Welcome to our latest spa resort experience at Champneys Tring. This month my daughter and I returned to one of our favourite places to celebrate her birthday with one aim, – to indulge in three days of relaxation and pampering and this is the perfect place to do just that!
We enjoyed sampling the new summer menu with the accent very much on healthy eating combined with the Champneys food philosophy of moderation, balance and variety. Dining here is always a pleasure with excellent service and beautifully presented dishes.
These plates of food are typical examples of the starter, main and dessert courses we enjoyed during our stay. Breakfast and lunch are served buffet style with an enormous choice available, and dinner is a more formal three course meal from an a la carte menu.
The gardens and extensive grounds are beautifully kept and visiting in June we saw the resort at its best bathed in sunshine. We made the most of the outdoor seating and pool areas, and staying in a Ground Floor Garden room on this visit we also had our own patio with chairs, table and sun loungers.
The Mansion House is an elegant building at the heart of the resort with several lounge rooms designed for rest, relaxation and comfort which are tastefully furnished to a high standard.
Inspired by Rick Steins travels around Europe in ‘Long Weekends’ Steve and I recently enjoyed a lovely holiday in sunny Cadiz, which was one of his destinations. We had made a note of all the tapas bars and restaurants which Rick had recommended and made it our mission to see how many we could locate on our week long stay.
The classy interior of the 4* Senator Cadiz hotel which was very centrally located in the Old Town and close to the harbour, bars, restaurants and shops. It was exceptionally clean and had an excellent breakfast, a spa, rooftop pool and sunbathing area. Top tip if you have a hire car (as we did) avoid the hotel car park as alternative underground parking is available nearby which is less expensive.
On our first evening we dined at El Farorestaurant and tapas bar which was one of Rick’s recommendations and we weren’t disappointed. It’s considered one of the best places to eat fresh seafood in Andalucía for good reason and although formal it had a certain old school charm and elegance at a reasonable price for the quality. By Cadiz prices El Faro is considered to be expensive with mains starting at 15 Euros but our bill with drinks was considerably less than we would have paid in Cambridge UK for a similar meal.
Our next destination was to Taberna Casa Manteca which is a tiny and totally authentic tapas bar with a fabulous atmosphere and an interesting history. This busy bar is a must for anyone visiting Cadiz and we liked it so much we returned several times during our stay.
We came across this modern restaurant La Isleta de la Vina quite by chance and liked the look of it. The food was exceptional and very reasonably priced. This unassuming restaurant with a small but very interesting menu was like finding treasure. The chef here cooks amazing and inventive food which is lovely to look at and equally delicious to eat. Well worth seeking out in the heart of Cadiz Old Town and deservedly highly rated.
We took a bus ride to the Playa de la Victoria area of Cadiz and enjoyed lunch al fresco at La Despensa, a smart restaurant which serves traditional Spanish food with a modern twist in a beautiful setting overlooking white sandy beaches and panoramic sea views.
Apart from the exceptional restaurants and bars which are featured above we enjoyed beers and tapas at many other interesting places and none more so than Taberna LaBombilla in one of the roads which surround the fantastic fish market in central Cadiz. Steve relished the fresh oysters from a street vendor and I enjoyed platters of local ham and cheese with chips, Padron peppers and tomatoes.
Mercado Central de Cadiz (the Central Market) is outstanding for the abundance and variety of sea food on sale, plus the fruit, vegetable and tapas stalls around the outside with lots of benches to stop and sample the excellent produce and prepared food. Spacious, clean and well set-up the market is interesting architecturally as the new central building is combined with the original market.
A typical stall in the Fish Market
The Flower Market in Cadiz
Cádiz is a port in Andalucía, Southern Spain known as ‘the silver teacup’ and the oldest city in Europe. We found it delightful and full of quirky charm. The old town is virtually unspoilt and despite this being a stop for cruise ships it’s not a touristy place. I would make a return visit in a heartbeat because there is so much to see and do and we barely scratched the surface in a week. We located at least half the bars and restaurants which Rick Stein had recommended and found some of our own worth writing home about. It’s the ideal location for lovers of seafood with cheap beer, wonderful weather and uncrowded beaches – what’s not to love!
Instead of a dessert Steve completed his meal with a glass of Valveran 20 Manz, a sweet Spanish wine
This month Steve and I had a fabulous holiday in the stunningly beautiful city of Cadiz. We visited lots of bars, cafes and restaurants and enjoyed many tapas dishes but eating at Codigo de Barra was a truly memorable experience which deserves to be shared.
On our last evening we were looking for somewhere special to eat and we just happened to discover Codigo de Barra, an exceptional fine dining restaurant which was located in a quiet square very close to where we were staying at the Senator Cadiz Spa Hotel.
