Sketch Afternoon Tea Three Girls Sketch Afternoon Interiors So apparently it's now the very end of National Afternoon Tea Week in the UK! I don't know who made up all of these celebratory days/weeks, but this is one I can definitely get on board with. Coincidentally, last weekend Amy, Charlie and I had Afternoon Tea at Sketch. I also bought a new book on National Reading Day last week, without knowing that it was National Reading Day - apparently I'm really good at accidentally obeying these fake celebratory days! Sketch Afternoon Interiors Sketch Afternoon Toilets The Aesthetic  Lets face it, most people visit Sketch for it's gorgeous interiors rather than the prestigious 2 Michelin star food. There are 4 dining rooms spread over three floors and the afternoon tea is served in the "Gallery", a very pretty pink and girly room. Pink walls, pink suede chairs, rose gold accents and even a man in a pink suit (which I was so totally jealous of). Be warned, the low elegant lighting in the Gallery is absolutely shocking for photographs, so I apologise in advance for shoddy photos! The elegant vibe is enhanced by the string trio who played a whole host beautiful acoustic music - my favourite being The Circle of life from the Lion King! It wouldn't be right to not speak about the toilets when talking about Sketch - these futuristic pods have become a tourist attraction in their own right! I've never seen so many people taking photos in the toilets (no, not even on a club in Chelmsford on a Saturday night). Sketch Tea Pots and Cups The Tea First up was the choice of tea - where you will be spoilt for choice! I am no tea connoisseur (in fact I only started drinking it this year - am I even British?!), but I don't think you could make a wrong choice; and even if you did, you can just ask to swap it for another!

RELATED: At Christmas time, I visited B Bakery for their "Festive Afternoon Tea". If pink and girly isn't your vibe, maybe you're better suited to this one! And you can read all about it here

The Caviar Man Shortly after the arrival of the teas, "The Caviar Man" paid us a visit. A man dressed in a funky pink suit presented us with a small dollop of caviar along with an egg concoction with cheese bread sticks. I don't eat fish, so struggle with the concept of caviar and didn't eat this - but I would have happily taken more of the cheese bread sticks! Sketch Afternoon Tea Sandwiches and Cakes Sandwhiches Then came the big moment - the arrival of the sandwich/pastries on the classic three tiered cake stand. The sandwiches on offer were duck egg and mayonnaise, coronation chicken, smoked salmon and Jacob's cream and finally a tomato chutney, lettuce and mayonnaise concoction. As I don't eat fish, I swapped the smoked salmon sandwich for an extra coronation chicken slice which was the BEST IDEA EVER. Of the four sandwiches on offer, the coronation chicken was without a doubt the winner and I'm dribbling a bit just thinking about it.. Petits Gateaux  There was not a single cake on this plate that I didn't enjoy (and I STILL say that I don't have a sweet tooth - maybe I need to reevaluate that). The beauties on offer in this sitting were -
  • Malabar Marshellow - while an unusual addition in an afternoon tea, these were amazing. Amy and I actually ordered another 8 of the marshmellows to nibble on while we continued chatting - they were so addictive!
  • Blueberry and vanilla choux  - the blueberry was a gorgeous twist on a normal choux pastry, I loved it.
  • Strawberry tart - a great classic and cutely presented with a little flower decoration.
  • Apricot and rosemary cheesecake - this cheesecake was served in a mousse format and was probably my least favourite of the bunch but still blimmin' lovely!
  • Chocolate caramel gateaux - Chocolate is without a doubt, my biggest weak spot, so I absolutely loved this. Despite being so rich in flavour, the cake itself was really light, which is perfect when there are so many other cakes to try!
Sketch Gallery Bar Cakes from the Trolley While forks deep in the petits gateux, a waitress came and asked which cake we would like from the trolley - more cake?! The choice was between Victoria sandwich and a pistachio cherry cake. We all opted for the classic Victoria sandwich and it was gorgeous! The Afternoon Tea Staple - Scones Another choice was upon us before we knew it - plain or fruit scones. I love scones but was so full by this point that I didn't even touch it - but the girls looked like they enjoyed theirs! Sketch Gallery The Price After stuffing our faces, chatting the time away and snapping photos at every possible opportunity, it was time to pay up and leave. While bookings are hard to get on weekends, we were never rushed and could have stayed longer - which is great. The classic afternoon tea is £57 per person and to add one glass of champagne, the price is upped to £72. We stuck to the classic afternoon tea and didn't think that £15 was a worthwhile investment for one glass of champers! The afternoon tea includes unlimited food which sounds great but given the amount of food on offer, you probably won't need to ask for seconds! While the price is higher than other afternoon teas in London (for example, I recently went to the Charlie and The Chocolate Factory afternoon tea which was great), you're paying for this beautiful venue and the 2 Michelin star dining experience which in my eyes, was well worth the money.

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

        If you're visiting London, Afternoon Tea should be at the top of your "to-do" list! Sketch is the perfect place for afternoon tea if you want a girly beautiful interior and great food!
Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Beach View On our recent trip to the Isles of Scilly, we stayed on Tresco Island and it was the perfect little retreat! Tresco is the second largest of the islands and the only island to be privately owned. The island has a little something for everyone and really shouldn't be missed on your trip to the Isles of Scilly. Here's just a sample of what you could get up to...

