Archive for June, 2015

Edinburgh, one of the United Kingdom’s most famous cities. Steeped in history and beauty. Several days could be spent just walking around this majestical city before even considering activities to do.

With regular trains from all key cities in the UK, Edinburgh is easy to get to. The scenery makes the short journey even pleasurable.

Having taken advantage of an early morning train was fantastic arriving into the city with a full day ahead to embrace. After a brief taxi journey to our temporary home The Murrayfield Hotel for the next few days we then ventured out back into the city centre making use of Edinburgh’s fantastic public transport system. With a day rider costing only £3.50 and this giving you use of the trams and the buses out to the coast and nearly as far as the airport the other way one thing you certainly can’t complain about is value for money – do remember to have change though as the bus drivers can’t give change, however this is no problem on the trams as you can pay cash or card just make sure you do this before hopping on to prevent a fine.

Decided to have breakfast in the city centre to make to most of our first day there. So after checking in and getting settled into the room we certainly had rumbling bellies. The City Cafe was recommended by the hotel receptionist and as this had been on my list of go to places I thought why not give it a try. We certainly weren’t disappointed with a full large Scottish breakfast with tea or coffee coming in at only £8.00 and having a vegetarian option (complete with veggie haggis) the rumbly bellies soon became stuffed ones. If you’re feeling in the holiday spirit you can even get a jug of beer to have with your late breakfast. Decorated in a ‘diner’ style that was funky but not over the top. Black and white tiled floor and booths with red sparkly tables it creates a nice atmosphere without feeling clichéd.

Much of the first day was spent acclimatising, it had been years since I’d last been in Edinburgh and my return instantly made me wish we’d been able to stay longer. Plenty of shopping available whether its boutique or charity shop chic all tastes are covered for be it budget or bling. We walked up to Edinburgh castle and although we didn’t go on the tour the view available from the top were stunning and well worth the stroll up the Royal Mile, watching the changing of the guards was also a worthwhile cultural treat.

All that walking sure leads to a thirsty pallet so on our walk back to the bus a stop off at The Mitre Bar was most welcome. A lovely relaxed traditional city centre pub with a slightly older but friendly crowd.

One of the many compliments I can give The Murrayfield is the quality of not only the service but also the food. A lovely continental selection plus cooked options we were spoilt for choice. This gave me a good standing for the afternoon of viewings ahead

Just one house down from the Murrayfield Hotel is Murrayfield House, recently renovated to a high standard the quality still is maintained between the two buildings whilst providing a unique and specialised experience. The Murrayfield hotel has recently undergone renovations in the majority of its rooms and although we weren’t staying in a recently renovated room the room didn’t look tired and was still up to the standard you’d expect.

The G1 group owns several venues and hotels in Edinburgh and it was great to see this diversity within the range. From the stunning traditionally Scottish Ghillie-dhu which offers a relaxed bar type menu in the day with a set menu also being available in the evening. With private booths and cosy snooks it’s a great place to gather with friends or family. Upstairs the amazing auditorium space is breath taking and steeped in history including the organ from when it was originally a church many moons ago.

Next on route a short stroll away was the The Grassmarket hotel a lovely hotel right in the Grassmarket with the rooms decorated with Edinburgh magnetic maps on the walls so you can plan your visit and the rather quirky touch of a Beano instead of a bible in each room. The Grassmarket has a young and funky edge, perfect for those who like things a bit different but still with an air of class.

Stay Central is a much younger crown, quality hasn’t been exchanged for fun but it’s very much targeted to big groups going away together and the younger ‘backpackers’ clientele but with a bit more style and panache. One room even sleeping 9 and having treats such as ping pong table, dart board and flat screen TV’s with each bed as well as a stocked fridge, if you really want to treat yourself they can also arrange hot tub hire for this room.

