A week of healthy eating at Champneys spa resort Tring, Herts

Last month my daughter and I enjoyed a fabulous six-day spa break at Champneys Tring, a health resort and well-being retreat which is set in 170 acres of idyllic Hertfordshire countryside. The once Rothschild family-owned estate complete with a Downton style driveway impressed from the moment we arrived. Outside the front entrance is a dramatic, modern fountain. IMG_2118 (2)

Inside, the decor is modern, cool and elegant with an instantly calming sense of light and space. IMG_2120 (2)

Britain’s original health spa was established by eccentric naturopath Stanley Lief in 1925 at Tring and it’s the flagship property of the Champneys Group.IMG_1098

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A frosty start to a sunny morning at Champneys, Tring. This was the splendid view from the patio of our Ground Floor Garden Room.

We exchanged the routine of work and the stresses and strains of everyday life for a week of healthy eating, exercise classes and treatments in the tranquil bubble of the spa.

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One of the fabulous relaxation rooms at Tring
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The Champneys Plate

The Champneys Plate illustrates what a balanced diet actually looks like, showing how
much should be eaten from each of the three main food groups, with an equal proportion of 33 percent. The Champneys food philosophy relies on the principle of balance, moderation and variety and therefore, all Champney’s cuisine is high in fibre, low in fat and uses complex carbohydrates. For guests who are looking to lose weight, Champneys also has a Light Diet Menu and Plate offering 25 percent complex carbohydrates, 25 percent protein and 50 percent fruit/vegetables.

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One of my choices for a typical nutritious breakfast! Champneys soaked muesli with soya milk and added nuts. Half a banana, Orange juice, and for a treat  – a mini blueberry muffin.
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There was a wide range of hot and cold dishes available at the lunch buffet with lots of different salads and vegetables

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 Three examples of the yummy desserts which were available at lunchtime 

At all the Champneys resorts the dress code is relaxed during the daytime and most guests wear their signature white towelling robes for breakfast and lunch, although for dinner smart casual wear is requested in the evening. At lunchtime, there is soup, a choice of hot dishes and a selection of colourful superfood salads. Desserts were of the healthy variety and came in small portions including an apple crumble, coconut rice pudding and fruit mousses, with the additional choice of fresh fruit or yoghurts. robe (2)

The spacious dining room is split-level with upholstered dining chairs and white linen tables, and the large French windows let in lots of light. We helped ourselves from the extensive self-service buffet for breakfast and lunch, and for dinner which is table service in the restaurant, there was a three-course meal with a wide range of healthy eating or light diet choices of starters, mains and desserts.

Dinner is a rather grand affair and on our first evening, a pianist was playing in the restaurant. I particularly enjoyed some excellent fish dishes which were accompanied by flavoursome sauces that certainly didn’t taste low cal but were the epitome of healthy, nutritious cuisine. Game and poultry are on offer and even some red meat dishes. Champneys take food intolerances seriously with plenty of gluten-free and lactose-free choices. There is no bar at Champneys Tring but they do offer wine or Prosecco with meals. We were very good and just drank copious amounts of water and soft drinks for the duration of our stay.

Incidentally, all meals are included in the price of the Champneys spa stay packages which make it excellent value. Guests could spend a whole week here and not pay anything extra unless you want to add treatments or drinks. Dining.jpg

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Everything you could wish for in a spa is on offer at Champneys Tring: a 25-metre pool, a well-equipped gym, two activity studios with a wide range of classes and a host of thermal experiences. We spent a lot of time in the water during our week at Tring, as we attended Aquafit classes twice every day, and enjoyed using the Thalassotherapy pool and jacuzzi frequently too. One day when the temperatures were barely above freezing we even braved the large outdoor whirlpool for a very short while! untitledA separate area houses the large warm saltwater thalassotherapy pool which has glass windows overlooking the grounds and a wall of slate with a soothing waterfall running down it. The water is enriched with minerals like magnesium, zinc, potassium and iron to nourish the skin and aid the detoxification process whilst the pool’s hydrotherapy jets stimulate and tone. It was my daughters’ favourite place at the spa!

