30 November 2016

Four Things to do in Bustling Jakarta - Guest Post

I think for years I've been getting holidays wrong. I, like many people, tend to take my main sunshiny holiday in the summer- but despite it's reputation the British summer really isn't that bad. I even managed to get sunburnt on our family holiday to Scotland last year, despite people warning me to pack my wellies. Nope, it's definitely this time of year - when you have to wear seven layers of clothing to keep the blood circulating to your extremities, when your car is frozen in the morning on the inside as well as the outside, when you can go an entire day without even seeing daylight -
THIS is the time we should be booking exotic holidays to far-flung destinations!

With this revelation in mind, and because it's what I always do anyway, I've been daydreaming about that next trip. And as if I needed tempting further into booking something, today I have a guest poster making me crave a trip to one of Indonesia's most exciting cities!

Jakarta Cathedral - Picture Credit: Wanderwithjo.com

Four things to do in bustling Jakarta

Jakarta, the vibrant capital of Indonesia, is a very popular Asian tourist destination. It may not be as popular as Bali, but really holds its own in the unique type of attractions it has. From historical to cultural, the city showcases a diverse ethnic character which cannot be replicated elsewhere. Traffic and pollution notwithstanding, Jakarta is considered to be one of the safest cities of South East Asia, which cannot be said of its other erstwhile counterparts like Bangkok or Beijing. If you plan to have a good time here, check out these four bucket list attractions, to make your stay in Jakarta all that more memorable.

1) Kota Tua/Old Batavia

The centre of business during the Dutch colonial era, Kota Tua or Tropical Amsterdam as it is fondly known as, is an important historical place to visit. With an impressive array of well preserved Dutch buildings and museums, it is easy to understand why. There are so many attractions in this city, each unique in their own way, that it becomes difficult to decide that which is the best. To start with, we have the beautiful  Diamond city wooden bridge, linking Old Batavia with a canal. The famous Café Batavia, with its antique Dutch influence is a must visit site. The Museum of Bank Indonesia, with the breathtaking architecture and housing a horde of informative material is strongly recommended too.

Bhairawa Statue at the National Museum - Picture Credit: wanderwithjo.com

2) Taman Mini Indonesia Indah

The best place to experience the culture and history of the entire country in one place is here. Located east of Jakarta, everything about the diverseness of Indonesia, from one corner of Aceh to the other end of Sulawesi, be it through architecture, clothes, dance, food etc is displayed here. A cable car ride in TMII offers a rewarding scenery of the miniature Indonesia park. An activity for the full family, a four hour guided tour offers a captivating account of the over 17,000 islands and more than 300 ethnic groups, which comprise the country.

3) National monument area

Probably the best place to start your tour to Jakarta is from the 137 m high National monument area. Commissioned to celebrate the independence of Indonesia, the views from the top are quite magical, with the solid gold foil at the top glistening in the sky. The basement too, provides an insight of the history of the diverse Republic. Just across the street is the National Museum, which houses exhibits from all over the country. The Presidential Palace also borders the museum as does the Istiqlal mosque and National Cathedral across the road.

Istiqlal Mosque, Jakarta - Picture Credit: www.wanderwithjo.com

4) Ancol dreamland

Established in 1996, Ancol is a great tourist destination in north Jakarta. One of the largest recreation parks in Indonesia, Ancol dreamland consists of hotels, golf courses, nightclubs, swimming pools apart from the famous theme park, Fantasy world. The park has more than 40 rides to choose from. Other attractions here include, Sea world, Atlantis water adventure and Pasar seni, an art market, where products are available for sale. There are two beaches here, within the resort, namely Carnival beach and Festival beach.

I could definitely thing of worse ways to spend my time! I've already found myself on http://www.traveloka.com, checking out places to stay (Hotel Mulia works for me), and comparing flights (I can even get there from local Leeds Bradford,.. not directly, but still!) .... despite having no holiday allowance left at work and no money for nice trips! Still, we can but dream... (dream,.. and plan,.. and save!)

27 November 2016

Bettys Cafe, Northallerton

Something occurred to me yesterday morning. In an early morning, pre-breakfast conversation about favourite Bettys sites (as you do) I suddenly realised I'd still not been to their Northallerton café. So then we had a plan for the day!

It was a bit of a trek to answer some cake-cravings, but Bettys is always worth it! As soon as we were settled at out table and had my pot of their lovely China Rose Tea in front of me, I knew all the problems and stresses of the last couple of weeks would soon melt away.

For once though, I made the unexpected choice to not order myself the Afternoon Tea! There are few things finer than afternoon tea at Bettys, but a quick perusal of the menu before we set off had left me day-dreaming about the dessert list, and not even I could justify an extra dessert after eating what I essentially a big pile of cake.

I figured I should make a show of pretending not to be a sugar-obsessed child, and actually eat some 'proper' food before indulging in my dream dessert, so settled on the Yorkshire Rarebit (with added bacon, obv). Of course, I doubt that my stack of cheesy bacon was any healthier than my intended dessert, but it was no less tasty either ---- mmmmm, all that cheese!

