Sunday 30 July 2017

A Magical Afternoon Tea With Polly's Travelling Tea Party

You know how when you scroll through Facebook you end up seeing loads of adverts, statuses, pictures and all sorts from pages you've never heard of, and you have no idea why you are seeing them? 

Well every now and then, seeing something unexpected is actually totally welcome and helpful.

One such occasion came about recently when a casual scroll revealed an upcoming Harry Potter themed afternoon tea in Huddersfield. Obviously I wasted no time in booking a couple of tickets for this magical event, and Simone and I took a trip last month to gorge ourselves on pumpkin pasties and chocolate frogs!

The event was organised by Polly's Travelling Tea Party - specialists in adorable and delicious pop up afternoon teas, and took place in a fantasically decorated and cosy little venue right on Huddersfield's high street.

Oh wait, I'm getting ahead of myself here! The excitement started well before we turned up on the afternoon,.. in fact about two weeks beforehand when my invitation turned up in a big cream envelope with a Hogwarts seal! I have never been more excited to get mail (mainly because I hadn't expected the tickets, and thought it was my real Hogwarts letter turning up, albeit 25 years late) and it didn't lessen much when I opened it - very carefully - to discover a pair of 'Hogwarts Express' allowing entrance to the event! 

Arriving to see the room just added an extra layer of joy and we quickly took out seats to admire the surroundings and eye up the food over a pot of tea. 

Accompanying the finger sandwiches on the savoury plate were genuine handmade Pumpkin Pasties! I was thrilled to see them despite never thinking the idea overly appetising. Polly, bless her, had clearly put a lot of work into perfecting this recipe, adding butternut squash and spices to make the whole thing a tad more palatable, but it was never going to be my favourite.

That always comes with the sweet sections! Here we were presented with a mini Butterbeer Mousse, an edible Golden Snitch, a Chocolate Frog, Liquorice Wand and Hogwarts Cupcake, as well as a bag of 'Every Flavour' Jellybeans! 

The Butterbeer Mousse was a definite high point (ok, it many have been a little tricky to get out of the glasses as they were too tidgy to get a spoon into, but too cute and delicious for that to be a problem, and it just gave you the chance to get a little 'creative'!) 

All this plus unlimited tea for £12! 

It probably is worth pointing out that, as a popular event in a small venue, it was a bit short on space and tables were shared - no problem here, but I know being in such close quarters with strangers isn't for everyone. If it helps, you could tell yourself that it's just like sitting on one of the big long tables in the Hogwarts great hall? Plus I think everyone in the room was united by their Potter love - solidarity in nerdism! 

If you want to see any of the upcoming Polly's Travelling Tea Party events pop up on your facebook timeline, its probably worth giving them a follow, or keeping an eye on their instagram

Tuesday 25 July 2017

Postcards From Dublin

Our Dublin trip a couple of months ago was not the most carefully planned trip, nor was it the longest. There were a couple of things we got up to while we were in the city (like visiting Kilmainham Gaol and the Jamesons Distillery), but for the most part we were happy to just potter round the streets of Dublin, taking in the sights!

Normally with this sort of post, I like to include a good variety of types of image - but it turns out nearly all of my photos from Dublin are of pubs and food!


...and food.


...and food.

Still, I suppose that was pretty representative of the trip so what are you gonna do?

We didn't actually go into that many of the pubs, but boy were they pretty!

The Temple Bar area was a treat to walk around, both in the morning when it was nice and quiet and in the evening when it was a whole lot livelier!

I did have a sneaky Guinness or two. It's really not something I'd order anywhere else (despite liking it a bunch!) but it just felt wrong to order anything else!

Want to learn lots about Ireland's most famous cultural icons? No need for museums! Tributes to the countries most well loved writers, sportsmen, film makers can be found adorning the walls of the city.

The street art found around Dublin was fantastic actually, but the 'icon walk' was truly a highlight!

KC bought so many books in Ireland - he thought it was a great idea 'til he realised how heavy they were to carry round with him for most of the trip!

I did say there was a lot of food! I spotted the Queen of Tarts cafe though and it just called to me, so I had to make sure out trip included a quick tea'n'cake visit. I was already scone'd out for the day so opted instead for this peanut butter brownie - mmmm!

OK, call me a philistine, but I didn't realise that LadurĂ©e was a thing outside France? Turns out they're all over the place - shows what I know! I treated myself to a couple of macarons to celebrate my discovery - the rose petal ones were magical! 

The best thing about Dublin is the amazing Irish accents that just about everyone you speak to has! We went on a three hour historical/political waking tour and I never once got bored of hearing our guide speak (long after I cared what he was saying!) 

We decided pretty early on in the trip that we wanted to go back next year, with the youngsters. I imagine it'll be a very different trip with them there, and that's always fun in itself! Hopefully we'll get to explore a bit more of the country too. 

If you have any good Dublin suggestions for our next visit, I'd love to hear them! 

Tuesday 18 July 2017

Dublin - Kilmainham Gaol

I have an Irish friend, and I was a little reluctant to ask her advice on fun things to do in Dublin. Not that I don't trust her advice,... but I know if someone asked me, as an English person, for fun things to do when visiting London, I wouldn't have the first clue. In fact I'd probably tell them London is stupid and they should definitely visit Yorkshire instead.

I did in the end give in and ask her, and she told me to go to Kilmainham Gaol.

