Tuesday, 31 January 2017

January Happenings, February Plans

Well, we got through the first month of the year OK. 

And by 'OK' I of course mean that the world is a terrifying place to live right now and that I'm horrified and ashamed of the actions of many. But lets now dwell on that now, hey? 

It's been a bit of a quiet January, but not a bad one overall. We started the year with a lovely walk round Haworth Moor, and finished with a nice weekend away near Butterknowle. There'll be plenty coming up here about that trip; including a look round our holiday cottage, a nice castle and plenty of sheep!

We also had a really nice afternoon out at Hope Pastures Horse Sanctuary, after an online discussion over whether a certain four-legged fella on their website was a horse or a donkey left me with an undeniable urge to prove myself right. Which of course I was. My stubbornness worked out well in this instance though as we got to spend an afternoon hanging round with some lovely horses (and donkeys!) 

The elder of my young folk has stated playing football on a Sunday, which makes it a little trickier to get out and about as much as I'd ideally like on the weekends but as far as I understand this should only last 'til March so hopefully the Sundays should free up a bit just as the weather starts to get better. In the meantime it means I get some quality girl time with my little lady, which has been so far mainly used for eating cake,.. or ice cream... or pancakes... it's generally been a lot of eating!

And until then, I'm sure we can find some things to do in February! The first weekend of the month, I have a weekend in Iceland to look forward to, and I absolutely can't wait! I have a couple of days to dig out all my warm gloves and hats! (Realising justnow, with less than 48 hours to go, that I dont think I actually *own* any trousers/jeans - and I dont think dresses with tights is gonna quite cut it!)

We didn't manage to make it to the Alpaca farm we'd hoped to in January, so that'll be bumped up the priority list for February. 

Other than that I'm trying to not plan too many outdoory days as who knows that the weather is going to do. The youngsters have pitched both ice skating and trampoling as non-weather-dependant things they'd like to do soon - though I predict injuries in my future if I attempt either of these, I'm not the most graceful or coordinated! 

Most importantly, I need to get myself booked in somewhere for Afternoon Tea. It's been too long and my soul is crying our for scones with clotted cream! Any good Yorkshire-based recommendations?

Friday, 27 January 2017

Bernard Beer Spa, Prague

'Suggest some fun things to do in Prague?' I cried in the general direction of twitter in the days preceding our visit. 'Go to a beer spa' came back the much-appreciated advice from twitter (or, more specifically, from Lauren at The Enjoyable Rut). 

I of course at this stage didn't really know what a beer spa was, but I knew I wanted to go!

The quick version of the session goes a bit like this. You get a nice hot bubbly, beery bath - where you drink some beer. Then you get wrapped up and lie down on a heated bed. And drink some beer. Then have a nice massage (though probably best to not drink beer through this bit). Then you get to lie down some more and drink some beer. Sadly then, its time to go .... but take some beer for the road!

Not a bad way to spend a morning right? (Yes, it's a lot of beer for a morning, but shush, I was on holiday, appropriate beer times don't exist!)

The slightly longer version of how it works is like this. We booked our session at the Bernard Beer Spa online before we headed to Prague. They actually have two venues in Prague, and we booked in for the one in the cellar beneath Hotel Metamorphis, a stones throw from Old Town Square and really easy to find. We were checked in by a friendly guy who handed us a sheet apiece and showed us how to pump our own delicious Czech Pilsner.

The bath is a two-person tub of wonder, filled with hops, yeast and other natural ingredients to promote health benefits (though I will admit any prospective 'health benefits' were secondary to just having a really funny couple of hours!) We got half an hour to enjoy our spa bath, and could help ourselves to as much beer as we liked in that time. 

Post-bath and wrapped in our sheets, we were led to a separate room where we were instructed to get cosy on a heated bed while out host brought us more beer before our massages. I kindly let Mr go first, as I was enjoying myself plenty where I was! 

The masseuse (I'll use receptionist/host/masseuse interchangeably because it was just the one guy there!) was a real delight, happy to chat away about everything from the history of Czech beer, his parents experiences of growing up in communist Czechoslovakia, and his expensive trip to London. There may have been some vague football chat between the chaps, but I phased out a wee for that bit! 