Dutch Chef Leon Griffioen was full of surprises and his innovative dishes were worthy of a Michelin star for both sensational taste and artistic creativity. This restaurant most certainly had the wow factor!
Codiga de Barra has a modest unassuming frontage and is located in Plaza de Candelaria, Cadiz
The stylish interior of the restaurants minimalist dining room featured upstanding spoons in lumps of rock which was a quirky signature touch!
Steve’s starter of Langostinos Urium – garlic prawns with a dash of Jerez sherry was served in an attractive china bowl
My starter of Tortillitas de Camarones – Shrimp fritter sticks were presented in an unusual way which was typical of the house style.
Because we dined early we were lucky to get a table without a reservation. Our meal was a delight and surprisingly inexpensive for one of such outstanding quality. (The bill with drinks came to 80 Euros.) The service was excellent too and it’s not surprising to find that Codigo de Barra has been established for eight years and is a hugely popular and successful restaurant. It’s a must for all foodies if you are visiting Cadiz. Strongly recommended and next time I will be sure to order the taster menu because all the dishes coming out of this kitchen looked divine!
Last week I enjoyed a first-class Afternoon Tea with a friend at Carriages, a splendid new restaurant with a vintage rail theme. Located in the village of Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire, which is about 15 miles from Cambridge, Carriages celebrates the golden age of rail travel and provides an opportunity to step back in time and eat out in style at a purpose-built railway station.
This was the most unusual and delightful setting for Afternoon Tea that we had ever experienced. We were seated in a totally authentic recreation of a fine dining First Class carriage with superb attention to detail from the bespoke china down to the recorded steam train sounds.
The food was excellent with high quality, locally sourced ingredients and stylish presentation and we had a second pot of tea without any additional charge. We both thought the Afternoon Tea was very good value at £21.50 per person, and there was plenty of it. As you would expect the service was first-class too, and it’s the perfect venue for special birthdays or anniversaries in a choice of three beautifully restored 1950’s carriages which can accommodate large groups. This vintage railway-themed restaurant experience is highly recommended and we would certainly be happy to make a return visit.
Carriages Tea Room
Tel : 01954 233 279 (Booking in advance essential)
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.
Inside, the decor is modern, cool and elegant with an instantly calming sense of light and space.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Examples of the desserts which were available every day at the lunchtime buffet
We usually started our lunch with a bowl of delicious soup every day
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.
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.
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! A separate area houses the largewarm saltwater thalassotherapypool 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.
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.
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.
Last 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.
The Official Brewery of the world-famous Whitstable Oyster Company. We enjoyed sampling several of the beers!
The Royal Native Oyster Stores in Kent is a seafood restaurant offering some of the very best oysters, fish and crustacea. The restaurant is located on the beach and offers stunning views of the company’s oyster grounds.
We found this gem of a pub and restaurant serving real ales, fine wines, delicious seasonal produce and live music. Just a stone’s throw from the sea in Whitstable.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beach front hotel in Whitstable.
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.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beachfront hotel in Whitstable.
After a bracing walk we enjoyed a pint of local beer and fish finger sandwiches with salad and chips at The Old Neptune
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.
We will certainly return whenthe weather is warmer!
Goslar is a historic town in Lower Saxony, Germany which is located on the Northwestern slopes of the Harz mountain range. The Old Town of Goslar is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a spectacular location for the Christmas Market.
We enjoyed several mugs of Glühwein and Feuerzangenbowle as we wandered around the markets. Great for keeping your hands warm too!
2. Hamelin is a town on the River Weser in Lower Saxony, Germany, that is best known for the tale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin. It also had a great market and was very picturesque with fabulous architecture.
3. Hanover or Hannover on the River Leine is the capital and largest city of the German state of Lower Saxony. We were very impressed with the street decorations and the numerous markets.
I wish all my WordPress friends and followers a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year!
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.
Harbour view from our apartment in Funchal
Views of Porto Moniz
Two views of Praia de Machico
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)
One of the fishing boats in the harbour at Câmara de Lobos, a suburb of Funchal
Sardines in Funchal
Mussels, Seabass and Squid dishes in Funchal
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!
Prawns and squid in Funchal
A popular traditional dish of Black Scabbard fish with banana. (This is a typical gastronomic speciality in Madeira and something of an acquired taste!)
Mackerel two-ways in Funchal (fine dining style)
The harbour view from our apartment in Funchal which was conveniently located opposite the German Beerhouse!
Trout in Porto Moniz
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.
