A blogger weekend in Sheffield, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.

Mo and I had a weekend break with Mercure last year in our home town of Manchester and we had loved it. So I did actually have high expectations for once.

When the time to set off actually came, it had been a long day at work. Mo and I were both shattered and our moods had started to deplete. The road to Sheffield was jam packed with roadworks and cars… not quite the scenic route we had in mind.

But things started to look up as we entered the city…

My first major observation, there are a lot of brown tourist signs. There seemed to be so much on offer in the area, I’ll admit I was a little surprised. We learned later in the weekend that you’re only ever fifteen minutes away from the great outdoors if you live in Sheffield. Pretty impressive.

We easily navigated our way to the NCP, making sure to admire all the beautiful buildings that lined the main street. Just a two minute walk from the Arundel Gate NCP car park and you’ll reach the fabulous Mercure St. Pauls Hotel, our resting house for the night.

 

The hotel

Ok, so the few Mercure’s that I’ve come across over the last few years have been quite unattractive from the outside, but I learnt from my first visit that you should never judge a book by its cover. And that definitely holds true once you walk into the Mercure St Pauls. It’s not bad from the outside but just how sleek and sophisticated it was on the inside really took me by surprise. The main restaurant and bar area sits side by side with the spectacular Winter Gardens, creating an urban oasis type of space.

 

 

Everything from the creative light diffusers to the steel nature inspired wall art, it was fabulous. There was so much natural light and space?

 

 

Oh, the space! It was open plan and they had done a great job of the floorplan. On Saturday there were families, there was a wedding, QPR football club were having breakfast and there was us bloggers, we were all there co-existing in this big open space and it worked?

 

 

The room

Ooh, it was so comfortable! good sized bed, very clean, modern, minimalist…

My favourite part was the bathroom, if I’m honest. There was a large tub, also a separate large walk-in shower – both rain and hand-held options (the dream) and amazing White Company ‘Noir’ toiletries!!!

 

 

As this was a bloggers trip, we did have a number of lovely little treats left for us too. Jelly beans went down a treat with the family when we got back, chocolate made for a great pre-dinner snack, but I’ll be honest the best thing they left for us in the room was an information pack on the sights and snippets of history of Sheffield. It was really interesting! (Check out my post on the sights of Sheffield for more)

 

 

There were a lot of neat little things we noticed about the room – I loved the aux lead for music, sockets by the bedside, nespresso machine and pillow mist! For ultimate relaxation ūüôā

 

 

The facilities

Unfortunately, Mo and I couldn’t stay too long at the hotel so we didn’t get to enjoy all the facilities. We did get the chance to have a quick nosey round. There’s so much to see! I couldn’t actually believe how much was going on all in one weekend. As we walked towards the spa and fitness suites there was a corridor of meeting rooms… all being set up for different events. They all looked spotless, professional and the staff, well they looked completely calm and in control. I didn’t take any pics of the facilities, mainly as we didn’t actually get the opportunity to use them so it would be unfair for me to comment. Something to save for next time…

 

The food

It was good. Ok anyone who serves grilled halloumi as a starter is usually onto a winner. Again, I had high expectations for the food as the meal we had at the Mercure in Manchester was delicious. If I had one criticism, it was that my butternut squash risotto portion was far too large and not quite as punchy in the flavour department as I would have expected. Mo’s order of pan-fried cod loin however, was exquisite. The white fish wasn’t overcooked, it wasn’t over seasoned and the crushed new potatoes it perched on was divine. A truly great all rounder dish. By the time rhubarb and polenta cake dessert arrived I was too full to stomach anymore, but I had to have a taste, if anything to decide whether or not I liked rhubarb. I’ve never been a real fan but this gingery spiced sponge was a dessert I would happily re-order.

 

 

Breakfast the next day, was exactly how every good hotel breakfast should be. Lots of options, fresh tea and coffee but the best part was having a window seat to the Winter Garden of course. It was like our own private garden view.

After receiving a bottle in our goody bag, I decided to experiment with the famous Sheffield born relish, splashing it here and there to see what it worked with. Personally I enjoyed using it as an additional topping to my breakfast egg and bean tower (worked a treat ūüėČ )

 

 

Afternoon tea was very grand indeed. Showcased on a very unusual, very large display case. Let’s be brutally honest, afternoon tea is not going to be wildly different unless you’re opting for a themed one. It’s usually easier to say what’s wrong rather than what’s right. And in this case, I had nothing to really complain about. Maybe that I’m not really a fan of any type of fruit puree and it was atop of one of the desserts? I did end up liking that actually, so ignore that comment. Ok maybe the only thing I wasn’t happy about was that the scone had raisins and I am not a fan of raisins.

