BACK TO UNI: Weekend Away

I treated myself to a long weekend and made the most of every inch of it. I decided to go back to my second home- Canterbury. Having spent 3 years of my life here, it’s safe to say for many reasons I have an emotional attachment to it. When I first visited this quaint city I immediately fell in love with it. The cobbled streets, the marvellous Cathedral and the pubs tucked away in every nook and cranny reminded me of something from a storybook. No matter what stresses or challenges I experienced at University, I always found comfort in the city itself.

This weekend I stayed in the Best Western Abbots Barton Hotel, an old English manor house turned hotel, located only a ten minute walk away from the city centre. Despite being only a 3* hotel, the standard double room is a comfortable size, but could do with a slight renovation. Nonetheless, the style of the room keeps in line with the hotel grounds and I could not fault the service or the cleanliness of the hotel- two key aspects in my opinion in hospitality.  There was also a friendly gardener who told me and my boyfriend the history of the hotel whilst we were taking some snaps.

This would be the spooky part in a film where someone tells us there is no gardener and hasn’t been one in 50 years… (I am sure he was real though, at least I hope so…)

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Arriving relatively late (about 8pm) on Thursday night me and my boyfriend met up with one of my oldest friends, and enjoyed a classic Nando’s together (oh so chic, I know). We drank and chatted at The Shakespeare, which you can find opposite the Cathedral but do not be fooled by it’s size as they also have a separate entrance for the restaurant. The cool atmosphere of the pub is perfect for wine lovers and ale drinkers. They often have evenings dedicated to wine tastings for all you enthusiasts.  They also tend to have live music, making this is a little gem of a find if you fancy a change to the chart music played in the larger chains. Overall the bar is very stylish and is a must for a visit to Canterbury. We also visited the Canterbury Tales (opposite the Marlowe Theatre) which is convenient for an interval drink if you’re seeing a show. We also had one drink at Seven Stars, a pub I surprisingly did not visit at Uni, but I imagine it would be a good stop for a pub crawl.

The next day I had brunch at the Refractory and did not hold back. The Refractory is a small cafe with brilliant service and has a very family friendly vibe to it. I am usually pretty stuck in my routine with breakfast and can have the same cereal for 6 months until I get bored. However when I have more time in the morning I try to make more of an effort. This weekend was the perfect opportunity to be more exciting with mybreakfast choices so I opted for Eggs royale followed by something sweet- buttermilk pancakes with banana and chocolate sauce. The rest of the day I walked off my sugar hangover around the shops and visited campus, whilst I reminisced about how hard it was to attend those 9am lectures ( little did I know what working life had in store for me!) Saturday late afternoon I went to Blackheath to watch the firework display and relived part of my childhood with star shaped sparklers! The firework display was free and lasted about 15-20 minutes and the crowd did not disappoint on their enthusiasm with echoes of oo’s, ah’s and wow’s! Come Sunday I was pretty wiped out so finished off my health filled weekend of Nando’s, beer, prosecco and pancakes with a McDonald’s vanilla milkshake.

Bon appetit mes amis! x

A stroll in Surbiton

After working full time for nearly a year now, I have come to appreciate my weekends so much more. Sleeping in until 9am is now a precious gift and showering at midday becomes (somewhat) acceptable. What I love most of all about my weekends, and what I appreciate more than ever is the chance for me to recharge my batteries for the week ahead. Escaping from the so-called ‘countryside’ of Buckinghamshire I explored the tropical and vibrant area of… Kingston-upon-Thames (and the surrounding area). Unfortunately I did not manage to whisk myself away to a hot Mediterranean country, but I did manage to beat the Summer blues by visiting this beautiful and quintessentially British area of South West London.

I began my adventure in Teddington, a town that is a stones throws away from Hampton Court. Keenly investigating Tripadvisor’s top picks for brunch I stumbled upon The Fallow and Deer Café. With brilliant reviews I made the journey down quicker than you could say scrambled eggs. With parking often costly and difficult in London, luckily enough I found parking down a residential road; obviously it was destiny that I too should be a happy and satisfied customer. Instantly I knew that I had made the right decision when I spotted the clever and witty caption outside the Fallow and Deer, a guaranteed way to make you chuckle.

