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? 

 

 

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the-perfect-secret

 

Beach? England? We actually have plenty and some of them aren’t all that bad. As a child I often frequented the most popular ones, Southport, Blackpool, St. Annes etc.

This year for our annual ‘Ben Nevis trip’ back in May, my sister found us someplace new to try.

(fyi it wasn’t Ben Nevis, my dad has simply named our trip after the destination of our first group holiday last year, you know just to confuse matters).

Anyway… this new place, it was really something. Well first of all, we had no expectations. No idea what it would be like. The weather forecast wasn’t looking too great and none of us had even heard of this Yorkshire town all the way on the other side of the Pennines.

But onwards we went, to explore this Victorian seaside town known as Saltburn by the Sea. As we drove towards the coast, the roads wound up the cliffside until finally the sea came into view.

And what a view.

 

saltburn-by-the-sea-1

 

Have you been here before? Have you even heard of it? I’ll be honest, the moment I laid eyes on the place, two things went through my mind: There was hardly anyone there! Forget the hen and stag do crowds of Blackpool and the chaos of Southport, this stretch of sand was almost empty, so peaceful with just the odd family dotted around enjoying the last half of the afternoon.

The second thought that crossed my mind was how am I going to stop myself from telling people about this place. How can I stop myself from promoting it, help it keep its humbleness.

 

 

Well that went completely out the window when I saw this months travel linkup topic as when I think of my perfect moment here in the UK, I think back to that afternoon.

I was surrounded by my closest family members, some sat on the benches looking out over the sea, others attempted to wade through the (freezing) cold water and the rest of us were taking advantage of the sea breeze and perfecting our kite flying skills.

Bliss.

Sorry, perfect bliss.

 

 

A perfect … ??

It could be a perfect moment, a perfect destination, a perfect storm, a perfect slice of cake…

How to link up your post

Just pop your post up over the first week of the month (the 1st – 7th November), add it to the link up widget below on either Angie’s, Emma’s or on our lovely co-host Jamie from Ink + Adventure’s blog.

There are no rules ‚Äď just check out some of the other cool bloggers that are involved, make a few comments here and there and tweet a few of the posts out to your followers that you think they will love (use the hashtag #travellinkup).
The Travel Link Up is open to all bloggers ‚Äď as long as the post is relevant!

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the-one-when-we-went-to-friendsfest

 

My nearest and dearest know that in the last year I majorly fell out of love with tv. I just couldn’t be a**ed with it anymore, I found it was a complete drain on my time and I found lots more fun elsewhere.

Saying that – there are always occasions where you just fancy veg-ing out on the sofa but instead of getting sucked into some new exciting series or drama (my attention span these days is shockingly bad) I much prefer to watch replays of my ‘feel good’ shows. So I have three go to’s – Modern Family, Big Bang Theory and my all time favourite show in the whole entire WORLD – Friends.

The minute I heard Friendsfest was coming to the UK last year, I wanted tickets. The tickets sold out near enough as soon as they were released and I was insanely jealous watching friends pop up facebook pics of their experience.

So the second I heard it was coming back – well there was no way I was missing out without a fight.

Thankfully this time round it was not only sticking around longer, but also touring, with a location confirmed up North! Hands perched over keyboard at the ready, as soon as those tickets were released I secured four glorious passes to Friendsfest at Harewood House in Leeds.

And what a glorious day it was!

 

 

If you’ve never heard of Friendsfest (I’m not even going to ask if you’ve heard of Friends cos if you haven’t I really have no words for you) it’s basically a mini festival celebrating all things Friends with recreations of the set using actual props from the show for you to walk through. Set’s on display include Central Perk, Monicas apartment, the barker loungers and the sofa from the title scene.

There’s a main stage which shows clips of shows and also where festival-goers can take part in games and dance-offs – all friends related of course. My sister and I jumped up during lunch to compete for the Geller cup (which we won!!) and even got up to learn ‘the routine’ for a laugh (no shame us two, will try anything in the name of a good time)

 

 

Ok so the atmosphere may be a bit Friends cult-ish, the food and drink is expectedly overpriced, yes you have to queue to look at and take pictures of the different sets but NONE OF THAT MATTERED BECAUSE IT WAS A WHOLE DAY DEDICATED TO FRIENDS!!!