The final stop was The Inn on the mile and just over the road from our finishing point the previous day of The Mitre Bar. A recently refurbished hotel, is the small boutique style jewel in the crown of what’s to offer. With a pub underneath and 8 bedrooms upstairs this provides right slap bang in the centre accommodation. By this time bellies were rumbling and we headed back to the hotel to freshen up for the evening. Deciding to venture back into the centre as a couple places on Grassmarket had caught my eye earlier on in the day. Now normally I like to have a traditional dining experience of wherever I’m at but we found ourselves in a lovely Italian bistro Gennaro, it was too late to enjoy the outside seating however the restaurant itself provided a lovely cosy and relaxed bubbly atmosphere. I like a kick to my food so was really pleased when I asked for some extra chilli they had a selection of options from homemade oils to dried chillies and sauces – I like a spicy option! The walk back to the late night bus on a warm Edinburgh evening was beautiful and with buses running all night getting a taxi isn’t a worry. One thing I will definitely try next time I’m back is Edinburgh’s rickshaws or pedicabs as they’re also known and we met two ‘pedicabbers’ in training, what a relaxing way to see the city though not for your ‘driver’, I’m not sure I could do those hills on one, so good on ‘em!

The last day was taking slightly easier, using the great new tram system to get into the city centre from the hotel which like the buses takes a very short time and is also a walkable distance. Though you will get mixed views from the locals as to whether they like the trams or not. Strolling up the royal mile was lovely and brought many lovely memories back from previous visits. Though we didn’t experience the tour of Edinburgh castle we did appreciate its magnificence and were lucky enough to be there for the changing of the guards, there’s something also about hearing bag pipes and being on top looking over Edinburgh that makes the experience somewhat magical. With Camera Obscura only slightly down the hill we decided on that as our next experience. Camera Obscura is an amazing experience, not only stunning views of Edinburgh but many mind bending optical illusions that really made you think and what’s great is you can go and come back so we nipped to The Jolly Judge for a lovely spot of pub grub and then went back to finish enjoying camera obscura. The menu is simple toasties, sandwiches and soups and a great selection of ales (some of the best homemade soup I’ve ever had) We enjoyed both the food and ale greatly and coming in at well under £20 for the two of us, who could complain.

It was now time to collect luggage and make our return journey however with the transport system working so well we found ourselves with a little extra time on our hand so thought it would be rude not to stop in and experience The Brewdog Brewery Bar. The staff have an extensive knowledge of the products and even have influence on new brews that are made. It’s a funky place but somewhere good for an after work drink, taking someone on a date a night out with the friends or even the family, they also do a selection of hot bar food to help you soak the beer up if the ale flights of delight can’t help you make your decision.

This brought a somewhat sad end to our journey in the time we’d been there both had really fallen in love with the city, to the point of considering moving! So I encourage you to go embrace Edinburgh and trust me what I’ve shared with you is only the tip of the iceberg

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June 12, 2015


 

 

London may be considered the jewel in the crown of England but York is for sure another magnificent jewel resting a top, no less magnificent and with lots of magic to share….

One of my favourite things about York is the winding streets as easy as it is to get lost roaming round taking each path and turn you’re never too far away from where you need to be. Which make York something special. You can take in the sights and soak up the history without worrying about being late or not finding something again, this city of relaxed adventure!

York’s fantastic for catching up with old friends or family or even a trip wandering alone you’re never too far from a smiling face and some banter.

We decided to take the option of renting a house for a couple days seemed a great way to experience York and as it was part family catch up a base was really nice to have, like a home away from home. York’s pub, restaurants and bars are lovely and cosy but there’s something to be said about having a nice cup of tea and a sit down ( or something a bit stronger) with your nearest and dearest without the background babble, but unfortunately with the washing up.

York welcomed us with early Spring sunshine and excitement was bubbling! After dropping our bags and settling in the house the first port of call was a little surprise visit. We wandered the streets of York looking for  Ye Olde Shambles Tavern one of York’s many ale shop cum pubs. Fab selection of ales and cute and cosy seating area through the back. They serve hot food but their complementary little plate of triangle sandwiches and a couple crisps sure helps soak that ale up and line your belly so those winding streets don’t seem even more so!

 

When it comes to drinks and food one thing you don’t have to struggle for is options and I had the pleasure of visiting a good chunk ( all is the name of research obviously) and one thing no one has space to do is allow their standards to slip. Whether it be a tea house, ale shop, cosy British pub (where I guarantee you’ll meet some proper Yorkies) or lovely Bistro. Please bear in mind the little treats that I share with you but don’t forget to tread your own path of history and tasty adventures.

Oscars, Cafe No 8 and The Golden Fleece provided us with 3 very different dining experience. Celebrating my now not so little brothers birthday we had the Oscars experience. Laid back atmosphere with a modern hip undercurrent, the food was your normal bar pub fare but with flair. I attempted to have a meat free meal but upon spying the chorizo, turkey and lamb burger with blue cheese, rocket and a chilli tomato jam (I kid you not I’m drooling as I type this!) that decision went out the window.