The surrounding 170 acres of gardens and woodland make Champneys Tring a peaceful and quiet place to relax and provides the opportunity for a countryside stroll. However, we only ventured out once for a short walk around the beautiful grounds on a cold and frosty morning when the sun was shining.IMG_1092

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The Marine and Wellness Spa is a new feature exclusive to the Tring resort with its own Reception area so we were keen to see what was on offer there. We booked in for a guided wellness “journey”, a combination of treatments designed to de-stress, detox, slim or rejuvenate. The full treatment lasts for two-and-a-half hours and costs £125, but we chose the shorter version which was £75 and included a foot spa, a salt scrub, an algae wrap and a session in the salt and oxygen inhalation chamber.Detox-salt-and-oxygen.jpg

My daughter and I have been guests at many different health resorts and spas over the years but Champneys Tring is the very best we have ever experienced for location, treatments, classes, food, facilities, and customer service. If you are looking to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul and beat the winter blues this place has it all and is highly recommended.

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A Winter break in Whitstable, Kent: January 2018

IMG_1024.jpgLast week Steve and I enjoyed a 3-day winter break in Whitstable which is a quaint fishing and harbour town on the North coast of Kent. It’s located 5 miles north of Canterbury and 2 miles west of Herne Bay, and very popular with visitors, especially from London. Harbour Street has many independent shops and there is a wide selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants in the town which has the working harbour as it’s focal point. This was our first visit and a post-Christmas gift to me from Steve as he knew I have been wanting to stay in Whitstable for years and had never got around to it.

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Whitstable Harbour

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We stayed in one of these 150-year old converted Fisherman’s Huts, which were formerly fishermen stores and are now run by the Hotel Continental. They provided the perfect setting for something of a unique overnight accommodation experience that is quirky and fun. The huts are situated just metres from the beach in the centre of Whitstable offering magnificent sea views of the Thames estuary.  Breakfast was served at the Hotel Continental which is about 10 minutes walk away from the huts and included in the price.

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The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beachfront hotel in Whitstable.
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Dating from the early 19th century ‘The Old Neptune’ Whitstable, or ‘The Neppy’ as it’s affectionately known locally is one of only a handful of pubs to be found on the beaches of Britain.
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After a bracing walk, we enjoyed a pint of local beer and fish finger sandwiches with salad and chips at The Old Neptune. 

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The Royal Native Oyster Stores in Whitstable is a seafood restaurant offering some of the very best oysters, fish and crustacea. The restaurant housed in a whitewashed former oyster store is located on the beach and offers stunning views of the company’s oyster grounds.
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The classic rustic interior of The Royal Native Oyster Stores restaurant where we enjoyed a splendid meal on the first night of our stay. 
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We found this gem of a pub and restaurant offering real ales, fine wines, delicious seasonal produce and live music, just a stone’s throw from the sea in Whitstable.
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The Pearson’s Arms has a lovely bar area and a rather fine restaurant upstairs where we enjoyed dining on our second night, from a menu which showcased the best of fresh, local produce.
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Steve relished eating both native and rock oysters in Whitstable.
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The Official Brewery of the world-famous Whitstable Oyster Company. We enjoyed sampling several of the beers!

Some of the interesting images we found in Harbour Street, Whitstable by local enigmatic graffiti artist Catman, a Banksy-style street painter – who apparently keeps his identity firmly under wraps!

So what did I make of our winter break in Whitstable? It certainly has a unique appeal and I can’t really compare it to anywhere else, although I felt that there are similarities with Aldeburgh and Wells-next-the-sea. Our stay in the fisherman’s hut, a meal in one of the best fish restaurants and a pint of a local brew in one of the seafront pubs sums up the charm of quintessential Whitstable: a combination of the classic rugged, cosy seaside town aesthetic and a touch of the modern bohemian! Well worth a visit, a short stay or as a base for a holiday.

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We will certainly return when the weather is warmer!

 

A visit to the Christmas Markets of Goslar, Hamelin and Hanover, Lower Saxony, Germany: December 2017

I wish all my WordPress friends and followers a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!

Seafood in Madeira: September 2017

This month Steve and I had a wonderful holiday on the spectacularly beautiful island of Madeira. We were based in an apartment in a central location directly overlooking the harbour in the capital city of Funchal where the weather was always hot and sunny. It was the first time we had visited the island so we hired a Fiat 500 convertible to explore places of interest, although we found that it was easy to get everywhere by bus.