The Fallow Deer Café has the hipster vibes you would expect to appeal to a young generation of hungry millennials, appropriately balanced with modern decor and a very friendly service, of hard working staff with a smile on their face. At midday the café was bustling with customers, nonetheless within minutes a table became available. I began my Surbiton retreat with a Buck’s Fizz and a pot of early grey (Top combo btw. For those cocktail lovers you can also treat yourself to a Bloody Mary and a Bellini.) For brunch I ordered poached eggs with halloumi, on an english muffin with avocado. For all avocado lovers, this dish certainly echoes the glowing reviews of those on Tripadvisor. Teddington is also great to the aspiring homeowner and recent graduates to dream big, as you window shop your future £1.5 million home, seamlessly forgetting that Student Loan debt. The town is full of quaint shops, a mix of wonderful charity shops and designer interior design stores, as well as your chain café’s and some top pubs. The Teddington Arms and The Old King’s Head are my top picks for your Saturday afternoon pint. They are also dog friendly which is a plus, as you can spot cute dogs. I came across some sweet French bulldogs – pretty sure one of them was Stella from Modern Family on a quick filming break.

Next I ventured to Kingston. Somehow in my 22 years I had never shopped at Kingston, a crime I regret to admit. The town centre is a dream to all shopaholics, with the treat of Bentalls department store to lose yourself in planning your dream house, stocking up on your make up collection and browsing the latest fashion trends. Along with this, it was the journey over the Kingston Bridge that left a lasting impression. I noticed the passerbys on this sunny Saturday September afternoon. I watched the happy mums and dads, the smiling elderly couples and the young love birds walk by. The Thames has been the backdrop to some horrific Terrorist attacks particularly over the last year, yet the spirit of Londoners remains strong.  Although the UK may be known for their tea obsession and conversation about the weather (ironically I have already discussed both in this blog post) but the British saying, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ aptly suits the atmosphere in and around London. As I am sure many of you too may feel, my sense of appreciation of this city is greater than ever.

After my afternoon of shopping I finished my day with a relaxing dinner at The Wheatsheaf in Esher. A classic British favourite of Sausages and Mash was had, whilst I happily reflected upon my very British Autumnal day. I encourage you to go and explore the city beyond central London and enjoy the smallest of things such as tea served in matching China (see above) to the spirit of Londoners (beyond weather talk!)

 

 

 

 

What I did this Summer…

In the UK much of daily conversation revolves around the weather, it really is a skill that no other country can match. From small talk, to envious social media posts to full blown rants, us Brits must express  at least once a day to someone, either A) “I can’t believe that it is raining again!“, B) “Oo look it’s the Sun! I have forgotten what it looks like. Oh no- it’s raining again” or C)- the most typical of them all, used instantly when we get an ounce of a heatwave is the complaining that “It is too hot, if only I had a pool, it would be fine but this is just too hot! Look at me, I’m melting!”

Nonetheless as soon as September rolls around, and the leaves begin to fall off the trees, we are nostalgic for those long Summer nights to return and already begin planning our trips for next year…

I personally love the heat and would choose it every time over the cold, but one thing that I do have in common with the British population is the nostalgia over my last holiday. It is these rose tinted glasses (or cocktail goggles I should say) that has led me to writing this post and lusting over my now faded tan!

This summer I visited Cyprus for the fourth time! I love this little island, the heat is perfect, the Mediterranean sea is so blue and you can even meet a turtle or two *excuse the rhyme*.   With only a 4.5 hour flight you can be at your destination, choosing to visit the Greek or the  Turkish side of the island. I first visited Cyprus when I was 18, to the beautiful resort of Ayia Napa for a classy responsible holiday with the majority of my year group, celebrating finishing secondary school. Since then I have veered 20 minutes away towards Protaras and Pernera which is only an hour away from Larnaca airport. I am lucky enough that my boyfriend’s family have a holiday flat here, making it the perfect getaway to escape to with everything conveniently near that even a quad bike will do!

Holidaying here also means that it has the added benefit of feeling like a home away from home but with the promise of daily sunshine (plus this area has some of the best beaches!)

This year we hired a car and explored even more beaches and was once again we were not disappointed by the Cypriot natural beauty, our thoughts far away from the busy hustle and bustle of London. Instead we were completely absorbed by the calming sea’s waves and the Mediterranean sunset.

