Archive for the Other Reviews Category

Macdonald Houston House Hotel

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Last month we spent my birthday weekend at the Macdonald Houston House near Edinburgh. The main building is an impressive 16th century Tower House and the hotel is equipped with a spa, a 2 AA rosette restaurant and a very cosy bar. Although slightly dated, our room was massive, spotlessly clean, with an extremely comfy bed. I was also pleased to find that the room was snug and warm as I really feel the cold, so am a little wary of old buildings!

After checking in, we had a quick explore of the hotel and gardens before I headed off to the spa for a facial. I really do love a facial and as I don’t have them often it was a real treat. The waiting room was lovely and relaxing with scented candles and bubbly spa music and the facial itself was amazing. My therapist was lovely and put me at ease – I am usually a little nervous at the start of a facial as it is a bit weird having someone prodding your face! Within ten minutes I was more relaxed than I had been for months and I think I even drifted off for a while!

With my skin all preened and feeling very soft, we headed to the bar for our dinner. The bar is in a snug room with the thickest walls you’ve ever seen and a roaring log fire to keep it toasty. We both ordered a burger and a glass of wine and continued relaxing. The food was fantastic and just what we needed after the drive down to Edinburgh and the strenuous (!) facial!

Next morning, after the excitement of opening birthday presents was over, we had a hearty breakfast in the restaurant before catching the train into Edinburgh. The train station was just a fifteen minute walk away with regular, direct trains into the city. All day we were looking forward to that evenings dinner! We hadn’t remembered to book the Jeremy Wares restaurant in the hotel in advance so we ended up having to eat incredibly early, I think around quarter to 6, as that was the only slot available when we checked in! There was no way we were going to miss the chance of eating in the 2 AA rosette restaurant – we would have taken any time slot they gave us! The meal was totally worth hurrying back from town. The service was impeccable and food was delicious. Everything was cooked to perfection and we really enjoyed the whole experience.

We’d definitely love to visit the hotel again. It was such a relaxing weekend and we both managed to completely switch off which was nice as we had been so busy for what felt like months beforehand!

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Nick Nairn Cook School – The Perfect Steak

Last Saturday, we spent the evening at Nick Nairn Cook School in Aberdeen. The smells drifting down from the upstairs classrooms when we walked in to the school set our stomachs rumbling before our class even started!imageimageimageThe class began with a glass of wine for everybody and then we settled down to watch the chef cook ‘The Perfect Steak‘. He talked us through each step and gave us lots of good tips and interesting facts, about the meat to choose, what sort of pans to use and how long to cook the meat. We all got a taste of the steak when he was finished and it was, no question, the best steak I have ever tried! It was served with parmesan sauteed potatoes and a rocket salad with a gorgeous parmesan and lemon dressing, all of which we were taught to cook. Next it was our turn. We all had our own station (there were ten people in the group) and the chef walked around to help us as we went, while also topping up our wine glasses. We used induction hobs which I had never used before but I was very impressed with them and now want one of my own! Our own steaks turned out pretty well but were not quite up to the standard of the chef’s. I guess practice makes perfect (we already have all of the ingredients to give the dish another go tonight…)!imageWe had such a fun evening and learned so much in just two hours. Our teacher was really helpful and the atmosphere was lovely and relaxed. I have already been trying to decide which course I want to try next… The full day Thai course looks amazing, as does the three hour Master Pasta and Chocolate Therapy!

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Afternoon Tea at The Marcliffe

A few weeks ago I was treated to afternoon tea at The Marcliffe Hotel on the outskirts of Aberdeen. The Marcliffe is a well known hotel up in Aberdeen, being the only 5 star hotel in the city. It really is a gorgeous hotel (I haven’t stayed overnight but have been for dinner and was super impressed!) but is unfortunately closing before Christmas due to the owner retiring.
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When we arrived at the hotel, we were shown into the drawing room where we sat on comfy, squishy old fashioned armchairs in the bay window. Glasses of chilled champagne were brought over to us as we browsed the menu to choose our sandwiches and teas. We went for some forest fruits and some honey and camomile tea. When the food arrive it looked delicious on the tiered stand and I was excited to see that there were 4 whole cakes each! The sandwiches were nothing special to be honest but everything else tasted fantastic. I even managed to forget about my camera, I was so distracted by the food! The scones were amazing, still warm from the oven and served with clotted cream and raspberry jam. Finally, the selection of cakey things was really good – a light but creamy strawberry tart, some sort of mascapone and orange concoction, a gooey chocolate brownie and a lovely moist lemon drizzle cake.

