Thursday, 23 March 2017

Furness Abbey

At the weekend we took a little trip to organise one of KCs Christmas presents. While he was off being a zookeeper for the day, I had a nice quiet day to myself to potter round a couple of local sites. I spotted the brown tourist signs for Furness Abbey and I always relish the opportunity to make the most of my English Heritage membership so off I headed.

(And I made it all the way there following the signs instead of the satnav, which I think is the first time ever, so brownie points for me!)

Unfortunately we picked a pretty terrible weekend for adventuring in the great outdoors as it more or less threw it down for the duration of our trip, but such are the perils of holidaying in the North of England!

In addition to having the weather to contend with, I turned up to the Abbey pretty late into the day. The last admission is 30 minutes before the site closes and I made it by three minutes, so I didn't have a whole lot of time to look around! 

So unfortunately time constraints meant I didn't get chance to look round the on-site museum in the visitors centre, but there's a permanent exhibition of effigies and stone carvings as well as other items found around the Abbey, which I imagine would be well worth a peek if you have time.

Though, the best thing to so do at sites like this (if time and the weather aren't against you) is to settle down with a well-packed picnic, and enjoy the scenery and the peace and quiet! 

Furness Abbey dates back to 1123, and was once one of the most powerful Cistercian Abbeys in the country, second only to North Yorkshire's Fountains Abbey. I have a real soft spot for Fountains Abbey, as I did a GCSE project on it many a year ago and we had an awesome school trip out there. 

It's hard to compare the two as places to visit - not only was one a long day out with friends in the sun and the other was me running round in the rain by myself for twenty minutes, but one of them was not far off 20 years ago! 

One thing that definitely differentiates the two is the striking red colour of Furness Abbey. I asked the nice English Heritage lady about it on the way out and she explained that the it was built out of local red sandstone, which can be found in a number of similar sites along the Cumbrian coast. I'd not really seen anything quite like it before and it's really quite spectacular!

Though this was a flying visit, I'm glad I managed to fit Furness Abbey into my schedule. It's a really pretty little spot, and definitely think it'd make a great visit in good weather! 

I'm definitely hoping to get back up in the area when it warms up a little (our Travelodge was a whopping £26, so if I can get that sort of price again there's really no reason not to!) and I'm looking forward to seeing how that red stone brightens up when the sun is on it! 

Do please let me know if you have any other recommendations for places to visit! 

Sunday, 12 March 2017

York's Chocolate Story - Adventures in Afternoon Tea

I think I've complained about work once or twice on here recently. I do generally really like my work, it's just a bit of a busy and stressy time that will hopefully resolve itself before too long, but in the meantime I'm hoping to balance it out as much as possible by really enjoying my weekends and treating myself whenever possible. I managed to do both this weekend, where we headed for a day out in York, and I treated myself to this massive pile of chocolatey goodies from the cafe at York's Chocolate Story.

York's Chocolate Story is a really fun attraction covering the delicious history of chocolate in York, including lots of tasters and the chance to make your own chocolatey treats. We've been a couple of times and the kids love it, but on this occasion we decided to forgo the tour and just visit the cafe for hot chocolate.

On sitting down I 'suddenly remembered' that the cafe did a chocolate themed Afternoon Tea for Two. Since the afternoon tea comes with two hot drinks I did some 'sensible maths' to work out that since we were getting the drinks anyway, it 'just made sense' to order the full lot. You understand. We topped it up with a couple of kid's hot chocolates for the young 'uns and we were soon merrily munching our way into tooth decay.

As part of the deal, we got to choose four chocolates from their extensive and attractive selection. There were some very 'interesting' options but we settled on a fairly straightforward caramel heart and strawberry cream for the adults, and the kids were a little more adventurous with their choices of Hot Cross Bun and Peanut Butter and Jelly respectively. 

Below the chocolate tier we found four little pots of goodness - healthy portions of jam and clotted cream for the scones, mini-marshmallows for extra hot chocolate topping, or just eating, and a pot of the most scrumptiously indulgent melted chocolate for dipping the rest of the goodies into. 

As well as the aforementioned scones, the bottom tier of the cake stand came with a pair each of brownies and caramel shortbread, four delightful little macarons and a pot of juicy sweet strawberries, that were incredible when dipped in the gooey chocolate above. 