However, if this guy asks if you want a hard, medium or soft massage, for the love of all all things good in the world, say soft!

We spent about an hour and a half in total at the beer spa (and couldn't begin to tell you how much beer was consumed in that time!), and would absolutely recommend it to anyone looking or something a little different to do in Prague! We were even sent away with an awesome souvenir in the form of more lovely Bernard beer  - enjoyable even in a less swish setting! 

Saturday, 21 January 2017

A Medieval Night Out in Prague

When you travel, everyone says its best to aim for an 'authentic' experience - immerse yourself in the culture, eat where the locals eat.... and I like to do that, I really do. But I also really love tacky activities designed to appeal to daft tourists! I may not have had an 'authentically Czech' experience at U Krále Brabantského's Medieval Night, but we sure had fun!

Now, I'll start by admitting I'm a bit of a medieval nerd... KC finds it quite funny, and he's not wrong. So when research showed plenty of medieval fun was to be had in Prague he knew he's be dragged along to something with swords. He's a good lad. 

There's a couple of options for medieval nights in and around Prague, and will admit that we picked U Krále Brabantského primarily for location. Found just below Prague Castle, the tavern was only a ten minute walk from our hotel. (At least it was theoretically, it took us longer than that to find it - and I made sure I always had a map handy for the rest of the trip!)

There is an 'all-inclusive' option, where you pay a set price (currently 1200kc), which covers the evenings entertainment, unlimited drinks, and more food than you can shake a stick at. Alternatively, you could just pay a cover charge for the show and order food and drinks straight from the menu. We went a la carte, which worked out best for us (I couldn't have possibly eaten or drank more than we did, and still came in a fair bit under the all-in cost).

As you'd expect, the menu was full of hearty Czech dishes and good beer - I enjoyed both very much! The beef goulash was good, but the delicious home made 'beer of love' was better... a little too good!

Full of goulash, it was time to sit back and enjoy the show, with another beer (or four). There were a number of performers demonstrating fire-eating, sword fighting, belly-dancing, juggling and music. Instead of one big show, the performers wander round different areas of the tavern (two rooms upstairs, and more downstairs) with plenty of gaps between individual performances, so it was a little more informal that a 'proper' show, cosy and intimate, but with time for chatting, eating and drinking instead. 

Though the performers were for the most part very professional, they did enlist the help of an 'amateur' fire eater - poor KC was dragged up to join in, and he accepted his task with much more bravery than I would have done, this was hard to watch!

It was a ridiculous and brilliant way to spend an evening, filled with laughter, food, drink and swordplay - everything you could want on holiday!

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Hotel - Archibald At The Charles Bridge, Prague

It's been months since our trip to Prague, and until now I've not written a thing about it. The main problem is that Prague is SO PRETTY that I took way too many pictures, making it quite a difficult task to sort through them all and hard to know where to begin with posting! 

Purely for the reason that these are the first batch of photos I managed to get organised, let me tell you about our lovely hotel, Archibald at the Charles Bridge.

I know some people have a very organised way of selecting a hotel for a city break, taking location, amenities and other factors into consideration. I'm not that organised - on this occasion I was just browsing through the expedia listings (filtered: cheapest first), until I found one that felt right. Hotel Archibald At The Charles Bridge just felt right.

Without really knowing what I was hoping for in a Prague hotel, I knew where I didn't want to be. Prague can be a bit of a party town, and much as I like to see folk have a good time, I didn't want my quiet little weekend trip away being besiged by raucus stag groups. I fact, I didn't want to be around to many people at all, if I could help it! (I'm an unsociable madam!) Though, of course, I still wanted a good central location, within walking distance to the places I wanted to visit. (Yes, I will have the moon on a stick too please!) 

The location of the hotel couldn't have been more perfect. Situated in Mala Strana, Prague's 'lesser town', in a pleasant little square, it manages to offer a calm oasis from the hustle and bustle of some of the more popular tourist areas on the other side of the river while still being only a matter of meters away from one of the cities most famous sites, the beautiful Charles Bridge. 

We were also within easy walking distance of Prague Castle, Old Town Square and any number of other attractions. 