(Yes, yes I can feel you reading this and scolding me for expecting scones to not have raisins)

 

 

The location

Wow, what a great location! Car park was close by, easy access from the motorway and we were able to walk straight out and see the sights. After a good night’s sleep, part of our adventure was embarking on a walking tour. I originally wanted to include what we saw in this post but I thought instead I share some highlight photos and instead wrote a separate one on all the fun you can find in this city.

Two of the bloggers on the tour with us were Sheffield locals, and it was so nice to hear them speak so passionately about their own home town. There was a real sense of pride in what their city could offer us (they also had a lot of knowledge on its history between them) it made Mo and I feel all the more privileged to be able to visit and appreciate it.

 

 

The verdict?

All in all this was probably one of the best blogger weekends Mo and I have ever had. Not only were we treated to a relaxing nights stay in a great city, but this experience had introduced us to some really awesome new friends. As we get older and as Mo and I have started attending many more networking events, we have met lots and lots of new people. But it’s only very rarely that you bump into folk that actually become great friends. We were so fortunate to have randomly sat with two bloggers that turned out to be just that. We got on so well we were the last ones left at the meal… and probably amongst the last few in the hotel lounge after we were moved on. Sight-seeing on Sunday introduced us to more new friends and again so did afternoon tea.

New friends for us, obviously means I also have new blogs to read and I of course recommend you check them out too:¬†The uber-trendy Oli at Suede and Symphony (I’ve been following Oli for some time); Tracey, naughtyfortydiaries, who claims she’s in her forties but doesn’t look a day over thirty and David, at dktravelpix who’s photography skills are truly spectacular. We also got to know local lass Sue had us constantly yearning to know more about the citys history and Olivia made for fab company during afternoon tea, as we exchanged tales of our travels.

I can’t actually think of anything to complain about on this trip and I genuinely think Mo and I will return to Sheffield one day, if only to lace up our walking shoes and venture to the countryside in the outskirts. I’d happily pick the Mercure as our base though, can’t think of a more perfect place for an apres-hike massage.

Memories are only memories if something memorable happens. I’m always grateful that even when something goes wrong on a trip, Mo and I are able to laugh and embrace it as these are the moments that truly make great tales. But sometimes having everything go right can make an even greater one.

So, a blogger weekend in Sheffield they said, and fun it well and truly was!!

 

 

*** Thank you to the Mercure St Paul’s Hotel for arranging this fantastic weekend and taking such good care of us. Of course as per usual all opinions are completely my own and no pictures have been filtered, in fact all were taken using my phone camera and haven’t had any adjustment. ***

 

Have you ever stayed at a Mercure hotel? Where else in the UK would you recommend for an unexpected city break? 

 

 

Follow:

 

Today, is my seven year wedding anniversary ūüôā seven years?!?! That time really has flown.

If you read my post last week you’ll know I went to great lengths to ensure Mo and I celebrated in style, booking us a luxury stay at The Malvern Spa Hotel. I wanted to wash away memories of ruining last year’s surprise (when I sun-bleached our wedding album) and have been excited about our trip away for months.

Well, I can now tell you that this year’s anniversary saga was yet another catastrophic event.

Ok maybe I’m being overly dramatic there, but let’s just say it didn’t go to plan.

I’ll start from the beginning….

Early last week I had an allergic reaction. Which triggered a headache. Which caused a fever. Which brought on stress. That then caused ulcers. Which hindered me from eating. Causing loss of energy. Increasing said stress levels. Bringing on more ulcers. Which eventually led to further dental complications. Even drinking became painful. And caused the vicious cycle of headaches to start again. This all started on Tuesday so by Friday I’d had enough and made an emergency trip to the doctors. I was told these were all symptoms of severe stress (which I probably got from being ILL) and they advised to me to completely switch off and once my stress levels reduced… the symptons would start to disappear.

Well I didn’t feel great at all but Mo and I both decided that if rest and relaxation was what I needed, then a spa break at The Malvern Spa Hotel couldn’t have come at a better time.

So off we drove to Herefordshire. I say we, but I didn’t really contribute much (or at all) to the driving. I slept most of the way down, waking as we hit the M5. Perfect timing as it happens, the view as you drive into Malvern is quite something. Those hills really do make the most spectacular backdrop, even if the skies were looking a little grey.

 

The Location

Right I’m all about honesty, so trust me when I say – do not be put off by this hotel’s location. Why do I say that? Well you’ll find it’s on a retail park. Not at all what we were expecting and even when you pull up, it really doesn’t look that great from the outside either.