Though I was initially excited about the prospect of an afternoon tea without all that boring savoury stuff you have to get through first, it didn't take too long before we were all overloaded on sugar and didn't manage to make it through to the end! (I think it was trying to make sure we finished off the melted chocolate that did it!) Thankfully we'd already been told we could pack up and take home anything we didn't get finished, which took the pressure off a little bit...! 

(As well as giving us an extra day of treats - I'm munching macarons as I type and as no one else in the house likes them, they're all for me!)

I might have been able to get through more that was offered if I'd opted for a nice cup of tea to accompany the food, and much as I'd usually request tea over anything else - this is a place for hot chocolate! At York's Chocolate Story you can chose between white, milk or dark hot chocolate in a variety of flavours. The milk chocolate with chilli is my favourite and the one I ordered on this occasion - wonderful, but a little much when added all together with the rest of the afternoon tea! 

I don't regret my choice at all though! This was a lovely way to sit and recharge in a great place with my favourite people. If I was to offer any advise to anyone considering the afternoon tea, it's to make sure you go with someone who you know can handle their chocolate - this is not one for the savoury-minded! 


Thursday, 2 March 2017

February Happenings, March Plans

Another month over, and what a month! Workwise, I'd had the most stressful couple of weeks ever. It's nearly killed me and it's likely to be a little while before things settle down. I guess that makes it extra important to have these little adventures to make it all worthwhile though! 

The biggest thing I did in February was escape for a wonderful couple of days in Iceland. By now I should have written blog posts aplenty about this, but honestly I haven't known where to start! (Blogging is one thing I definitely didn't do a lot of in February!) Now I've had a little time to reflect - and organise the many many pictures I took - I should be able to get something up soon. I can probably state with a degree of certainty that the main gist of any future posts is that Iceland is one of the most beautiful amazing places in the world and my heart will ache a little bit for it every day until I can go back! 

I'd mentioned at the end of last month that my son's Sunday morning activities had freed up some grand brunching time with my little lady, and we liked stuffing ourselves with pancakes so much that we decided to carry in on throughout February. To be fair, places in Bradford to get pancakes at 9 am on a Sunday are pretty few and far between, so we may have found ourselves at Frankie and Benny's more than once. Hopefully we'll get to be a little more adventurous in March and hope to share with you the brunchy adventures post I never got around to writing for Feb. #oops

While on a brunchy topic, I finally made it to a long awaited brunch date with top blogger ladies Caroline and Lizi. Lizi is just ace and always a pleasure to see, and this was actually the first time I've got to properly hang out with Caroline despite reading her brilliant blog for years. It would have been a lovely morning doing grown up things with grown ups whatever we'd done, but the delicious brunch we had at Giraffe in Leeds was a nice bonus! More on this if I ever manage to post it...! 

This feels like one long ramble about posts that I should have written this month, so here's another while I'm at it - finding myself with a child free afternoon, I decided to spend as much of it as possible exploring Bradford's wonderful new Sunbridge Wells complex. It's not the first time I've been down since the place opened not long before Christmas, but our works Christmas do was not the time for casually exploring or leisurely sipping at the new Gin Bar. I reckon one more visit might be needed before a fully comprehensive tour post, as I've still not tried the afternoon tea at Alibi bar! 

In fact, one of the only things that we did in February that I've actually managed to write about was our trip to Mayfield Alpaca Farm - if only so I could spend ages looking at pictures of cute fluffy alpacas! 

Hopefully I'll get a bit more writing done in March, amongst a few other things we have lined up. The first weekend of the month the kids and I have a karate tournament. It should be fun in itself but tradition dictates that afterwards we get to go to Red Hot World Buffet where I can eat my body weight in Yorkshire Puddings so should be a great day regardless of the outcome! 

We'll find ourselves in the lake district for a couple of days mid month. Our initial plans for the weekend may have gone a little awry but the hotel is booked and paid for (nothing fancy, as £29 travelodge - you can't go wrong!) so well be visiting anyway! I'm sure it wont be too hard to kill a day or two in that lovely part of the world! 

To round up the end of the month, I have a night of culture lined up - my brother and I are booked in to see Matthew Bourne's The Red Shoes at the Bradford Alhambra. We've done some great sibling bonding alongside the films of Powell and Pressburger over the years and I'm really looking forward to this ballet version of one of our favourites! 

How's your month been? Anything fun lined up for the coming weeks? 
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