The hotel's proximity to the bridge was sort of a given considering the name ('at the Charles Bridge' also seperates it from the other Archibald hotel near Wenceslas Square), but it was still a treat to discover our river-and-bridge view from the room. Even if the bridge is obscured a wee bit by that there tree! Being so close meant it was easy as pie to make an early morning, pre-breakfast visit to the famous landmark - the only time you might see it without swarms of people, and definitely worth getting up for! 

By focusing so much on the great location, I don't mean to do a disservice to how lovely the room was. I love hotel beds, with their crisp, white sheets - I can never get them so perfect at home! Sleeping in this huge bed under those striking beams, to be gently woken by the sun peering in through the high windows, inviting me to take in that lush view - it was the perfect way to spend my nights in Prague! 

We didn't spend a lot of time in the room otherwise, not with so much to see, but it was a nice cosy space, with plenty of room for luggage and lounging! 

There was a well-stocked mini-bar and a TV in the room, but we didn't actaully use either at any point. The shower was lovely though, as were trhe nice fluffy towels! 

Breakfast was inlcluded in our booking, and a good buffet breakfast is usually one of my favourite parts of  a hotel stay. Unfortunately I think our heavy Czech evening meals meant I was never hungry enough in the mornings to get truly stuck in, but I'm never too full for tea and toast so it wasn't completely wasted on me!

There was plenty of variety for th hungry though, from hot dishes, fruit, cereal, and pastries. I did 'force' myself to try a couple of the baked goods over the course of a few mornings... I mean, jam donuts for breakfast? How could I not! 

The only criticism I could muster is that the orange juice wasn't,.. well, it wasn't really orange juice, if you know what I mean. But the tea was fine I so I was happy! 

The breakfast room was also open as a restaurant in the evenings, and I've heard the food is great, but we only ate there for breakfast. 

Despite not utilising the hotel to its full capabilities, I feel very confident in recommending Hotel Archibald to anyone looking for a quiet little getaway in the middle of a noisy city!

Tuesday, 10 January 2017

A Walk in Haworth

Though I've forgone any of those 'must do more exercise' type resolutions, a nice wintery walk in the beautiful Yorkshire countryside is pretty much the best way to  start a new year! 

Haworth is one of my favourite places to go walking (or even just to go). It's close enough, has an adorable village full of quaint tea rooms and cosy pubs as a start and finish point, and is always full of friendly, funny dogs. It's also not too long or intense for those of use recovering from two weeks of eating celebrations in front of the tv, or ill-prepared for the fickle Yorkshire weather. 

(By which I mean, yes - despite getting them out and ready, I forgot to actually pick up the gloves and hats I'd set aside - and it can be a wee bit breezy up on t'moors!)

Ah well, at least the sun was shining! 

It's a popular spot for walking, both with those who enjoy a little potter in the great outdoors, and with those literaty fans who flock to the area becasue of its association with the Bronte sisters. You can follow the path from their home at the Parsonage to the (alleged) setting of Wuthering Heights, taking in a couple of the writers favourite spots along the way. 

We met a few folk who must have been doing this particular route for the first time as they seemed distinctly unimpressed by the pretty but barely discernable trickle that is the Bronte Waterfall. "Is that it?" Yes, yes it really is! 

After crossing the (conveniently named) Bronte Bridge, we could choose to keep wandering to Top Withens (the ruined farmhouse said to be the inspiration for the setting od Emily Bronte's famous novel), or to start heading back towards civilization (by which I mean 'the pub'). 

Slightly ashamed to admit we thought it best to leave the longer walk to a warmer day and take the short route back LIKE THE COWARDS THAT WE ARE. 

The return route took us past some very chilled out sheep and through the little village of Stanbury, where we called into 'The Friendly' for a quick drink before setting off on the home stretch - past Ponden Reservoir and back to the comforting arms of Haworth! 

I had intended on visiting the Bronte Parsonage Museum when we got back to the village, inspired by the TV screening of 'To Walk Invisible' just a few days before .... but it seemed like I wasn't the only one to have the same idea, as the museum was rammed and the whole village was busier than I've ever seen it before (I couldn't even find a table at any of the tea rooms!) so we decided we'd save that too for a future visit - though I did manage to stock up on sweets at Mrs Beighton's, and buy myself a Wuthering Heights colouring book from the museum shop (queen nerd!) 