Nissi Beach is great and is located in the Ayia Napa area but beware it is full of tourists. Serena Bay Beach is a smaller, cute beach complete with a beach bar. Visiting Cape Greco is a must and most of the boat trips take you through this national park, where you can see many people cliff jumping into these clear waters.

Cape Greco

There are also tons of other small beaches, that if you just go exploring driving down local roads, chances are you will find one and maybe even a wedding! This is something which I have often seen in Cyprus. I would also recommend to visit  the Church of Profitis Elias which sits on top of a hill, providing a great view of this enchanting town.

After climbing up a couple  hundred steps, you feel as if you could be in Mamma Mia…of course I totally did not re-enact that scene…

If you are looking for some great places to eat and drink, I would suggest: Blue Spice, Steens, Faliros and Mojitos- who coincidentally make a refreshingly fantastic Mojito.

I hope you all enjoyed your Summer, whether you spent it visiting festivals, traveling around South America, family holidays or even working! Let’s raise a glass of sangria to those sweet memories and in true British fashion- gosh Summer really did go too quick, I’m not ready for the Christmas adverts just yet!

Wyboston Lakes

Back in February I was lucky enough to go away on a weekend Spa break! I was whisked away to Wyboston Lakes in Bedford and happily soaked in every inch of luxury that this beautiful spa had to offer. I received this as a gift for my birthday which made the whole experience even more special as it was nearing mine and my boyfriends 5 year anniversary, meaning that there were some surprises that weekend!

Upon arrival I was immediately impressed by the size of the grounds, encompassing leisure facilities, golf grounds, conference suites, hotel, spa and the lake.  After checking in we went first to lunch and we were welcomed with a decorated table wishing us a happy anniversary- a truly thoughtful idea, scoring big brownie points for my boyfriend for the surprise! We were then offered either a starter+main or a main+desert. The selection included fresh salads as well as soup, chicken and rice dishes and a Sunday roast if I remember correctly!   Next of course to celebrate we kicked things off with Italian’s finest wine- Prosecco.

The spa hotel had two sections, and I was treated to a deluxe room in the Atlantis portion of the hotel. This included a superior king size bed, a mahoosive flat inch tv and even a tablet to contact reception (snazzy)- who needs to ring for room service anymore?! The room also came with complimentary snacks and drinks from the mini bar- a freebie that went down all too very well!

Here is a candid photo of me being easily pleased by towel swans (it’s the little things…)

The spa itself included 3 different sauna rooms- a salt room sauna, a more mild sauna overlooking the hydrotherapy pool and finally an outside SIZZLING sauna room. If you love sweating away the weekends sins in the sauna, this is the place for you! There was also a rather ‘nippy’  moment *excuse the pun* running from the hydrotherapy room to the sauna on an English Winter’s Februrary evening! However there was also a super cozy outside seating area with comfy sofas, blankets, heaters and even accompanied by a roaring fire, a very romantic feature! The Café is also a stones throw away so if you want to snuggle up with some hot chocolate or continue the celebrations sipping champagne in the pool all day to night you can. The spa also consisted of a chill out room full of multiple water beds, perfect for people wanting to completely zonk out.  Upstairs there were a few treatment rooms, offering the standard facial, full body massages, and manicure and pedicures. I myself did not have a treatment but I still was entertained as well as utterly relaxed, from just using the saunas and hydrotherapy pool.

When dinner time came around there was no holding back, and the restaurant did not disappoint. Using this belated extra birthday weekend/ early anniversary celebration to our advantage we settled for a  3 course meal. For starters we had paté, followed by two medium rare sirloin steaks with red wine gus and a bottle of red.  Finally for desert, we finished the evening with something sweet, just how the weekend started, with a scrumptious cheesecake and banoffee mess.

P.S. Ignore the MR and MRS haha- we aren’t married just a normal anniversary!

Overall what really struck me about this hotel, was that it was completely not pompous- I could really relax and feel at home (mission accomplished for a spa break!) The spa has the right balance of not being too ostentatious, but still having that luxurious and pampered feel at it’s heart. With Cambridge on its door step it is also the perfect excuse to make the most of your weekend away! Wyboston Lakes- I will be seeing you soon.

 

Tip: keep an eye out on Groupon to grab a good deal!