Friday, September 13

Whittlebury Hall, Northamptonshire

Whittlebury Hall is a four AA-star rated hotel in the heart of Northamptonshire and I was lucky enough to be invited there on strictly work-reviewing purposes. This time, I decided to treat my mum to the high life and she squealed with delight when I extended to her the invite.



Within a short distance to the famous Silverstone racing track, the hotel is close enough to hear the sound of the engines from the car park on race days. With a restaurant inspired by F1 legend Murray Walker and one named after the Aston Martin car, lovers of formula 1 will certainly feel at home here.

The hotel entertains guests both for business and leisure and with extensive health facilities and conference spaces, the appeal for each market is clear. The award-winning Day Spa is one of the largest in the country and a key hook for guests. With 23 treatment rooms and special heat and ice experiences, the spa is a hit for hen parties, groups of friends and romantic couples looking for some relaxation.

The country chic style of the hotel is echoed with large grand portraits, leather upholstery and rich colours adorning the walls and space. It's a real pretty picture.

We arrived at the hotel around 12pm, checked in and headed up to our room to see what awaited us for the night. Opening the door to mum's 'ooohs' and 'ahhhhs', we quickly looked round and eyed up the freebies, before donning our swimsuits and heading straight for the spa.

The spa is a main attraction to the hotel and is beautifully presented in a Grecian theme. Light stone walls and staircases, complete with goddess statues and ancient ruin-inspired elements cement the hotel's holiday feel. The spa hosts a special heat and ice experience, with features such as experience showers, a hydro pool, salt steam room and ice room, which we wasted no time in getting stuck into.



The floatation beds are a particular highlight here; warm water beds which engulf the body and transport guests to a place of pure relaxation. After giggling our way onto them, we soon drifted off as the world around us slowly dropped away.

The spa also puts on special demonstrations sessions, including chocolate making classes, skincare demonstrations which are all inclusive of the day and provide something different for guests to enjoy at no extra cost.



A quick stint in the gym (I'm becoming obsessed with the pursuit of those washboard abs) we relaxed in our room until our rumbling tummies signaled for dinner time.

We had chosen to dine in Astons and the menu has both flair and choice. True to form, we both opted for the lamb and it was well-presented and beautifully succulent. The other restaurant is Murrays which is the real jewel in the crown. Paying homage to Murray Walker the F1 pundit, the 2 AA rosette menu created by head chef Damyan Stefanov, is inspired by modern British cuisine.

There is also a watering hole aptly named the Silverstone bar, where memorabilia from famous formula 1 faces is presented on the walls.



An all inclusive package at the hotel, including dinner, bed and breakfast starts from just £125pp, which is hugely affordable and a very attractive offer. Although hen parties and couples predominantly drive the main bulk of revenue, the hotel welcomes all calibre of guests throughout the year.

We returned home the next day, after taking full advantage of the buffet breakfast and saying goodbye to our country retreat.   

Thursday, September 5

Althorp: The home of Princess Diana

Althorp

Princess Diana and her life still never fails to fascinate me. Her history with Prince Charles, her bold fashion choices and her astoundingly kind nature which changed the way we see the Royal family forever. Her death in 1997 shocked the world and her childhood home in Althorp, Northamptonshire is now dedicated to preserving her memory and the legacy she left.

Althorp is a country estate of about 14,000 acres and a grade 1 listed stately home. Princess Diana is actually buried here, on a small island in the middle of a lake, with a shrine built to give fans a place to grieve and lay flowers during their visit. 

Althorp
Diana grave

Princess Diana lived at Althorp before her wedding to Prince Charles, but the home has a long history, being built in 1508 and staying in the Spencer family for 19 generations.

The stable block has since been converted into an exhibition devoted to the memory of Diana, displaying her beautiful wedding dress, artefacts from her youth and dresses from her time in the limelight.

Althorp Althorp

Althorp

Althorp

The house is a wonderfully grand building and is remarkably peaceful among its picturesque countryside surroundings. We were lucky enough to go on a bright day and were happy wandering around the estate at a leisurely pace, taking in the quintessentially English atmosphere.You can walk round the house, decadent and still inhabited by the next generation of Spencers, and even treat yourself to an afternoon tea - it's a really great day out.

Althorp

Gate

Jumping
I obviously enjoyed myself!



Monday, September 2

Liebster Award - get involved!



