What do you think about Sheffield? Have you ever thought about visiting?

I had never been. It never even crossed my radar as a place to visit. I was born in Yorkshire, I have lots and lots of family there and I also went to Uni in Leeds. But nothing has ever pulled me into seeing the sights of Sheffield.

What would we even do?

We had been invited by the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel to not only stay in their fabulous hotel, but to explore the surrounding area and see exactly what Sheffield had to offer.

 

 

You know what… it’s surprisingly cool! It was so cool I’ve had to split my originally planned post into two and dedicate an entire space to some of my favourite spots uncovered during our walking tour:

 

The Winter Gardens

Oh boy did I fall in love with this place. The BEST thing about the Mercure hotel is it sits right alongside it, it has its very own entrance to walk into the garden too. When we arrived late on Friday I was mesmerised by this giant conservatory and of course it was the first place we visited after breakfast the next morning.

 

 

It’s home to over 2500 plants from all over the world and is one of the largest temperate glasshouses to be built in the UK. Tall palms, throngs of bamboo and beautifully curved tree ferns were just some of my favourite foliage in this urban paradise. And right in the centre was this giant weird familiar looking structure, which made me WOW out loud. What is it? What is it?!?! I jumped up and down screeching at Mo, only to discover this familiar looking piece of art was in fact: E Coli. Five million times bigger than actual e coli, this installation was unveiled as part of Sheffield university’s Krebsfest, a festival to celebrate the life and works of the university’s Nobel prize winner Sir Hans Krebs.

 

 

I can imagine this is a perfect place to read a book, find tranquility, breathe in some vital oxygen whilst you’re out and about on a city break. You’ll also find there’s a gallery and some quirky shops too, I’m told they are pop up stores. Luckily for us the pop-up store on our visit was one that showcased local creatives’ handiwork. My favourite kind of pop-up 🙂

 

 

Town Hall and the stars of Sheffield

Dating back to the late 1800’s (I believe, don’t quote me on that) the town hall in Sheffield is very, very grand. The day we parked up outside we saw weddings, there was a fair outside and the building itself was basking in rays of sun beams looking incredibly majestic. Definitely made for a great bloggers photo opp.

But even though the building tempts you to look up, make sure you look down too and discover some of the famous stars of Sheffield, on their very own floor of fame.

 

 

Sheffields answer to Gaudi

I don’t know what it’s called or what it’s for, but when Sue told us to keep an eye out for Sheffields answer to the fabulous Antonio Gaudi I knew instantly this was it when we saw it. Ok it’s no Parc Guell, but on a sunny day there’s no denying its a fantastic space and it did make me giggle.

 

 

The shop for people like me who don’t like shops

I LOVE this shop! Mo made us go in and I wanted to buy everything. It was so cute and quirky and any place with a cat face plate and starry silk scarves gets my seal of approval. That and the beautifully handmade cards and artwork too.

 

 

Sheffield Cathedral

Religious buildings are so exciting to visit. I love seeing how different they all are, yet how they follow the same basic guidelines. Cathedrals are always great on a sunny day because of all the stained glass. Sheffield cathedral still kept all it’s old character, with a slightly new addition and extension to it’s side. No matter what religion you are, walking into a place of worship is usually a very humbling experience, especially when it’s being used at the time and you are fortunate to witness others in prayer.

 

 

Unusual architecture and beautiful old buildings

There were so many unusually shaped buildings, Mo was rather embarrassed that I was even gushing over the job centre, but Im such a fan of traditional architecture and I have a real love for Yorkshire stone. I was very much in my element.

Once thing that really stood out as we wandered the streets was how clean it was in comparison to so many other UK cities. And also how spacious and calm it felt. We were on our walking tour early afternoon on a Saturday and not once were we thrust into a crowd of people, having to elbow our way down a high street or constantly play frogger to avoid rushing shoppers. It made for a refreshing change from a Saturday in Manchester!

 

 

The Women of Steel

Steel is very much emblazoned in the city’s history. And I love that the council commissioned a fabulous statue to celebrate the contribution of women to the industry during the World Wars.