The food and drink was wonderful and the afternoon was made by the staff who were friendly, attentive when they needed to be but not standing too near or watching us which always makes me feel uncomfortable! We had a lovely relaxed afternoon and I would really love to go back. I might need to take a day off work though to do that as we booked this all the way back in February to get a weekend booking, everyone seems to want to visit before it closes! It is such a shame that the hotel is closing – hopefully we will be able to squeeze in another meal before it shuts its doors.

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A Weekend at Crieff Hydro

Crieff Hydro is spread over 900 acres of countryside just outside of Perth. You can stay in the hotel itself or in one of the self catering lodges in the grounds. A couple of months ago, my mum and stepdad drove up from Cardiff and we met them at Crieff Hydro for a relaxing weekend. Our lodge was stunning with fantastic views of the hills from the big windows. I really liked the colourful blue boards on the outside of the lodge and also the cosy heated floors in the bathrooms! Crieff Hydro LodgeCrieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro Lodge Crieff Hydro - view from lodgeThere are lots of things to do at Crieff but we opted for a weekend of doing very little. On the Friday night, we were picked up from our lodge by the site mini van (which anyone can use by calling reception) and were driven the few minutes over to the main hotel where we had a cocktail in the piano bar followed by dinner in the Meikle Restaurant. The food was fantastic and the staff were really attentive and friendly.Crieff Hydro countryside The Famous Grouse Experience The Famous Grouse Experience Towser the catAfter a lazy Saturday morning, we dug out our rain coats and took a walk through the countryside to the nearby Famous Grouse Experience in the Glenturret Distillery. The Glenturret single malt is the main whisky used in Famous Grouse. Despite living in Scotland for almost two years now, this is the first distillery tour I have been on and I found it really interesting – especially the story about Towser, the distillery cat, who apparently caught 28,899 mice throughout her life!

Apart from this outing, the rest of the weekend was spent catching up, cooking together, playing boardgames and watching Eurovision! We had a lovely weekend at Crieff and felt so relaxed that we didn’t want to leave. I would love to stay for longer next time so that there is more time to explore and also try out the spa…..

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Go Ape

Last weekend I visited Go Ape with a group of friends. The Go Ape site nearest to Aberdeen is in Crathes Castle, about 40 minutes drive from town.  After signing in at the centre and reading the rules of the course, our harnesses were fitted and we spent around half hour with our instructor Dave who showed us how to use the clips attached to our harnesses so that we would be safe on the course. We all climbed on to the practice course to make sure we could work the equipment and were then allowed onto the actual course. Go Ape Crathes CastleGo Ape Crathes CastleGo Ape Crathes Castle Go Ape Crathes CastleGo Ape Crathes CastleThe course was made up of a series of ladders to climb up into the trees, rope bridges, tunnels, Tarzan swings and zip wires. There were instructors watching from the ground but we were able to go at our own speed around the course which was good as I was able to take lots of photos without holding anyone up! The Tarzan swings and zip wires were a bit daunting as you have to just step off a platform into nothing (obviously you are still attached to the wire…) but it was brilliant fun! I’d love to go again and I think it is a great day out for all ages! There are Go Ape centres dotted round the UK in 29 locations  and it costs around £30 for the treetop adventure.

We went to Crathes Castle a couple of hours early to have a look around the castle first so here are a couple of photos….Crathes Castle Crathes Castle

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The Country Candle Company

The Country Candle Company are based in Wiltshire, England where they create beautifully scented and packaged candles. I have two of their candles from the Celebrations collection. The Country Candle Company The Country Candle CompanyThe Tonka Bean and Vanilla one is my favourite – it also has hints of cinnamon and clove so is a gorgeous Christmas candle without being overly Christmassy, if you know what I mean! The Black Pomegrannate scent is also lovely – it is fruity and reminds me of summer. I think the packaging is really cute and am suprised at how good these candles are as they are so reasonably priced – just £5.99 for a candle that burns for around 20 hours. The Country Candle Company have lots of collections on their website, all well priced and with pretty packaging – I have a long list of ones I want to try next!