 

 

I felt my stress level lift a mini-notch as I was worried this was not going to be the relaxing surprise I had planned for hubby, but I made a silent prayer that all would be ok and we headed in, an hour earlier then expected.

I am very pleased to share that the boxy outside is in no way a reflection of what’s going on inside. *Insert huge audible sigh of relief*

 

 

First of all it smelt amazing… I instantly felt better. It was pristine, the familiar sight of clean white towels and gowns lined the area behind reception and the staff were helpful and welcoming. They took our luggage, gave us our robes and slippers and off we trotted on a mini tour of the facilities.

 

Lunch Time

Tour ticked off, robes put on, with an hour or so before our first treatments we decided to have a light snack. Food looked good! I was still having severe gum and ulcer issues but I was so hungry after not being able to eat anything the night before I decided I would attempt to fight through the pain.

Orders taken, we admired the landscapes on the restaurants walls until one of the waitresses arrived offering fresh bread rolls. I know it seems like a really weird thing to mention but it reminded me of our honeymoon as I literally ate fresh bread rolls every day before our meal in Morocco (yes, bread is one of my weaknesses) and I instantly picked out a soft white bun. Oh it was so fresh and smelt so good and the butter melted the instant I scraped it on. Never has one bite caused me so much happiness and so much sadness at the same time. I wanted to eat it SO BADLY, yet I was in too much pain to finish.

 

 

The fish finger sandwiches arrived, thankfully on even softer, fluffy white bread making it slightly easier to eat. You’d have thought I would have played it safe and ordered soup – but I REALLY wanted that fish finger sandwich. And I made sure I powered through as much as I could. The fish was lightly battered and not too crispy, sauce wasn’t too heavy on the capers and the fresh orange juice washed it down nicely.

 

 

Let’s just say every bite was worth any bit of pain I went through.

 

The Treatments

The spa treatment rooms are in two different areas. I headed off past the manicure stations for my facial. After discussing the treatment, checking I had no allergies, asking if I had any product preferences Bree left me to get settled.

I had asked for the heated blanket to stay on as I was still feeling a bit under the weather and I snuggled into the massage bed ready for my facial. One of the first things that stand out here is how insanely comfortable the treatment room beds are. The most comfortable ones I’ve come across – and I’ve been to my fair share of spas. I instantly felt better.

 

 

Selected treatments: Malvern Express Facial; ESPA Full Body Massage and a Manicure.

 

The Facilites

It was a Saturday so as expected, there were quite a few people at the spa that day, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t enjoy the facilities. There are two hydrotherapy pools – one inside with a swim through tunnel that takes you to the outdoor one (Ok so technically there’s just the one pool). There’s also a steam room, sauna, salt grotto, foot spa and like every good spa a total relaxation room.

 

 

I also loved the area by the spa reception desk. A central skylight flooded the room with light, there was a tranquil marble fountain surrounded by olive trees and cushioned chairs and recliners.

 

 

Dinner

We booked dinner for half 7. It wasn’t too busy when we arrived, but within half an hour of being there that soon changed. The restaurant was a popular choice that night and the staff were run off their feet. However – at no point did that affect the service we received. The dining room was a well-oiled machine and the quality of the food was superb.

I tried to choose better suited dishes in the evening, to suit my pain issues. I ordered a soup and pasta and stayed away from attempting bread. Even when Mo was enjoying his rosemary spiced fresh bread roll, I played it sensible and waited patiently for my soup.

 

 

The Room

After a (kinda) busy day I was looking forward to an early night. And after finding our zen in the spa… the journey definitely continued once we were back in the room. Tones of grey and midnight green, blackout curtains – a very good call – squeaky clean bathroom, a choice of pillows… I wasted no time getting into my pyjamas and snuggling up in bed.

 

 

For the first time in a long time I slept through most of the night.

With checkout at 11am, we decided to robe up and head to breakfast before getting ourselves ready to go.

 

Sunday Morning Breakfast

*Sigh*

My heart sank when I saw the breakfast menu. There was so much I wanted but alas I couldn’t face a thing. I encouraged Mo not to let my loss of appetite stop him from indulging. He chose a full English with vegetarian sausage, and a couple of freshly baked mini pain au chocolats. It’s very clear that so much of what’s on offer here is homemade and it makes one heck of a difference.

 

 

Morning Stroll

Feeling quite disheartened by all my sickness issues, Mo and I headed out for a short stroll in the Malvern Hills. If getting better meant switching off from the world, then being outdoors with my boots on is probably the best treatment.