Get Lost In Tresco Abbey Gardens

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Abbey Gardens Views Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Abbey Gardens Friends It goes without saying that you should visit Tresco Abbey Gardens during your time on the island. These renowned gardens are absolutely stunning and will feel like you’ve been transported to a tropical paradise –  I refused to believe that we were only a matter of miles from Cornwall. I mean, where else in the UK do you get palm trees? In fact, the gardens are home to more than 20,000 exotic plants (many of which can not be found elsewhere in the UK). Make sure that you have time to wander. You will want to get lost in the maze of colours and smells. Make sure you take every little hidden path and walkway – everywhere is so beautiful that you won’t want to miss a thing! Also keep your eyes open for the golden pheasant! They are like a normal pheasant’s flashier, more beautiful big sister. Tresco Abbey Gardens is also home to the Valhalla collection which is a colourful, interesting display of figurines salvaged from local shipwrecks.

Explore Cromwell’s Castle

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Cromwells Castle Beach I don’t think I really need to reiterate on my blog how much I love castles (If you're new here – I blimmin’ love them), so naturally, my only request for the trip was to visit Cromwell's Castle! We actually visited twice as the first visit was on a very foggy afternoon and the photos simply weren't up to scratch #bloggerproblems. On a sunny day, the coastal walk to the castle is really gorgeous and definitely worth your time - however it's not paved, so be careful or choose a more main-land route on a rainy day!

RELATED: Want to see more of my castle adventures? Click here

Climb to King Charles' Castle

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - King Charles Cromwells CastleTresco - Isles of Scilly - Charles Castle Right by Cromwell's Castle is another ancient ruin, King Charles' Castle. A steep climb to the castle will give you great views across the island as well as a chance to explore! It was ridiculously windy at the time of our visit, so we chose not to spend long on the top of the hill!

Old Blockhouse

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Old Block House On the subject of ruins and old fortifications, we finally have the Old Blockhouse which arguably, of the three fortifications, has the best views - although the island is so picturesque that the view from every angle is great and I'll probably change my mind on which is the "best" in 5 minutes.

Eat ALL the Food!

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Burger New Inn Tresco has some great options for food - while unfortunately I didn't have the chance to sample every restaurant's offerings, my favourite of the food we did try was brunch in the Flying Boat Bar & Bistro. Luckily, I have a friend who lives on the island who would recommend the New Inn for high-end pub food (his particular favourite is the burger pictured above), the Flying Boat Bar & Bistro for brunch and the Ruin Beach Cafe for pizzas.

Wander To Your Heart's Content

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Cute House I think I've mentioned enough times that the island is extremely picturesque, but this lends itself to the fact that it is a great place to walk and explore. On our first day on the island, our friend and new found guide took us on a long walk of the island and I think the words "it's so pretty" escaped all of our mouths one too many times. If you want more pace, you can hire bikes to travel around the island. Cars are not allowed on the island so that is not an option!

Catch The Sunset

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Sunset Orange Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Sunset Girl I know that I already raved about the sunset in my "Why You Should Visit The Isles of Scilly" blog post - but they really deserve to be mentioned twice. The above photos are taken from the veranda of the Flying Boat Cottages overlooking Bryher Island.

Get Adventurous

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Landscape If you are feeling adventurous, Tresco Sailing Club offer the chance for you to borrow a bike, windsurf or kayak - something we didn't do because I can barely walk in a straight line successfully let alone windsurf... Let's just say I wouldn't have made it home with all of my limbs in tact.

Just Relax

Tresco - Isles of Scilly - Flying Boat Cottages When you're on an island this beautiful, sometimes the best thing to do is just sit back, relax and enjoy the view. Especially when you're staying in top-notch accommodation like we were in the Flying Boat Cottages. Lie-ins and naps featured in abundance in our schedule! To aid your relaxation even further, check out the Flying Boat Club Spa or head to one of the many beaches to stroll along the sand. Even just writing about the island made me feel relaxed! Have you ever been? What was your favourite thing to do?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

      TRESCO ISLAND ITINERARY - A complete guide to Tresco Island in the Isles of Scilly (UK). A perfect picturesque beach filled island with plenty to do and see!
Peak District Sheep Peak District Couple The Peak District is somewhere that I have ALWAYS wanted to visit (if you can't tell from that happy face above). So when we were arranging to see my dad’s cousin in the Stockport area, I made sure that the Peak District was incorporated into our itinerary! After spending Saturday with family at Tatton Park (Knutsford), we were ready to make the long drive home on Sunday with a detour through the Peak District. This was just a “taster” of the area and I REALLY want to go back, but if you only have a day, here’s what you can get up to in the Peak District!

RELATED: The Peak District was actually on my list of places I am dying to visit in 2017 - find out where else I want to visit here!

Just Drive Through the Peak District

Peak District Winnatt’s Pass One of the best things that you can do is just drive (or walk if you have more time!). The area is so scenic that you are bound to stumble across some gems. This happened to us when stumbled across Winnatt’s Pass (thank you to Barefoot Backpacker for identifying my Instagram photo for me)!

Head for Epic View Points / Caves

Peak District Landscape Scenery Peak District Friends Family Peak District Girl Pink Raincoat Next up, we were driving without real purpose towards Blue John Cavern (if you didn’t know, the Peak District is home to many really impressive networks of underground caves and caverns). After struggling to actually find the entrance and car parking areas being full (it was a sunny morning after all), we got highly distracted and just spent time at an incredible viewpoint that our Sat Nav had led us to on route!

