26 September 2016

Paris, Day One - Settling In

Last month (I know, I'm getting further and further behind with posts, sorry!) a few last minute hiccups and unexpected events resulted in me spending a lovely few days in the beautiful city of Paris with my brother and all our kids.

(Not like 'our' kids, obv - my kids and his kids - four of the youngsters all in all aged between 2 and 10!)

It was my first flight in years from Leeds Bradford airport, and it's definitely looking much swankier these days! The grubby canteen-style eatery in my memory has been replaced with a number of new sports for pre-flight refreshments and we were pleased to find seat for us all at the Saltaire Bar. WE weren't sure if we'd have time for full meals but ordered a bunch of sharey bits between us (nachos, onion rings and the like) and were impressed with the speed, quality and cost of the food considering we were in an airport (where you sort of expect to be ripped off a wee bit!)

We'd all flown before apart from my little niece Mischa, who was terribly excited about her first time on an airplane! So obviously she got the window seat and sat next to her big cousin for safety! (Honestly, these two were pretty inseparable the whole trip!)

Having our hands full, we splashed out on a taxi from the airport to our accommodation, Le Regent Hostel in Montmartre.  Now, call me a snob if you like, but I've never actually stayed in a hostel before and was a little wary but the place was actually perfect for us! The staff were incredibly helpful before we arrived, accommodating last minute changes to the original booking, and brilliant while we were these too.

We were all in the same 6-bed room, and the kids loved sharing even though it wasn't very condusive to an early nights sleep! Access to the kitchen was really handy for putting together picnics for our days out, The boys in particular got a lot of use out of the games room, while my brother and I were pleased to be able to take advantage of the hostel's beery 'happy hour' once or twice!

As a hostel newbie, I was a little surprised by the variety of people who had chosen to stay at Le Regent - families, solo travellers of all ages, groups of friends and couples were among the guests, and I'd definitely now consider this type of accommodation for family trips in the future. The absolute best thing about the hostel for us though was it's close proximity to this lovely little park.

This was our first stop every morning and our last one every evening - a perfect place for the kids to run round burning off any excess energy and make up for any of the times they'd been expected to be relatively still and quiet at attractions and restaurants throughout the trip. Plus the free water fountains, found in abundance in Paris's parks actually, were a godsend in the hot August weather!

Despite clearly being in a very touristy area, it seemed most of the people we met in the park were locals - taking their kids to play, indulging in a leisurely game of boules or generally just relaxing in the sunshine.

Once we were all settled in, a wander around the neighbourhood and a search for food were the next priorities! Food options within a few minutes walk ranged from shady takeaways to elegant bistros and we headed to L'Ecrin based on a cheap menu, a friendly guy at the door and a short walk back to the hostel when we were done!

I know a lot of people look down on the cheap 'tourist' set menu places, but less than ten euros for a main meal and a drink in Paris sounded pretty good to me - the food was good too. Not amazing, but definitely good. It's only a small place but they were happy to shift tables around to make room for us all to sit together, and even offered us a free drink for the littlest one (who didn't have her own meal as she was more than happy to share everyone elses!)

They offered a limited dessert menu but by then the youngsters had been sat still long enough so we made a better, more Parisian plan: crepes in the park!

We'd walked past the crepe place on out earlier walk and I hadn't gotten that delicious aroma out of my head all throughout dinner - delicately thin and smothered in Nutella, they were absolutely amazing!

Stuffed to the gills, it was time to retreat back to the hostel to argue over who got the top bunks and get as much sleep as possible in the stifling heat - ready to start the real exploring the following morning!

11 September 2016

Cirque Du Soleil - Amaluna in Manchester

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend some time in Las Vegas - city of 24-hour gambling, all-day drinking, ill-thought out weddings, hotels that have their own rollercoasters,.. and of course a serious roster of world-class shows. When planning our show schedule for the week, we of course wanted to include on the Cirque Du Soleil shows as I'd heard so much about how great they were and I never expected to get to see one closer to home.

Just goes to show what I know though, because until the 9th October you can watch Amaluna at their special big top tent just next to the Trafford Centre in Manchester!

I was thrilled to have the opportunity to see the show on its opening night, and I had my mind absolutely blown by some of the amazing things acts in Amaluna.

As a person that's never been able to do so much as a cartwheel, anyone that has full control over their body always amazes me - but the THINGS THESE PEOPLE CAN DO WITH THEIR BODIES! Seriously, I can't begin to explain it. You really need to see it yourself!

Narrative isn't the main thing you'd go to the circus for, but I liked that this one did have one - loosely based on The Tempest, we see Miranda's love story play out against a background of jugglers, acrobats and contortionists. I was happy to go along and see some amazing things, but having characters to root for really did make me so much more emotionally invested - I'm a big softie at heart and always appreciate a good love story!

The show was genuinely beautiful to behold - not just the fancy flying about, but the wonderful costumes, sets, lighting,.. everything worked together so wonderfully to transport an eager audience to the mysterious island.

I wouldn't like to play favourites, as everyone involved in the show is amazingly talented, but the water scenes in particular were absolutely mesmerizing!

I even preferred this show to the one we saw in Las Vegas. It may have just been show-fatigue, or the lingering remnants of jetlag, and I did really enjoy Zarkana, but Amaluna just completely enchanted me.