Well, I think the conversation went a bit like:

"Just fun fun things, or nerdy fun things too?"

"Oh, definitely nerdy fun things!"

"Ah then you should go to Kilmainham"

So we did...

Of course, I wish I'd taken her advice about maybe getting a bus over there, but that's a different story altogether....

We hadn't pre-booked as all the slots had sold out online by the time we got organised, but had been told that if you got there early enough in the morning it was usually possible to get booked onto a tour. When we arrived (sweaty and out of breathe from chasing another couple down the road, fearing that they'd beat us to the last tickets of the day!), we managed to get tickets for a tour about 45 minutes away, and were directed to their nice little cafe while we waited (great cherry scones!) 

The only way to look around the old gaol is on one of these tours, but the guides are full of knowledge and passion so it's a great way to learn about the site and the wider history of Ireland at the time of it's use. 

The east wing was opened in 1864 and was highly acclaimed for its 'modern' architecture. The panoptic design offered guards a full view of the cells from a single position, and though it looks light and airy due to the open space and light from the ceiling window, the experience of the prisoners would have been anything but. 

The cells each had a window, but it was too high up to see out of. Inmates were held in solitary confinement, behind thick metal doors. They could not see or hear when the guards were coming. The guards had absolute surveillance and knowledge, and the inmates had none.

Still, this was the nice part...

In the older part of the prison, conditions were much worse. At the height of overcrowding (around mid-19th Century) up to five people were held at one point in a cell meant for one. Desperate situations caused by the famine in Ireland, coupled with the 1847 Vagrancy Act (which meant that begging as punishable by imprisonment) meant the gaol was crammed with an unprecedented amount of men, women and children.

Hygiene was poor in such cramped quarters, and disease was rife. Food rations were minimal, yet still often better than in the outside world for many. 

One reason the prison has gained so much notoriety is that this is where the leaders of the 1916 uprising were held, and later executed. We'd learned a whole bunch about the rebellion on an Easter Uprising Walking Tour the previous day, and it was quite surreal - and genuinely moving - to stand where these men met their end.

Included as part of the tour price is entrance to the on-site museum. I'd recommend having a look around before the tour if you get chance as its a great starting point for understanding the historical importance and context of the gaol - but if you don't get chance it's definitely worth sticking your head round before you leave!

I'm definitely glad I gave into stereotyping and asked my pal for suggestions - Kilmainham Gaol made for a great visit. Some of the stories weren't easy to listen to, but they were invariably fascinating, and I'm glad I got to visit such an interesting place. 

Saturday 8 July 2017

Dublin - Jameson Bow St Experience

I know it was only about five minutes ago I was saying that I don't really drink gin. People might just stop believing me on my drinking habits soon, but I don't drink whiskey either. 

Still, while we were in Dublin, and practically walking past The Jameson Bow St Distillery, it felt only right that we call in and learn a bit more about one of Ireland's most well-loved exports.

You can pre-book tickets (it's a guided tour so you'll need a specific time slot) but we thought we'd take our chances and just call in, getting tickets for The Bow St Experience about 45 minutes after our arrival. There's a couple of nice places nearby to grab food and/or a drink before you get started, including a very nice Jameson bar. 

You do get a free drink with the tour tickets too and were told we could have this before our tour but we thought we'd ave it 'til after so it was more of an 'informed and educated' drink, so popped just outside to Jo'Burgers for delicious burgers and home made lemonade, mmmm! 

While we waited for our guide we had chance to peruse the Jameson Timeline Wall, which took you right from the company's humble beginnings, through the ups and downs of war years and prohibition, and really highlighting the importance of Jameson to the city of Dublin (these guys were such huge and important employers, they even had a cat on the payroll.)

The tour consisted of the group (not huge, maybe around 20-25?) being shepherded through a small number of rooms covering different aspects of the history of Jameson, the distillery process, and everyone's favourite - the whiskey tasting! 

The site has recently had a massive refurb, and (though I can't compare it to what it was like before) is looking great. The interactive exhibits throughout the tour look so shiny and new. There was plenty to touch, smell and taste along with some impressive visual effects, and it felt like as comprehensive education as you could fit into a 40 minute timeslot.

The tasting session was a comparison between Jameson, a traditional Scottish Whisky and an American one. One of our fellow tour group guys managed to impress us all by identifying each of the mystery drinks by taste alone, while another woman in our group had the most brilliant 'I don't like whiskey' tasting faces! 

I promise I'm not just sucking up when I say the Jameson was definitely my favourite of the three! 

Jameson Whiskey is no longer distilled at the Bow Street site, the operations were all moved to Cork a fair while ago, but this was the original site and despite the refurb, they've managed to maintain a couple of the original features. 

This homage to the beginnings of the company alongside some really impressive new fixtures results in a grand looking attraction that reflects the synergy between the important past of the company and its bright future.

We had plenty of time to sit and appreciate how handsome the bar area is while we had our free drink. There was a choice of a Jameson neat of on the rocks, or their newest offering - with ginger beer and lime. Despite what I said about not being a whiskey drinker earlier, this was actually lovely and I'd definitely drink it again! (I told you you'd stop believing me about my drinking habits!) There were a number of Jameson cocktails available at the bar too! 

The Bow St Experience tour costs 20 euros, but it was easy to find leaflets across the city offering a couple of euros off. They also offer a couple of more intense Jamesons experiences for the experts but this was a great beginners tour! 
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