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Sherwood Forest

On Friday I got back from a few nights away in Sherwood Forest Center Parcs with my family. I had been in Aberdeen for a course the week before so travelled up to Nottingham on Monday after flying down to Heathrow that morning. When I flew up to Aberdeen the weekend before I‘d left my car at the airport using the Meet & Greet service which I booked through Holiday Extras. This made it so much easier and saved lots of time as I was able to drop off and pick up my car right outside the terminal which saved the hassle of having to get a bus from the long stay car park. Unfortunately my car battery has been playing up recently and my car refused to start when I picked it up but the Meet and Greet staff were able to call someone to get it started for me! When I got to Nottingham I took the car straight to the garage so now it’s all fixed at last!Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood Forest Center Parcs Sherwood ForestAnyway, apart from the car situation I had a really lovely week. I spent a morning with my sister in the Aqua Sana spa which was as relaxing as it always is with lots of different saunas and steam rooms to try out. I also had a Decléor Ultimate Vitamin Glow facial which was amazing. My skin felt so much better afterwards and I got some tips on how to look after it. We were really lucky with the weather and were able to spend lots of time outside. One evening we all went out to Huck’s for a meal – the food was so good and we all ate way too much! Look at the size of the ice cream sundae my sister shared with my step brother – it was supposed to serve 4 to 6 people!!!

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The Foster Husband

I’ve just finished reading The Foster Husband by Pippa Wright.  I’ve read a book by her before called Unsuitable Men which I quite enjoyed.  The Foster Husband by Pippa Wright 20130508_182628This one was in the same sort of style – easy to read, fast moving with a bit of humor thrown in. I kind of wish I had saved reading this until I went on holiday as it would make the perfect book to read on the beach!

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Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea at the Intercontinental Westminster

Last weekend I had the chance to visit the Intercontinental London Westminster to indulge in their Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea with Laurent Perrier Rose Champagne.  The menu has been inspired by the flower show and the room was decorated with gorgeous flower displays.Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Teaalt=alt= When we arrived we were shown to our table where our waiter introduced himself and then left us with a glass of bubbly to choose our tea.  There were so many to choose from including black teas, white teas, green teas, flowering teas and herbal teas.  In the end we went for the White Peony described as “Delightfully refreshing, rounded and full-flavoured with sweet and fragrant notes of melon” and the Taiwan Li Shan – “Highly floral complex and refreshing with a glycerous and wonderfully creamy texture”.  I wasn’t too keen on the Taiwan Li Shan but the White Peony was lovely.Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon TeaChelsea Flower Show Afternoon TeaOnce we were settled with our teas the first plates of foods arrived.  The bottom layer was a selection of finger sandwiches – the beef and horseradish ones were so delicious we asked for seconds – and the middle layer was a blackberry Eccles cake and slice of fruit loaf each.  The top layer was by far the most exciting and looked so pretty!Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon TeaEvery perfectly formed cake/pastry tasted divine and looked so beautiful I just had to take photos of all of them….
1. Lavender and strawberry tart
2. Jasmine and jivara mille feuille
3. White chocolate and orange blossom shot with pistachio crumble (this was exquisite!)
4. White chocolate marshmallow teacake infused with White Peony tea
5. Raspberry macaroon
6. Violet éclair
Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon TeaAfter we had finished the cakes and pastries, a plate of freshly baked scones arrived with Devonshire clotted cream, homemade strawberry jam and lemon curd.  Again, these tasted amazing!  Even though we were feeling full from all the food and champagne we both managed to squeeze in two scones topped with masses of cream and jam.Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon TeaChelsea Flower Show Afternoon TeaAfter another glass of champagne, we were brought the finishing touch – a glass teapot containing one mango and one raspberry mousse lollipop and a white chocolate butterfly.  It was the perfect way to end a wonderful afternoon!Chelsea Flower Show Afternoon TeaChelsea Flower Show Afternoon Tea The service was faultless and our waiter couldn’t have done more for us, explaining what was on each plate and topping up our champagne whenever it looked as though we might finish a glass!  The atmosphere was relaxed, with a live harpist in the background, and even though there were lots of staff ready to help, they weren’t hovering near the tables making us feel as though we were being watched all the time.  I would love to go back to the Intercontinental and would definitely recommend the afternoon tea if you are looking for something special to do.

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Victorinox Victoria Eau de Toilette

Today I thought I would tell you about my new perfume, Victorinox Victoria Eau de Toilette.  It smells much more flowery than the sort of scent I usually go for but also smells quite sweet – it’s a lovely combination.  Victorinox Victoria Eau de Toilette 20130523_200702It is described as having freesia, plum and blackcurrant top notes, Bulgarian rose, lily of the valley and viola heart notes and cedar leaf, sandal wood, white mush and myrth base notes.  It is quite a strong scent so you don’t need to apply more than a squirt or two and it lasts well throughout the day.  Victorinox Victoria is from the makers of Swiss Army Knife and costs £51 for 100ml.  It’s not a brand I had really heard of before but I am glad I found it!

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