I’ll be honest, I didn’t realise that Sheffield shot to International fame because of its part in the steel industry. In fact, Sheffield produced more steel last year than they ever have done in the city’s history (definitely would never have guessed that).

 

 

And if all this isn’t enough to tempt you here’s a few other inspiring things we learnt over the weekend from our sources at Mercure and local lasses Sue and Tracey:

  • Sheffields Theatre Quarter has the largest concentration of theatres within a square mile outside of London
  • It’s Englands greenest city, where half of the population live within 15 minutes of open countryside
  • Look out for the herd of Sheffield, a trail of 58 elephants dotted around the city, we found a few thanks to our local girl guides
  • Sheffield Football club is apparently the world’s oldest football club and Sheffield is the place where the rule of the game were first drawn up.
  • During the World Snooker Championships, the Winter Gardens is usually where they hold all their interviews, look out for it next time it’s on!

 

So what do you think? I mean don’t you agree there’s just so much to love about Sheffield?

 

 

*** Thank you to the Mercure St. Paul’s Hotel for inviting us to explore this great city. As per my last disclaimer, all photos are only brightness adjusted and all of these happen to have been taken on my phone! So hopefully it gives you a true outlook on this fab city ***

 

 

Have you been to Sheffield? What did you think? I’d love to explore the surrounding countryside next time, so do share any tips you have xx

 

 

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UK Mini Breaks

 

Normally when I’m gifting Mo with a surprise trip away, I save them as birthday treats. Mainly because I am absolutely RUBBISH at remembering any other special occasion. Over the seven years we’ve been together there have been maaany times where I’ve woken up in a morning and Mo has left me a beautiful card and present causing my eyes to pop out of my head as I realised I had yet again completely forgotten about a special day!

So last year, I was so pleased with myself as I had planned a gift for our wedding anniversary that was sure to shock him. I finally put together our wedding photo album (something I had been promising to do since year 1 of marriage).

I bought a beautiful personalised leather album from Atlas & I and spent weeks choosing photographs and arranging them. Then, just days before our anniversary, I left it out on a table.

Catastrophe.

Mo was away so the catastrophe wasn’t that he sussed out the surprise. The catastrophe was the sun had BLEACHED and ruined the cover.

 

 

Epic fail on the one year I remembered 🙁

Ok, so this year, I’ve decided that again I was going to pull out all the stops on our anniversary, but this time I found something that was less work and also a treat for me as well as Mo (it’s my anniversary too and I’m also a bit selfish like that).

UK mini break time!

In my mind, going on holiday isn’t just about jumping on a plane. I define it more as anywhere that requires a bag to be packed. Whether its for the week, overnight or even just the afternoon any place that takes me outside of my home gets me excited.

Over the years amongst the amazing trips to far away places like Indonesia, Abu Dhabi, Zimbabwe… Mo and I have always balanced our time abroad with plenty of mini UK breaks. This year has been no exception.

When you live in a city like Manchester people are always so quick to blurt out ‘ooh it’s so cold’ or ‘how do you live with all that rain’ and I often find myself whingeing about those issues on a regular basis. However, truth be told, I actually don’t mind the rain! Don’t get me wrong I would always choose sunshine if I could, but there’s something quite special about a rainy day or rainy night. Sometimes you want a grey sky and cool breeze for an outdoor adventure.

For someone like me who loves telling a good story, some of my favourites have always occurred when the weather has been at its most challenging.

My favourite UK breaks so far:

 

Weekend in Fort William

Family trip

The start of the Ben Nevis weekenders, this was our first full family weekend away. We had such a good time, yearly UK breaks have now become a family tradition. On this particular trip, some of us donned our coats and boots to scale the majestic Ben Nevis. This was one of those famous times where the weather well and truly tested us. On the climb up we experienced a variety of conditions: sun; wind; rain; ice and lots of snow. It made it interesting, tough but definitely ended with us all feeling very satisfied with our achievement.