Bakewell

Peak District Bakewell Tarts Bakewell Town Centre Bakewell Church Bakewell Cute Houses As an avid fan of Bakewell Tarts, the town of Bakewell has been on my radar for years but I’d never been. Although stories say that Bakewell Tarts don’t actually originate from Bakewell and instead the Bakewell Pudding is the local delicacy. Most shops sold both and of course we had to try both! The town of Bakewell is truly picturesque and is definitely worth having a wander around. We first went for lunch in a cute little café, took a stroll around the main town, visited the beautiful church, went on a hunt for Bakewell and finished our time here by sitting in the sun at the edge of the river feeding the ducks. All in all, it was the perfect little stop-off!

Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House Chatsworth House is probably one of the more famous destinations in the Peak District and as you would expect, on this sunny day, the grounds and car park were absolutely heaving with people. We wanted to have a wander around the grounds and not necessarily the house (we had been warned that the house warrants around half a day to fully explore and we simply didn’t have the time). Given how busy it was, we snapped a few pictures and quickly left. But the house is really gorgeous and such an impressive building. Next time I am in the Peak District and I have a bit more time on my hands, I will do a proper stop-off!

Haddon Hall

Haddon Hall After spotting signs for Haddon Hall near Chatsworth House, we decided to follow them, hoping that we would be able to do a similar quick stop off to admire the building before making the long journey home. Unfortunately, we had no such luck! It cost us £3 to park and with no view of the hall. When we walked through to the “admissions area”, we could only see the very top of the hall over some high hedges and trees – with admission at a steep £14.50 per person and us being pushed for time, we decided to give this one a miss! One thing we did learn was if you are looking to hit some of the main attractions in the Peak District, it can lead to being a very pricey day out (especially as there were 5 of us)! Everything has an admission price and a parking price – but never fear, the surroundings are so gorgeous that I would happily drive/walk around and not have to pay a penny! Have you ever been to the Peak District before? What was your favourite part?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Danielle1

       
Isle Of Scilly Couple Beach Isle Of Scilly Cromwell Castle “Where?” people asked. “Is that the island off the coast of Italy?” others asked. While a part of me wished that I was going to the gorgeous island of Sicily to soak up some Italian sunshine, I was going to somewhere just as beautiful! If you are still confused about where the blimmin’ hell I was heading, the Isles of Scilly are an archipelago off the coast of Cornwall. There are 5 inhabited islands that you can visit with ease but there are a whopping 140 uninhabited islands in the area too! So, here’s exactly why you should consider the Isles of Scilly as your next destination… Isle Of Scilly Group of Friends

The Weather

You’d think that because you’re still technically in the UK, you’d be destined for gloomy, miserable weather no matter what time of year you go (apart from the unpredictable week of glorious sunshine we seem to get in Spring/Summer). But no, given the fact that the Isles are the most Southern point of the UK, their climate is surprisingly tropical! Isle Of Scilly Beach View

The Beaches

So, do you want crystal clear waters? Forget Mexico, forget Bali, head to the Isles of Scilly. When I showed my Uncle some photos of the beach, his immediate reaction was “that is the kind of beach we were looking for when we booked our Mexico honeymoon”! There are hundreds of little beaches dotted around the Island. We visited in May and rarely saw other people on the beaches with us! Unfortunately (despite my previous point), we did have some freak cold/rainy weather in May which meant the sea was absolutely freezing – but the beaches were still the perfect place to chill out and explore! Isle Of Scilly Food Burger

The Food

Oh. My. God. This should be my first point really. The food on the Isles of Scilly is impeccable, no matter where you eat. My personal favourite was brunch in The Flying Boat Bar & Bistro on Tresco Island (which was handily right outside our accommodation), I highly recommend! Isle Of Scilly Flying Boat Cottages Isle Of Scilly Flying Boat Cottages

The Accommodation

We stayed in the Friendship Cottage (one of the Flying Boat cottages) on Tresco Island and I only have good things to say about it. The cottage was spacious, well decorated, modern and had an impressive veranda area that led onto the beach. The master bedroom had huge double doors that opened onto a small balcony with a perfect view of the sea. There aren’t many better views you could wake up to (apart from maybe George Clooney, I don’t know).

RELATED: I've been trying to explore more of England recently, see all of my posts on our glorious country here

Isle of Scilly Tresco Abbey Gardens Isle of Scilly Red Squirrels

The Wildlife

Both in plant form and animal form, the wildlife on these Island will make you feel like you’ve to a tropical Caribbean Island. For plant-life, Tesco Abbey Gardens is where you need to be (and I’m not just bias because my friend works here).The gardens are really beautiful, especially on a sunny day and will make for the perfect afternoon of wandering. For animals, head to St Agnes Island where you will be able to take tours to (try!) see seals as well as many different species of birds. We unfortunately didn't have time to take this trip but we did spot the gorgeous Golden Pheasant! Isle of Scilly Accomodation Isle of Scilly Gallery