It was the promise the of the treacle tart that had enticed me all the way up to Northallerton though... the thought of the warm, gooey treacle Genoese, sweet toffee sauce and creamy vanilla ice cream had meant my expectations were high when the plate was sat in front of me! This was every bit as delicious as I could have hoped!

So delicious, in fact, that I didn't even miss my Afternoon Tea... but at the same time it would have been a shame to not take full advantage of being at Bettys, so I made sure I took enough stuff home from the shop to replicate that afternoon tea experience!

(Though my poor little one-eyed fat rascal didn't make it to this afternoon, be was devoured with a hot cup of tea this morning, and he was delicious!)

24 November 2016

The Emmerdale Studio Experience

I might as well get the confession out of the way at the start of the post - but I don't really know very much about Emmerdale. I've never really watched it, don't know any of the characters, can't tell you any of the storylines. But I was still really excited to be invited on the studio tour!

The first reason is because of my mum. My mum is a massive Emmerdale fan, she's watched it for as long as I can remember. She's also a very difficult lady to buy presents for. So a trip to the Emmerdale Studio Experience around the time of her birthday was a great way to make her smile and to earn top daughter points!

Also, I grew up just up the road from the (then called) National Museum of Film, Photography and Television and spent my childhood running round their mock sets, setting lighting and camera shots for pretend shows and learning about editing. I was interested in seeing how it all worked in a real show!

The tours take place in small groups, led by a friendly and well-informed tour guide. We were taken through the many different departments, from the writers offices where we could see all the storyboards, to the make up and costume departments.

It was here I realised I must know a little more about Emmerdale than I first thought, as even I recognised some of these iconic items!

That pink suit is something quite special, don't you think?

We also got to play with a couple of the props used I the show - they're all great to look at but it's strange to realise that if you see someone get hit over the head with a brick in Emmerdale, that brick probably weighs less than a pair of socks!

When we got to look around the sets, it became apparent how much has changed since my youth at the museum - the lights are all controlled by ipad! This is certainly a simpler and more user-friendly way of doing things, even if it did make me feel a little old!

The exterior shots on the show are not filmed at the studios but on a special location elsewhere, so I didn't expect to see those (semi) familiar buildings (I'm not an Emmerdale expert but I do know pubs!) - so I was thrilled when we were led to a delightful scale model village. This was one of my favourite parts of the tour!

Another highlight of the tour though was of course finishing up in The Woolpack with a drink and some tasty nibbles! 

There was plenty more to see and learn on the tour but I don't want to give away all the fun little secrets now, do I? If you are at all interested in learning more about Emmerdale, or about creating TV shows in general then I definitely recommend you take the tour for yourself!

More information about the tours offered and how to book can be found on the Emmerdale Studio Experience website.

*I was invited to experience the tour free of charge.

16 November 2016

Where a Smile Meets a Giggle...

My kids are growing up. Behind us are the times when I was the primary source of new information in their lives, where I introduced them to new things and experiences I thought they'd like. These days it's much more likely for them to tell me (their old and out of touch mum) about the new cool things that are making up the playground talk.

Some of these things, I'll never understand (being, of course, old and out of touch). I'll never really understand the point of 'dab', or the endless fascination with bottle flipping. But, some things even an ancient crone like me can get on board with.

One such occasion came a month or two ago, wandering round the Bradford Broadway shopping centre, when the kids stopped in front of the brightest shop I'd ever seen and asked if they could look round Smiggle. 'Please mum', came the cries, 'it's where a smile meets a giggle!' How could I say no to such a well-ingrained marketing slogan?

Skip ahead a couple of weeks and I find myself attending the Smiggle Christmas Party in their Leeds Trinity store. Who's cool now, kids?!

As a self-confessed stationary enthusiast, Smiggle is a dreamland! Everything is bright and cheerful, beautifully displayed, and cute as a button! Not to mention a tonne of the stuff is scented - I haven't wandered round a shop sniffing everything like this since I first discovered Lush!

Now, a lot of the stuff in Smiggle is clearly aimed at kids. And kids absolutely love it. But that definitely doesn't mean that it's not perfect for adults too! I definitely had my eyes on a few bits for myself, as well as getting loads of Christmas ideas for the youngsters!

And speaking of Christmas, the Smiggle advent calendar is AMAZING! The £28 calendar has £38 worth of exclusive goodies, and a chance at finding one of 25 vouchers for a £250 spend in store!

I spent a lovely morning playing with toys and figuring out which pencil cases would make the best handbags, and the wonderful folk at Smiggle even sent me away with an awesome goodie bag of treats for the young ones (which I only briefly considered keeping for myself!), but I'm pretty sure I'll be back in again before the end of December!

10 November 2016

Love Stories and Fairy Tales

I love books. Proper proper love books. Its not really something I've talked about much on the blog, actually, but it's always been there - my first love. You literally can't get into my bedroom properly for the piles of them (I ran out of shelf-space years ago!) I've spent hours and hours down at Bradford's stunning Waterstones branch. There are books I have numerous copies of just because I kept seeing different versions that were just too beautiful. I did a second degree in English Literature 'just for fun', and started my MA in Children's literature for the same reason.