 

 

Traverse weekend in Cardiff

Solo break

After learning and enjoying the previous years conference so much, I was excited to return to explore another new city. After the learning part was over and done with, I had an absolute blast exploring the sights on Sunday, waking up extra early to be the first in the castle and then joining other bloggers on a day trip out to the Brecon Beacon national park – a place that is firmly on my list of places to return to.

 

 

Lake District trip with friends

Catchup with friends

Another yearly tradition that we’ve tried to keep up with, our first friends weekend away was probably my favourite. We stayed at a beautiful cottage up high in the Lake District. The adventure started before any of us arrived as we all experienced a dangerous drive in the dark just to reach our lodgings. All worth it in the end as we awoke to the most picturesque views in the morning (I was of course up early hours) and we enjoyed a weekend of fun and merriment in the great British sunshine.

 

 

Manchester, Playing tourist in my home town

Couples weekend

Last November, Mo and I randomly decided to spend a weekend in the city, courtesy of the Mercure Picadilly hotel, where we had a fantastic stay. It was a hotel we’d never looked twice at in a city we called home. Turns out, that made a perfect Christmas weekend break as we enjoyed a fab dinner and relaxed stay right in the heart of our favourite city! We love shopping in Manchester at Christmas time and this was a great excuse to spend the whole weekend doing just that.

 

 

I have a feeling this next one is going to be another good one to add to my list…

We’re headed to the spa town of the Midlands, Malvern for a much needed TLC break at The Malvern Spa hotel.

 

 

I can’t think of a better place to celebrate our anniversary. We got married at a beautiful hotel in the Forest of Bowland, an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB). There are only 33 AONB places in the whole of England and the Malvern Hills is another one of them.

I am also a stickler for spas – if I could, I would go every week – they are the ultimate luxury experience for anyone needing time to wind down and relax.

The last spa break we had was back in 2014, where we returned to one of our favourites, the Grosvenor Pulford Hotel in Chester.

Something tells me we’re in for one better this weekend though… my favourite part of any spa break is always the fact that we’re treated to pool access and the one at The Malvern Spa hotel looks like a haven for relaxation.

As well as spending time indulging in the hotels facilities, I’ve planned for us to take to the great outdoors Sunday morning. I’ve been swooning over these landscape views all weekend and I can’t wait to see them for myself – whatever the weather 🙂

 

 

 

What’s your favourite UK city break? Have you been to Malvern? Any tips?

 

 

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Last summer, I wrote a very brief holiday post on how being unprepared for our Spanish adventure, actually ended up being more relaxing than if we had been prepared. As I scrolled through posts on Spanish food snacks during last week’s #tapasday hashtag, I realised I hadn’t actually written anything at all about what we ended up doing.

There had been so much happening with both Mo and I in the lead up to going away we hadn’t even had a chance to register that our holiday was creeping up. The fact that we actually made it to the airport on time with any form of luggage was probably down to sheer luck more than anything else.

I remember us both falling into our plane seats and just exhaling huge sighs of relief that we were both there. This was going to be a multi-stop trip, starting with Madrid where we had planned to stay for the weekend before driving down to the beaches on the south coast of Spain.

So, the plan was to have no plan. We were just going to wander the streets and see where the ebb and flow of the city took us.

Usually, this would fill me with immense sadness. Anxiety. Distress. I suffer from serious FOMO (fear of missing out) especially when traveling and never like to visit a destination only to miss out on some of the most famous sights.

But this time I strangely didn’t care. It was so refreshing to throw the guide book out the window and think on the spot about what we wanted to do. I’m such a control freak, I regularly put Mo through lists and schedules when it comes to every day life, I think taking this planning time-out was a refreshing break for him too (I’m sure he’d be nodding furiously if he read this).

Surprisingly, we got through a fair bit more than we expected to:

 

Museo del Prado:

We came across the Museo del Prado and took the opportunity to explore some classical art, especially the work of the infamous Francisco Goya, one of the most celebrated Spanish painters of the 18th century.

 

 

Gran Via:

Perfect for shopping, window browsing or architecture admiring.