The Chilled-Out Lifestyle

If you’re looking for a chilled, relaxing break, there isn’t a better place. If I were to summarise a perfect day on the Islands, it would be waking up to the view of the sea before having your morning cuppa on the beach. A long brunch is the best way to get your energy (especially with the Islands’ great food) before taking a long relaxing stroll across any of the Islands taking in the truly picturesque scenery. While there may not be many people living on the islands (a 2001 consensus shows that there were a mere 2,153 people living there), they have the best lifestyle. Everybody knows each other, everybody is friendly and the relaxing lifestyle works wonders. Isle of Scilly Girl At Sunset Isle of Scilly Sunset View

The Sunsets

If there’s one thing that having a friend in living in the Isles of Scilly who regularly sends me pictures has taught me, it’s that the Isles of Scilly have the most impressive sunsets in the whole of the UK. No, I haven’t tried and tested this, but I am almost 100% sure that this is the case. So, if you’re ever considering a break in the UK, make sure you give the Isles of Scilly some thought, you won’t regret it. If you're thinking of taking a trip, make sure you check out the Isles of Scilly Travel website for advice & bookings! Have you ever been, what was your favourite part?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own.

Danielle1

WHY YOU SHOULD VISIT THE ISLE OF SCILLY

Ice Lolly Blog At the BeachBlog At The Beach Friends I type this semi-tipsy on a 4 hour train journey home from Leeds after an amazing day with Ice Lolly at their #blogatthebeach event. If you couldn’t make it to the event, here’s exactly what you missed! Please excuse the dodgy camera quality, apparently, I was too engaged by the talks to grab my proper camera from my bag and settled for my phone instead (something I NEVER do, so the talks must have been good)! Introduction First up, we were treated to an introduction talk by the lovely people of Ice Lolly, telling us more about their brand and how they want to work with bloggers going forwards - really interesting and you should definitely check out their website if you're looking for a cheap holiday - I've just found some fab deals! Growing Your Instagram – Rhianna (Rhianna Olivia) Blog At The Beach Rhianna Olivia First up was a talk by Rhianna on how to grow your Instagram organically (no bots or follow4follow here)! Let’s face it, Rhianna has defied all odds by gaining almost 10,000 Instagram followers within a year organically, so she’s probably the best person to advise on the matter! To be completely honest, with all of the changes that Instagram has gone through recently with algorithms etc. I’ve completely fallen out of love with the platform. Sometimes I go through posting sessions, but more often than not, it’s a dormant account. But, after this talk, I feel like I probably should up my Instagram game! My favourite tips from the talk were:
  • Engage with other accounts directly before you post a photo – I only ever have a commenting/liking spree after posting, so this will be interesting to test!
  • Make sure you use a mixture of popular and less popular hashtags on each picture and make sure they vary from picture to picture – okay okay, I know shadow-banning exists, but I’m super lazy and do just tend to copy and paste my hashtags from a previous post – having someone actually say the point to me in real life reiterated it a bit more!
  • Use text replacement on your phone to input hashtags automatically to save time – I am totally looking for a way to do this on Android phones as soon as I have finished typing this blog post!
Lunch & Challenges Blog At The Beach FoodIce lolly Challenges Next up, we took a break for lunch and made a start on our “challenges” for the day. Ice Lolly set us a bunch of challenges that we needed to complete by the end of the day for the chance of winning an Instax camera – Gina and I took this very seriously and were on the case! Unfortunately, we didn’t win, but massive congratulations to Ashton who did! Creativity for Busy Bloggers By Jen (She Gets Around) Ice lolly Challenges She Gets AroundNext up was a talk by Jen – who by the way is one of the most energetic people you will ever meet. I wish I had that much energy and I almost felt tired just watching her! Her talk was all about exactly how to spark creativity and enthusiasm for blogging and is something I really needed right now! At one point during the talk, Jen made us all pick an object in the room and write a poem about it to get our creative juices flowing – naturally, I wrote a poem about a light bulb, begging Ice Lolly to let me win the trip to Ibiza, and here it is….
Oh that light bulb, how bright it shines, Like the trip to Ibiza, I wish that trip was mine. The light bulb brightens the day, Oh to go to Ibiza I pray, Ice Lolly, please send me away!
Gina can confirm that I did write this masterpiece in the 5 minute time frame given at the event rather than as a ploy whilst writing this blog post, ha! My top tips from the talk were:
  • Act like a child as they have the most creative brains. They don’t have as many rules in life as they are still learning – this I something I really need to engage with. If something doesn’t make sense to me, I don’t like it. I really need to let go!
  • Make sure you talk to people and get their ideas on your blog as one brain is better than one. At one point during the talk, Jen made us pair up with someone who hasn’t read our blogs, give them a 2-minute briefing on what our blog is about and then they gave us immediate pointers on what they would do within that genre. I was teamed up with the lovely Rebecca who blogs about film and travel, her tip for me was to do multiple posts on each city encapsulating everything so that my blog is a one-stop-shop for everything a person needs to know on that city – something I will start trying to do from now on!
  • Don’t be embarrassed – a lot of the time, people hold back on what they really want to say or who they want to say it to because they are embarrassed. At the moment, only a small selection of my friends know about my blog. Most people don’t understand writing about your holidays on the internet – I need to let go of this and embrace my passion!
Making Money From Your Blog by Jess (The Travelista) Ice lolly Challenges The TravelistaLet’s start off by saying that Jess is an unbelievably beautiful human inside and out. Many people shy away from the topic of monetisation as it can be a touchy subject but Jess was inspiring, down to earth and completely natural/honest. Jess runs a luxury travel blog full time which is incredible in itself, but when she started speaking, that’s when I realised quite how much of a great entrepreneur she is. #girlboss and all that. Have I made it clear how big my girl crush is on Jess yet? Yes? Good, let’s get to the nitty gritty then, my top tips from the talk were:
  • Always upsell your products – the brand wants a sponsored blog post? You offer them the complete package of a blog post, Instagram posts, video content, tweets and a Facebook post. Or, offer something bigger and better, bring ideas to the table and prove your worth.
  • Opportunities aren’t always going to land on your lap, you’ve got to make your name heard and present yourself to brands – I need to stop being so shy!
  • And my favourite quote from Jess’ presentation – “paid blogging isn’t about numbers or luck, it’s about being pro-active and business minded” – it’s time I started treating this little space on the internet as a proper business rather than something that just brings in some spare cash every now and again.
The Alchemist After rounding up the talks and some more mingling, we headed over to The Alchemist for some 2 for 1 cocktails which were amazing as always! It was lovely to meet everyone and all three speakers were really inspiring.  A big thank you to the Ice Lolly team (especially Emma) who threw a great event! Now to catch some zzz’s on the train home – looking forward to the next event!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. I was invited to the event by Ice Lolly and had a genuinely great time!