Just a short drive from the hotel was the North Quarry car park, a mere ten minutes. From the advice sheet in the hotel, this was labelled as one of the less crowded options.

If you’re worried about where to go there are many, many walking routes on the hills. The paths snake all the way round, up and down. We headed towards North Hill – we didn’t make it to the top, bearing in mind I hadn’t had much to eat all weekend. Not that I was going to let that stop us from getting to a point with a good view. Food or no food I wanted to climb just a bit of that hill.

I wanted to see all the wild flowers, follow the butterfly’s and say hi to the many well behaved dogs (and humans) on the way up.

Even from North Quarry car park you don’t have to walk far to see some good views. Twenty minutes up the path and I found my clearing, bench with a view. It was bliss. Malvern is a truly beautiful looking town and I loved that as we watched the scenery laid still in front of us, every so often a train would shimmy it’s way across in a perfectly straight line along the horizon.

 

 

Afternoon Tea at Colwall Park

After a morning in the hills, I was definitely ready to attempt to eat again. Our next stop was the Colwall Park Hotel, again not far from where we were.

 

 

It was fairly quiet when we arrived and although we were again slightly early, we were allowed to relax at our table in the dining room. I love a good old country hotel and this was exactly that. Lots of original features and all the d√©cor was in keeping with building, although it looked like it was ‘modern traditional.’

Stand outs from afternoon tea? The smoked salmon sandwich was my favourite from the selection – but the cakes were definitely the star of the show. My mum makes the most amazing carrot cake in the world, but the one here at Colwall was a pretty good rival. It wasn’t overly sweet and the texture was very light and not at all dry. Felt like eating clouds.

 

 

The Experience

The staff at both hotels were really understanding, especially as I had been feeling so guilty for not being able to finish my meals. It may not have cured me (yes, I am still suffering) but it’s definitely stopped all the headaches and fever issues I was experiencing… so I’m hoping that means the end of this frustrating sickness is near.

 

 

All in all it was a lovely weekend, I only wish I hadn’t been so ill!! I will admit, I did have a few meltdowns out of frustration but Mo and I did laugh it off as this was exactly what we should’ve expected from our weekend away.

I mean, it would have been so boring of us to have just a normal smooth sailing weekend away. We’ve explored 17 countries together, ¬†travelled from one end of the world to the other and near enough every journey has had some crazy story to tell.

Serenading street sellers, Getting lost, dealing with vomit, waiting all day for an event that wasn’t till the next day, missing boats, disappointing tourist spots, extreme weather, kayak fights, making new friends, falling out of love with takeaways and so much more!

We often joke about visiting a pharmacy on every holiday (on our trip to Thailand we went to one nearly every day LOL) and I suppose after seven years of travelling together… what’s one more trip to the chemist?

One of my favourite things to do when we go away is try out the food and it was definitely the element I missed out on most this weekend.

I suppose this means once I am better… I’ll just have to go back, right? ūüėČ

 

 

Happy Anniversary Mr P, thank you for putting up with my dramas time and time again!

(not just talking about this weekend)

 

 

*** Thank you to the Malvern Spa Hotel and Colwall Park Hotel for their hospitality over the weekend and for inviting us to stay. All spa treatments were purchased and of course as always, all opinions are 100% my own. In line with my new keeping it real policies, none of the photos have been edited. ***

 

 

Follow:

review Les Terrasses D'Eos Crystal ski holidays

 

It’s strange although our ski trip holiday seems so long ago, it somehow also feels like only yesterday? I wanted to take a moment on this fine sunny Manchester day and take you through our experience on where to stay in Flaine – logistically –¬†reviewing our stay at Les Terrases D’eos, provided through¬†Crystal Ski holidays.

 

Arriving into Geneva

It wasn’t until we placed our first snow-boot steps outside the terminal, that we realised just how popular this skiing malarkey was¬†as we encountered literally hundreds of people patiently awaiting to board their transfer.

To say it was busy would be an understatement. There was a huuuuge line of coaches and ski and snow board bags everywhere, I felt almost left out as everyone here looked like they knew exactly what they were doing. Carting their gear to the bus that would take them to whichever enclave of the alps was going to be theirs for the week.

Luckily, the Crystal Ski staff were all easily identifiable in their spearmint green outfits which made them stand out pretty well amongst the chaos. Eager to move on, we accosted one of them¬†– a lovely young lady called Paige, who turned out to be our rep for the trip.¬†She advised us that she’d give us a shout the minute our coach arrived.

Arriving into Flaine, the roads got narrower and narrower as we snaked our way up the mountain and through the small villages until we pulled up outside our hotel… The Terrases D’Eos. A lovely, part-wood-part-brick building, up on the hill from the little centre of Flaine.