We enjoyed fresh seafood dishes every day at different restaurants at various locations on the island which varied widely in price and quality. To accompany every meal we enjoyed the traditional signature eat Bolo de Caco (garlic bread)

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One of the fishing boats in the harbour at Câmara de Lobos, a suburb of Funchal
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Sardines in Funchal
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Mussels, Seabass and Squid dishes in Funchal
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Skewered Garoupa fish and Limpets in Praia de Machico. Grilled Limpets are very much in favour with the locals as a starter

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Two views of Praia de Machico. One of the most popular holiday resorts in Madeira, Machico has a wide partially sandy beach, with calm, warm waters that are perfect for swimming. Swaying palms and rugged hills in the distance make for a picturesque backdrop. The busy promenade extending around the beach is a great place for people-watching too! 
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Prawns and squid in Funchal
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A popular traditional dish of Black Scabbard fish with banana. (This is a typical gastronomic speciality in Madeira and something of an acquired taste!)
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Mackerel two-ways in Funchal (fine dining style)IMG_20170905_1524387.jpg
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The harbour view from our apartment in Funchal which was conveniently located opposite the German Beerhouse!
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Trout in Porto Moniz

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Two views of Porto Moniz. The natural bathing pools surrounded by bizarre lava rocks and filled by the tide with crystal clear water are undoubtedly the main attraction of this most Northwestern point of the island.

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The traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos was beautifully decorated with aquatic images
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The view overlooking the picturesque harbour at Câmara de Lobos

Câmara de Lobos is a traditional fishing village on the south-central coast of Madeira, which was beautifully decorated giving it a festive atmosphere. We found it to be one of the most attractive places on the island and well worth a visit.

Eating out in Madeira is fairly expensive and we paid 25 Euros a head on average for a two-course main meal with drinks.  I am more than happy to recommend the following places in Funchal for al fresco dining with good food and service which were great value as well.

The Marina Terrace Restaurant for fresh fish and great seafood, good service and value with excellent views over the harbour.

Restaurante Marina Terrace: MARINA DO FUNCHAL, Funchal 9000-055, Madeira, Portugal

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Taberna Popular (Bar) for a taste of Funchal nightlife with cheap drinks, courteous service and free popcorn!
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House Jazz for great live music, a warm welcome and home-cooked Portuguese cuisine

House Jazz Restaurante:  Rua dos Aranhas 16, Funchal 9000-044, Madeira, Portugal

 

Restaurant Armazém do Sal for fine dining inspired by traditional Portuguese cuisine located in a 200-year-old building that once served as a salt warehouse.

Restaurante Armazém do Sal: Rua dos Alfândega 135, Funchal 9000-051, Madeira, Portugal

The Golden Gate Grand Cafe is the height of opulence in style with an extensive menu of Italian and Portuguese cuisine. Expensive but worth it for the location and silver service.

Golden Gate Grand Cafe: Avenida Zarco 2A, Funchal 9000-060, Madeira, Portugal

 

The Castle and Espigueiros of Lindosa, Northern Portugal : May 2017

On a recent holiday in Northern Portugal, Steve and I spent a day touring the National Park of Peneda Gerês. We were particularly keen to see the famous centuries-old corn cribs (espigueiros) at Lindoso village, which is located 25 km from Ponte da Barca.

The medieval Castle of Lindoso dates back to the 13th century and stands on a small rocky outcrop beside the village. The espigueiros and the castle are set in beautiful scenery and in addition to the fresh mountain air, there is a wonderful sense of peace and tranquillity. It was a highlight of our holiday and a memorable experience.

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The Castle of Lindoso and the espigueiros are located in the National Park of Peneda Gerês

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The view of the espigueiros and the village from the castle ramparts. It’s a surreal and incongruous mix of the historic espigueiros and modern housing at Lindoso. IMG_0548 (2)

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Skillfully sculptured and meticulously constructed, these amazing old stone espigueiros were used to store corn cobs and designed to protect the maize from rodents and rain. At Lindoso there is a threshing-ground composed of 50 granaries dating back to the 18-19th centuries. They are located near the castle and constitute a unique and beautiful agglomerate. Made entirely of granite, slatted for ventilation and topped by a protective cross each one is supported by mushroom-shaped stilts standing on rock. IMG_0539 (2) (2).JPGIMG_0541 (1).JPGIMG_0544The frontier village of Lindoso is the location of one of Portugal’s best-preserved collections of granaries or espigueiros800px-LindosoCastle2

Lindoso Castle is a defence monument built in the 13th century during the Restoration Wars. Inside the walls of the fortress, the garrison houses, the chapel, and the oven are in ruins. The drawbridge was intact and looked to have been recently restored. There were outstanding views from the sentry posts on all sides of the ramparts.