What you may be more aware of from reading these pages, is that I also love really love cool handbags. I have a particular fondness for the Vendula London unique bags, and the latest in my collection is a wonderful way to bridge the gap between these two passions in my life!

This beautiful creation of from their Vendula Downton range, an amazingly autumnal bunch of bags in rich purples and opulent blacks, with majestic metallics, warm woollen fabrics and the same impressive attention to detail that first warmed me to the brand.

I thought my 'Love Stories' book bag would be the perfect thing to accompany be to the beautiful fairy-tale city of Prague recently.

Though I'm usually a fan of Vendula's bigger bags (what can I say, I carry around a lot of stuff!), I thought it was about time I introduced something a little more dainty into my collection. The smaller dimensions of this Book Cover Clutch Bag give me just enough room to carry the essentials (phone, purse, keys and, in the case of the holiday, passports and boarding passes fit in just fine), meaning I had to pass bulkier items to my companion to carry - I should have tried this years ago!

The clasp is sturdy enough that there should be no danger of it coming open, as long as you make sure it's closed properly (I'm carless and once or twice left things sticking out at the side - make sure everything is tucked in properly and you should be a-ok!). It's sold as a clutch bag but does come with a detachable strap if you prefer to carry it that way. As I said, I'm careless - anything I have to be trusted to remember to pick up and look after is not good for me, but string it over my shoulder and I'm good to go!

It's hard to say this is my 'favourite' of my Vendula bags, as I love them all, but this one is different to all the others I own. It feels a little more personal, in a way, and the colour is the stuff dreams are made of!

I can't help but be reminded that Christmas isn't too far away, and this would make a perfect present for any book lover - but I'm pretty sure you could find something on the Vendula site to suit most people. I know a lot of ladies that would be thrilled to wake up to one of these on Christmas morning!

* Bag provided free of charge in return for review but my opinion is my own, and I straight-up love it!

** Don't be fooled by the apparent solitude on Charles Bridge - we had to get up pretty early to find it not full of people! Still beautiful when busy though!

2 November 2016

Degustabox - October 2016

I know it's a bit of a cliché to talk about how quickly time seems to be passing at the minute ('can you believe it's November already?' etc etc) but the thing is... it's true! I mean it's (sort of) nearly Christmas already?!?!

One happy thing that marks the passing of time is my monthly Degustabox delivery ... if I'm going to see my life slipping past me before my very eyes, at least I get to do it with tasty snacks! Here's what was in the most recent box...

Levi Roots Smokey BBQ Coat 'n Cook (RRP £1.00) - I love the Levi Roots sauces. You just pour this over your chicken (or whatever - but I'm boring so always use chicken!) and cook. It's so hard to get it wrong that even I manage to make a tasty meal!

Maggi Fusian Noodles (RRP £1.39 each) - Dried noodles always come in handy and these look like some really tasty additions to my 'what can we have for tea' cupboard! I particularly fancy the Fiery Sweet Chilli ones, they're on the menu for this weekend!

Yushoi Snapea Rice Sticks (RRP £1.99) - These have popped up in a previous Degustabox so I was already a fan when I found them inside this one too. They're healthy baked snacks made from peas.... they shouldn't be nice, but they are!

Robinsons Squash'd Orange (RRP £2.49) - I've had this little bottle of squash in my bag since I opened the box - you never know when it might come in handy! This is super-concentrated so you only need a drop or two for tasty water. 

Heinz Kid's Dry Pasta Shapes (RRP £1.99) and Heinz Kid's Pasta Sauce (£1.55) - Oh, I remember a happy time, before minions existed. It was quiet and peaceful and distinctly less annoying. I could happily never see the wee yellow critters again for as long as I live. My daughter, on the other hand, still loves them and is delighted with this pasta n sauce combo!

JimJams Milk Chocolate Spread (£2.59) and Hershey's Cookies 'n' Crème Bar (£1.00) - If you've read my Degustabox posts before, you may have noticed a theme... all the healthy treats and snacks go home to be enjoyed with the children - all the chocolately, sugary goodies stay with me at work where I can have them all to myself! OK, so the chocolate spread has 83% less sugar than other varieties,... but I'm keeping it anyway,... and the Hershey's is long gone!

Beloved Date Fruit Hearts (RRP £0.75 each) - Whereas of course the 100% natural, 1-of-your-5-a-day date hearts went straight home for the youngsters! They certainly weren't complaining though, these fruity treats went down a storm!

Pitch Choco Bar (RRP £1.40) - We've enjoyed different varieties of the Pitch Brioche rolls in the past but these ones were new to us - the same yummy brioche with a mini bar of chocolate in the middle! Chocolate is always a nice surprise!

Iam Souper (RRP £1.49 each) - For a start, what a great brand name! Great soup too - thick and hearty and perfect for warming you up on these increasingly colder days!

So, want to get your hands on a fab box of foodie goodies like this one? Course you do! Especially if I tell you how to save a whopping £7 off your first box? Just subscribe here and enter the code ZB7QP to get the whole thing (including delivery!) for just £5.99!  

* Degustabox provided at no charge in return for review