 

 

Checking in

Baggage unloaded, we made our way inside and it was clearly rush hour – everyone and their mother seemed to be in Flaine so we joined a queue which circled the waiting area. We reached the front-desk some half an hour later and the check in staff were very polite and apologetic about the wait. They kindly arranged for our 2 standard rooms to be on the same floor, each room slept 4 people. We required 1 room for the Fab 4 and one room to accommodate our dear friends who make up the Super 6.

 

Our room

Our rooms had views overlooking the back of the hotel which was great as we could see the families getting ready to leave in the morning and most importantly we could see all the SNOW. It was a good way to gauge how busy the slopes would be and what the conditions were like. The room/apartments were extremely well-equipped, we didn’t really think there was anything missing. A well-sized double bedroom, an open plan living space which included a dining and kitchenette area.

 

Image credit: Les Terrasses D’Eos – I assure you the rooms look exactly like the pics!¬†

Our mini kitchen had¬†a sink, cutlery, crockery, pots and pans, an oven and cooker, a Nespresso machine and to everyone’s great delight – a dishwasher, so we didn’t have to waste any valuable skiing time doing any washing up. We had enough available for us to cook our own meals, which we did occasionally and they even provided cute little welcome boxes with a few added extras such as washing up liquid, cloths, salt and pepper.

 

 

There were four of us in our apartment and only one bedroom, as the other was basically the living room where the sofa opened out to a double bed. There is then a separate bathroom and toilet, so the loo is still vacant when your loved ones are in the bath, extremely handy when you’re a group of four! And the great thing is, the bathroom has¬†a full-size tub, perfect for an apres-ski¬†soak to relax those tired muscles after an energetic and sweaty day.

 

Facilities

The hotel itself is pretty big. There is an outdoor and small indoor swimming pool Рthey were very busy in the evenings; sauna; steam room; restaurant and games room and onsite gym. Of course the most important part of a ski hotel, there was a large boot room for storing all of our bulky ski gear. And as this was a ski in-ski out hotel, the boot room leads straight out onto the snow.

 

 

That was literally the best thing about this place. I never understood what ski in-ski out actually meant, but if your a novice like I was all you need to know is that it is the BEST.¬†¬†As soon as you get your boots are on, you can ski out directly to the main skiing bowl of the Flaine ski resort. As we had no idea how to ski on the first day we decided to walk down to Flaine and my goodness walking in ski boots carrying skis is really not great. We knew from that first trip we were never going to do that again! From Terrases D’eos, the slope is a great beginner’s track and a nice way to get to grips with practicing your turns etc. We had some spectacularly hilarious falls when we first went out, but I will talk about that in another post…

 

The hotel

Decorated in warm colours, neutrals accented with earthy reds, oranges and browns the colour scheme mixed with lots of natural wood completely soothed me. Why did the interiors even matter? Well to me it did! This was my first ever ski holiday and I loved that we were able to stay in a location that had the feel and warmth of winter lodge,  to contrast with the stark white winter wonderland outside.

Back to the important things though – this place was in an excellent location. If you didn’t feel confident enough to ski out, there is a bus stop literally outside the entrance to the hotel which takes you¬†to the bottom of the bowl, as well as stopping at other places such as shops and restaurants. It’s literally a 10min bus journey. You could walk down, though as I mentioned above if you’ve got your gear on I seriously¬†wouldn’t suggest it!

The hotel also had mini buses and cars available in the evenings if you did want to go out to eat or couldn’t be bothered walking. We used them a couple of times when going to eat out at a local restaurant L’Ancolie, they would even pick us up when we were ready to come home. I love little touches like this which takes away any unnecessary hassle.

One thing to note, is this place was great for children. There were lots of cute events the hotel hosted for little ones, it was quite adorable. We did gatecrash a crepe party one evening, which I highly recommend – they were DELICIOUS.

 

 

Flaine Village

En route to the pistes, you will go past the little centre of Flaine – which has a supermarket, some shops and a good variety of restaurants. The hotel is self-catering and whilst you can order pastries at reception for breakfast, we went down to the shops to stock up for breakfast and sometimes lunch or dinner every day.

 

How were CrystalSki?

Excellent. They really were. I’ve only ever been on a rep-style holiday once before and it wasn’t that impressive. But having Paige on hand was brilliant. From the moment we arrived, till the day we left she was always on the other end of the phone. She didn’t hassle us – I think it was definitely the other way round. On the day we arrived we were so hungry we couldn’t wait to go out and find food, which meant we missed meeting Paige in the lobby – but luckily she was passing the village anyway so she popped in to where we were having lunch and swiftly sorted out everything we needed i.e. ski hire, ski lessons and answered our hundreds of questions (usually asking for recommendations on where to eat).

