much, there is a travelodge which is usually quite cheap but this was £99 for the night which I found quite expensive. As we only were staying for 1 night I thought we'd stay at somewhere a bit nicer for a bit more. As I'd been searching for hotels I had seen Hotel Europa and been told about about by one of my friends on Instagram it was actually the most bombed hotel and throughout Belfast's troubles it spent a lot of time with its windows boarded up which earned it the name of the hardboard hotel. It looked really nice and I really felt like it's a landmark of Belfast  in itself. I booked the hotel through which by far had the cheapest price for this hotel it was £118 for a double room with full Irish buffet breakfast. 
The room was lovely, it was small but it it felt luxurious. The bed was huge and so comfortable. Each room has a little rubber duck that you can keep. 
The hotel it's self was lovely, at night we went to the piano bar on the second floor later on for a night cap before going to bed it was very nice and busy too. 
The breakfast was amazing. It had a cooked breakfast as well as continental breakfast, cereals and fruit juices. We had the cooked breakfast which included bacon, sausage, mushroom, grilled tomato, fried soda bread, white or black pudding, a choice of fried, poached or scrambled eggs. All the ingredients were locally produce and delicious. Staff were very attentive asking if we'd like more tea or coffee. I was very full by the end! 

You can't go to Belfast without going to the titanic quarter. I had planned that we would spend all day Saturday here but we found that we only had time on the Saturday to do the Titanic experience and the Titanic dry dock and pumphouse so we went back on Sunday to do The SS Nomadic.

Titanic experience (£14.75 per person)
The Titanic experience building is amazing and there are great photo opportunities to be had outside, however I was less impressed with the actual attraction. It is a self guided tour which is usually staged entry but we were told it's not too busy today so you can go straight through. The first area was about Belfast the linen and ship building industries and how they grew, there are a few interactive displays which were good but a lot of reading in dim light, it felt far too busy in this first bit which made it hard to look at things also it didn't really flow well because you didn't really know which way to go so you didn't miss anything. The next bit focused on the building of the titanic you saw a part of the arroll gantry which was a third of the size of the gantry that the workers would have worked on, you then get in a lift that takes you to the top of it, and a guide tells you about the conditions for the workers. Next there is a small ride that takes you around the shipbuilding yard. I felt that the ride was a bit pointless and probably were the majority of the ticket price goes to paying for. The next bit was about the launch and for the first time you come out into the light as there are big windows in this bit. Before that I was starting to get a headache from reading in dim light. Next it showed us how the Titanic was fitted out and my favourite bit of the tour was a bit were you stood in a room and a tour of the Titanic was projected on the walls including the famous staircase. Next it told you about how the passengers and the events leading up to the titanics tragic end and you hear the survivors accounts of what happened. Then the next bit was about what happened afterwards, the news surrounding it and the inquiry into what happened. This was all very interesting. The tour finishes in a cinema that shows you the wreckage of the Titanic. I felt the second half of the exhibition was better. I did feel shattered by the time we'd finished the experience but this might have had something to do with me being up so early too. I enjoyed it mostly but I did feel that it was overpriced and having gone to the two other attractions in the titanic district I do think those were better because they were real parts of the history of the titanic.
We went to have lunch in the Galley cafe which was great, we had sub sandwiches which were delicious I had chicken with pesto and Matthew had a salami and mozzarella sub which was so big they were cut into two so we had half each. They cost £4.75 each which seems a bit pricey but the were so good. 

Titanic dry dock and pumphouse (£8 for two with tour and free tea/coffee with a voucher from livingsocial)
The dry dock is about 15mins walk from the Titanic experience the weather was on and off showers  and it was blowing a gale so this wasn't a great walk. We had the voucher which entitled us to a free tour which started at 2pm, when we got there there was a massive downpour so we had to wait 5 mins for it to die down a bit as the majority of the tour takes place outside. Luckily by the time we'd been given the tour of the pumphouse the sun had come out again. The tour was really informative and there was only us and two other people on the tour. The tour guide had photographs of the titanic when it was in the dock so you really get an idea of how big the Titanic was. After the tour we had time to walk around on our own and take photos. We got our free cup of tea and coffee when we got back to the pumphouse and warmed back up before walking back.