Yes I just broke a writing rule and typed continuously in capitals with lots of exclamation marks thrown in, but you know what that’s the only way I can get across to you just how much fun I had.

I had my fantastic four, my best friends in the whole world and we had an absolute laugh. It was especially nice to be able to share it with my sister, we grew up watching this show together all the way up to now – we’ve had friends marathon days, watched the last episode together, played the game, laughed at the same lines and we got to spend the whole day celebrating our one TV love together!

 

 

If you’re a die-hard Friends fan, I would definitely recommend going if you get the opportunity. It was a day of pure nostalgia, and hey the sun even shone the whole time we were in Yorkshire! Perfect way to kick off the holidays.

 

Have you been to Friendsfest? what did you think? Or do you think I’m a tad bit crazy for loving it so much?

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Up until now Harrogate has always been a place I remember from when my family and I used to make the yearly trek over the Pennines to visit the British Bridal Exhibition (for work).

It was only recently that I got the chance to venture out and about in the town centre, now that hubby Mo spends a lot of time there for work.

We took a drive down the M62 to attend his lovely¬†boss’s Christmas party on Boxing Day and decided it was the perfect opportunity to stay the night and indulge in a leisurely stroll through the town centre the¬†next day.

Here’s a quick¬†glance over some of the things we got up to on our day trip:

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Our hotel was located in the Montpellier quarter of the town, which was perfect for us to be able to wander out on foot.

Just as we¬†walked out through the manicured patches of grass,¬†we were right on¬†Montpellier hill.¬†Where at the top, Pier head, you’ll find the¬†P√©tanque installation. It’s basically boules for those who know it, and for those that don’t, well this is a public facility so it’s a great opportunity to throw yourself in and give it a go¬†(don’t worry there’s instructions).

This Victorian town is home to some northern shopping greats (such as Hoopers) and plenty of small boutique stores.

We spent most of our time window shopping, only stopping once to explore the wonderfully large Farrahs of Harrogate sweet shop, which is great place to nosey round. It’s basically a super-fancy version of the penny sweet shops we used to run to as kids (definitely not penny-sweets anymore).

As Mo lost himself amidst the fudge and homemade jams, I fell in love with the Yorkshire inspired products towards the back of the shop, perfect for gifts!

Eat:

If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know by now that Mo and I have a real thing for a top quality breakfast and¬†Harrogate does not disappoint in this department. Most people would probably head over to the ever so famous Betty’s, but we found ourselves a neat little Swedish-inspired caf√© to test out, Blatzersens.

It was like walking into an IKEA showroom, with all the right smells of a typical Stockholm bakery.

For those with dietary issues like me, there are plenty of gluten and dairy free options too. We went all out, my favourite was the fancy Scandinavian egg and chips that Mo had and the Egyptian mint tea I ordered was divine.

Not only would we go back, but we would definitely be up for trying there sister restaurant, Norse, for dinner next time we’re both in town.

Stay:

Mo had stayed at the White Hart Hotel before and he knew straight away we would be booking to stay there again. Perfectly located for those who want to explore the town centre, car park onsite, lovely staff and all the comforts you would expect from a four star hotel.

It’s a grand looking building, Georgian I believe,¬†the interior d√©cor is¬†far from old fashioned though.¬†Everything inside has been maintained to the highest standard. There’s free wifi (that really should be a given these days) and I can only assume this a popular haunt for weddings as they even have a salon on site.

Not only does the White Hart have a two AA Rosette restaurant, but it houses the Fat Badger, one of the busiest¬†restaurant/bars I’ve seen in a long time.

We grabbed a quick drink in there whilst our room was being prepared (reception kindly arranged these free of charge to apologise for the wait). The Fat Badger is very much full of badgers. Stuffed ones. So if you’re not a fan of taxidermy – you really don’t want to walk in here. If you’re not bothered, you should definitely pop in to witness the quirkiness on offer in this dining space. Your eyes will not stop wandering.

We had such a lovely time in Harrogate. One of those perfect winter days, the sun was out, the air was chilly and the company was the best ūüôā

Definitely up there with one of my favourite Yorkshire memories.

With Mo¬†travelling there on a regular basis I’m always keen to look out for new places to see, eat, stay – recommendations??

 

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