The traditional fishing village of Câmara de Lobos was beautifully decorated with aquatic images
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
Taberna Popular : Rua dos Fontes 18, Funchal 9000-053, 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
This is a working farm which has successfully diversified and is collectively known as Wyken Vineyards. The Leaping Hare comprises a classy interiors shop, cafe and restaurant, and there is a vineyard and lovely gardens which are open to the public and all are part of the private estate of Wyken Hall.
Wyken Vineyards is located approx 11 miles from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and it had been highly recommended by a friend as a splendid destination for a day out in the countryside.
Wyken Farmers’ Marketwhich islocated in the old stables blockwas open from 9-1 when I visited last Saturday with a companion. After a look around the stalls, we found the Leaping Hare restaurant for a spot of lunch. As an aside I have to say that the name of this restaurant appeals to me almost as much as ‘The Giggling Squid’ Thai restaurant in Bury St Edmunds. (Unusual names must be a Suffolk thing!)
It was one of those typically changeable English summer days when there was a heavy rain shower one minute followed by bursts of bright sunshine the next, so we were wearing macs and sunglasses!
We started lunch with ice-cold sparkling orange and cranberry drinks
We both chose the Eggs Benedict dish for our lunch
My companion chose a slice of light and moist carrot cake instaed of a dessert.
Still thirsty and enjoying a leisurely-paced lunch we orderd a pot of tea each from a selection and it was loose-leaf!
Wyken Vineyards restaurant,The Leaping Hare, is located in the 400-year-old barn. A Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide and now in its 15th year in The Good Food Guide, the restaurant tries to source their ingredients from a five-mile radius, so the beef, lamb, game and eggs are local (and when possible from the Wyken farm and estate) with fruit, herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden.
Curious sign on the entrance door into the restaurant!
Wyken Cafe, which serves breakfasts and lunches daily, is also located in the barn and offers a lighter menu choice with the same quality of food and service as the elegant restaurant. Prices were on the high side but the food was exceptionally tasty. We paid £20 a head for our lunch which included two soft drinks each, cake/dessert and service.
There was also a Summer Exhibition in the Leaping Hare Cafe Gallery of limited edition prints of watercolours by Eric Ravillious.
The Leaping Hare restaurant is located in the 400 year old barn
Wyken Shop – The Leaping Hare Country Store
This very attractive and stylish shop apparently sells wool throws and blankets from Scotland and Ireland, braided rugs from North Carolina, French grape-picking baskets, Panama hats from Ecuador, and much, much more. The Leaping Hare Country Store also included the book room which houses a selection of books from small specialist publishers. I particularly liked the designer pottery, the chic and classic clothes and accessories, and their range of unusual cards and gift wrap. This veritable cornucopia of beautiful and useful household items and consumables was an ideal place to buy presents. I came home with a bottle of Good Dog Ale brewed by Wyken Vineyards for Steve!
The Wyken Farmers’ Market
At The Wyken Farmers’ Market, there was an impressive selection of stalls from local producers including farmers, bakers, and a distillery. I noticed fish, artisan cheese and fine tea stalls, and an abundance of organic fruit, veg, plants, flowers and herbs for sale. The Market is open from 9 am to 1 pm every Saturday.
Wyken is a 1200-acre working farm which includes a flock of Shetland sheep, a small herd of Red Poll cattle and in 1988 they established a 7-acre vineyard with some 12,000 vines. It has produced award-winning wines, including the English Wine of the Year, and in 2009 their ‘Wyken Bacchus’ won the East Anglian Wine of the Year,
On average they produce some 12,000 bottles a year, and these are all sold through their Shop and Restaurant. From the Leaping Hare, you can take a walk to the vineyard over Home Meadow and through the beautiful ancient woodland of the estate.
Wyken Hall Gardens
These beautiful formal gardens surrounding the Elizabethan manor house are crammed with topiary, herbs, roses, and fruit trees and you may see meandering peacocks, guinea fowl and chickens too!
The gardens are open from 27th March until the end of September, from 2 – 6 pm daily (except Saturday unfortunately, but all the more reason for a return visit!)
Wyken Road Stanton Bury St Edmunds Suffolk IP31 2DW
Last Sunday my daughter and I enjoyed an excellent Afternoon Tea in The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes Hotel and SPA, near St. Neots in Bedfordshire. To celebrate my daughters birthday we were booked into the hotel for the *Sunday Runaway spa package, (details below). Set in 350 acres, this modern 4 star hotel and spa, with a golf course and leisure centre is 2.8 miles from the market town of St. Neots.
The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes is in a lovely location
We were delighted to receive a glass of bubbly on the house as it was a special occasion
*SUNDAY RUNAWAY Y Spa stay
This Sunday night break includes dinner, bed and breakfast, and a full day’s use of thermal spa facilities on Monday which includes a two-course buffet lunch and a choice of one of the following treatments.