Amaluna is on at Manchester until the 9th October, and will be in London early next year - and is definitely worth seeing if you can!

* Tickets were provided, as were the photos from the show as it's strictly no photography/video during the performance!

8 September 2016

Degustabox August 2016

I was actually away on holiday when the most recent Degustabox arrived, so it was really nice to have something to look forward to on my return!

For those who don't already know, Degustabox is a monthly food subscription box - delivering new and exciting food and drink products straight to your door! Here's what came in August's box:

Tabasco Sweet and Sticky Barbecue Sauce and Marinade (RRP £1.99) - This is going on pretty much everything I eat from now on!

Clipper Lime and Ginger Green Tea (RRP £1.59) - I've admitted before that I'm not really a green tea fan, so if I'm going to drink it, I want it to taste as little like green tea as possible! This lime and ginger flavoured tea does the trick just nicely.

Nutripots in Aromatic Thai Noodles and Moroccan Couscous (RRP £2.49 each) - These little pot meals (just add water, like a fancy, healthier pot noodle) are really handy for me at work where I often forgo a proper meal for whatever I can find in the biscuit cupboard. They contain 50% of your daily vitamin and mineral needs (so, probably more than the biscuits!)

Dorset Cereals Bircher Muesli (RRP £3.49) - My nephew was helping my unbox and photograph this months box (school holidays = kids everywhere!), and took this lovely looking box of muesli with him as his payment. Kid loves muesli. To be fair though, if muesli is your bag, this looks like a grand one!

Get More Multivitamins (RRP £1.45) - I always mean to take vitamins - I have no doubt that my diet doesn't provide all the nutrition I need for optimum health - but I forget. I'm useless. So maybe sneaking them into my system in water could help? Either way, the sparkling lemon and lime flavour is pretty nice!

Oloves (RRP £1.00) - I love the idea of these cute lil chilli snacks, but sadly really don't like olives. I passed them to my brother though, who seemed very pleased!

Mahou Cinco Estrellas (RRP £1.20) - I DO on the other hand, really like beer - so this premium lager from Madrid was a nice treat!

Geeta's Curry Pastes (RRP £1) - I'm a big fan of curry but honestly never usually make my own (I live in Bradford, it'd be a waste not to rely on one of the cities many esteemed curry eateries instead!). I really should give it a go, and no I have no excuse not to - especially with the Mango Chutney to go alongside!  

Willy Chase's Fit Corn (RRP £2.19) - I love popcorn. After years of working at a cinema as a student, a handful of popcorn is like coming home. It didn't come in such exciting flavours then though! The Willy Chase's popcorn comes in four flavours but I was very happy to have received the lovely salted honey!

Rakusen's Snackers (RRP £1.29 plain and £1.49 gluten-free) - I'm keeping these handy little snacky bits for next time I have folk round - a few quick toppings and hopefully people will be tricked into thinking I've made an effort!

Fentiman's Sparkling Lime and Jasmine Drink - Fentiman's are basically the kings of soft drinks,.. their Rose Lemonade is an absolute delight, so I was really pleased to see them pop up in the box. I've not seen the Lime and Jasmine before and thought it was delicious.

Capsicana Cooking Sauce - Mmmm this chilli and lemon Peruvian cooking sauce sounds awesome - anything with chilli is usually good by me - can't wait to try it out!

Pretty good, right? And I can tell you how to get an awesome box of foodie treats like this delivered to you for less than £6! The usual subscription price is £12.99 - still a great deal of course - but you can save a whopping £7 off your first box when you subscribe with the code BLDEG15!

4 September 2016

Afternoon Tea at The Cookhouse, Haworth

When I set out to Haworth a couple of weeks ago with the youngsters, we went planning on a nice picnic on the moors in the glorious summer sunshine. Of course, between setting off from home and arriving at the pretty village, it had started raining...

I'm never too upset about the opportunity to pop into a cute café for a warming cup of tea and a large selection of baked goods though - the picnic could always wait!

I let the youngsters pick the venue for the days cake-eating and they liked the look of The Cookhouse.

There were some great sounding cooked options on the menu, but I do find it hard to resist Afternoon Tea if it's an option so quickly ordered myself their Afternoon Tea Stack for one, complete with sandwiches, scone, cake and very welcome pot of hot tea!

The finger sandwiches were so tidgy - how adorable! Plenty of them though, in nice soft bread with tasty fillings. I limited mine to ham & mustard and cheese & pickle, because I'm a fusspot, but there were other sandwich fillings available.

Similarly there was a choice of scones available, and I took the opportunity to grab a plain one - served warm with jam and clotted cream. The ladies on the table next to me had just nabbed the last cherry scone, which they assured me was amazing, but I had no complaints about the plain one!

Well, expect maybe that I had to share with the youngsters, despite them having their own cakes!

The Afternoon Tea Stack came with a slice of fruit cake with Wensleydale as standard, but with the option to upgrade to any one slice of cake from their home-made selection for an extra £1. There were some delicious looking cakes to chose from the but the gooey, cream-filled lemon slice was the one for me!

Plus as the kids had gone for chocolate and Victoria Sponge respectively, it meant we had three very different but equally delicious cakes to try between us! (The lemon one was the best though!)

Haworth is so full of sweet little tea rooms and places to eat that it can be hard to know which one to head to the The Cookhouse is my new favourite!