SS Nomadic (£6.50 each)
The SS Nomadic is the last surviving White Star Line ship. If you see only one titanic related attraction it should be this one, it's excellent value for money you are given a tour which lasts about an hour and then you can stay on and explore as much as you like. You are actually encourage to touch things, try things on and play the games, even the toilets are working crapper toilets! The tour takes you around the boat and through Nomadic's history from being the tender to Titanic and Olympic, then it's uses within the two world wars, then being tender to Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth before being made into a floating entertainment complex in Paris to being bought in a delapidated state and being brought back to it's birthplace in Belfast to be lovingly restored to its former glory.  The tour also features holograms of the crew explaining there jobs on the ship. The tour guide was very good, it was a large group (with wide age range) but she kept everyone engaged and was really informative. We both loved it and would definitely recommend it.

Belfast Landmarks
Belfast City Hall - this is a really impressive building in the centre of Belfast, built in 1906 out of Portland stone, it looks particularly good lit up night. 

Albert Memorial Clock- erected in 1865 to commemorate Queen Victoria consort, Prince Albert.

St George's Market - this building dates back to 1896, it now houses a weekend market, Friday - variety market, Saturday - food & garden market, Sunday - craft, variety, garden & food market.
We went on Sunday morning and I loved it there was loads of things to buy there are greengrocers, a fish stall, a butchers, bakeries, craft stalls, jewellery stalls, local painting, antiques and gifts. There are also cafés and world food stalls. 

Victoria Square shopping centre - I wouldn't normally put a shopping centre on a list of landmarks but this one is well worth a visit it has a huge glass dome on top and you can take a glass lift up to a viewing platform where you can see spectacular views of the Belfast skyline. 

Sampson & Goliath cranes - these are twin shipbuilding gantry cranes that stand on the Harland and Wolff shipyard that dominates the Belfast skyline.

Big fish - This is a 10' long printed ceramic mosaic fish sculpture in Donegall quay. 

The Crown Bar (or Crown Liqour saloon) - the national trust owns this building and you can see why it is an outstanding example of a Victorian gin palace, it is ornate inside and out. In the bar there are private booths made out of dark wood with ornate glass panels. It's like stepping back in time. Upstairs they have a dining room, as this pub was directly opposite our hotel and it was such a lovely place we decided to have food here too. It was really good - I had steak and black pepper sausages, champ, onion rings and the tastiest gravy I've ever had it was delicious. Matthew had the burger and that was delicious too. I think it's my new favourite place!

Everyone we met was so lovely and could not do enough for us, I loved the lovely singsongy accent "would you like a wee glass with your coke" it's so nice and friendly.

I have really fallen in love with Belfast and Northern Ireland and there is so much still that we haven't seen, I'd especially like to do a walk on the Belfast hills and up to cave hill and I definitely want to come back to explore the causeway coast. 

I want to say thank you to my Instagram friends especially the ones who live in Belfast and Ireland who gave me lots of tips and hints of where to go and what to see when I said I was thinking of going it really helped me to make the most of our time there.

Thank you for reading, now I'm off to plan my next trip! 

Abigail x

Saturday, 11 January 2014

2013 an excellent year!

I have been looking back at my blog from this time last year and the New Years resolutions I made and I have to admit I'm feeling pretty pleased with myself. The main thing was to do more new things and make the most of weekends and I feel like I have accomplished that and more. 

2013 was a very good year - the best yet in my opinion! - here's a snippet of some of the things I have done:
Row 1: St ives holiday, in the paper with work friends for red nose days, indoor bouldering, haven holiday -easter at Pwhelli, indoor skydiving, selling my christmas decorations.
Row 2: Cavtat holiday in Croatia, Easter party, summer walks, London at Christmas,foraging, Mum's 60th party.
Row 3: family parties, christmas markets in Germany, making things for swaps, taking Max on the beach in summer, and again in winter, hiking up Mount Snowdon.
Row 4: Mostar in Bosnia Herzegovina, walks and picnics in local area, my craft room is complete, barbeques, camping, making apple schnapps and other things from foraged fruits.
Row 5: pasties in Cornwall, eating al fresco, criccieth castle, New Year's Eve dressing up as Scooby  doo  characters, Pendle hill in the snow, autumn walks.
Row 6: Dubrovnik City walls, eating a whole crab at the rum and crab shack in St. Ives , Berlin, hiking up to hellvelyn via striding edge, going out in Manchester, making jam with foraged fruits.

I've loved it especially the travel and visiting new places. This year as yet we have nothing planned or booked and I don't like it really. I like something to look forward to - but then I have to remember this time last year we didn't have anything booked and look at how much we've done!

This year I want to continue trying new things and going new places but I'm going to give myself a bit of a challenge too this year- I want to try and blog every month of the year. Last year started out well but then fizzled out as the year went on- this year I want to keep up the momentum! 

Happy new year everyone and thanks for reading!

Abigail x