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Lindoso village with its castle and unique and beautiful espigueiros set in spectacular scenery are well worth a visit if you are travelling in Northern Portugal.

Snapshots of Northern Portugal: May 2017

Following my last blog post about our recent holiday in Northern Portugal, I just had to share a further selection of photos with you as it’s such a picturesque and colourful place.

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A typical beach scene  – Costa Verde, Portugal

The beautiful coastline town of Praia da Ancora nestled just south of the Portuguese/Spanish border was a lovely place to visit.

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The pretty harbour at Praia da Ancora
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I loved the decorative tiles on these harbour front houses in Ancora
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Flower decoration found on the exterior of a butcher’s shop in Ancora

Porto is a coastal city in north-west Portugal known for its stately bridges and port wine production. I found this historic hillside city to be charmingly dilapidated and stunningly picturesque. One of the oldest cities in Europe, its a maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets and we visited the medieval Ribeira district which was full of interesting spectacle, so understandably it’s very popular with tourists.

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The majestic Douro River in Porto
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Port wine barges at Porto
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Colourful houses in Porto
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A fascinating shop totally devoted to sardines in Porto!
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A beautiful shop entrance in Porto
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Some typical old dwellings in Porto, a few were derelict but most were lived in – note the steep steps!

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Porto’s bustling riverside area in Ribeira has lots of bars, cafes, and restaurants and the river cruises are very popular.IMG_20170517_1530150 (1)

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A striking piece of street art seen in Porto

We travelled to Porto by train and even the railway station was a thing of grandeur!

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Our local railway station in Caminha was a typical example and beautifully maintained
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I liked the look of these apartments in the historic centre of Viana do Castelo
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We enjoyed wandering around Viana do Castelo and the ornate doors and coloured tiles on these typical townhouses were most attractive

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This shopping street in Viana do Castelo hung with gaudy umbrellas made a terrific visual impact and certainly drew customers in!

Viana do Castelo is a lively resort and the main coastal town in the Northern Minho region, and a great place for souvenir shopping and sight-seeing.

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Another fabulous example of the local architecture. We spotted this place, – now a hotel (Villa Dalina) on the road to Valenca do Minho at Seixas.

Eight days wasn’t enough time to sample all the delights of Northern Portugal so we would love to return sometime to explore more places.

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The beach at Moledo do Minho

Tastes and vistas – Northern Portugal discovered: May 2017

It’s been a while now since my last blog post (Easter) and I’ve been waiting for something really special to share with you. Steve and I recently enjoyed a lovely holiday in Costa Verde, Northern Portugal and I found plenty to write about. It was our first visit and we explored an area resplendent with colour, sunshine, seafood, striking architecture, and much more. We stayed at Casa da Galé – a villa in the picturesque coastal village of Moledo do Minho. 1161_6 (2)We were within walking distance of one of the area’s most scenic sandy beaches. It was very quiet being low season, and although the weather was good the unspoilt beach was often deserted.

Our holiday home Casa da Galé was a charming stone cottage with a pool, which was set on several levels amidst spacious grounds of lawns and fruit trees.

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Moledo do Minho is a five-kilometre beach located at the mouth of the River Minho, which forms the north frontier between Portugal and Spain. Popular with surfers and kite-flyers!

We visited some picturesque cities like magnificent Porto with its stunning architecture and enjoyed several delicious meals in restaurants where locally caught seafood was always on the menu. We found eating out to be generally inexpensive and soft drinks were usually priced at one euro. Beer was also cheap and we drank copious amounts of Super Bock Portuguese lager!

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We thought Porto was absolutely stunning!

Just two of the lovely restaurants where we enjoyed traditional Portuguese cuisine. We found it a challenge at most places to understand exactly what we were ordering because we didn’t speak the language, but although the food and drink were sometimes not as expected it was always delicious!

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It would be a travesty not to mention Portuguese custard tarts, which are my favourite sweet treat. In fact, I made sure that I ate at least one every day!

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The vast and colourful weekly market held in Barcelos sold everything from livestock to furniture, so we came home with a few interesting souvenirs.

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We also enjoyed sampling the local Douro wines and Port!