 

 

 

Buen Retiro Park:

My favourite part of the whole entire weekend was Retiro park. After strolling through the shaded tree-lined paths we stopped to enjoy lunch outside in a café overlooking the lake. After filling up on Spanish snacks, we spent time taking it in turns to row up and down the lake, soaking in the sun, having a laugh, enjoying the music from the buskers. There was such a great atmosphere and not having anything else planned meant we had nothing else on our minds and all the time in the world.

 

 

Palacio de Cristal:

There was a lovely exhibition on inside the crystal palace which was interesting, all about old school visual equipment. Such a great use of the space.

 

 

Madrid Atocha Railway Station:

If you get a chance, go have a nosy inside, a rainforest type treat awaits!

 

 

Puerta de Alcala:

 

 

There are so many beautiful buildings in Madrid, I could have happily walked round for hours just admiring them. We walked down the Gran Via all the way towards Banco Espana and back to the other side by the palaces too. We covered as much ground as we could on foot, stopping for tea and coffee along the way.

 

Plaza Mayor:

I loved stopping here for a snack and a drink in the sunshine. The restaurants were brimming with customers and the street entertainers were out in full force.

 

 

Plaza de Cibeles:

Love anywhere that makes statements as bold as this #refugeeswelcome

 

 

Mercado de San Miguel:

The food here was incredible! more on that later…

 

 

Fountain of Neptune:

He is there I assure you.

 

 

Plaza de la Villa:

 

 

Statue of the bear and the Strawberry tree:

Sorry bear, I realise this isn’t a very flattering angle. He was a lot smaller than I expected him to be.

 

 

Royal Palace of Madrid:

 

 

Recalling our trip back, I just realised I told a bit of a lie. We did have one thing pre-planned! It was a flamenco show at Corral de la Moreria. Watching dance is something Mo and I both love so when we first booked the trip Mo made sure to find the best traditional show in town. I highly recommend it! The venue takes you back in time to the original tablao flamenco. So popular with locals and tourists, I definitely advise booking in advance.

 

 

Of course this type of holiday doesn’t always work, especially if you’re not travelling solo. Luckily Mo and I were both feeling the same way so we didn’t have to deal with that annoying indecisiveness when the other has no clue what to do.

 

Some tips:

  • Keep some kind of map handy, one of those free tourist one’s are great as they helps you keep to the popular areas where you’ll be sure to find something to do, should you wish to of course. We also used google maps, but only whilst trying to navigate ourselves home or if we were looking for halal places to eat.

 

  • If there are a few things you have in mind that you want to do at some point, but don’t want to be tied down – always check the opening times. Some places close on certain days or have varied opening hours.

 

  • If you’re hungry – just eat! Don’t go walking around thinking you’ll find something better. If you’ve not planned anything it’s always best to just go for whats around you at the time. Keep walking around you could be making the situation worse and if one of you suffers from hangriness it’s not ideal.

 

 

 

Are you a planner? Or do you prefer to wing it on holiday?

 

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24hrs in Dusseldorf

 

Our options: spend hundreds of pounds on a concert ticket at Wembley, OR spend less than a hundred to spend a day in Dusseldorf and see the exact same concert.

Well as you can imagine, it was a no brainer.

We didn’t think too much into it, we just booked a flight in and out, reserved our arena seats and boom we were sorted. We figured anything else we came across on that trip would just be an added bonus.

Fast forward a few months and it was days before we were meant to depart and we decided it was time to see what there was to do for 12 hours.

Turns out there’s not loooads to do. Let me start again, there are things to do, but not a lot of free things to do. Not that we could find anyway. Everyone I knew who had visited had only been as part of a business stop over. So no one had any decent recommendations. Google was happy to announce that the airport viewing park was number 11 on the highlights of things to do in Dusseldorf. Didn’t really inspire much confidence.

After an intense security check at the airport (a kind of check that I found incredibly violating and questionable) we decided to discuss our days plans over breakfast.

The plan: was to not have a plan.

We landed early morning into Dusseldorf Airport and found ourselves, by chance, on TripAdvisor’s 20th most popular attraction, the Sky Train. It was actually pretty cool! More cities should have these air suspended tram systems. Felt like we were on an episode of the Jetsons.

