Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Escapism and Ukeleles - Why KC wants to go to Hawaii

Boys and girls of the internet, I have a cold. My brain is all fuzzed up from a combination of horrible gooey coldy stuff and as much medication as I can safely take, and I suspect any attempts to string a sensible sentence together may fall sadly flat. So I've enlisted the help of my much perkier boyfriend to tell you about his upcoming holiday hopes! The poor chap doesn't usually get much of a look-in when it comes to making holiday plans but - particularly after our most recent big-coat-weather-and-bunk-bed-accommodation trip to Bruges - his dreams of sunrises, beaches and mansions in Hawaii seem pretty darn appealing!

I'll hand you over...

Photo credit goes to Kerry who was lucky enough to visit Kauai on her honeymoon!
  Hello everyone. It’s a delight and pleasure to be able to write a few words here at Let’s Go Somewhere Nice! By quick way of introduction – Kel is my better half and you may have heard me referred to as “KC” on this site previously. I go lots of places with Kel but I’m often quite shy so you may not have seen my face on here before! 

   (When I say “shy”, what I mean is that I’m usually too busy taking my own photographs of birds and wildlife whilst Kel does the important task of actually documenting our trips with the kids. If the photography was left to me, there’d be no pictures of the two young ‘uns growing up, but lots of excellent close-ups of the Wall Lizards of Malta and the massive cranes of Bruges).

   As you can tell by this quick intro, I don’t think it’d be unfair to call me a nerd. Aside from wildlife photography, my other hobbies include watching wrestling (I’m 35), painstakingly creating spreadsheets for my fantasy football team, and committing myself to seeing far too many movies. I don’t think it would surprise you, at this point, to let you know that I once did an MA in film in my spare time and tried to progress to a PhD whilst working 40 hours a week too. Sadly, I’m on infinite sabbatical from my comparative research on North and South Korean post-war cinema. Such a shame for the academic world, I’m sure you’ll agree!

    The reason I’ve run through all of this is that, I think you’ll have noticed, all of my interests and hobbies have one thing in common: escapism. How can I find room in my brain to worry about adulthood when my entire mind is focused on getting the perfect close-up shot of a cow (my favourite animal), or if I’m cheering on Kevin Owens to lay the Smackdown on Shane McMahon in a WWE ring, or if I find myself transported to far away worlds by the magic of cinema?

    It’s the latter of these, though, which feels closest to micro-holidays. Whilst I’m fortunate enough to actually travel to a fair few places each year (and have found the tranquillity of Iceland and remote Scotland as my favourites so far), cinema gives me the chance to dream of places I’ve never so far had the opportunity to set foot in. Whilst I’ll never get the opportunity to travel back in time to Bogart’s Casablanca, and Florin (in The Princess Bride) proves something of a handicap by being fictitious, there’s quite a fair few places that the silver screen has inspired me to get to.

   Having previously mentioned “remote Scotland”, one of my favourite places in the world is Pennan – AKA the place they shot Local Hero. If you haven’t seen this absolute classic, I insist you stop reading this piece now and track down a copy. Back? It’s pure joy and wonder isn’t it? Getting the chance to visit this summer (thanks Kel!) was one of my favourite days and has made me thirsty for similar opportunities. I’ve stood next to the legendary phone box in Scotland – but where next?

   A part of me was once always tempted to visit Pyongyang (the North Korean capital) after becoming enchanted by watching more communist propaganda movies than one healthy man ever should, but those plans are probably no more for at least a little while. The splendour of Paektu (the mountain in which all Korean people have, by fable, originated from) is something I will have to forgo at least until the feud between Kim Jong-Un and Donald Trump dies down somewhat. So, instead, where could I head which is both inviting, safe, and inspired by the movies?

   The answer came to me during the trailers preceding James Franco’s hilarious and touching The Disaster Artist. The preview advertisements included a short spot for Alexander Payne’s forthcoming Downsizing – a fascinating looking movie starring Matt Damon. Yet, it wasn’t this film itself which provided inspiration of where I’d like to head to next. It was, instead, the fact that seeing Alexander Payne’s name jogged my memory – I was delighted to recall how much I’ve enjoyed each of his previous films (from Citizen Ruth and Election onwards) but, as the first drops of snow fell, it was one of his more recent efforts that stuck in my mind: The Descendants.