We always received texts if there was anything we needed to know about the weather conditions, although we had downloaded the Crystal Ski app anyway which was really handy for any local info. That reassurance of having someone there, at the touch of a button was a novelty but I quite enjoyed it. I loved that I didn’t have to spend time researching and sorting out paperwork, instead we could all spend our time playing games and out in the snow.

 

Would we stay again?

The litmus test for us when we stay anywhere is whether we would stay there again. In this case, it’s a firm yes. If we were to return to Flaine, then we would absolutely come back here.

It has all of the amenities you would need from a ski resort and the location is fab. Our interaction with the staff was minimal as we were dealing with Paige anytime we needed something (poor Paige) but the ones we did deal with were very lovely.

It was a fabulous location for what turned out to be a totally FABULOUS holiday!!

 

Where do you normally go to ski? Any recommendations for some place new to try next year? 

 

Terrasses D'Eos review

*** ¬†Thank you to Crystal Ski Holidays and Terrases D’eos for organising our accommodation and big thanks to Paige for dealing with me and my crazy group ***

 

Follow:

 

Last weekend was the last weekend before Christmas and considering I thought the festive period would be a quiet one for me this year, my weekend was pretty nuts!!

There was a lot to cram in so when I received an invitation to stay overnight at the Mercure Hotel in Piccadilly Manchester with a bunch of lovely bloggers, I jumped at the opportunity.

Now I know you’re sat there thinking if I had so much planned why on earth would I choose to do such a thing when I live less than 10 miles away? Well my friend I have two words to explain my decision… Christmas. Traffic.

This year, more so than any year, the traffic in this city I love so much has been HORRENDOUS. I have spent more hours in my car than ever before and it’s beginning to turn me into a real grouch. So I knew that not only could I visit a hotel I have never ever thought of using before, but as it was central, I knew this would save me having to spend hours in car queues with me screaming at people around me because… well because they too are stuck in the car and can’t really stop me!

Anyway. The Mercure. It’s not the best looking building on the block. To be honest there are a few shockers in the Piccadilly area, and I’m afraid to say the Mercure is one of them, which is probably why when I told Mo he had no choice than to join me, he wasn’t really that impressed and just sort of shrugged his shoulders in the usual ‘whatever you say darling’ kinda way.

BUT the location? It’s pretty darn perfect. Slap bang in the middle of the city, a short walk from Piccadilly train station, looks out over the very busy Piccadilly gardens. Not a pretty sight at the moment, but it soon will be as the council have big plans for that space. It’s easily accessible by tram and the hotel also has its own car park – which is a total bonus for such a central hotel.

I had sent Mo ahead to check us in and to meet the others, as I was a little tied up – getting into the festive spirit down at Gino’s in the Corn Exchange with my lovely ladies (and a¬†gent) from work.

Whilst I was dining at the Italian down the road, Mo was stepping into my blogger shoes and spending the afternoon exploring the hotel.

 

Checking in

Upon arrival, he was greeted by the very jolly Sales Manager, Anthony. Room key all sorted Mo had a little time to kill before heading up to¬†the restaurant/bar on the 3rd floor.¬†Bearing in mind he had expressed to me earlier he wasn’t expecting to be impressed, I was constantly texting him to check he was ok. In my mind I figured it would be best to have him get all his complaining out the way over¬†WhatsApp so we wouldn’t have to do it face to face later!! However all my worrying was unnecessary as he pretty much instantly sent me over pics of the room with lots of smiley emojis dotted around. Phew.

Considering how dated the building looks from the outside, the inside seems to be quite recently refurbished. As we’d never stayed in a Mercure before we very much expected it to be quite budget-looking. But the room was super clean, lovely colour scheme, bathroom was pristine and the bed was unbelievably comfy!¬†It was a great surprise. The hotel had even arranged a couple of lovely cakes, a Christmas card and bottle of Prosecco to greet us on the dressing table. We hadn’t quite got round to telling them we were non-drinkers but we appreciated the gesture all the same.

 

 

3pm sharp, ever punctual Mo headed down to the 3rd floor where he met Erica from Talented Talkers and the rest of the bloggers. Everyone was once again treated to¬†more cakes and drinks before taking¬†a mini tour of the hotel, with the most surprising room being the quite up-market gym. Again I think the initial assumption is to come across something quite dated, but that really wasn’t the case.