We explored Northern Portugal in a Fiat 500 convertible hire car, and I’ll have to put together another blog post of Steve’s wonderful photographs to really do the holiday justice.

A delectable Afternoon Tea at the Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa : Newmarket, Suffolk – March 2017

This week I had not one but two good reasons to celebrate as it’s the 2nd anniversary of the date I started my blog and it was a friends birthday, so we treated ourselves to a delicious Full Afternoon Tea at the Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa in Newmarket, Suffolk.

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The Bedford Lodge Hotel is located on Bury Road, close to the centre of Newmarket

 

We ate in the elegant Squires restaurant which although contemporary was the epitome of comfort and luxury that one would expect from a 4 star country house hotel. It was very quiet on a Thursday afternoon so we had the restaurant entirely to ourselves. The service was friendly and attentive, and we were offered limitless refills of pots of tea which I always think is a prerequisite of an Afternoon Tea, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen everywhere.

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The finger sandwiches were served on a 3 tier stand and were very generously filled with smoked salmon, ham and egg mayo

The food was freshly-made and served on attractive Villeroy and Boch china, with white linen napkins and tablecloths. The finger sandwiches had exceptionally tasty fillings and were generously filled. The scones were extremely light and still warm when served with the very best lemon curd I have tasted anywhere. In fact, I liked it so much I asked if they sold it in pots to take home. (They didn’t!) We also had both plain and fruit scones, with plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam.

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We enjoyed warm freshly baked scones, plain and fruit served with lemon curd, strawberry jam and clotted cream

In addition to a delightful selection of cakes and sweet treats we also enjoyed a refreshing seasonal fruit sundae served with a dark chocolate spoon, which was a lovely touch.

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The next course was a fresh seasonal fruit sundae served with a dark chocolate spoon

Presentation of the Afternoon Tea was especially attractive and appetising. Although we had skipped lunch deliberately we soon ran out of room, so a selection of cakes were boxed up for us to take home to enjoy later.

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An exquisite collection of sweet treats completed our meal

 

 

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The elegant entrance to the Bedford Lodge hotel

We had a guided tour of the elite spa adjacent to the hotel which has superb facilities at surprisingly affordable prices, so we plan to book a spa day there soon.

Newmarket is the ancestral home of British horseracing and a unique town in Suffolk which is well worth a visit. The Bedford Lodge Hotel would be an ideal location to stay, and I’m more than happy to recommend Afternoon Tea at the award-winning Squires restaurant – which is open to non-residents.

Next time I visit I intend to try the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea which was a quirky twist on the traditional. Our Afternoon Tea was £18.95 per person which was exceptionally good value, and is served from 2.30 to 5.30pm, throughout the year. This stylish hotel is set in lovely grounds and there is ample parking.

I only have one minor quibble, and that is the tea was not loose-leaf which one would expect from a hotel of this quality, but a selection of teas were available (or coffee if preferred).

Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa             

Bury Rd

Newmarket

CB8 7BX

http://www.bedfordlodgehotel.co.uk

For reservations call: 0800 6522991

 

Art, Afternoon Tea and Cocktails: London – January 2017

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Last week I had a lovely day out in London with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We started our day with a visit to The Switch House, – the new extension to the Tate Modern gallery in Southwark which opened to the public in June 2016.

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The 360 degree panoramic view from the 10th floor of The Switch House at Tate Modern was a spectacular start to our day

Having skipped lunch we were looking forward to enjoying a full Afternoon Tea at our next destination The Wolseley, a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition located on Piccadilly, London.

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The ornate and beautiful frontage of The Wolseley
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The Wolseley dining room is elegant and sophisticated with a grand atmospheric interior

In a classy and relaxed atmosphere we enjoyed The Wolseley’s full traditional Afternoon Tea, which had a lovely selection of finger sandwiches and small cakes, with freshly baked warm fruit scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a choice of loose-leaf teas. At £28.50 per person I considered this to be excellent value, as we were offered more sandwiches and a second pot of tea at no extra charge. Although this place is always busy the service is remarkably good because they have lots of staff. The ambiance is buzzing and it was a super place for people-watching! It’s good to know that their scones and pastries are made on the premises, with an ever-changing selection of cakes, which typically might include a Battenberg or Sachertorte. Everything was perfection, from the white linen napkins, the marble-topped tables, the silver cutlery and tableware, to the bespoke china. We felt that this Afternoon Tea provided a quality experience and it’s the perfect venue for a special occasion. Highly recommended if you are looking for somewhere to eat in London, but booking is advisable.