After a few dramas trying to get train tickets at the station, swiftly moving away from the abandoned suitcase that had appeared beside us, we jumped on the first train into the city, straight to central station.

We wandered the streets, headed to Rheinuferpromenade, passing beautiful buildings old and new. We sauntered into a few quirky shops and explored a church along the way, one with an interesting amalgamation of traditional and contemporary design features.

 

 

Not long after, it was time for lunch and so far our options weren’t looking great.

Halal-wise, we could’ve indulged in kebabs and donners as they seemed to be everywhere. But all we wanted was something small and something ‘local’ (preferably not fried). Menu after menu it became clear that sausage played a big part of what was on offer (quelle surprise), with not many appetising vegetarian options. Perhaps just a little bit of research would have been useful.

We passed a Turkish restaurant and the friendly owner somehow managed to coax us in, charming us with the promise of suitable meat-free options. Turns out we had two – cheese ciabatta or cheese and tomato ciabatta.

 

 

Despite the overwhelming variety, we decided they actually weren’t bad options so we didn’t bother re-robing and stayed put, taking some time out from the slight bit of rain we had just escaped from.

I had obviously slept on the flight over, so I had been dying to find a spot for us to rest and to freshen up. But of course we had chosen a café with the smallest toilet in the world. I entered top speed mode, changed my top, brushed my hair and was nearly done with brushing my teeth when a smart dressed diner entered and caught me mid spit.

One of my less classier moments. Luckily she didn’t look at me in disgust and definitely saw the funny side. Turns out she was from Saudi Arabia and it was such a surreal experience to reminisce about my former home with a complete stranger in a dingy bathroom whilst she applied her expensive looking ruby red lippy and I continued to cover myself in deodorant and perfume.

Well-fed, we set off once again on our adventure only to stumble upon a food market. Go figure.

Tip number one: Perhaps take time to ask locals for food recommendations when you are in a new area. Instead of settling for the first person to invite you in.

We continued on to the riverside, aiming to check out TripAdvisor’s 4th most popular attraction, the Rhine Tower. A large happy french-fry-shaped figurine caught the corner of our eye.

It was the Chip Man.

We were full, but not that full. And this was the second one we had come across so it almost felt rude not to. This place literally served nothing BUT chips. Not hand made ones either, just standard frozen chips with a heap of weird and wonderful toppings. The guys behind the counter were dying to practice their English skills, one of them wanting to know if he was good enough to brave the move to the UK (Not sure if he was aware we have a Brexit situation going on but didn’t seem the right time to break it to him).

 

 

Two fresh (from frozen) chip trays later and we were off walking along the promenade, wind in our hair, headed towards the tower. Just another beautiful afternoon in Blackpool sorry Dusseldorf (it really did feel like we were having chips on the promenade at Blackpool though!?). By this point the sun decided to come out basking the shore line in sunshine and warmth, perfect timing for our stroll across the river bank.

Rhine tower, 240.5 metres concrete site towering above the city. For the first time ever on a city break we didn’t have to queue for an attraction. Couple of euros got us a ticket straight to the top in the super sonic lift.

 

 

The 360 degree observation deck and café area were pretty impressive. Again, it was refreshing not to be at a sightseeing stop that was swarming with tourists. We found ourselves a table to relax at and enjoyed a tea and pretzel break, whilst watching the world pass by below.

 

 

Back down to the bustling streets below, we casually strolled towards the far side of town where the arena was, stopping only for what was supposed to be a quick browse around Habitat, a shop we don’t have in the UK anymore but one which was always a firm favourite of mine. As we were about to leave the store, a comfy sofa in the window called out to us. Enticed by the soft fabric we decided to test it out and instantly sunk into it’s fluffiness.

What started as a quick test of a good looking couch ended in being approached an hour later by a shop assistant whether we actually required any help mid-way through our heavy conversation about politics. We casually assured her we were fine and then sprinted out of there as fast as we could.

 

 

Time had ticked on and we realised we didn’t have long to find a quick dinner snack and get ourselves over to the ISS arena. So we picked up the pace as we walked towards the North of the city.