After some mingling everyone then dispersed to go and enjoy the rest of their afternoon, I reunited with Mo and we headed off to Winter Wonderland at Eventcity, next door to the Trafford Centre.

 

Winter Wonderland

I think it’s safe to say¬†most of the other¬†bloggers didn’t have many nice things to say about this place, mainly because I think they perhaps assumed it would be like the one in Hyde Park down South.

However I thought it was exactly what it said on the tin. Mo and I both knew the event was completely tailored towards families with children, but we wanted to go along and see how good it was. It’s always nice to scope out places we may want to treat our niece or nephew too in the future.

 

 

And I’m pretty sure if they had been with us, they would have LOVED it. I wasn’t sure if the entrance fee was justified for this place as some Eventcity events can be hit and miss, but the whole venue was jam packed full of rides and activities, there was a circus, a main stage, lots of games and places to eat it was pretty impressive.

 

Few tips if you’re thinking of going:

  • It’s at the Trafford Centre, over Christmas time, so parking is manic, plan ahead
  • Put the kids in shoes they can slip on and off, there’s a lot of bouncy castles and soft play slides and I could see kids getting annoyed with the whole shoelace tying when all they want to do is run to the next ride
  • One of the bloggers didn’t manage to get into Santa’s Grotto! which is a real shame so either go early, or don’t get your child’s hopes up if you don’t fancy the queue

 

Dinner at the Brasserie

Coming back from Winter Wonderland, we went straight to our rooms to freshen up before dinner. The restaurant wasn’t busy (maybe because there was a huge Christmas party in the main function room), but it looked lovely all dressed up for Christmas. We had a gorgeous table for 2 by the window overlooking the city centre.

The menu arrived and everything sounded pretty great. Would it taste as good? We would soon find out… Unfortunately for Mo and I, the meat was not halal but we had plenty of choice and in a way I’m glad it wasn’t because it forced me to step out of my comfort zone.

For starters,¬†Mo had the savoury pancakes with spinach and paneer and I chose the prawn cocktail. For mains, fish and chips, and this was my wild card – a falafel¬†burger with sweet potato fries. I don’t really like falafel, I never have really, BUT the description said it came with a halloumi slice, and I really wanted that halloumi slice.

The portions were¬†very generous¬†and the food was beautiful, full of flavour and the presentation was perfect. The paneer pancake was so unusual and my falafel burger? I LOVED it. I can’t believe I’m saying this but it totally blew my pasta from Gino’s earlier in the day right out of the water.

 

 

I was so full I was literally unable to put another morsel of food in my mouth. Mo however, could not end his meal without a dessert¬†and ordered the¬†sticky toffee pudding, which he requested with custard instead of ice cream (they obliged without any hesitation) and that too was delicious (I was full but I couldn’t not try it!).

We also met with Chris , the restaurant manager who came over to have a quick chat with us. A really lovely guy and I was desperate to ask whether this menu was standard here as it was so impressive. Most of the food we ate that night is on the regular menu, however a few of the additions are one off specials they do once in a while, such as the hot pot. Happy with that, as I think I would definitely return here for a nice peaceful city meal one day.

All that food and we were ready to hit the sack.

 

Sunday morning Breakfast

Breakfast the next morning was amazing.

Breakfast is always the highlight of Mo’s day, particularly when we are staying away so he was really looking forward to one: not cooking it and two: having lots of options. Would breakfast reach the level of quality we received from the night before? Abso-bloody-lutely it did. It was great! Plenty of tea and coffee on offer, a very well stocked buffet bar with a massive array of hot food, pastries, cereals, yoghurts and fruit. There was enough for the most ardent breakfast fan.

Mo ordered poached eggs and veggie sausages from the kitchen and everything emerged just minutes later, cooked to perfection. Safe to say he was a happy bunny. And the veggie sausage was FANTASTIC. Order it, even if you’re not veggie!

 

 

Overall, our experience at the Mercure Manchester was brilliant. As the old saying goes, you should never judge a book by it’s cover. From the outside, this place may not look like much, but it really has quite a lot to offer in terms of amenities, comfort and (the biggest shocker of all)¬†food. The service was also pretty special, every member of staff we passed had a smile and friendly acknowledgement to send our way.

For travellers of any type, business or pleasure this place is a good shout. My advising to anyone visiting Manchester is that this city centre location should definitely be worth considering.

 

 

*** Thank you to Talented Talkers for inviting us to take part in the Mercure Experience, the hotel stay, dinner and tickets to Winter Wonderland were complimentary, but of course as always all opinions and views on here are my own – oh no wait some of the opinions on this post are also Mo’s¬† ūüôā If you are looking to book make sure you check out the offers page! ¬†or click here to simply view the hotel ***

 

Have you ever been pleasantly surprised by a hotel chain? What’s your favourite city centre hotel?