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The Wolseley’s traditional Afternoon Tea was perfection and there was plenty of it!
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A nice touch to mark this special occasion – a  birthday tuile for my friend
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We enjoyed a tasty mix of finger sandwiches and were offered seconds!

The sandwiches were freshly-made and especially tasty with fillings of Chicken and tarragon, Smoked Salmon, Celery and Tomato, Cream cheese and cucumber, and Egg and Watercress.

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At The Wolseley the freshly-baked scones were kept warm under a silver cloche

                        

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There was even a bespoke goodie box to take home our left-overs!

A full Afternoon Tea is served from 3.00pm (3.30pm at weekends).

First opened as a prestigious car showroom in 1921 for Wolseley Motors Limited, the venue became The Wolseley in 2003 and soon became the famous institution it is today.

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We ended the day with cocktails at the fabulous bar of The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Kings Cross, London

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The opulent interior of the 19th century Gilbert Scott bar

The Bar at The Gilbert Scott offers flavour, ingredients and theatre and provides the ultimate cocktail experience in show-stopping 19th century surroundings. Guests are welcome for drinks on a drop-in basis, and although I thought it was expensive, it was well worth it for a special occasion.

Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. It’s Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. Based in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, and the new Switch House extension provides one of the best panoramic views over London free of charge, so it’s well worth a visit. As with the UK’s other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space.

The Wolseley

160 Piccadilly

London

W1J 9EB

Telephone: 020 7499 6996

http://www.thewolseley.com

The historic and magical Rathaus Christmas Market in Hamburg

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Last week Steve and I enjoyed a few days in Hamburg where we visited several  atmospheric Christmas Markets in beautiful locations. The largest market, and our favourite was located just outside Hamburg’s most impressive town hall, The Rathaus. We discovered history, tradition, heritage and highly decorative stalls in the design of rustic Alpine huts selling a vast range of goods, and of course lots of food and drink!

The Hamburg Town Hall (Rathaus) Christmas Market is filled with hand-crafted Christmas decorations from the Erzgebirge region, woodcarvers from Tyrol, bakers from Aachen who produce their famous “printen” cookies on site, gingerbread makers from Nuremberg and pottery made by artists from the Lausitz region. There were also stalls featuring the work of silversmiths and many other artisans and craftspeople from all over Germany.

Every day at 4pm, 6pm and 8pm Santa Claus could be seen flying his reindeer sleigh across the sky high above the roofs of the Christmas Market stalls, where he stopped and told the story of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer to the entranced spectators. We thought we had drunk too much glühwein when we first saw Santa fly! It was incredibly effective, and both adults and children were mesmerised by the spectacle.xmas-25

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 FOOD AND DRINK, Glühwein, Bratwurst and much more!

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The pulled roast pork served in a bun was very popular
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Steve enjoyed a Bratwurst for lunch every day!
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The “Spielzeugasse”, a large model railway running across the stalls was the cause of much fascination by young and old

The historic Christmas Rathaus market has 80 stalls and takes place on the largest inner city square in Hamburg. It’s become the best-known, and one of the most prestigious markets in Germany, with almost 2 million visitors every year. In front of the venerable and imposing backdrop of the splendid town hall, artisans and craftspeople come from all over Germany to offer their high quality goods, including potters, glassblowers, woodcarvers, candle-makers, jewellers and a lantern-maker. We came back with a suitcase full of affordable and unusual presents for friends and family.

The market smells of burnt almonds, gingerbread and nuts and the popular mulled wine drink called Glühwein is drunk from specially designed Glühwein mugs, – which you can keep as a souvenir, as we did.

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There was a specialty street with yummy edible treats, where culinary products from Tyrolean cheese to the many Lebkuchen stalls are located, locally baked bread and pretzels, and the traditional Stollen from Dresden, which surprisingly doesn’t contain marzipan. The sights, sounds and particularly the smells were seductive, and we were very impressed with both the Christmas markets and Hamburg itself. This a city we would certainly like to revisit in the summer to spend more time exploring the magnificent harbour area.xmas 32.jpg496502ed46d92562a6f750fe6bb18623

 Granny Apples says “Merry Christmas and I wish everyone a very Happy New Year”