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 πŸ™‚

 

 

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 πŸ˜‰ )

 

 

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:Β 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?Β 

 

 

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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 πŸ™‚

 

 

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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