Photo is Kerry's again - check out her Instagram for more luscious travel shots!
   As Bradford turns dark and glum over the winter months, there’s few places I’d rather be than the languid, tropical climate of Honolulu, Hawaii which gives Payne’s film its setting. I don’t think Kel would argue too much, either, to the idea of being stuck on the island with George Clooney. In December, the amount of natural light West Yorkshire gets is minimal – a fact which is bound to effect SAD in even the most stoic of us. I can only dream of watching the sun rise and set in Honolulu, and how calm the surroundings must be as night turns into day and vice versa. For context, as I write this one evening, my typing is sound-tracked not by waves crashing against the shore, or the stereotypical twangs of a ukulele but, rather, two dogs fighting one another as my neighbours blare out UB40 at an ungodly volume.

    Why else, would I like to be in Hawaii then? I’m more of a day-dreamer than a surfer, but the sprawling beaches would give me the chance to do either. There’s the chance to soak up history (another hobby of mine) at Pearl Harbour or hike by Diamond Head. Perhaps, best of all, there’s the chance to soak up a whole new array of wildlife – I’m giddy even imagining the type of birds I could spot. As snow softly falls in dull and grey Bradford, I’ve begun to dream once more of a holiday away. If we go, though, I’ll trust Kel to take the pictures of our actual holiday – I’d be too busy snapping Hawaiian honeycreepers, Palilas and crows. I did mention, I think, that I’m a bit of a nerd?
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Friday, 1 December 2017

November Happenings, December Plans

I know I've been complaining all year that time is running away from me too quickly, but that's never more true than when Christmas is approaching! 

I think I'm nearly at a place (at home at least, work is a very different kettle of fish!) where I can start to kick back and enjoy it all a little but November has seen a lot of packing away and tidying up of miscellaneous stuff, so I can get the house clear enough to get 'Christmas' down from the loft! I know it wouldt be such an arduous task if I didn't let it all spiral out of control throughout the year, so I have no one to blame but myself - but it seems this annual tidy-up is now almost as big a Christmas tradition as Home Alone and Chocolate Oranges.

I have managed to fit in a couple of bits and pieces alongside all the tidying though! I mentioned last month that a couple of us had a big karate tournament coming up, so the first half of the month was spent in extra training sessions whenever possible. Sadly we came home medal-less on this occasion but 'twas a grand day out and I'm sura all the extra practice will do us the world of good! 
 

That didn't leave us with a lot of time for adventuring in early November, but we did manage a sneaky trip over to Bruges towards the end of the month! It's surprisingly easy to take a quick trip from the Yorkshire (overnight ferry!) and it's not only such a pretty place to visit but it always feels very Christmassy!

I also managed an actual evening out too - Simone and I were invited over to the Lush store in Leeds to chek out their new Christmassy bits and learn about the latest addition to their spa treatment offerings! Lush always put on the nicest blogger events, and I always end up leaving with a strong determination to fully move into their spa! 


And while I've not moved in yet, this is related to one of the thigns I'm very much looking forward to in December - I finally got myself booked in for a Lush spa treatment, woooo! I received a voucher for their signature treatment, Synaesthesia, last Christmas and it's taken nearly a year to gey myself organsied enough to book it in, so I'm thrilled to actually be going soon!

Apart from that, everything is going Christmas crazy! We have the house to decorate, santa to visit, pantomime to see, and christmas parties aplenty - and thats before the day itself! (Hopefully I can find time for some shopping!) Our Christmas Day usually consists of a painfully early morning and too much food - pretty much standard! I can't wait for a nice break from work too, as we shut down from Christmas Eve 'til the New Year, and the idea of some nice quiet family time away from the spreadsheets sounds like all I want for Christmas! 

Please tell me I'm not the only one that has loads to do still! What does your December look like? Any fun Christmassy tradtitions or activities you've got planned?
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Wednesday, 29 November 2017

A Midsummer Nights Dream Afternoon Tea

When we were in London last month, the one thing I knew I wanted to do was treat myself to a proper nice afternoon tea.

Picking one was tricky - there's a lot of places offering very nice sounding afternoon teas in London! On top of that, I needed somewhere I could order afternoon tea for one (I had company, but it was a non-afternoon-tea-eating kind of company). I also can't deny that price was a factor in my decision - as a tight northerner, some of the prices I came across in my research were eye-watering!


After some extensive and very enjoyable research, I decided I loved the idea of an A Midsummer Nights Dream Afternoon Tea, and I got myself booked into The Swan at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. 