Danielle1

BLOG AT THE BEACH PINTEREST

The Royal Hotel Southend Exterior Royal Hotel Southend Interior Royal Hotel Southend Ballroom Royal Hotel Southend Savoury Platter Royal Hotel Southend Earl of Grey Royal Hotel Southend Cakes Desserts Recently, the lovely Penny organised for a group of #EssexBloggers to head down to The Royal Hotel in Southend-On-Sea to sample their food and drinks menus - and I have one word for the morning - "wow". Okay... I have a few more words, otherwise this would be a very short blog post. I don't spend much time in Southend, so I didn't know much about the restaurant beforehand but I can safely say that it is my new favourite restaurant and cocktail bar in Essex and I will definitely be back regularly! Whilst it is called "The Royal Hotel", they currently do not have any hotel rooms and it is just a restaurant/bar but do not let that deter you - it's worth a trip just for the food and drinks! The History On arrival, we were greeted by the very lovely Matt (who bought the building with his brother a few years ago) and were told a little bit about the gorgeous building. The Royal Hotel is a listed property built in 1971 and was a hot-spot for former royalty and aristocracy including Princess Caroline & Napoleon! Before Matt and co bought the property, it had spiralled into a realm of madness. The beautiful listed building had boarded windows and was used for local "raves". If you saw the interior now, you would have absolutely no idea as the team have done a really incredible job in turning the place around. The Cocktail Bar Matt's brother Dave is the resident mixologist and BLIMMIN 'ELL does he do an incredible job. The cocktail list currently comprises of around 50 different drinks, many of which are created in-house and are completely original! We tried 2 of the cocktails from the main cocktail menu being "The Earl of Grey" and the "Mrs Kensington" - both were absolutely incredible. I wouldn't normally choose gin over other spirits, but if I will definitely be ordering a "Mrs Kensington" on my return! Dave is also working on a number of new and exciting ideas revolving around molecular mixology (if those big words scare you - think Heston Blumenthal and The Alchemist). As it was the Easter weekend, he was experimenting with creating an egg-like shape which popped when putting your straw through the yolk - as an avid fan of both dippy eggs and cocktails, I very much approved of this idea! And don't worry, The Royal Hotel is a very short walk from both Southend Central and Southend Victoria train stations, so there's no need to be the designated driver and miss out on the cocktails! Tapas style "small plates" and tasting platters can also be ordered at the bar - the menu is to die for and I think I could happily surround myself with every one of their small plates! The Lounge We were seated in the "lounge" area which has a super cosy yet sophisticated feel to it. The website quotes that this area is "perfect for an informal  lunch or early dinner in a relaxed setting" and I can agree to that! We were served an array of different tasting platters and all of them were absolutely amazing! Our savoury platters were filled with traditional British finger foods but with a twist - including a scotch egg where the meat had been replaced with fish. I haven't eaten fish in over 10 years, yet one fish dish looked SO good that I just had to try it - this is a BIG deal and a true testament to how good the food we tried was! The sweet platter was just as good with the bakewell tart being my absolute favourite - which isn't a surprise if you know me! We all said that the cakes were on par if not better than top London restaurants which makes me very excited to go back and try the Afternoon Tea that The Royal Hotel offer! The Ballroom The Ballroom is the restaurant's formal dining area upstairs. As we visited during the day, the room had been booked for a wedding reception and we got to have a sneak peak before the party arrived. It is a really gorgeous room with great views out to the seaside! Afternoon teas are also served in this area and it is the perfect spot for it! The Verdict You NEED to try this restaurant if you find yourself in Essex (or Southend specifically). Not only are both Matt and Dave really lovely people, they really know how to run a restaurant and you will not be disappointed with either the food or the cocktails! For information on booking and copies of the menus, see here. A big thank you to Penny for organising and also Matt and Dave for their hospitality. A shout out to Donna and Lucy also who were the best company! Disclaimer: I was invited to the Royal Hotel as a guest and did not pay for my visit, however this blog post is written of my own accord for no payment and all thoughts are my own!Danielle1  
After dipping my toes into the realm of UK travel last year and discovering two of my favourite cities (Edinburgh and York, you are beauties), this year I have vowed that I will see more of our glorious little nation. My first port of call in 2017 was the "Island City" of Portsmouth - did you know Portsmouth is technically an island? I didn't - you learn something new every day! Myself and my buddy Alex jumped in the car early one Saturday morning to visit our uni-going friend Graceybum (who would probably prefer to be referred to by the name Grace but that's boring) and we had the BEST weekend. I am now very concious of the fact that Grace has shown my blog to her uni buddies and they are probably sniggering at the fact that someone could write a travel blog post about Portsmouth... shut up guys, I promise I have super exciting posts about Morocco and Canada coming up. When I returned to work, all I heard was "what is there to do in Portsmouth!? That must have been boring" - oh how wrong they are! When you live somewhere, you don't tend to truly explore the area like a tourist would, so we decided to make Grace visit all of the touristy areas! Get ready for the ultimate tourist-fest!