We did find some surprise chickens playing out in the graveyard! I'd only expected sheep so these friendly little fellas made me smile... then it was back to the car to see if we could track down some decent cake on the way home!

Thursday, 5 January 2017

Lets Go Somewhere Nice in 2017

I haven't made any resolutions as such -I'm old enough now to know that I'm never going to actually do anything about the things I keep saying I should change, so just have to accept them and roll with it instead!

But I did ask the kiddos to help me come up with a list of things they might want to do this year. For those 'lets go somewhere nice today' days,  I thought it'd be handy to have a ready-made list of ideas to work from. 

Unfortunately I made the mistake of asking two children hopped up on Christmas chocolates and brain-mushed from two weeks off school, so I didn't initially get the useful answers I was hoping for. Their earlier suggestions had answers as diverse as 'Alaska' and 'Asda' (I assured them we could almost definitely get to one of these!)

Finding pictures for things you haven't done yet is hard! I went for a tenuous boat link....

1) Go trampolining. Trampoline parks seem to be popping up like wildflowers at the moment, which is quite handy. I like that we have at least one indoor suggestion to get us through the winter months!

2) Look for monsters at Loch Ness. This was the first thing Little Miss asked for when we were heading to Scotland on holiday last year but we never made it (technically we were in the right country but still a good four hours or so drive away!) We promised instead that next time we'd stay a little closer and definitely go looking for Nessie, so we are back off north of the border this summer where we can hopefully get this one ticked off!

3) Go on the Harry Potter Studio Tour. We have actually gone on this tour before, but it was years ago and well before the kids were fully versed in the magical world of Harry Potter. In fact I distinctly remember a tear-filled breakdown as the elder one discovered poor Dobby's tragic fate. They've watched all the films a couple of times now, so no more unpleasant surprises!

4) Explore around Malham Cove. Not sure where they came up with this one from, but I'm glad to have one not too far from home! 

5) See some gorillas. We all love animals, but since 'adopting' a Gorilla from the WWF, Little Miss has had a particular affection for the mighty primates. Preliminary research shows there's a few places in the UK to find them, so we will see what we can do! 

6) Climb a mountain. Actually, the specified three mountains but I suggested it might be a good idea to start with one and see how we get on. I don't actually think they like walking and climbing as much as they seem to think they do, but it would be nice to be proven wrong!

7) Go on a boat. No specifications have been given to the type of boat or the length of time to be spend on said vessel, so this one is pretty open to interpretation.

8) Spend a weekend camping. I really don't like camping. I've not been camping for years, and don't have the fondest memories from childhood school trips. But I shall be brave, keep an open mind and give it a go!

Not the most extensive list but covers quite a few bases, and should keep us plenty busy throughout the year! Is there anything I've missed that you think we should try getting to? We'd love your suggestions! 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

January Plans

January is the worst month - all the dark and cold of December but without a Christmas to look forward to! Not to mention everyone is skint, there's overwhelming pressure to stop eating chocolate for breakfast (totally acceptable in December!), and worst of all, I have to go back to work after some lovely time off! The longer you are off, the more it hurts to get back to it! .

At times like this, it's nice to have something to look forward to. I know it's only early days, but I hoping each month will have a couple of exciting things happening. Gotta make all that working worthwhile!

The plan so far is to kick start January with a nice walk in Haworth. I love Haworth, and I've signed up to Walk 1000 Miles in 2017 so it should hopefully give me a nice pretty start to a year featuring a lot of walking! 

KC (that's t'other half) found himself the proud adopter of a handsome reindeer for Christmas this year, so hopefully we'll be going to visit Sven at the Mayfield Alpacas Animal Farm later this month too. 

Then, the last weekend of the month we have  a little weekend away booked which I'm really looking forward to. We're of to Butterknowle with the in-laws to stay in this cute cottage. This was supposed to be a pre-Christmas break - initially booked for the start of December for a couple of peaceful days before all the festive madness got a bit too much to take. You know what they say about 'the best laid plans...' though, and things didn't work out exactly as we'd hoped! Thankfully we managed to swap weekends, and I'm sure this will work out just as nicely! 

Have you got anything exciting lined up to brighten up your January? 
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