We'd planned on coinciding the tea visit with a tour around the theatre, but like many things on my London trip, this didn't exactly go to plan! Still we arrived in plenty of time to admire the historic building, relaxing by the river in the autumn sunshine. I did just manage to resist buying my self an ice cream, since I knew I had plates of goodies on the way!

We were seated upstairs, where the opportunity to spot a few famous landmarks through the sunlit windows was a nice addition to the afternoon (typical northerner maybe but I'd never really considered the possibility of London being occasionally quite pretty).


The afternoon tea menu basically consists of two very different afternoon tea options - the A Midsummer Nights Dream afternoon tea is the more traditional of the two, with the little sandwiches, scones and minin cakes you'd expect, and this sits alongside an interesting sounding Gentlemen's Afternoon Tea with 'manly' goodies like scotch eggs and fish finger sandwiches.

It was the cakey one for me though, of course!


The afternoon tea came with the optional addition of a thematic cocktail - the Love Potion is a 'magical mix of Earl Grey infused gin, honey from the London Honey Co, blackberry puree and prosecco, topped with fresh blackberries'.


I wasn't not getting that, to be fair. Especially as I was in the rare position of not having to drive that day. I liked the combination of getting to mix my own magic potion, but without needing any of the skill required to actually make a nice cocktail!



The savoury selection served up was a pleasingly varied bunch: a wild mushroom and leek quiche, ham and mustard finger sandwich, smoked salmon on rye and an egg mayonnaise brioche. I don't really dig salmon or egg,  but that's just me being fussy - I do dig the different sandwich types and varied breads.



I was presented with a plain scone and a mulberry scone, both of which were delicious - especially served with clotted cream and jam. My problem was that I tried to eat them both in the same sitting as everything else - so by the time I came to the cakey bits I was too stuffed to fully appreciate them. Hindsight would have me box up at least one of them to enjoy later. (Still, it's always hard to truly regret eating scones!)


(By the way, how amazing are the plates? The crockery was designed specifically for the Swan, and it's stunning - I want the full set myself for home!)


I make no secret of the fact that the little cakes that usually make up part of an afternoon tea are my favourites! The Elderflower and Violet Macaroon was my favourite - so pretty and delicate, and light enough to enjoy even after finishing off those scones!


The Rose infused raspberry mousse and lemon cake, and blackberry compote with lavender cream were lovely too - I'm just nuts about those floral flavours and while I'm not familiar enough with A Midsummer Nights Dream to say just how closely these relate to the theme but they certainly evoke a lovely summertime woodland setting!


The menu describes the remaining item as a glazed white chocolate brownie but I definitely feel it was more straight-up chocolatey than that - - though to be fair I was in a bit of a sugar coma by this point it could have been anything, but I know it was sweet and goooood!

The afternoon tea was priced at £28.50, or £35 with the extra cocktail. Though that still feels highly extravagant to me, it seems this is actually incredibly reasonable for a London afternoon tea - especially for one of this standard and in this setting. The Midsummer Nights Dream afternoon tea was the perfect choice for a London afternoon tea and I'm really glad I had the chance to visit!
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Monday, 20 November 2017

Medieval Glamping at Warwick Castle

A weekend of Medieval Glamping at Warwick Castle couldn't be more my cup of tea if it was an actual cup of tea. When I first learned that this was a possibility I was SO excited, and even more so when lovely KC offered to sort out a visit as my birthday treat! 


I couldn't wait to head off and pretend to be in a much more family-friendly Game of Thrones, but a December birthday does not make for a good camping weekend so we thought it best to wait for the weather to warm up a tad, and finally our weekend rolled around.
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Friday, 10 November 2017

A Weekend at Warwick Castle

My most exciting discover of 2017 was that you could have medieval sleepovers at Warwick Castle! We spent a brilliant night away in the Knight's Village over the summer, and there's a full post on that coming soon, but while we were there we of course spent plenty of time around the castle too!


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Friday, 3 November 2017

October Happenings, November Plans

As, I imagine, was the case for many people, much of our October goings-ons were Halloween based. The night itself was spend trick-or-treating around my brothers house, with him and his kiddos. It's always an interesting place to go trick-or-treating as the confused responses to the holiday make for a very eclectic goodie haul. They've come back with apples, cakes, crisps, bottles of pop and cash alongside the expected sweets but my favourite reactions are where the person opening the door clearly has no idea what's going on! 


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Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Farmer Copley's Pumpkin Festival

It's hard to put my finger on when pumpkin carving became really popular in the UK. I'm sure I never did it when I was a kid. I remember carving turnips, but that may have been more to do with my dad's distrust of pumpkins as 'American', rather than a lack of availability.