Day One

Drive!  First job of the day was to jump in the car and drive our ass' to Portsmouth - it takes us around 2 hours to get to Portsmouth from our near-coastal towns in Essex, so it's the perfect journey for a weekend! Alternatively, Portsmouth has great train connections to London and the surrounding areas. Grab an Amazing Late Breakfast / Brunch IMG_4841 v2IMG_4843 v2 Before arriving in Portsmouth, Grace had expressed that she wanted to visit The Tenth Hole for breakfast/cake/both. We obviously happily obliged and I shouted from the rooftops to anybody at work who would listen about how amazing the cake in this cafe looked, so obviously this was our first stop. I opted for the the breakfast bruschetta followed by a GIANT slab of chocolate fudge cake and they were both incredible! (If you're reading this The Tenth Hole, please have your bakewell in stock next time I visit - the photo on your website looks TOO good to be true)! Play a Round of Crazy Golf (... or two) IMG_4858 v2 The Tenth Hole is situated on a golf course, which lead to the revelation that Alex had never played golf of any kind before (not even crazy golf), which obviously meant we had to enlighten her on the sport of champions. So we headed down to Treasure Island Mini Golf and completed both crazy golf courses like the absolute cool kids that we are. If crazy golf isn't your thing (I refuse to believe that you visited the sea-side if you didn't play a spot of crazy golf), there are fairground rides and Clarence Pier in this general area - or you can skip to the next stage of the journey... Enjoy the Beach!  IMG_4855 v2IMG_4867 v2 A beach? In England? In February? Yep, you're right, we were blessed with some freaky weather during this weekend and a stroll across the beach was just what the doctor ordered. Splash The Cash at Gunwharf Quay A few years ago, you could count on me for a shopping trip, I'd have been recently and I'd know exactly what each shop is selling at that present moment  right now, I couldn't care less. So it's very strange for me to really enjoy a little shopping area! Gunwharf Quay is an outlet designer shopping centre right in the middle of the city - it's sleek, it's modern and it's surrounded by loads of fab looking restaurants - perfect! Take a Trip Up the Spinnaker Tower IMG_4945 v2IMG_4905 v2IMG_4894 v2Tile 2Now, for perhaps the most touristy item of all - if you're only in Portsmouth for a short period of time, it would be rude not to visit the Spinnaker Tower really! This led to lots of freaking out on my part while trying to get onto the glass floor section of the viewing area - note to self: you don't like heights. Annoyingly, the Spinnaker Tower's windows are tinted blue and whilst the view is fab, taking photos is an absolute nightmare!

Day Two

More Amazing Breakfast... Duh IMG_4919 v2 After yesterday's amazing breakfast, we knew that day two's breakfast would have to be pretty damn good to top it. We headed to Feed and the food was unreal - I opted for the Eggs Benedict (apparently I had an fixation with eggs this weekend) but all of the full English options looked amazing! The Historic Dockyard IMG_4926 v2 Another big "must" if you want to be the ultimate Portsmouth tourist is a trip to the Historic Dockyard to see the likes of the likes of the Mary Rose and the HMS Victory. Tickets looked pretty pricey, but as we were entering,  a nice security man told us that there's a free ticket available if you just want to wander around and not actually enter any of the ships - so we opted for that! Portsdown Hill  IMG_4953 v2Slowly running out of ideas for things to do in Portsmouth, we turned to trusty old TripAdvisor and decided to take a drive up Portsdown Hill for pretty views of the city and the opportunity to play with horses! Grace says that the view from Portsdown Hill is even prettier at night when the city is all lit-up and pretty! Fort Nelson IMG_4987 v2IMG_5001 v2 On the way up to the viewpoint on Portsdown Hill, we drove past Fort Nelson and were sold at the "FREE ADMISSIONS" sign glaring in our faces, so on our way back down the hill, we decided to make a pit-stop. The fort was MUCH bigger than we had expected and is the perfect activity to fill a few hours without breaking the bank (although you would need to drive there). Take a Trip to Southampton Tile 1 On the weekend of our visit, Southampton's Westquay was having a "Festival of Light", so we decided to head down in the evening to check it out and attempt to take some nice photos (emphasis on the word "attempt"). Eat More Food We tried so hard to find Bills, only to be turned away at the door (apparently everyone else at the festival also wanted to eat in Bills) but we stumbled across Thaikhun and fell in love with their Thai food - I'm very upset that they don't have any Essex / London branches! With very full stomachs, we jumped back in the car to start our 2 hour journey back to Essex. After a surprisingly good weekend (tourist attraction-wise, I knew the company would be good!), I'm looking for more UK cities to explore for the weekend - where would you recommend? Have you been a tourist in your own city recently? I'd love to hear about it!