An hour of walking and we weren’t going as fast as we needed to. We decided to settle for a kebab shop on route, after which we would hop on a tram or some other mode of transport to rush us down to catch the start of the show.

Wasn’t as great a dinner as we would have liked but it was fast, cheap and we were definitely full. My sister in particular was full from eating a large amount of ‘not-what-I-ordered’ onions that had been added to her bread dish.

Tip number two: Don’t just agree to have all the added extras in a restaurant just because you’re too scared to say no. It won’t end well.

Quick tram ride to Heinrichstraße and there it was, a bus labelled ‘Dusseldorf ISS Dome’. We ran at full speed to catch it, only to realise the driver wasn’t planning on going anywhere anytime soon as he pulled on his cigarette, relaxed and nonchalant.

Finally we were there, the ISS arena and like every other concert venue it was time for bag search.

Tip number three: If you are travelling to a concert abroad and that is the sole purpose of your trip don’t bother taking your DSLR.

Of course my DSLR camera was not allowed inside the venue and I had to leave it at the entrance with the security team. It was placed in a plastic bag, and stored in a crate until the end of the show. Not the most secure set up – but I should stress it was there waiting for me just as I left it when we returned at the end of the night.

 

 

The fun well and truly started when it was time to head home. In all our wisdom, we decided booking a hotel room was a waste as we were catching an early flight out the next day so our next stop that evening was to go straight back to the airport where we would be camping out for the night.

Finding a train station was proving a fair challenge, especially as G had managed to get us rejected from the only bus around by asking for the airport rather than the train station resulting in the driver assuring us that he couldn’t help and we should carry on. A group on foot headed to their parked car kindly led us halfway down and then left us to navigate the dark Dusseldorf streets on our own.

We found the tram but had no idea where it was going and no one else was really able to help either, mainly because their English was limited and our German was unfortunately non existent.

Tip number four: Even if you are only visiting for a short time, learn or familiarise yourself with some key phrases or download a translation app.

Just before my sister was about to throw herself into her best impression of a choo-choo train, an English speaker piped up with instructions to help us continue our journey.

We boarded the tram, which was basically an extension of the concert, revellers singing and dancing in perfect Spanish, pretty ironic considering we were in Germany.

fifteen minutes and one spilt drink on my jacket later, and we were back at Dusseldorf Airport.

No overnight lounges, just the one coffee shop and we had just over five hours to kill.

It was a long, but fun-filled night.

 

 

I use the word fun-filled loosely of course… trying to sleep whilst cleaning machines and hoovers sound off at full volume and uncomfortable armrests are jabbing into your sides is not easy even for me, the self-proclaimed can-sleep-through-anything sleeper.

Tip number five: Do not forget to take a scarf if you’re planning on camping out like we did. Or a travel blanket like the one Mo and I bought for our Brazil trip (why I didn’t think to take it this time is beyond me)

We woke to the smell of fresh bread, coffees and the buzz of everyday hustle and bustle in an airport. Flight boards started filling up, our destination London Heathrow making the list, and just like that it was time to board that plane again.

Throughout the day my sister had voiced her appreciation for this City, the best cuisine shes ever had, the best long boats shes ever seen, the best views she’s ever seen…

G and I aren’t quite sure what she saw that we didn’t, but what we did all agree on, was that it was definitely one of our most quirkiest trips to date.

 

Have you been to Dusseldorf? Slept overnight at an airport?

 

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Video highlights of Myanmar

 

My mind is constantly all over the place! I have so many ideas, plans, they’re just constantly flowing through my brain.

I decided that from March, I would dedicate every Monday to posting something fun and fabulous about Manchester, but one week in and I am pushing that aside for now as I am dying to share my new video!!

I’ve never really made a video before, I take lots of them on my phone but this time I wanted to actually piece content together to bring to life an experience that meant a lot to me.

So I finally did it!

It’s not perfect, I’ve not quite got the hang of actually filming yet (I’m very unsteady!), but I hope it will give you a better feel and connection to my two weeks spent travelling in Myanmar:

 

 

What do you think??? Have you got any video creation tips??? Is there something I can do to make it better???

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