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Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Yorkshire Lavender

It feels a bit weird writing about my summer adventures with it being so grey outside, but I'm trying (not succeeding, but trying!) to get all caught up. I really should probably just skip a couple of months so I'm covering more recent events but I took way too many pictures for that, so to that end - here's Yorkshire Lavender


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Monday, 2 October 2017

September Happenings, October Plans

September's big event was the little one's ninth birthday, and she did not let us forget it! 

Most people have a birthday, but she's been talking about her 'birthday month' since at least July, and did manage to stretch her birthday celebrations out over two full weekends! 

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Thursday, 28 September 2017

Stay, Play and Explore Leicestershire

'Stay, Play and Explore' is such a good tagline for a weekend away, isn't it? Visit Leicestershire have really nailed it with these short family breaks away - so much so that we've taken these trips most years now since the kiddos were really little! 


How it works is that for a set price (currently £149) you get a hotel stay for a family of four, including breakfast, as well as family entry into three out of a list of local attractions. Family entry to some of these attractions can come in at over £50 anyway, so this definitely works out as excellent value! On this trip we visited Stonehurst Family Farm for the first time and Twycross Zoo (not for the first time). We've kept the third ticket safe to use later, as we wanted full days at our chosen attractions and we have 'til the end of the year to get all our visiting done.

(You don't have to pre-book either, jut turn up with your ticket - which means you can tailor your choice to the weather!) 


The Hilton Leicester had come highly recommended to me for our hotel choice but it was all booked up for our chosen weekend so we opted for Sketchley Grange Hotel instead.


I wish I'd been a bit more prepared for my stay - I'd completely forgotten that there was a pool and spa until I was reminded when checking in, and not packed swimming stuff for any of us which was a real shame. Still, without really taking advantage of all that the hotel has to offer, it was a great stay for our needs. Nice big cosy beds (kids were sharing, not a problem for them but maybe something to bare in mind?), clean bathroom with bath and separate shower, stocked with cute mini-toiletries, and of course the all important drink-making facilities (always even better when biscuits are included!) 


We didn't eat our evening meal at the hotel, opting instead for a cosy looking family-friendly pub we passed on our way there - so we were really looking forward to tucking into a hearty hotel breakfast. My son was the only one of us that dived into the hot food, but he loved his Full English. There was more than enough tea, juice and pastries to keep me happy!


We are looking forward to getting back down to our third attraction visit soon, but for next year I'm eyeing up the Shakespeare-themed Warwickshire breaks as a nice change! 
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Monday, 25 September 2017

Twycross Zoo, Leicestershire

When we booked our weekend trip to Leicestershire, we had a number of local attraction to choose from but there was one obvious 'yes' from the family - Twycross Zoo.


Now in a zoo filled with exotic and rarely seen creatures, it did tickle me a little that the kids first port of call was the farm section. The little lady has long said that goats are one of her favourite animals though, so this was bound to be a be a popular area for her - especially the goat walkthrough where she could get up close with some of her favourites! 



This little section also contained the ever-amusing alpacas, a very sweet bundle of guinea pigs and bunnies, and a pair of very amorous donkeys that encouraged us to move swiftly on before too many questions were asked....





The gorillas were one of the key attractions here for us. The kids had put on their start of the year list that they'd like to see these wonderful animals, and knowing we could find them at Twycross Zoo definitely added to out enthusiasm to visit.


Obviously the star of the day was the absolutely adorable baby gorilla. So cute and playful, we could have watched this little guy for hours (and probably did!)






In between the animals, the youngsters found plenty of places to play. The kids got to replicate some of the primate behaviour they'd been observing, by swinging and climbing to their hearts content, while I got to enjoy and appreciate a nice sit-down-with-a-cup-of-tea session!




One of the highlights was feeding the birds in the Lorikeet Landing enclosure! This wasn't here on our last visit to the zoo a few years ago, so was a nice bonus. You could buy a small pot of nectar from the enclosure entrance and, if the birds are hungry, they may just come along to feed out of your pot! It was a really nice way to get close to these charming birds! 




We always love seeing the giraffes - they're such unusual but beautiful animals, and so calming to watch! 



And the penguins are a favourite with the kids in particular - the contrast between their grace in the water and how awkward they look on land will never fail to make me smile! 



We had a really full day out, setting off early to get down to Leicestershire for around opening time and not leaving until they were practically kicking us out - we definitely got our money's worth out of the visit! 

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