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

IMG_3477 v2IMG_3468 v2IMG_3478 v3 If you've read my London Winter Bucket List, you'll know that I wanted to try a "festive" afternoon tea because there is no combination better than "food" and "Christmas". You may also be aware if you follow me on Twitter that I have two work buddies who are also bloggers, so we jumped at the chance to make a booking a B Bakery in Covent Garden for one night after work! Sadly Charlie (lifestyle blogger) wasn't able to make the evening but it's okay because myself and Amy (baking blogger) definitely ate enough on her behalf! I'll stop nattering now and get on to the good stuff... B Bakery Formally know as "Bridget's Bakery", B Bakery is famous for it's Afternoon Tea bus tours which, if you hadn't guessed, involve eating a selection of Afternoon Tea classic foods whilst touring around London on a big red bus - could you do something more quintessentially English? My friend Charlie has written about her experience on the bus here if you're interested. I really like the idea and it would be great for someone who is only in the city for a few days but wants to sample the English tradition of Afternoon Tea whilst still being able to continue their sightseeing! However, if you're not a fan of eating whilst in motion (not an issue for me, I will eat wherever and whenever I can), you'll be glad to hear that the have a cute little bakery in Covent Garden. The Menu From 15 November 2016 - 5 January 2017, B Bakery offer a "Christmas Afternoon Tea" and the menu features some great twists on the usual afternoon tea classics. The turkey sandwich was to die for (who doesn't love a good turkey sandwich?!) and there wasn't one thing on the menu that we didn't enjoy. I only removed the salmon from the smoked salmon blinis as I don't eat fish - otherwise everything was perfect! The only thing that could have improved the menu is something that truly makes you think of a good Christmas dinner like pigs in blankets maybe? I am obsessed with those tasty little buggers. There was a wide selection of teas and coffees, including one Christmas Tea which is cinnamon based - yum! But of course I opted for the hot chocolate which was great! As well as a hot drink, a glass of fresh orange juice and a glass of prosecco are included in the price! Menu.PNG Overall Opinion For £33 on a weekday and £36 on a weekend, this isn't the most expensive afternoon tea experience available, you get a lot of food/drink and it will definitely get you in the Christmas spirit - there's something about pulling a Christmas cracker and plonking a silly hat on my head (ridiculous selfie below) that makes Christmas seem real - so if you are in London and want to try something new, I'd definitely give this a go! IMG_3480 - v2 I'm an avid fan of afternoon teas and it was great to try something a bit different to the usual fare. Have you visited B Bakery before? What did you think?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

London Winter Pavement LightsLondon Oxford Street LightsLondon Winter Snow Big BenLondon Harry Potter Studios HogwartsLondon Festive Afternoon Tea B Bakery
Where photos are not my own, the watermark shows the credited author. Please click on the photo to view the original source.
Working in London means I take it for granted and don't go out of my way to enjoy what the city has to offer. I rarely visit London at the weekends seeing as I have to do the 3 hour round commute every week day already! However, London is the perfect place during Winter (despite the bitterly cold weather). So in an attempt to get myself out and exploring this beautiful city, here is the ultimate Winter London Bucket List!
  1. Visit the ultimate Christmas London destination - Hyde Park Winter Wonderland
  2. See the Covent Garden decorations because who doesn't love a giant reindeer?
  3. Ice skating at Somerset House (once I stop being a wuss)
  4. See the amazing window displays on Oxford Street
  5. Eat festive treats at Borough Market (... and the non festive treats... JUST EAT EVERYTHING)
  6. Explore the lights of Kew Garden After Dark
  7. See a Christmas show on the West End - Cinderella pantomime anyone?
  8. Stumble across Christmas Markets
  9. Take a frosty walk around the many parks - who knows, you might be lucky and get snow!
  10. See Trafalgar Square's  giant Christmas tree (which apparently resembles a gerkin this year lol)
  11. Grab a mulled wine... or two!
  12. Splurge on loved ones in Harrods and Hamley's for the little ones!
  13. Curl up in a cosy English pub to escape the cold because there's nothing better than a hearty pub lunch!
  14. Treat yo'self to a luxury Christmas decoration from Liberty (and then cry when it comes out of the loft broken next year)
  15. Explore the WHOLE Christmas floor at Selfridges (and probably the other floors too, just for good measure)
  16. If Somerset House isn't your cup of tea, head to Canary Wharf for futuristic skating surrounded by skyscrapers
  17. Experience a luxury Fortnum and Mason Christmas Hamper
  18. Go for a festive afternoon tea
  19. Get squished in the crowds watching the New Years Eve fireworks
  20. Eat your way through the Taste of London Festive Festival (which is stupidly in November and I have now missed)
  21. Go behind the scenes of the films and visit the Harry Potter Studios for "Hogwarts in the Snow"
  22. Hit the Boxing Day sales (... if you're brave)
  23. Drink in a rooftop WigWam surrounded by Winter Nordic Viking decor at Queen of Hoxton
  24. Shop, eat and Drink at the Southbank Winter Market
  25. Test your cold threshold by taking a drink at The Ice Bar
  26. Just explore and enjoy all of the pretty twinkly lights!