The lovely Grace over at Sometimes Gracefully has nominated me for a Liebster Award! And I am happy to accept! Orginated by Caitlin from Candid Celebrations, Liebster is a German word which means sweetheart, beloved or darling and it's a cute idea.

It's an award given to a blogger, who has been nominated by another blogger and has less than 200 followers. It's a great way to connect with other like-minded aspiring writers and discover and grow a wider network of internet friends :)

If nominated, you need to create and post a blog post including the following:

  • Accepting the award.
  • Answering the questions set by the blogger who nominated you {and commenting on your nominator’s page…so they can read your answers!}
  • Nominate 10 other blogs {trying to avoid repeats} and comment on their blogs to notify them of their nomination.
  • Set 10 questions of your own for your nominees to answer.
  • Paste the Liebster Badge in your post.
So here are my nominated list of 10!
 

Willfully Elegant  
Daisy 35  
One Great Adventure 
Emily Thinks 
To Hell in High Heels 
The Only Place 
George Peorge 
Prattle and Froth 
The Misadventures of Morgan 
Orbiting Oceans

And here are the answers to the questions penned to me from Grace...

1.What is your favorite part about blogging?
I love sharing experiences with other people and writing creatively. Although I do get to write everyday in my job as a journalist, it's not in my favourite style, so my blog has become the place where I can really let my creative juices go wild!

2.If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
It would have to be a cheeseburger and chips - any brand, any style. I'm trying to make it a regualr occurrence to try out all the best burger joints in London and so far it's been a great little experiment! Obviously if this actually happened I would balloon to the size of a house, but it would be so worth it!

3.Who was the last person you talked with on the phone?
My friend Louise. We were meeting for a hen party and she called me to see what my E.T.A was.

4.Cats? Or dogs?

I love both really. Dogs give you more love, but nothing beats the sound of a happy cat purring away under your soft stroke!

5.What is your favorite sound?
Listening to the waves on the beach. Growing up in Brighton this was a sound I absolutely loved and my favourite place to be was wandering along the coast in a world of my own. That was before my brother insisted on racing me up the pebbles! Now one of the main things I miss is not living by the sea.

6.Do you prefer going to the theater or going to the movies?
I love the theatre. I used to be all into performing arts and nearly went to University to study it, so I really love seeing shows in the West End or on Broadway - the harmonies never fail to give me goosebumps!

7.Who inspires you the most?
My mum - sounds corny but she is one of the greatest people I know and gives me the best advice. I just hope I can be as good a mum as she is!

8.Would you rather have a night out or an evening in?
A night out with my favourite Brighton girls. Dancing crazily in a circle round our handbags, singing at the top of our lungs and getting a little merry.

9.If money was no object, what would you do all day?
Travel the world, visiting every place imaginable and soaking up every experience.

10.If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to?
Tough one, but either 2003 - year 11 at high school; such easy days and spent with such amazing people who have since remained my lifelong friends, or 2007, the year I went travelling and had three of the best months of my life, in Africa, Australia and Japan.

11.What is your favorite memory?

This is such a hard question to answer! I have so many amazing memories, a three-week epic family holiday to America, my first year at Uni, travelling the world, day trips to London, a house party that I held while at school without my parent's knowledge that is still talked about to this day - too many to choose from!

So if I've nominated you, then here are my 10 questions:

1. What is your dream job?
2. Favourite place to be in the world?
3. Favourite food?
4. Where do you see yourself in five years?
5. In a crisis, who do you call?
6. What would you do if you won the lottery?
7. What is guaranteed to make you laugh?
8. What makes you sad?
9. Biggest regret in life?
10. Proudest achievement?



Make sure you post a comment on my blog to let me know you've accepted the award and answered my questions! 

Saturday, August 31

Notting Hill Carnival

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me and the girls to don our best carnival gear and head up to Notting Hill for this much-loved bank holiday bonanza. Three years on the trot, it seems to get better every year and this year, we spent the afternoon getting our twerk on in the streets of London to some banging beats, yah man (spoken in my best Rastafarian accent).


The drinks were flowing, everyone was in a vibrant mood and the sun had his hat on, we couldn’t have asked for a better day. We stocked up on our alcohol stash for the day and a very necessary snack size sausage roll and hit the usually sleepy suburb to party with the best of them.
 
The atmosphere was electric, just full of bright young people wanting to let their hair down and have a boogie. We stopped for our typical dose of jerk chicken, rice and peas after working up an appetite, before following the parade around the streets and dancing the hours away. Bring on next year!
 