Café No 8 was just myself and a friend and we stumbles across this lovely bistro whilst trying to find another restaurant and lucky for us we happened upon it. Lovely chilled yet bubbly atmosphere perfect for a family get together or a catch up with old friends or just somewhere to relax with those you care for. Both courses were of high standard and the duck mains was melt in the mouth delicious but the winner for me was the halloumi waldorf salad I had for my starter. Halloumi has always held a place in my heart so if its on the menu its getting ordered. The flavours were so well balanced it gave me a renewed inspiration. The menu changes but its safe to say…… Great food, wine and service.

Which brings me to The Golden Fleece which was recommended to us by the landlord of a lovely SAMUEL SMITHS pub by the river, Samuel Smiths pubs are always ones to visit but I’ll get to that and other refreshments later. The Golden Fleece is one of Yorks famous haunted pubs. Down to earth relaxed ‘locals’ kind of atmosphere, like ‘Cheers’ but in Yorkshire Now this is the place to go if you are ready for a good feed because the portion are massive, pretty sure there was more on my plate than I eat in a day; giant fishcakes ( like tennis balls) lovely and light and delicate in flavour with big chunky chips however I gave it my best shot but was defeated and in true Kristen style took home what I couldn’t finish (waste not, want not and that). Traditional pub food but again our tastebuds weren’t disappointed. Big on flavour and big on portions. The night we were there, there was also some live music on which definitely added to the atmosphere and they have acoustic music on most nights. This is definitely one to go to if you want a real traditional York experience. The Golden Fleece also has rooms which I have had word of mouth confirmation of very spooky first hand experiences so book and stay if you dare, if not the food is worth the visit.

So after a good meal a night cap is always nice be it a cup of tea or something a touch stronger. The Lamb and Lion was nice just by the city walls traditional pub but with a much more modern renovated feel ( as much as York allows) great selection of spirits if that’s your thing. The House of the trembling madness is another one for the spirits having a whiskey that’s about 80% I stayed well clear of this, didn’t fancy attempting the staircase after a measure of that! Big fires very traditional upstairs pub with again an ale shop downstairs. They have a small but select menu with some very enticing sharing platters. Bare brick walls with various hunting trophies from days of yore adorn the walls.

I earlier mentioned the Samuel Smiths pub by the river now I have a soft spot for Samuel Smiths pubs, they’re always old pubs and tend to have real fires ( two clearly good things) but they also sell good beer and cheap, brewed by themselves. If you want an experience where you meet some proper local and have a good bit of banter then seek out a Samuel Smith pub there’s several in York but it was the stories from  the old men making us chuckle that kept us at The Kings Arms.

If it’s a cheeky cocktail you’re after the head to The Evil Eye Lounge  extensive cocktail list, took me 10 minutes to decide but I warn you these guys are strong make sure you’ve had lunch before one of these or you’ll find yourself floating round York instead. The Evil Eye Lounge is one of my favourite bars in York really quirky layout funky feel, great outdoor seating area and again the standard ale shop in the front.

If you’re in York one must see is, Jorvik Viking Centre. So much to learn and really makes you think about history and how times have changed, I would recommend it to anyone and as you can use your ticket as many times as you want in a year I will be jumping on a train to York and going back again soon.

All in all very happy I experienced York and im somewhat surprised I haven’t hopped on the train from Leeds before now, however that will change. There’s plenty of good quality hotels to choose from too from boutique to budget, so not matter what your requirements you shouldn’t struggle.

Oh if you have a sweet tooth I recommend The Fudge Factory you can try all of the fudge and I don’t have a sweet tooth and still came home with some. They also do fudge making classes which based on the staffs passion for fudge and good service is why it’s on my next time in York to do list.

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Value

A DMC should bring extra value to your event with bespoke itineraries including a top choice of hotels and restaurants (within budget), excursions that are unforgettable and the ability to create your event with a unique twist.

Knowledge

The internet is the ‘font’ of all information and there is no doubt that it can tell you anything you need to know about a destination. However, it can’t tell you all the personal and unique detail about a destination and the venues, transportation and excursions.

Problems

Having a local DMC organise your event will instantly relieve any stress/problems. Ensuring there are no misunderstanding and the direct contact should you need that re assurance or special arrangement? Making your event a memorable and unforgettable experience.

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