RELATED: Want to see my all-year round London bucket list? Be sure to read this!

I absolutely love the city at this time of year and definitely want to take a trip one weekend in December - is there anything else you love doing in London? Also, I'm heading to Toronto this Winter, recommendations for Toronto are welcomed! :-)

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1

IMG_3296 v2 What Is The Essex Pass?  If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you may have heard about my love for The Essex Pass. Despite my blog name, I'm not ALWAYS trying to escape Essex, in fact I love finding new things to do in the local area. That's where the Essex Pass comes into play - 12 months membership will cost you a mere £9.99 and will give you loads of discounts in Essex (most of which are 2 people for the price of 1)! If you live in Essex and want to find some new things to do (like me), or you will be in the area for a short period of time and want to do more of the touristy attractions in the area, I couldn't recommend this card enough! I've recently visited the Original Great Maze and also Hazle's Pottery Barn using the pass, but this was the first time we had used it for a FULL day out - so I thought I'd share it all with you because it was a really great day (although it included a very strange mixture of activities - from sports, to history to animals)! Rope Runners IMG_3269 v2IMG_3271 v2IMG_3284 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood, CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £28 per person
  • Essex Pass Price: £28 for 2 people = £14 each
  • Website: http://www.roperunners.co.uk/
If you want to complete the full day of activities listed in this post, you'll need to book on to a 10am Rope Runners course. The booking lasts for 2.5 hours and your get to do as many courses as you like in that amount of time as possible! There are 6 rope courses in total, 2 at ground level, 2 at medium height and 2 high up courses. Being completely afraid of heights, the medium levels were quite enough for me but Callum completed all of them (with only a few little moans on the high levels). Each course ends with a zip-wire (there's a brilliant video of me being terrified on the podium and refusing to do it, before doing it, realising it was fun and then falling on my face at the end - not sure that video will ever make it to the internet!). And there's also a huge stand-alone zip-wire which we both also completed. The staff were super helpful and friendly, so if you want a fun activity-based day out, this is the place for you! They also have archery, air rifle, paint balling and water-zorbing to choose from, so there's something for everyone! You can tell I'm not built for sports however.. it's the day after and my legs hurt... Secret Nuclear Bunker IMG_3293 v2IMG_3300 v2IMG_3339 v2
  • Location: Ongar Rd, Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood CM15 0LA
  • Normal Price: £7 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £7 for 2 people = £3.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm (5pm on weekends in Summer)
  • Website: http://www.secretnuclearbunker.com/
If you're visiting Rope Runners, it would be wrong not to also visit the Secret Nuclear Bunker as they are located right next door to each other! This photo made it's way round social media a while back as the "secret" bunker is clearly not much of a secret! You enter the bunker through what looks like a normal little house before picking up an audio guide - I think the tour took us about 2 hours but it was great! According to the website, this is the biggest and deepest Cold War bunker that's open to the public in the South East of England. After the heat of the Cold War died down, the bunker was no longer needed and the Government sold it, hence we are now able to visit it as tourists! It's so strange to see something of such historic importance so close to your home! Hopefield Animal Sanctuary IMG_3344 v2IMG_3359 v2IMG_3400 v2IMG_3444 v2
  • Location: Sawyers Hall Farm, Sawyers Hall Ln, Brentwood CM15 9BZ
  • Normal Price: £5 per person
  • Essex Pass Price = £5 for 2 people = £2.50 each
  • Opening Times: 10am - 4pm
  • Website: http://www.hopefield.org.uk/
Located a mere 20 minute drive away, I couldn't help making a quick visit to Hopefield Animal Sanctuary! The sanctuary isn't huge, and it won't take you much longer than an hour to see all of the animals on display. Even so, there's a great range of animals to see including many horses, cows, sheep, goats, pigs, alpacas, raccoons, various reptiles, birds and many more! The sanctuary is a non-profit organisation caring for around 200 unwanted, sick or mistreated animals. They require donations and volunteers to continue their great work - so if you're in the area, make sure you stop by! Even the former X-Factor winner Leona Lewis is a huge supporter of the work they do! There are plenty of other ways you can help out including volunteering and adopting an animal. And for only £20 you can have a full animal experience day - my sister has already asked me to buy her this for her birthday! Highlight of the day: I didn't know that Racoon Dogs exist - but apparently they do, and I love them so much. So god damn cute. And in Conclusion... We had a really great day out! The close proximity for these three activities means that it's easy to do all three in one day (providing you get to Rope Runners early)! The full day out would normally cost £40, but with The Essex Pass, it will cost you a mere £20. For three activities spanning 10am to 4pm, I think that's a pretty great deal! Plus, given The Essex Pass only costs £9.99, you've already made your money back! Apart from the Secret Nuclear Bunker, without The Essex Pass, I wouldn't have known these activities exist and I can't wait to find out about more hidden gems near home! Does your local area have a discount pass? Have you ever used it?

Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post and all thoughts are my own. Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Danielle1