Thursday, August 29

Shake Shack, Covent Garden

Sunday morning after a night (and day) of indulgent food and wine, the promise of a juicy meat patty is like music to my ears. After hearing about Shake Shack from fellow bloggers and since my good friend Suzi - arosyday.com - had made me aware of this little haven of fried goodies, as soon as the words 'burger breakfast' came up, I was game.
 
Shake ShackTucked away in a corner of Covent Garden, fighting your way through the mountains of tourists is your main obstacle. Once you get there, queuing while being tempted by the meaty smells that arise from the shop is your next challenge. Luckily, at 11am on a Sunday, not many people had the same idea as us, so after only a 5-minute wait we were being served. 

Burgers
I opted for a standard cheeseburger and we decided on a couple of batches of fries for the table. The service is really personal; they make a point of asking everyone’s name, planting your mind smack bang in the middle of an all-American diner. Once ordered, I was handed a buzzer and told to find a table and wait for it to vibrate. When it did, I hurried over to the counter and was handed my tray of delights, before manoeuvring my way back to my seat, trying not to let them see my mouth water and the look of sheer excitement on my face. 

Suzi Scoffing
The burger itself was pretty standard and my tip would be to make the commitment to a double patty – one on its own just doesn’t seem enough. The fries though, they were out of this world. Crunchy, salty, crinkly; the way all good ol’ chips should be.

I just wish all my breakfasts could be like this!


Tuesday, August 27

Ibiza wardrobe

I'm not sure if I've mentioned (yeah right) but I'm off to the sunnier climes of Ibiza in approx 5 weeks time to lose my party isle virginity among the top notch clubs, happy hardcore music and copious amounts of extortionately expensive booze. And all of this requires a killer wardrobe. With my fitness regime going strong (especially with Hitler who runs my local kettlebell class) I have been endlessly scouring the high street hotspots in search of some bargains. I've already scheduled a trip to Westfield Stratford just before I go away, but with all my favourite stores running some killer summer sales, it would be silly of me not to dive straight in. So far, so good and I have already bagged myself a couple of great little looks.

With the help of some of my most-read fashion blogs, especially atlantic-pacific.blogspot.co.uk, I have been soaking up all the trend advice and style tips I can in a bid to nail this Ibiza look.
1 ASOS dress £20  2 h&m SALE  3 h&m SALE
On my shopping travels I've also uncovered a secret gem - ASOS run a '50% off 50 Items' promotion each month and the dress above was one of these lucky items! Result.

Wednesday, August 21

The Red Lion, Brafield: review

Located just a short hop from Northampton town, but encompassing all the beauty of its countryside location, The Red Lion pub at Brafield is a real foodie destination. August saw my third visit and the occasion was my dear old dad’s birthday. Always a special family treat, we wanted to go somewhere we knew would deliver great food, exceptional service and a comfortable and The Red Lion ticked all the boxes. Set back from the main A road, the pub has a lovely open front garden as well as ample room inside to find a cosy hideaway and settle down for the afternoon.
With a d├ęcor that oozes with the character of country coaching inn, the inside echoes the charm of a traditional village retreat which complements the brilliant pub bistro dining experience.
The menu is really diverse and dishes such as confit of duck leg with puy lentils and slow roasted pork belly offer something that little bit special and are all good value for money. Sharing platters can also be enjoyed as a starter or light bite and our fashionable choice of baked camembert, served with celery, carrot and artisan bread was definitely a good one. The soft, melted cheese paired with garlic cloves and rosemary was a real treat for the palette. 

I had decided on the locally sourced pork belly for my main, and although the crackling was superbly crispy, the piles of salt on top did not help me forget the calorific sins I was committing. The accompanying dauphinoise potatoes were simply melt in the mouth and portion sizes were substantial – not quite cordon bleu, but certainly enough to keep you satisfied until you catch a glimpse of the dessert menu. The newest addition to the menu is the steak and grill section, which hints to a more typical pub offering, but teamed with choices such as a lamb bhangra burger and beetroot and chickpea burger, it still strives to shy away from the completely conventional. 

While the food may be upmarket, the service is not pretentious. Warm, friendly bar and restaurant staff are on hand to update you of any developments on your order and are very approachable.


A definite must-visit if you happen to be in this part of the country.
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