Follow:

october-travel-linkup_top-5-hotels

 

When I first started thinking about this month’s Travel Linkup, I was stumped. I couldn’t think of any weird and wonderful place we had stayed. I realised that Mo and I go for the same style of place everywhere we go, nothing too expensive but clean. We like it to be clean. And where possible, somewhere which is architecturally or artistically cool.

So, these are the few that stand out as my most memorable:

 

Quirkiest interiors:

Hotel Le Negresco, Nice, France

Quirky is definitely the right word to use for this hotel. This Belle-√Čpoque palatial hotel has filled its¬†walls¬†with paintings and sculptures.¬† The whole place is a like an art gallery and the central atrium is truly a sight to be seen with beautiful glass ceiling and a very large Baccarat crystal chandelier.

 

 

Not only is every floor a new experience, but there are lots of other cool things too like a plush velvet padded lift, a carousel in one of the restaurants La Rotonde and even the furniture is strange and inviting.

If you don’t¬†fancy an overnight stay here at Le Negresco whilst you’re in Nice, I would for sure recommend at least popping in for a meal or coffee (order petits fours!). It’ll give you an excuse to explore this magical building.

 

Best for customer experience:

Ad-Lib Boutique Hotel, Bangkok, Thailand

I struggled to think of a hotel that had service that could rival the Ad-Lib. It was slap-bang in the middle of the city, but you never would have thought you were amidst the chaos of Bangkok, it was so peaceful once you stepped inside.

Booking a room here we were provided with everything we needed, including a local mobile with credit to use, daily skytrain tickets and if we were feeling super lazy they’d even give us a lift to the nearest train station.

 

 

The stand-out feature, was the staff. They were all so lovely, and we were in and out a lot during our stay there, at all times of the day. And the concierge Pong? He was fabulous! The nicest man we’ve ever met in a hotel he helped us out so much during our stay, booking us tickets, chatting to us and helping arrange transport when we needed, Mo and I couldn’t sing his praises enough.

 

Best welcome:

Sheraton Hotel, Abu Dhabi

I had contacted the Sheraton hotel prior to going as we had a number of special requirements for our booking. They had picked up my blog name from my email and lo and behold, laid out a truly wonderful welcome for Mo and I when we entered our room!

 

 

It was so sweet and we have never had anything so personal prepared for us before (not even on our honeymoon?!), so we were really touched and hey, it’s going to take some beating.

It’s also a little disappointing when we travel now and there’s not so much as a sweet to welcome us ūüôĀ

 

Best in the UK

The Lake House, Lake District

This place was breath-taking. I remember walking into the Lake House and thinking, yup, I could live here. This private house is¬†one of the most luxuriest manor houses I’ve ever come across. It was winter at the time we stayed and we enjoyed long nights by the fire in the lounge, dinners in the conservatory overlooking the private lake…

 

 

Oh yeah, there’s a private lake! Where you can take the boats out, go for a long walk around it or simply take a seat on the pier and gaze over the peaceful waters. There is an indoor heated pool, outdoor hot tub and even a Japanese bath hidden amongst the trees. Buzzers strategically placed around the house to ensure a helping hand was never far away.

BLISS.

 

My most favourit-est of them all:

Veligandu Resort, Maldives

Our deluxe ocean villa at the Veligandu Island resort was definitely the most amazing place we’ve ever stayed in. I don’t even think it needs much explaining.

 

 

We had an ocean villa, perched over the water with a private deck and steps into the ocean,¬†our own private outdoor Jacuzzi, a separate dressing area, amazing rain showers, FANTASTIC food… I would go back in a heart beat

(Anyone fancy sending me back?)

 

*ps – I am fully aware favourit-est is not a real word, but you get my gist ūüôā

 

*** October Travel Linkup ***

So tell us, what are the most interesting and memorable places you’ve rested?

This month the topic is ‘most interesting item you’ve discovered or seen in a hotel room/accommodation’. We can’t wait to see what is unearthed…
How to link up your post

Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th October), add it to the link up widget below on either Emma’s, Angie‘s or on our lovely co-host Aftab @ Fresh and Fearless – from the 1st of the month.

 

There are no rules ‚Äď basically all we ask is that you check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved in that months travel link up; make a few comments here and there and tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love. It‚Äôs a great way to meet some new travel bloggers and share some blogging joy!

 

The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers as long as the post is relevant.

 

Follow: